Texas Hospital Worker Who Handled Ebola Samples is on the Carnival Magic

ABC News reports that a Dallas health care worker who handled clinical specimens from Ebola-infected Thomas Duncan is on a Caribbean cruise aboard the Carnival Magic.

The cruise line says that the female worker is allegedly being "self-quarantined" and is being monitored for signs of infection. She apparently has no symptoms yet. 

She departed on a cruise ship from Galveston, Texas, on October 12th was out of the country before being notified of active monitoring required by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She works at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, which treated Mr. Duncan (who died) where nurses Carnival MagicNina Pham and Amber Vinson tested positive for Ebola.

The hospital is being roundly criticized for having sloppy and irresponsible procedures to respond to an Ebola patient.

Carnival released a statement, saying:

"We are in close contact with the CDC and at this time it has been determined that the appropriate course of action is to simply keep the guest in isolation on board." 

But there is a dispute whether Carnival had any choice but to keep the worker on the cruise ship. 

Belize (the port of call yesterday) banned the passenger and her traveling partner from entering the country. The ship has already stopped in Mahogany Bay, Honduras on Wednesday and is scheduled to sail on to Cozumel. 

A newspaper in Belize contains dramatic information indicating that the Prime Minister in Belize denied entry into Belize for the "stricken U.S. nationals to be air lifted to the U.S.A. for treatment." 

A news reporter in Belize quotes on her Facebook page an official source in Belize that after talks were concluded between Belize and the US State Department officials, Belize will not be permitting access of the Dallas hospital worker into the country to fly back to the states. 

So it seems unlikely that this case simply involves a situation where the woman is simply "self quarantining" as Carnival suggests. It appears more likely that efforts were unsuccessfully made to get her off of the cruise ship. 

Carnival Cruise EbolaThe cruise lines need to institute a protocol where they simply ask all passengers whether they have worked around an Ebola patient in the last three weeks. The cruise lines should prohibit them from cruising and refund their cruise fare. 

I have written about Ebola and the safety of the cruising public issue last week: Ebola on the High Seas: Should Cruise Passengers Worry About Becoming Infected?

Update: Carnival sent me a statement this morning which you can read here.  Meanwhile, Mexico bars the cruise ship from disembarking passengers.  Over two weeks ago, I was tweeting and asking why the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) had not issued Ebola-specific protocols. 

ABC News reports that the reaction on the Carnival cruise ships ranges from passengers being completely unfazed sitting by the pool to others being panicked and crying. The news accounts includes a photograph taken by cruise passenger Jeremy Malone who "saw 30 to 40 crew members with buckets of disinfectant who were lined up on along his hallway as they prepared to clean the ship . . . " It looks like these poor crew members not in protective suits were completely unprepared if this was really Ebola.

Carnival Cruise Ebola Scare

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Update: Cruise Industry is Completely Unprepared for Ebola Outbreak

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Thomas Doerfer Creative Commons 3.0 (top); Jeremy Malone via ABC News (bottom) 

Will the Cruise-Dependent Caribbean Islands Embrace Marijuana Tourism?

There's an excellent article in Travel Pulse today entitled Caribbean Tourism Officials Talk Marijuana Tourism. Written by Brian Major, the article takes a look at how the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) may capitalize on marijuana tourism.

The article cites the growing legalization of pot here in U.S., and the fact that several Caribbean islands, like Jamaica, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and Trinidad & Tobago, are considering decriminalizing weed in the future.

As Major points out, it's no secret that people are cruising to Jamaica to smoke ganja. My observation is that the cruise lines know it and make an effort to profit from it. Why shouldn't the islands profit as Falmouth Jamaica Marijuanawell?

For passengers cruising to Falmouth, Royal Caribbean offers the "Bob Marley Experience" up to the village of Nine Miles. Carnival offers an identical tour in their "Zion Bus" to the reggae king's birthplace. These cruise lines may say that they have a "zero tolerance" policy for pot on the ship, but they don't seem to care that their guests get high in the hills, at least not when the cruise line collects $100 a person for the excursion. 

Jamaica would be smart to decriminalize the weed, tax it, profit from it, and involve its citizens in a growing and finally legal industry.  It would be one of Jamaica's few sustainable industries. 

But other island destinations seem to be heading the other direction. I have written many articles about the customs police in Nassau boarding cruise ships in port without probable cause or a search warrant and searching passenger cabins and even safes for pot when the passengers are ashore. The local magistrates will then shake down the passenger for a $1,000 or so, threatening a jail sentence of a month or two in Her Majesty's prison if the fine is not immediately paid. Meanwhile dealers are offering to sell pot to tourists up and down Bay Street.  

The revenue collected by these type of arrests is a drop in the bucket compared to the money which can be generated by legalized marijuana sales catering to the tourists. Plus the islands can avoid the bad publicity and consequences associated with burdening police resources to target and arrest tourists for non-violent misdemeanors while being unable to stop violent, armed robberies and murders in the ports of call which frighten tourists away. 

I think we are going to see trends developing in the next decade between those cruise destinations in the Caribbean which embrace or reject pot. Certain places which view marijuana in practical terms as a source of substantial business will benefit. On the other hand, those ports which view weed in emotional or religious terms, as a product of the devil, will lose visitors and revenue. 

All of these Caribbean destinations have high crime rates. St. Thomas USVI which hosted the CTO “State of the Industry” conference mentioned in the Travel Pulse article has an incredibly high murder rate of over 50 per 100,000. Jamaica's homicide rate is 39 per 100,000 and the Bahamas is 30 per 100,000. (The U.S. murder rate is 5 per 100,000 and Canada is only 2 per 100,000)

Its time to get the marijuana out of the hands of the gangs and into Caribbean owned and operated business that can be taxed and the money invested into the port islands.

 

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page

Read: Is Jamaica's Ganga Tour the Best Cruise Excursion? 

Photo: Top - Falmouth, Jamaica by Jim Walker

Florida Remains Cruise Ship Lawsuit Capital of the World

According to the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), more cruise passengers have sailed in Florida and around the world than ever before.

Last year, the number of passengers taking cruises on North American cruise lines increased approximately nearly 4 percent to 17,600,000.

6,150,000 passengers sailed from Florida, an increase of 1.3 percent to 6.15 million from the prior year. Miami saw more than 2 million cruise passengers boarding ships, and Fort Lauderdale saw Crew Ship Capital of the World more than 1,800,000 passengers.

Florida also remains the lawsuit capital of the world against cruise lines. 

Most cruise lines insist that lawsuits involving injuries to cruise passengers must be filed in Florida. Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Silversea Cruises require in their "forum selection clauses" that passengers file suit in this state of they are injured or a victim of a crime during the cruise.

It doesn't matter where the cruise departed from (a different state or even country), the passenger tickets of these cruise lines state that their guests must pursue their cases here in Florida.

Several years ago, the Miami Herald published an article "Lawyers Turn Cruise Lawsuits Into Industry." The article stated that between 2001 and 2006, over 2,100 lawsuits were filed against the Miami based cruise lines - Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.

The article begins: 

"How many lawyers does it take to sue a cruise line?

Only one, or one too many if you're the cruise line.

The $25 billion-a-year cruising industry has faced more lawsuits than it cares to count over the past few decades -- some 2,100 in South Florida alone since 2001.

Many are filed by a small group of lawyers -- about 15 locally -- who specialize in representing injured cruise passengers and crew members and make up a thriving cottage industry in South Florida."

The article mentioned that I was one of the "big three" leading adversaries of cruise lines.

Cruise Ship Capital of the WorldI have not seen an analysis of lawsuits recently, but we know that the number of people cruising since 2006 has increased substantially.

The cruise ships have gotten bigger and bigger and the fleets have grown substantially.

There has also been an unprecedented number of cruise ship disasters which have plagued the cruise industry as of late. 

Every single day we receive a telephone call, or an email, or a Facebook inquiry, or a comment to this blog about a serious cruise ship injury.

In the last few days, we filed:

  • a lawsuit when a child from Mexico was seriously injured on the Flow Rider;
  • an arbitration claim on behalf of an Indian crew member (waiter) with a serious back injury who was denied appropriate medical care;
  • a lawsuit by a Canadian passenger whose finger was amputated by a cabin door which slammed shut due to a wind current from an open balcony door; and
  • an arbitration claim filed on behalf of a crew member who was denied medical treatment from the cruise line for advanced Hodgkin's Disease.      

Yes, most people have a fun time on a cruise vacation. But many passenger and crew members become seriously injured or denied appropriate medical treatment during cruises, particularly crew members from around the world.   

 

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page

Read: Cruise Ship Accident and Injury Law - Miami Florida - Forum Selection Clauses

Photo Credits:  Jim Walker

Passenger Smuggles Cocaine Aboard Carnival Liberty

Ishermon Tafari - Carnival Srug Smuggling - CocaineNews sources are reporting that a Carnival cruise passenger was busted at Port Canaveral with 12 pounds of cocaine in his suitcase after returning from a Caribbean cruise. 

The Orlando Sentinel says that Ishermon Tafari, age 31, from the country of Granada, was arrested over the weekend when federal officers entered his cabin on the Carnival Liberty cruise ship.

The officers had obtained arrest and search warrants in Orlando federal court before the cruise ship returned to port. 

When the officers searched the passenger's cabin, they found powder laundry detergent poured onto clothes at the bottom of Tafari's luggage. Approximately 12 pounds of cocaine were inside the lining of the luggage.

WFTV reports that the cruise ship made stops in Turks and Caicos, Aruba and Curacao before returning to Port Canaveral.

Investigators are looking to see if Tafari is part of a bigger smuggling operation, after discovering that he sent a text to a friend while on the trip saying, "I'm on a mission [same one, different island]."

Photo Credit:  Orlando Sentinel  

The Royal Gazette Takes a Look at Bermuda's "Reefer Madness" Policy

This week Bermuda's Royal Gazette newspaper has written about some of our articles about the island's policy of prosecuting U.S. passengers who have a few grams of pot in their cabins on cruise ships which arrive at port. 

Yesterday the Gazette published "Island’s Tough Line on Cruise Ship Passengers with Drugs is Criticised," which summarized some of our recent articles including More Reefer Madness from Bermuda’s Kangaroo Courts

Today, the newspaper published "The Best of Times, the Worst of Times." The opinion piece surprisingly agrees with our view that Bermuda's policy of shaking cruise tourists down for small amounts Bermuda Cruiseof pot, typically seized from the passengers' safes while they are ashore in Bermuda, accomplishes little except to damage the country's reputation as a tourist destination. 

Bermuda, like many island countries, could care less about principles of due process, probable cause, or search warrants regarding cruise ships. The customs officials there arrest cruise tourists to generate revenue. Unfortunately, the border and customs officials do not focus the same energy on arresting rapists or child pornographers on Bermuda-flagged cruise ships.

It's not just Bermuda that has a confused sense of priorities.

As violent crime spirals out of control in Nassau, tourism police in the Bahamas arrested a 23 year old cruise tourist from South Carolina. The Royal Bahamas Police website says that officers from the Tourism Policing Unit boarded an unidentified cruise ship at the port and arrested the passenger for possession of "dangerous drugs" on June 15th. In the Bahamas, marijuana is characterized as a "dangerous drug," even a single joint. 

Like Bermuda, the Bahamas does not care if there is probable cause for an arrest. It's a shame that these islands don't utilize these officers to target shipboard child predators or protect the passengers and crew members from robbery, rape and murder ashore.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / JoeyBagODonuts

Two U.S. Passengers Arrested for Rape on Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas

Navigator of the SeasThe Jamaica Gleaner reports that 2 U.S. men aboard Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Sea, which docked in Falmouth Jamaica yesterday morning, are accused of raping a female passenger aboard the cruise ship.

The Gleaner says that the "men were accused of raping a female passenger who they were partying with the night before on the vessel."

The sexual assault reportedly occurred at 5:30 AM, yesterday morning, when the cruise ship was sailing approximately 50 miles outside Jamaican waters.

The Gleaner also says that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), with assistance from the Jamaican police, is investigating the incident.

It is less than clear what this means as the FBI typically does not travel to the Caribbean ports to investigate crimes like this. The typical situation is for the FBI to get involved only after the cruise ship returns to an U.S. port. Sometimes the victim will get off of the cruise ship at the next port and fly back to the U.S. in circumstances like this.

Sexual assaults are not infrequent on cruise ships, particularly given the tremendous amount of alcohol sold by the cruise lines.

The newspaper says that the Navigator will return to Galveston tomorrow, "where the accused will be processed."

 

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia / Bahnfrend

Former Royal Caribbean Crew Member, Acquitted of Raping Passenger, Wins Unlawful Detention Lawsuit Against the Bahamas

The Nassau Guardian published an article yesterday about a former Royal Caribbean crew member, Ruel Lockwood, previously employed as a stateroom attendant, who was accused of raping a young woman on Royal Caribbean's Sovereign of the Seas cruise ship during a cruise to Nassau in 2006.

The crew member entered the college student's cabin with a key card, which he used to enter cabins to clean them.

The jury in the Nassau, Bahamas acquitted the crew member of the rape in the criminal case, although Nassau Bahamas CourthouseRoyal Caribbean paid $1,500,000.00 to settle the civil case which we filed here in Miami.

After crew member Lockwood was acquitted, he remained in jail for 4 days in Nassau. For that, he sued the Bahamas for "unlawful detention."

The Bahamian judge entered the order of acquittal on November 19, 2007, but immigration officials kept him in jail until November 23, 2007. The immigration officials contended that the cruise line did not complete the travel arrangements for Lockwood until November 23rd. However, Lockwood contended that Royal Caribbean had a ticket for him to fly home to Nicaragua earlier but the immigration officials refused to release his passport and kept him in jail unnecessarily. 

In 2011, Lockwood filed a civil case against the Bahamas for the extra days he stayed in jail. Yesterday the Bahamian trial court found that Lockwood should have been released by November 21st and awarded him compensation and legal costs to be determined at a later date.

We wrote about this weird situation back in 2011.  Lockwood spent approximately a year in a Bahamian jail for the alleged rape. But after the immigration officials and/or Royal Caribbean screwed up, Lockwood will receive compensation for 2 days. I wonder what a Bahamian judge will think that's worth?

"Dangerous Drugs?" Nassau Nabs Two More U.S. Cruise Passengers for Pot

The Bahamas Weekly reports that Nassau police officers - on a tip from cruise ship security personnel - arrested two U.S. passengers from Massachusetts. One was a 27 year-old woman and the other was a 28 year-old woman.

Around 9:30 AM on Friday April 25, 2014, police officers from the "Tourism Police Unit (TPU)" went onboard an unidentified cruise ship docked at the Prince George Dock and arrested the two passengers "who had a quantity of marijuana in their possession."

Nassau BahamasThe newspaper said that the cruise passengers were arrested for possession of "dangerous drugs." 

At a time when cruise passengers are afraid to go ashore into Nassau because of crime and the harassment of tourists by locals hawking drugs at the docks and in the straw market, the Bahamas tourism police are raiding the cruise ships and arresting guests who have no intention of bringing pot ashore?

We have talked about this foolishness before:

Reefer Madness: Bahamas Magistrate Taunts & Shakes Down Royal Caribbean Potheads.

April 30 2014 Update: The Bahamas Weekly reports that yesterday "A 58 year old man of Spring Hill, Florida is in custody after he was arrested for possession of dangerous drugs on Tuesday 29th April 2014.

According to reports, around 3:30 pm, Officers from the Tourism Police Unit (TPU) acting on information, went onboard a Cruise ship docked at the Prince George Wharf, where they arrested the man who had a quantity of marijuana in his possession. The man will appear in later today to be formally charged."

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / TampAGS, for AGS Media

Harris Poll Reveals a Lack of Confidence in Reliability & Safety of Cruise Industry

A Harris Poll released today reveals that the public has a lack of confidence in the reliability and safety of the cruise lines. Although the cruise industry was improving the public's perception of cruising, the numerous norovirus outbreaks aboard cruise line ships this year seem to have "effectively stolen the wind from the industry's collective sails." 

Just this week, the Princess Cruises' Crown Princess experienced a norovirus outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced six prior gastrointestinal outbreaks this year. That's 7 so far this year, compared to 9 all of last year. The public is questioning the cruise lines' usual excuse that it is always the passengers' fault for not washing their hands, as there is evidence Cruise Ship Norovirusthat many crew members work while ill in violation of the CDC protocols.

The Harris Poll reveals that the public's perceptions of "quality," "trust" and "purchase intent" are still below the scores before the Triumph debacle last year. 

"We've all heard the saying that a rising tide lifts all boats," says Deana Percassi, Vice President and Public Relations Research Consultant with Nielsen, "but the inverse also holds true. In a field as crowded as the cruise industry, bad press for a small handful of brands – or even a single one – can have negative repercussions for major players across the board."

Americans continue to have more favorable attitudes toward air travel than toward cruises. Roughly six in ten think that air travel is much more reliable than taking cruises and a majority agree that air travel is much safer than taking cruises.

A majority of Americans also agree that they're less likely to take a cruise now than they were a year ago. 

The cruise industry has also been rocked this year with a scandal that MSC Cruises has been dumping garbage bags at sea and have been exploiting its crew to the point that the police in Brazil had to raid a MSC cruise ship. Just this week, NCL decided to pull its cruise ships from Roatan following armed robbery of cruise passengers and the murder of a NCL crew member.

Last year, the cruise industry attacked the Harris Poll, accusing it of being "unscientific," "unreliable" and "flawed." The cruise lines, especially the trade group Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), always say this when there are unfavorable reports criticizing the cruise industry. It tries to discount its annual failed environmental cruise ship scores by the Friends of the Earth in this way too. Last week, CLIA said that it was "disappointed" by a study criticizing it for abusing crew members and the environment. It said the report was "unscientific" and "flawed."

Expect a similar statement from the spin masters at CLIA about the latest critical Harris Poll.  

Slave Ship? Brazilian Police Board MSC Magnifica after Crew Members Complain of Long Hours, Abuse, Intimidation & Sexual Harassment

The BBC reports that Brazilian police boarded a MSC cruise ship and rescued 11 crew members working in "slave-like conditions." 

Brazilian officials say that the 11 crew members were forced to work up to 16 hours a day on the MSC Magnifica. Some of the crew members were subjected to sexual harassment.

The Brazilian authorities have been investigating the labor abuses for the past month, following a tip-off MSC Magnifica - Slave Shipfrom MSC crew members. 

"The fact that they had signed a contract, even an international contract, does not mean that the basic human rights should not be respected," Labor Ministry director Alexandre Lyra said. 

A publication in Brazil contains additional details of the working conditions. The Blog Do Sakamoto talks of exhaustive work on the MSC cruise ship with stories of abuse, bullying and fraudulent time recording.

"We have no doubt that it is slave labor," said Alexandre Lyra, head of Brazil's Division of Surveillance for the Eradication of Slave Labor.

You can see two statements of the working conditions written by MSC crew members here.

Another newspaper in Brazil reported that crew members were subjected to racism and homophobic threats and taunts. 

MSC issued a statement denying everything.

In December and March, we posted videos and photos of MSC dumping garbage bags into the sea off the coast of Brazil from the MSC Magnifica.  If the recent allegations are true, it seems that MSC treats its employees worse than the sea it pollutes. 

 

Photo Credit: Reporter Brazil

High Waves Rock Grandeur of the Seas

This week we have been asked questions about rough weather which apparently bounced Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas around. Today I ran across this video about a passenger;s experiences abord the Grandeur.

A Pennsylvania news station, WHTM ABC 27, reports that passenger Patti Hill Bocassini was ending her 10 day vacation aboard the Grandeur when rough weather struck as the ship was heading back to Baltimore. 

The passengers had enjoyed great weather but the cruise ship encountered 20 foot waves and high winds which the captain said were caused by the Nor'easter ahead of the ship. A "rogue" wave allegedly hit the Grandeur and caused some damage.

If you were on the ship and have information to share, please leave a comment or join the discussion on Facebook.

abc27 WHTM

Huffington Post Covers MSC Cruises Garbage Dumping Story

Today the Huffington Post covered the story we posted 10 days ago about MSC Cruises crew members throwing black bags overboard from the MSC Magnifica cruise ship into the water. 

MSC says there is nothing new shown in the photos and three videos we posted because they are just a different angle of an incident reported by a passenger last December.

I say hogwash to that.  The video taken by the passenger seems to show garbage bags thrown from the port side of the cruise ship; whereas, the videos taken by the crew member shows the garbage MSC Cruises Magnifica Cruise Ship Dumpingbags thrown from the stern.

Also, if you look at all three articles we posted, you will note that the piles of debris which the former crew members say were pitched overboard involved at least two different incidents from different MSC cruise ships at different times into different waters. 

The large pile of broken down pallets from the MSC Magnifica were reported thrown into Brazilian waters in November / December 2013. The pile of pallets from the MSC Poesia were reportedly thrown into the waters between Florida and Mexico in January 2013.  The crew members we spoke to said that this type of debris was systematically dumped overboard at least once a week while the ships were underway at night.

The former crew members also told us that the dumping of garbage bags were far from a single event from one single cruise ship. They have sent us many photographs of this practice, including incidents where bales of cardboard, plastic and debris wrapped in clear plastics were stacked from floor to ceiling and and then thrown into the sea (see photo above right).

It is not surprising to us that MSC Cruises has never responded to our requests for information. The cruise line refuses to inform us of the identity of the Brazilian authorities who are investigating these incidents. MSC may be trying to  keep the former crew members, who know that the practice is more widespread than MSC will admit, from talking to the authorities.

Time Magazine: The Top 13 Cruise Ship Norovirus Outbreaks

With the Explorer of the Seas sailing back to New Jersey with almost 650 victims of norovirus related nausea and diarrhea, Time magazine just published the article Cruise Out of Control: The 13 Worst Norovirus Outbreaks on Cruise Ships.

The worst outbreak is, of course, Royal Caribbean's Explorer but the cruise line and its sister line Celebrity Cruises have the top three worst outbreaks and five of the top 13 worst outbreaks.

The passengers and crew aboard the Celebrity Mercury suffered through outbreaks on five consecutive  sailings back in 2000, including 443 sick in February 2000 and 419 in March. The Centers Norovirus Cruise Shipfor Disease Control and Prevention finally issued a rare no-sail order because the ship kept infecting the passengers and the cruise line wouldn't stop sailing.

The overall winner of Time's top 13 list is Princess Cruises which had five outbreaks on its brand alone: Crown Princess (January 2010) - 396; Crown Princess (February 2012) - 363;  Ruby Princess (March 2013) - 276; Coral Princess (February 2009) - 271; and Sun Princess (July 2012) - 216.

The disturbing thing about the list is that the Centers for Disease Control were unable to publish a single conclusion about where the norovirus came from. The public is left with the "blame game" of wondering whether the cruise ship food or water was contaminated, or the outbreak was caused by a sick galley worker, or was brought aboard by sick passengers and then spread because of inadequate hygiene.

Ominous End of 2013 & Beginning of 2014 for Cruise Industry

I returned from a New Year's party last night feeling euphoric to be with my family at the start of 2014. Before heading to sleep, I turned on my laptop and clicked on Google news, only to read the dreadful account of a cruise passenger disappearing from the Independence of the Seas.  

This is the third case of a passengers going overboard from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in just 11 days. First, an overboard passenger from the Rhapsody of the Seas in Australia, then an overboard from the Adventure of the Seas heading to San Juan, and now a disappearance from the Independence of the Seas sailing to the Caymans.

Royal Caribbean says the latest disappearance, like the first, is a mystery. Why the mystery? Because Cruise Line Omenthe cruise line did not bother to install a man overboard system on its cruise ships. Royal Caribbean's CCTV cameras (which are not monitored by the cruise line anyway) did not record what happened either, at least that is what the cruise line is saying. 

So we begin 2014 like we have begun decades of other New Years, with cruise ship passengers disappearing without a trace on the high seas. The families of the missing are left with trying to figure out why their spouse or children went overboard. All the cruise ships have extensive surveillance systems in their casinos because the cruise lines value their casino chips and don't want their money to disappear. You can't say that about their guests.

In 2010, President Obama signed the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act (CVSSA) into law. It required, among other things, that cruise ships be equipped with automatic man overboard systems to capture images of overboard persons and/or send an automatic alarm signal to the bridge. This system has been extensively discussed and debated before our U.S. Congress and was enacted into law to become effective on January 1, 2012. 

The purpose of the legislation was to require the cruise lines to implement systems to automatically detect when a person goes overboard so that immediate search and rescue efforts could save lives, regardless of whether the person going overboard was the result of an accident, negligence, intoxication, foul-play or a suicide.

But Royal Caribbean has refused to implement any type of system. There are all types of apologists for the cruise lines out there, like the cruise industry's trade organization the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).  "The technology doesn't exist" (a lie) is one excuse. "We are working on it" is another excuse, from the cruise industry's gigantic book of endless excuses.

But at least one cruise line, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), has installed such systems successfully.

2014 could have started with a happy story of a successful rescue of the passenger from the Independence of the Seas due to Royal Caribbean's installation of an automatic man overboard system. But instead we start the year where we began it. It's business-a- usual with the cruise lines just shrugging off the latest death as a mystery. 18 people have gone overboard last year.  The number will only increase and the mysteries will continue as the cruise industry continues to violate the CVSSA. 

There are other ominous developments indicating that the disastrous effects of last year will continue into 2014. 

Two days ago we mentioned an explosion which seriously injured 3 crew members on the MSC Orchestra. We also reported on a passengers alleging that another MSC cruise ship was throwing bags of garbage off the ship at night into the waters near a marine sanctuary off the coast of Brazil. He video-taped the dumping. For an industry which promotes itself as stewards of the environment and the safest form of transportation, these events showed that things are not as the cruise lines want you to believe. The stories should have been extensively reported and discussed within the cruise and maritime communities.

But in truth, the community of cruise fans, travel agents, cruise-friendly bloggers and the cruise industry public relations departments don't want these type of negative stories revealed to the public. It's bad for business. None of what I consider to be the top cruise bloggers would publish these stories. 

The end of this year also saw evidence that Carnival knew that it had major problems with the engine systems on the Triumph and other ships, but it sailed nonetheless at great risk to its customers. Many cruise bloggers and travel writers instinctively rallied behind the cruise industry although the evidence of Carnival's guilt was overwhelming.

I wish that I felt optimistic about what lies ahead for the cruising public this year. But the cruise lines are showing signs that they have not learned a whole lot from the sad events of 2013. The recent stories are omens of more bad things ahead for the cruise lines.     

   

Definition of "ominous:" Suggesting that something bad is going to happen in the future; being or exhibiting an omen; foreboding or foreshadowing evil. 

Have the cruise lines learned anything from 2013? Join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Video: Rough Weather Strikes Carnival Cruise Ship

A former employee of Carnival Cruise Lines sent us two short videos of rough weather striking an unidentified cruise ship.

The first video is from the bridge camera and shows waves striking over the bow.

The second and more dramatic video shows water smashing through a window and engulfing the interior of the cruise ship with water.

The videos both show a date of November 5 2011.  I'll post additional information as it becomes available. 

November 2 2013 Update: Several readers indicate that this was the Carnival Pride. If you have other info, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.  Thanks! 

November 3 2013 Update: Check out the video of the fire which broke out in the children's area (Circle C) on the cruise ship.

 

 

  

Supersize Cruise Craze: "Too Big to Sail? Cruise Ships Face Scrutiny"

This weekend, the New York Times published an article about the "supersize craze" - the increasingly large cruise ships being built by the major cruise lines which are "worrying safety experts, lawmakers and regulators." 

The article quotes my hero- Jim Hall, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTBS): “Cruise ships operate in a void from the standpoint of oversight and enforcement. The industry has been very fortunate until now." 

Oasis Class Evacuation ChuteThe article discusses the capsizing of the Costa Concordia and the fires aboard the Carnival Triumph & Splendor and the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas, and concludes that larger cruise ships pose larger problems when things go wrong.

The article also quotes Rear Admiral Joseph Servidio, who testified at a Senate hearing in July which I attended. He said that the recent cruise ship fires “highlight serious questions about the design, maintenance and operation of fire safety equipment on board these vessels, as well as their companies’ safety management cultures.”

The New York Times addressed the potential problems of evacuating Royal Caribbean two mega-ships, the Allure and the Oasis. There are not enough life boats for the crew. The 2,300 crew members on each of these cruise ships will have to jump down 60 foot evacuation chutes into life rafts.

You can see our article about this problem here - Titanic Redux? Can Royal Caribbean Safely Evacuate 8,500 Passengers & Crew from the Oasis of the Seas? Be sure to watch the video at the end of the article.

Captain William H. Doherty, a former captain at Norwegian Cruise Lines, explained the problem in simple terms to the New York Times: “The simple problem is they are building them too big and putting too many people aboard.”

 

Image Credit: Viking / Royal Catibbean 

Cruise Law News' Four Year Anniversary: Have You Read Our Stories?

This week marks the 4th year anniversary of starting my blog Cruise Law News (CLN). 

I've written 1,585 articles, which averages out to be over one per day. We have received over 4,700 comments to our articles, mostly from U.S. readers. Google Analytics tell us over 1,000,000 different people have read over 3,500,000 pages of our blog in the last 12 months. The blog has come a long way since September 2009 when barely 5,000 people read CLN.

According to the AVVO ranking system, CLN is currently ranked the 10th most popular law blog in the U.S. Of the nine blogs more popular than ours, five are written by law professors and four are for-profit, monetized blogs which accept advertising which you will never see here. So you can make the Cruise Law News - Jim Walker Miamiargument that CLN is the most popular law blog written by one lawyer who actually practices law.

CLN reached an international audience when I started my Cruise Law News Facebook page last year and began posting the CLN articles on Facebook. The result has been fantastic. Around 70,000 fans follow us on Facebook. We are growing exponentially. We have more readers whose languages are primarily non-English than English readers.

The top countries where our CLN Facebook followers are from are India, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and then the U.S. The next five most popular countries are Turkey, Romania, Croatia, Italy and Chile.    

The stories we cover here on CLN are genuine, dramatic and often disturbing. They are not fiction.

Several years ago, Kevin O'Keefe, the founder and CEO of Seattle-based LexBlog, which designed and hosts our blog, came to Miami to meet some of the Miami bloggers who are part of his network. During dinner, O'Keefe asked me why I liked to blog. Instantly I told him that a half-dozen of my clients have testified before Congressional committees in Washington D.C. about being victimized on cruise ships. Their stories, about ship fires, loved ones lost at sea, and cruise crime, are riveting. Their causes deserved a larger audience. And I wanted to tell their compelling stories and promote their causes on a national and international basis.

CLN permits me to do that. Our firm and our blog have been mentioned in over one-hundred newspapers, cable news stations, radio shows, television programs and documentaries this year alone. CLN has taken my client's causes around the world to places I have never been to before, like India, Serbia, Croatia, Peru and Venezuela.     

So why has Cruise Law News been so successful you may ask?

In Jonas Sachs' book Winning the Story Wars, the author explains that those who tell the best stories will be successful. Sachs defines "best" as those authentic stories which inspire compassion and hope and bring about positive social change.

Our stories are about the little man taking on the big corporation, such as $500-a-month cruise employees from India working over 360 hours a month standing up to the abuses of multi-national companies based here in Miami. We write about grass roots victims' groups enacting legislation over the fierce opposition and dirty tricks of huge, billion-dollar tax-avoiding cruise corporations.  Many of our stories are about women, both passengers and crew, taking on the male-dominated cruise industry.

There are many social media experts who say that the key to a successful blog is to consistently and genuinely demonstrate passion about an issue. That's true. But it's not enough. Whether your blog sells a product or promotes a cause, an author needs a compelling story to tell.

That's where I have a distinct advantage over other lawyers and bloggers. I realize that the stories here on CLN are not mine. I am just a storyteller. The stories are the only reason my articles are widely read and CLN is closely followed. The stories are of our clients and friends who have endured unimaginable events while cruising, of all things. Stories like being sexually assaulted during cruise vacations, or losing a parent or a spouse or a child on the high seas.  And in a time of despair and desperation, many of these nice people face corporate deceit or heartless indifference of the worst kind. These stories must be told.

Convicted Child Molester Prohibited From Leaving U.S. to Go on Cruise

Roderick Reese - Cruise - Child MolesterThe Macomb Daily reports today on the arrest of a convicted child molester who was stopped at an airport when he attempted to fly to Europe to go on a cruise.

According to the Macomb Daily, Roderick Reese, age 61, of Southfield, Michigan was arrested by Michigan State Police minutes before he and his wife were to board a Delta flight at Detroit Metropolitan Airport headed for Amsterdam. 

He was arrested because he failed to notify authorities that he was on the sex offender registry, according to the newspaper.

The newspaper further states that Reese was a former teacher who was accused of groping fifth-grade girls, age 9 to 11, in 2003 and 2004 when he taught at a local elementary school in Michigan.

He reportedly pleaded no contest in 2005 to one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct in a plea agreement with Macomb County prosecutors. He was sentenced to five years probation with the first year in the county jail. Fifteen additional charges of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and another five counts of attempted second-degree criminal sexual conduct were dismissed as part of the deal. 

The school system was reportedly sued by 11 girls with the cases resulting in settlements. 

The state trooper who commented on the case stated that Reese “said they were going on a 25th wedding anniversary cruise that he paid $16,000 for. He wasn’t happy. He was in disbelief."

The state trooper added “I don’t think those school children (he was accused of molesting) would’ve been happy” if he was allowed to break the rules and go on the trip.

Our firm is occasionally asked by convicted felons whether they can leave the U.S. to go on cruises, either alone or with their families.

The ability of state and national law enforcement officials to track child molesters and keep them from cruising is sporadic at best.

 

Photo Credit: Busted Offenders

Cruise Industry Article "Safe at Sea" Misses the Boat

Cruise Ship Crime - PornographyA criminologist for the cruise industry, Dr. James Alan Fox, published an article earlier this week which contains a great deal of unsubstantiated and misleading opinions about crime on cruise ships. 

The cruise industry routinely hires Dr. Fox when Congress scrutinizes the cruise lines for not honestly reporting crimes. The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) paid Dr. Fox to comment on select crime data to try and and stave off mandatory cruise reporting legislation proposed by Senator Rockefeller.

Dr. Fox's subsequent article, published in a Boston newspaper, is entitled "Safe at Sea." He cites five "factors" which he says support CLIA's claim that cruising is safe. You can read my criticisms below his comments: 

1. "Cruise passengers are hardly a cross-section of be U.S. population," Dr. Fox says. He argues that the "age distribution" and "socio-economic standing" of the typical cruise line passenger tends "to limit the number of passengers with criminal intent."

Dr. Fox does not explain what specific types of U.S. citizens are more likely to board a cruise ship with "criminal intent." And I don't know how he could possibly know that. The limited crime data disclosed by the cruise lines doesn't provide the age, race, social status or economic standing of either the victim or the assailant such that anyone could determine who is the most likely person to commit a crime on a cruise ship.  

Cruise Ship Crime - RapeDr. Fox also does not identify any type of methodology or scientific analysis he conducted to arrive at his conclusions. The "factors" he cites are subjective opinions which mirror the press releases of the cruise industry which paid him in the first place. 

In my experience representing in excess of a hundred cruise victims over the years, cruise passengers are victimized by a wide variety of criminals of all ages, races, ethnicities, social groups and economic backgrounds. They are no different than perverts ashore. 

Carnival's $399-a-week for a "fun ship" cruise has opened up cruises to the masses which includes both good and bad people. Carnival's Micky Arison commented in an article I wrote about the problem of violence during cruises - Cruise Ship Brawls - A Problem that Will Get Bigger with Bigger Ships. Carnival's former CEO acknowledges that violence is a by-product of cheap cruise tickets which attract a more diverse group of passengers:

Cruise ships are a microcosm of any city or any location and stuff happens . . . The negatives of discounting might be less commission for agents and less revenue for us but the positive is it opens up the product to a wider audience.”

Cruise Ship Crime - PervertFrom my perspective, the "wider audience" includes a large slice of perverts, porn addicts, pedophiles, molesters, rapists, drunken brawlers, murderers, serial rapists, and even serial killers from across the U.S. And don't forget that people on a cruise ship are not just a slice of U.S. citizens across the country, but a slice of people from all over the world. 

Consider for the moment the disturbing number of passengers and crew members who bring graphic child pornography onto cruise ships on their iPhones, laptops, computers and thumb drives. Look here, herehere, here and here for a small example.  Child perverts who attack children on cruise ships come in all ages, races and ethnic backgrounds, as you can see here, here, here and here. One child predator alone employed aboard Cunard cruise ships, Paul Trotter, a child counselor no less, molested at least 13 U.K. boys in the last few years. There are many other child victims. Rapists who target single women and girls come in all sizes and colors, some wearing cruise ship uniforms. Violence rare? You can watch YouTube videos all day long of drunken cruise passengers brawls which resemble gang fights that rival the meanest street in a major urban city. Yes, there are murders too, as you can see here, here, here, here and here. There are few arrests or convictions. A cruise ship seems to be the perfect place to commit the crime and get away with it. 

Cruise Ship Crime - Israel KeyesSerial killers sailing on cruise ships too? There's no way, you say. But consider this headline from FOX News just last year: "FBI: Confessed Serial Killer Boarded Cruise Ship in New Orleans," and this sensational headline from ABC News "Serial Killer's Methodical Plan to Rape and Strangle Teen, Then Go on a Cruise." The articles involve serial killer Israel Keyes who abducted, robbed, raped, strangled, and mutilated a young woman in Alaska.  The FBI says that he was involved in a number of similar crimes across the country. Following his last grisly crime, where did serial killer Keyes go on vacation? He went on two back-to-back cruises out of New Orleans.

The lesson to be learned is that when you cruise, you never know who you're cruising with. Don't be fooled for a second that there are any fewer criminals on cruise ships than anywhere else.

2. "In addition to passenger self-selection is the type of screening performed by the cruise lines themselves. While most vacation venues do background checks on prospective employees, cruise lines also submit passenger manifests to both U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Coast Guard for screening."

Cruise Ship Crime - PornographyCruise lines don't conduct background investigations on their employees. Hiring agents in countries like Jamaica and India are suppose to do that, but rarely do. Read our article: Do Cruise Lines Conduct Background Checks of Crew Members?  Learn what the cruise industry's pre-employment vetting of cruise ship employees is really all about.  

Yes, cruise lines send their passenger manifests to U.S. Customs & Border officials, but the federal government usually does not conduct a screening of the list until after the cruise ships sails. Lots of people with outstanding warrants get arrested, but only after the ship returns to port.

People who are on "no fly" lists on suspicion of terrorism can still board cruise ships and travel by ship when they can't fly for security reasons.  

If you think that cruise line vetting and federal officials keep rapists off cruise ships, read this blockbuster article: Most Wanted Rape Suspect Arrested On Carnival Cruise Ship - Worked As Manager Of Onboard Hair Salon.  

3.  "Passengers and crew are searched for weapons and other contraband every time they board ship. In fact, except for only extraordinary circumstances (e.g., security details protecting certain dignitaries), passengers are not permitted to carry guns, even off-duty police personnel."

Dr. Fox is correct on this one point.  Your chance of being robbed at gunpoint on a cruise ship is extremely remote. But armed robbery on a ship is not a problem and has never been debated before Cruise Ship Crime - PedophileCongress. The most likely crimes are rape and sexual assault. The most likely rapist is an employee of the cruise line. 18% of sexual assaults on cruise ships are against children. Plus, a significant number of passengers and crew go overboard without an explanation.

But as far as guns are concerned once you disembark a cruise ship into a port chosen by the cruise industry, the risk of being shot or robbed at gunpoint increases significantly. The risk is particularly high in Mexico and the Caribbean. 22 Carnival passengers from the Splendor were robbed at gunpoint in Mexico. 17 Celebrity passengers were robbed at gunpoint in St. Kitts.  A total of 29 Disney and Royal Caribbean cruise passengers were robbed at gunpoint in two incidents in the Bahamas which you can read about here and here. 14 NCL passengers were robbed at gunpoint in St. Lucia. And to top it off a year later 55 cruise passengers and 2 crew members from the Celebrity Eclipse were robbed at gunpoint in St. Lucia.  I'm sure that none of these 125 people expected to have a gun pointed at their face during their family cruise.

Cruise lines don't like to discuss the problem, but cruise lines are responsible for warning passengers of crime they know or should know about in ports where they take their guests. Courts consider Cruise Ship  Crime -- Rapeexcursions ashore to be an integral part of the cruise experience. You may never be shot on a cruise, but passengers and crew have been murdered in ports of call such as cases like this and this and this.

4.  "Although cruise ships do not have immediate access to law enforcement while at sea, the level of security and surveillance provided by the cruise lines is relatively high compared to that of many other types of vacation destinations."

Dr. Fox does not explain what "relatively high" security and surveillance means. On a typical cruise ship with 3,000 passengers and crew members, there are only around ten security guards and a security chief and security supervisor.  There are many hundreds of waiters, assistant waiters, bartenders, bar servers, cooks, cleaners, and stateroom attendants on a ship but relatively few guards. There are far more dancers, singers, beauticians and spa employees than security guards.  At nighttime, there may be only one or two guards making rounds and a security supervisor in his office, which is grossly inadequate given the substantial amount of alcohol sold on cruise ships and potential Cruise Ship Crime - Molestation Disney Cruisefor physical and sexual violence.

Most surveillance cameras on cruise ships are not actually manned by anyone. Some cruise lines staff the security cameras in the casinos in order to protect their money, but they don't monitor cameras positioned on the exterior decks and interior hallways. Virtually no cruise lines have state-of-the-art man overboard systems to detect passengers and crew who go overboard, as required by the 2010 Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act ("CVSSA").

The biggest problem with the absence of an independent police force on cruise ships is that the ship's security personnel have a conflict of interest when crimes are committed.  Some crimes against women are committed by the ship's security personnel or officers who are far senior to the security guards. When a woman is sexually assaulted at a hotel ashore, the local police will arrive and preserve the scene and apprehend the criminals involved. On a cruise ship, the ship security will often begin to build a case against the victim to protect the crew member and the cruise line. Sometimes the cruise ship officers and staff negligently or intentionally destroy evidence making the victim's case impossible to prove.       

5. "Last, and certainly not least important, the confined space on cruise ships limits the opportunity for would-be offenders to attempt a quick getaway. They certainly can't escape apprehension by jumping overboard or making off in a stolen lifeboat."

Crew members who commit crimes don't need to jump overboard or steal a lifeboat to escape. Cruise Cruise Ship Crime - Child Molesterlines have been known to sail the cruise ship out of the jurisdiction where the crime occurs and then fly the criminal employee home from the next port of call in order to avoid prosecution. Just earlier this week, the Miami Herald wrote an editorial stating the following about an assault by a Disney employee against a girl on the Disney Dream:

"There’s another serious problem that lawmakers should address: Some cruise lines egregiously help crew members accused of sexual assault and other crimes elude prosecution. Unfortunately, it’s an old story being given new life in an awful case reported by WKMG-Channel 6 in Orlando. A crew member on a Disney cruise was caught on video molesting an 11-year-old girl while the ship still was in port. Ship authorities waited a full day before reporting the crime to the FBI. By that time the ship was on its way to the Bahamas, where the alleged perpetrator was allowed to disembark, out of the reach of U.S. law enforcement. Disney then did the guy a further favor and flew him home to India."

Final Thoughts: Crime statistics don't tell the whole story. The more important considerations are whether the cruise lines are being truly honest with the public about crimes which occur, whatever the Cruise Ship Rapestatistics may be. True transparency by the cruise industry is the key. Unfortunately, it is sorely lacking. Cruise lines have never voluntarily released statistics of sexual crimes against children.

Cruise lines must be obligated to inform passengers about the specific types of dangers which exist on cruises. The cruise industry must be required by law to promptly report crimes when they occur. There must be penalties levied against cruise lines which delay reporting crimes or assist criminals who prey on women and children during cruises - especially if the criminals are their own employees.     

Photos:

Gary Lee Read - Child Pornography - Monarch of the Seas

Milton Braganza - Sexual assault / molestation of 11 year old girl - Disney Dream

Timothy Webb - Child Pornography - Grandeur of the Seas

Israel Keyes - Serial killer later vacationing on unknown cruise ship

Amado Nichols Hernandez - Child Pornography - Celebrity Constellation

Sherwood Stevenson - Sexual molestation of 6 year old girl - Liberty of the Seas

Casey Dickinson - Gang rape of 14 year old girl - Carnival Sensation

Lucas George - Sexual Assault of 13 year old girl - Disney Wonder

Paul Trotter - Sexual abuse of over 13 boys under age 14 - various Cunard cruise ships

Kris Herypiyanto - Rape of 14 year old girl - Carnival Freedom

Cocaine Drug Bust on MSC Magnifica Cruise Ship

Crew Center reports that the Spanish police arrested two crew members from the cruise ship MSC Magnífica, which docked recently in La Coruña, Spain on drug trafficking charges.

The crew members were caught with 15 kilos of cocaine on the cruise ship.

Miami Herald Editorial: "Report, Punish Crime on Cruises"

The following is an editorial / opinion piece by the Miami Herald which was published tonight:

"Crime on the high seas isn’t just about illegal commercial fishing practices, drug-running and Somalian pirates. Unfortunately, it also comes in the form of sexual assault, theft and suspicious disappearances on what are supposed to be pleasure cruises.

Under pressure from Congress, specifically, a consumer-safety bill introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, of West Virginia, the three largest cruise lines, Miami-based Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, agreed to release the data of alleged crimes reported on their ships. Combined, they make up 85 percent of the industry. The crime stats will allow potential passengers to make better-informed decisions, just as the flying public can access information on airline safety and car buyers can find out which are the most road-worthy.

The crime data’s release should also propel cruise lines to take the problem as seriously as their CEOs say they do. In South Florida, cruises are a bread-and-butter industry, boosting the economy and luring tourists back again and again.

Given the multitude of cruises that depart annually, there isn’t anything akin to a crime wave on cruise ships. However, Sen. Rockefeller is right to be perturbed by how many cruise lines handle — or fail to handle — crime reported on board. Cruise-industry leaders announced their crime-data release agreement last week during a hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation.

It’s been a rough 18 months for the cruise industry. The public has heard unsettling news of cruise ship fires, read published messages sent from frightened and beleaguered passengers adrift in the dark and, most disturbing, seen dramatic photographs of the Costa Concordia, beached off the Italian coast, lying on its side, swamped with water, 32 passengers dead. Because of the public nature of these incidents, cruise-line leaders were equally as public in taking responsibility for what went wrong.

Less so, however, when it comes to crime aboard cruises to exotic locales. Legislation in the U.S. House and Senate would require the information be made available to the public. Before, only crimes that no longer were being investigated by the FBI were made public. As a result, potential passengers only had misleading information to go on. A report showed that 130 alleged crimes in categories specified by the cruise safety act had been reported to the FBI in 2011 and 2012, but only 31 of those had been reported to the public during that time. Cruise lines reported a total of 959 alleged crimes overall to the FBI, the document says.

There’s another serious problem that lawmakers should address: Some cruise lines egregiously help crew members accused of sexual assault and other crimes elude prosecution. Unfortunately, it’s an old story being given new life in an awful case reported by WKMG-Channel 6 in Orlando. A crew member on a Disney cruise was caught on video molesting an 11-year-old girl while the ship still was in port. Ship authorities waited a full day before reporting the crime to the FBI. By that time the ship was on its way to the Bahamas, where the alleged perpetrator was allowed to disembark, out of the reach of U.S. law enforcement. Disney then did the guy a further favor and flew him home to India.

According to the website cruiselawnews.com, “Disney was able to avoid the U.S. investigation into the incident while making certain that any investigation was handled only by the Bahamas which, theoretically can investigate shipboard crimes because Disney cruise ships fly Bahamian flags of convenience.” But the Bahamas has a lousy record of investigating such crimes.

Lawmakers must pressure guilty cruise lines to confront and end this deplorable practice. Merely reporting the number of onboard crimes brings little comfort if perpetrators are not brought to justice." 

Disney Cruise Line Sexual PredatorRead other articles regarding this problem with Disney Cruise Line:

"Sickened" By Molestation of Child on Disney Dream, Brevard County Attorney General Vows to Zealously Prosecute Cruise Ship Crimes

Images of a Disney Nightmare: Are Your Kids Safe Sailing With Disney?

Did Disney Cruise Line Really Sail a Crime Scene from the U.S. to Nassau? International Press Focuses on Disney Child Molestation Case
 

Cruise Lines Feel the Heat: Congressional Legislation Introduced After Over 60 Cruise Ship Fires from 2009 through 2013

Cruise Ship FiresNews Channel 12 WPRI in East Providence, Rhode Island aired a broadcast today about Senator Rockefeller's newly introduced consumer legislation designed to require the cruise industry to report serious crimes which occur on the high seas.

Channel 12 says that "In the wake of recent horror stories on the high seas, lawmakers have introduced a key bill that could help the estimated 21-million Americans expected to set sail on a cruise ship this year."

Cruise executives boast that cruising is safe and that the cruise lines transparently report all crimes at sea. Unfortunately that's not true. 

The news station states that "over the last five years, there have been 63 fires on board cruise ships and a total of 44 cruise related collisions."  I checked the actual data at the website of cruise expert Ross Klein and noted that there were actually 61 cruise fires and 52 collisions / allisons during the time period in question.

Among other key provisions introduced by Senator Rockefeller, the proposed Cruise Passenger Protection Act would create a toll-free hotline for consumer complaints, and provide passengers a clear summary of the onerous terms and conditions of the cruise passenger contracts.

Watch the video below. 

CFA: Cruise ship safety improvements

Senator Rockefeller to Cruise Lines: You Can't Operate for Free in the U.S.

As promised, Senator Jay Rockefeller announced that he has introduced legislation seeking to eliminate the Section 883 exemption for cruise industry income derived from cruises that embark or disembark passengers in the U.S.  Senator Rockefeller stated in a press release: 

“The cruise industry can’t operate for free here in the U.S. It costs money to send the Coast Guard to tow their drifting ships and it costs money to maintain the ports they use. Cruise lines need to start paying their fair share of taxes and stop expecting everyone else to foot the bill.”

Over the last year, Senator Rockefeller has raised concerns that the cruise industry has used the infrastructure of U.S. ports, the resources of the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, and  more than 20 U.S. agencies, but has paid virtually no U.S. taxes. At the same time, the U.S. Coast Guard is substantially Cruise Ship Taxesunder-funded and is increasingly called upon to assist cruise lines which are experiencing fires and engine failures.

Efforts to repeal the exception have been a long time coming.  Earlier this year, as the disabled Carnival cruise ship Triumph was being towed back to the U.S. at U.S. taxpayer expense, Forbes published an article: Ship Isn't The Only Thing That Stinks At Carnival: Low Tax Rate Stirs Ire.   

The cruise industry enjoys a substantial tax advantage over shore-side hotels, restaurants and amusement parks by incorporating their businesses and registering their cruise ships in foreign countries. This permits the cruise lines to sell their cruises at artificially low prices.  Although Carnival and Royal Caribbean are based here in the U.S., they are registered in Panama and Liberia respectively to avoid U.S. taxes.  

Rockefeller's proposed legislation would eliminate the tax exemption for cruise lines and impose a 5 percent excise tax on gross income if passengers get on or off a ship in the U.S. The tax would be targeted to improve the transportation infrastructure.

Avoiding taxes is a cornerstone of the cruise industry's business model. Expect CLIA and the cruise lines to mount a heavy PR campaign to try and kill the new bill.  

Interested in this issue? Consider reading:

Over Past 5 Years, Carnival Paid Taxes of Only 0.6% on Billions & Billions

Cruise Lines Depend on U.S. Coast Guard for Safety & Security But Pay Nothing

Under Pressure, Carnival Agrees to Reimburse U.S. for Coast Guard & Navy Costs in Responding to Disabled Triumph & Splendor Cruise Ships

Your Tax Dollars At Sea - Who Pays When Things Go Wrong on Cruises?

Have a thought about this issue?  Leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.
 

Below - watch a NBC special where Senator Rockefeller and I are interviewed about Carnival's avoidance of U.S. taxes: 

  

 

Rape & Sexual Assault Most Common Crimes on Cruise Ships

A local CBS station in Alabama reports that since January 2011, the U.S. Coast Guard publicly reported only 31 crimes aboard cruise ships. However, after Senator Rockefeller placed pressure on the cruise industry, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian on Thursday reported 94 crimes and 20 crimes, respectively, between October 2010 and the end of June of this year. These figures do not include Carnival. 

Is this a complete list of crimes? No. Extracting honest crimes statistics from the cruise industry is a long process. 

The news station states that the most common crime allegations are rape and sexual assault, followed by thefts.  

 

NBC News Discusses Cruise Ship Crime Statistics and Overboard Passengers

Today a local NBC station in South Florida posted a video of the recent disclosure of cruise ship crime statistics.

You can read the article here.

The video (below) includes an interview with me about the provisions of the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2010 (CVSSA) which permitted cruise ship crimes and man-overboard incidents to be concealed from the public. Only incidents which were reported to the FBI and then the FBI closed the investigation could be disclosed to the public.  

The cruise lines were successful in inserting language to this effect into the CVSSA in order to conceal the vast majority of alleged crimes and overboards from the public.

 

Cruise Line "Voluntary" Crime & Man-Overboard Disclosures: Royal Caribbean's Data Is Incomplete and Misleading

Senator RockefellerYesterday Royal Caribbean and a couple of other cruise lines "voluntarily" posted a limited amount of data on their websites regarding cruise crimes and disappearances of people from cruise ships.

Of course there was nothing remotely "voluntary" about the cruise lines' conduct.

Last week Senator Rockefeller convened a hearing where he introduced legislation intended to compel, under penalty of law, all of the CLIA cruise lines to divulge incidents of disappearances from cruise ships and theft, homicide and sexual assault on ships. On the day of the hearing, the president of Royal Caribbean, Adam Goldstein, announced that his cruise line, as well as Carnival and NCL, would agree to post crime data without the necessity of legislation.  Cruise executive Goldstein said that his cruise line would begin posting the crime and man overboard information on August 1st.

The cruise lines have been resisting and dodging disclosing truthful crime statistics over the course of the last 7 Congressional hearings I have attended. Cruise CEO Goldstein's new promises of transparency were made for PR purposes to try and stave off the tough legislation introduced by Senator Rockefeller. 

Senator Rockefeller is skeptical that the cruise industry can be trusted to self-report accurate crime statistics. The Associated Press quoted Senator Rockefeller stating: “If we’re really going to make a difference for consumers, I believe it’s going to take legislative action to make sure this industry is required to give customers the information they need and deserve when they’re making a decision about taking a cruise."

The CEO of the International Cruise Victims organization, Ken Carver, is also skeptical that the cruise industry can be trusted, The AP quoted Mr. Carver's belief that crimes reported by cruise lines are vastly lower than reality, because the initial investigations are handled by cruise line security personnel rather than law enforcement officials.

The skepticism by Senator Rockefeller and cruise victim advocate Carver is well founded. There is a well documented history of the cruise lines providing incomplete and misleading crime data to Congress and the American people. In some instances the information released by the major cruise lines is patently false.

In January 2007, the LA Times published an article looking into the problem of crime on cruise ships, entitled "Cruise Industry's Dark Waters." The article points out that Congressman Shays previously called for Congressional hearings where he requested crime statistics from the cruise industry. The cruise lines resisted the legislation arguing that it can be trusted to provide honest information. At several points in the hearings, when cruise line representatives extolled their safety statistics, Congressman Shays seemed skeptical. "I do not think we have all of the statistics," he told representatives of major cruise lines.

Royal Caribbean informed Congressman Shays that 66 sexual assaults occurred over a three year Adam Goldstein Senate Hearrng Cruise Ship Crimeperiod on its cruise ships. However, in a case we handled against Royal Caribbean involving 12-year-old twins who alleged that a crew member molested them, the cruise line was forced to hand over the internal records requested by our firm after a judge threatened to fine it $1,000 a day if it failed to comply. 

The Royal Caribbean data revealed not just 66 incidents, but 273 reports from passengers who said they were victims of sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual harassment and inappropriate touching during a shorter time period. The LA Times quoted me saying that Royal Caribbean "redefined things and in the process, magically, poof, what used to be a crime no longer existed. Then they served up these numbers and thought they could get away with it."

So with this history in mind, let's take a look at what Royal Caribbean just posted yesterday as part of its "voluntary" disclosure on its website.

It disclosed just three persons overboard for the time period beginning October 2010 through the end of June 2013. There is no information regarding these incidents on the cruise line's skimpy website chart. There is no way a consumer can understand what happened. One of the three incidents involved a young woman who went overboard in September 2012. You can read about in detail on our website here, here and here

What's even more troubling is that Royal Caribbean did not reveal that 8 other people went overboard from Royal Caribbean cruise ships and the ships operated by its subsidiary Celebrity Cruises for the time period in question. Consider  the following man overboard incidents which occurred in the Royal Caribbean / Celebrity fleet:

January 2011 - Passenger disappeared from the Liberty of the Seas

March 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Grandeur of the Seas. 

March 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Constellation.

May 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Eclipse

May 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Millennium (see cruise expert Professor Ross Klein's database)

December 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Summit

January 2012 - Crew member disappeared from the Monarch of the Seas. 

February 2012 - Passenger disappeared from the Allure of the Seas. 

September 2012 - Crew member disappeared from the Serenade of the Seas.

October 2012 - Another crew member disappeared from the Serenade of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean's website indicates that the cruise line intends to reveal only those overboard situations involving U.S. citizens. But there is no reason to hide man overboard incidents involving passengers of other nationalities and crew members. Disney Cruise Line, for example, discloses overboard cases involving non-U.S. citizens.

The truth is that at least 11 people went overboard for the time period in question. But Royal Caribbean disclosed only 3 incidents. That's only around 27% of the true number.  If a cruise ship is a floating city, why exclude all of the crew members and non-U.S. citizens who are members of the city? Royal Caribbean includes crew members and non-U.S. passengers as part of its population in determining crime ratios, Allure of the Sea Crime Statisticsbut then excludes crew members and non U.S. citizens when they are victims. That manipulation of the data distorts the true crime ratios. 

The only explanation for doing this is that the cruise line wants to present an image that is markedly different from the truth. 

Royal Caribbean's "voluntary" disclosure reveals exactly why the cruise industry cannot be trusted. Senator Rockefeller, like Congressman Shays long ago, has every reason not to believe the cruise lines' "voluntary" statistics.

The American people and citizens of countries around the world deserve to know the truth about crime and overboard cruise passengers and crew members. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean like to keep the public in the dark.

A well drafted law with stiff penalties is the only way to shed light on what really happens on cruise ships far out at sea. 

Another Rape Alleged on the Love Boat

News sources in Alaska are reporting that Alaska State Troopers are investigating an incident where a female crew member alleges that she was sexually assaulted on a Princess Cruises sailing between Seattle and Alaska this week. 

The crew member states that two other crew members sexually assaulted her while the cruise ship was sailing to Juneau. The Alaska State Troopers say the assault took place between 4 AM and 6 AM on Monday.

A spokesperson for the Alaska State Troopers says that “Yes, suspects have been identified;” however, Princess Cruises Star Princess Sexual Assault“No arrests have been made.”

The Princess cruise ship is making additional port calls as it heads back to Seattle, the point of origin for the cruise. Both the victim and the suspects are still aboard the cruise ship.

Princess Cruises released a statement claiming that after reporting the alleged assault, the woman "indicated she no longer wanted to pursue the matter with law enforcement." 

It's a shame to see that the alleged victim was not taken off the cruise ship for medical evaluation and counseling and provided with a safe environment where she could be away from the alleged perpetrators.

Its also disturbing to see the cruise line issue a press statement claiming that the alleged victim doesn't want the matter further investigated.  It smacks of Princess trying to minimize what happened for marketing purposes.

The incident occurred aboard the Star Princess.

We have written about the problem of sexual assaults on Princess cruise shipsin the past:

Unsafe on the "Love Boat?" - Sexual Assaults on Princess Cruise Ships

Princess Cruises Sexual Assault Trial Begins

Princess Cruises Captain Pleads Guilty to Sex Crime Against Girl on Princess Cruise Ship

Cruise Rape Case Begins - Bermuda Press Tries to Conceal Connection to Princess Cruises

Do you have a thought about this issue?  Please leave a comment on our Facebook page here.

 

Photo Credit: Star Princess - Jim Walker Seattle Washington

Silver Shadow Fails Sanitation Inspection After Caught Hiding Filthy Conditions from Health Inspectors

Last December, I wrote an article about the practice of certain cruise lines which hide dirty pots & pans and cooking equipment from U.S. health inspectors. The article, which focused on the MSC Poesia, is entitled "Hide & Seek" - Cruise Lines Play Games With USPH Inspectors.

After I published that article, several former crew members from Silversea Cruises left comments alleging that the Silver Shadow also played "hide and seek," concealing food and galley items in crew hallways and cabins, away from the sanitation inspectors in the galley.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) conducted a surprise inspection of the Silver Shadow on June 17th while it was in a port in Skagway, Alaska. The inspectors found the food and galley equipment in crew quarters as described by the former Silversea ship employees.  The CDC flunked the cruise line, issuing a score of 84. 

Silversea Silver Shadow Sanitation CDCThe inspection occurred after former Silversea Cruises' crew members contacted our office and, in turn, complained to the CDC about disgusting conditions aboard the Silver Shadow cruise ship.

The crew members complained that the cruise line forced the crew to hide food, cooking utensils, cutlery, and pots and pans in their cabins to avoid detection by U.S. health inspectors.

Crew members aboard the Silver Shadow allege that were forced to store raw meat, salami, fish, cakes, and every kind of culinary preparations in their cabins and remote hallways to avoid inspections by the U.S. Public Health (USPH). The crew members claim that they had to sleep with the food and galley items in cabins with no windows or operational air conditioning. According to crew members, some spoilable food items were kept out of the refrigerator in cabins and hallways but were served the following day to the cruise passengers. 

Other complaints included the alleged use of out-of-date ingredients which were served to the guests, according to the former crew members. The crew also complained that they were forced to Silversea Silver Shadow Cruise Shiphide food infested by flies and insects in cabins where the toilet flush was out of order for days.

We received photographs (above and below) from the crew members which they state were also sent to the CDC. You can see additional photographs on our Facebook page.  

An epidemiologist at the CDC thanked the crew members for the information, writing: "The pictures and information you provided were very accurate and reflected what was seen and experienced by the inspectors yesterday on the ship . . . Thank you for passing along all of this information and protecting the health of passengers and crew on the ship. We appreciate your help!"  

Although the failed inspection occurred one month ago, the CDC has still not posted the failed score or its report of the inspection on its internet site.  

Silversea Cruises holds itself out to the public as a premiere "ultra-luxury" cruise line and charges correspondingly high fares to its cruise passengers.

One former crew member stated that the crew on the Silver Shadow were forced to use tap water to top off expensive bottled water.  

These claims are similar to the allegations in a lawsuit filed by a Silversea crew member (aboard the Silver Spirit and Silver Wind) in 2011 that his employment as a bartender was terminated after he complained that crew members were required to fill expensive, premium top-shelf brand liquor bottles with cheaper brands and to fill empty expensive French champagne bottles with cheaper Italian sparkling wines. The case is Marin Asenov v. Silversea Cruises, Ltd., Case No. 0:11 CV 62360 WJZ. You can read the allegations in the lawsuit here

The Silver Shadow cruise ship has always scored high on the CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program. Its scores have ranged from 92 to 99 (out of 100) since 2000.  

This latest news brings into question whether the Silver Shadow's high scores over the years may have been a result of the cruise line playing hide and seek with the sanitation inspectors at the USPH.

We reached out to Silversea Cruises and asked for the cruise line's comments about the failed inspection. We have not received a response. 

Have a thought about this issue? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.  

July 17, 2013 Update: Silversea Cruises just issued this PR statement which was posted on the Cruise Critic site:

Silversea Cruises Statement

On June 17, Silversea’s Silver Shadow received an atypical score of 84 during the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) inspection in Skagway. Silver Shadow has scored in the high 90s on its previous VSP inspections where the maximum achievable score is 100. Silversea is deeply disappointed by this specific and only unsatisfactory score and has taken immediate measures to address the issues identified in the inspection report.

The company takes very seriously its responsibility to maintain the highest standards in all areas of its operations. Silversea has an excellent track record when it comes to sanitation, which can be verified on the CDC's website. Silversea ships have achieved perfect scores of 100 on several VSP inspections, including Silver Spirit's most recent inspection in April, which is testament to the company's commitment in this area.

Following a thorough review of Silver Shadow's procedures, we have taken the necessary measures to ensure that the standards are the best in the industry. All Silversea ships have comprehensive policies and rigorous training programs in place to make certain its staff and crew implement best practices to ensure shipboard safety. Silversea is sincerely sorry for the shortcomings in Silver Shadow's evaluation and is committed to ensuring that future inspections result in higher scores in line with the usual Silversea standards.

Saul Fonseca | Area Sales Director

July 21, 2013 Update:  Read our article:

How Many Cruise Lines Play Games with USPH Inspectors? 

And don't miss the results of our Facebook poll: Do cruise lines hide pots & pans, galley equipment and food from USPH inspectors?

Of the first 100 crew members who answered the poll (admittedly unscientific), around 90% said yes, cruise lines hide galley items from inspectors. One crew member said: "There will be more equipment in the crew cabin during the inspection then in the galley that's for sure!!!" 

July 22, 2013 Update:  The CDC finally released its report on the failed Silver Shadow inspection. Here is our article.  You view the official CDC report, click here.

Silversea Silver Shadow CDC Vessel Sanitation Inspection

"Missing at Sea" - NBC Investigates Another Passenger Disappearance from a Holland America Line Cruise Ship

Tonight local ABC Channel 6 news station aired a special program Missing at Sea regarding the disappearance of cruise passenger Jason Rappe' from the Eurodam cruise ship operated by Holland America Line (HAL).

Mr. Rappe' went overboard last November after participating in a "Pub Crawl" on the HAL cruise ship where the cruise line plied the passengers with alcohol at various locations.

You can see some video of Jason on the deck after the cruise sponsored drinking event.  Curiously, Cruise Law Miami Jim Walkerthere has been no clear video released of Jason going overboard. 

Although the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act requires cruise lines like HAL to install systems to signal when cruise passengers and crew members who go overboard so that the cruise ship can promptly respond, HAL had no such systems in violation of the new cruise safety law.

Cruise lines are also responsible when they over-serve passengers alcohol.

The FBI and Coast Guard are suppose to disclose to the public on an online database when crimes occur or when passengers go overboard but the database does not even mention Mr. Rappe.' 

You can read an article about the program here by Jason's brother Eric who was featured in the program. 

See photos about the case here.

You can read our prior articles about this case:

Passenger Missing From HAL's Eurodam Cruise Ship - Why Do All HAL Overboard Cases Remain Mysteries?

Family Searching for Answers After Disappearance Aboard Holland America Line Cruise Ship

Best of Cruise Line Hate Mail: Holland America Line Wins the Award

If you have information about this case, we would like to hear from you.  Please leave a comment below or contact me confidentially at jim@cruiselaw.com 

 

 

Imperfect Parents & Corporate Irresponsibility: Why No Lifeguards on Disney Cruise Ships?

This weekend, there was a "near drowning" of a 4 year old boy on Disney's Fantasy cruise ship.  

The incident reportedly occurred during the afternoon when a family boarded the Disney cruise ship and before the ship sailed. The boy was pulled from the pool, apparently non-responsive, and had to be taken to an emergency room at the Cape Canaveral Hospital, and then airlifted to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando. Fortunately this happened while the ship was in port so the child could be rushed to receive emergency medical treatment rather than a few hours later on the high Disney Fantasy Cruise Ship Pool Near Drowningseas where no such assistance would have been possible.

The latest word I heard was that the boy had survived, and was stable and recovering.

The parents of the child were reportedly not at the pool but arrived when the boy was rescued. The parents were soundly criticized by cruise fans on the Disney boards and the Cruise Critic on-line community.

People have posted comments on my article on Facebook criticizing the parents. Some say things like there are no lifeguards on any cruise ships, which all parents should know. Others say that the passenger ticket states that the cruise line does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising out of swimming pools. Still other say that there are signs on cruise ships saying that there are no lifeguards on duty and that swimming is at the passenger's risk.

I understand the concept of personal and parental responsibility, having two boys who my wife and I are raising. But I also understand that the law also demands corporate responsibility as well. It's easy to criticize a parent when a child is injured; we are all perfect parents when it's not our child, aren't we? But I find that those people who are quick to blame parents when kids are injured and who talk incessantly about "personal responsibility" are the first to defend corporate malfeasance and use the term "personal responsibility" as code words for condoning the complete absence of "corporate responsibility."     

Cruise lines like Disney have legal responsibility to parents and children on Disney cruise ships. A "no lifeguard on duty" sign does not legally exonerate a cruise line, or a hotel, or an amusement park.  It simply raises the issue whether the sign was legally conspicuous enough to provide an effective warning to the parents.   

It is inexcusable for Disney not to assign multiple lifeguards around the ship's pools. Is it correct that Disney Cruise Line has no lifeguards at all?  If so, that's reckless. Yes, parents need to be responsible, but they will make errors. Reasonable safety can exist only when there is both personal responsibility and corporate responsibility. 

A friend brought to my attention that Disney advertises that it has well-trained lifeguards on its cruise ships and in its parks.

In a 2008 publication entitled Walt Disney Report on Safety, Disney states that it trains over 1,200 lifeguards a year, including on its cruise ships. Here's what Disney states:   

"Lifeguard Training"

"Together, the Disneyland® Resort, Walt Disney World® Resort and Disney Cruise Line® train more than 1,200 lifeguards a year to monitor activities at these venues."

"Our lifeguards must complete a thorough training program that exceeds most U.S. standards and includes both a water-skills test and up to 24 hours of basic training in water rescue techniques, CPR, basic first aid, oxygen administration and the use of AEDs. After completion of basic training, lifeguards must also perform four hours of in-service training each month, undergo eight hours of recertification Disney Resort Drowning Deathtraining every year and participate in frequent unannounced audits by one of the world's premier aquatic safety service providers."

Is this bait-and-switch?  Does Disney tell the public that its kid-friendly resorts and ships have well trained lifeguards but in reality it does not have any?

Last month, a 13 year-old boy died at a Disney amusement resort near Epcot which had no lifeguard. You can read about that death here.

Disney issued a statement after the dream-vacation turned into a nightmare. The Imperfect Parent quotes Disney saying that it was "saddened" by the death and " . . . our hearts go out to his family, friends and loved ones. We have reached out to his family to offer care and assistance during this difficult time.” 

Families don't need after-the-fact condolences.  They don't need "no lifeguard" signs. They need some of the 1,200 lifeguards who Disney claims it trains each year doing their jobs at the pools in the Disney resorts and on the Disney cruise ships so that no other children are killed or seriously injured when their parents are imperfect.

Have a thought? Join the discussion on our Facebook page about this issue

 

Photo Credits:

Disney Fantasy cruise ship pool - Fodors

Disney resort pool - Wikipedia via Daily Mail 

A Look Back: The Carnival Ecstasy Fire of 1998 at Miami Beach

Carnival Cruise Ship Ecstasy FireThe media's microscope is focused on Carnival right now following the large number of recent engine and propulsion problems involving the Carnival Triumph, Dream, Elation & Legend and the Carnival-owner P&O Cruises' Ventura cruise ships.   

The defenders of the cruise line are responding to the PR mess by insisting that such incidents are "rare."  But you will find no historical perspective, and no reference to a data-base of any type.

Business Insider posted an article today: "A Photo History Of Carnival Cruise Ship Disasters."  There were a couple of interesting photographs of the fire which erupted aboard the Carnival Ecstasy in 1998 as the cruise ship was trying to said out of Government Cut at Miami Beach.  The two photos below, via Reuters, I have never seen before.

Carnival's passengers and crew members were extremely lucky in that incident. The ship's on-board system did not suppress the fire, which charred the entire stern of the ship. But the incident occurred near the port. Other vessels were able to quickly respond and eventually extinguish the fire. If the fire had occurred just an hour or two later on the high seas and away from the fire boats, the Ecstasy would have burned down to the hull.

The Business Insider article contains a link to the NTSB report of the fire, which is interesting reading.

I was disappointed that the article did not mention the deadly Star Princess cruise ship fire in 2006. This cruise ship was operated by Carnival-owned Princess Cruises. This fire is an important piece of evidence in the history of cruise ship fires. You can see some photographs in our article "Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires - Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?"    

Carnival Cruise Ship Fire - Ecstasy

Carnival Cruise Ship Fires - Ecstasy

Carnival ecstasy Cruise Ship Fire

Photo Credit:

Photos nos 2, 3: Business Insider / Reuters

Photo no. 4: ForeignPolicy.com

Best of Cruise Line Hate Mail: Holland America Line Wins the Award

My blog Cruise Law News (CLN) is one of the few places where you can read about all of the problems the cruise lines don't want you to know about.  Like sexual assault of women, molestation of children, pollution of the water and air, and cruise line cover-ups of disappearances on the high seas.

CLN has a wide, loyal and growing readership. It's the ninth most popular law blog in the U.S. This month alone, my articles have been quoted on CNN and Fox News and cited in articles or documentaries by ABC's 20/20, the American Bar Association Journal, Associated Press, CNBC, Daily Mail, Miami Herald, Newsday, Reuters, Seattle Times, Sun Sentinel, Canadian television stations and the largest radio networks in Montreal, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Vancouver and Miami.  

HAL - Holland America Line Hate MailAfter my opinion piece for CNN What Cruise Lines Don't Want You to Know, I received a number of emails and telephone calls congratulating me and thanking me for being a safety advocate and watchdog of the cruise lines.

But I also received the usual hate mail from people who like the cruise industry status quo exactly the way it is. Over the three and one-half years CLN has been on line, I have received more than my fair share of hateful emails and insulting comments left on my voice mail at work.

Winston Churchill said this: "You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

The most abusive comments usually come from people who work for the cruise lines. I'm not talking about crew members, but corporate types ashore in the cruise line corporate headquarters. These people try and stay anonymous. I call them cruise cowards. I keep a folder with the most hateful comments to read one day when I retire.  Some of the hate mail consists of boring one or two line rants. Minor trash talking, very disappointing. I could do much better.

But some are works of art.  

Last week, I received the email below. Quite well written, except for one typo, with lots of juicy adjectives. It was written as a comment to my article Carnival Triumph Passengers Happy to Be Home

"And you are surely the happiest of all, uncle Jim. Like a maggot on road kill. You've got this gravy train leaching blood out of successful and responsible businesses under a phony bullshit cover. Behind that smiling cardboard cutout is a weasel scanning for the next meal. You are a helluva good example for kids thinking about a law career, buddy. You'd be a good prototype for a cartoon character that distills into one face the essence of what people hate about people in your profession. Take the low road to sucess (sic), find an easy prey, start sucking and don't let go. That's the Jim Walker way."

The comment was ironic because I already stated that we would not be filing any lawsuits arising out of the Triumph engine room fire, just like we stated that no one should file suit following the Carnival Splendor cruise ship fire in 2010 either.

But the author of this comment obviously has some deep personal animosity that existed long before the latest Carnival cruise ship caught fire. I wondered who and where the person was. So I took a look.

HAL Holland America Line Hate MailWhen someone leaves a comment on this blog, I have software that permits me to track the internet provider (IP) address. I can't see who reads the blog, but I can find out information if someone leaves a comment because the comment section tracks the IP addresses of those people who leave comments.

So I tracked the IP address.  It tracked directly to Holland America Line (HAL) in Seattle Washington. I emailed the person back and said thanks. I would post an article that the hate mail was the best I had seen.  The next email I sent resulted in a response coming back that there was no such email. Looks like the HAL cruise coward de-activated the email address and is probably hiding under a desk at HAL's headquarters in Seattle.        

This is how the cruise lines work.  HAL is not the only cruise line to send anonymous hate mail, unknowingly leave a IP address in the process, and then scamper down a hole when confronted. I have caught Carnival and Royal Caribbean doing it as well.

So why the hard feelings from the Carnival-owned-HAL?  

I have only one matter right now with HAL.  I represent the family of a man who disappeared from the Eurodam.  I wrote HAL a standard letter and asked for a copy of the video camera images, a copy of the reports to the FBI, Sheriff's office and flag state, and a list of witnesses with information. This is the very basic information we request in all passenger overboard cases to help families try and find out what happened to their loved ones who disappear at sea. 

But HAL decided to stonewall our request. It provided us with nothing but threats and insults. HAL stated that it would not even consider cooperating unless the widow first agreed to state whether her missing husband had life insurance. HAL demanded that the widow agreed to provide HAL's lawyers with her husband's employment information, all confidential medical records, and any psychological records.  

Cruise lines like HAL are all smiley faces when they sell you a cruise. But if your loved one disappears on the high seas, the cruise lines will stab you in the back to conceal the truth.  And if you hire a lawyer, they may send anonymous hate mail from their corporate headquarters.  

 

Credits:

Hate Mail Art: protectportelos.org

An "Outlaw Industry" Watched By "Paper Tigers"

Newsweek's Daily Beast Blog published an insightful article about the real issues behind the Triumph cruise ship fire. Entitled "Carnival Cruise From Hell," the article explains that the situation involves a lot more than just another stinky ship bobbing around on the high seas. Rather, Newsweek writes that the fiasco is "a troubling indicator of pervasive safety problems in a booming industry with little oversight."

Written by Eve Conant, the articles points out that last month, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded the entire U.S. fleet of Boeing 787s over fire-safety concerns. But where is the maritime equivalent of the FAA overseeing the cruise lines? It has been outsourced to third world countries like the Bahamas which has neither the interest or capability of regulating the billion dollar U.S. cruise industry. 

Newsweek interviewed me for the article, but criticism from lawyers who routinely sue the cruise lines are often met with skepticism.  

Jim Hall - Cruise Danger - National Transportation Safety Board NTSBWhat's impressive about the article is that Newsweek interviewed a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Jim Hall.

Unlike recent NTSB officials who angled for lucrative consulting jobs with the cruise lines and gave the industry a free pass, Jim Hall earned a reputation for objectivity and credibility when he was the NTBS's top dog from 1994 - 2001. He was involved in investigatng serious accidents in both the aviation and cruise industries. He voiced his concerns that there would be continued problems in the maritime industry because there was no real oversight over the cruise lines.

Here are the recent comment's made by Hall to Newsweek:

Jim Hall, head of the National Transportation Safety Board during the Clinton administration, says the industry is watched over by “paper tigers” like the International Maritime Organization and suffers from “bad actors” much like in the poorly regulated motor-coach industry, which saw its latest fatal bus crash in Southern California earlier this month. “The maritime industry is the oldest transportation industry around. We’re talking centuries. It’s a culture that has never been broken as the aviation industry was, and you see evidence of that culture in the [Costa Concordia] accident,” says Hall.

Ships may seem and feel American but are mostly “flagged” in countries like the Bahamas or Panama in order to operate outside of what he says are reasonable safety standards. “It is, and has been, an outlaw industry,” says Hall. “People who book cruises should be aware of that.”

Cruise lines are an "outlaw industry" watched over by "paper tigers?"  Spot on.  And remember these comments are by a former chairman of the NTSB.  

Lawyer Arrested for Allegedly Strangling & Throwing Wife Off Cruise Ship

Lonnie KocontesLonnie Kocontes, age 55, was arrested last week on a murder warrant in the death of his ex-wife, Micki Kanesaki, who went overboard from an Italian cruise ship seven years ago.

Kocontes, a lawyer licensed in California, was arrested in Florida where he was living. He was booked into into the Pasco County Jail where he is being held without bail. 

He is charged with one count of "special circumstances murder for financial gain." 

Kocontes met Kanesaki in the early 1990s at a Los Angeles law firm where he worked as an attorney and she worked as an administrative assistant. They later married in 1995.

Kocontes was reportedly fired from his job after he was arrested in 2000 for charges of sexual contact with a minor that were later dismissed. In 2001, they divorced to protect their assets from civil litigation. They continued to live together, but their relationship deteriorated. 

In May 2006, the couple vacationed in Italy and sailed aboard the Island Escape cruise ship. On May 26, 2006, the cruise ship was sailing between Sicily and Naples, when Kanesaki went overboard. Her body washed ashore the next day in Calabria in southwest Italy. An autopsy was performed. An Italian medical doctor concluded that she had been strangled before she went overboard.

Kocontes claims that Kanesaki left the cabin around 1 a.m. to get a cup of tea. Kocontes reported her missing after he woke up and couldn’t find her. Italian police boarded the ship, seized records and videotapes and took statements from the crew.

Island Escape Cruise ShipProsecutors say that Kocontes strangled Kaneski to death on board the ship and then threw her overboard.

Kocontes later began transferring more than $1 million from Kaneski’s bank accounts into joint accounts he held with his new wife. That prompted the FBI to begin seizure efforts which were dismissed by a federal judge in California. 

The Orange County Register covered the story back in 2006, and quoted Kanesaki’s mother saying that her daughter was in good spirits before the cruise. ‘‘I can’t imagine what happened to her. There’s no reason to believe it was a suicide.’’ 

A newspaper in Italy published an article "The Perfect Murder." 

The case reminds me of the murder of Karen Roston by her husband Mark Roston aboard Admiral Cruises' Sundancer some 20 years ago.

 

Photo Credit: VIP.it

Mystery & Suspicion at Sea: What Happened to Fariba Amani?

Cruise Ship Disappearance A year ago we mentioned the disappearance of Fariba Amani, age 47, from Vancouver, Canada who was cruising aboard the Bahamas Celebration cruise ship operated by the Celebration Cruise Lines.  

Ms. Amani was cruising with her boyfriend, Ramiz Golshani, also from Vancouver, when she disappeared from the cruise ship between Florida and the Bahamas.

Golshani claims that he allegedly last saw Ms. Amani around 1:00 AM on February 29th in the cruise ship's gift show and then he retired to the couple's cabin to go to sleep. He allegedly awoke the following morning and she was not in the cabin.   

A suspicious story no doubt.

You can read our prior blog about the disappearance here.   

A newspaper in Canada has an article as we approach the one year anniversary of this sad story: "One Year After Woman’s Disappearance From Cruise Ship, Family Still Has No Answers."

Do you have information?  Leave a comment or contact us confidentially and we will relay the information to the family.

 

Photo Credit: The Province via Globaltvbc

 

Carnival Triumph Cruise From Hell: Here Come the Lawsuits!

Last Friday, the day the Carnival Triumph passengers were finally going home from the "cruise from hell," the first two lawsuits were filed.

The first case mentioned in the press was filed by a Texas lawyer representing a woman from Brazoria County Texas. I printed a copy from the court's online docket to read this weekend. The lawsuit alleges that the passenger was forced to "endure unbearable and horrendous odors on the filthy and disabled" cruise ship.  Because of the "sweltering temperatures, lack of power and air conditioning, lack of running water, and lack of toilets," the woman "feared for her life" and was threatened with Carnival Triumph Cruise Ship Fire"contracting serious illness by the raw sewage" filling the ship. 

The problem with allegations like these is that they are excluded by the terms and conditions of the ticket issued by the cruise line.

Experiencing psychological distress or being afraid of getting sick are not a basis for a lawsuit unless there is a physical injury or actual physical illness.

The lady's lawyer later told the press that his client had a fever and felt nauseous, but notably lacking from the lawsuit or the lawyer's comments were any mention of an actual illness diagnosed by a doctor.  This may be explained by the fact that the woman probably had not been to a doctor yet.        

The other lawsuit was filed on behalf of another Texan passenger by a lawyer here in Miami. As described by USA Today's Cruise Log, the lawsuit alleges that the 42 year old passenger suffered severe dehydration and bruising from aggressive food lines on the crippled ship. Her lawyer said she was so ill from the five-day ordeal that she had to be given intravenous fluids in an emergency room when she returned home to Houston. Severe dehydration may be sufficient to meet the physical injury requirements of the law but it is unknown whether this is just a temporary injury.

I have made my thoughts of litigation in cases like this well know.

Following the last "cruise from hell" engine room fire disaster in 2010 when the Carnival Splendor was stranded off the coast of Mexico and had to be towed back to the U.S., I wrote an article "Three Reasons Why You Will Lose If You Sue Carnival."  The same conclusions I reached two years ago apply to this latest Carnival debacle. 

It's not that I am unsympathetic to the people's plight. But I have represented clients who waved goodbye to family members at the dock and their loved ones either didn't return from the cruise or they returned in a body bag.   

If you are on a cruise ship that catches on fire on the high seas and you return with your family physically uninjured, count your blessings.

Cruise passengers returning from the Triumph need to rest, relax and start trying to recover from the stress.  They should go to a doctor and be checked out. Get your blood tested if you are afraid.  Send the medical bills to Carnival to Carnival to be reimbursed. But filing a lawsuit before going to a doctor puts the cart ahead of the horse. 

Let's hope that no one develops a truly serious and permanent illness from sloshing around in sewage for a week. If the feces and urine cause an innocent passenger to contract hepatitis or Legionnaires Disease or some other debilitating or deadly illness, then the afflicted passenger should sue the hell out of Carnival.

But inconvenience, aggravation, anger and being afraid of disease won't get you very far in a federal courtroom here in Miami.

Update: Triumph Fire:  Here Comes the Lawsuits! (Part 2): Miami Firm Files Class Action Lawsuit!

 

Photo Credit: Fox40

Where Is CLIA When Disaster Strikes?

It has been a brutal week for the cruise industry. Consider the developments over the last week:

A 24 year old dancer from Massachusetts died aboard the Seven Seas Voyager. Her body was found when the cruise ship docked in Australia.

Two passengers went overboard from MSC cruise ships in the last couple of days.  The body of a 46-year old passenger from the MSC Divina was pulled from the water but a 30 year old man who went overboard from the MSC Fantasia this weekend has not been located.

Cruise Line International Association - CLIA Five crewmembers are dead and three injured when a cable snapped as a lifeboat was being raised aboard the Thomson Majesty in the Canary Islands.

Yesterday, the Carnival Triumph lost power after an engine room fire disabled the ship.  The cruise ship is now being towed to port in Progreso, Mexico while the guests have no running water or air-conditioning and are having to poop in bags.  

So where are the reassuring words from the cruise industry's leadership? Where's the don't-worry-cruise-fans these are just rare mishaps in the remarkably safe world of cruising?

So far no word from the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), which now seemingly has every cruise line in the world as a member.  Nothing either from CLIA's CEO Christine Duffy.  Does CLIA and its CEO work on weekends when the lifeboats and passengers are falling and the ships catch fire?

I suppose all of this must be embarrassing to the marketing and public relations people at CLIA. After the Concordia disaster, CLIA announced 10 new safety proposals with great fanfare. One of them had to do with lowering lifeboats with only a few essential crewmembers aboard to avoid unnecessary injuries and deaths. But it seems that this was just a proposal which the cruise lines could ignore.  Why were 8 men sitting like guinea pigs in the lifeboat as it is winched up to the 22 year old ship when the cable snapped?

So how does CLIA handle this mess?  It seems like CLIA is about as responsive to the disastrous week in cruising as Captain Schettino was in responding to his sinking ship. Its hide-under-the-bed PR.

Eventually the executives at Carnival and Royal Caribbean making tens of millions a year will send some talking points over to CLIA.  Then we will hear talk about the remarkable safety record of the cruise industry. Maybe CLIA will announce a Blue Ribbon Lifeboat or Fire Safety Task Force or something equally obtuse but official sounding.

Meanwhile eight families are mourning their dead loved ones and a boatload of families stuck on the disabled Triumph are being towed back to Mexico.   

The Dirty Alaskan Cruise Industry Just Got Dirtier

In 2006, Alaskan citizens sent a clear message to the cruise industry that cruise ships could not treat the beautiful waters of Alaska like a toilet.  

Seven years ago Alaskan voters approved legislation that prohibited cruise ships from discharging "untreated sewage, treated sewage, graywater or other wastewaters in a manner that violates any applicable effluent limits or standards under state or federal law, including Alaska Water Quality Standards governing pollution at the point of discharge.” 

Alaska Salmon Fisheries - Cruise Ship PollutionThe Alaskan regulations strictly restricted the level of ammonia, copper, nickel and zinc.  As of 2009, cruise ships were routinely being caught violating the Alaska regulations.  In this chart, in 2009 alone, there were forty-one (41) violations of Alaska'a waster water and air emission laws by Celebrity, HAL, NCL, Princess, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean and Silverseas, with Carnival-owned Princess and HAL cruise ships being the greatest offenders. 

The Miami-based cruise industry is used to getting its way. Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean are used to dumping untreated sewage in the waters of powerless Caribbean countries. Most port nations and even most states in the U.S. where the cruise lines base their cruise ships have not enacted any waste water discharge regulations whatsoever.  

But Alaska was different,  It not only passed legislation that banned the nasty cruise line practice of opening the bowels of the huge ships into the state's waters but it took steps to levy a realistic head tax of $50 per passenger to offset the damage to Alaska's infrastructure caused by the massive cruise ships.

The cruise lines did not like Alaska's exercise of its state rights one bit. The cruise industry spent millions of dollars lobbying against waste water regulations. It attacked the green water scientists, removed the honest water experts from oversight panels, inserted cruise industry hacks, and bullied state officials and concerned citizens.  

Carnival led the charge. It threatened Alaskan Governor Parnell that it would pull its ships from Alaska and it sued the state along with other cruise lines to avoid the $50 head tax.

Alaskan Governor Parnell backed down and sent a message to the cruise industry that the state's water emission laws are negotiable. Alaska caved in and reduced its $50 head tax. Alaska began sliding down the slippery slope as the cruise lines increased their lobbying and threatened to boycott Alaska. 

The result today is that at Governor Parnell's urging, the House of Representatives just voted to essentially repeal all of the 2006 waster water initiatives. The debate is now moving to the Senate.

A repeal of the 2006 laws will be disastrous to the waters of Alaska.

Alaskan Cruise Ship - Pollution Waste WaterAs explained in this thoughtful blog, "a single cruise ship produces 210,000 gallons of sewage, over a million gallons of greywater, 130 gallons of hazardous wastes such as poisonous metals, and 25,000 gallons of oily bilge water in a single week-long cruise. There are 28 very large cruise ships which operate up to 150 days annually in Alaska. Such large quantities of pollution are a threat to Alaska’s critical fisheries." 

This results is approximately 1,064,448,000 gallons of sewage and wastewater being dumped into Alaska state waters every year. The really sinister part of the abandonment of the pollution laws is that Republicans rejected Democratic amendments which would have required disclosure of the location of sewage discharges and protected fisheries from sewage discharges.

The thought of the cruise industry dumping over a billion gallons of cruise ship crap into the salmon filled waters is really gross.  They can keep the locations secret too.  I hate to think of all of the norovirus-laden poop floating around with the fish.  But this is the reality of a cruise industry which projects itself as a steward of the seas but is actually the Alaskan waters' worst enemy.

 

Photo:

Salmon - earthjustice.com

Cruise Ship Air Pollution Chokes Hong Kong

The Smart Planet blog has an interesting article about the effects of the ever growing cruise industry upon ports in Asia.

Entitled Hong Kong Contends with Pollution from a Growing Cruise Industry, the article reveals the extent to which cruise lines are still burning bunker fuel while not even equipping their ships with the ability to plug into shore-side electrical power.  

The articles states that "emissions from berthed ships are considered the No. 1 contributor to Hong Kong Cruise ship air PollutionHong Kong’s severe air pollution problem and are said to account for 40% of greenhouse gases within its borders. Coming from cruise and cargo ships, these emissions outdo that of power plants and road vehicles."

Cruise ships and other large vessels are still burning bunker fuel while in port.

Bunker fuel is the nastiest and deadliest fuel in the world. Burning low-sulfur fuel is more expensive and there is no legal requirement in Hong Kong at this time to use the cleaner fuel.

Without a threat of a fine or some other legal consequence, the cruise industry will always choose the least expensive and most environmentally destructive path.

Check out a non-profit group's Facebook page about ship pollution in Hong Kong.

There are some interesting photos of ships polluting the port with deadly smoke, including the Star Pisces (photo above right).  Don't be fooled that this is just a problem over in Hong Kong. Star Cruises has maintained a large ownership of Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Lines for years.    

The article explains that Hong Kong’s air pollution is a major health threat and results in deaths in the city estimated between 1,200 and 3,00 per year.

Pier Luigi Foschi Costa - Carnival AsiaAt a cruise forum last week, Pier Luigi Foschi, the chief executive of Carnival Asia, objected to the requirement for cruise ships to use shore-side power. He said it is unrealistic to require ships to use on-shore power because many cruise ships are not equipped to be plugged in. That begs the question why at this late date all cruise ships don't have a big cable that can be hooked up to the clean electrical power at the ports around the world.  

You may recall Mr. Foschi was the CEO of Costa Crociere when the Concordia crashed last year.  I'm not so sure I would give much weight to anything he says.   

 

Photo Credit:

Top: Star Pisces - Hong Kong Pollution Watch Facebook Page

High School Students in Jamaica: New Cruise Port in Falmouth Not Benefiting the "Small Man"

I have been interested in the port town of Falmouth in Jamaica for the past many years after cruise giant Royal Caribbean convinced Jamaica to invest well over $200,000,000 (U.S.) to accommodate its Oasis class cruise ships,  The project involved the dredging of the port's waters, the destruction of mangroves, the dislocation of its fishing village, and the changing of traffic routes which I have written in prior blog articles here, here, here and here.

My view is that the port primarily benefits the cruise line. There is virtually no investment in the town of Falmouth Jamaica Cruise Ship PortFalmouth itself. The cruise passengers are bused out of town to shop in Ocho Rios or visit places like Dunns River Falls.    

Two days ago, the Jamaica Gleaner published an article stating that high school students in Trelawny have concluded that Royal Caribbean's new port facility in Falmouth is not benefiting the "small man."

Students at the William Knibb Memorial High School in Martha Brae, a few south of Falmouth, have studied the new port and, according to the Gleaner, have given the port a "failing grade" in terms of helping the "common man" in Trelawny.

The article below was written by Gleaner writer Barrington Flemming.

I took the photos yesterday when I was in Falmouth visiting clients.    

"The Falmouth Pier in Trelawny, which has been dubbed the new hub of cruise shipping in Jamaica, has been given a failing grade by sixth form students of William Knibb Memorial High School, who are of the view that it is not measuring up to their expectations in terms of benefits to the town.

Tasanica Ellis, one of eight panellists, who discussed the topic Falmouth: Jamaica's new economic frontier, fact or fiction? during a Gleaner-Island Grill Youth Editors' Forum at her school, described the US$220-million cruise-shipping pier as a US$220-million "monstrosity" which has failed to bring any real benefit to the small man in the historic Georgian town.

"There is no benefit for the small man," said Ellis. "Everything is either boxed into the pier or is spread elsewhere outside of Falmouth. Only the investors in the pier reap any economic benefits."

Added Ellis: "We do not see any partnerships between the investors in the pier that will include the small man and allow for him to get any benefit."

Ellis went on to argue that more could be done to help retain the visitors in the town by developing new attractions and employing more people directly.

"They could develop the Burwood Beach and make it into a proper attraction that could see people gaining employment," said Ellis. "They could open a restaurant offering authentic Jamaican food and drink so the people would be inclined to stay here. Most of the cruise-ship visitors, who come to Falmouth, leave to Montego Bay (St James) or Ocho Rios (St Ann) to enjoy the attractions in those towns."

Lack of Development

Nastascia Gossel, another of the panelists, decried the lack of development in the town while arguing that no provisions have been made to cause any benefit to trickle down to the general populace.

"When we look at Falmouth, it is a total disaster; the small businesses are not seeing any of the benefits that were promised from the development of the cruise-ship pier," argued Gossel. "The drainage system is seriously lacking; to be quite frank, Falmouth has hardly been developed over the past two years."

For Orlando Dowlatt, while the national coffers have benefited from foreign-exchange earnings, the "common man" in Trelawny has been left out of the equation.

"We are seeing that the pier has spurred some economic growth as the country on a whole has been benefiting from the foreign-exchange but for the common man, there is absolutely nothing," Dowlett contended.

The general consensus from the youth was that the pier, while offering economic benefits for the country as a whole, the "trickle down" effect was lacking as the town of Falmouth itself was not feeling the impact of the pier as was promulgated by the Government."

barrington.flemming@gleanerjm.com  

Falmouth Jamaica Royal Caribbean Cruise Port

Is Cruising Safe? Depends On Who You Ask.

I read a tweet this evening which caught my eye:

"Is Cruising Safe?"  

I noticed that it was by Jane Wooldridge who many of you know as the business editor of the Miami Herald. I have been critical of the Miami Herald and its reporters who, like Ms. Wooldridge, are careful not to criticize the Miami-based cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean which contribute substantially to their newspaper's advertising revenues.

Actually the tweet did not refer to an article in the Herald at all. Instead it linked to an article in Travel + Cruise Ship SafetyLeisure where Ms. Wooldridge answers her own question by assuring us that cruise ships accidents resulting in death are "very rare" and that the Concordia shipwreck was an "anomaly."  These are exactly the talking points that the cruise industry sent to its friends in the travel industry immediately after the Concordia hit the rocks a year ago. 

Ms. Wooldridge goes so far as to suggest that the recent safety proposals of having safety drills before cruising, keeping strangers out of the bridge and other long overdue basic practices may "eliminate such incidents altogether."

Now I am accustomed to delusional puff pieces like this from travel publication editors (Mr. Woolridge is also editor of Travel + Leisure). The most notorious pro-cruise puff pieces come from cruise cheerleader Carolyn Spencer-Brown, who is editor of the Expedia/Travel Advisor owned Cruise Critic publication. She loves to say that cruising is "absolutely safe."

The truth is that there have been far more deaths on cruise ships over the course of the past five years than other forms of major transportation. The U.S. based commercial aviation industry is remarkably safe.  The airlines had strict pre-flight checklists and safety procedures 50 years ago. And needless to say, the aviation industry never let the pilot's girlfriends hang out in the cockpit or permit jets to buzz towns for fun.  

Cruise lines also have a major problem with crimes committed by employees and drunk passengers against women and children. The chance of being raped on a cruise is twice that of being raped ashore. Airlines, railroads and buses simply do not have these types of problems.

Do you really think that public relations inspired proposals promoted in a travel magazine will prevent the next deadly cruise ship collision or shipboard fire?  Do you think that the new rules will Cruise Ship Safety protect your little girl from a pedophile male cabin attendant with a key card to your cabin?    

If you want sunshine blown up your caboose, then rely on Ms. Wooldridge or Ms. Spencer-Brown for an answer to the question "is cruising is safe?"  I guarantee that you will receive no real facts but lots of wonderful adjectives that accidents are "rare" and cruising is "absolutely" safe.

But if you want facts upon which base your own conclusions, check around for information from sources like Sociology Professor Ross Klein's informative website, or check out the website of the non-profit  International Cruise Victims, or read some of our articles about cruise ship accidents, deaths, sexual assault of women and molestation of children which the cruise lines and travel writers would prefer you not know.

Since 2005 I have been to seven Congressional hearings regarding cruise ship safety, including the last two hearings following the Costa Concordia disaster (photo above right). A half-dozen of my clients testified about the issue of whether cruise ships are safe.

I have not seen Ms. Wooldridge or Ms. Spencer-Brown at any of the hearings. 

Cruising, "Eh!" to Z! What Canadians Should Know Before Getting On-Board . . .

Danielle Gauer, JD Candidate 2013 University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, joins us for another guest blog.  You can read about Danielle's background and read her first guest blog here. This blog is an interesting inside look at cruising for our friends north of the border:

More and more Canadians are looking for a way to escape the cold and snow during the winter months and instead catch some sun. Cruise ships seem like the perfect way to spend a family vacation offering passengers an experience similar to that of a five star all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean. With luxury travel, activities catered to the entire family, world class-cuisine and entertainment, and Canada Cruise Shipssome of the most fascinating ports of call, Canadians are hopping on-board these monster ships to enjoy the family vacation of their lives. However, with the move towards accommodating more passengers and offering more “risky” activities, such as rock-climbing and surf simulators, there is inevitably an increased possibility of catastrophe occurring.

When serious personal injury arises as a result of negligence on the part of the cruise line, it is imperative that Canadian cruise ship passengers know how to assert their rights and obtain compensation for their damages. Being injured on-board a cruise ship is frustrating. Injured passengers also experience physical, emotional and financial loss. In many situations, Canadians fear that taking legal action in the U.S. will be pointless. They can feel defeated at the outset. The choice not to advance their rights can stem simply from the perception that retaining a U.S. attorney can be expensive and time consuming. The thought of “competing” against a large corporate enterprise, that has equipped itself with a team of lawyers that have unlimited resources at their disposal, can be intimidating.

When Canadians pay for a vacation on a cruise ship, they also agree to certain contractual terms and conditions. Cruise ticket contracts generally include a “forum selection clause” stating where a lawsuit can be brought. This informs the passenger where they can file documents to commence legal action against the cruise line. Most cruise ship companies have inserted an exclusive foreign selection clause in their cruise ticket contract. What this means is that when signed, passengers have submitted to the jurisdiction chosen by the defendant cruise line, whether it is the State of Florida (Carnival and Royal Caribbean), California (Princess), or Washington (Holland America Line). This limits the plaintiff’s choice in selecting a location to file a lawsuit that is more convenient and close to home (i.e. in Canada).

Sometimes these ticket contracts may include clauses that place a limit on the types of lawsuits that a plaintiff can bring. Some of these conditions are valid and legally enforceable; other conditions are illegal and unenforceable. For example, Norwegian Cruise Lines has inserted a clause to limit its liability for injuries or damages resulting from participating in specific activities on-board (i.e. rock Canada Cruise Ship Passengersclimbing wall, ice skating, onboard water-slides). Royal Caribbean has similar conditions which attempt to protect the cruise line from lawsuits arising out of injuries from participating in flow-riding or zip-lining. These types of conditions have been struck down in Florida although the cruise lines still insert the illegal language in their passengers contracts.

Before commencing an action against a cruise line, Canadians must be aware of any clauses in the passenger ticket contract that can limit their claims. Canadian laws make it difficult to challenge forum selection clauses in cruise ship contracts, so Canadian plaintiffs should be fully aware of those challenges before contemplating litigation in Canada instead of the United States. Contacting a US attorney who specializes in cruise ship litigation will helpful as they will be fully equipped with the resources and knowledge to assert their client’s rights and allow a Canadian plaintiff to obtain the most accurate information regarding their claim.

Canadians should also realize that passengers have only one year to file suit, and most cruise lines require that the passenger notify them in writing of their intention to file suit within six months.  

Cruises can be very enjoyable, but Canadian passengers should be aware of their rights before getting on-board!

 

Photo credit: "Winter in Ottawa" - Danielle Gauer

Crew Medical Care: 3 Recommendations to the Cruise Lines

Here's another great guest bog by one of our attorneys here at Cruise Law, Charles Gourlis, who takes a look at cruise line medical care for ship employees: 

Not all cruise lines are made equal. Some provide adequate medical treatment to their injured crew members, but there are several cruise lines that just won’t get “on board” (pun intended).

I try to live up to the saying, “Don’t Just Complain, Do Something About It!” So, in that spirit, I have a few recommendations for our friends at the cruise lines. My recommendations:

1. Invest in Quality Shipboard Physicians

Most shipboard doctors either were not qualified to attend medical school in the U.S. and are not licensed in the U.S. Most cruise lines hire non-U.S. doctors because it’s cheaper than hiring U.S. Cruise Ship Medical Caredoctors. If shipowners paid their doctors salaries that were competitive with U.S. salaries, they would attract better-trained physicians. The quality of care would improve, diagnoses would become more accurate, and more serious injuries & illnesses would be prevented.

2. Bring Your Crew Members to Miami for Treatment

Most injured crew members are repatriated to their home country to receive medical treatment from doctors in their home country. This presents the same problem as problem number one. By bringing ill or injured crew to Miami for immediate treatment, all examinations, tests, and doctor’s visits are conducted by U.S. physicians here in Miami. Again, the quality of care would improve, the amount of care needed would decrease as American physicians more precisely diagnose conditions and deliver timely treatment, the need for drawn-out care would decrease.

3. Pay Your Crew Members, Not Your Defense Lawyers

As I outlined in my first guest bog post, most crew members sue only after the cruise line stops paying maintenance & cure and the crew member becomes destitute. The cruise line could prevent problems by coordinating with its local agents to ensure that all injured crew members receive maintenance payments on a timely basis every month and are promptly scheduled for medical appointments. As a result, thousands of crew members don’t languish at home while the defense lawyers for the cruise line earn their holiday bonus defending the cruise line.

Following these recommendations, the cruise lines could actually save the cruise line millions of dollars a year in needless medical and legal expenses. If the human factor wan’t a compelling enough reason to change the business practices, dozen’t saving money make a strong business case for pro-active medical treatment?

 

Photo credit: Pullmantur.es

The Most Sensational Cruise Headline of the Year: "Confessed Serial Killer Boarded Cruise Ship in New Orleans"

Some of the critics of Cruise Law News say that I unnecessarily include sensationalist information in my blog. My response is that it's hard to report on developments in the world of cruising and not sound sensational when cruise ships are on fire, sinking and being chased by pirates.

But today, I read a few articles about a cruise which are about as sensationalist as you can get. A Fox news station in New Orleans published an article this morning entitled "FBI: Confessed Serial Killer Boarded Cruise Ship in New Orleans." It is now trending on Twitter. The article is about serial killer Israel Keyes who abducted, robbed, raped, and strangled a young woman to death in Alaska. It turns out that he was involved in a number of similar crimes across the country. He was finally arrested and placed in a jail in Anchorage where he recently committed suicide.

For reasons not clear to me, the FBI just disclosed a number of rather horrific facts involving the diabolical crime (as mentioned above) including the fact that he dismembered the young woman's body before disposing of it. Included in the gratuitous information released by the FBI was the odd fact that following the crime serial killer Keyes went on a two week cruise out of New Orleans.

So what is the connection between these grisly circumstances and cruising?  Absolutely none. But the dubious connection to cruising was not just made by the Fox News people.  It seems that many of the media outlets covering the story are making exploitative references to the fact that the sociopath ended his crime spree with a cruise.  ABC News proclaimed "Serial Killer's Methodical Plan to Rape and Strangle Teen, Then Go on a Cruise" and included a video of the story which you can watch below.

The video has no reference to the fact that the killer subsequently sailed out of New Orleans on a cruise ship. The headline's reference to a cruise was just a hook to pull you into reading the articles and watching the video.

I suppose that the only point to be learned is that when you cruise, you never know who you're cruising with.  A few thousand people did in fact sail out of New Orleans with a serial killer with fresh blood on his hands. If you cruise will a serial killer be aboard?  Seems unlikely to me. But not so far fetched to prevent me from wondering whether the FBI checked with the unidentified cruise line to determine if there were any unexplained deaths or disappearances during the cruise. 

December 6, 2012 Update: we have been contacted by passengers who sailed out of New Orleans who want to know which cruise ship Israel cruised on. We don't know. It is our understanding that he left Alaska on February 2, 2012 for a cruise from New Orleans. The cruise ships leaving New Orleans around this time were the Voyager Of The Seas (February 4th) and the Carnival Conquest & Norwegian Spirit (both leaving on February 5th). Anyone who which ship he was on?

  

 

 

Enemies of the Environment? Costa, Crystal & P&O Cruises Flunk Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card, While Carnival & Royal Caribbean Receive "D+"

The "environmental report card" for the cruise industry is out and the grades for some of the major cruise lines are ugly.

Costa, Crystal and P&O Cruises all received failed grades on the report card prepared by the highly respected environmental group Friends of the Earth ("FOE"). The non-profit organization analysis the cruise lines' environmental footprint in terms of sewage treatment and air pollution reduction. FOE handed these three polluting cruise lines a "F."

The fact that Crystal is at the bottom of the class is no surprise. It has always been an environmental scoundrel. 

In 2003, the Crystal Harmony dumped around 35,000 gallons of grey water, sewage, and bilge water in a beautiful marine sanctuary in Monterey Bay. According to the L.A. Times, Crystal Cruises said it didn't have to report the incident to authorities because it broke no laws. It is "perfectly legal" under maritime laws to discharge even untreated wastewater more than 12 miles offshore, and the ship was 14 miles offshore at the time, said Crystal spokeswoman Mimi Weisband.

Air Pollution - Cruise Ship "We didn't break any law," Weisband said. "We did break a promise." The city of Monterey thereafter banned all Crystal cruise ships for life.

In the 2010 FOE report card, Crystal Cruises also received the lowest grade - "F." Cruise spokesperson Weisband responded by saying that Crystal Cruises "deserved an A ... if not an A+."

At the other end of the polluting spectrum is Disney which received a "A-."  This month the Disney Wonder will be arriving at the Port of Miami and by 2014 there will be four Disney cruise ships ported in the state of Florida with the Magic joining the Dream and Fantasy in Port Canaveral.

You can read the scores of all of the cruise lines and about 150 of their cruise ships here. Big boys Carnival and Royal Caribbean received "D+'s."  In the last environmental report card in 2010, Carnival received a "F" and Royal Caribbean received a "D-."  

Expect the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), which is fighting against clean air regulations and opposing restrictions on deadly bunker/ high sulfur fuels, to make a statement today claiming that the FOE report card is "not scientific," "biased," "arbitrary," "flawed" or whatever.  Sounds like what I told my mom when my ninth grade teacher gave me a "D" in Algebra II after I didn't study all year.   

December 6, 2012 Update: The Sun Sentinel newspaper covered the story yesterday. Its article contained the usual denials by the cruise lines.  CLIA is quoted saying: the report card "lacks basis in fact, science and law . . . The grades assigned cruise lines and their ships are based upon arbitrary, faulty and misleading measures."
 

Consider some of our other articles:

Deadly Cruise Ship Emissions Equal Sulfur Dioxide Spewed From 13,100,000 Cars A Day, But Cruise Lines Fight Air Pollution Laws

Cruise Ship Dumping of Trash & Feces Conflicts With Industry's Image as Steward of the Seas
 

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas cruise ship - AlaskanLibrarian's Flickr photostream

Walker & O'Neill Retained to Investigate Disappearance of Cruise Passenger Jason Rappe' From HAL's Eurodam

Today, our firm was retained to help the family of missing HAL cruise passenger Jason Rappe' find answers to what happened during the evening of November 28th and the early morning hours of November 29th aboard the Holland America Line Eurodam cruise ship.

On November 24th, 41 year old Jason Rappe' and his wife, Tine, left Fort Lauderdale on a 7 day Caribbean cruise aboard the Eurodam.

Jason is believed to have gone overboard on November 29th as the cruise ship was sailing from St. Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands) to the Bahamas, somewhere north-west of Puerto Rico. The U.S. Coast Guard eventually was notified but the search was called off after approximately 36 hours. You can read our article here which we published on the day of Jason's disappearance. 

Jason and his wife were married 17 years ago and live in Olympia Washington. Jason works as a carpenter and is a member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.

Jason served in the U.S. Army and is a veteran, and was honorably discharged as a sergeant.

Jason's wife, brothers and father released a statement which is repeated below. The family is seeking any information which may explain how and when Jason apparently went overboard. Please help. If you were on the cruise, please contact us.  

Contact:  Jim Walker: telephone - 305 995 5300 or 1 800 526 1518.

Please note that the comment section below is closed, and no further comments will be published. If you were on the cruise and have information, please contact us directly.   

Jason Rappe - Holland America Line - Eurodam Cruise Ship

 

Statement by the Rappe’ Family Regarding Missing HAL Cruise Passenger Jason Rappe’

On behalf of the Rappe’ family, we would like to extend our gratitude to all of you who have shown so much love and support for us during this time of crisis. We are all still trying to come to grips with this awful event of losing Jason at sea.

For those of you who are not familiar with what happened, Jason and his wife, Tine, from Olympia Washington, went on a 7 day cruise aboard the Holland America Line Eurodam out of Fort Lauderdale to the Caribbean. On November 29, 2012, Jason apparently went overboard and has not been located.

We pray that somehow Jason is out there, and that he is ok. There are not many people on this planet with the grit and toughness that Jason has demonstrated in his life. Between Jason’s training in the U.S. Army and his stubborn, never-fail attitude, we know that if anyone can survive this it is him.

Jason is the type of person who could easily be imagined making a rope from his goatee, and lassoing a pair of sea turtles on which he would triumphantly stand as they lead him back to safety.

Our family is seeking information regarding what happened during the cruise. If you were on the cruise ship, we would to like obtain any information that you may have regarding Jason and the circumstances surrounding him going overboard. A maritime attorney is helping us investigate what happened, and we ask that you contact him with your information. His name is Jim Walker and his contact information is below.

Jason’s wife and father will not be conducting any interviews at this time, and we ask that you respect their privacy.

Thank you again for your support and prayers as we deal with this horrible family event.

Wife: Marie Christine (“Tine”) Rappe'
Father: Dana Rappe’
Brother: Ross Rappe’
Brother: Eric Rappe’


Please contact:

James (“Jim”) M. Walker 
Walker & O’Neill P.A. 

Telephone:  305 995 5300 or 800 256 1518

Email:  jim@cruiselaw.com

Passenger Missing From HAL's Eurodam Cruise Ship - Why Do All HAL Overboard Cases Remain Mysteries?

Multiple news sources are reporting that a passenger has gone overboard in the Caribbean earlier this morning. The passenger, age 41, is from Washington and was traveling with his wife.

The passenger's wife reportedly discovered her husband missing from the Holland America Line (HAL) cruise ship Eurodam.  The U.S. Coast Guard said that, according to HAL, a baseball cap was located on one of the decks that was allegedly confirmed by the wife of the missing passenger as belonging to him. The ship was sailing from St. Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands) to the Bahamas when the man disappeared early today. 

The Coast Guard issued a statement that it was conducting a search after being notified of the incident at 5:00 AM. Two Coast Guard ships and a helicopter have been dispatched to search for the passenger, whose name has not been released.

Eurodam Cruise Ship - HAL - Passenger OverboardHAL issued a statement that the cruise ship turned around at some point and has joined the search for the missing passenger. The ship left Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Saturday for a seven-day cruise.

You can read about prior recent disappearances from HAL cruise ships:

The Veendam just last month.

The Oosterdam involving a young man.

The Maasdam involving an elderly man. 

The Zaandam involving a young woman.

The overboard from the Zaandam revealed a lack of credibility by HAL's PR department.

Cruise line expert Professor Ross Klein has documented 197 over-boards from cruise ships since the year 2000. 

HAL has had 5 passengers overboard from its cruise ships in just the last couple of years. All remain mysteries.

As best as I can tell, there has never been a determination regarding the cause of any of the HAL over-boards and there has never been a case where HAL admitted that it had closed circuit television (CCTV) images of what happened.

It's disturbing that people can somehow just disappear on the high seas with no explanation and no video of what happened.  You'd think that the cruise line would revamp its security systems when not one single overboard has been solved in the last three years. It also raises the issue whether HAL is being transparent with the public. 

November 30, 2012 Update: The missing passenger has been identified in the press as Jason Gregory Rappe. HAL issued a statement to the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel newspaper, which you can read here.The statement is silent regarding when the wife reported her husband missing to the cruise line and when the cruise line notified the Coast Guard.  In recent overboard cases, the cruise lines have delayed as long as several hours before notifying the Coast Guard.

December 1, 2012 Update: The Eurodam returns to Fort Lauderdale this morning and the FBI should Jason Rappe - HAL Eurodam - Missingbe boarding the cruise ship. At the same time, over two thousand passengers will disembark and begin to head home.  

December 3, 2012 UpdateWalker & O'Neill Retained to Investigate Disappearance of Cruise Passenger Jason Rappe' From HAL's Eurodam  Our firm was retained today to represent the Rappe' family find answers to what happened on the cruise ship.

Please help!

If you were on the cruise and have information about Mr. Rappe's disappearance (photo right), please contact me directly - jim@cruiselaw.com     

Please note that the comment section below is closed, and no further comments will be published. If you were on the cruise and have information, please contact us directly.

 

Photo credit:

Top: Welkinridge / Wikipedia

Bottom: Rappe' family

Did Somali Pirates Chase Cruise Ship?

A newspaper in Oman published a report today indicating that a cruise ship, approximately 15 nautical miles off Masirah Island (east of Oman) "was aggressively approached by two skiffs suspected of belonging to Somali pirates" on November 23rd. The newspaper reports that the two skiffs ended their pursuit only when a shipboard private security team fired warning flares at the craft.

According to the Muscat Daily newspaper, "reports issued by multinational anti-piracy forces operating in the region state that the two white skiffs, a favoured attack craft used by Somali pirates, approached the unnamed cruise ship on Friday afternoon “in an aggressive manner.” The skiffs were equipped with a large outboard engine and each reportedly contained four persons on board."

Somali Pirates Attack Cruise ShipAccording to a report by the Oceanus Live monitoring centre, the embarked security team fired at least two flares at the first skiff, causing it to change direction, away from the unidentified cruise ship. A third flare was fired at the second skiff, resulting in both aborting their approach. 

The issue of pirates attacking and holding cruise passengers hostage is not far fetched.  Consider the following articles we have recently written:

Somali Pirates - A Threat To Cruise Ships?

Are Cruise Lines Taking Adequate Steps to Protect Passengers from Pirate Attacks?

Cruise Line Liability for Injuries to Passengers and Crew Members Caused by Pirate Attacks

Does anyone have information regarding this latest incident?

Does anyone have video or photos to share? (The photo above involves a prior pirate attack against a cruise ship).

Does anyone know the name of the cruise ship involved?

November 26, 2011 Update:  Cruise Critic states that the Azamara Journey was forced to take "evasive" action November 23 when the ship's crew noticed several small boats quickly approaching the ship while sailing off the coast of Oman.

According to Cynthia Martinez, director of Global Corporate Communications for Azamara's parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., "In an abundance of caution, the Captain took precautionary measures, which included asking that guests move to the interior areas of the ship, as well as evasive maneuvers."

"An abundance of caution?" Pirates were stalking the cruise ship! 

Pregnancy & Cruising: What To Expect If You Are Expecting

The Washington Post published an interesting article about what pregnant women should expect when they go on a cruise. Written by Christopher Elliott, the article is entitled "What to Expect if You're Expecting to Cruise.

Different cruise lines have different policies when it comes to when a pregnant woman is no longer welcome on a cruise ship. Some cruise lines prohibit women who are 24 weeks pregnant to cruise. The theory, I suppose, is that the risk of something going wrong with the pregnancy, such as premature birth, increases once the pregnancy enters her third trimester?

As Mr. Elliott points out, just two weeks a go a pregnant woman aboard a Disney cruise ship had to be Cruise Ship Pregnancy Policymedevaced after developing complications shortly after the ship left Galveston. You can watch the dramatic hoisting of the passenger up to the Coast Guard helicopter here.    

Of course neither cruise lines nor pregnant passengers want to have to summons the Coast Guard to conduct a rescue on the high seas late at night. Once the ship is a few hundred miles away from port, no helicopter will arrive to save the day.

So everyone seems to be on the same page that cruise pregnancy policies are a good idea.  But the problem is - what happens when a pregnant customer does not read the fine print buried in the cruise ticket and is a few days past the cruise line's deadline? What rights does the cruise consumer have in this situation?  

None, it seems.  The Washington Post article correctly points out that the terms of the ticket control. Unfortunately, the cruise line is likely to block a "too pregnant" passenger from boarding while keeping the passenger's cruise fare. No refund. No exceptions. No future credit.

That's a harsh approach, particularly because some people buy cruises up to a eight months to a year in advance. If a baby is conceived after the cruise is purchased, you'd think that the cruise lines would say congratulations and be reasonable. They're not.  Cruise lines seem to take advantage of the situation.   

Mr. Elliott writes that it is almost like the cruise lines want to make an example by barring pregnant women who don't comply with the policy as a motivation for the public to purchase travel insurance which, not coincidentally, is also sold by many of the cruise lines.

The newspaper quoted me, for what that's worth;  Here's my take:

"I don't think it's unreasonable for the cruise lines to adopt pregnancy policies, particularly given the limited nature of the medical facilities on cruise ships and the absence of doctors who are experienced in obstetrics and gynecology," says James Walker . . . specializing in maritime law. "The problem arises when there is a good-faith misunderstanding by the pregnant passenger, and the cruise line takes a rigid attitude and pockets the consumer's money."

 

Photo credit: SheKnows.com 

NCL Adopts "All You Can Drink" Policy

ABC News reports that Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has adopted an all-inclusive drink package on three of its cruise ships (Norwegian Sun, Norwegian Gem & Norwegian Jade) at $49 per person per day plus tips.

NCL is following Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean which all offer all-you-can-drink plans on their cruise ships. 

ABC states that the cruise lines "stand to make big bucks from the drink packages."  ABC explains that Drunk Cruise Passengermany cruise passengers tend to drink more during the first few days of the cruise than they do later during the cruise. But the drink packages often have to be purchased for the entire voyage, which motivates the passengers to drink more so not to lose the value of all-you-can-drink deal. 

As we have argued in prior articles, we have found that there is a direct correlation between excess booze and passengers going overboardsexual assault, and brawls between passengers, plus drunken passengers doing insanely dangerous and stupid stunts.  

Watch what happens on a Royal Caribbean cruise when passengers drink too much.

We are going to have to hire more lawyers if all of the cruise lines adopt such an irresponsible drinking policy. 

 

Photo credit: NIN Forum

Unsolved Cruise Disappearance: What Happened to George Smith?

George Smith - Cruise Ship - Missing HoneymoonerOver seven years ago, newlywed cruise passenger George Smith disappeared from Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas into the Aegean Sea. The cruise line quickly concluded that Mr. Smith probably sat on the railing of his balcony and fell overboard, but there is absolutely no proof of that.

What Royal Caribbean knew but did not reveal to the families of George Smith and his bride, Jennifer Hagel, was that it had seized a video camera from other men last seen with Mr. Smith. The day after Mr. Smith's disappearance, these passengers were eating breakfast in the cruise ship's dining room when they began filming each other. According to a CBS program this year, the men were recorded laughing about the situation and mocking Mr. Smith.

The camera then stops on one of the three men who said: "We gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute."

Our firm represented Mr. Smith's widow and we hired forensic expert Dr. Henry Lee back in 2005 to investigate the case. The cruise line never revealed this video to us, or to Dr. Lee, or to the public. Instead, it launched a scandalous media campaign to portray Mr. Smith as a drunk and his bride as unfaithful. 

This Friday, the Nancy Grace program is airing a special look back at this case entitled "What Nancy Grace Mystery - Disappearance of George Smith Happened to George Smith?" The program will take a look back on some of the developments in the case. This "mystery" is no mystery at all. Those involved should be prosecuted. 

We have written a series of articles about Mr. Smith's case, including Disappearance of George Smith IV - Six Years Later. We discussed what happened on the cruise and how the cruise line and the media responded to Mr. Smith's disappearance.  

I am not a fan of Nancy Grace. Her program lost focus on the cruise line's cover-up and the incompetency of the FBI in investigating the crime, while unnecessarily pitting the Smith family against their daughter-in-law. But her program is one of the few that continues to cover Mr. Smith's disappearance. I'll be watching this Friday.

Another Cruise Passenger Overboard - This Time From P & O Aurora

P & O Cruises Aurora Web CamMultiple news sources are reporting that a passenger went overboard from a cruise ship in the Mediterranean Sea yesterday.  Little information is being released except that the passenger is described as a "British woman" and is apparently in her seventies. 

The incident occurred on the Aurora cruise ship as it sailed from the Oporto, Portugal to to Barcelona, Spain.  The news accounts state that the woman "fell" although there is no real description whether she jumped, or was thrown overboard, or she somehow fell into the water.

Cruise ship overboard cases are rarely solved. In this case, there is no real information being released to explain what happened.  

The Telegraph newspaper in the U.K. quotes a passenger saying that "we heard that the woman is 72 and was on holiday with her daughter but we don't know how she fell in. The passengers are all very sad and subdued as the outlook doesn't look good. The sea is very choppy. We are just so concerned for this woman and her family. It is awful."

P & O states that "the ship's crew were alerted and ordered an immediate search of the area," although cruise lines often say this when it's not true. There is no information when the woman was reported Aurora Cruise Ship - P & O Cruisesmissing and when the search was initiated.

Investigations fall to the flag state which for P & O cruise ships is Bermuda.  That country has a dreadful record conducting investigation involving overboard passengers and crew members or crimes on cruise ships at sea.

According to cruise expert Professor Ross Klein, this is the 188th person overboard from a cruise ship in the last decade or so.

The last cruise ship passenger overboard from a cruise ship was 2 weeks ago when a 21 year old passenger disappeared from Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas.  

The cruise ship had left Southampton on Wednesday September 26th and was sailing on a 14 day cruise.

Anyone with information about this latest overboard, please leave a comment below.

 

September 29 2012 Update:  A comment to this article below states that the passenger committed suicide, although this cannot be confirmed. 

Credits:

Aurora Web Cam: P & O Cruises 

Aurora cruise ship photo: SOLVENT via Telegraph 

Hat tip Goatys' News

Did the Carnival Glory Sicken Canadians Ashore With Norovirus?

Cruise Ship NorovirusWhen passengers fall victim to norovirus while cruising, cruise lines typically blame the passengers for bringing the virus aboard and sickening the ship and crew. But if this Canadian news report is correct, its looks like the table has been turned on one cruise line which allegedly sickened people ashore in the port of Halifax with the dreaded "cruise ship virus."

According to CTV News, the Carnival Glory which stopped in Halifax about two weeks ago is the suspected source of an outbreak that shut down two restaurants on the waterfront this week. Two waterfront restaurants, The Bicycle Thief and Ristorante a Mano, had to close after at least 26 staff and customers became ill with what appears to be the norovirus. 

Other business owners complained that Carnival cruise passengers came through their shops and sickened the employees and customers.  

Some locals commented that they intended to avoid waterfront businesses out of fear that the virus from the cruise passengers might infect them.

We commented on the puke fest on the Carnival in a prior blog.  

Court Rejects Carnival's Attempt to Dismiss Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Sexually Assaulted Girl

Yesterday a federal judge in Miami rejected a motion filed by Carnival Corporation seeking to dismiss a lawsuit filed on behalf of young girl who was sexually assaulted on a Carnival cruise ship.   

The case involved a nine year old girl who was raped on Carnival's Destiny cruise ship. The case is a reminder that sexual assaults against children occur during cruises, even when the children are entrusted to youth counselors on cruise ships. The case also shows how far cruise lines like Carnival will go to avoid legal responsibility when crimes occur during cruises.

The allegations against Carnival in this case were described as follows:

At the age of nine, the child took a cruise aboard Carnival’s Destiny cruise ship. She was accompanied on this cruise by several family members. During the cruise, and at a Carnival employee’s encouragement, the child's father signed her into a shipboard children’s program (“Camp Carnival”). The father told Camp Carnival personnel that his daughter was to stay with them until he returned for her. However, when the little girl asked for permission from the Camp Carnival staff member to attend a teen party with her cousin and friends, the staff member permitted her to go. After leaving Camp Carnival, the girl was physically and sexually assaulted.

The lawsuit alleges negligence on Carnival’s part in the false advertising of Camp Carnival, the failure to implement appropriate safety precautions, and the refusal to warn the child's parents of the numerous sexual assaults of passengers, including minors, during cruises.

The mother hired a lawyer in Florida and filed a lawsuit within three years of the rape.

Under federal maritime law, lawsuits involving minors must be filed within three years after the injury, or within one year from the date a legal representative is appointed for the minor (whichever date is shorter). 

Even though the lawsuit was timely filed both within three years of the rape and within one year since the mother was appointed as the child's legal guardian, Carnival moved to dismiss the case as "untimely." Carnival made a technical argument that the one year limitations period began to run when the mother learned of the crime or, alternatively, within one year after the mother retained a lawyer and the attorney sent a claim letter to Carnival. 

The Court rejected Carnival's argument and permitted the case to continue.

The child is represented by David Brill who is a skilled trial lawyer who represents crew members and passengers against cruise lines.

The motion to dismiss the child's case was filed by defense lawyer Lauren DeFabio of the Mase, Lara law firm.

 

Photo credit:  Maxum255 / Wikipedia

Can the Cruise Industry Keep Up With Bad Cruise News?

The Costa Concordia in January disaster set off a seemingly endless avalanche of stories on cable news this year about ship fires, sinkings and other cruise disasters, as well as a steady stream of articles and videos about sexual assaults during cruises, drunken brawling passengers, and the disappearance of women at sea.

I'm just one of probably 100 maritime attorneys in the United States who handle cases against cruise lines. But just this year alone I have appeared on ABC's 20/20, Dateline, PBS, Canada's CTV and CNN, as well being quoted in newspapers and magazines like the Wall Street Journal, Slate, The Daily, London's Financial Times, Newsweek Magazine, Newsweek's The Daily Beast blog, Fund Web, Reuters, Consumer Affairs, Australia's Herald Sun, Houston Chronicle, Seattle Times, Sun Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Tampa Bay Business Journal, Business Insider, and Greenwich Magazine.

I Love Lucy - Chocolate FactoryEven Perez Hilton quoted one of our stories about a cruise crime for goodness sakes. 

The cruise lines' PR have been working overtime to respond to hundreds of stories from the U.S. and international media about cruise ship mishaps and dangers.

The cruise industry's trade organization (CLIA) has been pumping out press release after press release, touting that cruise crime is "rare" and trying to explain that the Concordia debacle was an isolated incident caused by one bad-apple captain.

But stories about ship fires, engine failures and children being sexually assaulted on cruises keep coming and coming.

A lot of pressure has fallen on CLIA to salvage the cruise industry's reputation. That's a daunting task.

There's the pesky image of the Concordia lying on its side in Italian waters as a daily reminder that 32 people are dead and yet the cruise line did not even have a procedure in place to require life boat drills before sailing. Plus the cruise industry has the visual disadvantage of having to compete with the dramatic images on television of the panicked passengers trying to save their own lives, as well as teenage rape victims explaining the horror of being raped during a vacation cruise.

Slick corporate gobbledygook after-the-fact PR statements about the "safety of our guests is the cruise lines' highest priority" are not going to cut it.           

The victims' stories are too compelling. Belated PR statements from an industry with a major credibility problem won't work.

The cruise industry has picked the CEO of CLIA, Christine Duffy, to combat the bad press.  CLIA just launched a new blog and opened a twitter account for Ms. Duffy to fight the bad news. 

One of MS. Duffy's first blogs was "Sailing with Respect" where CLIA touted itself as a steward of the marine environment. It included a beautiful stock photo of colorful tropical fish and pristine water. But today a story broke about what is believed to be cruise ship garbage and feces drifting ashore on a quaint beach in Massachusetts. Local officials believe a HAL cruise ship emptied its bilges after sailing from Boston last month. The story was covered in the local press, a television station in Boston and USA Today's travel section.

Faced with these images, its hard for anyone to believe the cruise industry statement that it is "extremely committed to protecting the waters and surrounding environments where we operate to preserve their natural beauty, minimize impact on native species and protect the waters upon which we sail."  Happy talk won't persuade the public faced with plastic bottles, used hygiene products and condoms washing ashore covered in a gooey brown mass of human excrement.

Also breaking today was a story from a local station in Houston about a woman from Texas raped during a cruise out of Galveston.  CLIA responded with its usual PR statement that crime is "rare," which seems cold and callous juxtaposed against a video of a woman sobbing that no one helped her after she was raped on the last night of the cruise. 

I don't see how Ms. Duffy can keep up with the continuous bad news.

An image comes to mind of an "I Love Lucy" episode of Lucy working at a chocolate factory.  Pieces of chocolate come out of the kitchen on a conveyor belt. It's Lucy's (and Ethel's) job to tie the chocolate up in an attractive wrapping (not unlike Ms. Duffy's job to wrap the bad news with a pretty bow). 

But the conveyor belt picks up speed. Soon Lucy is overwhelmed. She tires to eat or hide the chocolate but makes a mess of herself and the chocolate in the process. Finally, she exclaims "I think we are fighting a losing game." 

    

Three Carnival Cruise Passengers Disappear in Jamaica

Multiple news sources are reporting that three U.S. cruise passengers from the Carnival Freedom cruise ship are missing since yesterday after disembarking the cruise ship in Ocho Rios.

USA TODAY states that the three passengers, all from the same family, failed to return to the cruise ship on Thursday following a day-long call in the Jamaican port of Ocho Rios.

The Associated Press reports that missing Americans are Donald Freedom Cruise Ship - Ocho Rios - Missing PassengersHenderson, age 45; Maria Henderson, age 43; and Aja Henderson, age 21.

The Freedom is on a six-day cruise that departed Fort Lauderdale on Sunday, and returns to South Florida tomorrow (Saturday).

There are comments to some of the on line articles speculating about what might have happened, including the passengers being victims of crime.  We have written many articles about Jamaica, a beautiful country with wonderful people, but it's a destination which suffers from violence and drug trafficking.  At this point there is simply no information on way or the other.

Newspapers in Jamaica are asking that anyone knowing the whereabouts of the Henderson family contact the Ocho Rios Police at 974-2533, Police 119 emergency number.

If you were on the cruise and have information which may lead to the location of this family, please leave a comment below.

July 27, 2012 Update: ABC Radio reports that the cruise passengers apparently left the ship with their belongings and the Jamaican police found them safe and sound in a villa on the northern coast of Jamaica. Here is the ABC account:

Three Americans who failed to return to their Carnival Cruise ship after a stopover in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, Thursday, were found safe and unharmed this afternoon at a villa in Discovery Bay -- approximately 40 minutes west, on Jamaica's northern coast.

The three passengers, whom the cruise line earlier identified as members of the same family, went missing after disembarking the Carnival Freedom for a day-long port call in Ocho Rios, the cruise line said in a statement obtained by ABC News.

Jamaican authorities had classified the disappearance as a missing persons case, saying it was odd that the family took all of their belongings off of the ship before vanishing. The family has no known ties to anyone in Jamaica.

It was not immediately clear why the family left the ship and never returned. They are in the custody of Jamaican police and will be questioned about their mysterious departure. Police have not yet said whether charges will be brought against the three passengers.

 

Photo credit: Cruise Critic

CNN's "Safe at Sea" Series Investigates Sexual Assault of 15 Year Old Girl on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship

Royal Caribbean Child Rape - Cruise Ship Crime Tonight, the CNN Anderson Cooper AC360 program aired a short documentary into the issue of the safety of children on the high seas, entitled "Safe at Sea."

The program focuses on a fifteen year old girl sailing with her family on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in 2010.  While her parents and siblings were at a different part of the ship, the young girl was in her cabin alone.  A crew member in uniform uses a pass key and enters the cabin unannounced and violently forces her to perform oral sex.

Terrified and distraught, the child did not immediately report the crime to her parents.

Our investigation into other crimes against children on Royal Caribbean cruise ships led us to the court ordered production of an internal report by Royal Caribbean which concluded that sexual misconduct occurs "frequently." The report concluded that as many as one-third of women and children sexually assaulted on Royal Caribbean cruise ships report the crime only after they have left the cruise ship and are back in the security of their home.  

In this case, the parents informed the local police in California of the shipboard crime who found the child's complaints to be "credible."  The police forwarded the complaints to the FBI.  The FBI investigation included collecting photographs of crew members selected by the cruise line which, not surprisingly, did not contain the predator's photo. The family thereafter never heard back from the FBI.

Child Sexual Assault - Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship The cruise line, however, paid a settlement to the child. On the CNN program tonight, the child (whose identify was protected for her privacy) stated that she felt the crew member was a predator and had done it before.

The program also contained an interview with a former U.S. Customs and Border official who stated that, in her experience, 85% of cruises contain at least one sexual predator on the cruise ship.  

The cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), attacked the former federal employee and released a statement to CNN stating that:

" . . . . it is disconcerting that this individual would irresponsibly offer such inflammatory and unfounded accusations."

This, in a nutshell, is the attitude of the cruise industry and cruise lines like Royal Caribbean toward victims.

A fifteen year old child is sexually assaulted during a cruise. Yet, the cruise line and the cruise industry offer no apologies to the child or her family.  

Instead, they attack those who dare to speak out in public about crimes on cruise ships.

Cruise Line International Association - CLIA Attacks Cruise Victim

Seven Year Anniversary of Disappearance of Cruise Passenger George Smith: When Will the FBI Make an Arrest?

Yesterday was the seven year anniversary of the disappearance of George Smith from Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas cruise ship.

You will recall that Mr. Smith was on his honeymoon cruise with his newlywed bride, Jennifer Hagel, when he went over the railing of his balcony early on the morning of July 5, 2005.  Although the cruise line quickly concluded that this was just an "accident," passengers took photographs of a blood-stained awning and heard sounds consistent with violence in Mr. Smith's cabin.

George Smith - Disappearance - Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Murder?I have always believed that Mr. Smith was a victim of foul play.  Mr. Smith's wife retained our firm to represent her and the interests of Mr. Smith's estate.  The deeper we looked into the case, the more certain we were that this was no accident. 

Last year we wrote a series of articles Disappearance of George Smith IV - Six Years Later.  We discussed what happened on the cruise and how the cruise line and the media responded to Mr. Smith's disappearance.

Two months ago, CBS interviewed a former Assistant FBI Director who discussed a video tape recorded by three passengers last seen with Mr. Smith. The day after Mr. Smith's disappearance, these passengers (known as the "Russian men" - the two Rozenbergs and "Rusty" Kofman) were eating breakfast in the cruise ship's dining room when they began filming each other.  According to the CBS program, the men were recorded laughing about the situation and mocking Mr. Smith.

The camera then stops on one of the three men (who was not identified) who said: "We gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute."

Obviously this statement is incriminating, considering Mr. Smith went over the railing of his balcony and the Royal Caribbean security report on the morning of the disappearance states that young men were seen leaving the area near the Smith's cabin at around 4:30 AM.

With this statement as well as other evidence we are familiar with in the case, it is disturbing that the FBI has not made an arrest.

It's long overdue. 

  

 

Cruise Crime Debate Continues

The recent articles about the FBI assisting the cruise lines in covering up ship crimes has sparked a re-newed interest in the safety of cruise passengers on the high seas.

Fox News published an article this morning "How Safe Is Your Cruise Ship" mentioning the cruise lines' talking points that cruise ship crime is "extremely rare."  For a different point of view, Fox News interviewed cruise expert Ross Klein who has testified before Congress that a cruise passenger "is twice as likely to be sexually assaulted on a cruise ship than on land."

Fox News also mentioned our law firm's experiences representing cruise sexual assault victims, including children.

The debate whether cruise ship crime today is "rare" or "routine" consists essentially of opinions without a quantitative foundation because the FBI is hiding the actual crime statistics from the public, as Ken Carver, CEO of the International Cruise Victims Organization discusses in the video below.

It should be up to the public, not a corporation with a conflict of interest, to determine exactly what is "rare" or "routine" based on the actual crimes statistics which are currently being hidden. .

 

Sexually Assaulted On A Cruise Ship? Call Cruise Law in Miami.

There has been a lot of news lately about cruise ship disasters, like ship fires, groundings and sinkings. But the most likely danger that a passenger, woman or child, faces during a cruise is rape.

Cruise ships are essentially floating cities.  Increasingly larger floating cities at that. Like any city, a cruise ship has crime.  Over the past decade the most likely crime on a cruise ship we have seen is rape.

Cruise lines deny that rapes occur frequently.  Just two days ago the cruise lines issued a PR release Cruise Ship Crime - Rape - Sexual Assaultstating that cruising is "absolutely safe." This is part of the problem.  The cruise lines are so motivated to portray an image of an "absolutely safe" vacation experience that they will go to great lengths to protect that marketing image, including cleaning crime scenes and covering the crimes up.

A decade ago, we obtained a confidential internal study (pursuant to a court order) in which one cruise line concluded that sexual crimes occurred "routinely" in its fleet of cruise ships.  It then embarked on a campaign of representing to the public that such crimes were "rare."

During a series of Congressional hearings several years ago, the same cruise line told Congress that it had 66 rapes over a period of 3 years, for an average of 22 rapes a year.  But during a court case, a trial court in Miami ordered the cruise to to produce its internal documents which revealed the truth - the cruise line actually 273 incidents of sexual assault, harassment and "inappropriate sexual touching."

All of the major cruise lines track sexual crimes and know that there are hundreds of incidents of sexual assault and battery each year during cruises.   

Walker & O'Neill maritime lawyers in Miami handle cases exclusively cases against cruise lines.

Our firm has handled many sexual assault cases and molestation cases involving against Carnival, Celebrity, Cunard, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise lines.

In the cases we have handled, the shipboard rapes were committed by a wide variety of cruise employees - staff captain, ship doctor, chief engineer, hotel director, security guard, cabin attendant, bartender, cleaner, and child supervisor.  The sexual assaults occurred in various locations on the cruise ship, with the most common locations being the passenger cabin, storage room, and crew bathroom.  The most likely assailant?  A male cabin steward from a country outside of the U.S. where it is impossible to conduct a meaningful background check.

Don't expect the cruise lines to be your friend.  They will take the side of their employees every time. And for a number of reasons, law enforcement, especially the FBI, has a terrible record of prosecuting crimes which occur on the high seas.   

Jim Walker - Walker & O'Neill Maritime Lawyers - Cruise LawJim Walker and Lisa O'Neill are both cum laude graduates from Duke University where they met 34 years ago. Jim attended Tulane Law School in New Orleans and has practiced maritime law since 1983. Lisa was a member of law review at the University of Florida Law School and has practiced law since 1985.

Jim and Lisa have represented several sexual assault cruise victims who testified before our U.S. Congress.  These women were assaulted by a bartender, a part-time security guard and even a diving instructor during a cruise sponsored excursion.  

Examples of settlements for cruise ship rape and molestation we obtained include: over $3,000,000, $2,500,000, $1,500,000, $1,000,000, $900,000, $650,000, $500,000, $385,000 and $250,000. (All cases are different, depending on the facts.  These settlements may not be reflective of the reasonable compensation in your case).

Here are what people are saying about Jim:

"Top Maritime Lawyer" - ABA Journal.

"Top Cruise Lawyer" - USA Today.

"Prominent Private Practice Maritime Attorney" - Fox News.

"Prominent Cruise Plaintiff Attorney" - Law.com (America Law Media).

If you or your child were assaulted during a cruise, don't hire a lawyer who practices "cruise law" on a part time basis. Contact the Cruise Law attorneys in Miami and let us be your advocates.

If you have a situation to discuss, email us right away: jim@cruiselaw.com or call our toll free number for a free and confidential consultation: 1 800 256-1518.

 

Photo credits:  Carnival cruise ship at Government Cut, Miami - Jim Walker 

How Much Bigger Will Cruise Ships Get?

Twenty years ago I was a defense lawyer defending the cruise lines.  It seems like a different life way back then. Something that I did as a foolish kid.

One of my clients was Majesty Cruise Lines.  It's flag ship (and only ship) was the Royal Majesty.  I thought it was a huge ship when it came out in the early 1990's.  Majesty Cruises lines sold the ship to Norwegian Cruise Lines.  NCL renamed it the Norwegian Majesty.  It sailed a Boston-to-Bermuda cruise for over a decade. 

The ship left the NCL fleet in 2009 and is now the Louis Majesty.  Unfortunately it is best know for the horrific incident when a large wave smashed through glass windows leading to death and injuries to passengers.

Twenty years ago I thought it was huge. But this was no big ship, compared to today's monsters of the seas. Under 50,000 tons and less than 1,500 passengers, it's a tug boat compared to Royal Caribbean's Genesis class of cruise ships.  The Oasis and Allure each weigh well over 220,000 tons with well over 7,500 passengers and crew.

Last week a friend sent me a photo of the port of Miami circa 1971.  I'm a history major and like the vintage perspective. Look at those little cruise ships!  

Now compare the photo on top with the photo below, circa 2007.

How much bigger will cruise ships get?  Will it ever stop?   

Cruise Ships - Port of Miami 1971

Cruise Ships - Port of Miami 2007

 

U.S. State Department: Crime In Nassau, Bahamas Is Critical

Bad news for our friends in the Bahamas and cruise passengers intending to vacation there. 

The U.S. State Department's 2012 "Crime and Safety Report" has labeled New Providence island's (including Nassau) criminal threat level as "critical" with Grand Bahama's island's (including Freeport) level as "high."

"In previous years, most violent crimes involved mainly Bahamian citizens and occurred in 'over-the-hill' areas, which are not frequented by tourists," the report stated.  "However, in 2011 there were numerous incidents reported that involved tourists or have occurred in areas in tourist locations.

Nassau Bahamas - Cruise Ship - Crime "In late 2011, there have been numerous reports by cruise ship tourists and others regarding incidents of armed robberies of cash and jewelery. These incidents were reported during daylight and nighttime hours. In several cases, the victims were robbed at knife-point, and gold necklaces and jewelery were taken. "Cash for Gold" is a new business in the Bahamas that may have resulted in the increase of these type of crimes."

Criminal threat levels are ranked as low, medium, high or critical. Other countries in the region also categorized as "critical" are: El Salvador, Guyana, and Ecuador.

"The US Embassy has received reports of assaults, including sexual assaults, in diverse areas such as casinos, outside hotels, or on cruise ships. In several incidents, the victim had been reportedly drugged."

Unlike the secretive cruise lines, the newspapers in the Bahamas do a very effective job reporting on issues of high crime.   

The Bahamas has the highest incidence of rape in the world according to a 2007 United Nations report on crime and violence.

Our firm has represented five women sexually assaulted on cruise ships in port in Nassau or ashore in the Bahamas. All of the women raped ashore ranged in age from 17 to 23 and were in seemingly safe locations in downtown Nassau near bars or stores within sight of the cruise ships.  

Reefer Madness Continues: Bermuda Shakes Down Another Cruise Pot Head

Bermuda's never ending war on cruise passengers continues with the Royal Gazette newspaper reporting today that "Tearful Cruise Passenger Fined for Drugs."

The newspaper reports that NCL cruise passenger Mr. Cruz (I'm not kidding)  broke into tears today as he was charged with cannabis possession.

The case involves the familiar scheme where the Bermuda customs officials welcome the cruise passenger into their country to shop, eat and drink and then send sniffer dogs on the cruise ship to conduct random and warrant-less searches of the passengers' cabins. 

Cruise Ship Pot - BermudaThe dogs sniffed out some reefer, 12 grams, from 26 year old Cruz' cabin on the Norwegian Star.

The sentencing judge was, as usual, Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner, whose title should be Senior Collector of Revenue. 

Cruz pleaded for mercy: “I’m sorry. I know I was not supposed to do it but my mom has stage four cancer and my dad just got an injury to his eye.”

Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner could care less and whacked him $800, without any expressions of condolences to Cruz's sick family. 

The beat in Bermuda goes on .  .  . 

 

For other reefer madness stories, read:

More Reefer Madness - Bermuda's Screwed Up Sense of Priorities

Surprise. Surprise. Surprise. More Bermuda Cruise Ship Reefer Madness

 

May 18, 2012 Update:  The Royal Gazette news paper in Bermuda picks up on our blogs about busting passengers for small amounts of pot.

May 25, 2012 Update:  "Driving Tourists Away" - interesting letters to the editor in Bermuda about cruise ship pot. 

Booze Cruise: The Royal Caribbean Way

Its amusing to watch a cruise line caught in a scandal pretend to be outraged over "unfair" media scrutiny.

Royal Caribbean's response to Inside Edition's out-of-control cruise booze expose' reminds me of the the quotation from Shakespeare's Hamlet "The lady doth protest too much, methinks," spoken by Queen Gertrude, Hamlet's mother.

Last week, InsideEdition aired a story "Inside Edition Investigates Cruise Ship Drinking" which took a look at widespread public intoxication aboard Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas cruise ship.  Inside Edition's show contained video depicting:

". . . many passengers pound back booze day and night. In the ship's night club, our cameras spotted people passed out and one passenger face down on the bar. We also observed raunchy dancing and women exposing themselves.

From the moment our undercover producers walked up the gangway, the booze kept flowing. We saw many passengers drinking heavily before and during the mandatory lifeboat drill  . . . 

But the real boozing we witnessed occurred after the Liberty of the Seas set sail when legions of waiters descended on passengers with tray loads of booze pushing the drink of the day."   You can watch the video below:  

 

 

The following day Royal Caribbean's President Adam Goldstein wrote a blog about the Inside Edition expose, calling it "sensationalist" and "highly misleading." He wrote about his cruise line's "SafeServe" alcohol training program and allegedly "strict policies" against over-serving alcohol to passengers.

There is no question that Royal Caribbean has a written policy theoretically designed to curb excessive drinking. But its just that - a policy.  In practice, the waiters and bartenders routinely ignore the policy and push alcohol sales. Its hard to take a cruise CEO's shore-side policies seriously when you watch videos of Royal Caribbean waiters, who work almost entirely on tips, dancing around with bottles of rum on their heads while pouring double shots directly into the passenger's mouths.

Royal Caribbean pays its waiters only $50 a month.  The waiters push booze in order to obtain gratuities.  Profits from aggressive alcohol sales are a fundamental part of the cruise line's "onboard purchases" program.  The cruise line nets hundreds of millions of dollars a year selling booze. If Royal Caribbean was serious about curtailing over-consumption of alcohol during cruises, they would pay the waiters and bartenders a reasonable salary. 

Lots-of-cruise booze translates into lots of cruise profits but higher incidents of sexual assault, drunken brawls and serious accidents including some leading to death.  The alcohol related problems on Royal Caribbean cruise ships date back decades.

In 1994, the LA Times published an article "Boy's Death Raises Issues of Drinking On Cruises."  A 14 Royal Caribbean Cruise Booze - Alcohol  year old boy aboard Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas consumed so much rum and tequila that he literally drank himself to death. The cruise line corporate communications manager at the time responded to the minor's death cavalierly saying "the best advice that you can give is that a cruise is a resort vacation.  It's not a baby-sitting service."

There have been problems with too much booze on Royal Caribbean cruise ships ever since.

The first sexual assault case I handled in the late 1990's involved a 15 year old boy served a dozen glasses of champagne and then molested by a 28 year old Royal Caribbean crew member pedophile.

Perhaps one of the best known cases of an over-served passenger involved another case we handled where honeymoon cruiser George Smith was grossly over-served alcohol.  Royal Caribbean bartenders even provided shot glasses for Mr. Smith and other passengers to quaff absinthe that had been smuggled aboard the Brilliance of the Seas.

The seminal case involving the responsibility of cruise lines in dispensing alcohol is a 2004 case here in Miami called Hall v. Royal Caribbean.  A passenger on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, according to the opinion, "was injured on the high seas when, after having been served alcohol by the vessel's employees to and obviously past the point of intoxication, he staggered from a lounge, and while unable to look after himself fell down two flights of open stairways."  

The trial court threw the case out saying that the cruise line had no obligation to the drunken passenger. But the appellate court revered, holding that although passengers have a personal responsibility to act reasonably, the cruise lines also have a corporate responsibility of acting reasonably in serving a safe amount of alcohol.

In 2006, a young man from Ohio, Daniel DiPiero, fell off a Royal Caribbean ship when he tried to vomit over the railing which was too low.  The accident was entirely preventable.  Video showed that the young man had passed out in a deck chair but no security had passed by for several hours.

In 2011, another intoxicated young passenger went overboard from Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas after Royal Caribbean over-served him alcohol.

Royal Caribbean Alcohol - All You Can Drink - Cruise Ship In the same year an underage passenger alleged that she was raped on a Royal Caribbean after becoming intoxicated.

Many of the problems with alcohol on Royal Caribbean cruise ships in the past few years stem from its all-you-can-drink-packages,where passengers can drink themselves into a stupor for a daily set price. No cruise line with a genuine concern for passenger safety would market these types of unlimited booze deals.  

With this history in mind, CEO Goldstein's protestations about "sensational" media reports fall on my deaf ears. There is nothing more sensational for a family to learn that their son has gone overboard or their daughter has been raped after Royal Caribbean over-served them alcohol. 

The Inside Edition video speaks for itself.  Little has changed at Royal Caribbean.  The cruise line continues to push cruise booze and makes hundreds of millions of dollars in tax free booze profits in the process. 

At the end of the day, it's the "personal responsibility" versus "corporate liability" debate.  What do you think?

Please leave us a comment below with your thoughts . . .  

May 16, 2012 Update:  The South Florida Business Journal mentions our blog in the article Alcohol vs. Drugs on Cruise Ships

 

Cruise Ship Perverts, Rapists & Child Predators - Part I

I started this blog only two and one-half years ago.  I have written about several dozen rapists and child predators, as well as a lot of pedophile crew members and cruise passengers who are arrested for child pornography.  One motto of Cruise Law News is "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know, like this: 

Paul Trotter - Cunard Cruise Ship Child Predator.Paul Trotter, age 34, is the most prolific cruise child predator known to the public so far.  He worked for Cunard for seven years as a child supervisor aboard the Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth.  He would take the children to areas not covered by surveillance cameras and physically and sexually abuse them.  A real sicko, he would film himself sexually molesting the children.  This was ultimately what got him caught. Someone tipped the police off in the U.K. where he lived.  A police search of his computer revealed not only child pornography but his own videos of his crimes against the kids he was entrusted with on cruises.   One newspaper reported that he supervised the "play zone" on 295 cruises over his seven years with Cunard.  He admitted to abusing thirteen child probably because he was caught with images of 13 victims, is my suspicion.  295 cruises and several thousand children. A play zone of his own with no one supervising him while he abused the customer's kids.  A pedophile's dream.  How many more victims are there?  Read more here about Trotter.       

Cruise Ship Child Perverts - Cunard - Pier 21Edward Brillantes Mangubat, age 40, (no photo) is another pedophile who worked for Cunard. He was arrested in Halifax when Canadian Border officer searched his laptop computer and found sexually explicit video featuring children. Mangubat worked as a stagehand on Cunard's cruise ship Queen Mary 2.  He worked on cruise ships for seven years.  Did he know Trotter and exchange porno tapes? Border agents went to Mangubat’s cabin and discovered that his laptop contained several videos showing “what can only be described as sexual assault of children,” including children under 12.”  He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 120 days in jail.

Canada vigorously enforces its laws against child pornography. This is the fourth case we know where Canadian Border agents arrested a crew member with child pornography from a cruise ship. Most of the crew members are arrested at Pier 21 in Halifax (photo, left).  Canada has also arrested a Carnival crew member from the Carnival Glory, a Costa crew member from the Costa Atlantica, and and a NCL crew member from the Norwegian Jewel - all for child pornography in their computers on cruise ships.  

Amado Nicholas Hernandez - Celebrity Cruises - Child PornographyAmado Nicholas Hernandez, age 31, is a pedophile employed by Celebrity Cruises as an audiovisual manager and provided onboard guest-entertainment services.  

Hernandez was arrested after police determined that his computer contained 450 photographs and about 250 video files of child pornography portraying a total of 44 different victims. The criminal complaint filed against Hernandez alleged that upcoming cruises included several stops in Mexico. Hernandez, in documented online chats, reportedly had bragged that he had bought young boys for sex in Mexico and “almost offed one,” the criminal complaint alleges. 

The issue of child predators and crew members with child pornography on cruise ships is something we have written about frequently.  Read more here.  

Dylan Cole Bloodsworth - Carnival Cruise - Sexual AsaultDylan Cole Bloodsworth, age 19, of Gautier Mississippi, sexually assaulted a 13 year old girl during a cruise aboard the Carnival Elation cruise ship. The minor met Bloodsworth on near the elevators onboard the cruise ship and agreed to meet him on the top deck after dinner. She later went with Bloodsworth to get a jacket from his cabin, where the sexual abuse occurred. Bloodsworth had been arrested a month before the cruise for allegedly threatening to harm a 13 year old girl and her family unless she agreed to have sex with him. Usually criminal suspects are not permitted to leave the jurisdiction when on bail, especially to go on a cruise ship with many minors. The prosecutor told the judge that Bloodsworth is ". . . a serial rapist. He preys on underage girls.” He was sentenced to ten years in jail. 

Cases like this should be a reminder to parents that cruise lines do not conduct background checks on passengers who sail on cruise ships. The teenager in the cabin next to your family could be out on bail for abusing children ashore. Read more here

Check back for Cruise Ship Perverts, Rapists & Child Predators - Part II.

More Cruise Ship Reefer Madness: St. Kitts Port Police Seize 2 Joints

In the never ending war on drugs, the SKNVibes newspaper in St. Kitts reports that its the port police seized 2 grams of pot in a cabin on the Celebrity Silhouette cruise ship after the pot had been discovered by ship security.  The local police brought on a sniffer dog.  Here's the article:

"A quantity of drugs were recently removed from a cruise ship after being discovered by security personnel and handed over to the local police.

Information reaching SKNVibes indicates that sometime after 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday (Apr. 4) police Cruise Ship Pot - Reefer Madnesswere informed by the Security Manager of St. Christopher Air and Sea Port Authority, Raymond Cotton, that approximately two grams of what was suspected to be cannabis sativa were found aboard the M.V Celebrity Silhouette while docked at Port Zante.

Police arrived at Port Zante sometime after 8:30 a.m., a search was conducted and the drugs were found inside a cabin.

A dog from the Custom Canine Division was used to conduct further searches in the area where the cannabis was found but no more of the illegal drugs were located.  

No one was arrested."

For other ridiculous stories about cruise ships, pot and high times on the high seas, click on "Drugs" under "Topics" to the left.

 

Credit:  Hat tip to Professor Ross Klein who first reported on this story. 

NBC Special: Crime Onboard - the Dark Side of Cruising

As part of its special investigation into the problem of crime on cruise ships, "Crimes Onboard - The Dark Side of Cruising," NBC Bay Area interviewed Congresswomen Doris Matsui (D-CA) who was instrumental in the passage of the Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act.

Congresswoman Matsui's constituent (and our client) Laurie Dishman called upon her after Ms. Dishman was sexually assaulted on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in February 2006. Congresswoman convened a hearing regarding the crime. Ms. Dishman testified before Congress in 2005 regarding her ordeal.  She traveled to Washington D.C. over 30 times to lobby for the passage of a cruise crime bill to protect women and children from sexual assaults on cruise ships.

Congresswoman Matsui discusses the new safety law which became effective this year.  She points out correctly that one of the purposes of the new law was to educate the public regarding the startling number of sexual assaults and other crimes which occur on cruise ships each year.  However, after the bill was voted into law, the final version of the law was watered down.   The FBI and Coast Guard now reveal only the number of closed criminal cases on cruise ships as opposed to the number of total crimes actually occurring each year.  

The public is warned of only a fraction of the real number of cruise crimes.  

The difference is between 16 closed cases as opposed to the actual number - "in the hundreds."

The democratic process is a slow one.  The cruise industry vigorously fought against the new cruise law for years, only to cave in at the end when passage of the law was likely.  Now it turns out that some limiting language was inserted into the bill at the end of the day which conceals the majority of the crimes which occur each year on cruise ships.  I wonder who did that? 

As Congresswoman Matsui points out, she and others in Congress are working on this issue.  The cruise crime law is just the first step to deal with the problem of crime on cruise ships.    

 

 

Watch the video interview of Congresswoman Matsui's constituent, Laurie Dishman, here

Video credit:  NBC Bay Area

Was a Passenger Sexually Assaulted on the Carnival Victory?

Carnival Victory Cruise Ship Rape  Several people have informed us that Carnival is investigating an incident where a cruise passenger awoke on the Carnival Victory cruise ship in a crewmember's cabin with bruises and little recollection of events.

The issue of cruise ship rape is one the cruise industry nastiest secrets.

Was a passenger raped on the Carnival Victory?

We have reason to believe that two crewmembers are under scrutiny.

There are online reports that a Maitre'd from Macedonia and a waiter from Croatia were arrested for the alleged rape of an underage girl.

Our Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has a spotty history of investigating shipboard rapes.  Was the alleged incident timely and accurately reported by Carnival to the FBI?  Has there been an arrest?

Crewmembers were arrested recently for engaging in sexual abuse of a 16 year old girl on the NCL Norwegian Star, a child on a Cunard cruise ship by a child activities supervisor, a 14 year old girl on Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas, a 15 year old girl (by another passenger) on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas, and a 14 year old girl aboard the Carnival Freedom.    All of this in just three months.

A rape is the last thing that Carnival wants to deal with after the Costa Concordia disaster and the Costa Allegra ship fire.      

The Carnival Victory is sailing a 7 Night Southern Caribbean itinerary and departed San Juan today.

You can read about cruise ships rapes here.  Rapes of children on cruises here.

We have represented over 75 women and children raped on cruise ships including Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean cruise lines, among others. 

The last time the Carnival Victory was in the news was following the murder of a 14 year old passenger ashore in St. Thomas last year.  We are representing the victim's family in a case we reported on here

Were you on the cruise last week?  If you have information to share, please leave a comment below.  

January 23, 2013 Update: Bad Times Aboard the Fun Ships: Passenger Alleges Rape Aboard Carnival Victory Cruise Ship 

FBI Arrests NCL Assistant Cruise Director for Engaging in Sex With 16 Year Old Passenger & Child Pornography

The Federal Bureau of Investigations ("FBI") arrested the assistant cruise director of the Norwegian Star cruise ship for engaging in sex with a 16 year old passenger and possessing child pornography.   

29 year old Senad Djedovic, from Bosnia and Herzegovina, worked for Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) for six years for a number of different NCL cruise ships 

The 16 year old girl, from Minnesota, was sailing with her family on a 7 day cruise out of Tampa at the end of January.  Djedovic met the girl shortly after she boarded the cruise.  At the end of the cruise he engaged in sex with her in a stairwell on the cruise.  After the cruise, Djedovic exchanged Senad Djedovic - NCL - Cruise Ship Sexual Abuse emails with the girl which included explicit images and a video of him masturbating in front of a photo of the child. 

One email included the message: I miss you big time . . . you little young girl."  

The child 's father allegedly told him earlier in the cruise that she was 16 years old.  He apparently admitted to other crew members that she was only 16. 

The FBI seized his computer which contained child pornography on a hard drive.  Under a sub-folder entitled "scandals" there were several videos depicting sexual acts with 12 to 15 year old girls, which were downloaded from the internet. 

The Department of Justice charged Djedovic with sexual abuse of a minor and possessing materials involving the sexual exploitation of minors.  

Sexual abuse of minors during cruise by cruise staff and older passengers is one of the real dangers on cruise ships.  Last month we reported on a Cunard children's activities supervisor being arrested for child sexual abuse

You can read about many other cases where crewmembers possessed child pornography or crewmembers and passengers sexually abused minors during cruises here, involving all of the major cruise lines - Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean.

Read Sun Sentinel's Cruise Crime Database (and Don't Forget the Cartoons)

With cruise safety hearings coming up later this month in Washington, the debate will resume regarding how many crimes really occur on cruise ships.

The cruise lines will say that crime is rare but will not refer to any database to support their their self-serving conclusion.  Cruise lines do not reveal their own internal crime statistics, except when ordered to do so under the threat of sanctions by a court.

But there are some on-line sources of information.  In addition to this blog, there is of course the web site Cruise Junkie by cruise expert Ross Klein who tracks cruise ship crimes.  

Another interesting source is a database by the Fort Lauderdale newspaper, the South Florida Sun Sentinel, which listed cruise crimes from December 2007 to October 2008.  You can look at the hundreds of various crime allegations, some petty and some very disturbing, here.

Unlike the Miami Herald which is beholden to the cruise lines which advertise in the Miami newspaper, the Sun Sentinel has maintained a sense of journalistic integrity when it comes to reporting on things that go wrong during cruises.

The Sentinel also has a sense of humor about the cruise industry.  Take a look at the cartoon which ran last week after several Princess cruise ships returned to Fort Lauderdale filled with passengers sickened by norovirus:

Chan Lowe - Cruise Ship Norovirus

" . . . viral diseases, crimes of violence, theft, seasickness, weight gain, liver damage, possibly getting stuck at the dinner table for the entire journey with people who deny the theory of evolution … sounds like the kind of vacation from which lasting memories are made . . ."

The cartoon and comments are by Chan Lowe who has been the Sun Sentinel’s editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years.  

 

Cartoon credit:  Chan Lowe / South Florida Sun Sentinel / Tribune Media 

The Debate Continues: Does Maritime Law Favor Only The Cruise Lines?

Sea Diamond - Cruise Ship Sinking Take a look at the photograph on the left.  Can you identify it?

Nine times out of ten, I bet the answer is of course, its the Costa Concordia.  You know, the cruise ship that crashed into rocks last last month near the Italian island of Giglio.

Wrong.  Its a photo of the Sea Diamond, which capsized after hitting a reef in Greek waters in 2007 and sank with loss of life.

The story of the Sea Diamond is one that the cruise lines and cruise industry supporters ignore while extolling the safety of cruising.

The photo of the stricken Sea Diamond is part of a Reuters article this morning questioning whether the cruise lines benefit from overreaching contractual terms and the absence of consumer laws protecting the public.   The article is entitled "Insight: Cruise-Laws Leave Cruise Ship Victims at Sea." It explains how the cruise lines erect a series of hurdles which make if difficult to seek compensation or justice when things go wrong on the high seas. The journalists interviewed a number of cruise passengers who were injured or lost loved ones during cruises.

Another article,taking a different perspective, was also published this morning.  The cruise friendly on-line community Cruisemates published "Cruisin' U.S.A."   

The article suggests that foreign flagged cruise ship are subject to Federal laws, international regulations, and the scrutiny of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Centers for Disease Control, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Customs and Border Patrol.  The author did not interview anyone.  The only link was to the cruise industry's trade organization, Cruise Line International Association.  The article contains no historical perspective, and contains no photographs of sinking cruise ships.

As the cruise industry braces for the negative publicity which will surround the Congressional hearings about cruise ship safety later this month, you will see a series of competing articles like this.  The debate is a healthy one.  The cruise industry will put its best foot forward using a platform of cruise supporters like Cruisemates and Cruise Critic and certain travel agent bloggers.  And real journalists like the folks at Reuters will chip away at the facade and reveal the dark side of the cruise industry.  

 

Photo credit:  Reuters

Rescued Passenger Kisses and Waves Goodbye to Cruise Ship

One of the stories I never tire of reporting is when a Coast Guard helicopter plucks a sick cruise passenger from the deck of a cruise ship and takes the passenger ashore for emergency medical treatment.

The skill of the U.S. Coast Guard in rescuing people from cruise ships is rather remarkable. The Coast Guard can fly 200 miles out to sea to medevac ill and injured passengers and crew.  Other than England, Canada and perhaps a few other countries, you will not see anyone performing life saving heroic missions to rescue the needy on the high seas other than the U.S. Coast Guard.     

Below is a video of a Coast Guard helicopter hoisting a young woman from the deck of the Explorer cruise ship as the ship returned from a Caribbean cruise.  The helicopter took the passenger to a hospital in Key West.

At the end of the video, you can see the young lady in the rescue basket waving to the cruise ship, and kissing goodbye perhaps to a loved one below.

 

 

Video credit:  U.S. Coast Guard

Will the Juggernauts of the Seas Ruin Venice?

The Telegraph in the U.K. has an interesting article this weekend - "Cruise Ships Could Be Shut Out of Venice Over Erosion Fears."

The article points out that environmentalists and heritage groups have long complained that mammoth cruise ships plow through the shallow Venetian lagoon and damage the fragile canal banks, wooden piles and mud banks on which the city rests.

The article shows a photograph of Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas looming over the beautiful canals and bridges of Venice.

Venice Italy - Cruise Ships

 

The mayor of Venice, Giorgio Orsoni, plans to meet the head of the city's port authority, Paolo Costa, this week to discuss the problem.  He is quoted stating that "the problem of these juggernauts of the sea needs to be confronted." 

There has been a significant increase in the number of cruise ships visiting Venice, from 200 in 2000 to 510 in 2007.   The newspaper reports that last year 1,600,000 tourists arrived in Venice by cruise ship

Mayor Orsoni suggested that cruise ships could be transferred to Porto Marghera, on the mainland, in order to minimize the environmental and aesthetic impact on Venice.

This is not the first time that a major newspaper has addressed this issue.  In May, the New York Times ran across an interesting article "Venice Tourist Ships Rattle Windows and Nerves" by Elisabetta Povoledo.

I visited Venice by backpack when I was in college and commented on my impression of the effects of the cruise industry on Venice over the past 35 year in my article Are Cruise Ships Ruining Venice Or Just Memories From My Youth?  You can see a couple of photos I took when I was in college and stayed in Venice for a few days. 

The photo below is from the New York Times article.

Venice - Cruise Ships   

 

Photo credit:

Top:  Alamy via the  Telegraph

Bottom:  Manuel Silvestri/Reuters

Woman Alleges False Imprisonment on Scientology Cruise Ship "Freewinds"

Scientology - L. Ron Hubbard - Freewinds Cruise ShipThe Australian Broadcasting Network just published a weird and disturbing report that the Scientology organization held a young woman against her will on its cruise ship, the Freewinds, which the Scientologists home port in Curaçao. 

The report involves Valeska Paris who was born into a Scientology family.  Her father, once a millionaire, alleged that the organization fleeced him and he became impoverished.  After he committed suicide, her mother denounced Scientology on national television.  Scientology "church" leaders then instructed Ms. Paris to have no further contact with her family and placed her on the organization's cruise ship where she has been held for twelve years.

As a child, Ms. Paris had enlisted into Scientology's "Sea Organization" which required her to agree to a "one billion year contract" of service. 

It seems that the Scientology cult uses the cruise ship to teach "specialized services . . . in advanced spiritual concepts" based on lectures that its leader L. Ron Hubbard gave in the 1960s.  Hubbard thought that the path to higher spirituality could be found in settings like cruise ships sailing to tranquil locations.  Hubbard was often photographed wearing a captain's hat.

The "Church of Scientology International" calls Ms. Paris a "liar" and an "apostate."  It refers to Ms. Paris' claims as "wholly irresponsible, ludicrous, sad, spurious, dishonest, ridiculous, unreliable,  uncorroborated, and totally false."  You can read the over-the-top Scientology denials here.   

The Scientology statement says that the Freewinds cruise ship is a "wonderful place."

The last time the Freewinds was in the news was in 2008 when asbestos was located on the ship and the cruise ship was declared a health hazard.  It was dubbed the Death Ship

The Freewinds also came under criticism for discharging waste and polluting the waters of southern Caribbean islands.

 

Victim Support UK: Cruise Ship Crime is "Hidden Scandal"

When the official "investigation" over the disappearance of their daughter by a single policeman in the Bahamas went nowhere, and Disney Cruise Line left them with no explanation, the Coriam family turned to two organizations for help - Victim Support and the International Cruise Victims.

Ann and Michael Coriam will tell you that these two organizations have been there at every step for their family as they seek answers regarding what happened to their daughter Rebecca, a Disney youth counselor who disappeared from the Disney Wonder in March of this year. 

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog are familiar with the International Cruise Victims ("ICV"), a U.S. non-profit organization founded by Ken Carver after his daughter mysteriously disappeared a cruise on the Celebrity Mercury.  The ICV is responsible for creating awareness of Victim Support - Rebecca Coriamdangers on cruise ships which the cruise industry would prefer the public not to know.  Due to the ICV's hard work, last year President Obama passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.

You may not be as familiar with Victim Support, a non-profit organization based in the United Kongdom which  provides free and confidential help to victims of crime and their family across England and Wales.  It also speaks out as a voice for victims and campaigns for change. 

The hard work of Victim Support has been recognized of late, with the Daily Mirror in the UK publishing an article yesterday referring to the goals of this charitable organization.  The article states:

"The charity has two major concerns: holidaymakers are twice as likely to suffer sexual assault when on a ship, and crimes are not investigated properly.  Cruise firms want to protect their image and say almost all the missing people fell overboard.  But others suspect a more sinister reason for the disappearances and the charity wants better investigations into previous cases, as well as more measures taken to stop them happening.

The charity’s chief executive, Javed Khan, said: “How crime on cruise ships is investigated and how victims are dealt with are a hidden scandal.  Many victims are left without protection and little prospect of securing justice.”

Victim Support is now calling on the International Maritime Organization ("IMO") to take urgent action to improve the prevention and investigation of crimes on cruise ships.

You can read more about Victim Support's campaign to make cruising safer here.

Carnival Waiter Sexually Abuses a Minor Aboard Carnival's Liberty Cruise Ship

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami announced today that it is charging a Carnival Cruise crewmember with sexually abusing a 14 year old passenger aboard the Liberty cruise ship.  

According to the criminal complaint filed against the cruise ship employee, Carnival crewmember Kert Clyde Jordan, age 35 of Grenada, engaged in unlawful sexual abuse of  a 14-year old girl while she was cruising on a vacation with her family on the Carnival Liberty.  Under the United States Code which applies to maritime crimes on the high seas involving U.S. citizens, foreign crewmembers can be charged with "sexual abuse."  There is no federal crime involving rape on the high seas against minors. 

Carnival employed crewmember Jordan as a waiter on the Liberty.  The incidents in question occurred in a bathroom on the lido deck of the cruise ship.

The young girl reported the crime to her family after returning home. 

A pre-trial detention hearing is set for December 1st in the U.S. District Court for the South District of Florida here in Miami.

We have reported on many crimes involving young girls on cruise ships before.  Unfortunately, cruise lines like Carnival do not warn parents of crimes like this although they are frequent.  Just a few days ago we reported on "Serial Rapist" Sentenced to 10 Years for Rape of 13 Year Old During Carnival Cruise.

You can read about cases where child predators abuse children in cases on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship like this or where a Carnival crew member rapes a 14 year old girl like this.   

Even supposedly kid friendly cruise lines like Disney Cruises have a history of sexual assaults against young girls on their cruise ships: Passenger Indicted for Sexual Abuse of 13 Year Old Girl on Disney Wonder Cruise Ship.

We have represented several rape victims before our U.S. Congress and have sued cruise lines on behalf of sexual assault victims on cruise ships and have recovered compensation from $100,000 to over $3,000,000 for our clients. 

December 10, 2011 Update:  Update on Alleged Sexual Assault of Child Aboard the Carnival Liberty Cruise Ship

Carnival Elation - Cruise Ship Sexual Assault

Photo credit:  Carnival Elation cruise ship - Montego Bay Jamaica - Jim Walker

How to Hire a Miami Maritime Lawyer to Sue a Cruise Line

Each year 14,000,000 people (yes 14 million) will go on a cruise.  There are literally hundreds of passengers, as well as crewmembers, who will suffer a serious back injury or break their ankle, leg or hip after slipping and falling while cruising.  Once back home after the cruise, they find it difficult to think of hiring a lawyer who they have never met in order to sue a large corporation in a far-off location like Miami.

But the process of hiring a Miami maritime lawyer to bring a claim against a cruise line like Carnival or Royal Caribbean is simple.

Jim Walker - Miami Maritime LawyerOver 95 percent of our firm's clients live out side of Florida.  If you have a question about an accident on a cruise ship, send us an email.  You can reach me directly: jwalker@cruiselaw.com  

You will receive an answer to your email right away.  We will need answers to four issues: 

When did the accident occur?  Remember that you have only one year to file a lawsuit against a cruise line!  This is a much shorter period of time than most land based injuries.

Which cruise line and which cruise ship were involved?  The majority of the cases we handle are against Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Carnival and Norwegian cruise lines.  These cases have to be filed here in Miami.  Other cruise lines like Princess Cruises have to be filed in California.  Holland America Line, for example, has to be sued in Seattle.  If we can't help you, we will find someone who can.

What happened and why is the cruise line responsible?  Be prepared to tell us not only how the accident occurred but why you think that the cruise line is liable.     

What injuries did you sustain?   The nature and extent of your injuries are important issues in your case.  Have you undergone surgery?   What type of medical treatment will you need in the future?  Once you retain us, we will quickly obtain copies of all relevant medical records and reports. 

If you prefer to call us, we look forward to speaking with you. We have a toll free number (800) 256-1518.  You will probably initially speak with one of our assistants, like Jan or Betsy (photo right, with client), who will ask you a few questions about the basic information listed above.  I will be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

If you decide to hire us, we work on a contingency fee.  This means that we do not bill you or ask for a retainer.  We are paid only if we are successful and obtain a settlement or a verdict.  You have nothing to lose. 

Miami Florida Maritime Law Firm We will send you four documents.

The first is the contingency fees agreement.  All lawyers who handle these type of cases must have a written contract with the client where everything is spelled out.  The second document is a statement of your rights as a client.  We will also send you a short questionnaire about your cruise accident.  The last document is a medical authorization so that we can obtain copies of your medical records.

We will email these items to you shortly after you email us or speak with us on the telephone.  Just fill out the forms and return them to us.  There is no need to travel to Miami to start your case.

One of the main reasons why cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean require that all claims be filed in Miami is that they know that it is inconvenient for injured passengers to do so.  That's why we make it easy for our clients to retain us.  Simply send us an email or make a single call.

I'm sure that you may have other questions, and I will be happy to spend as much time as necessary to provide answers for you.  I have been handling maritime injury cases since 1983.  Over ten years ago I was interviewed about the process of filing a claim against a cruise line. 

You can obtain additional basic information by reading the article here - Cruise Passenger Rights and Wrongs - Interview With Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker

Tragedy on HAL's Half Moon Cay: A Mother's Perspective

One of the purposes of this blog is to educate the public of dangers of cruising and the legal hurdles passengers face when things go wrong during a cruise.  

One of the first issues I felt compelled to write about when I started this blog over two years ago was the Death On The High Seas Act ("DOHSA").  DOSHA does not permit cruise passengers to recover pain, suffering, grief, or bereavement if a loved one dies outside of the territorial waters of the U.S.  DOSHA provides only limited financial damages, such as lost wages. 

If a child is killed during a cruise or shore excursion due to the cruise line's negligence, there is no recovery at all because the child is not a wage earner.  I wrote about this in my series of the "ten reasons not to cruise" -  Reason No. 5:  If You Are Retired Or A Child, The Cruise Line Considers Your Life Worthless.

Cruise lines love DOSHA.  It eliminates all consequences of their negligence and provides no incentive to act responsibly.  The cruise industry spends millions of dollars lobbying Congress to make certain that DOSHA is not amended to provide reasonable compensation to grieving families.

This weekend, I received the following comments from a Mom who lost her daughter during a  Holland American Line cruise, while on HAL's "private island" Half Moon Cay.          

Holland America Line's "Family Cruise" - Half Moon Cay

"My 3 year-old daughter was killed on Christmas Eve of last year while on a Holland America cruise with her biological father. She drowned in the designated children's swim area of a private island Death On The High Seas Act - Holland America Line -  Cruisein the Bahamas owned by HAL.  This tragedy occurred in plain view of hundreds of people present and right near where a lifeguard SHOULD have been actively on duty.

I would never have considered allowing her on the cruise if I believed for a moment that I was putting her in harm's way.

Imagine what it feels like to receive a phone call on Christmas Day and fully expecting to hear a relative calling with a Christmas greeting.  Instead, you are informed, with no preamble or warning, that your darling daughter is dead.

Holland America has made it perfectly clear to us that they feel they have no responsibility in the matter, and even if they did have any liability, that their interests are fully protected by the Death on the High Seas Act.  Never mind the fact that the children's swim area contained many bright toys to lure children into the water, and deliberately lulls the guests into a false sense of security with signs nearby that say "Paradise -- you'll want to stay forever" (or similar.)  Because the DOHSA does not cover pain and suffering (only loss of a paycheck, and let's face it, my daughter didn't have a steady job), they have informed me that I am entitled to absolutely nothing.

Thanks, Holland America. And a Merry Christmas to you as well.

Be aware of this stance before you go on one of Holland America's "Family Cruises" (one of their employees told me their target market is families for their Christmas Cruises).  Holland America is only too happy to take full advantage of their supposed protection under a law that they themselves have so much as admitted as being archaic.  For some terribly naive reason, I actually had hoped that instead of hiding behind the cover of an inappropriate law to protect themselves from their failures to provide a safe environment for my child, that they would actually be moved to simply do the right thing.  Silly me.

The DOHSA Act was originally passed in 1920 to cover scenarios of a fisherman (read: breadwinner) lost at sea.  The intent of the law was certainly never to cover the loss of a child on a cruise, but the cruise industry is taking full advantage of its existence and has opposed efforts to change this law.

The lesson that Holland America has taught me with their brush-off treatment of my complaint is loud and clear: pain and suffering are worthless.  I can't even bring myself to contemplate what their message communicates with regards to their perceived value of the life of my daughter."


 

Were you on the cruise or at Half Moon Cay at the time of this incident? 

Should DOHSA be amended to provide the same remedies as land based law?

Please leave a comment below . . .

 

For other articles on DOHSA, consider reading:

What Does BP, Al Qaeda and a Cruise Line Have In Common? 

Death On The High Seas Act Protects BP and Cruise Lines at the Grieving Family's Expense

Drugs on the Love Boat - Princess Cruises Crewmember Busted with $700,000 of Cocaine

Grand Princess Cruise Ship - Cocaine Drug SmugglingThe Crown Court in Southampton, England imposed an eight year jail sentence against a Princess Cruises bar supervisor who attempted to smuggle 1.29 kilos of cocaine with a 100 per cent purity worth  £429,000, into the U.K. 

At the current U.K. - U.S exchange rate, this is about $700,000 worth of coke.

The Daily Echo newspaper in England reports that Princess Cruise crewmember Herman Spence, age 46, from Montego Bay, Jamaica, was detained by U.K. customs officers after he left the Grand Princess cruise ship when it docked in Southampton on July 16 of this year.

The U.K. customs people examined Mr. Spence's backpack and discovered a size 13 pair of sneakers which contained the cocaine. Two other packages of cocaine were discovered in the backpack. 

When his cabin was searched, customs officials found more than £16,000 in cash. 

Princess Cruises cruise ships are flagged in Bermuda, which routinely busts U.S. passengers for small amounts of pot, but has an indifferent attitude toward violent crimes on its Bermuda flagged cruise ships. 

The newspaper reports that Mr. Spence has been in the cruise industry for 15 years.

Is this his first attempt at drug smuggling?

 

Epilogue:  Cruise lines like Princess, despite their best marketing efforts to portray themselves providing safe and carefree "Love Boat" experiences, are often associated with drug smuggling.  For example, in 1998 the original "Love Boat," the Pacific Princess, was impounded by police in Piraeus, Greece after 25 kg of heroin was found on board, smuggled by two Filipino crew men.  According to police sources quoted in the BBC report at the time, there was evidence the cruise ship had become a major tool for drug smugglers in the Mediterranean.

 

Photo credit: Daily Echo  

Are the FBI and Coast Guard Underreporting Cruise Ship Crimes?

One of the key provisions of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 is that crimes on cruise ships are suppose to be posted on the internet in order to provide a warning to the U.S. public. 

After listening to testimony over the course of the last five Congressional hearings, Congress concluded that cruise ship crime in general, and sexual assaults in particular, were such a problem that the U.S. public needed to be warned. 

Just last month, in the case of Jane Doe v. Princess Cruises, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal held that " .  .  . if congressional reports are to be believed, sexual assaults and other violent crimes on cruise ships are a serious problem."  The Eleventh Circuit cited the testimony from cruise line executives from the March 2006 Congressional hearing that 178 passengers on North American cruises reported being sexually assaulted between 2003 and 2005.  During that same period, 24 people were reported missing and four others reported being robbed. 

In the March 2007 hearing, a FBI representative testified that from 2000 through June 2005, the FBI opened 305 case files involving “crime on the high seas.”   During those five years about 45% of the crimes that occurred on cruise ships involved sexual assaults.

In September 2007, a Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI testified before Congress that “sexual assault and physical assaults on cruise ships were the leading crime reported to and investigated by the FBI on the high seas over the last five years, 55 percent and 22 percent respectively . . . . Employees were identified as suspects in 37 percent of the cases, and 65 percent of those employees were not U.S. citizens.”  The FBI representative also testified that the majority of cruise ship sexual assault cases are not prosecuted.

Although these numbers are significant, I have always thought that the crime statistics reported to Congress are probably just a fraction of the actual number of crimes which occur during cruises.  For example, in 2006, Royal Caribbean told Congress that 66 rapes and sexual assaults reportedly occurred over the course of the preceding three years.  However, in a subsequent civil case we handled, a trial court here in Miami ordered the cruise line to produce its raw crime data to us.  The reports revealed that the total number of sex-related crimes were actually around 273, including allegations of sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual harassment and inappropriate touching during a shorter time period.

The Los Angeles Times covered the story in an article entitled "Cruise Industry's Dark Waters."   

With the new cruise safety law, cruise lines were finally required to report incidents of homicides, suspicious deaths, missing U.S. passengers, assaults, sexual assaults and thefts over $1,000 to the FBI.  The U.S. Coast Guard, in turn, is responsible for posting the FBI cruise ship crime statistics on the internet for the public to view. 

So what do the crime statistics the Coast Guard posted on the internet reveal?

According to the United States Coast Guard Investigative Services' quarterly report from July 1, 2011 through September 30, 2011, not a single reportable crime occurred.    

Let me repeat that.  According to the just released FBI / Coast Guard report - not a single reportable crime occurred during the third quarter of 2011.

According to the FBI / Coast Guard's first quarter and second quarter reports, only a total of ten sexual assaults occurred in the first six months of this year. 

For 2010, the FBI / Coast Guard report disclosed only 28 sexual assaults on cruise ships.  For the first nine months of this year, the number has dropped to only 10 sexual assaults.

These numbers are not only far less than in any of the prior years, but they are even less than the number of crimes the cruise lines will admit occurred.  For example, last month a newspaper in New Zealand reported on a study which concluded that the risk of being sexually assaulted was twice as high on a cruise ship than ashore.  Royal Caribbean responded to the article by stating that it had 24 incidents of rape or sexual assaults last year.  Yet, in their 2010 report, the FBI / Coast Guard disclosed that Royal Caribbean had only 6 such incidents in all of 2010.    

The FBI does not inform the public of alleged crimes which are under investigation (this is permitted by the cruise safety law) and this may partially account for such low numbers.  But the reality is that the FBI investigations rarely lead to a prosecution.  Not disclosing crimes because they are allegedly "under investigation" by an agency whose investigations rarely lead to a prosecution does the public a real disservice.  

Also, the numbers which the FBI and Coat Guard chose to disclose to the public do not include incidents which the FBI determines lacks sufficient evidence of a federal crime or the FBI deems unworthy of conducting a full investigation.  This is the rather amazing part of these statistics.  The cruise safety law was passed in large part because of an incident where a passenger was clearly sexually assaulted, yet the FBI prematurely closed its investigation the same day that the cruise ship returned to Los Angeles after the crime occurred.  I am talking about the case of Laurie Dishman whose Congresswoman in California, Doris Matsui, was instrumental is passing the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act in the first place.

Based on the FBI and Coast Guard's current method of responding to the cruise safety law, these agencies would probably not even disclose the cruise ship crime against Ms. Dishman if it occurred today.    

There is something very wrong here.  What should the U.S. public conclude by reading the recent third quarter FBI / Coast Guard statistics suggesting that not a single crime occurred on a cruise ship over the past three months?   Around 3,500,000 passengers sailed on cruise ships over the past ninety days, millions out of U.S. ports, and not a single crime occurred?

What a joke.

The FBI and Coat Guard are making a mockery of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act  - a law victims of crime worked hard to enact in order to protect future cruise passengers.

Its time for Congress to take another look at the way the cruise lines, FBI and Coast Guard are reporting - or in this case - not reporting cruise ship crimes.  

 

For an insight into the actual number of incidents of sexual assaults and crimes on cruise ships, we suggest following sites:

Sun Sentinel Data Base

Professor Ross Klein Cruise Crime Analysis October 30 2007 - September 1, 2008

Professor Ross Klein's Analysis  of Reports of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault on Royal Caribbean International, 1998 - 2005

Busted in Bermuda - Customs Officials Extort Money From Cruise Passengers By Unconstitutional Drug Searches

This year we have been reporting on the high number of arrests by the Bermuda customs officials of cruise ship passengers for small amounts of marijuana. 

A Pattern of Invading Cruise Cabins and Shaking U.S. Passengers Down for Money 

Bermuda Flag - Drug BustsAll of the cases fit into a pattern. 

After the cruise ship arrives in port, the passenger leave their cabins and go ashore for sightseeing or to purchase souvenirs from the local vendors in port.  While the passengers are ashore, the Bermuda customs officers will board the cruise ship with sniffer dogs and sneak into the passengers' cabins with the drug dogs.  If they find pot, usually in an amount for 6-8 cigarettes or so, they will wait for the passenger to return to the cruise ship and arrest them.  They will then haul the passengers ashore and jail them. 

When the case is finally called, the Magistrate will lecture them and give them the option of 30 to 50 days in jail or paying a fine of $1,000 to $3,000 and leave the country.  The passengers always pay the money and then fly back to the U.S rather than spend a month or two in jail.

In none of the cases we have reported on has there been a search warrant to enter the cabin.  Nor has there there been any indication that the customs officers had probable cause to invade the private cabins of the passengers.    

You can read about the individual cases in our articles:  Are You a Stoner? Don't Cruise to Bermuda!, Cruise Ships & Drug Smuggling and High Times on the High Seas - Cruise Industry Struggles with "Reefer Madness"   The press in Bermuda loves to cover these cases and identify the U.S.passengers and even photograph them, as you can read about here.   

I have always scratched my head reading about these shake downs.  Why don't the defense lawyers move to dismiss the charges because the pot was seized after an illegal entry where there was no probable cause to enter the private cabins nor did the authorities bother to obtain a search warrant?  In the U.S., a case like this would be thrown out in a New York second and the prosecution chastised.

Does Bermuda's Constitution Prohibit Illegal Search and Seizures? 

Cruise Ship Drugs - BermudaWhen I was 15 years old and taking my first constitutional law course (yes, my parents sent me to a great prep school), I read for the first time something called the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Does Bermuda have a similar provision in a constitution to protect its people from random searches and seizures by the police?

This morning, I seem to have found my answer while reading an article in the BDA Sun last Friday entitled "Cruise Passengers Fined for Cannabis After 'Unconstitutional' Search."

The article covers the story of two women in their fifties from New York who went ashore to visit the sights in Bermuda after the Norwegian Jade cruise arrived in port.  The customs officers entered the cabin the women shared without their knowledge or permission, and without a search warrant or good reason.  They found eight grams of cannabis.  That's about enough weed for ten cigarettes.   

The customs officers arrested the two women and took them to jail.  They were booked for importing the weed into Bermuda, even though they went ashore without the pot and had no intention of taking it ashore and even though the customs officers had to go onto the ship, trespass the ladies' private cabin and root around to find it.

Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner - Bermuda - Cruise Pot"It's Only A Matter of Time Before You All Get Sued"

The newspaper reports that Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner (photo left) fined the two ladies $1,000 each but he did not appear to be particularly happy about doing so.  Here is the exchange between the Magistrate and the prosecution taken verbatim from the local newspaper:

“I see on all these summaries of evidence that customs officers are carrying out random searches on people’s rooms."

“Who told customs officers they can carry out random searches?”

Crown counsel Tawana Tannock told Mr. Warner she wasn’t instructed on that question.

Mr. Warner then said: “Can the police or customs just go in anybody’s room whether hotel or ship and search them?”

Ms. Tannock said: “I can’t speak to that.”

The magistrate replied: “Like a hotel room or somebody’s house, people pay good money for the cruise room."

“So you all may be looking to get sued."

“I mean, if they’re guilty, they’re guilty by the fine for the simple possession is $1,000.”

The Magistrate told Ms. Tannock customs officers should consider or reconsider the search method.

Mr. Warner continued: “I can tell you that there is no such provision giving anybody such authority."

NCL Cruise Ship - Drug Bust - Bermuda“It’s unconstitutional, it would be unconstitutional."

“It’s only a matter of time before you all get sued.”

Bermuda has probably netted $100,000 playing this monkey game with cruise passengers over the past several years.  Are there any competent criminal defense lawyers who can take a hint from Senior Magistrate Warner and raise a peremptory challenge to these type of illegal search and seizures?  

Are there any independent advocates on the island willing to sue the customs officials and prosecutors for what is patently an ongoing unlawful scheme to threaten cruise passengers with jail time in order to reach into their pockets for money?  

August 19, 2011 Update:

The Bermuda Sun reports that a 48 year old US tourist after Customs officers from Bermuda entered his cabin.  The cruise passenger was present and admitted having six grams of cannabis in the cruise ship safe. Customs officers claim that they searched the cabin on the Celebrity Summit in Dockyard on August 17 after receiving an unidentified "tip-off."

Magistrate Archibald Warner, who we reported on above questioning the legality of warrantless random searches, fined the passenger $1,000.

 

Arbitration of Cruise Line Crewmember Cases

In the last few years, the major cruise lines have been trying to enforce arbitration provisions which they inserted into the crew member's employment agreements.

Many of our crew clients around the world ask us "what is arbitration?" and was is the difference between an "arbitration" and a "trial."

Arbitration is a process where disputes between parties are decided by an "arbitrator" or a panel of "arbitrators."  In the crew cases we have arbitrated, the process is started by filing a claim with the Cruise Ship Arbitration - CrewMember American Arbitration Association / International Centre for Dispute Resolution.  This is the administrative body, typically called AAA or the ICDR, which oversees the process. 

The biggest difference between arbitration and a trial, is that a trial takes place before a judge and a jury.  There is no judge or jury in arbitration. 

Arbitrators are typically other attorneys or retired judges who are selected by counsel for the parties.  When there are three panel arbitrators, counsel for the crewmember will select one arbitrator and counsel for the cruise line will select one arbitrator.  Those two selected arbitrators will select a third arbitrator.  The arbitrators are sworn to be fair and impartial.

Once the arbitrator or arbitrators are selected, a date for the arbitration hearing will be selected.  Unlike a jury trial which could easily last more than a week, an arbitration hearing may last just two days.  There are relaxed rules of evidence.  The arbitrators will typically receive into evidence hearsay medical reports and affidavits of witnesses without the other side being permitted an opportunity to conduct cross examination.   

Pre-hearing discovery is limited.  There is no requirement to conduct discovery, although in most cases the crewmember will give a deposition and appear for a medical evaluation by a doctor selected by the cruise line defense lawyer.  We will always have our crew clients examined by a doctor who will appear live at the arbitration hearing, and we will take a deposition of a representative of the cruise line.

The cruise lines are responsible for the filing fee and the fees of the arbitrators.  These costs and fees can be expensive.  A cruise line paid around $60,000 in the ICDR filing fee and the fees of three arbitrators in a recent case.  Obviously, no crewmember could afford to arbitrate if they were responsible for these fees.  

There is the issue of where the arbitration hearing will take place.  Many arbitration agreement stipulate that the hearings will take place in the country where the cruise ship is flagged or the country of the crewmember's citizenship of the crewmember.  In many cases, the cruise line will nonetheless agree to arbitrate in Miami, because it is too expensive to pay the fees and costs associated with flying Miami based arbitrators and defense lawyers to far away places like India.  Quite frankly, I would love to arbitrate cases in India, Romania, Serbia, and throughout the Caribbean islands.    

Another big difference between arbitration and a trial is that the entire arbitration procedure, from start to finish, should take less than one year.  Given the congestion of our court docket in the state court system here in Miami, a date for jury trial could take two years or more.  This is good news for injured crewmembers who have no income and are in need of resolving their cases in an efficient manner.

Once the arbitration award is decided, it is not appealable except under very rare circumstances.  This is good news because the cruise lines can't drag out an appeal for another year. 

It is generally thought that a down side of the arbitration proceeding is that the amount of the arbitration awards are generally considered to be less than what a jury might otherwise award.  But the range of arbitration awards in my experience and to my knowledge have not been unreasonably low.

Of the six or so arbitration awards I am familiar with regarding crewmembers with injured backs for example, there was a low award of around $75,000, several in the $300,000 to $400,000 range, one for $800,000, and the high award of $1,250,000 which our firm handled this year.

If you are a crewmember injured on a cruise ship, don't hesitate to contact our office for a free consultation to discuss your rights.

Coast Guard Calls Off Search for Missing Passenger, Blake Kepley

Blake Kepley, a Fallbrook High School graduate was last seen between 12 and 1 a.m. on Friday, July 22, 2011. His family reported the 20-year-old missing at about 2:30 p.m. that same day according to the Village News; however, Sign On San Diego reports that the family notified the cruise line as early as 7:00 a.m. Both reports maintain that Holland America waited until 4:00 p.m. before contacting the Coast Guard to report that Kepley possibly went overboard.

The Coast Guard immediately began the search; however, was unsuccessful in locating Kepley and the search was suspended nearly 24 hours later after covering more than 352 miles. Kepley went missing between Sikta and Ketchikan during his Alaskan cruise aboard Holland America’s Oosterdam.

For more information click on NBC’s San Diego News Report:

If you have any information or tips regarding the disappearance of Blake Kepley, e-mail us at jwalker@cruiselaw.com

Video credit: NBC San Diego

"Injured on a Cruise Ship?" - Lawyer Advertising in Jamaica

Today we began advertising in Jamaica, as I mentioned in an earlier blog.  The ad below will begin appearing in some of the newspapers in Jamaica, and a variation will appear on some of the billboards in Jamaica.

I have been a lawyer for 28 years.  I have never advertised on television, radio, newspapers or billboards.  We have relied on our reputation developed over the years and recommendations from one client we have helped to the next potential client who finds himself in a similar situation.

I have always viewed "billboard lawyers" with disdain.  Florida is littered with huge billboards looming over the highways advertising lawyers with 1-800 I N J U R Y telephone numbers.   

I do not think I have ever seen any of these "billboard lawyers" actually in the courthouse.  Probably because they don't really go to court or actually handle cases.  Many of these lawyers take the calls from their 1-800 numbers and then refer the cases to other lawyers to handle.  Lots of Americans point to the lawyer billboards as endemic of the so-called "litigation explosion" which many people think plagues the U.S. 

Unlike the U.S., Jamaica has a culture where litigation is not encouraged.  Plus there are virtually no Jamaican lawyers who advertise.  Injured crewmembers are often from countries like Jamaica where few people file lawsuits, there is no legal advertising, and it is difficult to obtain basic information about your legal rights. Cruise lines often take advantage of this type of situation.

Over the next few months, Jamaicans will see our firm's name and photos on billboards, in newspapers, and on the radio throughout the country.  We know first hand that there are many Jamaican men and women who dedicated their careers to cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, only to be sent a one way ticket home and forgotten when they are seriously injured and can no longer work at sea.  Advertising in Jamaica will help level the playing field against the cruise lines.  We are educating these crewmembers regarding their right to obtain compensation here in Miami when they are disabled from cruise ship employment.

So, it is with mixed feelings that I am about to become a "billboard lawyer."   But not just any "billboard lawyer."  A Jamaican billboard lawyer.  

But unlike U.S. billboard lawyers, you will see the lawyers in our firm in the courthouse here in Miami fighting for the rights of our clients who the cruise lines have abandoned in Jamaica.      

June 28, 2011 Update:  We modified our ad, with a non descript cruise ship and a different background.

 

Environmental Groups File Suit in California to Slow Ships Down in Order to Avoid Whale Strikes

Cruise Ship - Whale Strike - Speed LimitThe Mercury News in San Jose California reports that four environmental groups filed a petition with the federal government today seeking to force cruise ships and other large vessels to slow down in waters between San Francisco and Los Angeles in order to reduce the chances of whale strikes.

A San Francisco environmental group, Pacific Environment, as well as Friends of the Earth, Center for Biological Diversity, and the Environmental Defense Center filed the petition.  They are seeking to apply a speed limit of 10 knots for all vessels larger than 65 feet while sailing through California's four national marine sanctuaries.

The legal proceeding was filed against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ("NOAA").  

The newspaper reports that nearly 50 large whales off California have been struck by ships in the last 10 years.  Around 3,500 cargo ships, oil tankers and cruise ships sail into San Francisco Bay every year, many are coming from or heading to Los Angeles, typically traveling between 13 and 25 knots.

Shipping company officials told the newspaper that they do neither support nor oppose such a speed limit, and will not commit to a position until more study is performed indicating that it can reduce collisions.

If NOAA fails to impose a speed limit, the environmental groups said that they will consider filing a lawsuit under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and other laws.

In one of the most graphic photographs of a cruise ship / whale strike, in 2009 the Princess Cruises' Sapphire Princess arrived in port in Vancouver, unaware that the cruise ship impaled a fin whale on the ship's bow while in Alaskan waters (photo below).  The whale was a female fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus).  Princess claimed that the whale was already dead when the cruise ship hit her.  

Cruise Ship Strike - Dead Whale - Speed Limit

 

Photo credits:

Top:  John Ford / WildWhales.org

Bottom:  Rex Features / Telegraph U.K.

Cruise Law Visits Montego Bay Jamaica

Falmouth Jamaica - Royal CaribbeanI just returned from a three day trip to Montego Bay. 

My co-counsel, Jonathan Aronson, and I met with several of our clients who were seriously injured while working for Miami based cruise lines and have been languishing in Jamaica after being dumped back at home.  Seeing our clients, in their local communities, with their kids, brings a sense of reality and urgency to our relationship with them.   

We visited the port in Freeport / Montego Bay, the new Royal Caribbean development in Falmouth (more about that to come later), and headed over to Ocho Rios to meet the family of one of our clients who needs surgery after a cruise line accident.

A good trip.  

The country of Jamaica is beautiful.  Its people are filled with courtesy and generosity. 

Over the course of the next week, we will talk about some of our experiences in Jamaica, and the relationship of this proud Caribbean country with the Miami-based cruise industry.

Photo: 

Above - Jim Walker - Falmouth with Pullmantur Horizon cruise ship in background.

Below - Jim Walker - Kevin, with wife, son and Jonathan Aronson

Jamaica - Montego Bay - Cruise - Crewmember

 

Fox News Focuses on Dangerous Cruise Ship Medical Care

Fox News 11 (Los Angeles) has published a special investigation into the quality of medical care aboard cruise ships.  The article is entitled "Cruise Ship Medical Care Under Scrutiny."

The article and video below focus on the fate of cruise several passengers, including the daughters of Ken Carver (Merrian Carver), and the daughter of Jamie Barnett (Ashley Barnett), whose parents are left to tell their stories.

Ken Carver is now the Chairman of the International Cruise Victims organization (ICV) which he founded over five years ago following the disappearance of his daughter.  When he tried to investigate what happened, the cruise line (Royal Caribbean / Celebrity Cruises) engaged in a cover-up.  He created the ICV to organize the families of hundreds of passengers who are victims of cruise ship malpractice, crime and lack of responsibility.

Jamie Barnett lost her daughter due to the medical negligence of Carnival which defended the delayed and bad medical treatment by claiming that the cruise ship doctor and nurses were "independent contractors" for whom Carnival was not responsible.  Ms. Barnett's experiences with Carnival led her to join the ICV.  She is now the president of the ICV.  

Mr. Carver and Ms. Barnett have both testified before legislative bodies in an effort to improve safety aboard foreign flagged cruise ships.  They last appeared before a California Assembly just two weeks ago in a successful effort to introduce a bill to make cruising out of California safer.

In watching the video, remember that if the cruise ship doctor kills or maims a family member during a cruise, the cruise line will deny all liability and you will be faced with trying to seek compensation against a foreign doctor living somewhere in Africa or South America.  Unlike the U.S. doctor who appeared on behalf of the cruise industry in this video, over 95% of cruise ship doctors are not educated, trained, or licensed in the U.S.  

 

 

May 13th Update:  After this aired, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), the trade organization for the cruise industry, telephoned Fox News 11, and complained that the U.S. cruise doctor CLIA arranged for the video should have been given more air time. 

Credits:

Fox News 11 (Los Angeles)

Reporter Christine Devine

Video Producer Heidi Cuda

Princess Cruises Crew Member Acquited of Rape Charges in Bermuda

The Royal Gazette in Bermuda reports that a judge in Bermuda dismissed the sexual assault charges leveled against a "41-year-old Filipino national" by a "26-year-old Filipino woman" who worked with him on a Bermuda registered cruise ship. 

Readers will recall that in a previous article two weeks ago, we reported that Filipino crew member Johnwill Reyes Abdon allegedly assaulted a younger crew member aboard the Caribbean Princess (photo), a Bermuda-registered vessel, on December 28, 2010.  We were critical of the Royal Gazette for not publishing the name of the cruise line or cruise ship where the incident allegedly took place or identifying the name of the crew member who committed the alleged crime.  The newspaper responded by stating that Bermuda law reportedly prohibits the disclosure of a Princess Cruises - Caribbean Princess Cruise Ship defendant's name in a rape trial, and then argued that the disclosure of the name of the cruise line or cruise ship would somehow lead to the disclosure of the name of the defendant.  (The ironic thing is that we learned the name of the crew member because another newspaper in Bermuda, the Bermuda Sun, published the crew member's name and then retracted it after we published our article.) 

There is no such prohibition under U.S. law in naming rape suspects, and it serves no public purpose to hide the names of corporations, vessels or maritime employers in cases like this.  It should be noted that Princess Cruises flies the flag-of-convenience of Bermuda and is incorporated in Bermuda to avoid U.S. taxes.

The newspaper in Bermuda reports that Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner explained his decision to dismiss the charges by pointing out that the alleged victim did not make an allegation of sexual assault until after realizing that she was pregnant.  According to the newspaper, the judge also said: “In all the circumstances, I am not satisfied that the complainant did not consent, and that the defendant did not have an honest and reasonable belief that it was consensual.”  (I have read this double-negative sentence several times and am not sure what this means).

We have written about rapes and sexual alleged assaults on Princess Cruises before: Unsafe on the "Love Boat?" - Sexual Assaults on Princess Cruise Ships.

The last sex assault trial against a Princess crew member occurred in Los Angeles Federal Court in November 2009.  A U.S. jury acquitted a headwaiter, Jorge Manuel Teixeira (from Portugal), of sexually assaulting a U.S. passenger during a cruise last March between Fort Lauderdale and Los Angeles, while the ship was at sea off the coast of Mexico.

The last article we published regarding sexual criminal conduct on the Princess fleet of ships involved the captain of a Princess cruise ship who admitted to molesting a child. 

 

Photo credit:  courtesy of wirralwater's Flickr page (via Wikimedia Commons)

California Protects Citizens From Toxic Ship Fumes

Yesterday the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the state of California can regulate the shipping and cruise industries and require vessels that call on the state’s ports to use cleaner  fuel.

One of the problems with the cruise industry is that cruise ship use diesel and nasty bunker fuels which spew toxic particulate matter into the air.  

Unlike most states, California requires that ships use cleaner fuel starting 24 nautical miles from California’s shore.  According to Melissa Lin Perrella, an attorney with Southern California Air Cruise Ship Pollution - Bunker FuelProject in Santa Monica:

"Over the course of six years, between 2009 and 2015, these rules will prevent 3,500 premature deaths.

Eighty percent of Californians are exposed to air pollution from large ocean-going vessels as their exhaust drifts inland. Every day, these vessels spew toxic diesel particulate matter (PM) in an amount equivalent to 150,000 big rig trucks driving 125 miles daily. While people living close to ports are particularly affected, wind patterns, geography, and meteorology transport vessel-generated air pollution well beyond our coastline and into too many of our lungs."

The shipping and cruise industries, led by the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (which lists cruise industry giant Carnival as a member), fought against the California legislation.  Essentially, the shipping and cruise interests argued that California does have not have authority to regulate vessels more than 3 miles from its coastline (the regulations reach 24 nautical miles from shore).

It is not unusual for the cruise industry to tell the public that it stands for the highest environmental standards, but behind the scenes spend millions of dollars to lobbyists and lawyers to fight for lower standards which harm the public.

Ms. Perrella writes: "The message is clear. It is time for the shipping industry to get on board or get out the way. California is moving forward to protect its citizens, and now has the Ninth Circuit firmly behind it."

California and Alaska are ahead of the curve in protecting U.S. citizens from the harmful effects of poisonous cruise fuels.  Will states like Florida ever protect their citizens?  

A copy of the 45 page decision can be read here.

 

Credit:

Photograph Gerardo Dominguez, UC San Diego (via UCSD Division of Physical Science)
 

Parents of Missing Disney Cruise Line Youth Counselor Arrive in Los Angeles Seeking Answers

The parents and aunt of missing Disney Cruise Line employee Rebecca Coriam arrived in Los Angeles today from the U.K. seeking information about the young woman's unexplained disappearance from the Wonder cruise ship.  The video of Mr. and Ms. Coriam from ABC-7 Los Angeles is below.

We have written a number of articles about this situation:

What Happened to Youth Counselor Rebecca Coriam on Disney's Wonder Cruise Ship?

Who Investigates Disappearances on Cruise Ships?

Did a Crew Member Go Overboard from the Disney Wonder Cruise Ship?

 

 

The local CBS station in Los Angeles is reporting that: 

"Her family said her roommate told them Coriam had called a friend, but Disney representatives were not releasing information regarding the call.  'They say they know what the conversation was but they’re not telling us,' Coriam’s aunt, Trish Davies, told ABC7. They say they’ve got to wait for the investigation.” 

Cruise Ship Drug Bust in Cayman Islands

Cayman News Service reports that three crew members were arrested for possession of two kilos of cocaine.  The cruise employees were from St. Vincent and Jamaica. 

As is often the case, the local police did not identify the name of the cruise ship or cruise line. 

The three cruise ships in port at the time of the arrest were Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas, the German AIDAluna, and Oceana.

I'm taking bets.  2 to 1 its Royal Caribbean - the cruise line drug dealers prefer .  .  . 

 

 

Video credit:  Cayman 27 

 

Screwed If By Sea - Cruise Lines Throw Workers Overboard When It Comes to Providing Urgent Medical Care

Every so often, I will read an article which reminds me why I practice maritime law and represent crew members from around the world.  Here is an article from Miami's New Times about several of our clients.  Although it was published several years ago, it reveals how cruise lines today mistreat crew members to try and save money.  

"Doran McDonald reached Miami International Airport at dawn, limping and hopping to a pay phone after his third flight in 24 hours. His right leg had been boiled, and the odor of decay oozed from his burned flesh. The top of his foot was a grapefruit-size blister, the stretched skin tight and shiny. McDonald hadn't been able to elevate his leg at all on the flights from Alaska to Vancouver, or from Vancouver to Los Angeles, or from L.A. to Miami. The swelling and pressure were excruciating and he was close to passing out from the pain. He was afraid the next two segments of his trip (Miami to Antigua, Antigua to St. Vincent) would be unbearable. Adding to his discomfort was the thought of Doran McDonald - Royal Caribbean Medical Carearriving in his native St. Vincent: His family lived two hours from the airport and didn't have a car; he had no idea how he'd get home. McDonald would arrive on the island on a Sunday morning. No doctor would see him for at least another day. 

McDonald, a small, soft-spoken 29-year-old, did what any man facing such obstacles would do: He called his mother.

Pearlie Hector was angry. She thought her son should never have boarded an airplane, that he should still be in the Juneau, Alaska, hospital where he had received preliminary medical care the day before. Most of all, she thought Doran was being mistreated by Royal Caribbean International, the cruise line he was working for when he was burned. Hector told her son to call Miami lawyer James Walker, who had represented another family member in a case against a cruise line years before, and she told him to go to a hospital in Miami.

McDonald's decision to stay and retain a lawyer resulted in his receiving a quality of medical care he wouldn't have had access to on St. Vincent, but it also prompted Royal Caribbean to set in motion the federal government's immigration policy machinery. Within a month McDonald would be languishing at Krome Detention Center.

The massive ocean liners that steam out of the Port of Miami almost every weekend look like whole city blocks torn free and headed for the Caribbean. Happy passengers, unmoored from daily responsibility for a weekend or more, lean against the rails beatifically smiling and waving to MacArthur Causeway motorists. It is a long way from the upper decks of a cruise ship to sea level, and no one knows that better than the workers who inhabit the lower stations of such a vessel.

Passages honeycomb the great ships' interiors, opening onto cavernous ballrooms and opulent luxury suites. Endless hallways of cabins each morning disgorge tourists who scurry to sprawling, dining rooms or outdoor bars next to bright-blue pools that shimmer in the sun like clear, antiseptic simulacra of the murkier ocean below. Deep in the bowels of a cruise liner are the smaller rooms with bunk beds where the workers live. Employees tend the engine, cook the food, and clean the Cruise Line Medical Care - Crew Memberpools. If they're lucky, they tend bar or wait tables. Others clean rooms and fluff pillows.

Some, like Doran McDonald, wake up in the middle of the night to make use of the only lull in the never-ending demand for food onboard a luxury liner. They file into the galleys and wipe every surface from counters to walls, cleaning the daily residue of bacon grease and chicken fat, sweeping up stray sprigs of parsley and shreds of lettuce from hastily thrown together salads.

McDonald, like many cruise line employees, is from a poor country. The big ships provide an inviting economic opportunity for men and women from Third World nations in Eastern Europe, the South Pacific, and the Caribbean.

The sailor had something else in common with his fellow galley workers when he rolled out of his bunk around midnight on May 20, 2002, pulled on rubber boots, and trudged into the kitchen to start cleaning: a desire to move up to a higher-paying job in the dining room. "When I work for Premier I am a waiter, and the money then was very good," McDonald says. "But when I go to Royal Caribbean, I start over again at the bottom."

McDonald was no stranger to shipboard living -- even for $500 a month, doing janitorial duty onboard a cruise ship was more remunerative than harvesting bananas in St. Vincent. McDonald had gone to work for Premier Cruise Line in 1998, and advanced from galley worker to waiter, a job in which he made more than $1000 a month and sent much of it home. But in 2000 Premier went bankrupt. McDonald started over at Royal Caribbean in 2002.

May 20 was only McDonald's second night onboard the Legend of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean ship cruising from Miami to Alaska via the Panama Canal, but he figured the work was routine. He would sweep and mop and scrub, and then go back to bed. He would mentally tote up his earnings and plan to send them to his mother in St. Vincent.

The kitchen was a mess, and McDonald says his supervisor told everyone to work quickly. Mops were handed out like rifles to infantrymen, and a crew of eight began hustling through their cleaning routine. McDonald picked up a pot full of oil from a fryer that had just been switched off. The pot was heavy and hot, and the oil made tiny shimmering waves as he labored to carry it to a Crew Member Medical Care - Cruise Linesink where he could dump and scour. Halfway to his destination, McDonald slipped. He felt nothing as the scalding liquid drained down inside the rubber boot on his right leg, but jolts of adrenalin shot through the numbness as the oil cooked his leg and the top of his foot.

His crewmates carried him to the ship's clinic, where he was given ibuprofen. Doctors decided to wait and observe the afflicted area in order to determine how bad the burn was.

This is where McDonald's story and Royal Caribbean's diverge. According to company policy, if an employee is taken to an emergency room, the attending doctor will determine what kind of care is appropriate and where and when such treatment should be given. But McDonald says that the ship's doctor already told him he would be sent home to St.Vincent before he was taken to the hospital in Juneau. In depositions taken later, cruise line employees claimed that they adhered to the policy.

Notes written by the emergency room doctor in Juneau indicate that McDonald believed already that he would be sent to St. Vincent.

The ER doctor's notes also make it clear that McDonald's burns were mostly second-degree, with the possibility of some third-degree burns, a direct refutation of Royal Caribbean's claim that McDonald only had second-degree burns and was, therefore, fit to travel. Royal Caribbean medical case manager Terri DeBrita, who admittedly didn't know if the doctor she was sending McDonald to in St. Vincent had any medical license, said in a deposition that other crew members had received satisfactory treatment for second-degree burns in St. Vincent, though she couldn't remember any such cases specifically.

On May 24, after four days of nothing but ibuprofen on board the ship, McDonald began his journey from Vancouver to Miami.

When McDonald called a lawyer at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 25, the attorney was annoyed. "I was in bed when I got the call from Mr. McDonald, and I thought, Jesus, what a hassle, you know?" says James Walker. "I thought it was probably nothing, but I knew his family, so I dragged myself out of bed."

Walker was aghast when he saw McDonald's foot. "The smell was disgusting," he remembers. "And it was obvious that he was in a lot of pain and needed immediate medical care. When I saw it I was hyperventilating." Walker took McDonald to South Miami Hospital, but not before meeting up with a photographer who documented McDonald's injuries. The blister on top of McDonald's foot ruptured in the emergency room.

After two days of treatment at South Miami Hospital, Walker arranged for McDonald to be checked into Baptist Hospital, into the care of a burn specialist who treated and observed McDonald for Jim Walker - Cruise Law - Maritime Lawyer  about a week before performing skin graft surgery on the badly burned foot.

In the meantime, Walker had informed Royal Caribbean that McDonald was being treated in Miami. This was, apparently, not to the company's liking. On June 4, Royal Caribbean's crew medical manager, David Blackwell, fired off a letter to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now part of the Department of Homeland Security) that put a decidedly unsympathetic spin on McDonald's decision to get his health care in the U.S. The letter stated, in part, that "upon his layover in Miami, (McDonald) was intercepted by an attorney, James Walker, and taken to South Miami Hospital." The letter also characterized McDonald's admission to Baptist Hospital and his skin graft surgery as "a move on the part of the attorney to keep the crewmember in Miami."

McDonald stayed in the hospital through July, receiving physical therapy for his leg and foot. The doctor prescribed a custom-fitted pressure sleeve for the newly grafted skin. Royal Caribbean had been talking to Walker about McDonald's INS requirements, asking that he present himself to an INS official so that he could ask to stay in the U.S. throughout the course of his medical rehabilitation. At this point, Walker was unaware of Blackwell's e-mail to INS, and while he was wary of Royal Caribbean's intent, he knew McDonald had to comply with the law and show up for the hearing. The cruise line arranged for transportation to an INS office in Miami. McDonald thought he'd be checking into a hotel somewhere in Miami after his INS appointment.

Instead, INS officials handcuffed McDonald and slapped shackles on his ankles. "I told the guy that it is paining me on my foot and I now have a skin graft and my foot is not cured, and he told me I must take my time and walk slowly," McDonald recalled in a deposition.

McDonald confesses that up to this point he still clung to the hope that he could go back to work on Legend of the Seas for Royal Caribbean. McDonald wasn't happy about missing work. He still owed money to an "agent," basically a cruise line recruiter, who charged McDonald $1500 for his job on Legend of the Seas. "I really just want to get my leg fixed, get back to work," says McDonald. He says he was frightened and confused by the immigration officials, and didn't know what he was signing when he signed a piece of paper admitting he was in the U.S. illegally, and that returning home would not put him in harm's way.

McDonald again sought advice from his mother.

Pearlie Hector called everyone she could, including St. Vincent's diplomatic representatives in Washington. After five days her son was released from jail. "I tried everything I could to get him out of there, but they wouldn't even let me leave his leg sleeve for the prison doctor," Walker says. "It was his mom who got him out." McDonald was released temporarily, and placed in a boarding house for foreign cruise workers. He continued medical treatment until his foot healed. Even with the skin graft, there is some scarring and discoloration, and he says it's a little stiff. "But I think it would be very much worse if I don't have the surgery," McDonald says.

After the cruise line refused to pay for much of his medical treatment, McDonald sued Royal Caribbean and won an undisclosed amount. "I'm not rich," he says, smiling. "But I'm okay."

The papers he signed prevented him from staying in the U.S. legally -- and from having a seaman's visa, which would enable him to go back to work for another cruise line. Meanwhile, though, McDonald has become engaged to be married to a Haitian woman who resides in the U.S. and has applied for citizenship. McDonald is in the States illegally, working with an immigration Cruise Ship Medical Care - Crew Member lawyer to regain his legal status. "It doesn't look good because of the paper I signed," he says.

Cruise ships, with crew from around the world, are often registered outside the U.S., allowing South Florida-based companies such as Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International to skirt some U.S. labor laws (Legend of the Seas, for example, is registered in Liberia). The jurisdictional jumble -- foreign nationals working on ships registered abroad and often operating in international waters -- creates a legal gray area that can work to the detriment of employees.

There are few industry watchdogs; this is no surprise given the disparate ethnic groups that work on cruise liners, the transient nature of employment (contracts for a single cruise are not uncommon), and the constant movement of the ships themselves. But those who do keep an eye on corporations such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean say that employees, especially foreign-born employees, are being funneled to cheap doctors in the Caribbean who provide sometimes inadequate care for cut-rate prices.

"We hear about it all the time," says Scott Brady, an inspector with the International Transport Workers' Federation in Cape Canaveral. "A lot of people don't want to complain, because they want to keep their jobs. This line of work is the only hope for some of the poorer people from the Caribbean and from Eastern Europe, so they want to stay on with whatever company they're with. But you hear the horror stories." ITF doesn't keep any statistical data on health care for cruise line employees -- in fact, an exhaustive search conducted by New Times couldn't turn up a single advocacy group or agency that keeps comprehensive information on the subject.

"I can't prove anything, industry-wide, except that the cases keep coming in, and I see, one by one, instances where these companies are overlooking an obligation to provide quality medical care in order to save money," says Brett Rivkind, an attorney with the Miami firm Rivkind, Pedraza and Margulies. "We think it's cost-saving in terms of treatment, and also to avoid workers pursuing claims here in the U.S. They try to cover that up by saying "We're sending them to their hometown,' as if there's sentimental value that counts for something."

Carnival Cruise - Crew Member Medical Care Carnival settled such a case with Rivkind client Francisco Romero in August. "We had a case where a Carnival worker needed cataract surgery. He was using a Miami ophthalmologist, and the cruise line said, "No, no, we want to send him home to Honduras,'" Rivkind recounts. "The ophthalmologist in Honduras had just had a baby, and her husband was studying to be an ophthalmologist, so she just let him do the surgery." Fifty-year-old Romero, a long-time Carnival employee, lost his eye in 2000, and filed suit in June 2001. Carnival fought the suit for more than two years. "It's not enough they let this happen, when they could easily have gotten him a good surgeon in the U.S., but then they fought us tooth and nail when he tried to get compensation," Rivkind says. The settlement included a nondisclosure clause, so he can't reveal the amount Carnival paid Romero.

"These companies are making decisions regarding crew members' medical conditions on a legal basis and a financial basis, rather than a medical basis," Rivkind avers.

U.S. immigration policy makes it easier to send foreign-born crew members to second-rate doctors in Third World countries, according to Rivkind and others. Foreign-born crew members need medical visas to receive treatment on U.S. soil. Medical visas are usually good for 30 days, and if a crew member needs an extension, the employer must produce documented proof of the need for further treatment. In some cases, Homeland Security requires that the crew member be produced in person. This arrangement can work out to the employers' advantage if the crew member is fighting to receive medical treatment in the U.S. "Look, it's impossible to prove collusion," says Rivkind. "But I've had calls from these companies saying, "Yeah, sure, we'll get him the treatment he needs, but we have to produce him for an immigration hearing first, so he can stay in the country. It won't be a problem.' Next thing I know, the guy's being shipped home where he's likely to get god-only-knows what kind of care."

Royal Caribbean officials deny taking advantage of crew members. Blackwell, the crew medical manager, says that Royal Caribbean employs about 36,000 people, and takes good care of the 400 or so on medical leave around the world at any given time. But, he says, the company has to follow immigration rules. In the U.S., medical parole for foreign-born crew members is difficult to arrange since September 11, 2001 (Department of Homeland Security officials did not return phone calls asking about interaction with cruise lines).

"Immediately after 9/11 it was very difficult (to get medical parole for injured crew members) because of security," Blackwell says. "Then things kind of eased up a little. Recently, it's gotten more difficult again."

Blackwell says that medical parole in the U.S. is determined by immigration officials based on a doctor's evaluation. He also says the company can be fined up to $50,000 for violating immigration laws. He refused to comment on specific cases, but when pressed by New Times about his e-mail alerting INS that Doran McDonald had been "intercepted by an attorney" at Miami International Airport, Blackwell offered this hypothetical situation: "Our obligation as a company is, if a crew Brett Rivkind - Maritime Lawyermember is in transit and in the process they arrive in Miami to change planes and they do not make the flight, we have an obligation as a company to let INS know that a crew member has jumped ship, essentially."

Rivkind admits that, post-9/11, more stringent adherence to U.S. immigration laws makes it harder for cruise lines to keep injured crew members for treatment in the U.S. "But I think they're using that, as well. They used to have an ability to keep these guys on medical parole if they wanted to. With immigration changes, I believe it is more difficult, but I think the cruise lines also take advantage of that."

While Blackwell was willing to speak to New Times -- though not about any specific cases -- weeks of back-and-forth with South Florida's other cruise line giant, Carnival Cruise Lines, resulted in an anemic e-mail response. Spokesperson Jennifer De La Cruz wrote that no information on the number of crew members the company employs was available, nor was there any available information on the number of crew members receiving medical treatment, in the U.S. or elsewhere.

ITF's Brady says that the cruise industry is notorious for pressuring employees to avoid making waves, even when their health is at stake. "I can't prove it because all I get is word of mouth," he says. "Every once in a while someone gets a lawyer, but they always include nondisclosure agreements in their settlements. And if word gets back to a cruise line that an employee is speaking with a union representative about these kinds of issues, they'd be fired from their jobs and probably blacklisted."

There is no shortage of anecdotal evidence of medical malfeasance by cruise lines. Brady has stories, and Walker and Rivkind each have had several clients with similar tales of woe. One of them, 28-year-old Azumi Sagara, is actually a U.S. citizen who says Royal Caribbean employees tried to delay her access to an emergency room until the ship she was on traveled to Nassau, and then refused to pay for her medical care. Sagara was an ice skater on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas. As the ship lumbered toward Port Canaveralon March 27, Sagara found herself doubled over in pain. "Something in my abdomen really hurt -- I didn't know what it was, but I knew I needed to see a doctor." She was told she was probably pregnant. When a quick test proved otherwise, the ship's medic said she probably had an infection. "The doctor gave me some pills and told me to come back in a week," Sagara says.

By 9:00 p.m. the pain was so severe, she knew she'd have to go to the emergency room when the ship docked in Port Canaveral the next day. That night she called a nurse, asking for a referral from the doctor to seek medical treatment in Port Canaveral the next day. "She said, 'I can't call the doctor for that, you'll have to wait until tomorrow.'"

Sagara knew that would likely mean she couldn't get treatment in the U.S. Crew members only had two opportunities to get off the ship in Port Canaveral: before the passengers started leaving at 7:30 a.m., and after all passengers had disembarked, at noon. Sagara knew that a trip to the doctor would mean she'd have to wait until noon to get off the ship, and she was in too much pain to do that. "And at that point, I thought maybe I could get back onboard that day, but we had to be back by 3:45 p.m., so waiting until noon would pretty much put that out of reach," Sagara says. She decided to get off the ship and to the emergency room by any means necessary. "The ship's security officer wouldn't let me off," she says. "I said, 'I'm in a lot of pain, I need to go to the ER.' While I was signing off, he told me to wait until we got to Nassau." Eventually, she made a break for it. "I ran past the security officer and got to the immigration guy. The security officer was saying,'She's not cleared, she's not cleared.' I said, "I need medical attention.' The immigration guy said, 'I can't stop you from going to your own country.'"

Doctors in the ER told Sagara she had pelvic inflammatory disease, and ruptured ovarian cysts with some internal bleeding. "They said I had to see a specialist immediately," she says. Sagara flew home to California, received a week's worth of medical care, and returned to the Mariner on April 4 after missing one week of work. She worked for Royal Caribbean for the duration of her contract, until May 2.

Calin Ioan, a Romanian citizen, formerly a bartender aboard Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas and also a client of Walker's, is lucky to be alive. Walker filed suit on Ioan's behalf after the 28-year-old repeatedly went to the ship's doctor with complaints of ear pain, starting in the summer of 2002. According to Walker, Ioan was given ibuprofen and sent back to work. The Enchantment docked at Port Everglades every weekend, but Ioan claims that the ship's doctor would only allow him to see a physician in St. Thomas in September 2002. That doctor gave Ioan a nasal spray and some ear drops.

Eventually, the doctor in St. Thomas suspected something more was wrong with Ioan and, in January 2003, recommended a CT scan and biopsy. The ship's doctor wrote an e-mail to David Blackwell and Ioan's medical case manager, Bill Sera, summing up the St. Thomas doctor's suspicions. The doctor also suggested that they wait until Ioan's contract ended on January 20 and arrange for him to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist once he returned to Romania. The shipboard physician, Bernhard Van Staden, ends his e-mail with overdue compassion: "I would like this to be sorted out, as he has been going with his problem for quite some time."

By the time Romanian doctors detected the tumor in Ioan's throat (on February 2, 2003), it had reached Stage IV -- the final stage of cancerous growth -- and had spread too far to be removed surgically. Radiation and chemotherapy have beaten the cancer into remission, but they also rendered Ioan unable to work. He has been living with his mother since his return. His medical bills mounted, and he says that Royal Caribbean will only pay for some of his treatment costs. He retained Walker, and is suing for his living bills and all medical expenses from the time of his arrival in Romania. Royal Caribbean officials wouldn't comment on his case."

 

Article credit:  Forrest Norman, Miami New Times

Photo credit:  Jonathon Postal

Diagram credit:  CruiseBruise.com

 

Have a comment?  Please leave one below. 

 

Passenger Sentenced to Jail for Sexually Assaulting Girl on Disney Cruise Ship

A passenger from New York has finally been imprisoned for sexually assaulting a 13 year old girl on the Disney Wonder cruise ship.

A year ago we reported on this crime - Passenger Indicted for Sexual Abuse of 13 Year Old Girl on Disney Wonder Cruise Ship.

The girl's family sailed on the Disney Wonder in December 2006.  On New Year's Day January 2007, after the girl attended a program at the cruise ship's teen club with other girls, twenty-four year old Lucas George Wickes approached them and ordered them to return to their rooms. He told the girl to follow him because he was a security officer with the cruise ship.  When they reached an area where no other people were around, he then assaulted the girl. 

A federal district court sentenced Wickes to 46 months in prison and ordered him to pay restitution in the amount of $2,667. 

Top Five Worst Cruise Ship Disaster Videos

Oceanos Cruise Ship Sinking - Five Worst Cruise Ship Disasters When I was a kid, it seemed like the most popular movies were disaster flicks. Movies like the Poseidon Adventure and Towering Inferno which exploited the public with images of terror, fear, and panic.     

Today, disaster movies are not limited to the movie theater.  We are living in a iReport society where CNN, MSNBC and FOX News regularly broadcast iPhone videos of fires, floods, and bedlam, including cruise ship disasters. 

Unfortunately, there will be stories in the future where cruise ships catch on fire, sink or are hijacked by terrorists.  The cruise lines will frantically try and suppress the images and assure the public that everything is OK.  But YouTube will be there to reveal the truth.  And everyone will be watching the disaster.

I picked the top 5 "worst cruise ship disaster" videos.  Nothing subtle here.  Exploitational?  Maybe so, but these are not low budget disaster movies.  They are real.  With real people aboard.  Fortunately, in most of the incidents no one was killed or seriously injured.  Take a look and see how Mother Nature can interrupt your serene cruise vacation:

Number 5:  Stabilizers?  What Stabilizers?  Okay, I admit it.  I have to take a Dramamine before I click the play button for this video.  It shows what a cyclone can do to a cruise ship.  I'm not sure which cruise ship this is or when or where this occurred.  Does anyone know?   Was anyone reading this on the ship?  Let us hear from you.

 

 

Number 4:  Keep this video secret!  Don't let the lawyers see it!  Last September the internet was a buzz with the release of CCTV films of the interior of the P&O Cruises' Pacific Sun, which ran into heavy weather in June 2008.  P&O had also understated the effects of the storm on the cruise ship and passengers, and it was successful keeping the CCTV under wraps for over two years.

But the video finally made its way out of P&O's control this fall.  When the truth came out, the video went viral!  A number of passengers were injured.  You can clearly see one young lady smash her face into a column at the 47 second mark. 

Cruise lines are experts keeping video like this secret.  The risk management departments of cruise lines hide these types of video from the public's eyes. This permits the cruise lines to contest the passengers' accounts of injuries and lets the defense lawyers claim that the passengers are exaggerating.  Would you have believed what occurred in the video if you did not see it? 

 

 

Number 3:  Anyone for a relaxing cruise to Antarctica?  The Clelia II cruise ship caught the country's attention when passengers on the National Geographic Explorer filmed it bouncing around by big waves and howling wind as it was trying to make its way back to Argentina from Antarctica. (Video by Fiona Stewart/Garett McIntosh via jonbowermaster.com)  88 U.S. passengers were aboard as it limped back to port after a wave broke over the bridge of the vessel and smashed windows, interrupting communications and causing an electrical outage that reduced power to one of its engines.

 

 

Number 2:  Death on the Louis Majesty cruise ship:  The Greece-based Louis Cruise Lines ship was heading east to Genoa, Italy when waves struck the vessel and smashed windows in public areas, killing two passengers and injuring fourteen others.

The "Louis Majesty" used to be NCL's "Norwegian Majesty" and, before that, the "Royal Majesty" operated by Majesty Cruise Lines from 1992 - 1997.  Long before I began representing passengers and crewmembers, I represented Majesty Cruise Lines (around 1995) when this cruise ship was based in Miami.  I have been on this ship and in the area where the glass blew out.  The Royal Majesty was considered a large cruise ship 20 years ago.  A real tragedy, which could have been avoided if the officers aboard had instructed the passengers to remain in their cabins.

 

 

Number 1:  And the winner is: the cruise ship Oceanos which sank back in 1991.  Unlike the other disasters attributable to rough weather, this disaster was man made.  The Oceanos was a Greek-owned cruise ship in a state of neglect, with loose hull plates, valves stripped for repair parts, and a hole in one of its "watertight" bulkheads.  When the cruise ship began to sink, the cowardly captain and officers were the first into a lifeboat, abandoning children, women, and elderly passengers to face a certain death.  But due to the courage of one of the ship's entertainers and a dramatic and nothing-less-than-miraculous rescue that followed, everyone was saved!  A happy ending to a terrifying ordeal.
     
 

 

Do you have a video that should be in a top 5 or top 10 list of cruise disasters?  Let us hear from you . . .

British Passenger Stuck In Mexican Hospital Following Heart Attack on Princess Cruise Ship

Most cruise passengers who sail on luxury cruises to the Caribbean, Mexico or Europe have a false sense of security.  They think that if anything goes wrong during the cruise, the cruise line will take care of them.  But when passengers get sick, the reality is that the cruise line will dump them off of the cruise ship as soon as possible, and the passengers will be left to fend for themselves in foreign ports. 

So it is heartbreaking to read of a healthy 67 year old passenger from the United Kingdom who suffered a heart attack while cruising on the Sea Princess cruise ship.  The cruise line disembarked her ashore in Mexico where a hospital charged her over $125,000 in medical expenses so far.

Heart Attack - Cruise Ship - Valerie KingThis story involves Ms. Valerie King who was sailing with her husband, Tony King, on the Princess cruise ship from San Fransisco to Barbados after leaving on October 9th.  Ms. King suffered a heart attack while on board the cruise ship.  The ship doctor informed her that she had to disembark at the next port which was Cabo San Lucas in Mexico on October 12th.

A newspaper in the U.K., the Warrington Guardian, reports that after being sent from the cruise ship, Ms. King has been stuck in the hospital and has incurred over $125,000 in medical expenses.  Ms. King's daughter, Anita, flew from England to Cabo San Lucas to try and support her father as her mother's stay in the intensive care unit is now approaching three weeks. 

The newspaper quotes daughter Anita as stating that the hospital is "pressing for payment and the account manager followed us into a cafe after we had visited my mother to ask about settling the bill."

This case reveals a problem that many passenger do not understand when considering a cruise.  We have been contacted by many cruise passengers who end up in hospitals in Mexico and the Caribbean ports of call.  The hospitals in Mexico are the worst when it comes to running up medical expenses on cruise passengers. The first thing these hospitals want to know is your Visa card numbers and the expiration date.  This is in stark contrast to healthcare providers in some European ports, such as Sweden or Norway, where the medical treatment is outstanding and the passengers are not charged for anything.

When reading about this case, I thought of my own family experiences.  My father had a heart attack in London. He received good medical care in the British health care system and was charged nothing.  I can not imagine having to experience a nightmare like the Knight family where your parent is essentially a hostage in a sub-standard medical facility with the hospital administrator following you around like a over-zealous bill collector trying to collect over $125,000.     

Mexican Hospital - Cruise Ship - Heart AttackCruise lines need to warn passengers that if they become ill while sailing into Mexico, the local medical system is designed to suck the patients like a lime at a tequila party. 

In addition to the big bill from the Mexican doctors, the cruise line handed Mr. Knight with a bill for his wife's overnight stay in the cruise ship's sick bay of around $5,000 dollars. This took his credit card just about to the limit and left him with no funds to give a deposit to the hospital.  

Cruise lines should not use their limited medical facilities as a profit center to gouge passengers in distress.

What a predicament.  Vacationing passengers spend thousands of dollars for a cruise only to be charged $5,000 by the cruise line and dumped in a Mexican hospital which charges over $125,000!  The Knight's travel insurance in the U.K. also denied coverage citing exclusions for pre-existing conditions. 

Please take a minute and help the Knight family.  Please e-mail anita@andalan.plus.com and consider sending her a donation of $100 to help the family with this plight.

 

Photo credits:  Knight family via Warrington Guardian

Cruise Passengers Busted for Drugs on the Serenade of the Seas

U.S. Customs busted four passengers for drugs in two separate incidents this week aboard Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas cruise ship.    

Accordingly to Hispanically Speaking News,  U.S. Customs officers seized cocaine and heroin aboard the Serenade of the Seas when the cruise ship was docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The Customs officers conducted a random inspection of ship cabins. During the search, a K-9 dogs alerted to the smell of narcotics which led the officers to three brick size cocaine packages Serenade of the Seas - Drug Bust - Heroin - Cocainebetween the passenger beds.  The estimated value of the seized cocaine was $84,000. 

In a separate incident, the officers inspected luggage which exposed a large number of shoes that yielded a brown powdery substance. The officers found heroin wrapped in duct tape inside the shoes with a street value over $300,000.

BYM Marine & Maritime News identifies the passengers in the cocaine smuggling incident as U.S. citizens Melinda Ivette Quiñones-Cruz, age 28, and Cristian Gabriel Oquendo-Lopez, 21, and in the heroin arrest Diana Hortencia Latigua-Lorenzo, age 32, a U.S. citizen, and her brother, Breidy Latigua-Lorenzo, 20, a citizen of the Dominican Republic. 

We have written about the dangers posed by using cruise ships to smuggle drugs into the U.S. in prior blogs articles.  Many crew employees we talk to, especially cabin attendants, are frightened of the prospect of discovering drugs in the cabins they are responsible for cleaning, and are concerned with the possibility of retaliation by a passenger or other crew member.

Many of the drug busts are due to random inspections of the cabins.  Other arrests occur after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers analyze the advanced listing of passengers and crew through APIS, the Advanced Passenger Information System. 

 

Photo credit:   photobucket DeltaBlues2007

U.S. - Cuba Politics: No Cruise Ships In Havana

When my friends in my home state of Arkansas ask me how I like living in Miami, I give them the same answer - I love it, because I have always wanted to live in a foreign country.

Cuba - Cruise Ship Miami is the melting pot of the Caribbean.  It is the number one place where immigrants from Cuba, Haiti, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Belize and Columbia decide to live once they reach the U.S.  Miami is an exciting, international and great place to live.  More than 50% of the residents here are Hispanic. The dominant personality of the city is unquestionably Cuban - we have a Cuban Mayor, Cuban Judges, Cuban politicians, Cuban restaurant and shop owners. 

 The heart of our firm - our office manager - is 100% Cuban.

Most Cubans living in Miami live here because they were dispossessed from their native country in the early 1960's.  Not surprisingly, the most hated person in the world according to the people of Miami - is Fidel Castro.  However, people in Miami are questioning the blockade of Cuba which has existed for close to 50 years.

Yesterday the Guardian newspaper in the U.K.  ran an interesting article about ending the blockade - Time for the Cuban Travel Ban to Go.  The article cited a poll indicating that most Americans support easing travel restrictions to Cuba - Poll: Three-Quarters Favor Relations with Cuba

Part of the blockage involves the prohibition of U.S. based cruise ship sailing to Cuba.  So it was with interest I read an article, US Blockade Stops Cruises from Landing in Cuba," written by a Cuban reporter about the cruise industry and the effects of the ban against U.S. ported cruise ships sailing to Cuba.  Here is the article:

"Thousands of cruise ships sail the waters around Cuba every year, but few of them are able to anchor in the island because of the US economic, financial and commercial blockade.

Granma newspaper said the Torricelli Law approved by Washington sanctions ships from any country that dock in Cuban ports by banning them from putting in at the US for six months.

The Cuban daily comments that 98 % of Caribbean cruises are controlled by the American industry Cuba - Cruise Ship - Cruise to Cubaand 70 % of liners sailing in the region have Florida as mother port.

According to Granma, in 2006, when the American cruise company Royal Caribbean bought the Holiday Dream ship from the Spanish Pullmantur Cruceros, more than 50 crew members from Cuba were not allowed to work onboard anymore.

This way, Pullmantur Cruceros put an end to its contract with the Cuban company ARIES Transportes S.A. of the Ministry of Transportation, which had established that the Holiday Dream would make 52 stopovers every year in Havana and Varadero's harbours.

Cuba´s location, the conditions of its ports and hotels and the historical and cultural wealth of its people are winning cards for the development of the cruise industry of the island.

If the US blockade didn't exist, more than 1,000 cruise ships could land in the Cuban ports every year generating a traffic of 1,2 million passengers.

According to figures by the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, Cuba would have an income of 125 million dollars a year."

 

Although the U.S. prevents cruise ships to sail to Cuba, there are German and British cruise ships which sail to the Cuban ports of Havana and Santiago.

Has anyone cruised to Cuba?  Do you have photos or video to share?  

 

Credit:  Escambray - Digital newspaper of Sancti Spiritus province, Cuba
 

New Photographs Reveal Extent of Damage to Costa Classica

Mail Online has published new photographs of the Costa Classica cruise ship following the October 18th collision with the bulk carrier Lowlands Longevity as the two vessels headed into port in Shanghai.

We reported on this yesterday: Costa Classica Cruise Ship Collides with Cargo Ship.

The photographs show a large gash into the passenger cabins, with ten porthole windows completely obliterated.  The gash looks to be at least four feet in height.  You can see people (probably marine investigators) standing near what used to be the portholes in the passenger cabins.  Scary stuff!

Be sure to check out the video of the damage, via Chinese television.

 

Costa Classica - Lowlands Longevity -  Collision - Cruise Ship

Credit: EPA via Mail Online

 

Costa Classica - Lowlands Longevity -  Collision - Cruise Ship

Credit: EPA via Mail Online

 

 

 

Video Credit:       Sina.com   

9 Cruise Passengers Killed, 14 Injured in Bus Excursion Accident

Classic International Cruises - Funchal cruise ship - tour bus accidentA excursion bus carrying cruise passengers plunged into a ravine in northern Morocco (Castillejos) today and killed nine Portuguese tourists. 14 cruise passengers were injured. 

44 passengers were aboard the bus when it crashed during foggy and rainy weather.  Some news sources are indicating the bus driver may have been speeding. 

AFP reports that the passengers were from the Funchal cruise ship which had docked in Ceuta with 400 passengers. 

The Funchal is marketed by Classic International Cruises and operated by Arcalia Shipping Company Ltd, of Cyprus.  

There have been a number of bus accidents causing injury and death to cruise passengers. Earlier this this year, a tour bus carrying passengers from a Princess Cruises ship crashed in Tortola - Excursion Tour Bus Crash In Tortola Injures Princess Cruises' Passengers From Caribbean Princess

 

Photo credit:    AFP

Cruise Industry Joins Forces With BP to Deny Death Compensation to Grieving Families

As we suspected, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) is working behind the scenes to derail efforts to amend the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA).

Yesterday we obtained a copy of a letter (below) sent by CLIA to Congressional representatives in Florida.  CLIA is trying to rally opposition against H.R. 5503 which will permit widows and children recover compensation for their grief and emotional suffering when they lose their spouse / parent.     

CLIA - Cruise Line International Association - DOHSA - Death On High Seas Act  This is nothing new for CLIA, which has spent millions of dollars lobbying against reforms to this archaic law enacted back in 1920.

As we have stated in many articles about DOHSA, a cruise ship is the only location where a child or retired, elderly passenger can be killed and considered worthless in the eyes of the law.   

CLIA says it has no objection to "addressing" (whatever that means) the issue of compensation for the widows and children of the oil workers killed in the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion, yet it will not even commit to repealing DOHSA for these families.

CLIA claims that it opposes amending DOHSA because it will provide a remedy to "foreign workers."  The irony of such an outlandish and xenophobic comment is immediately obvious - all cruise lines are "foreign" entities, incorporated in "foreign" countries like Liberia (Royal Caribbean) or Panama (Carnival) for the singular purpose of avoiding U.S. taxes.  These "foreign"' corporations then flag their cruise ships in "foreign" countries to escape U.S. labor laws and safety regulations.

So why should the foreign flagged cruise industry be permitted to collect $35,000,000,000 ($ billion!) a year from U.S. taxpayers and avoid all U.S. taxes because of its "foreign" status, and then argue that families of dead "foreign" crew members should not be reasonably compensated when their loves ones die due to the negligence of the cruise lines?

The cruise industry is built on the backs of hundred of thousands of "foreign" crew members, many of who work 360 hours a month for only $545.  Their families are entitled to be compensated when their family members die due to the legal fault of the multi-billion dollar CLIA cruise lines?  Take a look at this letter which CLIA hoped would never be published:      

          CLIA - Cruise Line International Association - DOHSA - Death On High Seas act

 

CLIA fails to mention that the vast majority of people who die on cruise are Americans!  As matters now stand, the lives of stay-at-home-parents, children, elderly and retired people, and gay men and women who die at sea with no dependents have no value under DOHSA.  

The International Cruise Victims (ICV) has been battling CLIA for years to amend DOHSA.  But CLIA pays millions of dollars to lobby Congress each year, whereas the ICV is penniless and is comprised of only volunteers.  Mother Jones addresses the disparity between CLIA and the ICV in an article "Love Boat Lobby Fights BP Victims." 

Below is a partial list of the loved ones of ICV members who were denied compensation because of DOHSA.  This is just a small number of the hundreds of loved ones who die on cruise ships each year.  

Why should victims of the BP explosion and hundreds of U.S. citizens be denied compensation because of CLIA's heartless and mean-spirited decision to deny compensation to "foreign" crew members?

Does CLIA tell the crew members their lives are of no value?

Do the 16,000 travel agents who comprise CLIA know that its trade organization doesn't care about foreign crew members, U.S. children and retirees who die at sea on cruise?

Travel agents -  when you sell your client cruises, do you tell that if they die due to the negligence of the cruise lines, their lives are of no value?   And do you tell them CLIA is lobbying Congress to make certain that the law stays that way?   

Disgusted by the cruise industry's heartless attitude?  Do something about it.  Support H.R. 5503.  Call your Congressman or Congresswoman.

Leave a comment below and tell us what you think. 

ICV - International Cruise Victims - DOSHA - Death On High Seas Act

Cruise Ship Norovirus - Something in the Water?

For those of you who read Cruise Law News know that I report regularly on the numerous norovirus cases which plague the cruise industry.  I am rather fascinated by the cruise lines' PR departments which always blame norovirus outbreaks on the passengers for bringing the virus aboard, rather than contaminated food and water which infect the passengers.

Norovirus - Cruise Ship - Contaminated Water - Pig - VeraAccording to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whereas "person to person" transmission of norovirus has been documented, "norwalk gastroenteritis is transmitted by the fecal-oral route via contaminated water and foods."  The FDA indicates that contaminated water is one of the most likely causes of norovirus.  The FDA reports that "water is the most common source of outbreaks and may include water from municipal supplies, well, recreational lakes, swimming pools, and water stored aboard cruise ships.

The question I have always wondered is how does the water become infected with norovirus?

So I was rather exciting after receiving an email yesterday from a kindred spirit from Britain, Mr. Pat Gardiner, who combines a maritime background with a keen interest in zoonotic disease.  Mr. Gardiner referred me to a recent study from Swedish researchers finding a direct correlation between pig effluent and water sources contaminated with norovirus.  Mr. Gardiner agreed to be a guest blogger, and for that my little blog is richer. 

Be sure to read Mr. Gardiner's rather fascinating background at the end of the article.    

Norovirus - Something in the Water - By Pat Gardiner:  

The constant outbreaks of Norovirus on cruise ships are bringing a powerful industry to its knees, quite aside from the distress and risk to the passengers.  Yet, new evidence yesterday suggests the problem may be ashore and entering the ship with the water supply.

Eureka moments do not come from thin air.  They come from relevant, sometimes diverse experience in the right place at the right time.  Few people can have had the delights of a career in Britain’s most successful seaports, retiring early to raise livestock in an area plagued by constant animal epidemics.

The writer has had a ten-year battle with the British authorities over the appalling handling of Pig - Water - Cruise Ship Norovirusanimal disease spreading to the human population.  Years ago, he noticed an apparent link between the locations of severe animal disease and the schedules of cruise ships. The ships were calling at ports worldwide in areas where pig disease was rife.

Norovirus is a disease shared between humans and pigs.

Few passengers, once on board, give a thought to the source of the water they use to wash and brush their teeth.  Every cruise ship fills with water, before, during and after every voyage at pretty well every port of call. That water comes from the public supply.

So a ship leaving the UK for a cruise to the Norwegian Fjords would take water from the same country as the passengers embarking – Harwich for example. Vessels calling at Harwich were some of the first to encounter norovirus at the same time as the pigs in the area were getting ill. Now, even ferries from the Scottish mainland to the Scottish islands are becoming infected.

For years, the mechanism by which the norovirus reached the ship baffled the writer.

Smuggling of live pigs and bacon sandwiches on board seemed unlikely for passengers bent on a holiday of glamour and luxury.

Then yesterday the ultra clean Swedes provided the missing link. They found norovirus in the sludge intrinsic to their public water system.

Pat Gardiner - Pigs - Pathogens - Water - Cruise ShipsWe know that pig effluent can contaminate the surface water and the water supply. Incidents are frequent despite the best efforts of everyone. We know that pigs can carry norovirus.  

We also know that, like everyone else, the Swedes have had outbreaks of various pig diseases.

If the water authority do not look for norovirus or do not detect it, the pathogen will be pumped straight into the cruise ship: directly into the ideal environment for spread to a usually elderly population in an enclosed area.

Any vessel calling at, or sailing via, ports in pig farming country is at risk.

It would be grand to think that the writer has repaid the debt of a satisfying career in shipping by helping to solve one of the most damaging problems imaginable, both to shipping and their customers.

Testing the water is cheap and easy, and the ship owners can do it tomorrow.

 

About Pat Gardiner:

Mr. Gardiner was too modest to provide me with a biography, but I managed to piece together his background from newspapers and information on line. 

Mr Gardiner started out in the maritime shipping business in the 1960's, working for Blue Star Line in Britain.  He rose to the top of the ship and line agencies in Britain's premier port of Felixstowe.  Pat Gardiner - Maritime Shipping  He has enjoyed a long standing relationship with the U.S., which includes working with what is now the U.S. Sealift Command. He managed his own companies (which acted as agent for U.S. Line among others).  He is a well known figure in the U.K. port and shipping business, and also wrote for newspapers about the shipping and port business.  He twice sold his group of successful shipping and freight businesses, and retired from the maritime freight business while he was still in his forties.   

After his retirement, Mr. Gardiner developed an interest in animal health and zoonotic disease.  In the process, he developed an appropriate distrust of the U.K. veterinary services.

He is the author of two blogs - Animal-Epidemics and  Go Self Sufficient.

Mr. Gardiner is a pancreatic cancer survivor.  He also survived a unsuccessful campaign to ruin his reputation by members of the pig farming and vet industries. 

In 2005, Mr. Gardiner drove across the U.S. in 2005 with his wife.  They are pictured above at my favorite vacation destination, a U.S. national park (Grand Canyon).  Mr. Gardiner can be reached at: patgardiner@btinternet.com 

 

Additional information:

The "Gardiner Hypothesis:"  Mutated Circovirus in pigs, the consequences of being treated with heavy use of antibiotics, is followed by MRSA in pigs and then MRSA and C.Diff epidemics take off in humans. A circovirus mutation in Britain in 1999 was covered up. The resulting epidemics spread first around the UK, then to Canada and from there, most recently, to the United States.

Learn a new word:

"Zoonotic diseases" - diseases caused by infectious agents that can be transmitted between, or are shared by, animals and humans.

Read Other Cruise Law News Blogs About Cruise Ship Norovirus:

Norovirus On Royal Caribbean's Jewel Of The Seas?   

Centers for Disease Control: "Shut Mercury Cruise Ship Down!"

"Cruise Ship Sickness" - Is Norovirus In The Food and Water?

U.S. to Block Arrival of Queen Victoria After Norovirus Outbreak?

Cruise Ship Norovirus - Clean the Damn Toilets!

Best in Law Blogs: 

Mr. Gardiner's article won a top 10 award for Best in Law Blogs today as part of Lexblog's 3,000 blogs.

Thanks Pat!  

 

 Credits:

Photographs          Pat Gardiner

Diagram            Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, Virginia Tech

What Does BP, Al Qaeda and a Cruise Line Have In Common?

The death of eleven oil rig workers on the Deepwater Horizon has sparked a debate in Congress about repealing the antiquated and inequitable statute, the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA).  This old law dating back to 1920 does not permit surviving wives and children compensation for their grief and bereavement when they lose a loved one on the high seas whether on a oil rig or cruise ship.

BP Deepwater Horizon - DOHSA - Death On High Seas ActBP and Cruise Lines Connected At The Hip Pocket?

Recently, there have been a number of articles that discuss DOHSA and reveal that the cruise industry will be joining forces with BP to repel any efforts of the grieving family members to repeal DOHSA.  Mother Jones pointed out in "Will the Cruise Industry Do BP's Dirty Work? 

CNN ran an article entitled "My Son's Family Deserves More from BP" explaining that the cruise lines have consistently fought against families trying to change DOSHA.

And AOL's Daily Finance even covered the issue with an interesting article "The Death On The High Seas act Needs Fixing - Just Ask  BP's Widows."  This article points out that prior efforts to reform DOHSA were "sunk" by the vociferous cruise industry's "lobbying muscle" - probably to avoid paying any compensation to the 34 passengers who were lost overboard during cruises from 2003 - 2007 according to an article "Death On The High Seas" in the Guardian newspaper.  

Should Al Qaeda And Terrorist States Be Protected By DOHSA Too? 

But the harsh effects of DOHSA are not limited to the grieving families of cruise victims and dead oil workers. 

Al Qaeda - U.S.S. Cole - Terrorism - DOHSA The families of U.S. servicemen and servicewomen learned about DOHSA when Al Qaeda terrorists killed their loved ones on the U.S.S. Cole.  17 men and women were brutally murdered when suicide bombers rammed their speed boat loaded with explosives into the U.S. navy ship.  56 family members filed suit against the government of Sudan for sponsoring the terrorist organization.  

A Federal District Judge applied DOHSA because the deaths occurred outside of U.S. territorial waters.  He dismissed the claims of 22 of the family members and limited the recovery of the rest to strictly lost wages.  Not one child or surviving spouse received a penny for the mental anguish and misery caused by the horrific criminal act of the terrorists and the complicit renegade country.

The inequity of DOHSA was not lost on the Judge who commented in Rux v. Republic of Sudan, 495 F.Supp.2d 541(E.D. Va. 2007) :

The court sympathizes greatly with plaintiffs, who continue to suffer terribly years after their loved ones died. But the court is bound to follow the legal precedent before it. Congress makes the laws; courts merely interpret them. Whether to amend DOHSA to allow more liberal recovery in cases of death caused by terrorism on the high seas . . is a question for Congress alone.         

Its Time to Act - Repeal the Death On The High Seas Act  

There is a Facebook page created for the families of  the oil workers killed in the BP explosion.  Please click on the link, leave a word of support, and contact your representative in Congress.

As your senator "why should BP, foreign flagged cruise lines and Al Qaeda be protected by DOHSA?"

 

For additional information, please consider reading:

Scranton Time Tribune: "Amend Law On Deaths At Sea"

Cruise Law News: 

Death On The High Seas Act Protects BP and Cruise Lines at the Grieving Family's Expense

The Death on the High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years

Cruise Industry Tries to Kill Amendment to Death on the High Seas Act

 

Credits:

Deepwater Horizon         U.S. Coast Guard

 

Death On The High Seas Act Protects BP and Cruise Lines at the Grieving Family's Expense

Gordon Jones has been in the news lately.  Have you heard of him?

Probably not. 

But you all have heard of the companies that killed him:  Oil giant BP, and Transocean - the operator of the foreign flagged drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon.

Gordon Jones - Death On The High Seas Act - DOHSA - BPGordon was just 28 years old when he died on April 20th.  He left a pregnant wife and child behind. His Facebook page lists his favorite movies as Caddyshack, Blazing Saddles, and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.  So you know he had a great sense of humor.

But his family will never hear his laughter again.

Gordon Jones' death focuses the public on an injustice which has plagued Americans for ninety years.  Under an archaic law passed in 1920 called the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA), his wife cannot be compensated for her sadness, suffering and grief.  His children will grow up without a father due to BP's malfeasance.  But they cannot be compensated for the loss of their dad's love, nurture and guidance. 

The law will not permit it. 

DOHSA prohibits the grieving Jones family from recovering any compensation except the wages earned or to be earned by their father and husband. We have written about this inequitable archaic law before - "The Death on the High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years."

Gordon Jones's story was recently covered in an article in Mother Jones - "Will the Cruise Industry Do BP's Dirty Work? 

Today, CNN ran an article entitled "My Son's Family Deserves More from BP."  The article was written by Gordon's father, Louisiana lawyer Keith Jones, who is interviewed by Larry King in the video below.

Gordon Jones and son Mr. Jones' emotional grief over losing his son is overwhelming.  But he is objective while explaining that DOHSA's prohibition against compensating his daughter-in-law and grandchildren is as illogical as it is unfair.  He is taking steps to repeal DOHSA.  Due to Mr. Jones' efforts, the Senate is considering a bill (Senate Bill 3463  introduced by Senator Leahey, and House Resolution 5503 by John Conyers) to repeal DOHSA. Both bills will permit damages for the surviving family members' loss of care, company and companionship - rather than just the dead man's earnings.    

As the CNN article points out, foreign flagged cruise ships - and foreign flagged drilling rigs - love DOHSA.  These industries and their lobbyists will dig in and fight the efforts to change the law, as Gordon's father point out in the CNN article:

"Support for these bills is growing, but we expect opposition from all the companies who don't want to pay fair compensation when, by their fault, someone on board their vessel is killed.  Cruise lines have consistently opposed changes to DOHSA.  Many of their passengers are, because of their youth or advanced age, not providing financial support to anyone.  If a cruise ship crew member negligently kills one of these passengers, the cruise line is liable for funeral expenses and nothing more. All companies involved in offshore drilling and shipping have been vigorously opposed to changes in DOHSA."  

Travel agents, cruise specialists, and cruise fans reading this - is this what you wish to support?   Your trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), pays lobbyists millions to walk the halls of Congress and lobby against changing DOHSA.  They want to make certain that the families of good, hard working people like Gordon Jones receive nothing for their grief, pain and suffering when they lose a loved on the high seas.

Don't let reckless corporations ruin our environment and people's lives and get away with it.

Do you want to help?  Call us.  Contact your Congressman or Congresswoman.  Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.  Do something, now.

 

 

Credits:

Photograph of Gordon Jones family      CNN

Photograph of Gordon Jones and son    Gordon Jones Facebook

Video      Larry King Live

Like Cruise Ships, Foreign Flagged Oil Rigs Avoid U.S. Laws

Foreign Flags - Marshall Islands, Liberia, Panama The LA Times has an interesting article this morning revealing how drilling companies skirt U.S. laws by registering their oil rigs in countries like the Marshall Islands, described by the Times as a "tiny, impoverished nation in the Pacific Ocean." 

Drilling rigs are considered to be "vessels" under maritime law.  This permits their owners and operators to register them wherever they want in the world.  Like cruise lines which register their ships in Liberia, Panama, and the Bahamas, oil and gas companies and drilling contractors register their rigs outside the U.S. to avoid American safety laws and taxes.   

Congress will be conducting a hearing on the safety of these foreign flagged drilling rigs this Thursday.  The Times quotes James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, as stating:  "Today, these oil rigs can operate under different, very minimal standards of inspection established by international maritime treaties."

Representative Oberstar is a friend of cruise passengers and crew members, having taken a leading role in passing the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act in the House of Representatives last year.  This law protects cruise passengers on foreign flagged cruise ships.  Take a minute and read: " Congressional All Stars Pass Cruise Crime Law By Vote of 416 to 4."

    

For additional information on the Marshall Islands vessel registration system, consider reading: "Growth Of The Marshall Islands Flag and American Bureau of Shipping."

Have a comment?  Leave your thoughts in the comment section below. 

Miami Cruise Ship Accident and Injury Lawyer

This weekend while cleaning out a file cabinet, I ran across an article published by the Miami Herald entitled "Lawyers Turn Cruise Lawsuits Into Industry." The article stated that between 2001 and 2006, over 2,000 lawsuits were filed against the Miami based cruise lines - Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.

Cruise Ship Lawyer - Miami - Accident - InjuryThe article mentioned that I was one of the "big three" leading adversaries of cruise lines. This was a nice compliment, I suppose, coming from a newspaper like the Miami Herald which is a big supporter of the cruise industry.

The article discussed lawsuits filed on behalf of passengers and crew members against cruise lines:

"The $25 billion-a-year cruising industry has faced more lawsuits than it cares to count over the past few decades -- some 2,100 in South Florida alone since 2001.

Many are filed by a small group of lawyers -- about 15 locally -- who specialize in representing injured cruise passengers and crew members and make up a thriving cottage industry in South Florida.

But the cruise lines aren't exactly sitting back -- far from it. They have teams of lawyers to fight or settle the suits, and they've quietly begun putting into place measures to make it more difficult to sue them."

"Prime Location For Passenger Claims"

One of the obstacles cruise lines use is the requirement that lawsuits by passengers must be filed here in South Florida.  Cruise lines have included forum selection clauses in the passenger tickets requiring the passenger to sue here in Miami rather than in their home town. The Miami Herald articles states:

Cruise Lawyer - Miami Florida - Accident - Injury - Cruise Ship"For lawyers interested in suing cruise lines, South Florida is the place to be.

If you want to do this kind of work, you pretty much have to do it in Miami," said Martin Davies, a maritime law professor at Tulane University.

Davies said plaintiffs' lawyers occasionally try to sue somewhere else, but they almost always fail. The perception is that the cruise lines are getting a hometown advantage. Davies disputes that, arguing that it makes sense for cruise lines to be able to limit the number of places where passengers can sue. "Their passengers come from all over the world," he said.

The cruise lines won't say how much money they spend on lawsuits, but most cases do get settled, with payouts ranging from a couple thousand dollars to more than $1 million."

 

For additional information about passenger lawsuits against cruise lines here in Miami, we suggest reading some of our other articles: 

Cruise Ship Accidents - Miami Maritime Lawyer

Cruise Ship Accident and Injury Law - Miami Florida - Forum Selection Clauses

Cruise Passenger Rights and Wrongs - Interview With Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker

Reason No. 9 Not To Cruise: Bunker Fuel - Nasty Tar Sludge!

Continuing with Cruise Law News' Top 10 Reasons Not To Cruise, we reach reason number 9 not to cruise:

Bunker Fuel - Nasty Tar Sludge!

This reason is personal to me.

My Dad is an oil man.  In the 1960's we lived in Texas and Oklahoma as kids when my Dad worked for seismic companies.  In 1965, we moved to Libya when Dad took a job with the largest oil company in North Africa.  He became the head of the geophysical department responsible for searching for oil.  My Dad made the final decision where to drill and sink thousands of feet of drill Bunker Fuel - Cruise Ship - Air Pollution pipe and casing into the Sahara Desert.  This was big business.  I remember when he came home with a vial containing a sample of the 5,000,000,000 barrel of crude oil he discovered beneath the Libyan sands.

Dad taught us everything about the oil and gas industry. Geological formations.  Exploration strategies.  Dilling techniques.  And he explained the process of refining oil and producing gas products of different octanes.  He also talked about the by-products of oil refineries including a bottom-of-the-barrel product called "bunker fuel."

Bunker fuel is a waste product.  It literally is the dredge remaining in the pits of the refineries after all of the refining process has ended and the high octane fuels have been produced and the diesel products have been extracted from the crude oil.   It is toxic muck.  It has the consistency of tar.  It cannot be used without incombustible particles flying all over the place - not unlike burning a tire - with the residue burrowing deep into the mucous membranes of your lungs. 

I remember my Dad telling me, this is some nasty shit son.  I can't believe anyone would use this sludge. It's a health hazard if you breath it.  It should be pumped back into the wells and capped. 

No one reading this article would burn bunker fuel in their house, or subject their neighbors to this toxic pollutant.  Bunker fuel is the nastiest and most toxic fuel you can use.

But this fuel is the cornerstone of the cruise industry.

In prior articles, we have written about the high sulfur content of bunker fuel - which has 4,000 to 5,000 more sulfur than gasoline used in automobiles.  This cheap, filthy, high-sulfur fuel has a disastrous effect on the environment and a deadly effect on those who breath the lethal smoke.

Any time you see a photo of a cruise ship on the cruise line's or travel agent's web site, it has always been photo-shopped to hide the smoke billowing out of the smoke stacks. But take a look Bunker Fuel - Cruise Ship - Pollution at the photograph below of Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas - smoking up a port in Alaska with bunker fuel.  Nasty.  Nasty.  Nasty.   

In March, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) announced that it was creating a buffer zone around the U.S. and Canada which will prohibit the use of bunker fuel.  Holland America Line's CEO, Stein Kruse, complained that the new air law "essentially means all the current fuel that we burn cannot be burned."  

It is therefore not surprising that the Friends of the Earth's (FOE) Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card gave a "F" to Carnival, Celebrity Crystal, Cunard, Disney, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean and Silversea cruise lines for air pollution reduction.  FOE released a press statement yesterday:

"For the second year in a row, we’ve found that cruise lines are doing less than they can to limit the environmental impacts of their ships. . . From ending the use of dirty fuel that pollutes the air to stopping the disgusting practice of dumping sewage and other waste into the sea, it’s time for the cruise industry to clean up its act. The unfortunate reality is that, at present, many cruises harm marine ecosystems and the health of people who live near ports of call.”

The cruise industry trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), responded to the bad grades with this press release:

“It is unfortunate that instead of contributing to a meaningful scientific dialogue about protecting our oceans, FOE continues to use innuendo and misstate the facts to advance its agenda. This ‘report card’ is not based on science, law, or the facts, and like its last one, is rooted in FOE’s own arbitrary and flawed criteria.”

Unfortunately, arrogant and dismissive statements like this are the typical response from the recalcitrant cruise industry. But the truth of the matter remains that without governmental oversight, cruise lines will always use the cheapest and most hazardous fuels available to operate their cruise ships.

So if you are thinking of cruising this summer, give the environment a break - take your family for a hike and camping trip in a national park instead. 

 

Click on the video and watch bunker fuel burning (gas mask recommended): 

 

 

Credits:

Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas cruise ship    AlaskanLibrarian's Flickr photostream
 

Cruise Ship Statute of Limitations? - One Year for Adults! Three Years for Minors.

I received an email last week from a passenger who had been severely injured on a Carnival cruise.  She had already undergone two surgeries and was facing a third surgery.  She asked what's the statute of limitations for cruise line cases?  I had the unpleasant job of telling her that it was too late to consider filing a lawsuit. 

In most states, the statute of limitations is anywhere from two to five years.  For maritime cases, there is a three year statute.  However, in cruise line cases involving adults, passengers have just one year to file suit!

Cruise Statute of Limitations - One Year! - Cruise ShipTechnically, there is no "statute of limitations" for cruise ship injuries.  Rather, there is a limitations period in the passenger ticket issued by the cruise line which contains the one year period in the "fine print."  Courts have consistently enforced this limitations period.

Cruise lines know that many injured guests will not read the fine print in the ticket and think that they have two or three years to file suit.  But if the passenger waits longer than one year, its too late - they have lost their rights and their case will be dismissed.

On the same day the Carnival passenger contacted me, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal decided this exact issue in no uncertain terms.  In RAY RACCA v. CELEBRITY CRUISES, INC., ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES LTD, a passenger sustained a serious knee injury on April 30, 2006, resulting in several surgeries and a total knee replacement.  He waited almost two years later to file suit on April 22, 2008.  The cruise lines responded with a motion to have his case thrown out of court.

The passenger complained that the limitations period was buried in a 100 page cruise brochure and the one year limitations period was not reasonably communicated to him.  The court acknowledge that most passenger do not read the ticket.  However, after a serious injury which includes surgery, the Court concluded that it is not unreasonable to expect passengers to read the ticket and learn their legal rights.  The court dismissed the passenger's case.

The court noted that the passenger also failed to provide written notice to the cruise line of his intention to seek compensation within six months of the accident, as also required by the ticket.  Failure to do so may also result in your case being dismissed.  We have discussed these issues in a prior article Cruise Passenger Rights and Wrongs - Interview With Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker.

If a child is injured or assaulted on a cruise ship, the limitations period is three years.  If the child turns18, the case must then be filed within one year after turning 18.

There are even shorter limitations periods for lost luggage, stolen items, and issues not involving personal injury.  If you are injured on a cruise ship, read your ticket! 

These limitations apply only to passengers.  Crew members have three years to file suit.

 

Credits:              Artwork           Maxim

Cruise Ship Accident and Injury Lawyer

When cruise passengers are injured during cruises and require legal representation, the chances are that they will require a lawyer in South Florida.  Most cruise lines are based in either Miami or Fort Lauderdale.  These cruise lines include "forum selection" clauses in the passenger tickets which require that the passenger's lawsuit must be filed in Florida.  

So if the accident occurs on a cruise ship operated by Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean, or Silversea cruise line, the passenger will have to find a lawyer here in Miami or Fort Lauderdale.  This is true regardless of where the passengers live,  Cruise Ship Accident and Injury Lawyer - Miami Florida where they boarded the cruise ship, where the cruise ship is going, or where the accident occurs.  

Many passengers searching for a lawyer on Google or Yahoo run across listings for a "cruise ship accident lawyer" or "cruise ship injury attorney."  There are many lawyers who list themselves as "cruise ship lawyers" but they actually have no education, training, or experience handling maritime cases in general or cruise line cases in particular.

Our firm handles cases only against cruise lines.  We know how the cruise lines defend cases involving injured passengers and crewmembers.  When considering hiring a lawyer to represent you or your family, ask the lawyer some basic questions (our answers follow):

Did you obtain an education in maritime law?  Yes.  I studied maritime law courses starting in 1980 from the best law school in the U.S. with a maritime law curriculum.  Tulane Law School - Admiralty and Maritime Law

Are you a member of any maritime law societies?  Yes.  I am a member of the Maritime Law Association of the United States (since 1984), the Admiralty Law Section of the American Association for Justice, Florida Admiralty Trial Lawyers Association, and Southeast Admiralty Law Institute.

Have you lectured maritime law students?  Yes.  Last week I was invited to speak before the Maritime Law Society of Stetson Law School, the oldest law school in Florida.  Cruise Law Visits Stetson College of Law to Discuss Crime on Cruise Ships

Have you handled cases against cruise lines before, and how many?  Yes.  Over 500, in the last 10 years alone.  We routinely handle cases against Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Disney (Magical Cruise Company), Holland American Line, Norwegian, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Regent Seven Seas, and Silversea.

Have you or your clients appeared before U.S. Congress regarding issues of cruise ship safety?  Yes.  We have attended five Congressional hearings in Washington D.C. with six clients regarding issues of cruise line safety issues.   

Jim Walker - James Walker - Cruise Lawyer - Cruise Accident LawDo you handle only maritime cases?  Yes.  We handle only maritime cases involving accidents and injuries on cruise ships.  We have handled high profile cases involving cruise ship fires, collisions, and sinkings.  

The cases typically involve a cruise passenger slipping and breaking an ankle, knee, or hip on the cruise ship, an injury during a shore excursion, a passenger who is sexually assaulted during the cruise, or a crewmember who is injured during work.  Most cases where passengers and crewmembers are injured also involve issues of delayed or inappropriate medical treatment.  

Have you or your clients been featured in newspapers, documentaries, or on television news programs?  Yes.  Over 100 newspaper articles, law journals, and television programs have featured our firm and/or our cruise passenger clients.  

ABC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN, FOXNews, DATELINE, 48 HOURS, Larry King Live, A & E Investigative Reports, Hannity & Colmes, Greta Van Sustern, Nancy Grace, Inside Edition, Julie Banderas, Big Story Weekend, CourtTV, Catherine Crier, Montel Williams, Joe Scarborough, Rita Cosby, Mike & Juliet, Geraldo Rivera, Nancy Bloom, Dan Abrams, UK’s BBC-Radio 4, Heartland w/John Kasich, E!  Entertainment, TruTV, Canada’s CATV-5, Good Morning America, TIME Magazine, National Law Journal, RADAR Magazine, Lawyer’s Weekly USA, Miami Herald, American Law Media, Tradewinds, Fort Lauderdale’s Sun-Sentinel, Miami Business Review, LA Times, NY Times, Salt Lake Tribune, Florida Today, Daytona Beach Journal, Sacramento Bee, Washington Post, Greenwich Times, Greenwich Citizen, Greenwich Post, San Francisco Chronicle, St. Petersburg Times, Miami’s New Times, London’s Guardian, Edmonton Post, Chicago Sun-Times, Bahamas Journal, CruiseCritic, and the Associated Press have all covered our cruise line cases and our client's causes. 

Who are your clients?  Cruise passengers and crewmembers.  Most of our passenger clients are former cruise fanatics.  After being involved in an accident, they feel mistreated or neglected by the cruise staff and are often ignored once they return home from the cruise.  Most cases are not high profile cases, but simply involve an accident and questionable medical treatment on the cruise ship or in the port of call.  

Our cruise passenger clients come literally from all fifty states in the U.S.  Our crew clients contact us from around the world. 

New Trial Ordered in Dianne Brimble Cruise Ship Death

A Court in Australia has scheduled a new trial in the trial of P & O Cruises passenger Mark Wilhelm who was charged with the manslaughter death of fellow passenger Dianne Brimble aboard the P & O cruise ship Pacific Sky.

In October, a jury failed to reach a verdict in the first trial. 

Dianne Brimble Cruise Ship TrialThe Crown charged Wilhelm of manslaughter of Ms. Brimble who died on the P&O cruise ship in September 2002 after being given the illegal drug GHB, also known as fantasy or liquid ecstasy.  In addition to the manslaughter charges, the Crown charged Wilhem with the lesser charge of providing an illegal substance to Ms. Brimble.

This is great news for the Brimble family, who has been steadfast in their resolve to see this matter through until the judicial process has been exhausted. 

The new trial is scheduled for April 19, 2010.

Ms. Brimble’s family joined International Cruise Victims (“ICV”) organization to bring awareness to the problem of cruise ship crime. Mr. Brimble is the President of the ICV chapter in Australia. Information regarding Ms. Brimble is available on the ICV website

I have written a number of articles about the danger of date rape drugs on cruise ships and Ms. Brimble's case:

Date Rape Drugs on Cruise Ships - the Death of Dianne Brimble

"Crawfishing" - Passengers in P & O Cruises Death Case Can't Remember A Thing

Another Crawfishing Witness in the Dianne Brimble Trial

Jury Is Out in Dianne Brimble Cruise Death Case

Dianne Brimble and the Lessons to Teach Our Young Men

Jury Reaches Partial Verdict in Dianne Brimble Case

Hung Jury in Dianne Brimble Cruise Death Trial

 

Photo Credit      International Cruise Victims ("ICV") 

Cruise Ship Brawls - A Problem that Will Get Bigger with Bigger Ships

Paul Ash, who writes columns for the Times Live in Johannesburg under the name "The Wanderer," addresses the issue of violence by cruise passengers in an interesting article entitled "Punch-Ups and Brawls on Cruise Ships: Whose Fault is it Anyway?"

The article mentions what is described as a "mini-rampage" on the P&O cruise ship Ventura while the ship was at sea. Also mentioned is the brawl between six Carnival passengers who punched, scratched and bit it out with police in Antigua over a dispute with a taxi driver over, depending on who you believe, either a $50 or $100 taxi fare.

Mr. Ash's article raises a couple of interesting issues. 

Are cruise lines inviting rowdier crowds on board with discount tickets?  And what happens when, as Mr. Ash puts it, "the happy and careless rich collide with the hungry and resentful poor?"

One of the subscribers to this blog commented on an earlier article about the danger presented when vacationing families intersect with the hard partying younger crowd who are enticed to cruise with the lure of cheap three-day booze cruises. I compare the situation to going on a cruise with Kid Rock - I love his music but I wouldn't want to take my family on a cruise with his posse partying next door. 

As reported by Mr. Ash, a BBC2 television host Jeremy Vine recently questioned Carnival CEO Micky Arison about this problem of violence associated with cheap cruise tickets and a more diverse group of passengers.

“Cruise ships are a microcosm of any city or any location and stuff happens . . . The negatives of discounting might be less commission for agents and less revenue for us but the positive is it opens up the product to a wider audience.”

The "wider audience" will undoubtedly include a younger crowd from a different demographic, including what I call the hard partying "Bud Light - tank top" crowd.

Mr. Ash concludes his article with the following thought: 

"I can’t think anything I’d rather less do than go on holiday with five thousand three hundred and ninety-nine other people. Imagine the rush for the boats – or taxis – during shore excursions. Imagine the stress of finding a space by the pool. Or queuing for dinner. One may as well go to the Med and scrap with the Russians and Germans for sun loungers. No wonder people get punchy. Who wouldn’t?"

Complicating matters is the huge amount of alcohol which the cruise lines sell to the passengers, which often leads to drunken brawls in the bar and discos and sometimes around the pools. It will be interesting to see how Carnival and the other cruise lines handle the "wider audience" flocking onto the larger cruise ships. If cruise ships are like cities and "stuff happens," what steps are they taking to protect U.S. families?

Will the cruise lines elect to hire a full complement of well trained and experienced security guards?  Or will they continue to try and save money with only 2 or 3 inexperienced "guards" trying to protect 2,000 or 3,000 passengers?