Who Said the Biggest Whopper at Cruise Shipping Miami 2015?

Anyone who has attended a Cruise Shipping Miami convention knows that cruise executives make comments which hype the cruise industry. 

It's interesting to attend the convention and watch the cast of characters. Who will say the greatest whopper in their efforts to promote the cruise industry? The executives are all type A personalities, full of energy, often talking off script, with no one fact checking their comments. They get carried away at times with their hyperbole.

Cruise Ship - TerrorismSo who made the most outlandish statement this week?  

I was tempted to give the hype award to NCL's Frank Del Rio who first bragged that his cruise line is way ahead of competitors Carnival and Royal Caribbean in preparing to do business in Havana. He then remarked that "Libya, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon could be more lucrative than Cuba." Huh? I couldn't help tweeting "have you heard of ISIS?

Well today the news broke that Islamic terrorists targeted and killed tourists in buses attending a museum in Tunisia while the Costa Fascinosa and MSC Splendida sent thousands of passengers ashore to Tunis on excursions. CNN reports that some of the tourists came from the Costa and MSC cruise ships. Unfortunately, thinking of how "lucrative" but ignoring how dangerous a port may be is a trademark of the cruise executive mindset. 

Carnival CEO Arnold Donald came close to winning the award, saying "wherever we go, we have a responsibility to those places we go to." Someone needs to remind Mr. Donald that his Carnival Magic cruise ship destroyed around 12,000 square feet of an ancient reef when it dropped an anchor on a protected seabed in the Cayman Islands. It will take millions and millions of dollars to try and restore the reef. Caymans' Department of Cayman Islands Crushed ReefEnvironment concluded that Carnival together with a local pilot and the port agency are at fault. But Carnival denies responsibility and refuses to pay for the damage (it made a token $100,000 contribution as a "donation.") The Caymans is afraid to disrupt its business relationship with Carnival and is dropping the matter. Unfortunately, Carnival bullies another weak U.S.-dollar-dependent Caribbean island.    

But the winner is Royal Caribbean's Adam Goldstein. Referring to the environmental issues of waste, recycling, and emissions, he said that these were "areas in which the industry has led the world." Wow, that's delusional.

The fact of the matter is that Royal Caribbean has a history of being one of the worst cruise ship polluters in the world, with an embarrassing history of dumping plastic and discharging oil from Biscayne Bay to pristine waters of Alaska. It was fined $27,000,000 after pleading guilty to multiple counts of felonies including lying to the Coast Guard. It received an "F" in the Friends of the Earth (FOE) report card for air pollution reduction. 

Carnival has an even worse environmental record. Carnival has received an "F" in the FOE report card for its sewage treatment for six consecutive years. 22 of Carnival's 24 cruise ships don't use modern equipment and utilize ancient (35-year-old) waste treatment technology which leaves fecal matter, Bunker Fuel Cruise Ship Pollution bacteria, heavy metals and other contaminants in the water.

Royal Caribbean and Carnival are no worse than other cruise lines. Last year I posted videos exposing MSC cruise ships dumping garbage and plastics overboard in the night in a marine sanctuary. The cruise industry presents an endless nightmare to the air and the oceans. The cruise lines routinely burn cheap high-sulfur bunker fuel, dump untreated human waste in international waters, and destroy old coral reefs as a normal course of its business. 

It's painful to hear the cruise executives' hyperbole after seeing cruise tourists attacked in North Africa and the damage which cruise lines inflict on the environment. But they can't help themselves, it's Cruise Shipping Miami. 

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

 

Photo Credit: Top - AP via Mail Online; middle - Don Foster's Dive Cayman via Cayman Compass; bottom - http://stoppollutting-cruiseships.blogspot.com/

Cruise Industry Refuses to Install Technology to Keep Guests Safe at Sea

This week the cruise industry is meeting in Miami as part of the annual trade show, Cruise Shipping Miami #CMS2015. One topic that cruise lines will avoid talking about is automatic man overboard systems and the industry's refusal to comply with the 2010 Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act. 

Last week, Senator Robert Blumenthal (D-CT) accurately summed up the disappearance of a 21 year old Virginia Tech student during spring break vacation, saying that the young man "didn't have to die."

". . .  the stark tragic fact is that readily available life-saving technology could have spared him. cruise shipping miamiReprehensibly, five years after the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 was enacted, cruise lines still refuse to upgrade outdated video surveillance technology for the latest in automatic man overboard detection. The cruise industry should be ashamed and embarrassed by this failure to embrace this lifesaving technology. Such technology could have immediately detected Cameron’s fall and made sure valuable time was not wasted reviewing camera footage."

Carnival responded to the overboard from the Glory like it usually does in man overboard cases - it said nothing. But after the story of the young man disappearing during his vacation cruise gained traction on social media and found it's way into the national and international press, Carnival released a carefully crafted press statement from its trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), to blame the young man for his death. 

CLIA claims that “while incidents of man overboard in the cruise industry are rare, and typically found to be the result of an intentional or reckless act, cruise lines take a number of steps to help prevent such situations. These include mandatory railing heights, well-trained personnel, and video cameras.”

First of all, CLIA claims that it does not even keep statistics of man overboard cases. The most accurate list by far is Professor Ross Klein's statistics on his website showing that an average of 20 people a year go overboard from cruise ships. It's cavalier for CLIA to brush the deaths off as "rare" when they are occurring an average of over one and a half times a month.

CLIA takes credit for the heights of vessel railings but the higher rails came about only through the legislative efforts of a victim organization which the cruise lines have been fighting against for a decade. 

Video surveillance cameras, not connected to automatic man overboard systems, are useless to deal with people falling overboard. The cruise industry as a whole refuses to implement true life-saving devices including infra-red, motion-detection, radar, and tracking technologies which are ready, reliable and long overdue. 

Time after time, missing passenger after missing passenger, cruise lines will claim that its "highest priority is the safety of its guests." "Our thoughts are with the family" is a common phrase when a passenger disappears. Hogwash. This is entirely a profit driven industry where cutting costs and increasing revenue are the goals.

If it really cared about it's guests, the cruise industry wouldn't sell endless amounts of booze, refuse to implement the legally required automatic man overboard systems, and then accuse the very guests it grossly intoxicates of reckless conduct when they go overboard.

What will it take for cruise lines to install the available MOB technology? What type of sanction is necessary before Carnival and Royal Caribbean follow the law? Will cruise executives have to face jail time before the industry complies with the 2010 Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act?

March 18 2015 Update: As cruise executive meet in Miami Beach at the 2015 Cruise Shipping Miami convention, a 54 year old passenger disappears from the Carnival Triumph cruise ship.

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

CSM2014: Who Will Be the First Cruise CEO to Claim Cruising is the "Safest, Safest, Safest" Vacation? And Where Are the Safety Audits?

Last year at Cruise Shipping Miami, all of the cruise CEO's talking at the "State of the Cruise Industry" presentation covered the CLIA talking points that cruising was "safe" and the cruise industry is also supposedly "highly regulated."

The hyperbole was extraordinary.

CLIA's Christine Duffy began the cheerleading by first announcing that the Carnival Triumph fire was "rare." Carnival's President Gerry Cahill topped her by saying: “Something like this is very rare." NCL's Kevin Sheehan's won the award by claiming that cruising was the "safest, safest, safest" vacation Cruise Shipping Miami 2014option.

Cruise executives never discuss actual statistics about fires, accidents and crimes on cruise ships. They would rather tell you their self-serving opinions than provide you with the actual facts and let you form your own opinions.

In truth, there have been over 90 cruise ship fires between 1990 and the present. That's hardly "rare." The "safest, safest, safest" form of transportation does not catch on fire every 4 months.

The horrific sexual assault which recently occurred on the HAL Nieuw Amsterdam should be a reminder that sexual assault is the number 1 crime reported on cruise ships. There will be no mention of that.

And there will be no meaningful discussions about other current topics, like the controversy surrounding recently released video and photos of MSC Cruises crew members dumping bags of garbage and debris - allegedly into the waters of Brazil. Pierfrancesco Vago, Chairman of MSC Cruises, will be speaking this morning. I'm sure no one will ask him about that.  I say that the chances are 50 / 50 he will claim that his cruise line is a "guardian of the seas" or something equally clueless. 

Last year, Carnival's Cahill told us that Carnival intended to conduct safety audit all of its ships. CLIA also promised regular audits as well.

I instantly tweeted "will the audits ever be disclosed of the public?" Of course not. This is just one of those things that cruise executives say. All the travel agents and vendors at CSM then politely clap.

So here we are at CSM again. Soon the CEO's will tell us that everything is great.

Who will be the first executive to tell us that cruise accidents and crimes are "rare" and cruising is the "safest" vacation you can have?

Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM2014) Starts With Usual Hype - Will There Be Substance This Year?

Cruise Shipping Miami ("CSM 2014") has officially started. 

Formerly known as "Seatrade," CSM is a huge trade show in the Miami Beach Convention Center with all types of cruise vendors, tourism delegates and port representatives. You can appreciate just how dynamic and wealthy the cruise industry is by attending the show. 

Here's the official schedule.

The big event, of course, is the the "State of the Global Cruise Industry" where the cruise CEO's tell everyone how incredibly safe the cruise industry is.Cruise Shipping Miami CSM2014

This year we will be hearing from Arnold Donald, CEO, Carnival Corporation; Richard Fain, Chairman Royal Caribbean Cruises; Kevin Sheehan, CEO, Norwegian Cruise Lines; and Pierfrancesco Vago, Chairman, MSC Cruises.

It will be interesting to hear from Mr. Vago in light of the recent allegations that MSC Cruises has allegedly been dumping garbage into the sea.

Here's my articles from last year's Cruise Shipping Miami trade show I attended:

Cruise Shipping Miami: What the Cruise Executives Did Not Tell You.

Cruise Shipping's State of the Industry: Where are the Women & Minorities?

Email me at jim@cruiselaw.com if you want to meet, discuss cruise issues such as safety & security, or have a beer over lunch or at happy hour. I enjoyed some interesting conversations last year.

My perspective - "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know" - is a little different than that of most people attending.

i will be blogging and tweeting all week.

See you there.

Cruise Shipping Miami: What the Cruise Executives Did Not Tell You

When the Cruise Shipping Miami's "State of the Industry" presentation started yesterday at 9:30 AM, I wondered whether anyone would mention Costa Concordia.  

Keynote speaker, David Scowsill,World Travel and Tourism Council President, briefly mentioned the Concordia disaster in passing, saying "despite the tragic cruise ship incident last year" cruising is still "safest" form of transportation.

Holland America Line CEO Stein Kruse was the first to say the words "Costa Concordia" over 1 hour into the CEO's presentation which I quickly noted in a tweet at 10:33 AM.  It was one of the few State of the Cruise Industryreferences to reality the entire morning.

All of the CEO's covered the CLIA talking points that cruising was "safe" and the cruise industry is also supposedly "highly regulated."  The hyperbole was extraordinary.

Christine Duffy was the first to say that the Triumph fire was "rare." Carnival's President Gerry Cahill then topped her saying: “Something like this is very rare."

NCL's Kevin Sheehan said that cruising was the "safest, safest, safest" vacation option.   

RCCL President Adam Goldstein said that the cruise industry was "highly regulated" by the IMO "regulatory scheme." He said words to the effect that he was sure "that no one in the room would dispute that."

Carnival's Cahill added that his cruise line intends to conduct safety audit all of its ships. CLIA would also be performing audits as well.

All of these statements sounded great. But there was little of substance discussed. There were all types of precise statistics presented about the number of new ships, the number of passengers and the revenue generated by the cruise lines. But when it comes to statistics regarding fires and other accidents, the cruise executives offered nothing but their personal opinions.

It was interesting what the cruise execs didn't say rather than the talking points they repeated over and over.     

Last year I attended a Congressional hearing where a cruise expert detailed some 79 cruise ship fires between 1990 and the hearing in 2011. I have discussed in this blog that over 10 cruise ship fires occurred since the Splendor. That's 90 fires in 23 years.

That's hardly "rare." The "safest, safest, safest" form of transportation does not catch on fire every 4 months.

Keeping statistics away from the public is how the cruise industry works.  Assuring the public that the unregulated cruise industry is allegedly "heavily regulated" is also how the cruise lines work.

Senator Rockefeller presided over the post Concordia safety hearing last year and told the cruise representatives "You Are A World Unto Yourselves."    There is simply no real oversight by the U.S. over foreign flagged cruise ships.

Carnival's Cahill promised that his cruise line would police itself with its own safety audits. But what he didn't say was whether the audits will ever be released to the public.  

Trust me, they will never see the light of day.

Cruise Shipping MiamiCahill also said that Carnival "learned its lesson" after the Splendor fire in 2010. But he didn't say what lesson Carnival learned. He also didn't mention that the country of Panama, where Carnival registered the Splendor to avoid income tax, has still not even released a report about the investigation into the fire which occurred over two years ago.  What lesson can be learned if the official report into the fire has still not been released at this late date?

Does anyone really think that the audits by Carnival and CLIA about the Triumph last month will ever be shared with the public when there is no public report about the Splendor which caught on fire 28 months ago?

Until the cruise industry truly falls under the scrutiny of U.S. federal regulators and there is transparency in releasing statistical information and accident investigation reports, all we will hear at the state-of-the-industry presentations are more and more self-serving opinions of an industry which is a world unto itself.       

Cruise Shipping's State of the Industry: Where are the Women & Minorities?

Cruise Shipping MiamiIt's 11:25 AM Tuesday morning. I'm sitting here in the 4th row at the Miami Beach Convention Center listening to the final moments of the Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM 2013) State-of-the-Industry speeches by the cruise line executives.

Before me the kings of the cruise industry are speaking: Royal Caribbean President Adam Goldstein; NCL CEO Kevin Sheehan; Celebrity Cruises President Michael Bayley; Carnival President Gerry Cahill; HAL CEO Stein Kruse; MSC CEO Pierfrancesco Vago; and Silversea Cruises Chairman Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio. Plus a keynote speech from World Travel and Tourism Council President David Scowsill.      

My first thought as I scanned the panel of cruise executives on the stage in front of me this morning: Do you have to be a white male to speak about the state of the cruise industry at CSM?  

This is essentially the same all men-in-dark-suits line up from prior years. Where are all of the women cruise executives?

Cruise Shipping MiamiLooking around me, I see some plenty of women in the audience. Why are there no women on stage talking about the future of the cruise industry?   Seven suits and ties on stage and not a single cruise line executive in a dress or high heels.

Is the cruise industry the least diversified business in the U.S.?

I work in a law firm where the smartest lawyer is a woman; where the hardest workers are women; and where the decision makers are mostly women. 99% of our crew clients from around the world do not resemble any of the men here lecturing the audience at the auditorium.

Its going to be a weird week here at CSM.  

 

Photo Credit: CMS 2013 - Jim Walker

6 Problems the Cruise Industry Needs to Fix - No. 5: Disappearances of Passenger & Crew Members on the High Seas

As part of Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM 2013), I have raised 6 problems which I believe the cruise lines need to address.

Problem No. 5: Disappearance of Passengers and Crew Members from Cruise Ships:.

The problem is not just that approximately 200 people have vanished from cruise ships since year 2000, but the attitude of the cruise lines when families try and find out what happened to their loved ones is just plain nasty.

When Seattle businessman Son Michael Pham's parents disappeared during a Carnival cruise, he voiced his frustration that he received greater responsiveness upon losing a piece of luggage.

Insurance company president Ken Carver's daughter disappeared from a Celebrity Cruises ship and the cruise line responded by discarding her personal items without so much as a call to the FBI. Rebecca Coriam - Disney Wonder Cruise Ship 

Today, a reader of this blog sent me a link to an article which discussed how Disney youth counselors on the Disney Wonder lost track of a three year old child whose parents dropped the little boy off in the cruise ship's Oceaneer Club (for children aged 3 to 12).  The cruise line's response was not only incompetent but heartless.  

The youth counselors had no clue where the little boy entrusted to their care was on the ship. They appeared indifferent to the parent's understandable fears. No announcements were made over the course of 45 minutes while the ship sailed along as the parents searched frantically for their child.

This cavalier attitude is business as usual for the floating Magical Kingdom ships. Almost two years ago exactly, a 24 year old youth counselor from the U.K., Rebecca Coriam, disappeared from the Disney Wonder. The ship continued on sailing. The cruise line's attitude and response, in my opinion, seemed motivated to protect its own marketing image and cover-the-truth-up, rather than to find out exactly what happened to young Rebecca.

Today is Rebecca's 26th birthday which her parents and sister are celebrating in sorrow.  Neither Disney nor the country of the Bahamas, where Disney incorporates its cruise ships to avoid U.S. George Smith Royal Caribbean Cruise Shiptaxes, will cooperate with the Coriam family.  No one will provide the Coriams with a copy of the Bahamas report on the disappearance of their daughter. The callousness demonstrated by Disney and the Bahamas is the product of a foreign flagged scheme which is designed to keep cruise lines like Disney away from real oversight except by Caribbean islands whose loyalties lie exclusively to the cruise industry.  

I touched upon this problem briefly in an opinion piece for CNN entitled "What Cruise Lines Don't Want You to Know."

There are many other examples of a cruise industry which would rather spend it efforts trying to create an image to vacationers that cruising is safe rather taking reasonable steps to make certain cruising is actually safe.

George Smith disappeared in July 2005 during his honeymoon. Going on eight years later, there remain no answers and no arrests, It was only last year that the public learned that Royal Caribbean had possession of a video of a certain passenger on the cruise ship who was taped telling his friends "we gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute."  We represented Mr. Smith's wife and were never told that the video existed; instead, we watched as the cruise line stonewalled our investigation and tried to convince the public that Mr. Smith just got drunk and fell overboard.

HAL Disappearance Jason Rappe EurodamLast November, HAL passenger Jason Rappe' disappeared from the Eurodam while cruising with his wife.  We asked the cruise line for information like videotapes, passenger addresses, statements and other basic information.

HAL refused to provide anything to us.

Instead HAL insisted that it was Mr. Rappe's wife who first had to agree to provide all of her missing husband's medical records, life insurance policies, work information and any psychiatric records before they would even think about cooperating.        

No airline would act like this if a passenger or crew member disappeared in flight. But then again the aviation industry is overseen by the strict and serious Federal Aviation Agency (FAA). There is no equivalent to the FAA on the high seas - only ships flying flags of convenience in countries like the Bahamas which care only their relationships with the cruise industry.   

Its too easy to commit a crime on a cruise line and get away with it. Even in cases where there is no foul play, the cruise industry's knee-jerk reaction is to deny and delay and obfuscate rather than treat families respectfully and transparently. Until this attitude changes, cruise lines will always appear that they have something to hide.   

  

You can read our prior articles about 6 problems the cruise industry needs to fix below:

Problem No. 6: Cruise Pollution of Air & Water

Check in this week as we explore problem number 1 - 4 during CSM.

Cruise Shipping Miami: 6 Problems the Cruise Industry Needs to Fix

Tomorrow we will hear the state of the cruise industry from many of the CEO's of the cruise lines. After a deadly and disastrous year, questions arise whether the cruise industry is heading in the right direction.

In many ways, the cruise industry is going backwards. I targeted what I consider six of the major problems which the industry needs fixing. Today we'll look at:  

Problem # 6 - Pollution of Air & Water: The cruise industry is heading the wrong way on environmental issues.  It just fought a very public battle with the state of Alaska which, in 2006, enacted the most responsible waste water restrictions in the world to address cruise ship pollution.

A typical 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. Considering there are 28 cruise ships operating 150 days annually in Alaska, this results in over one billion gallons of sewage and waste water being dumped into Alaska state waters every year.

The Alaskan initiative targeted this nasty problem with sewage, while also prohibiting the discharge of heavy metals like zinc, copper and nickle from cruise ships' plumbing systems. In response, the cruise lines threatened to pull its ships from Alaska and lobbied legislators heavily. The major polluters of Alaskan waters, like Carnival owned Holland America Lines and Princess Cruises, led the charge to Oasis of the Seas Pollutionrepeal the green legislation in order to avoid the expense of installing advanced waste water treatment technologies.

While polluting the waters, the cruise industry is resisting clean air legislation as well. CLIA cruise ships still burn bunker fuel, the dirtiest and most deadly fuel on the planet. and the industry is resisting complying with clean air laws, citing reduced profits.

As the industry's ships get bigger and bigger, there is increased damage to coral reefs and the environment of the fragile ecosystems from the Caribbean to Alaska. To accommodate giants of the seas like the Oasis and the Allure into its new port in Falmouth Jamaica, Royal Caribbean oversaw the dredging of 35 million cubic feet of coral reefs which were crushed and dumped onto old mangroves. The Oasis and Allure can now squeeze into the once quaint fishing village, where they sit and burn high sulfur bunker fuel.

The cruise industry has a historical reputation of abusing the seas, with the major lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCL all pleading guilty to environmental crimes and lying to the U.S. Coast Guard and federal prosecutors. Although it has promised to protect the waters on which its business depends, the cruise industry has consistently chosen the cheaper and more destructive path on environmental issues. 

The cruise industry needs to clean up its act. It must distance itself from its renegade past of being the conservator from hell.    

 

Read the other problems facing the cruise industry:

Problem No. 5: Disappearance of Passengers and Crew Members

Cruise Shipping Miami "CSM2013" Starts Tomorrow!

Cruise Shipping Miami ("CSM 2013") starts tomorrow morning.  Word on the street is that notwithstanding rough times for the cruise industry over the past year, there will be a record attendance.

Formerly known as "Seatrade," CSM is a huge trade show in the Miami Beach Convention Center with all types of cruise vendors, tourism delegates and port representatives.  

You can appreciate just how dynamic and wealthy the cruise industry is by attending the show.

Here's the official schedule.

Cruise Shipping Miami I will be there all week.  

Here's my review of the last Cruise Shipping Miami trade show I attended:

Cruise Shipping Miami (SeaTrade) - the Good, Bad and Ugly

Email me at jim@cruiselaw.com if you want to meet. My perspective - "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know" - is a little different than that of most people attending.

i will be blogging and tweeting all week.

See you there.

Has the Cruise Industry Already Forgotten the Costa Concordia?

Cruise Marketing - Costa ConcordiaI have been out of town for the past week with my family on spring break vacation, returning last night to Miami.  But I have been my usual self reading up on the latest cruise news.

It seems that the cruise lines enjoyed a great time last week of self-generated good news. The Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM) event ran its predictable course. The cruise convention broadcast the industry's post-Concordia talking points where the cruise executives and trade organization representatives competed with one another extolling on the cruise industry's great safety record.  Few facts, lots of self-serving opinions.  No independent thinkers challenged the false feel-good cruise prophets.  

Many of the cruise articles I read online contained cruise advertisements from Silversea Cruises showing a cruise ship sailing dangerously close to the rocks somewhere in the Mediterranean.

Have the cruise marketers learned anything? 

After the CSM propaganda extravaganza ended, the cruise convention attendees piled into cabs for a night out drinking.

Lots of private parties. Lots of laughing faces posted on Twitter.  Royal Caribbean's CEO Richard Fain Barbara and Gerry Heiljoked at the RCCL dinner about the first Costa Concordia question coming just 18 minutes into dinner. He had to delay sucking down his shrimp cocktail to think of the cruise talking points - this was a freak accident, caused by a renegade captain, which unfairly tarnished a cruise industry with a fantastic safety record.   

If you interviewed everyone at the cruise shipping convention, you would get one opinion - cruising is safe.  But ask them the names of the Minnesota couple who died in the disaster?  No one would have a clue.  

Is it that easy to forget the names of the drowned just two months ago? Or did the cruise executives ever bother to learn the names of the dead in the first place?   

Cruise Shipping Miami 2012 - Cruising is Safe, It Really Is, Trust Us

I am out of town with my family on Spring Break for a couple of days.  This morning I was on my computer reading the Twitter feed for Cruise Shipping Miami 2012.

As all of you know, the Cruise Shipping Miami event (previously known a SeaTrade) is the annual event sponsored by the cruise industry where the cruise line vendors, excursion companies, port agencies, and foreign tourism boards fill the Miami Beach Convention Center advertising their services.

It sounds like a rather surreal environment this year.

The Mexican tourism people are telling everyone how extremely safe Mexico is.  Let's not talk about the 22 Carnival cruise passengers robbed at gunpoint last month.

Cruise Line International President Christine Duffy - two weeks after her disastrous performance before the U.S. Senate where she was chastised for a lack of candor - started off her moderation of the cruise line president's discussions with the usual talking points about the cruise industry's incredibly safety record.   

Carnival executive Howard Frank said cruise ships are safe and his Costa crewmembers were the "true heroes" in the Costa Concordia disaster.   A Celebrity Cruise president and a NCL captain raved about the safety of cruise ships and so on and so forth.

If you ran a computer analysis of the words spoken by the cruise line leaders at the convention, "safe," "incredibly safe" or "remarkably safe" would be at the top of the list. 

But the first two months of this year have been as disastrous a period of time for cruising as I have ever seen.  Not just the Concordia capsizing and the Allegra ship fire.  There have been nine gastrointestinal sickness outbreaks in 2012, a new record.  Plus a steady stream of child molestation cases, crewmembers and older passengers raping teenage girls, deaths and overboard crew and passengers, including another highly suspicious disappearance of yet another woman during a recent cruise.

Cruise experts like Professor Ross Klein, who maintains the most comprehensive list of cruise ship overboards, norovirus cases and cruise mishaps - are not invited, and are not welcome, at the cruise convention.

We will read newspaper accounts from the cruise friendly press and travel agent publications reciting the safety "facts" touted by the cruise industry as the Gospel Truth.

This is the cruise industry's happy fest.  Critics, complainers or independent thinkers stay away.

Cruising is safe, remarkably safe, the cruise executives say.  Repeat after us - cruising is safe.  It really is.  Trust us.

Now can I sell you a discounted cruise to Mexico?

Cruise Shipping Miami (SeaTrade) - the Good, Bad and Ugly

Cruise Shipping Miami - SeaTrade - SloveniaThis week I attended "Cruise Shipping Miami" - formerly known as "SeaTrade" - at the cavernous Miami Beach Convention Center.  An intern at the firm, Caitlin Burke, also made her first appearance at the convention. Caitlin wrote a senior thesis at the University of Florida entitled  "Qualitative Study of Victimization and Legal Issues Relevant to Cruise Ships."  Caitlin is also a social media expert having written several blogs which were recognized as the "best in blogs" by the 3,000 member LexBlog network.

As you can see in my Flickr photographs, we made ourselves right at home and had a great time.

The first thing that strikes a first time visitor to the cruise convention is the size and energy of the event.  You can get an idea of how much money is involved in the $35,000,000,000 (billion) cruise industry.  The convention hosts hundreds of port and shipping agencies, tourist boards, shipbuilders, and vendors from places that you didn't realize even existed much less had a connection to cruising.  

With one exception, the vendor booths were friendly and very interactive.  Here's the good, bad, and ugly:

SeaTrade - the Good ...

The tourist board and port booths were outstanding.  The "Cruise Irish," Port of New Orleans Commission, and Slovenia Cruise booths were very friendly and the staff professional and informative.  The "Cruise Irish" delegates had a distinct advantage given the fact that its was St. Patty's Day and they were dispensing free Guinness!  The New Orleans Port contingency was doing a good job.  They handed out Pat O'Brien Hurricane punch and Mardi Gras beads as their band played "Hey Pockey Way" by the Neville Brothers.

I couldn't resist forcing Caitlin to stand for a photograph (photo above left) with the musicians at the Slovenia Cruise booth!

Cruise Shipping Miami - SeaTrade - Viking The tourist boards were without exception friendly.  They board members went out of their way to be conversational.  They handed out souvenir trinkets as they promoted the cruise services and tourist opportunities in their home countries. 

The technical / service vendors had an interesting array of products. Given the nature of our law practice, I was particularly interested in the safety and security products.  We stopped by and looked at the "Thermo Cruise Baby" by the Norwegian group Regatta ("Safe at Sea") as well as an impressive number of life saving preservers and and life boats sold by Viking, including another child's life vest (photo right).           

One of the more interesting booths was the "Castle Shipboard Security Program" which is run by Captain Jeffrey Kuhlman who has first hand experience being boarded by pirates.  He trains mariners to protect themselves and their vessel "from the ravages of piracy and terror."  His partner and spouse, Glenna Kuhlman (photo below, left), attended the booth and was very interesting as she explained their security program.  

The issue of piracy and whether the cruise industry has taken adequate steps to protect cruise passengers is something I have addressed in prior articles:   

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

We really appreciated Ms. Kuhlman's friendly description of her company, and we hope that the Cruise Shipping Miami - SeaTrade - Castle Securitycruise industry gets on board with the training program.

SeaTrade - the Bad ...

The Cruise Shipping "Social Media Suite" was the pits.  The Cruise Shipping Miami trade group advertised its "social media" lounge, which had four sets of tables and chairs, a sitting area with a couch and lounge chairs, and a couple of computers.  A sign invited the attendees to "get connected" and "stay connected" on FaceBook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

The weird thing was absolutely no was was there.  Only three employees sitting at a table.  I stopped briefly by one of the computers when I first entered the convention, and updated my status on my twitter page @CruiseLaw.

A few hours later, we returned to the "suite" and sat down at one of the empty tables adjacent to a number of cafes.  We thought we would have a quick lunch (a hotdog and fruit drink) and rest our feet before returning to see the remainder of the show.  But one of the Cruise Shipping Miami employees told us to leave because they "were tired of cleaning up after people who used their tables."  So we obliged.  As we began to take our 1/2 eaten hotdogs with us, we watched another employee chastise other attendees who had walked into the lounge with a soft drink. 

When we left, the lounge was completely empty.  Except for the three "Cruise Shipping Miami" employees talking to each other at one of the tables, drinking soda.

We have written about how some of the cruise lines, like P & O Cruises, have outstanding social media programs while others in the cruise industry are clueless. Take a moment and read  Cruise Lines and Social Media - P & O Cruises Hits A Home Run  to see how the cruise industry is handling social media. 

Cruise Shipping Miami - SeaTrade - Alaska Cruise Shipping Miami's Twitter page @CruiseShipping has a pitiful 137 followers and on only 2 lists.  In the world of "social media," it's clueless.  It's staff?  Boorish.  Walk by and take a look yourself today, but don't make the mistake of sitting down with a hotdog.               

SeaTrade - ... and the Ugly  

The buzz at the cruise convention has been the cruise line executives mocking Alaska's strict  environmental regulations. The CEO's of Holland American Lines and Celebrity threatened Governor Parnell, who was in attendance, that they will pull cruise ships from Alaska if the state did not ease up on the taxes and pollution regulations. The Alaska Dispatch and Travel Agent Central have excellent articles on this issue.

Unlike the powerless Caribbean countries who are desperate for U.S. tourist dollars, Alaska has a strong economy.  Its citizens voted long ago to impose a $50 head tax to protect its pristine waters.  Alaska has the only "ocean ranger" program in the nation where a state environmental official boards the cruise ship and monitors cruise ship discharges while the vessels are in Alaskan waters.

Alaska is smart to protect its natural resources.  The cruise industry has a deplorable environmental record and Carnival and Royal Caribbean have pleaded guilty to multiple felonies for wastewater violations and lying to U.S. Coast Guard.

The image of the CEO of HAL (which has recent wastewater violations on the books) lecturing a Governor of a progressive state like Alaska is rather repugnant (photo above, courtesy of Travel Agent Central).  The cruise industry already has an image of being arrogant and certainly the least diverse group of Cruise Shipping Miami - SeaTrade - CLIA - Norovirusprofessionals around. The image of six white, male, suited, Miami executives chastising Alaska should be a sign that Alaska is doing something right.  It should continue to resist the bullying and protect its waters from exploitation by the cruise industry. 

One of the strange things about this years convention is that there were no U.S. agencies in attendance.  Where was the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)?  Where was the Federal Drug Administration (FDA)?  The cruise industry is facing a crisis with norovirus and there is no focus on this issue at the convention?  Last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) was in attendance and assigned agents to respond to questions about crimes on cruise ships returning to ports in South Florida.  Where was the FBI this year?

Another strange thing was that the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA)'s booth was way in the back of the convention center.  It was poorly staffed and attended.  

The most prominent feature at the CLIA booth was a giant dispenser of Purell hand sanitizer, which by the way doesn't kill norovirus.           

   

Credits:

Cruise line executives       Travel Agent Central

All other photos                   Jim Walker's Flickr photographs