Ryndam Passengers Medevaced to Miami

Ryndam MedevacMiami news stations are reporting that several passengers from the Holland American Line Ryndam were medevaced to hospitals in Miami this evening.

WSVN Channel 7 reports that one of the victims suffered a leg injury, one sustained a head injury, and a third passenger may have suffered a heart attack.

The news station says that the Ryndam cruise ship came within three miles from shore so Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue crews could pick up the injured and ill passengers. One passenger was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital and a second one to to Mercy Hospital.

The Ryndam cruise ship was sailing from from Tampa to London.

 

 

WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Oriana Limps Back to Miami After Fire

The P & O Oriana has made it back safely to the Port of Miami last night after a fire broke out on the ship. 

Viewers following the PTZ / Port of Miami webcam heard radio communication between the ship and the Coast Guard that a fire had allegedly broken out on the ship involving the engine room. The Oriana requested tugs to assist it back to port in Miami after the fire was extinguished. 

AIS tracking systems shows the cruise ship leaving port (for Key West) and then turning around shortly after leaving the port. 

No further information is available at this time.  I have requested information from P&O Cruises but have not received anything. 

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April 19, 2015 Update: Oriana left the Port of Miami this morning around 8:20 AM. Seatrade quotes an unidentified cruise spokeswoman issuing a bland statement that the incident involved a "minor, localized fire which was swiftly extinguished and at no time affected the safety of passengers or crew."   I have never heard a cruise spokesperson ever describing a cruise ship fire as anything other than "small" and "quickly extinguished."

Of course there is nothing "small" about a fire at sea.

 

Video Credit: @PTZtv 

 

NCL Crew Member Arrested in Drug Bust in Roatan

Norwegian DawnA NCL crew member employed aboard the Norwegian Dawn cruise ship was arrested yesterday when he attempted to smuggle cocaine aboard the ship when it was docked in Roatan, according to the Teledifusora Insular television station.

The television stations reports that the NCL ship employee, identified as Keneth Antonio Salas Taylor (age 35), a Nicaraguan galley worker, tired to board the Dawn with a package of cocaine hidden under his clothes.  The ship's security discovered the drugs and reported the incident to the national police, who arrested the crew member. 

Last month, five NCL crew members on the Norwegian Sun were arrested in Tampa when the cruise ship returned from Roatan where the crew members picked up the cocaine (seven kilos). Like the instant crew member arrested, these men were galley workers.  

You can read about that drug bust here.

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Photo Credit: Top Fletcher6 via Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0; Bottom Teledifusora Insular.

 Drug Bust Roatan Honduras

Carnival Passenger Killed in Jet-Ski Accident in Cayman Islands

Carnival ConquestThe Cayman News Service is reporting that a 31 year old cruise passenger from the Carnival Conquest was killed after his jet-ski was struck by a jet-ski operated by a fifteen year old boy from the Carnival Paradise

The 31 year old had rented a jet-ski with his 37 year old girlfriend and they are from Virginia. A Carnival PR representative told the AP that the couple were not participating in a shore excursion sold through the company.

The incident occurred the Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa.

The 15 year old boy is from New York and was jet-skiing with his brothers and father. He reportedly was driving the jet-ski alone at the time of the accident. It is unknown whether his family had rented the jet-ski independently or they were on a cruise excursion.

A local news station in Virginia is reporting on the accident.

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Photo Credit: "Carnival Conquest" by Matt Howry Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Carnival Refuses Refund for Slain Police Officer's Family

Carnival Cruise Refund PolicyOne issue we write about often is the cruise industry's refusal to refund cruise fares when tragedy strikes their customers. 

We have seen cruise lines refuse to accommodate their guests when family members die unexpectedly, natural disasters destroy their customers' homes, and even when children develop cancer. The cruise lines pocket the fares and then often sell the ship cabins for what turns out to be a double profit for the cruise line.

Seems heartless to me. Some people think its okay because the customers didn't buy insurance (which the cruise lines also sell for additional profit). But there are exceptions to every rule. It's bad karma to obtain a double profit when your customers face the heartbreak of losing a child, especially if he's a slain police officer.   

As WKMG explains, the Carnival representative not only denied a refund to the father of slain Ocala police officer Jared Forsyth, she rubbed salt into the wound. "Well, if you want to play the dead son angle," she told the dad of the dead son.

Carnival eventually refunded most of the cruise expenses (except $1,500) only after the grieving father complained to the local news station which contacted the cruise line's public relations spokesman.

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April 17, 2015 UpdateCruise Line Refunds Vacation to Family of Police Officer Killed at Training. It looks like Carnival was shamed into apologizing to the family and finally giving them a full refund. 

April 18, 2015 Update: The Ocala Post interviewed me regarding the story, which you can read here

Video and photo credit: WKMG

 

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Horizon Passenger Goes Overboard

Yesterday. I received information from a Cruise Law News reader that a man went overboard from the M/V Horizon operated by Croiseires de France between the Dominican Republic and St. Maarten. 

Today a newspaper in St. Maarten reported that yesterday, the police department in St. Maarten received a call from the security office at the A.C. Wathey Cruise Facilities in St. Maarten that they had received a message from the Horizon cruise vessel informing them that a passenger on board of the cruise ship had allegedly jumped from the ship in open waters between the Dominican Croiseires de France HorizonRepublic and Saint Maarten.

The AP says that the U.S. Coast Guard is searching for a missing cruise ship passenger from Ireland, but has the location slightly different. The AP states that the man is suspected of "going overboard" near Puerto Rico. The AP story doesn't indicate how the man went overboard. 

The Coast Guard identified the man as 67-year-old Dominic William O'Carroll. 

The Horizon is an old ship and is not fitted with any semblance of an automatic man overboard system. One news source say that a crew member reported seeing "an object" falling into the water. Eventually, a check of surveillance film revealed the passenger going overboard around 5:00 AM. There has been no verification by authorities that the passenger jumped.  

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April 14, 2015 Update: The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for the passenger. The Coast Guard has deployed: 

  • MH-65 Dolphin helicopters from Air Station Borinquen in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.
  • The Coast Guard Cutter Drummond, a 110-foot patrol boat homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  • A 33-foot Special Purpose Craft Law-Enforcement vessel from Boat Station San Juan and one from Boat Station St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

The U.S. Government should invoice cruise ships that refuse to install automatic man overboard systems. Average search expenses of the U.S. can easily exceed $500,000 and reach $1,000,000. These expenses would be largely unnecessary if the cruise lines invested money to install new technology needed to keep passenger safe.  

April 16, 2015 Update: A newspaper in Ireland reports that "since the search began early Monday morning, Coast Guard rescue crews conducted 12 air and surface searches covering an area of approximate 1,265 square nautical miles, an area approximately one third the size of Puerto Rico." A Coast Guard representative says "the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of this passenger remain unclear." There is no confirmation that the passenger jumped. as originally claimed by the ship.    

Photo Credit: Croiseires de France

Mexico Travel Warning

If you are cruising to Mexico, be sure to read the Mexico Travel Warning issued yesterday by the U.S. State Department. 

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens about the risk of traveling to certain places in Mexico due to threats to safety and security posed by organized criminal groups in the country.

"Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime that are reported in the border region or in areas along major drugs trafficking routes."

"Crime and violence are serious problems and can occur anywhere, and U.S. citizens have fallen victim to criminal activity, including homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking, and highway robbery. While many of those killed in organized crime-related violence have themselves been involved in criminal activity, innocent persons have also been killed. The number of U.S. citizens reported to the Department Acapulco Mexicoof State as murdered in Mexico was 81 in 2013 and 100 in 2014."

The cruise ports seem largely unaffected by violent crime and there are no specific warnings. However, in Acapulco, the State Department recommends not going to areas further than just "two blocks inland of the Costera Miguel Aleman Boulevard, which parallels the popular beach areas."

The state of Guerrero (where Acapulco is located) was the "most violent state in Mexico in 2013, with 2,087 homicides and 207 reported cases of kidnapping. Self-defense groups operate independently of the government in many areas of Guerrero. Armed members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and, although not considered hostile to foreigners or tourists, are suspicious of outsiders and should be considered volatile and unpredictable."

Last year I recommended avoiding cruising to Acapulco.

Photo Credit: N. Parish Flannery. Instagram: @nathanielparishForbes via Forbes.

Palma Police Arrest 2 Crew Members After Crime Spree Ashore

Palma MjorcaA reader of Cruise Law News sent me this story about two young Italian crew member, ages 19 and 21, who seem to have gone on a crime spree while their cruise ship was in port in Palma, Majorca.

It turns out that while in port, the two men were caught on a security camera stealing a purse, a credit card and a computer (if I have the translation right). 

The incident occurred last Friday, April 10th. 

No word on the name of the cruise line or cruise ship.

April 13, 2015 Update: The Mallorca Magazin seems to suggest that the crew members came from a Costa cruise ship and published the photo below. However, a reliable source says that the Sinfonia (MSC Cruises) was the only cruise ship in port at that date/time.  

Photo Credit: Below - Symbolfoto via Mallorca Magazin

Costa Cruise Ship Palma

GI Outbreak on the Celebrity Infinity

Celebrity InfinityThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that at least 95 passengers and 5 crew members have been sickened with a gastrointestinal illness (GI) while aboard the Celebrity Infinity.

The Infinity is on a two week cruise that started on March 29th and will end on April 13th in San Diego, CA.

We have received emails from sick passengers on the ship.

The CDC hasn't figured out whether the outbreak is due to norovirus yet. 

The CDC will send two employees (an environmental health officer and epidemiologist) to the cruise ship when it reaches San Diego April 13th.

The Infinity suffered through a norovirus in 2013

This is the fourth GI outbreak on a cruise ship calling on a U.S. port which has been reported to the CDC this year. The last one involved NCL's Norwegian Pearl.

April 13 2015 Update: A passenger contacted me today saying that there was an outbreak the cruise before which sailed from South America and returned to Ft. Lauderdale at the end of March. She said that her husband became ill with noro-like symptoms and the ship had been fumigated during the cruise.   

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Photo Credit: WikiCopter

Canadian Couple Attacked Sailing to Roatan

A retired couple from Canada, together with a captain, sailing from mainland Honduras to Roatan were reportedly attacked by four men armed with guns and knives who boarded the boat, threatened them with death and stole their money.

The article in CBC News quotes the Canadian woman saying "they actually had me, pulling my hair and a knife on my throat, demanding more money from the captain."

The menacing men then disabled the boat and tore out the engine wiring, and left with gasoline and the Roatan Sailing Attackcouple's radio and drinking water, stranding them in the jungle.

This is not the first time that Canadians sailing in Honduran waters have been attacked. A Canadian woman and her father sailing from the Bay Islands were attacked in their sailboat in 2010. Armed men killed the woman's father (photo below) in front of her before she chased them off with a flare gun. 

The U.S. and Canadian expatriates in Roatan suppress news of these violent incidents out of fear that they will scare off tourists and retirees. Travel writers skip these type of stories and describe Roatan as a "paradise."  These kind of writers and tongue-tied Roatan residents are doing a disservice to people thinking of visiting or retiring in Roatan.  

The news article quotes the Canadian foreign affairs spokesman saying: "Canadians travelling to Honduras should be aware that serious crime — including armed robbery, kidnapping, carjacking, home invasion and sexual assault — is common, and armed attacks on marine vessels have been reported." 

A Canadian tourist was shot in the head and killed for his iPhone in October 2012. You can watch a video at this link of a travel agent saying that his advice to travelers thinking of going to Honduras: "Don't."

We were the first to report on a NCL crew member also shot in the head and killed for his iPhone one year ago. 

Canada has substantial warnings about crime in Honduras and has specific warnings about Roatan and the Bay Islands:

"Exercise a high degree of caution throughout Honduras, which has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Drug trafficking, transnational organized crime and the presence of street gangs pose significant security concerns and contribute to the high rate of crime. Apprehension and conviction rates of criminals remain low. A large percentage of the population is armed. Guns and weapons such as machetes and knives are frequently used in robberies. If you are threatened by robbers, do not resist; injuries and deaths have occurred when victims have resisted.

Serious crime—including armed robbery, kidnapping, carjacking, home invasion and sexual assault—is common, and armed attacks on marine vessels have been reported. Although most criminals do not target tourists, some have been victims of crime in major cities and in areas frequented by tourists, especially at night. Exercise increased vigilance in the departments along the Atlantic coast, along the border with Guatemala and in the eastern departments of Gracias a Dios, Olancho and Colón, and in rural areas north of Nacaome, Valle, and north of Choluteca, Choluteca. Exercise increased caution while in the cities of San Pedro Sula (including in vehicles leaving the airport), the Bay Islands (comprising Roatán, Útila and Guanaja), Trujillo and Tegucigalpa.

In Roatán, robbers have targeted homes and long-term leased residences. Since 2009, three Canadian citizens have been murdered in the Bay Islands. Travellers visiting the Bay Islands should exercise Canadian Killed in Honduras Watersparticular caution around uninhabited coastal areas and avoid walking on isolated beaches, especially at night. Foreigners have been assaulted on beaches in the Bay Islands and along the Atlantic Coast.

Travellers have been followed and assaulted. Use discretion when discussing your travel plans in public. Be cautious when dealing with strangers or recent acquaintances and be extremely careful when accepting rides or invitations. Remain aware of your surroundings at all times, especially after dark and when travelling alone.

Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as they may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.

In resort areas, stay on supervised beaches and do not walk in isolated or unpopulated areas. Hitchhiking is strongly discouraged everywhere in the country. Campers should always stay in well-lit campgrounds that have security patrols. Whenever possible, walk in a group, as there have been reports of attacks on tourists walking alone."

Does this sound like paradise to you?

 

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Photo Credit: Loretta Reinholdt and Andy Wasinger via Calgary Herald; Ambergris Caye 

How Will Miami-Based Cruise Lines Deal With Chinese Sit-Ins?

Around 400 Chinese passengers refused to disembark the Henna cruise ship, China's first domestically operated luxury liner, for nearly eight hours this week after a cruise to Japan was delayed by fog, according to a newspaper report

The newspaper says that the Chinese tourists refused to leave the cruise ship from 8 AM until 5 PM on Monday before they reached an agreement with the cruise line regarding compensation. Their delay caused another substantial delay to passengers waiting to board for the next cruise.

A year ago I wrote about another group of Chinese passengers aboard the the Costa Victoria who Chinese Cruise Protestengaged in another organized protest.

The cruise ship could not enter a port in Vietnam because a sunken ship blocked the harbor.This resulted in a shore excursion to Halong Bay being canceled. The travel agency offered the 1,000 or so passengers a refund of around $40 each and the cruise line offered them $50 each. Over 100 passengers demanded a refund of up to 70% of their cruise fares. They refused to leave the ship and protested loudly and organized a sit-in.

I can't place my finger on it but there must be a cultural issue explaining the mass protests over what appear to be just a minor inconvenience. 

Most cruise passengers around the world can't wait to get off the cruise ship after they have had a really bad experience. Or if they encounter fog or some other unavoidable and uncontrollable delay, they just shrug it off.

I wonder how Carnival and Royal Caribbean will deal with a boatload of angry Chinese passengers sick with a massive norovirus outbreak? 

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

Photo Credit: South China Morning Post

Will NCL Drop Its "Cruise Like a Norwegian" Slogan?

Adweek reports that Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is searching for a new advertising agency. The Martin Agency has handled NCL's "creative and media business" since 2011.

NCL reportedly spent $33 million in 2014, down from $45 million in 2013. 

Adweek says that NCL's plans to change its advertising agency "comes amid a search by competitor Royal Caribbean as the cruise industry grapples with image problems resulting from high-profile accidents and nasty outbreaks of norovirus." 

Norwegian continues to advertise by using the incomprehensible "Cruise Like a Norwegian" campaign its Stereotypical Norwegianprior agency unveiled four years ago.

What comes to mind when you think of the stereotypical tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed. lutefisk-and-lefse-eating Norwegian? When I think of Norway, I think of cross-country skiing, muddy boots, and sweater-wearing gløgg-drinking beautiful women and handsome men of Viking descent (perhaps I'm totally lacking in sophistication). 

When I first heard the "Cruise Like a Norwegian" slogan, I thought huh?

I certainly didn't think of cruising to the Caribbean. (Maybe a fjord or two). 

NCL needs to kill the concept, like Royal Caribbean's did with its ill-conceived "Nation of Why Not?" marketing disaster.

I predict that NCL's new agency will dump the "Cruise Like a Norwegian" slogan. Check back later this year. 

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Is the Cruise Industry Taking Terrorism Seriously? 92% Say No

National Geographical's ombudsman Christopher Elliott just published the article which I wrote for Yahoo Travel tilted Is Cruising Safe? A Chilling Look at an Industry Under Siege.

Elliott's article is titled Terrorists Target Cruise Ships — Here’s What You Need to Know Now.

He asks this question at the end of the article:

Costa FascinosaIs the cruise industry taking terrorism seriously?

The reader then selects one of two possible answers:

No, it needs to do more  ___

Yes, it's doing enough to protect passengers  ___

So far, 92% of those responding answered No, with only 8%.saying Yes.

The poll confirms what I suspected about the cruise industry - that is is perceived by the public as pushing itineraries in the Middle East which are potentially dangerous with little concerned about the safety of the passengers. 

Costa and MSC Cruises did not issue a single warning to their passengers before unloading them in Tunis. Both cruise lines were pushing excursions in Tunisia. Neither cruise line arranged for security for the buses targeted by the terrorists.  The cruise excursion buses unloaded the passengers into a trap because of the negligence of the cruise lines. 

Will the cruise industry wake up and protect their guests?  It seems that the public thinks that the cruise lines can do a lot more. 

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Photo Credit: Rene Grob via Wikimedia Creative Commons 3.0

"Rats & Roaches:" Cruise Lines Neglect Sick Crew Members

Cruise lines owe their crew members the absolute legal duty of providing medical treatment when the crew become sick or injured on the company's cruise ships.

Pursuant to the "maintenance and cure" doctrine, the cruise line is required to provide "maintenance" (room and board) and "care" (medical care and treatment) to the point that the crew member reaches his or her "maximum medical improvement." 

This ancient legal doctrine of protecting seafarers can be traced back to the Medieval Sea Codes. It was introduced into United States Maritime Law by the Supreme Court in 1823. Under the doctrine, Hotel Food Greasy Salty Disgustingthe cruise lines has an affirmative obligation of taking care of their injured employees in a manner which is no different than the natural responsibility of a mother or father to a child, the courts have analogized. 

But putting pleasant-sounding legal theories aside, in reality the practice of the cruise lines today is quite different. When a crew member hires a lawyer, the cruise lines put the sick crew member in dirty, low-rent hotels where they feed them disgusting food. Unfortunately, the Miami-based cruise lines act like resentful uncaring parents who neglect their responsibilities.

Royal Caribbean: When I first began representing crew members in the 1990's, Royal Caribbean used to house their injured crew members in a hotel close to South Miami Hospital. It was a nice, safe hotel with good food where crew members could go to and from the hospital with little inconvenience. But as soon as the crew member hired a lawyer, the cruise line would retaliate against their sick employee. Royal Caribbean would immediately kick the crew member out of the hotel and send them to a dump-of-a-hotel near I-95 and 163rd Street.  The area was known as a hang-out for drug dealers and prostitutes. The hookers would use the dirty hotel rooms on an hourly basis. It was a dangerous and demoralizing location for ill crew members to try and recuperate.  

More recently, Royal Caribbean uses a hotel in Miami hear 8th Street. Here are some of the descriptions on Trip Advisor:

"This hotel is absolutely horrible! Do not stay here. Management is awful. Toilet overflows constantly and cleaning crew does not help. . . Stay away from this hotel. Don't even spend a $1 on this hotel."

"Nothing good about this place . . . the room has no air conditioner or working fan. The bathroom was disgusting and had a terrible odor coming from the sink. Next thing, it was 11 pm and there were people just screaming for ages in the hallways . . .  Don't stay here!!!

Crew members at this hotel complain regularly about roaches, no hot water, inedible greasy salty food (photo above by crew member), extra charges for bottled water, malfunctioning televisions, and unsanitary bathrooms.   

Carnival:  We receive the same type of complaints from crew members on sick leave in the hotels which Carnival selects especially for its injured crew members who are represented by lawyers. It's a disgraceful practice. One crew member undergoing back surgery sent us a video below of a rat that lives under the buffet in the crew member dining room. 

We complained to Carnival, but it could care less. 

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HAL Jumps the Gun (Again), Calls Deaths a "Murder-Suicide"

Yesterday a cabin attendant discovered two cruise passengers dead in their cabin on the Holland America Line (HAL) Ryndam.

The proper  procedure for the cruise line to follow is for the crew member(s) to immediately leave the cabin, lock the door and call security who, in turn, will secure the cabin and assign a security guard to safeguard the crime scene until the FBI team boards the ship. 

The cause of death of the couple cannot possibly be determined until the FBI has conducted its forensic work, the bodies have been removed from the cruise ship, and a medical examiner has concluded a thorough examination of the bodies with the assistance of other forensic experts, pathologists and toxicologists. This is a time consuming process (we are still Ryndam Murder Cruise Ship WKBNawaiting medical examiner reports from cruise deaths last summer).

There's no information regarding how, why or when the deaths occurred, but HAL quickly announced that the case "appears to be a murder-suicide." The cruise line didn't bother to wait for a medical examiner's report or for the experts at the FBI to perform their work. 

So how can a cruise line make an instantaneous determination of the cause of two dead people in a cabin? It can't, certainly not without violating protocols and entering the cabin and conducting a quick amateurish attempt at acting like a crime scene investigator where it is likely to accomplish little other than spoliating the evidence.  

HAL announced to reporters that it was an apparent "murder-suicide" strictly as part of its PR strategy. That's what it wanted the press to report.  There are now literally hundreds of newspapers using this phrase in their reports of the cause of the cruise ship deaths. Many newspapers and news sources, including the Associated Press, have dropped the word "apparent" and said that the husband murdered his wife and then committed suicide based on HAL's rush to judgment. 

HAL's PR people wanted to dispel any notion that a crew member may have been involved in the couple's death. HAL is still reeling from the bad publicity created when a crew member violently beat, raped and tried to throw a woman off her balcony on the Nieuw Amsterdam last year.

This is not the first time HAL has pulled such a stunt.

Washington resident Amber Malkuch was 45 years old when she disappeared from the HAL Zaandam in 2009 while sailing to Alaska. But before the Alaskan State Troopers concluded their investigation, a member of HAL's PHolland America Line Cruise DeathR department and CLIA's PR team, Sally Andrews, announced to the media that it appears that Amber took her own life. The "suicide" conclusion was reported on major news stations. 

This surprised not only Amber’s friends and family, but it dumbfounded the Alaskan State Troopers who had yet to review photographs and video, conduct interviews or analyze toxicology reports. The Anchorage Daily News reported "Troopers Miffed at Cruise Line’s Rush to Judgment." The Seattle Post Intelligencer quoted a representative of the Alaskan State Troopers saying: 

We’re the people actually looking into the exact cause of death . . . We’re the ones doing the interviews and looking at the evidence . . . And if we haven’t been able to make a determination, how can the cruise line who isn’t trained?"

Investigators never concluded that Amber took her own life. Her family continues to search for answers. Meanwhile you can still read the headline on FOX News: Cruise Passenger Goes Overboard in Apparent Suicide, six years later.

Does Holland America Line care about what the evidence in death cases reveals? In the world of cruise line PR (perception vs. reality), what matters most to the cruise lines seems to be the public’s perception that cruise ships are safe rather than the reality that perhaps they are not.

Determining the cause of cruise ship deaths is the role of experts - the FBI, medical examiners, and other qualified forensic specialists - not the cruise lines' PR departments.

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Photo Credit: WKBN 

Kids, Cruise Ship Swimming Pools & Safety: Where are the Lifeguards?

NBC's Today show aired a special program this morning titled Why do some cruise ships lack lifeguards to watch children?  

In my opinion, the answer is simple: cruise lines are cutting corners to increase profits. Plus, cruise lines face no legal consequence if the child dies. The cruise industry doesn't face financial accountability because a child's life has no financial worth under the Death on the High Seas Act.

Lots of cruise fans like to assign 100% fault on the parents. However, that won't prevent children from drowning in unattended cruise ship pools in the future. Cruise lines have a legal obligation to exercise reasonable care to keep kids safe. Not hiring a lifeguard is reckless.  A warning sign by itself won't work. Kids don't pay attention to signs. Some kids can't even read. Small children can't comprehend the risks involved, especially if they can't swim.  

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) says that it attempts to manage pool safety for kids only by using signs. It's a flawed policy that will ensure that children drown while on cruise vacations.

       

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Two Passengers Found Dead on HAL's Ryndam

News sources are reporting that a couple was found dead today aboard a Holland America Line (HAL) cruise ship that docked in Puerto Rico.

The local police said that the man and woman were sailing on the Ryndam and were in their 50's and were from Cleveland, Ohio.

According to the news reports, no one is disclosing how, when or why the two people were killed.

HAL RyndamA police officer said that blood was found in a cabin but it was unclear how the couple died. He said that "We don't know yet whether an object was used or what the motive was."

He said the ship's crew found the bodies when they checked on the couple after not seeing them for a while.

The FBI has taken over the investigation.

The Ryndam departed Tampa, Florida, on Sunday for a 2 week cruise in the Caribbean. The cruise ship ported in Key West on Monday and sailed at sea for 2 days before docking in San Juan today.

The AP story (based on the cruise line's PR department) speculates that the deaths may have involved a "murder-suicide' but there is no information released so far which supports that conclusion. 

The FBI is handling the investigation at this point. The FBI generally does a terrible job investigating crimes on cruise ships. They often appear more interested in protecting the cruise lines' reputation.

April 3 2015 UpdateHAL Jumps the Gun (Again), Calls Deaths a "Murder-Suicide"

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Photo Credit: Roger Wollstadt via Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0

Passenger Dies in Queen Elizabeth Tender Mishap

The Telegraph newspaper in the U.K. and Travel Pulse report that a cruise passenger on Cunard Line's Queen Elizabeth died while attempting to board the cruise ship from a tender.

The accident occurred while the cruise ship was in the port city of Sihanoukville in Cambodia. 

There are no details of the accident in either publication. 

The Telegraph contains the cruise line's official statement: "We can confirm that a passenger died  Queen Elizabethearlier today following an accident whilst boarding Queen Elizabeth from a tender. Two of our crew members reacted very quickly and jumped in to rescue her. She was then taken to the medical centre but despite our very best efforts, she died."

It is possible that the passenger was being assisted from the tender to the cruise ship and the two vessels came apart due to rough weather and the passenger fell into the water, a situation we see from time to time. There could also have been a ramp or other device providing a means to transfer the passenger from the tender to the cruise ship which broke or malfunctioned.

In contrast to the duty of "reasonable care" or ordinary care typically owed by the cruise operator to the passenger, a cruise line has a duty of "high care" when a vessel transfer is taking place. 

 

Photo Credit: 663highland via Wikipedia / Creative commons 3.0

Breaking News: Carnival Incorporates in the U.S. & Subjects Itself to U.S. Tax, Labor, Wage, Safety & Environmental Regulations

Micky ArisonIn an exclusive story, Cruise Law News has learned that cruise industry giant Carnival Corporation plans to incorporate its business in the United States (in Florida). Carnival intends to announce this historic development tomorrow, April 2nd, at Carnival's headquarters in Miami. 

Since 1972, Carnival has incorporated its business and registered its cruise ships in the country of Panama. For over 40 years, Carnival cruise ships have flown the flag of Panama in order to avoid the onerous safety regulations, excessive labor laws, unreasonable environmental laws, and high taxes of the United States of America. 

Cruise Law News learned of this historic event when high-profile maritime lawyer Jim Walker bumped into Carnival's Chairman Micky Arison at court side last night when Arison's basketball team, the Miami Heat, lost to the San Antonio Spurs.  Maritime ace lawyer Walker asked Arison: "Micky, if Dwayne Wade earns several hundreds of million dollars from Carnival and pays tens of millions of dollars in U.S. taxes, don't you think it is fair that Carnival - which earns over 16 billion dollars a year in cruise ticket sales - pays its fair share of U.S. taxes?"

Perhaps it was the euphoria of Carnival repealing the automatic man overboard safety law, but Micky was ecstatic. "Yes, let's do it!" he said handing maritime lawyer Walker a half-eaten hot dog and three-quarters of a warm Bud Light which a Miami cheerleader handed Micky in the first quarter of the previous game a few days earlier.

While quickly consuming the beer and hot dog in the excitement of the moment, cruise lawyer Walker happened to have Florida articles of incorporation which he handed to Micky to sign as well as U.S. flags to fly on the Carnival fleet of cruise ships. 

Arison has been under intense pressure lately following fires, collisions, sinkings, poop-cruises, pirate-Carnival Corporationattacks, norovirus outbreaks and a Jon Secada concert which have ruined the last 100 Carnival cruises. Senator Jay Rockefeller recently called Arison a "scallywag" on national TV. Rockefeller challenged Arison to pay his fair share of Carnival CorporationU.S. taxes on the billion-dollar bounty his foreign-flagged cruise ships collect from the U.S. taxpaying citizens on the high seas.

Micky commented that he was embarrassed that his father Ted, the founder of Carnival Cruise Lines 40 years ago, denounced his U.S. citizenship in order to avoid paying some 10 billion dollars in U.S. taxes.

"I want to make certain that Carnival pays one hundred percent of our U.S. tax obligations (estimated to be over $5,000,000,000 a year) plus be subjected to the most rigorous U.S. safety, wage,and labor laws and the most stringent U.S. environmental regulations, Micky announced over the arena's PA system: "It's time that poor, over-worked crew members from India and Nicaragua who earn $500 working 360 hours a month be entitled to the full benefit of U.S. employment laws, a 401(k) retirement fund, severance pay, and a college fund for their children!"

While appreciative of Arison's change of heart, sources say Walker was miffed that Arison demanded that he pay $6 for the remains of the hot dog and $7.50 for the rest of the Bud Light.

 

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Mafia Drugs Hidden Aboard Doomed Costa Concordia

Costa Concordia The Independent reports that the Costa Concordia was carrying a "huge shipment of Mafia-owned cocaine" when it departed on its final voyage, according to investigators. 

The dramatic story involves tape recordings of gang member communications which revealed that a Calabrian crime syndicate called Ndrangheta had hidden cocaine hidden aboard the Concordia, when it capsized in January 2012, as part of the organization's vast cocaine-trafficking enterprise. Police investigators say that the drugs were likely stowed aboard the cruise ship by crew members.

Shortly after the January 2012 deadly accident involving the Concordia, an analysis of strands of Schettino’s hair tested positive for cocaine. Costa issued a statement:: "On board our ships there are strict safety and surveillance measures concerning drugs possession . . . It is not allowed in any way to bring on board, possess, trade or use narcotics, drugs or psychotropic drugs."

Just two days ago, Crew-Center reported that three people were arrested with over 16 kilos of cocaine while disembarking the Costa Pacifica in Malaga following a Transatlantic cruise from South America.

In addition to vessels operated by Costa Cruises, the police investigation says that the drug cartel also transported drugs on cruise ships "owned by MSC and Norwegian Cruise Lines, which travel between Europe, North America and the Caribbean."

Last week, I wrote about a major drug bust (15 kilos) aboard the Splendor of the Seas in Buenos Aires. The Royal Caribbean cruise ship was heading to Brazil and then Europe. 

A couple of days later, 5 men were caught trying to smuggle 26 kilos aboard the MSC Magnifica in São Paulo.  

We have written about many hundreds of kilos of cocaine seized during drug busts on cruise ship over the years.

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Photo Credit: ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty 

Passenger Medevaced from Diamond Princess

Diamond PrincessA cruise ship passenger suffering from an undisclosed medical condition has been medevaced from a Princess cruise ship sailing to Sydney. 

The ABC News network in Australia reports that a Westpac rescue helicopter was dispatched to the Diamond Princess after a passenger became ill.

A doctor, paramedic and rescue crewman were first winched down from the helicopter to the cruise ship to treat the passenger. The sick passenger was then winched up into the helicopter and flown to a hospital in Newcastle.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Barrylb creative commons 3.0

Another Critical Crime Warning for Nassau, Bahamas

The U.S. State Department has issued a critical crime warning for Nassau, Bahamas today. The warning is titled Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Nassau (Bahamas), Nassau Violent Crime.

The warning states that U.S. citizens residing in and traveling to the Bahamas to be aware of their surroundings and remain on heightened alert to avoid being a victim of crime. The warning states that armed robbery remains a major criminal threat facing U.S. citizens with the crime threat on New Providence listed as “critical.”

The last warning from the State Department or the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas was just last month when the State Department issued the 2015 Bahamas Crime Report which revealed that armed Nassau Bahamas Murderrobbery and sexual assaults were increasing. 

The most recent warning focused on violent incidents on March 22nd and 23rd which occurred in areas heavily frequented by U.S. citizen visitors and residents. One victim was was stabbed and killed and the other man was critically wounded and robbed. 

We picked Nassau as the most dangerous cruise destination in the world last year.

In 2014, Bahamas was the subject of four critical crime warnings to U.S. citizens (one from the U.S. State Department and three from the U.S. Embassy) and one warning from Canada. With the 2 warnings this year, that's a total of 7 warnings. I have never heard any country being the recipient of seven crime warnings in just 15 months. The last U.S. warning in 2014 mentioned that U.S. tourists have been raped and robbed at gunpoint, and there have been three reported sexual assaults on U.S. citizens, including minors, by jet ski operators on Paradise Island.

On the same day as this latest crime warning was issued, 59-year-old Phillip Vasyl (photo above), a wealthy Australian living in New Providence, was found dead with multiple stab wounds in his luxury homes in an exclusive gated community in Old Fort Bay in the Bahamas. Police said the victim’s wife is a suspect. 

The murder sounds similar to the murder of Egdar Dart, a British citizen visiting his mother at her house in the Bahamas, when robbers broke into the home armed with a gun and a machete. That crime remains unsolved. 

The Nassau Guardian reports that there are 34 murders so far this year, up 35% from this time last year which was a particularly deadly period of time in the Bahamas. There were 23 murders last year.

The homicide rate for the Bahamas is over 30 per 100,000. In the U.S. the homicide rate is only 4.5 per 100,000. Most tourists and cruise passengers to Nassau don't understand this.

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Photo Credit: Tribune 

International Cruise Victims (ICV) Expands in Europe

The International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization just announced that it is expanding in Europe.

The ICV is a grass root non-profit organization operated by victims of crimes and families who have lost loved ones at sea. The ICV and the families have been successful in the scheduling of 8 Congressional hearing in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives regarding issues of cruise ship crime, fires, sinkings, and man overboard situations 

Here is the press release:    

"To better serve victims and friends in Europe, International Cruise Victims maintains a separate organization known as International Cruise Victims – UK. During the past several months this organization has gained more and more press and notoriety.

ICV-UK is headed by Captain Michael Lloyd (photo right). He is a well-known authority in the Maritime Captain Michael LloydIndustry, having written several books and major papers aimed at improving cruise industry safety standards. He serves on the Executive Committee of ICV and is Executive Vice President of ICV-UK.

His major presentations include a recent one on March 2nd given to high level maritime executives at the Wellington in London on the need for proper safety issues concerning THE ABANDONMENT OF LARGE PASSENGER VESSELS.  His most recent presentation is titled THE INVESTIGATION OF INCIDENTS AND CRIME AT SEA. In addition, he has authored major papers on the need to improve safety standards for victims on the High Seas.

ICV is also pleased to announce that Captain Colin Smith will be joining our organization as Vice President with ICV-UK and working with Captain Lloyd to support our efforts in the European arena. Colin, who has a Master’s degree in Human Rights at sea brings to ICV an additional professional background of having served in various positions in the shipping industry.

Colin will be working with and supporting victims as well as assisting Michael with efforts to create laws which would protect passengers and improve cruise industry safety standards. ICV, an Associate member of Victim Support – Europe, now has the talent and resources to move forward in the EU in support of victims and policies to improve the safety standards of the cruise line industry.

Ken Carver – Chairman; Telephone 602-852-5896

Jamie Barnett – President; Telephone 818-355-6462

Why Haven't Costa and MSC Fired Their Security Chiefs?

Security failed the tourists from the Costa and MSC cruise ships visiting Tunisia last week. The result: 17 dead cruise passengers and two dozen injured.

Tunisia acknowledges it. The risk of jihadists attacking tourists was readily foreseeable. Security analysts and security forces blew it.

In response to this failure, Tunisia fired the country's leading security experts as well as high ranking police officers.

Tunis Terror Attack CruiseTwo newspapers covered the firings.

Al Jazeera  published Six Tunisia Police Chiefs Dismissed Over Museum Attack. The article explains that Tunisia's prime minister Habas Essid fired six police commanders, including those in charge of tourist security and intelligence teams. In addition, a police officer working at the museum was arrested for abandoning his post during the attack. Four other armed police officers "were having coffees and a snack" when terrorists struck the museum. 

The Daily News published Tunisia Fires 5 Top Security Officials in Bardo Museum Attack Backlash. The article pointed out that the ousted officials include the director of Tunisia’s tourist police and the police chief for the neighborhood around the Bardo Museum. The decision was reportedly made after the prime minister visited the neighborhood of the attack and observed security problems. Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi reportedly also criticized security failures around last week’s attack.

But what about the security chief at Costa and MSC, including ship security officers and fleet-wide security directors? Why weren't they fired? They are just as responsible for the security failure. The cruise lines picked the port and sailed their guests into danger without any security protection or warnings. The cruise industry is not only refusing to take any responsibility for the massacre but the spokesperson for the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) is boasting that "cruise ships are a safe and secure place for our guests in the rare event of a shore side incident."

MSC Cruises USA CEO Rick Sasso told Travel Pulse "There was no hint of terrorism or uncertainty in Tunisia before the attack . . . There are a zillion ports around the world, and we follow all of them. . . There was nothing going on there that indicated this should've been a concern."

I am amazed how clueless this cruise executive sounds. Tunisian soldiers were engaged in ongoing battles against Al Qaeda, there were prior suicides bombers which targeted hotels and museum attacks which targeted tourists. The UK issued a prior warning of a terrorist attack on tourist sites and the US repeatedly urged caution. ISIS was recruiting young men from mosques in Tunis to be trained and radicalized in Libya.  And MSC sails in like everything is fine.   

Tunisia should be commended for taking responsibility and cleaning house.

It's a shame that the PR department at CLIA and the CEO of MSC are engaged in their usual irresponsible shenanigans and gobbledygook.  

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Photo Credit: AFP/Getty via DailyMail

How the Next Jihadist Terror Attack Against Cruise Passengers Will Happen

USS Cole AttackFor the past couple of years I've been troubled by the increasing violence in North Africa and the Middle East and the unprecedented nature of the cruelty of jihadist terrorists who have beheaded and burned "infidels" alive. I have worried about various scenarios where cruise passengers are at risk of attack.

We already know that al Qaeda has planned to seize cruise ships and execute passengers.

 Our readers have sent us various scenarios of how cruise passengers are at risk on the high seas and in ports of call. 

A terrorist fires a RPG into a cruise ship: Libya is awash in weapons after Colonel Muammar Gadaffi was killed and lost control of the country. Automatic weapons, rocket propelled grenades (RPG's), mortars, bazookas, and anti-aircraft guns have fallen into the hands of violent religious fanatics. The two Tunisian terrorist killed during the attack on Costa and MSC cruise passengers were trained in Libya. ISIS and Al Qaeda, of course, have access to weapons, including RPG's, throughout the Middle East.

Think it's far fetched? Think again. Al Qaeda has already used this weapon to attack tankers in the Middle East. In the video below, you can see the terrorists fire their weapons, yell Allah Akbar ("God is Great") and run off into the bushes. Cruise ships are easy targets, over three football fields long and 15 stories high, moving at only a few knots an hours while entering and leaving ports. A RPG would slice though a the aluminum hull like butter and cause fire, damage, injuries and death. They're sitting ducks without military escorts. 

A USS Cole-style kamikaze attack on a cruise ship:  Remember the U.S.S. Cole? 17 service men USS Cole Attackand women were murdered when suicide bombers rammed their speed boat loaded with explosives into the U.S. navy ship. Such an attack during a fueling operation while a fuel barge is alongside a cruise ship would result in a tremendous explosion with many hundreds of deaths.

Blowing up a tour excursion bus:  There have been many tour buses filled with tourists which terrorists have attacked over the years. A bus with Korean tourists was exploded in Egypt last year. The saying "safety in numbers" doesn't apply to cruise passengers; its more likely to make you a target when you come off of a cruise ship and board a bus with fifty other passengers. You can see what a terrorist attack on a bus looks like in the video below.

Al Qaeda embeds themselves as crew members or passengers: After 9/11 and the attack on the twin towers, my office received a call from an agitated U.S. crew member (a musician). He was upset that other crew members on a U.S based cruise ship which sailed into Miami were literally cheering while watching televised images of the death and destruction. Some cruise lines boast that their crew come from 60 different countries. This may well be an asset in most circumstances but it underscores the fact that the crew members have loyalties to other countries and other causes than those shared by U.S. Tourist Bus Attackpassengers.

A reader of my recent article for Yahoo Travel titled Is Cruising Safe? A Chilling Look at an Industry Under Siege offered this scenario:

". . . This isn't about the ports and the safety of them. A terrorist could be among you at the buffet, laying by the pool, playing slots, drinking at the bar … they lay in wait. They're completely legitimate looking like one of us. 50 of them could board a ship as a passenger with a clean record. They've been trained in other countries. They've lived in the countries they're in for years and they lay in wait anticipating their marching orders. Then three days into the cruise, they take over the ship and start killing passengers . . . And that's how it'll go down."

The cruise industry needs to wake up. Tunis was preventable. Greater attention to Al Qaeda and ISIS is necessary to avoid a similar if not worse attack on innocent passengers. Dangerous ports need to be avoided. In the past, Princess Cruises used security teams / police to accompany tour bus excursions in Egypt. Maritime security teams are also required in foreign ports of call to address the risk of waterborne attacks. Cruise lines are overflowing with cash. The cruise industry collects around $40 billion a year, pay their crew members peanuts and doesn't pay U.S. taxes. The industry needs to start investing some of those tens of millions of dollars into substantial security to keep their guests safe. 

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Photo Credit: USS Cole diagram - Reuters; bus explosion - AP via Yahoo Travel 

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. 

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

Terrorists Kill Tourists as Costa Fascinosa and MSC Splendida Visit Tunis

Costa FascinosaNewspapers are reporting that several gunmen stormed a popular museum in Tunis, Tunisia today killing 17 tourists, as well as a police officer and Tunisian civilians. Some news accounts report that as many as two dozen people were also injured.

Two cruise ships were in port and had sent thousands of passengers into the city on excursions. CNN says that some of the cruise passengers were at the museum at the time of the attack. The Daily Mail reports that "a Tunisian tourist guide told how he 'stared death in the face' as terrorists opened fire on his clients in the attack which saw people shot as they exited cruise ship buses parked outside the museum."

CBS News says that the terrorists targeted tourist buses when they arrived at the museum. The terrorists, dressed in police uniforms, then opened fire on the tourists before they could reach the museum.   

According to the Italian newspaper, The Local, a Costa cruise ship, the Fascinosa, with 3,161 registered passengers, was docked in Tunis at the time of the attack. Costa issued the following statement:

"On the occasion of today scheduled call some guests on cruise on board our Costa Fascinosa had a tour in the city. All the shore excursions organized by Costa during today stop in Tunis have been Tunis Terror Attackimmediately recalled on board," the company said in a statement.   

CNN says that the MSC Splendida was also in Tunis at the time of the attack.

The Italian newspaper stated that the Bardo museum is visited regularly by tourists, with many disembarking from Mediterranean cruises. 

Commentators believe that the group is affiliated with an Islamic terrorist organization like ISIS. Tunisia is a major recruiting ground for ISIS. 

The siege was the most violent attack on tourists in over a decade.

Mail Online has dramatic photos and video of the attack.

Costa stated on its website that the Costa Fascinosa left the port of Tunis at 1:55 PM. Upon departure, the captain reported that 13 passengers had not returned to the ship

This is a scenario which we have been concerned about. Read our recent article:  Experts: ISIS Poses Terrorist Threat to Cruise Ships in Mediterranean.

March 19 2015 Update: USA Today reports that "MSC Cruises said nine passengers from the Splendida were killed, 12 injured and six unaccounted-for, according to the AP. The Costa Fascinosa said 13 passengers had not returned on board when the ship left the port."

March 20 2015 UpdateUpdate on Terror Attack Against Cruise Tourists in Tunis

March 21 2015Is Cruising Safe? A Chilling Look at an Industry Under Seige - an article I wrote for Yahoo Travel.

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Photo Credit: Bottom AFP

Passenger Overboard from Carnival Triumph

A passenger on the Carnival Triumph appears to have gone overboard last night.  

Another passenger tweeted "Little boy fell overboard on carnival triumph still haven't found him." You can see photographs taken by the passenger here. (Update: This information is incorrect. Carnival states that the missing passenger is a 54 year old man. See below)

The incident allegedly happened when the cruise ship was near Progreso, Mexico. 

Carnival TriumphCarnival Cruise Director John Heald states on his Facebook page that "they are conducting a search and rescue - thoughts with the family at this time."

There is a discussion on a Cruise Critic message board.

According to AIS tracking systems, the Triumph arrived in Progreso in the early afternoon yesterday. It did not leave until around 11:00 P.M. last night, The tracking systems show no Williamson turn or circles indicating that the cruise ship itself was involved in a search. Perhaps the ship deployed rescue craft.

I have requested information from Carnival tonight but have not yet received a response. 

If you have information, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

March 18 2015: I received this statement this morning from Carnival:

"Yesterday evening, a report was received of a potential man overboard on Carnival Triumph which was confirmed through a review of the vessel's camera footage. The missing guest is a 54-year-old male. The ship is presently conducting search and rescue operations in conjunction with Mexican authorities who also have vessels on site at a location off the coast of northern Mexico in the Gulf of Mexico.

Carnival Triumph was on the last leg of a four-day cruise from Galveston, Texas. The ship's arrival into Galveston tomorrow is expected to be delayed until approximately 11 a.m. 

Our foremost care and concern is with the loved ones of our missing guest at this very difficult time. Carnival's CareTeam is providing support to the individual's traveling companions."

Read our recent articles about passenger overboards:

March 9 2015 - Carnival Glory Loses Passenger Overboard - Why No Automatic MOB System?

March 16 2015 - Cruise Industry Refuses to Install Technology to Keep Guests Safe at Sea

 

Man Overboard from Star Cruises MV Super Star Libra

A newspaper in Malaysia is reporting that the body of a man who fell overboard from the Star Cruises MV Super Star Libra was found last night.

The body of Mulianto Raik, age 50, an Indonesian, was found by fishermen in Malaysia waters. 

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency Penang Maritime District 2 took possession of the body and Star Cruises Super Star Libra turned it over to the police for investigation.

Mr. Raik had disappeared from the Super Star Libra on Friday March 13, 2015. A search and rescue operation took place after surveillance film showed that he had fallen from the cruise ship. 

According to cruise expert Professor Ross Klein at least 247 have gone overboard from cruise ship since 2000.

The cruise ship was originally operated by Norwegian Cruise Line from 1988–1997 as the Seaward and from 1997–2005 as the Norwegian Sea. it has operated from 2005–present as the SuperStar Libra. It is flagged in the Bahamas.

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Cprogrammer Creative Commons 2.0

CLIA: What Can You Say When Your Lawyers No Longer Agree With You?

The Miami Herald published an interesting article last week entitled Watch Out for the Fine Print, a well written and researched article by prominent Miami maritime lawyers Robert Peltz and Carol Finklehoffe. It explains how cruise lines strip the rights of U.S. consumers by burying exculpatory fine print in the cruise line tickets. It's a must read for every cruise passenger thinking of taking their family on a cruise vacation.

But the article didn't sit well with the cruise lines. The cruise lines' trade organization, CLIA, fired off a letter to the Herald written by CLIA's vice president of public relations, Michael McGarry. CLIA said the article was unfair because CLIA has "publicly and transparently" proven that the "well-being of passengers and crew always comes first."  You can read the gobbledgook letter here.

The irony is that maritime attorneys Mr. Peltz and Ms. Finklehoffe were, for the longest time, leading lawyers for the cruise lines. Ms. Finklehoffe is the current chair of the Maritime Law Association's Cruise Lines and Passenger Ships Committee. Mr. Peltz is the past chair and a well respected maritime commentator and author.  Both attorneys are now engaged in the representation of cruise passengers. 

Their article contains lots of information the cruise lines prefer that you not know. You can read it here

 

Here's an article I wrote five years ago: Seven Clauses To Be Aware Of In Your Cruise Contract

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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.

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NCL Crew Members Arrested for Smuggling Cocaine from Roatan to Tampa

What's the easiest way to move cocaine from Colombia to the United States? Taking it through the jungle in Honduras and then through Belize or Guatemala to Mexico and then across the border to the U.S.? No, that's too much work. How about just putting it on a U.S. based cruise ship in the Caribbean and sailing the coke to a port in Florida?

That what a handful of crew members working for Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) apparently thought and allegedly did. 

Five NCL crew members on the Norwegian Sun were arrested in Tampa when the cruise NCL Roatan Cruise Cocaine ship returned from Roatan where the crew members picked up the drugs. The Tampa Bay Times identified the crew members as Jason Leon Carmichael (photo right)(age 21), Arkine John (21), Alfred Kernel Ince (24), Teffan Delice (29), and Johnson Cherubin, (30). The Hillsborough County booking records indicate that they work for NCL as utility workers in the Norwegian Sun's galley. 

You can see photos of the other utility cruise ship workers on our Facebook page here.

The Tampa Bay Times said that four of the crew members concealed seven kilograms of cocaine in spandex underwear.  The newspaper also says that the knuckle-headed men made the "mistake of appearing unduly anxious on cell phones Sunday outside a port-side Hooters restaurant, inviting surveillance from Homeland Security Investigations agents."

Later two women arrived to pick up the dope from the cruise line dopes. The women were later apprehended driving on Interstate 75 by the Pasco County Sherrif's office. The women were identified as Simone Natoya Walters (34) and Semarie Gailann Paul (39). 

The crew members reportedly were found with around $50,000 in cash on them and Western Union receipts showing they had wired money to other unidentified persons. 

Cocaine sells on the streets of Florida for around $20,000 to $30,000 a kilo. A cruise ship utility galley member earns around $600 a month.    

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Photo Credit: Hillsborough County Sherrif's Office 

As Predicted, Poop Cruise Lawsuit Poops Out

Carnical Poop CruiseTwo years ago, I wrote about the prospect of suing Carnival for the infamous Triumph "poop cruise" where an engine room fire knocked out the propulsion to the cruise ship and left the passengers and crew members with no air conditioning, over-flowing toilets, and other disgusting conditions. 

"Unless you have a serious physical injury or physical illness, families on the disabled cruise ship face an uphill climb proceeding with a lawsuit against Carnival for the inconvenience and unpleasant circumstances they suffered last week," I said in an article Carnival Triumph Cruise From Hell: Here Come the Lawsuits!

You can hear my prediction two years ago that any lawsuits against Carnival will be unsuccessful. Listen to my radio interview with WGN (Chicago) Radio.

Well, the first verdicts are in. A Florida federal judge recently awarded a combined $118,500 in damages to 27 Carnival Cruise Line passengers from Texas who sailed on the ill-fated cruise ship from Galveston. U.S. District Judge Donald Graham (a conservative Bush appointee) zipped 6 of the passengers who will now be faced with Carnival's motions to tax costs against them.

Three passengers received $15,000 each and the remaining 24 passengers who did obtain compensation received varying amounts averaging less than $3,000 each. After Carnival Poop Cruisededucting attorney fees and costs, and considering the passengers had to come to Miami for trial and incur lodging and travel expenses, they're lucky if they didn't lose money. There were 10 lawyers from Texas listed for the plaintiffs.

Although a financial disaster for the passengers' attorneys, the case did reveal that Carnival knew that there were dangerous problems on the cruise ship due to its shoddy maintenance. The Triumph was essentially a ticking time bomb ready to catch on fire, Court ordered Carnival records demonstrated

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Photo Credit: CNN

Carnival Glory Loses Passenger Overboard - Why No Automatic MOB System?

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein reports that a cruise passenger has gone overboard from the Carnival Glory. According to his CruiseJunkie website:

"From a reader: RE: Carnival Glory, departing Miami, Florida 2015-03-07 16:00. Sometime in the early morning hours of 2015-03-08, en route to Half Moon Cay, Bahamas the passenger went overboard. Carnival verified passenger was onboard and reviewed ships security tapes (according to passenger). Passenger indicates they DID NOT make port call at Half Moon Cay. Carnival GloryThey continued to do 'circles' along with another Carnival ship, looking for passenger."

As I have said many times, it's a shame that Carnival did not equip its cruise ships with the latest automatic man overboard system which can easily detect people going overboard and send a signal to the bridge in order to initiate immediate search and rescue operations. 

A Carnival brand, Holland America Line, touts that it is using thermal-activated MOB systems. See HAL Testing First-Ever Thermal Imaging Man Overboard System? 

I was recently intrigued to see a company called MARSS Mobtronic that is advertising a proven high-technology MOB system with a high probability rate. You can see an article discussing the technology here. 

Most cruise line are resisting compliance with the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security System's (CVSSA) requirement for an automatic MOB, claiming that man overboard technology is not reliable. That's patently a false and misleading argument. The technology clearly exists but the cruise industry simply does not wish to spend the money necessary to save lives. 

Carnival's blogging Cruise Director John Heald confirms the man overboard, a 21 year old man, stating: ". . . . the ship is currently en route to the location where the individual was seen on the camera footage and will commence search and rescue operations upon arrival."  

It should be embarrassing for Carnival to have such antiquated old school technology where an officer has to search through the surveillance camera footage after-the-fact to find evidence of a person going overboard and then turns the ship around after it sailed for one or two hundred miles. 

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March 10 2015 Update: The missing passenger is reportedly from Virginia Tech.

March 11 2015 Update: The young man's name, Cameron Smook, has been released.  U.K.'s Daily Mail has published an article which can be reviewed here.  

March 12 2015 Update: Statement by Senator Richard Blmenthal:

BLUMENTHAL STATEMENT ON END OF SEARCH FOR STUDENT WHO FELL OVERBOARD CRUISE SHIP AND CRUISE INDUSTRY’S CONTINUED FAILURE TO IMPLEMENT STRONGER SAFETY MEASURES

(Washington, DC) – Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) issued the following statement after the U.S. Coast Guard announced that they have suspended their search for a student who fell overboard while on a Carnival Cruise ship and was first reported missing Sunday morning.

“Today, as our thoughts and prayers with the family and friends of Cameron Smook, the stark tragic fact is that readily available life-saving technology could have spared him. Reprehensibly, 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. In the last two months four individuals have fallen overboard from cruise ships. I will continue to fight for more effective commonsense safety and security measures, such as those included in the Cruise Passenger Protection Act, which I was proud to lead last Congress and intend to see strengthened and reintroduced this Congress.”

In 2013, Blumenthal introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act with Senator Rockefeller to address the serious incidents that continue to occur on cruise ships – a result of the industry’s failure to prioritize consumer awareness, safety, and security. The bill called for providing the over 20 million Americans who plan to take a cruise every year with critical information about the limited scope of their current consumer protections and would take steps to improve accountability in the industry.

March 12 2015 Update: A news station WDBJ 7 (CBS) in Virginia interviewed me regarding this overboard. I comment about regarding Carnival's lack of an automatic mad overboard system on the ship: 

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Photo Credit: Jordandkatz / Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

Terror on the Costa neoRomantica as High Winds Bash Cruise Ship

Costa neoRomanticaA number of newspapers in Europe are reporting that the Costa neoRomantica sustained damage which it encountered high winds and rough weather last Wednesday night. 

An Italian newspaper reported that the Costa cruise ship was hit by high waves (seven meters) raised by gusts of wind that exceeded 125 kilometers per hour. The neoRomantica was sailing from Trapani to Marseille when it was struck by violent gusts of wind.

The cruise ship had to drop one of its giant anchors and skip the port of Marseille. The neoRomantica had to dock in Savona. Costa has use buses to transport passengers from Savona to Marseilles. 

The Italian Crociere in Diretto blog and Facebook page contains accounts of the storm and photographs of the damage to the ship. Many cabins were flooded with water and there was a loss of power and black-out during the storm. Passengers were frightened and some had to stay in the hallways.

You can also read accounts of the storm in La Provence newspaper where passengers claimed that they were not kept informed by the captain or crew. 

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Photo Credit: Rosalba Scarrone Administrator Liveboat.it

Oceania Cruises Pockets Cancer Victim's Refunded Airfare

National Geographic Traveler magazine ombudsman Christopher Elliott is often asked to try and recover canceled cruise fares when passengers suffer serious illness, a death in the family or other misfortune.

All cruise passenger tickets contain draconian terms and conditions, drafted by the cruise line attorneys, which address what happens when a passenger is forced to cancel a cruise because of sickness or death. Depending on when the cruise is canceled, the cruise line will keep all or a Oceania MS Marina substantial portion of the passenger's money.   

Mr. Elliott writes about the plight of a couple from Canada who booked what they described as a cruise of a lifetime with Oceania Cruises aboard the Oceania Marina in the South Pacific for $43,000 ($29,000 for the cruise fare and $14,000 for the airfare). But the wife was diagnosed with lung cancer and they had to cancel the vacation. The couple did not buy insurance.

Oceania pocketed the entire $43,000 even though the cruise line sold the couple's cabin to another couple and even though the airline refunded the $14,000 airfare to Oceania.

A cruise line keeping a refunded airfare is clearly illegal "unjust enrichment." I find it outrageous and unconscionable.  It seems no different than theft to me, and a theft by a large rich corporation while the victim is in a weak and vulnerable position.  

Mr. Elliott was successful in convincing the cruise line to return the couple's airfare. The fact that Mr.Elliott writes a widely-read consumer blog no doubt helped.

Oceania refused to refund the cruise fare. Yes, the couple should have purchased insurance. But I find this scenario repugnant. It may be technically legal but it is still unconscionable and immoral. Oceania promptly sold the cabin to other passengers, remember. Oceania didn't lose a penny. In fact, it obtained a double profit. Cruise corporations should not be permitted to make double profits because of the death and personal suffering of their guests. 

Oceania's parent company, Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL), likes to do this too. NCL kept the cruise fare of a passenger whose brother died and the funeral was on the day of the cruise. NCL said "sorry, no refund." The passenger also tried to donate his cabin to a child with cancer, but the cruise line refused that too. NCL then sold the cabin on the Norwegian Sky for a double profit.

Speaking of children with cancer, NCL also refused to return the cruise fare after a family learned that their five year old child was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo emergency medical treatment. NCL pocketed the family's money and sold their cabin for more profit.

NCL also refused to either refund or credit the cruise fare to a 66 year old passenger and his wife after she was diagnosed with bladder cancer and underwent emergency surgery.

It's cruel, greedy, heartless and outrageous conduct by Oceania and NCL.  Yes, it's technically legal. All cruise lines have their lawyers write their tickets to protect only the cruise line's interests. But it's unfair and unjust.

If cruise lines can't apply compassion to situations where their guests are stricken with cancer, and companies like NCL and Oceania are motivated only by money, legislation should be passed to protect consumers when they are in a time of crisis. Cancer victims shouldn't be victimized a second time by a greedy cruise line. They should be entitled to a full refund so they can pay their medical bills and try and beat cancer.   

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Photo Credit: M/S Marina - Jordandkatz - licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Cruise Law's Six Year Anniversary on Twitter

Cruise Law TwitterIt's been six years since I joined Twitter. Long ago, I wrote an article about how it came to be that I joined what at the time seemed like little more than a fad. Cruise Law Meets Twitter.

Twitter is now clearly a monster in the world of social media with a value in the billions of dollars. My partner mentioned that she is about to buy Twitter stock. There are rumors that Google may buy it.

I learned that if you are looking for breaking news, Twitter will beat the cable news every time. Regarding cruise news, I will often first hear about a ship fire or an overboard passenger on Twitter, often while the cruise ship is still at sea.

In June 2009, shortly after I joined Twitter, I learned how valuable Twitter is to reporting cruise ships news that the cruise lines try and keep secret. The engine room of Princess Cruises' Royal Princess caught fire during a Mediterranean cruise near Egypt. Princess initially didn't release any information to the public. But a passenger, a Pastor from South Carolina, Greg Surratt, tweeted on his Cruise Law TwitterTwitter account @GregSurratt about the fire from his iPhone on the cruise ship. 

Reverend Surratt tweeted that the fire had disabled the cruise ship and a tug had to tow the ship back to port. Frantic families in the U.S. had to rely on Pastor Surratt for information about their loved ones. He even tweeted photos of the fire and the passengers sprawling out on the deck in the dark (left).

When Princess finally posted its typical less-than-forthcoming corporate press statement, no one was paying attention to the cruise line. Everyone was listening to Pastor Surratt tweeting away on the cruise ship in the Mediterranean. 

I first learned of other cruise disasters (Costa Concordia, Carnival Triumph, etc.) on Twitter. 

I have over 12,000 Twitter followers. I tweeted over 15,000 times over the course of 6 years. That's an average of over 2,500 a year.

What was my first tweet?  I forgot. So I looked it up on an App which tells you. Mine was on March 12, 2009: Princess Crew Member Sexually Assaults Passenger

Are you on Twitter? You should be. Follow the #cruise hashtag. And don't forget to follow me at @CruiseLaw.    

 

Jurisdictional Hurdles Delay Arrest of Rapist on Celebrity Reflection

A newspaper in Malta reports that the Malta Police have issued what is described as an "European arrest warrant" for a Scottish man wanted for attempted rape after he assaulted a girl from England aboard the Celebrity Reflection cruise ship last summer.

The newspaper says that the incident happened last summer on the Reflection when the young British student's beverage was spiked by a passenger from Scotland, who then "indecently assaulted her Celebrity Reflectionand tried to rape her." 

Royal Caribbean registered the Reflection in Malta, which is a island nation in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, in order to avoid U.S. taxes, labor and wages laws and safety regulations. Cruise lines routinely register their cruise ships in places like the Bahamas, Bermuda and Panama for tax avoidance purposes.

Because the incident took place in international waters, criminal proceedings must be instituted in Malta where the cruise ship is registered rather than in any of the ports of call or the victim's home country.

When the girl returned with her family to the U.K., the British police interviewed her and collected evidence. But the law enforcement in Malta did not take steps to arrest the Scottish passenger. The victim retained a lawyer who contacted the newspaper in Malta after he had heard nothing from the Maltese local law enforcement authorities for six months. It sounds like the police in Malta issued an arrest warrant only after the local press placed pressure on them.

Registering a cruise ship in a rocky little island in the middle of nowhere creates a no man's lands where it's virtually impossible to arrest and prosecute a sexual predator. This is a common problem that a sexual assault victim on a cruise ship experiences. The police in places like the Bahamas and Panama (or Malta, Marshall Islands, Bermuda etc.) have no resources or interest in prosecuting rapists on cruise ships around the world. 

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Photo Credit: Cruise Critic

U.S. Issues Another Critical Crime Warning for Honduras, Including Roatan

Roatan Honduras CruiseThe United States Department of State just issued a warning to U.S. citizens that the level of crime and violence in Honduras remains "critically high."  

The warning is similar to the critical crime warning issued by the U.S. State Department last year

The warning states that ". . . crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country. The Government of Honduras lacks sufficient resources to properly investigate and prosecute cases, and police often lack vehicles or fuel to respond to calls for assistance. The police may take hours to arrive at the scene of a violent crime or may not respond at all. Members of the Honduran National Police have been arrested, tried, and convicted for criminal activities. Many more are under investigation. As a result, criminals operate with a high degree of impunity throughout Honduras."

"Honduras has had one of the highest murder rates in the world for the last five years. The U.S. Embassy has recorded more than 100 murders of U.S. citizens since 2002."

Roatan Honduras CruiseThe warning specifically mentions Roatan:

"Roatan and the Bay Islands are geographically separated from Honduras and experience lower crime rates than the Honduras mainland. The national government of Honduras, Roatan authorities, and businesses took measures in 2014 to improve tourism security. However, as on the mainland, thefts, break-ins, assaults, rapes, and murders do occur, and you should exercise caution, especially at night." 

The warning also includes cruise passengers. The warning says that although the vast majority of cruise line passengers to Roatan experience no problems, there have been reports of cruise passengers who have been victims of armed robbery and carjacking. We wrote about such incidents here and here. The warning fails to mention that a cruise ship employee was gunned down last year in broad daylight near the port, which we wrote about here

The U.S. warning says although crime remains "critically high," violence allegedly has declined in the past two years according to the State Department. Despite such assurances (no statistics provided), children in Honduras fleeing violence and drug gangs and trying to enter the U.S. remain a critical problem for U.S. - Roatan Honduras CruiseHonduran relations. President Juan Hernandez is committed to the militarization of Honduras (with the support of the U.S.) to try and stem the flow of drugs from Colombia to the U.S. But there recently have been armed confrontations between National Police and the Military Police, both of which have been accused of corruption, which many see as a new level of chaos and corruption. 

A problem plaguing both mainland Honduras and Roatan is that the vast majority of murders are carried out with total impunity. This is exactly the case with a number of killings which I wrote about on Roatan last year, like this and this and these killings involving four boys and young men whose bodies were retrieved and placed in a pickup truck while a NCL cruise ship was moored nearby. 

Meanwhile expatriate resort owners, tour operators, land owners and travel writers are assuring tourists and retirees that Roatan remains paradise.

March 3 2015 Update: Honduran Police Clean Up Declared A Failure

 

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Photo Credit: LaPrensa - top; Teledifusora Insular - bottom. 

Disney Passenger Drowns at Castaway Cay

A newspaper in the Bahamas is reporting that a passenger from a Disney cruise ship drowned while visiting Disney's private island Castaway Cay.

According to reports by the Tribune, on Thursday afternoon, a 38–year-old man from New York who was a passenger on board the Disney Wonder moored at Castaway Cay drowned while swimming. 

Castaway CayThe details of the incident are unknown.

Disney is known for having trained lifeguards at its private islands, at least for areas where children swim. 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 training every year and participate in frequent unannounced audits by one of the world's premier aquatic safety service providers."

Disney used to not have lifeguards on its cruise ships but recently paid a large multi-million dollar settlement after it was sued when a young child nearly drown on the Disney Fantasy which had no lifeguards.

The last drowning I recall on a cruise line's private island involved a very tragic death of a 3 year old  girl who died at Holland America Line's private destination Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas.  You can read our article about that event here - Tragedy on HAL's Half Moon Cay: A Mother's Perspective.

March 1 2015 Update: There was a second incident the following day when the Disney Fantasy was visiting Castaway Cay.  Passengers have contacted me and said that they observed the Coast Guard take someone away whoa needed medical attention while snorkeling. Some passengers said they saw a man with an IV medevaced in a helicopter. 

March 3 2015 Update: The Tribune newspaper in the Bahamas reports that "a second passenger in four days has died while vacationing on a Disney cruise to The Bahamas. A 56-year-old American man was discovered dead on Sunday morning onboard the ship at Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island."

March 4 2015 Update: Disney confirms that there was a second incident involving a passenger swimming in Castaway Cay. Disney told the Tribune newspaper that the passenger was from the  Disney Fantasy, who was also found unresponsive at the family beach on Friday. “The guest was wearing snorkeling vest and gear and was discovered unresponsive in the water at the family beach by a lifeguard. They brought him ashore and they gave him life saving measures and he was ultimately transported to hospital in Miami.”

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Photo Credit: "Castaway Cay beach" by Soprano For Now - Disney Magic at Castaway Cay 1. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Over 100 Sick With GI Bug On Celebrity Equinox

Over 100 people are ill with vomiting and diarrhea aboard the Celebrity Equinox cruise ship which is returning to Fort Lauderdale, Florida on a ten day cruise, according to cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 95 out of 2896 passengers (3.28%) and 7 out of 1209 crew members (0.58%) became ill during the cruise with noro-like symptoms.

The CDC has not yet figured out whether the sicknesses were caused by norovirus.

Norovirus can be caused by contaminated food or water, contaminated surfaces or by hand-to-hand contact between infected crew members or passengers.   

The cruise line always blames the passengers for not washing their hands. I suppose that happens, but it's far from the only explanation. 

The CDC never discloses why the virus spreads. I wonder why?

Celebrity Equinox

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Hevesli Creative Commons 3.0

Experts: ISIS Poses Terrorist Threat to Cruise Ships in Mediterranean

One question I am asked frequently is whether Islamic terrorists pose a threat to cruise ships. I received a couple of such inquiries in the last week. One from a mother in the U.K. whose son works on a cruise ship sailing the Mediterranean, and another from the father of a family in the U.S. thinking about taking a cruise from Spain to France, Italy, Greece and Turkey and back.  

Yesterday several newspapers in Europe and the Middle East (Mail OnlineAl Arabiya News) interviewed experts who have painted the scenario of speed boats operated by Islamic State terrorists attacking "fishing boats, cruise ships [and] small merchant ships" to capture people and Cruise Ship Terrorismparade them in orange jumpsuits before a video with a knife to their neck.  

We have all seen the stories on CNN about the gruesome killing and beheading of innocent aid workers and journalists by ISIS in an effort to terrorize the televised world. In the last two weeks, we have also read stories about the barbaric burning-alive-in-a-cage of the Jordanian pilot and the beheading of twenty-one Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya. We are, of course, all afraid to actually see the videos of the terrifying violence.

As we sit in front of the television in our homes here in the U.S., we all feel safe from the terrorists, don't we? The beheadings are, after all, over there, in foreign places like Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya and other unstable Arab countries.

But when U.S. citizens decide to fly to Europe and go on a cruise vacation with their family in the Mediterranean, are they placing themselves in harm's way?

In a word, yes.  

The thought of Muslim terrorists hijacking a cruise ship is hardly new. Achille Laura instantly comes to mind. Forcing terrified cruise ship hostages into orange suits and executing them? al Queda has already planned that just a couple of years ago. CNN would cover the terror non-stop. 

There are numerous studies by security companies and U.S. governmental organizations which have studied terrorist organizations and concluded that terrorism against cruise ships is likely.

Take a look at this chilling report by the RAND organization.

The World Cruise Industry Review publication concluded several years ago that a likely terrorist scenario is the hijacking of a cruise ship and its passengers while terrorists kill passengers if demands are not met.

The issue has been discussed by a number of experts, including Commander Mark Gaouette who is the former director of security for Princess. He wrote a book "Cruising for Cruise Ship Terrorist AttackTrouble" which specifically addresses the potential of a cruise ship as a target for terrorists.

15 years ago, 17 U.S. service men and women were brutally murdered when Islamic suicide bombers rammed their speed boat loaded with explosives into the U.S. navy ship, the U.S. Cole.

If the U.S. Navy can't protect its military fleet, what chances do thousands of U.S. tourists think they have of staying safe on a gigantic U.S. based cruise ship floating like a sitting duck in the harbor of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt?

ISIS has already taken over port cities in Libya, which is strategically located in the middle of North Africa. It would be easy for ISIS to launch a suicide jihad-by-sea against cruise ships sailing to or from North Africa and the Middle East.

Jihadists are already "using cruise ships to sneak into war zones" says the Maritime Executive. The fear is that the radicals will shift their focus to making the ship itself the war zone.

Families thinking of cruising in the Pacific Northwest (Seattle, Vancouver, Alaska) may be reasonably safe from an ISIS attack. A terrorist attack seems extremely unlikely to happen in the Caribbean. But sailing into a port in Morocco, Tunisia or Egypt on a cruise ship? It's not a matter of if. It's just a matter of when. 

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March 3, 2015 Update: The Gatestone Institute (International Policy Council) published ISIS Sets Sights on the Mediterranean which mentions Cruise Law News.

Photo Credit: Reuters via Mail Online 

Bad Cruise News Sells

People complain that I write only negative stories about the cruise lines. Crime, fires, overboard passengers, greedy cruise executives, mistreatment of crew members, blah, blah, blah, does it ever end they ask?

It’s a good question, I suppose. Lots of things go wrong during cruises. I have an endless source of materials for stories to fill this blog. But maybe that's no reason to fixate on the bad part of cruising, is it? Maybe I should stop writing so many mean stories about unpleasant subjects. Perhaps I should write nice things about the cruise lines Jim walker Cruise Law Newsand its executives to make people happy.

But I have a question to ask you: why are you reading Cruise Law News right now?

Are you looking for an article comparing the food and service on the Oasis of the Seas to the Norwegian Epic? Or are you trying to find out whether Nassau or Roatan is a more enjoyable port to visit and take your kids? Of course not. Cruise Critic or Travel Weekly or most any other cruise or travel publication have that covered.

I suspect that you are visiting this blog because you’d like to find out the news that the cruise lines don’t want you to know. Yes, the bad news.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a short article about a passenger who fell to his death on the Carnival Magic. There was no mention of the incident anywhere. Not on television, not in newspapers, not anywhere throughout the internet. I wrote the article because a half-dozen cruise passenger contacted me asking if I knew what happened on the ship.

Over 50,000 people read the article on this blog and our Facebook page over the first couple of days it was published. Over 1,500 readers liked, shared, tweeted or re-tweeted the story. Another 500 people liked, shared or commented on the article on Facebook. That’s a lot of people interacting with the story (a popular Yahoo article may have only a dozen or two likes and a handful of comments). The victim’s family and friends read the article and left comments trying to find information about what happened to their loved one.

Cruise lines and FBI often erect walls of silence and lack of cooperation when someone dies or disappears from a cruise ship. The public is hungry to find the truth of what happens at sea. Regular cruisers or travel agents want to inform their family or clients of what they learn on this blog. Families of those lost at sea want to know everything that they can why their loved one perished. The cruise line won't tell them. There's really no other reason people read our articles. 

Compare the public reaction to that tragic story to the reaction to another article I wrote about Carnival yesterday. The story was entirely complementary about its new CEO, Arnold Donald, whose rose from a modest beginning in the Ninth Ward in New Orleans to a highly successful businessman.

I admire the way that Mr. Donald earned great financial success through the hard work instilled in him by his family and educators. He never forgot his family or his humble beginnings. Every year, he and his wife award scholarships to students from his high school in New Orleans to his college and business school alma maters. He named the new wing of the high school building, which he funded, after his late mom and dad.

But no one cared about the story. It received zero likes, zero tweets and zero shares. I doubt 500 people read it.

People read Cruise Law News because they are looking for answers to the questions that the cruise industry won't answer. Even cruise fans know that the cruise lines are less than transparent and will try and hide the bad news. So if you want a happy-go-lucky story about dream cruises and fun family vacations, you won't find it here.   

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Arnold Donald's Amazing Rise from the Ninth Ward to Carnival CEO

Carnival's Arnold Donald is not a typical cruise line executive.  He's not white; he wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth; and he's not arrogant.   

He was born in New Orleans. His parents didn't finish high school. They raised him and his three siblings in the Ninth Ward (which is now largely destroyed due to Hurricane Katrina).  He achieved great success in the segregated south due to his commitment to education, hard work and the confidence instilled in him by his parents and teachers at St. Augustine High School.    

Mr. Donald has given back to New Orleans and has awarded over two dozen scholarships to his college and business school alma maters. He also donated funding to build a new wing at St. Augustine, named after his mother and father Warren and Hilda Donald.

He's now the top executive of the largest cruise line in the world.  Read the article and watch the video by WVUE FOX 8 New Orleans:    

FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Coast Guard Medevacs Boy from Norwegian Getaway

NCL MedevacThe U.S. Coast Guard reports that it medevaced a 13 year old boy from the Norwegian Getaway cruise ship yesterday afternoon, northwest of Puerto Rico.

The NCL cruise ship notified the Coast Guard in San Juan that the boy required medical attention ashore when the ship was sailing from Miami to St. Marteen.

A MH-65 Dolphin helicopter flew to the NCL ship and hoisted the boy, his mother and a cruise ship doctor. 

The boy, who's from New York, was transported by to the “Centro Medico" Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

You can read more about the medevac in the U.S. Coast Guard Newsroom.

 

Photo Credit: US Coast Guard Newsroom

Micky Arison Sells $433,700,000 Worth of Carnival Stock

Carnival Corporation Chairman Micky Arison reportedly just sold 10,000,000 (million) shares of Carnival stock for approximately $433,700,000 (million).

The stock transaction was a "block sale" performed by a trust to benefit Arison. All of Arison's shares reportedly are held either directly or indirectly in various trusts.

By June of last year, Arison had unloaded over $490,000,000 of his cruise stock in 2014

Micky ArisonBy my calculations he has sold well over $900,000,000 of his cruise line's stock in the last 12 months. 

After this latest sale, the Arison family reportedly still has about 159,200,000 shares of Carnival stock. 

This vast wealth was generated by incorporating the cruise line in Panama and registering Carnival-owned cruise ships in places like Panama and the Bahamas in order to avoid all U.S. taxes, safety regulations, and wage & labor laws so Carnival can pay the bulk of its crew members peanuts.

Carnival-owned Costa paid just a little over $1,000,000 in fines after the Costa Concordia disaster, which killed 32 people, in order to escape accountability in the criminal trial of Captain Schettino. 

Who says that money can't justice?

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Photo Credit: New York Post

Crying Captain Schettino Shows No Remorse: Sentenced to Sixteen Years

After a nineteen month long trial, the three judges presiding over the Costa Concordia trial sentenced Captain Francisco Schettino to sixteen (16) years in jail for manslaughter, causing the disaster and abandoning ship. The sentence was broken down as follows; ten (10) years for multiple counts of manslaughter, five (5) years for causing the shipwreck, and one (1) year for abandoning ship. Schettino was also sentenced to one month for making false communications to maritime authorities after the shipwreck.

During closing arguments, breaking down in tears, Schettino demonstrated little concern for the consequences of his recklessness other than feeling sorry for himself, saying that three years ago "I died along with the 32 others." Schettino's defense lawyer said: "In these three years, Schettino has suffered the same as a 30-year sentence." His legal counsel argued that he was made a scapegoat by Francesco Schettinothe cruise line Carnival-Corporation-owned Costa Cruises.

The prosecutor described Schettino as an "idiot" and a "coward."

Costa paid a relatively small fine of 1.1 million dollars to avoid a criminal trial.

The prosecution sought 26 years in jail for Schettino. The defense requested a maximum of 5 years. The judges essentially split the difference with 16 years. Schettino is entitled to an automatic appeal of the sentence and is likely not to serve time in jail during the appeal.

The stock of Costa's parent company, Carnival Corporation, is up today.

You can read our first article about the disaster here: Passengers Panic As Costa Concordia Cruise Ship Begins to Sink.

The question which I keep asking myself is what does the brother and parents of Costa crew member Russel Rebello think of the verdict

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Photo Credit: Reuters

Fire on the Jewel of the Seas

A reader of Cruise Law News said that there was a small fire reportedly on Jewel of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean did not make an announcement about the fire. There was no air conditioning for five hours. 

One person left a comment on my Facebook page:

". . . .The fire was dealt with quickly, took about 9 hours to get all the resulting issues fixed and they arrived Jewel of the Seasin San Juan on time. There was a power outage on the day they left San Juan that lasted about 10 minutes. Said the fire was a result of a blown breaker. Another post from someone on the ship said 30 minutes after leaving Barbados a major breaker blew causing a fire in one of the stacks. The fire was quickly put out, but they had no air conditioning for 5 hours and no toilets for at least two. It was 3am before they started moving again. None of the announcements on board mentioned the fire, that there were enough passengers that witnessed it, and knew about it. They missed both the Thursday and Friday shows because of (the) issue."

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Photo Credit: Dave Souza Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

Carnival Does Right: Reimburses Couple for Cruise & Cost of Engagement Ring

A news station in Cleveland, Ohio aired a consumer investigation segment yesterday about a young couple whose engagement ring was stolen during a recent cruise.

The couple was upset because Carnival refused to replace the ring after it was stolen from the couple's cabin and the ring box was found floating in the toilet.

All cruise lines have exclusions and limitations of liability in the passenger tickets which form the contract between the cruise lines and the guests. Passengers are usually out of luck when they lose a personal item due to theft.  

Federal law does not even require cruise lines to report thefts under $10,000. The title of the television investigative team video is "Marblehead Ohio couple issues warning about cruise ship security after engagement ring stolen."

Our firm is contacted several times a year by passengers who claim that their jewelry was stolen during a cruise. But we never take these type of cases because the courts routinely enforce the cruise lines' fine print. 

I was surprised to see that the news station included a video of me discussing the issue of cruise ship crime. I was not interviewed by this station. It's old tape of an interview years before. 

Even more surprising is that the video of the engagement ring caper ended with the reporter saying that Carnival reimbursed the value of the ring (plus $100) and also refunded the cruise for the couple. Why? I'm not sure. I have never heard of this happening before. But it's certainly good public relations to do so. The couple needs to say a big "thank you" to Carnival (and the investigative reporter).  It seems only fair for Carnival to get some much needed PR when it does the right thing.  

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Pedophile Passenger Who Molested Child on Liberty of the Seas, Arrested Again in Pittsburgh

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a 76 year-old man from Pennsylvania who went on a Royal Caribbean cruise in 2009 in a quest to molest boys has been arrested in Pittsburgh for "unlawful contact with a minor" and "corruption of minors," as well as providing false identification to law enforcement authorities.

As we reported in June 2010, 71 year-old Sherwood Stevenson went into the Liberty of the Seas water zone on the Liberty of the Seas and fondled a 6-year-old boy in December 2009. He attempted to fondle a second child in an adjoining Jacuzzi. Sexual Predator Abuses 6 Year Old Aboard Royal Sherwood StevensonCaribbean's Liberty of the Seas.

In November 2011, a judge sentenced Stevenson to nearly four years and nine months in federal prison,15 years' probation. Stevenson was required to pay a $10,000 fine and register as a sex offender.

Stevenson was released from jail in December 2014.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported yesterday that Stevenson tried offering candy to a student on a school field trip to a science center. A Pittsburgh teacher noticed Stevenson walking behind his school group. When the teacher approached Stevenson, he pointed to a 12-year-old boy and told the teacher, “I’m his grandfather, Woody.” Stevenson had asked the boy if he wanted candy and, “Do you want to go to the movies with me sometime?”

Stevenson spent almost 2 years in jail before his sentence on the cruise ship molestation case, so he subsequently served only approximately 3 years of his sentence in jail. His jail sentence seems short, especially considering that he is a repeat offender. This monster needs to be locked up for life. 

Parents should be aware that child predators are potentially everywhere, from schools trips to cruises. 

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Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Norovirus Forces Grandeur of the Seas' Early Return to Baltimore

Grandeur of the Seas Multiple news sources in Baltimore are reporting that over 200 passenger and crew members aboard the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas are stricken with norovirus, requiring the cruise ship to skip a port and return to its home port in Baltimore a day early.

A local CBS station says that "just over 200" guests and crew members came down with symptoms of norovirus and the cruise ship decided to return early so that they could receive medical attention.

WBAL Radio reports that there was a medical emergency for one at least one passenger and an outbreak of norovirus among nearly 200 others. 193 passengers and 9 crew members are ill with norovirus.

One passenger who contacted us says that Royal Caribbean promised $75 credit for missing the port of Labadee. The ship will be subjected to enhanced cleaning. 

The Grandeur has been in the news for norovirus in the last year.

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Photo Credit: J. Glover licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

 

Celebrity Constellation Passenger Missing - Where's the Man Overboard System?

Constellation Cruise ShipKey West newspaper The Citizen reports that a passenger from a cruise ship sailing to Key West yesterday has disappeared from the ship.  

The newspaper writes that "the Coast Guard is continuing to search for a man who fell off a Celebrity cruise ship bound for Key West. The 66-year-old man was last spotted by a video camera aboard the Celebrity cruise ship Constellation at about 3:30 a.m. Sunday, 23 miles south of Summerland Key in the Atlantic Ocean, according to Coast Guard Lt. Peter Bermont."

The newspaper quotes the Coast Guard lieutenant stating that "we don't know the circumstance of how the man fell overboard. He was not on the vessel once it moored in Key West."

Coast Guard aircraft and vessels reportedly searched yesterday and today without success.  

This case is the latest situation where a cruise ship fails to have a automatic man overboard system (MOB) to detect persons going overboard and signal the bridge. Such systems are required by the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act.  There are many systems (motion detection, thermal imagery, etc.) which are reliable and currently available to the cruise industry. 

Earlier this month, a 22 year-old passenger disappeared from the Oasis of the Seas without Royal Caribbean knowing. To add to the cruise line's embarrassment, a passing Disney ship rescued the Royal Caribbean passenger, some five hours later.  

How long will the cruise lines refuse to invest in the MOB technology?  There's no other way for an officer on watch to spot an overboard passenger or crew member going into the water at night.

There have been others lost at sea under similar circumstances on the Constellation:

Crew Member Overboard From Celebrity Cruises' Constellation Cruise Ship.

Crew Member Goes Overboard from Celebrity Constellation Cruise Ship.

February 3 2015 Update: The Citizen newspapers says that the passenger was from Canada and fell from deck 11. There was apparently no signs of foul play.

February 4 2015 Update: News papers are identifying the missing passenger as "Carol Tremblay." Mr. Tremblay was identified in the KeyInfoNet which also quoted a Coast Guard saying  "this is a foreign-flagged ship with a foreign citizen aboard, so it's not really in the Coast Guard's purview to do much more at this point." Newspapers in Canada say that Mr. Tremblay had recently retired a trailer in Florida to enjoy his retirement.  

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Constellation Cruise Ship Bridge

Photo Credit:

Top: "Constellation" by Megadri licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Bottom: "IMG CONSTBRG 4604" by Nad7080 licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger from Carnival Magic

The Defense Imagery and Video System reports that the U.S. Coast Guard rescued a 51-year-old woman off a Carnival cruise ship approximately 184 miles offshore of Galveston late Saturday night. 

The Houston-Galveston Coast Guard station received a call at approximately 9 P.M. on Saturday from the medical staff aboard the Carnival Magic, reporting that a 51-year-old female passenger was experiencing respiratory problems and requested a medical evacuation.

The Coast Guard station dispatched a helicopter to medevac the passenger and an aircraft to assist in the operation. 

The helicopter crew arrived on scene and hoisted the woman and a Carnival Magic nurse aboard the helicopter and transported them to the Scholes Airport in Galveston.   

 

Carnival's Super Bowl Commercial: Is JFK Turning Over in his Grave?

Last night Carnival aired its new Super Bowl commercial with images of the sea and a voice-over by John F. Kennedy from a speech he gave at a dinner for the America’s Cup crew in 1962: 

“I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it’s because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it’s because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And JFK Sailingwhen we go back to the sea – whether it is to sail or to watch it – we are going back from whence we came.”

Of course the speech had nothing whatsoever to do with cruising.  

The Kennedy family had a long standing tradition of sailing which reflected their competitive nature and love of racing small sailboats.

James Graham's book, Victura: The Kennedys, a Sailboat, and the Sea discusses the family's sailing tradition and how it grew to define the Kennedy legacy

"Over the years the images of the Kennedys at sea defined the family brand and gave birth to the Kennedy myth. Kennedys under sail were the picture of adventurousness, wholesomeness, vigor, and family. They commanded the elements and the political world. Jack Kennedy’s navy experience in World War II became an epic tale of seafaring heroism, retold throughout his political career. A 1953 Life cover photo of Jack and Jacqueline on the bow of Victura, along with their larger storyline, presented them as beautiful, privileged, sophisticated, glamorous, and destined for something great."

It is incongruous to associate President Kennedy and his family's love of sailing their 25-foot little wooden gaff-rigged boat (the Victura) from Cap Code with the bunker-fuel burning, black-air belching, bilge-dumping massive ships cruising out of Miami.

If Democratic President JFK and his brother Bobby had survived the 1960's, their interest in cruise ships likely would have been to regulate them, not unlike the way that Senator Rockefeller has done. 

There's no indication that JFK ever sailed on a cruise ship. For that matter, a Kennedy would no more "sail" on one of today's Carnival Cruise Line monsters than shop at Walmart.

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Updates:

It seems like Carnival's Super Bowl commercial wasn't too original. Read WHEN YOUR ART FILM LOOKS JUST LIKE A SUPER BOWL COMMERCIAL.

Carnival Super Bowl Spot Obscures Cruise Lines’ Environmental Impact.

 

Caribbean Cruise Line Scam?

NBC 6 is airing a story about Caribbean Cruise Line alleging that the company routinely offers essentially "free" cruises via unsolicited phone calls or vouchers in the mail, and deceives the public by not disclosing hidden fees. 

It also claims  that businessmen behind the scenes at the travel company have been in trouble for deceiving customers before. 

We have covered stories about this outfit before - Caribbean Cruise Line Lies and Steals?

The story is a bit confusing because the Caribbean Cruise Line, although technically active with the Florida Department of State, essentially went out of business after the Bahamas Celebration ran aground on October 31st while departing from Freeport, ripping a hole in the hull. In December 2014 it was announced that the newly formed Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line would operate the MS Grand Celebration which would replace the old damaged ship. 

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Death on the Carnival Dream

CArnival DreamWe have been contacted by a half-dozen passengers from the Carnival Dream ship sailing out of New Orleans. They have inquired about the death last week of a 30 year-old man (passenger) sailing with his wife and other couples. 

He apparently fell from his cabin's balcony and landed on an exterior deck that runs above the lifeboats (deck 5 I believe). This occurred on Tuesday, January 20th.

The cruise ship called on Cozumel on Tuesday, Grand Cayman on Wednesday and Montego Bay on Thursday.

The FBI was supposed to board on Sunday when the ship returned to New Orleans. There have been no reports we know of foul play.

He is from Missouri. Carnival flew his wife home during the cruise. 

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Photo Credit: "Carnival Dream Bow" by Longbowe at en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Sapphire Princess Passenger Overboard, Rescued

The Cruise Critic message board mentions that a passenger went overboard and was rescued from a Princess cruise ship. The person starting the thread speculated that the passenger jumped. The cruise line of course has not issued a statement. The incident reportedly occurred on the Sapphire Princess during the week of January 17, 2015.

It is always of interest to me to see how the cruising public responds to these type of incidents at sea. 

Most cruisers on this thread were quick to judge the person going overboard, harshly calling him an "idiot," "stupid," "twit," "fool," "far down the gene pool," and someone who could win the "Darwin Saphire PrincessAward."

Unfortunately, even when there is no indication that the person jumped, there is still a group mentality that brings out these type of personal attacks. I have seen these type of criticisms freely leveled against dead or missing passengers even when it turned out that the missing person was thrown overboard.

Some vacationers believe that the person going overboard should die. When I read these type of comments, I pause and think who is such a person and are they teaching their children such cruelty? One commented on this particular situation that "it is a shame that Darwin did not take precedence over rescuing. Just think - this idiot may have children and pass his genes on to his offspring." 

But there are some people, albeit a minority, on the message board who demonstrated compassion. One cruiser wrote "every person has value and it's not up to me to judge his or her value." Another said "since none of us know his mental/emotional state, why do some resort to cruelty and downright mean spirited comments?"

But character assassination seems to be usual attitude in the world of cruising. It's a step away from a Nazi-like mentality to say that the gene pool would be improved if overboard passengers would just sink to the bottom of the ocean and not inconvenience the passengers enjoying the cruise.

Such a mentality prohibits a meaningful discussion of how to prevent future tragedies. These type of people appear indifferent to the notion that cruise line corporations should invest in improvements to lifesaving technologies and techniques. For reasons not clear to me, many people seem to find enjoyment in mocking families who experience the horror of losing a loved one at sea. 

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Photo Credit: "Sapphire Princess at Hakata port" by Spaceaero2 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

"Top" Travel Agent has History of Ethical Violations as Lawyer

A travel agent in New Jersey who claims he's a "top seller" for Seabourn Cruise Line and an experienced "maritime lawyer" has been "aiming" for me in his last several blogs. 

Eric Goldring of the Goldring & Goldring law firm and the Goldring travel agency has been obsessed about me lately. He's recently written three articles claiming that I have filed "frivolous" lawsuits against cruise lines (he identifies none) and that I don't tell the public about the cases that I have allegedly "lost in court." (I have responded to these bogus charges here).  At the same time, Goldring writes that he has "such a good reputation with (his) clients and the cruise lines!" He concludes: "I am, to self-promote, a knowledgeable, Eric Goldring Travelhonest and fair travel agent."

Now, I have had a strong suspicion, given Mr. Goldring's bizarre and maniacal stories, that his description about himself is entirely questionable.

One of my colleagues and friends emailed me and said to check on Goldring's background because something was suspicious about this strange travel agent / lawyer.

So I spent a few minutes (literally a few minutes) and checked up on Mr. Goldring.

The first internet search said "this lawyer has been disciplined by a state licensing authority." The website explained that Goldring was actually sanctioned by two states. He was first "reprimanded" by the ethics department of the New Jersey Bar Association and later "admonished" by the ethics department of the Florida Bar.  

The next search result turned up a website called "No Ethics" operated by the Committee to Expose Dishonest and Incompetent Judges, Attorneys and Public Officials. It summarized a disciplinary complaint and order of sanctions against Mr. Goldring by the New Jersey Office of Attorney Ethics which found him guilty of ethical charges. According to the website, the investigation by the ethics committee concluded that Mr. Goldring: 

  1. Violated (a) court order to discontinue written ex parte communications;
  2. Falsely accused the trial judge of being biased;
  3. Engaged in highly disrespectful conduct toward a trial judge;
  4. Engaged in conduct meant to intimidate a court; and
  5. Engaged in contemptuous conduct toward one or more courts. 

This site states that this was not Mr. Goldring's first ethical violation. It refers to him as a "repeat offender" and states that he reportedly failed to inform a judge that he had been disqualified in a case because of a "serious conflict of interest." He reportedly was found guilty of deceiving the trial judge. The site reports that the New Jersey Supreme Court punished him with a second reprimand.

The third search revealed that the Florida Bar also filed an ethics complaint against Mr. Goldring arising out of his conduct in New Jersey and further found, as an aggravating factor, that he "refused to acknowledge wrongful conduct."  He was admonished and required to pay the administrative costs.

Okay, now I think I get it. My friend was right. This guy appears to be a loser, sanctioned by ethics referees in both Florida and New Jersey. Is there a reason why he seems to spend most of his time hawking cruise tickets than representing clients in court?  

Now I don't think that revealing his disciplinary records is going to slow someone as reckless as Goldring down. The cheerleaders at Travel Weekly must love someone like him promoting the cruise industry even if he spreads a falsehood or two. I'm also sure that he's foolish enough to write another insane article, at least until another state bar association reprimands him again for unethical conduct. Maybe then he can concentrate on being a full time CLIA travel agent.

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Photo Credit: Travel Weekly - Goldring attending Travel Weekly function.

HAL's Veendam Rescues Pilot in Pacific Ocean

A Holland America Line cruise ship came to the rescue, reports KCRA, after a pilot in a small, single-engine airplane on a 2,400 mile trip to Maui, Hawaii ran out of gas fuel over the Pacific Ocean and was forced to ditch his plane. 

The news station says that the plane ran out of fuel about 250 miles northeast of Maui yesterday afternoon.

The U.S. Coast Guard launched an Hercules 130 aircraft and a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Oahu, and alerted the HAL Veendam to the scene.

The Veendam is expected to reach Lahaina, Maui today. 

The Star Advertiser reported that the rescue took place amidst 9- to 12-foot seas and 25 to 28 mph winds.

I can't wait to see the rescue on the passengers' YouTube videos.

Video Credit: Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System. 

 

Boudicca Cruise Ship Catches Fire Off Coast of North Africa

A U.K. based cruise ship with 784 passengers aboard was left listing off the coast of Morocco, North Africa following an engine room fire.

Newspapers in London are reporting that the Boudicca cruise ship caught fire due to an outbreak in the engine room and left the ship in total darkness. 

The Boudicca is owned by the UK-based, Norwegian-owned company Fred Olsen Cruise Lines.

The BBC said that the fire broke out at four in the morning today and "the ship was without engine power for Boudiccaabout five hours." The BBC quoted texts from passengers on board back to their families: "'no engines, fire in the engine room, there's smoke, we're in life jackets and the captain says everything is under control'." 

The ship was able to restart two main engines as well as auxiliary engines. The ship is currently limping to the next port at a speed of 8-9 knots.

The Boudicca originally sailed from Southampton on January 20th  for an 18-night cruise of Cape Verde and the Canary Islands. 

The ship is off the coast of Casablanca, Morocco. It left Cadiz, Spain, on Saturday, and was due to arrive in Lanzarote on Monday. 

The Daily Mail covers the story in an article "Terrified British holidaymakers plunged into darkness after stricken cruise ship began to list off coast of Morocco following fire in engine room." The cruise line down-played the danger to the passengers and crew members, saying "there is a power outage to some cabins and public areas in the centre of the ship, but most services are operating normally, and guests are enjoying the usual activities on board, both inside and out on deck."

The Boudicca was constructed in 1973. It is over 40 years old.

 

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Photo credit: Wikipedia / PjotrMahh1 Creative Commons 3.0

Soaked Serenade of the Seas Suffers Major Power Loss to Cabins

Cruise passengers are saying that the Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas, in New Orleans, suffered a major power loss today.

A passenger says that the cruise ship was partially flooded during a heavy rain storm. The Coast Guard says a broken water pipe caused the problem. This reportedly caused a large part of the cruise ship to experience electrical problems.

Royal Caribbean sent this message to the passengers scheduled to board the ship today:

Serenade of the Seas"Hello, this is Royal Caribbean International. We would like to provide you an update regarding your sailing today onboard Serenade of the Seas out of New Orleans. The U.S. Coast Guard is currently onboard inspecting the ship. We are waiting for authorization from the Coast Guard to begin boarding. Because the cruise terminal in New Orleans is very limited in space, we ask that guest explore the local area until we can begin boarding. We will contact you again once we have received permission to begin the boarding process. We appreciate your patience and understanding, and we look forward to welcoming you onboard."

A few hours later, it sent this message:

"Hello, this is Royal Caribbean International with an update your sailing today onboard Serenade of the Seas. The U.S. Coast Guard has given us permission to begin the boarding process. Please return to the terminal so that we may check you in for your cruise. Our entire onboard team look forward to welcoming you onboard, and will do their very best to make your sailing as enjoyable as possible."

Serenade of the SeasOne passenger who was apparently on the Serenade when it returned to port in New Orleans said that power was lost to around 175 cabins.  

Apparently, according to this passenger, 400 passengers will not been to cruise because their cabins have no power. 

Nonetheless, the Coast Guard cleared the Serenade to be boarded. The ship is staying in New Orleans until it is cleared to sail.  

Royal Caribbean has not commented on the condition of the vessel or whether some of the passengers will remain in New Orleans. 

Update: Media reports say 417 cabins affecting some some 800 passengers have been affected.

 

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The Cruise Industry's Internet Travel Trolls

Every year or so, a travel agent with a blog will take it upon himself to level personal insults against us in a half-baked effort to defend the cruise industry. 

One year ago, Richard Turen, a CLIA-certified travel agent, criticized me in an ill-conceived article which appeared in Travel Weekly. Mr. Turen's blog, the ironically entitled Travel Truth, is 100% promotional-hype designed just to sell cruises. Mr. Turen is one of several travel writers, drunk on the CLIA Kool-Aid, who will never mention unpleasant issues like crimes on ships against women and children, exploitation of crew members, and fires & other maritime casualties involving the cruise Eric Goldring Goldring Travelindustry. My response to his article, which you can read here, was one of my most popular articles last year.  

Yesterday, another CLIA travel agent and a Travel Weekly Silver Award Winner named Eric Goldring (photo right) of Goldring Travel in New Jersey, took a cheap shot against our firm on his blog Goldring Travel's This is My Yacht - Cruise & Travel. He accused our firm of "Trying to Defend Their Bringing Frivolous Cases Against Cruise Lines." He posted his article on Twitter and Facebook. He states that he's "taking aim" at me. 

Mr. Goldring responded to a recent article where I said that we are going to start mentioning the actual cases we file against cruise lines this year on Cruise Law News rather than just mentioning hot topics affecting the cruise lines in general. The Florida Bar's ethical rules permit lawyers to discuss their cases as long as they don't make statements that are likely to influence the jury to decide the case based on extrajudicial comments. The local federal rules expressly envision attorneys quoting portions of their lawsuits to the public or even attaching their lawsuits to their blogs or websites. 

The reason I decided to do this is that many cruisers, including travelers in the "Cruise Critic" type of community, like to think that lawsuits against cruise lines are filed by "stupid" people who don't accept personal responsibility for their own reckless behavior and the lawsuits are usually frivolous in nature and will end up making cruising more expensive. The cases we handle should dispel that notion. 

Mr. Goldring, however, insists that our firm's cases are "frivolous." He says that we don't disclose claims "which they lost in court (and there are many of those)." 

Now I should mention that travel-agent-Goldring is also an attorney who calls himself a "maritime lawyer." So he is not just a travel agent trying to use legal terms which he doesn't understand. He's a lawyer who should know the meaning of legal terms. Rule 3.1 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct states that lawyers can’t file a lawsuit “unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous.” Black’s Law Dictionary, in turn, defines “frivolous” as “lacking a legal basis or legal merit; not serious; not reasonably purposeful.” 

Filing a frivolous lawsuit has dire consequences. The federal and state rules include severe disciplinary and monetary sanctions against lawyers who engage in frivolous filings and baseless argument. It is also a violation of the ethical rules in Florida to make false and misleading allegations against another lawyer.

As a lawyer licensed to practice in Florida as well as New Jersey, Mr. Goldring is bound by these ethical rules. With this in mind, I challenge Mr. Goldring to find a single case where a judge, jury, or ethics committee of a bar association has ever found that we filed a frivolous case or made a frivolous argument. He will find none. He will not even find a single maritime case out of the many hundreds upon hundreds that we filed where a cruise line has even claimed that we filed a frivolous case or engaged in frivolous conduct.

I also challenge Mr. Goldring to tell the public about the cases which we allegedly "lost in court." He states that "there are many of those."  He will find none.    

Mr. Goldring fancies himself as a defender of the cruise industry. His website contains diatribes against others who criticize the cruise lines. He attacked the well respected consumer advocate and National Geographic ombudsman Christoper Elliott in an article entitled "Christopher Elliott Engages in Yellow Journalism on MSNBC; A Misleading Attack on the Cruise Industry." 

But his articles reveal him to be a buffoon. Goldring's poorly written article contains many factual inaccuracies, embarrassing legal errors, grammatical mistakes, incomplete sentences, and misspelled words. He evens refers to my partner, Lisa O'Neill, as "McNeil." Let me point out a few other of Goldring's confused rants:  

Goldring claims that our firm "even (has) an app which encourages you to make claims through their firm, regardless of the facts (sic) that you probably will not recover anything. . . " This is patently false. Another law firm, not associated whatsoever with us, created an iPhone and Android app for passengers to take with them on cruises. (I agree that it's tacky, but it's not our idea). 

Goldring says passengers shouldn't consider seeking compensation because "in many instances if you are 50% or more at fault you receive nothing." Goldring is absolutely wrong about this too. New Jersey, where he has his law firm, is one of twenty-two (22) states which follow the archaic "51% Bar Rule," under which an injured party cannot recover if he is 51% (not 50% as Goldring says) or more at fault. But maritime cases are not governed by New Jersey law. The General Maritime Law applies to maritime cases. Maritime law applies the "Pure Comparative Fault Rule" which allows an injured party to recover even if he is 99% at fault (although the recovery is reduced by the party’s degree of fault). A competent lawyer learns this in law school.

Goldring claims that crew members have to prove that the cruise ship caused them to develop cancer before they can make a claim against the cruise line for the disease.  Again, Goldring is wrong. Under the ancient maritime doctrine of "maintenance and cure," adopted into U.S. maritime law in the early nineteenth century and the Jones Act of 1920, crew members are absolutely entitled to receive the payment of living expenses, unearned wages, and medical treatment for all medical illnesses, including cancer, which manifest during their work on the ship. The crew member does not have to even prove that the cruise line is at fault. Unfortunately, it has been my experience that cruise lines often abandon the crew member in a distant country to die in order to avoid paying for the medical care. Punitive damages may also be assessed against recalcitrant cruise lines which callously refuse to provide maintenance and cure to ill crew members, a holding reinforced by the U.S. Supreme Court in Atlantic Sounding Co., Inc., v. Edgar L. Townsend, 129 S.Ct. 2561 (2009), which is one of the most important maritime cases in 25 years. Any attorney calling himself a "maritime lawyer" should know this. 

Goldring uses legal terms he doesn't understand. He ends his embarrassing article saying "there is a simple concept in the law that applies in a number of negligence cases: Res ipsa loquitor (sic). (The thing speaks for itself)."

Putting aside that he misspelled "res ipsa loquitur," he misused the term to suggest that many passengers engage in such reckless conduct that it is obvious that they are to blame for the accident and their injuries. But the term deals with the presumed negligence of the defendant. In litigation involving the Carnival Triumph "poop cruise," a federal district judge recently applied "res ipsa loquitur" after reviewing the evidence of the cruise ship fire and resulting conditions suffered by the passengers. He concluded that these events ordinarily do not occur in the absence of negligence of the company operating the ship. The passengers were therefore relieved of the burden of proving that the cruise line was negligent. Lesson to be learned by Mr. Goldring, don't use words you can't spell, don't understand and probably can't pronounce. 

At the end of the day, it ultimately does not matter whether Mr. Goldring, or any travel agent or cruise fan, agrees with me. I like a difference of opinion about issues involving the cruise industry. I look for dialogue and discussion. I don't want a cult-of-personality audience. My goal is to raise awareness of issues that affect cruise passengers and crew member safety, security and well-being. Around 150,000 people, including many travel agents, around the world follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Over 1,700,000 people read over 6,100,000 pages of Cruise Law News last year. I encourage readers to leave comments. Well over 50% of the readers and people on Twitter & Facebook disagree with me. I have learned from listening to my readers and my opinions have changed. Debate is important, irrespective of a reader's ultimate conclusion about the issue. Debate expands the circle of knowledge and brings changes which improve the world of cruising. Over the past decade I have seen hundreds of cruise passengers attend and testify at eight Congressional hearings in Washington D.C. where laws have been passed, over the cruise lines' opposition, to make cruising safer.

The cruise lines, many travel agents and publications like Travel Weekly do not like critical information about shipboard crime and vessel safety to be freely exchanged via social media on blogs like ours and others. The cruise industry wants loyal CLIA members who will parrot the industry's message, write about fantasy vacations on the high seas, and make the industry money. It wants critics and free-thinkers to be intimidated. Tactics of people like Mr. Goldring making false and misleading statements to sell cruise tickets in order to line their pockets underscore the industry's dishonesty and greed. 

 

Note: Mr. Goldring writes this about himself on his travel blog:

" . . . I am not only a luxury travel agent, but attorney specializing in yacht and ship law . . . I have litigated maritime cases from Norway to Australia . . .  That is why I have such a good reputation with my clients and the cruise lines! I am, to self-promote, a knowledgeable, honest and fair travel agent."

Comment: Florida ethical rules prohibit a lawyer to state that he "specializes" in ship law unless he is board certified in maritime law by the Florida Bar's board of certification. Mr. Goldring is not board certified. 

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

January 27 2015 Update"Top" Travel Agent has History of Ethical Violations as Lawyer.

Photo Credit: Eric Goldring / Goldring Travel Facebook

Cruise Ship Lawsuits: What the Cruise Lines Don't Want You to Know

I've written thousands of articles here on Cruise Law News about all type of issues - cruise ship air pollution, cruise waste discharge, mistreatment of crew employees and the cruise industry's exploitation of the Caribbean ports of call all the while cruise executives pocket obscene amounts of money.

But one of the issues that I rarely write about are the actual cases which we handle against the cruise lines. 

Starting today, I'm going to start posting a brief description of the cases which we file, whether it's a Cruise Ship Lawsuitlawsuit on behalf of a passenger injured on a cruise ship, or an arbitration claim filed when a cruise line refuses to provide basic medical care and treatment to a sick crew member. 

Many people like to think that cases filed against cruise lines are frivolous, or silly, or filed just for the purpose of trying to get a free cruise and will result in higher cruise fares. Hardly.

Some of the cases which we file reveal the cruise industry at its absolute worst. The cases include issues like the cruise line's mistreatment of female crew members who were sexually assaulted on so-called luxury cruise lines. Other cases involve the cruise lines' refusal to provide and/or delay in providing life-saving medical treatment to crew members diagnosed with cancer. 

We will explain the applicable law so you can understand how legal issues are different under maritime law on the high seas. We'll provide you with information that the cruise lines would prefer that you do not know.

Coast Guard Considering New Rules for Crimes on Cruise Ships

The Hill reports today that the most recent edition of the Federal Register contains new rules for investigating crimes on cruise ships.

The Hill says that cruise ships face "new security protocols, such as informing passengers about crime aboard the ship, installing systems to detect if someone falls overboard, and crime scene preservation and evidence gathering training, under proposed rules from the Coast Guard."

"Congress found that serious incidents, including sexual assault and the disappearance of passengers at sea, have occurred on cruise vessel voyages, that passengers lack adequate understanding of their vulnerability to crime on board cruise vessels, that inadequate resources are available to assist cruise vessel crime victims, and that detecting and investigating cruise vessel crimes is difficult," the Coast Guard wrote.

The issues of crime on cruise ships and man overboards have been the topic of eight Congressional hearing since 2005 attended by members of the International Cruise Victims (ICV). The photo below is from the last Senate hearing before Senator Rockefeller and shows me (far right), ICV Chairman Ken Carver (right) and Laurie Dishman (far left). The cruise industry essentially boycotted the hearing.

The recent man overboard from the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas reveals that the cruise lines have a long way to go. The passenger went overboard without the cruise ship even knowing that it lost one of its guests. The vast majority of the cruise lines have developed all types of attractions and contraptions to wow the passengers but refuse to invest in state-of-the-art technologies to make cruising safer.

The public has 90 days to comment. 

Cruise Ship Crime

Passenger Medevaced from the Seabourn Odyssey

VesselTracker reports that a 23-year-old cruise passenger from the Seabourn Odyssey was medevaced to the hospital after suffering what is believed to be a heart attack today. 

The Rescue Coordination Centre of New Zealand received an emergency call from the Seabourn Odyssey ship this morning at approximately 12.30 a.m.

The cruise ship left Dunedin, New Zealand on the evening of January 13 evening and was in Foveaux Strait when the female passenger became ill.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Ivan T. Seabourn Odyssey (ship, 2009) IMO 9417086: in Split, 2011-11-16

Seabourn Odyssey

Why the New Cruise Crime Disclosure Law is Necessary

There has been a lot of news coverage lately about Senator's Rockefeller's new cruise crime law. For the first time, the cruise lines will be forced to disclose the full range of assaults, rapes and other crimes which occur on cruise ships, and inform the public which cruise ships the crimes were the alleged crimes occurred.

The old law, which was part of the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act (CVSSA), included an attempt to compel the cruise lines to disclose all of this information four years ago. 

But the cruise industry altered the language at the last moment, inserting language requiring the Karan Seechurndisclosure of only those crimes opened by authorities and then subsequently closed.  

This language was an attempt to hide the crimes. The disturbing fact of the matter is that the FBI opens a minuscule number of investigations into crimes on cruise ships. The FBI testified at Congressional hearings which I attended that it opens only around 7% of crimes which are alleged to occur in the cruise industry. So by requiring the cruise crimes to be reported only when they are actually investigated and then closed, the cruise lines ensured that 93% of those crimes would never be revealed to the public.

This runaround was not lost on Senator Rockefeller. He vowed to fix the language before he retired. He was successful in improving the language so that the cruise lines have to report all crimes regardless of whether they are investigated or closed. This was the original intent of the CVSSA, so that the public can see which cruise ships have more crimes than others.

However, the cruise line's trade lobbying organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), claims that the amendments are not necessary. CLIA said in a press release:

"CLIA's position is that the new provision is unnecessary, because it largely duplicates information already available to the public . . . "

Is this true? Consider this example.

A number of newspapers recently announced that a mini-bar attendant entered a woman's cabin with a master key and molested her.  The FBI agent refused to identify the cruise line or the cruise ship in his arrest affidavit. All of the newspapers referred to the sexual assault as occurring on an "unidentified cruise line." As I explained in my prior article, FBI agents routinely do this as a favor to the cruise line which regularly hire former FBI officials to head up their security departments (like Royal Caribbean). Under the old law which is still in effect, because the FBI file had an open file on the crime, there is no requirement for the cruise line to disclose it. The crime will not appear on the Coast Guard database. The cruise line can hide it.

But a number of people contacted me on our Facebook page and explained that the only cruise line sailing out of Bayonne at the time was the Royal Caribbean Quantum of the Seas. I quickly found the crew member on his Facebook page, verified he worked for Royal Caribbean, and published his name in our story. There are a number of photographs which the crew member posted from his Facebook page and Google+. (One photo ironically shows him drinking a Corona while wearing a FBI shirt).  A number of other web sites then began reporting that the Quantum was the location of the alleged crime. It was only then, when the cat was out of the bad, that the cruise line decided to release a PR Karan Seechurnstatement stating that it had terminated the crew member.    

When the new law goes into effect, the cruise lines can't play such cat-and-mouse games. The FBI can't play hide-the-ball. The alleged crime has to be reported on a new Department of Transportation database. 

The new cruise law is absolutely necessary for the public to finally see the big picture of cruise ship crime. Crimes involving cabin attendants, room service attendants and mini-bar attendants entering cabins with master keys are hardly rare.

Last year CNN reported that of 959 crimes reported to the FBI since 2011, only 31 were disclosed on a web site maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Crimes occur with disturbing frequency on cruise ships. Isn't it time for cruise passengers to know?

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

 

Photo Credit: Google+

Connecticut FBI Closes Investigation into Disappearance of George Smith

The family of George Smith announced today that the Connecticut FBI notified their family that it is closing its investigation into Mr. Smith's George's death aboard the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas.

Mr. Smith disappeared during his honeymoon cruise in July 2005 under mysterious while the Royal Caribbean ship was sailing to Kusadasi, Turkey.  

The Smith family said on their Facebook page that "we were told by the Connecticut FBI that there was not enough evidence to prove that George had been murdered and that his death may have been the result of an accident!"

The FBI has a dismal record solving crimes at sea. In my opinion there was nothing accidental about Mr. Smith's disappearance.

The Smith family said that they intend to move the investigation into their son's disappearance to another jurisdiction, such as New York. They are offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

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

Video Credit: CBS News / 48 Hours  

Disney Kicks 4 Month-Old Baby Off Cruise Ship

There is a story in the Naples Daily News about Disney deciding to kick a 4 month old baby off one of its cruise ships that leaves me scratching my head.  When the parents booked the cruise, Disney permitted infants 12 weeks or older to cruise but it later changed its policy to 6 months or older effective January 1, 2015.

The newspaper says that the extended family sailed out of Miami on December 30th with 31 family members. The baby's grandmother is sick with cancer and the cruise was part of her "bucket list."

But when the parents took their baby to the infirmary and the ship doctor treated the infant for seasickness, the cruise took a turn for the worst. The ship doctor said that the child was too young to Disney Cruise Shipbe on the cruise and had to immediately leave the ship along with the parents, notwithstanding a Disney representative's assurances that all parents who had existing reservations would not be affected by the changes in Disney's policy's about the permitted age of infants.

The parents were sent into Nassau (a port I named the most dangerous port in the world) and forced to stay in what the parent's say was a “fleabag motel” after paying a $1,200 bill from the local public hospital.

The Naples Daily News quotes the father saying:

“No one would care if they took us off the ship and we were in complete safety in comparable accommodations and brought home,” he said. “They were deceitful about it. No one can believe that Disney would send a 4-month-old baby off into the dark in a foreign country that they say in their brochures is dangerous.” 

It seems inexplicable to me that a cruise line which says that it caters to families with kids can send a 4 month old and his parents into Nassau under these circumstances.

I posted the story on the Cruise Law News Facebook page and received several dozen comments, ranging from criticism of the cruise line to blaming the parents.

My take on the issue is to simply ask, is it any surprise that the cruise industry has an image problem?   

 

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

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Nozzleman75 Creative Commons 1.0 

Three Reasons Cruise Passengers will be Safer in 2015

Cruise passengers will be safer on the high seas in 2015, for three reasons.

1.  Disney cruise line began employing lifeguards. After a 4 year old sustained a catastrophic brain injury when he nearly drown, Disney began hiring lifeguards to supervise cruise ship pools. Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Carnival don't, even though children have recently drowned or nearly-drowned in their ships' pools. Disney should be acknowledged for taking responsible steps to make cruising safer for kids. Expect more cruise lines to come to their senses and hire lifeguards this year.   

2.  Passengers can sue cruise lines for the medical malpractice of cruise ship doctors and Cruise Ship Safetynurses. Under the antiquated "Barbetta doctrine," Passengers could not sue the ship doctors who were considered to be "independent contractors."

Passengers injured by the medical malpractice on a ship leaving Miami were left to seek accountability by trying to sue the doctor who inevitably does not live in the U.S. (Try suing  a doctor or nurse in South Africa, Egypt or India). It was next to impossible to serve a ship doctor with a lawsuit or obtain personal jurisdiction over him in a U.S. court. Many ship doctors do not have liability insurance and have few assets. This case  reveals the outlandish steps that the ship doctors and cruise lines took to avoid liability even in clear cut cases where the doctor acted irresponsibly.

With the recent 11th Circuit Court of Appeal's decision in Franza v. Royal Caribbean, the law has changed. The court abolished the "Barbetta doctrine" and provided a basis for families whose loved ones are maimed or killed to seek compensation from the cruise line itself. The cruise industry has been fighting to keep their immunity for decades. This represents a big loss for the $45,000,000,000 non-tax paying cruise industry, and a big win for the rights of cruise ship consumers. Cruise ship medical care should improve now that the cruise lines will finally face legal and financial consequences when their doctors negligently injure passengers.

3.  Congress passes a new cruise safety law.  The new law will force cruise lines to disclose all crimes on cruise ships and requires the name of the ship to be identified on a data base maintained by the Department of Transportation. Previously, the cruise industry's trade organization watered the old law down such that only crimes which were officially investigated by law authorities who then closed their investigation had to be reported. This meant that cruise lines kept 95% of crimes on cruise ships secret. The cruise lines also refused to disclose which cruise ship was involved. With the new law, consumers will finally be able to see which cruise lines and which cruise ships have the most crimes and present the greatest danger to families. 

2014: Record Breaking Year for Cruise Law News

In 2014, 1,718,131 people read 6,104,186 people pages of Cruise Law News.  

Our busiest day was April 7, 2014 when over 110,000 visitors read our article when we were the first to report on the murder of a NCL crew member in Roatan, Honduras near the port. 

Crime in ports of call was a hot topic for 2014.  Our article Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World was re-tweeted, liked or shared over 2,800 times.  We named Nassau, Bahamas as the most dangerous port in the world and said that Nassau was "one shot away" from losing the cruise industry, which placed us on television in the Bahamas and on the front cover of the Nassau Jim Walker Cruise Lawyer MiamiGuardian.

We broke a number of stories that the cruise industry would prefer that you didn't know.  We published videos of MSC crew members dumping plastic garbage bags in a marine sanctuary in Brazil.  A number of news organizations in the U.K., Switzerland, and Australia & New Zealand republished them around the world. 

We appeared in over 100 newspapers articles and on CNN, ABC and other television and radio programs.  Our motto is "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know," so don't expect to see glossy photos of idyllic cruise vacations here.

The problem of passengers and crew members disappearing on the high seas continued throughout 2014. ABC News featured us in an investigation why the cruise lines are refusing to install man overboard systems in compliance with the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act. A few cruise lines, like Holland America Line (HAL), claim that they are testing man-overboard technology but just last week a crew member disappeared from the HAL Ryndam

The premiere legal blog in the world, Above the Law, included us as one of the "12 Awesome Law Blogs Of 2014." Lexblog picked us as the Blog of the Year and selected us as one of the top two lawyer "citizen journalists."

I was most pleased that Cruise Law News came in as number six (and the only blog written by a lawyer) out of the top twenty national cruise blogs selected by USA Today, in a national poll of cruise fans. 

Our Facebook page has over 135,000 followers, mostly crew members as well as cruise passengers and travel agents who wish to remain anonymous. We receive many thousand of comments a month. We routinely receive real-time insights into problems on cruise ships from passengers and the crew.

Thanks for reading us in 2014.  And many thanks to the passengers and crew members who sent us tips, info and videos from the high seas.

 

If you have a comment to share, please leave one below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Will New Cruise Safety Law End Cruise Industry's Lies About Crime?

As I mentioned in my article two days ago, ICV's Ken Carver Outlasts Cruise Industry, Ken Carver has been on a crusade to bring greater safety and transparency to the cruise industry since 2004 when his daughter Merriam disappeared on a Celebrity cruise to Alaska. In my opinion, it was not only the loss of his daughter which motivated Mr. Carver, but the despicable way that the cruise line treated him that turned him into a lifetime advocate for families who lose a family member on the high seas.  

According to ABC 15 Phoenix, "Kendall Carver said his story is proof that the cruise industry hasn't been honest about crimes committed on board. He said he hopes new legislation will keep what happened to his daughter from happening to anyone else." 

"Every two weeks somebody goes missing on a cruise ship. Merriam's case was just one of the ones that happens every couple of weeks."  

Mr. Carver and the organization which he founded, International Cruise Victims, have brought international attention to the problem of missing persons and crime on cruise ships. This morning, the U.K.'s Daily Mail published an article about Mr. Carver and the new cruise safety law entitled "New Regulations Force Cruise Companies to Publish Online Crime List Documenting Statistics for Thefts, Rapes and Murders Committed on Ships." 

 

ICV's Ken Carver Outlasts Cruise Industry

Ken Carver Cruise VictimsKen Carver is the unlikeliest of people to become the founder of a grassroots victims' organization. Mr. Carver is a conservative businessman and the past president of an insurance company in New York City. 

But in 2004, his daughter disappeared from a Celebrity cruise ship during a cruise she took to Alaska. No one should have to cope with the disappearance of their daughter on a cruise vacation, but Celebrity Cruises put Mr. Carver through living hell when he searched for answers. 

Celebrity learned that Mr. Carver's daughter, Merriam, disappeared early during the cruise. But the cruise line did nothing. It didn't notify the FBI or the Alaskan State Police. It didn't preserve evidence or security video.  It disposed of Merriam's clothing and personal items. It stonewalled Mr. Carver and lied to him.  Mr. Carver had to hire investigators and lawyers and spend $75,000 to try and find out what happened to his daughter. 

Mr. Carver attended his first Congressional hearing about the problem of passengers disappearing at sea in 2005. He has been involved in an additional seven Congressional hearings, in an effort to make cruising safer. He co-founded the International Cruise Victims organization in January 2006. 

Mr. Carver's goals were to create transparency in crime and missing passenger reporting, install man overboard systems, and implement rape protocols and evidence handling procedures on cruise ships. The cruise lines fought back vigorously. The cruise industry treated Mr. Carver like a villain and essentially painted a bulls-eye on his back. The cruise lines spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying Congress to oppose Mr. Carver's proposed legislation.  But ultimately Mr. Carver won.

Congress recently passed a cruise safety law which requires cruise lines to publicly disclose all crimes on a new Department of Transportation website.  Mr. Carver was previously successful in having the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act passed into law. This law requires cruise lines to install automatic man overboard systems on their ships. 

Over the past decade, I've seen dozens of cruise executives come and go - cruise presidents, PR crisis managers, and lobbyists in the cruise industry trade organization. Many have left the industry. But Mr. Carver is still standing, and cruising is safer because of him. 

If you have a comment, please leave one below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Video Credit:  Local 3 Phoenix AZ Family 

HAL Testing First-Ever Thermal Imaging Man Overboard System?

Yesterday, a reader of Cruise Law News sent me a message indicating that Holland America Line (HAL) is announcing that it is testing a man overboard system. 

The reader was a recent cruise passenger aboard the HAL Nieuw Amsterdam during the first week of this month. He mentioned that the announcement was in the ship's "Today On Location" (daily program).  Another reader sent a similar message to me after cruising on the Westerdam (photo below) last week. 

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I have complained loudly and often about the refusal of the HAL Westerdamcruise industry to install automatic man overboard systems, as required by the 2010 Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act.  The cruise industry collects over $45 billion dollars a year and pays no U.S. taxes.  Plus, it's a personal issue with me, after representing clients whose loved ones (husband, daughter, son, brother . . . ) disappeared on the high seas under mysterious circumstances. 

One of my clients, Laurie Dishman, was instrumental in seeing that the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act was passed into law. Laurie traveled to Washington D.C. over 30 times at her own expense, together with other members of the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization, to lobby Congress in support of the law. A photo of Laurie with President Obama as he signed the cruise safety bill into law is by my desk. It greets me everyday when I arrive at work, and reminds me why I am a lawyer.  

HAL has more than its fair share of passengers and crew disappearing at sea with absolutely no video or explanation indicating why or how the person ended up in the sea. I have written about such tragedies here, here, here, here and here. There are other cases. Thermal maritime technology has been around for a long time. Is HAL really the first to apply it to man overboard situations?

Just last week a young Indian seaman, who just joined the HAL this month as a cook, disappeared from the Ryndam cruise ship. His body washed ashore on a beach in Clearwater, Florida two days ago. The spectacle of the young man's body being discovered with his HAL identification card in his pocket by an early morning beachcomber is a gruesome reminder that cruise lines must be forced to comply with the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act. 

Did the Ryndam have an automatic man overboard system that HAL is now touting to their passengers? It doesn't seem so. The ship doesn't even seem to have CCTV cameras which should have captured the young man's image as he was going overboard so that he could have been rescued. 

I suppose that it's good news that HAL is announcing that it's finally testing an automatic man overboard system. At the same time, it's distressing to hear that the HAL's man overboard system is the "first ever" such system for a cruise ship. I have heard rumors that two other cruise lines may have man overboard systems, but I have seen no proof of that and there has never been any official announcement by any other cruise line.

There are hundreds of cruise ships operated by many dozens of cruise lines in the world. I suppose a cruise line that is the first to test a man overboard system should be proud of its accomplishment. But it's a sad indictment of the rest of the cruise lines which are competing to build the biggest and best cruise ships which still have no automatic man overboard systems as required by law.

Does anyone know whether the Ryndam's daily program mentions that it has a man overboard system? Does anyone have details about the new system? 

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

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Roger Wollstadt Creative Commons 2.0

HAL Man Overboard System

Body of Missing HAL Ryndam Crew Member Washes Ashore

Ryndam Cruise ShipThis morning, the body of a crew member missing from the Holland America Line (HAL) Ryndam washed ashore in Pinellas County, Florida, a local news station in Clearwater reports.

The HAL crew member disappeared from the Ryndam near Egmont Key when the cruise ship was returning to port in Tampa on December 21, 2014. There is no public information which I have located explaining how the crew member went overboard. 

The body was identified as Cliford B. Minej (a/k/a Menezes), a 27-year-old man from India.

Mr. Minej's body was found by a person walking on the beach who saw it and alerted the police. 

The death reportedly has been ruled accidental by the medical examiner's office.

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein records over 240 crew members and passengers going overboard HAL crew member Clifford Menezessince 2000.

December 27, 2014 Update: Zee newspaper in India states that " . . . the captain of the ship didn't notify authorities of Minej's disappearance until late in the morning of the incident, the Coast Guard didn't know if he had gone overboard or disembarked at the cruise terminal."

The 2012 Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act requires cruise lines to install automatic man overboard systems so that the bridge will be immediately contacted when a person goes overboard. Unfortunately HAL has not bothered to comply with this law.  There should never be a situation like this where a person disappears at sea without explanation.  

December 28, 2014 Update: Times of India has additional information: "Clifford had joined the 'Ryndam' on December 6 as a cook and was to return to his Merbhat home in Agashi, Virar (West) in May next year."

Photo Credit: Top - Wikipedia / Roger Wollstadt Creative Commons 3.0 / Botton - Mumbai Mirror. Video: WFLA

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

 

WFLA News Channel 8

Merry Christmas & Season's Greetings from Cruise Law

Last night I watched Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed in my favorite movie It's a Wonderful Life. At this point, I think I've seen the classic movie at least once a year for the last 50 years. 

I'd like to extend a Merry Christmas and a warm Season's Greetings from everyone at Cruise Law.

It's that time of the year to be thankful for your family and friends as we celebrate the Holidays.

Many, many thanks to my friends, foes, clients and family.

Merry Christmas! And don't forget, Its a Wonderful Life.

Christmas Cruise Law

Photo Credit: Jim Walker

Fire Breaks Out on Costa neoClassica

Cruise Critic is reporting that a fire broke out onboard Costa Cruises' Costa neoClassica in the Red Sea, yesterday. The fire reportedly broke out in the funnel of the cruise ship. Ship personnel extinguished it. 

Cruise Critic reported that:

"During the incident no onboard services were stopped and the ship reached its destination port in Aqaba, where it is now berthed. It is not clear whether the cruise -- a 25-day Indian Ocean itinerary -- Classica Costa will need to be abandoned."

A Costa Cruises statement on the Cruise Hive website says:

"Yesterday at about 9.25pm Italy time a fire has been detected coming out of the funnel on board Costa neoClassica while sailing the Red Sea, destination Aqaba on her planned route to Indian Ocean.

The shipboard personnel promptly intervened and the fire was quickly extinguished. The safety of guests and crew was never put at risk and no injury was reported. As a precaution and as per procedures General Emergency signals have been given and the released shortly thereafter

All ship services have always been working and have never been stopped. The ship reached her destination port in Aqaba and is now berthed. Proper investigations on root causes are in progress and situation is normal.

According to the assessments now being performed, operations of the ship will be modified if needed. The Costa neoClassica has been refurbished in Dec 2014 she can host a total of 1,680 Guests, she is 53,000 gT. The ship is currently performing a 25 days cruise to Indian Ocean."

Two weeks ago, a fire broke out in the engine room of the Costa Luminosa. Passengers notified me that they heard and felt an violent explosion.  You can read about that incident here. It received little publicity. That fire occurred on the same day as the deadly engine room fire on the Oceania Insignia

The Costa neoRomantica sustained a power outage last week.  We wrote about that incident earlier today.

The Costa neoClassica cruise ship (built in 1991) just received a $28,000,000 worth of cosmetic upgrades (new interiors and furnishings, personal coffee pod espresso machines and beauty products).  The Costa neoRomantica had also just come out dry dock. It's disturbing that Costa is spending tens of millions of dollars on cosmetic appearances on its cruise ships which are then experiencing mechanical issues and fires after coming out of dry dock. 

This is the third fire on a cruise ship in the last two weeks.

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

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia /  663highland Creative commons 3.0

British Police Arrest MSC Cruises Crew Member for Child Porn

According to the  Yorkshire Evening Post, West Yorkshire Police officers arrested a crew member on a Southampton-based cruise ship for possession of a vast amount of child pornography.

The newspaper article identifies the crew member as Howard Ellis, age 60. He reportedly worked as a musician on a cruise ship. The police arrested him when his ship came returned to the port at Southampton. 

The police seized "three lap top computers, four hard drives and a mobile phone" which reportedly contained 625 images and movies of children, some as young as seven years old, being Howard Ellissexually abused.

The article does not identify the name of the cruise line, however Mr. Ellis' website states that he has worked as a musician for MSC Cruises for the last two years. 

What's particularly disturbing is that this is not Mr. Ellis' first conviction for child pornography. The newspaper article indicates that he has two previous convictions for downloading abusive images of children in January and March 2010 and was sentenced to 18 months in jail. 

His resume indicates that he has worked as an entertainer in the cruise industry for the better part of two decades. He worked for Carnival from 1994 to 2004; Royal Caribbean from 2005 to 2006; P&O Cruises from 2006 to 2009; and DFDS Seaways (a ferry line) from 2009 to 2010.

Although Mr. Ellis was the "subject of a community order and a sexual offences prevention order," after his 2010 convictions, MSC Cruises hired him after he served his jail sentence.  It's a pity that MSC doesn't have adequate vetting procedures to screen a pervert like this from its cruise ships.

You can read about the problem of child porn on cruise ships below:

Perverts, Child Predators and Cruise Ships

Celebrity Cruises Crew Member Arrested on Child Porn Charges

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

Photo Credit: Musicians Page

What are the Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations for 2015?

One of the focuses of Cruise Law News is not only crime on cruise ships, but crimes in ports of calls. 

Cruise lines have a legal obliCrime in the Caribbeangation to warn passengers of crimes which occur in the ports of call where they take their passengers. Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean have agents in the ports and have first hand knowledge regarding which ports are dangerous. 

Cruising is not considered by the courts to be just "point to point" transportation, as in the case of the airline industry which has no duty to warn of crime in a destination the passenger picks to vacation. The ports of call are considered to be an integral part of the cruise experience. Cruise lines must tell their passengers if its safe to proceed down the gangway with their children. Unfortunately, cruise passengers have been mugged, raped and shot and killed. The problem is that many cruise lines don't bother to tell their guests what their crew members already know. Some crew employees don't get off the cruise ship in certain ports because of the fear of being a victim of armed robbery, but the cruise lines refuse to pass this information on to the passengers. 

Next week, I'll publish the "Most Dangerous Cruise Destination of 2015." You can read my last list here. I'd like to hear from our readers which ports they have found to be dangerous, what experiences about crime ashore they wish to share, which itineraries they totally avoid, and what ports they chose to stay on the ship.

The cruise industry is too busy promoting the image of idyllic ports of paradise and selling excursions to tropical wonderlands to be honest with you. Next week we'll give you our predictions regarding which ports you're most likely to be at the wrong end of a gun during your cruise vacation.

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

From Toilet Bowl to Super Bowl: Carnival Advertises Vacation on the High Seas

Advertising Age reports that Carnival Corporation will be advertising its first Super Bowl commercial next year. Carnival has prepared four possible one-minute commercials as part of its multi-brand marketing initiative. 

Each year, around ten million people a year sail on a Carnival brand, such as Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Costa Cruises, Cunard, Seabourn and P&O Cruises.

Carnival is asking the public to vote for their favorite commercial.

According to Advertising Age, the four potential commercials are "Getaway, emphasizing the chance to get away from all the stresses of life; Cruise Virgin, where people recollect their first cruises; Message in a Bottle, which features special moments of cruising; and Mystery Spot, which contains a surprise that will remind people just how special the sea can be." 

Carnival is trying to forever replace the revolting images associated with the Triumph engine room fire from consumer's minds. Will a 60 second commercial erase the images associated with the four-day, overflowing-toilet-bowls, disgusting Poop Cruise which CNN broadcast non-stop?

Which commercial would you pick?    

  

  

 

Cruise Law News Sneaks into "12 Awesome Law Blogs Of 2014"

Carnival Cruise Miami LawyerToday I was excited to read that Cruise Law News has been picked as one of the "12 Awesome Law Blogs Of 2014" by the premier law publication Above the Law.

Admittedly, we were the twelfth and last pick, but beggars can't be choosers. Here the write up:

No attorney’s passion shows through more than that of Jim Walker. Not only is Walker an advocate for cruise passengers, but a fervent watchdog for the industry as a whole. His 2014 included, among a multitude of accomplishments, traveling to Washington, D.C., to back Senator Rockefeller’s Cruise Passenger Protection Act and forcing government officials in the Bahamas to answer to their ranking on hitting the Top 10 worst destinations. If you’re planning to take a cruise in 2015, this is a blog you cannot miss.

Here are the other selections: The Art Law ReportTrademarkologyInside PrivacyCanna Law BlogEnergy and the LawThe D & O DiaryAll About Advertising LawBeLabor The PointAuto Industry Law Blog, Retail Law Advisor, and Cady Bar the Door.

 

Welcome to the Men's Club: Carnival Names Christine Duffy President

I was sitting in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport this morning when I read a travel publication’s headline that Christine Duffy was just named president of Carnival Cruise Lines. Reading the headlines made me feel like I was having an out-of-body experience.

Christine Duffy president of Carnival?

I stopped for a moment and thought, is today April Fool’s Day? Or was the article, perhaps, a satire from the Onion?

But it’s true. Effective February 1, 2015, Ms. Duffy will become president of the largest cruise line in the Christine Duffy Carnivalworld. Carnival sent out a press release this morning indicating that Ms. Duffy will officially replace Gerald Cahill who resigned as president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines last month.

Ms. Duffy, as we know, is the president and CEO of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). CLIA is the cruise industry’s trade organization which has lobbied against the cruise victim organization’s efforts to make cruising safer and more transparent to the public.

I have always viewed Ms. Duffy, like the CLIA president before her (Terry Dale), as little more than an energetic, smiling cheerleader doing the dirty work of the cruise line executive men like Micky Arison, Richard Fain, etc. She was thrown into the mix quickly after she replaced Mr. Dale when she had to appear before Congress to explain embarrassments like the Costa Concordia disaster, the cruise line's avoidance of U.S. taxes, and the cruise industry's refusal to recognize basic rights of cruise passengers

During a cruise safety hearing before the Senate, Senator Rockefeller questioned Ms. Duffy's credibility and admonished her to "speak more truth." Referring to the cruise industry which she represented, he stated "You are A World Unto Yourselves."

Carnival’s press statement says that “Ms. Duffy has more than 30 years' experience in the travel industry, most notably on the trade side, having started her career as a travel agent. She later served as president and CEO of Maritz Travel, one of the country's largest corporate meeting, incentive and event companies, for seven years."

That's a nice way of saying that former-travel-agent Ms. Duffy, notwithstanding her enthusiasm, has no experience operating a cruise line whatsoever.

She seems most suited to be a rubber-stamp for Micky Arison and Arnold Donald. 

I realize that I'm wading out into dangerous territory here, and will likely be receiving hate-mail with accusations of being misogynous.  

There's no doubt that the cruise lines need far more women elevated into positions of leadership. (I have written about the male-dominated cruise executives before).

But Ms. Duffy seems like Sarah Palin of the Seas. Lots of spunk and personality but little experience and substance. She is not a force who will lead the largest cruise line in the world to become a responsible and transparent leader in the cruise business. 

Broward Sheriffs Office Arrests Holland Line Crew Member for Grand Theft

Anthonius Novi Hartanto Cruise NCL TheftThe Sun Sentinel reports that the Broward County Sheriffs Office arrested a Holland American Line (HAL) crew member for grand theft after he was caught stealing than $10,000 on a HAL cruise ship.

The newspaper states that the sheriff's office charged Anthonius Novi Hartanto, age 42, from Indonesia with eleven counts of grand theft after he stole $10,220 aboard the HAL Noordam during cruises from Fort Lauderdale last month. 

Crew member Hartanto would apparently would take the stolen cash to a location outside the port when the cruise ship would come into port. He would then reportedly wire the stolen money to his bank account in Indonesia.

The articles says that the crew member worked as an auditor and he apparently embezzled the money.  

Photo Credit: Broward County Sheriff's Office

 

Finally, Law Requires Cruise Lines to Disclose Accurate Crime Data

Nine years ago, I attended my first Congressional hearing regarding dangers to cruise passengers on the high seas. George Smith, of the Greenwich Connecticut area, had disappeared in the Aegean Sea during his honeymoon cruise.  I represented Mr. Smith's widow. Senator Chris Shays (R-CT) convened a hearing to inquire into the disturbing circumstances surrounding Mr. Smith's disappearance.

The hearing took place on December 13, 2005.  Right before the hearing began, a gentleman introduced himself and asked if I wanted to help him support legislation making cruising safer for the public?  His name was Kendall Carver.

Mr. Carver, a former president of an insurance company in New York, lost his daughter, Merrian Kendall Carver Senator RockefellerCarver, from a cruise ship. Merrian disappeared under suspicious circumstances during a cruise to Alaska aboard the Mercury cruise ship.

The cruise line tried its best to cover the incident up. It didn’t report Merrian missing to either the FBI or the Alaskan State Troopers, even though the cabin attendant reported her missing early in the cruise. The cruise line either gave her personal items away or put them in storage.

When Mr. Carver asked for an explanation, Royal Caribbean responded by lying to Mr. Carver and disposing of evidence. Mr. Carver didn’t go away. The story went public. The Arizona Republic, in an excellent article written by journalist Robert Anglen entitled "Daughter Vanishes While on Alaskan Cruise," revealed the hideous manner that this cruise line acted when people disappear at sea.  

Shortly after the December 2005 hearing, Mr. Carver joined with the family of George Smith to create the International Cruise Victims Organization (ICV).  The ICV now has hundreds of victims of cruise crimes and their families as members in over a dozen countries across the globe.

With Mr. Carver's leadership as CEO (together with the work of the president, Jamie Barnett, and the board of directors) the ICV has been successful in convincing the House of Representatives and the Senate to convene a total of eight hearings into the issue of cruise ship dangers and the need for transparent crime reporting.   

The last hearing was in July of this year before Senator Jay Rockefeller.  Mr. Carver was there of course. My client Laurie Dishman (photo below), who was sexually assaulted on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, testified, in addition to others.  This was the eighth Congressional hearing I attended on the issue of cruise ship dangers. 

The cruise industry has spent millions of dollars and countless hours lobbying against the cruise crime bills. Several years ago, the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act was suppose to require the cruise lines to report all murders, rapes and other crimes to the U.S. public, but behind the scenes shenanigans by the cruise Industry and its trade organization, CLIA, so watered the cruise bill down that it became meaningless.

Senator Rockefeller introduced a bill at the last hearing designed to fix the shortcomings in the last bill. It will require greater transparency by the cruise lines in disclosing crime to the traveling public.  The bill will divest the Coast Guard (which has a cozy relationship with the cruise lines) of collecting the crime data and will transfer those responsibilities to the Department of Transportation (DOT). 

The best article on the development is written by Robert Anglen of the Arizona Republic. Mr. Anglen, you may recall, wrote the article in the same newspaper more than nine years ago about Mr. Carver's experiences with Celebrity / Royal Caribbean when Mr. Carver's daughter disappeared.  

It took nine years to pass a simple bill to require the cruise lines to tell the public the true crime statistics on the high seas. As you can read in Mr. Anglen's article, the cruise lines have operated far too long in the murky waters of "voluntary disclosure" where they continue to hide the truth behind slick marketing slogans and a decade of lobbying to keep the crimes secret. 

 

Photo Credits:  Upper: Ken Carver / Senator Rockefeller - Ken Carver / Below: Laurie Dishman, far left; Ken Carver, next to upper right; Jim Walker, upper right - C-SPAN. 

Congressional Hearing - Senator Rockefeller Kendall Carver Jim Walker Laurie Dishman

Another Murder in Roatan . . .

This morning I received a number of emails from residents of Roatan about an extremely violent murder of a local merchant in Roatan (Coxen Hole) near the port. 

Four men attacked and repeatedly beat Mr. Marcelino Vásquez (age 58), the proprietor of a store called "Commercial Vasquez." An article in Teledifusora Insular states that Mr. Vásquez routinely went jogging with his wife at 5:00 o'clock in the morning.  But yesterday at dawn, four men attacked him and threw numerous punches to his head and face. He was taken to the hospital where he died. The beating reportedly took place on the main street of Coxen Hole.

Comments on the Teledifusora Insular site (warning extremely graphic photographs) include these:

  •  . . . our island is in a mess.
  •  . . . necessary to make a cleaning on all these rats which endanger the community of Roatan.
  • This truly is a wake up call to our authority's for us also but mostly for them what's your plans are you all going to sit and watch the island fall into a war zone Mr mayor, Mr deputy, Mr govener get up and do your job.
  • Lamentable la situacion en Roatan

We were the first to report on the murder of a Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) employee in Roatan (Coxen Hole) earlier this year, in addition to the armed robberies of cruise visitors and tourists.

Last week, we reported on the murder in Roatan of four boys / young men.  The Teledifusora Insular Facebook page contains a photo of the bodies of the boys being returned to Coxen Hole in a small boat and transported to a pickup truck, as a NCL cruise ship looks on not knowing of the deaths. 

Roatan

Insignia Fire Reveals Cruise Industry Remains Unprepared for Disaster

Many cruise passengers began asking us when the Insignia will sail again, even before the ship's burned-out engine room stopped smoldering.  

Of course we don't know. The investigation into the fire is just beginning. Investigators from the Marshall Islands (the flag of the Oceania cruise ship) has just started. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) flew from Miami to St. Lucia to accompany the Marshall Islands investigators.

The ship will undoubtedly sail long before the official investigations are concluded. I doubt that the Oceania Insignia Cruise Ship Fireofficial reports will be ready for publication by the end of next year. It remains to be seen whether the Marshall Islands will release the reports to the U.S. public, notwithstanding the involvement of the USCG and the NTSB. Pursuant to the flags-of-convenience scheme, the Marshall Islands has jurisdiction over the investigation and decides if the reports are published. This means that the reports won't be published if the owners and operators of the Insignia (Oceania, Prestige and now new parent company Norwegian Cruise Line) don't want the information released.  Trust me, the Miami-based Oceania/Prestige/ NCL people will keep the accident info secret. 

This morning, I read a few articles about the aftermath of the fire. 

The first article was in the St. Lucia News Online, which first covered the story, explaining that the last passengers out of St. Lucia spent "12 hours in the port terminal with very little food or water," and then another couple of hours in a bus and five and one-half hours stuck on an airplane before they finally headed to Miami without their luggage.

Another newspaper reported that a Canadian complained that the passengers were herded through the ship during the fire and into a warehouse at the port where they remained without water for nine hours in high heat and without any information about the fire. The passenger first learned of the plans to send them to Miami and the crew/contractor deaths via Google. All of this belied Oceania's press statement that "our top priority is ensuring all 656 guests return home as quickly and comfortably as possible." 

A third news station interviewed a couple from Long island who said that the fire fighters didn't seem trained regarding what to do nor did the cruise line keep the guests informed.

Amongst the death and destruction, the cruise line quickly announced that it will give the passengers their cruise fares back and a 50% credit toward a future cruise - a calculated and inexpensive way to hook them into another cruise.

But no one is saying anything about the crew members who just lost their jobs and won't be able to support their families in the foreseeable future. No, the cruise line doesn't pay salaries to the crew who are considered to be expendable. Many crew member work primarily on tips and without paying passengers there are no tips.  Yes, some of the lucky ones will be shuffled to other Oceania ships, but the majority will return to the Philippines, Indonesia, India, etc., unemployed and with no benefits and certainly no Christmas bonus. A bleak Holiday Season no doubt. 

But nowhere as bleak as what the families of the dead crew and contractors will face.

Maritime wrongful death claims are subject to the archaic Death on the High Seas Act (1920). "DOHSA" excludes emotional distress, sadness, bereavement, pain & suffering and other emotional damages suffering by the widows and children of the dead. Plus, Oceania will move to dismiss any claims asserted by the family members and seek to send them to "arbitration" in London, subject to the laws of the Marshall Islands. This is a strategy to make the crew claims more difficult and expensive to pursue while limiting the available damages to the suffering families. 

But no one seems to thinking about the crew members or their families. They just want to know when their cruise ship is ready to sail for their vacation.

December 15, 014 Update: We have been contacted by cruise passengers who dispute that the passengers were kept in the dark, or denied water, etc. One passenger videotaped the cruise line's interaction with the passengers in the port terminal and posted the videos on You Tube:  

Photo Credit:  St Lucia News 4

Video Credit:  C. Andrews You Tube Page

Don't forget to read an article I wrote nearly five years ago (before the Splendor, Triumph, Insignia, etc. cruise ship fires: Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires - Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?

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

Fire on Costa Luminosa Cruise Ship

Costa LuminosaThis morning I learned that a fire reportedly broke out on a Costa cruise ship in the early morning hours on December 11, 2014.

The cruise ship involved reportedly is the Costa Luminosa

Around 5 a.m. on December 11th, while the cruise ship was sailing in the North Atlantic, diesel engine number 4 reportedly caught on fire. 

The fire was confined to the engine room and was extinguished. There is no indication that any crew members were injured.

The fire reportedly occurred on the same day as the deadly engine room fire on the Oceania Insignia.

Interested in the issue whether cruise ship fires are "rare" as the cruise industry claims?  Read our article: Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires - Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?  (Written before the Carnival Splendor and Carnival Triumph engine room fires).

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / jpta Creative Commons 3.0

Whooping Cough Outbreak on the Voyager of the Seas?

Whooping CoughThe operator of a fan Voyager of the Seas Facebook page (not operated by the cruise line) posted the following:

"If you where on the Voyager of the Seas relocation cruise from Singapore to Sydney cruise and you have a really bad cough, then I suggest you got and see a Doctor as you may have Whooping cough . . . "

A large number of passengers have posted comments in response to this post. Many passengers on the cruise say that they are ill.  Many people say that they are having their blood drawn and are seeing doctors to have their throats swabbed. Others say that it has been confirmed that they have been diagnosed with whooping cough.

Passengers complain that they have hear nothing from Royal Caribbean. One person who heard back from the cruise line remarked: "I've heard from RC and they told me they are not compelled to notify all passengers . . . "

Whooping cough, also known as "pertussisis," is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the bacterium bordetella pertussis.

Pertussis is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe. Pertussis most commonly affects infants and young children. It can be fatal, especially in babies less than 1 year of age.

The best way to protect against pertussis is immunization.

Voyager of the Seas

Photo Credit: Antimicrobe.org / Wikipedia (Corgi5623)

Fire on the Oceania Insignia Cruise Ship Sends Three to Hospital

The St. Lucia News Online reports that a fire aboard Oceania Cruises' Insignia cruise ship has resulted in three people being sent to the hospital this morning.

The online newspaper states that a fire broke out on the Oceania cruise ship which was docked at Port Castries this morning.

The newspaper further states that according to the St. Lucia Fire Service, one of the three persons is being treated for exposure to the fire (smoke inhalation & respiratory distress). There are no reports Oceania Insigniaregarding the medical condition of the other two persons. The reports do not mention whether these individuals are passengers or crew members.

There are hearsay comments on the Cruise Critic boards that a crew member died, although this has not be confirmed at this time.

The information currently released is that sometime after 9:00 a.m., the fire broke out in the engine room of the Insignia which was moored in Berth 5 at Port Castries. 

The Insignia is an old ship, constructed in 1998. 

December 11 2014 Update: Oceania has confirmed that the fire caused three (3) deaths. The cruise line released this statement:

"Three crewmembers and two contractors who were working onboard were transferred to a local medical facility. We are deeply saddened to learn that two contractors and one crewmember did not survive. We extend our deepest condolences to their families during this very difficult time." 

According to the St. Lucia News Online, the Saint Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority (SLASPA) stated at a press conference that the three men died after sustaining "severe burns." 

If you have information regarding the fire, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Ivan T.

Yahoo Travel's Worst Caribbean Cruise Ports of Call

Yahoo Travel published an article today that's certain to upset the tourism representatives in the Caribbean islands which are dependent on cruise tourism.

Entitled The Worst Caribbean Cruise Ports of Call, the article lists the five ports in the Caribbean with the worst reputations. Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis has heard of many of these locations. Here's Yahoo's selections:

Freeport and Nassau, Bahamas: At the top of the list is the Bahamas. Yahoo Travel writes that the Bahamas has fallen under crime warnings from the U.S. State Department this year due to the frequency of armed robberies, kidnappings, and rapes in Nassau. It includes this quote: “This is a shipping port. There is nothing Nassa Bahamasthere but a Senor Frogs and a few overpriced shops.”

Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, Jamaica:  The article says that the ports are "ugly and scary." I don't disagree, but I tend to like these places.

Belize City, Belize: Passengers have to tender in to the city but there's little to do, says Yahoo.

Roatan, Honduras:  The article mentioned the U.S. State Department warnings about crime in Honduras including the Bay Islands, saying although Roatan "has a lower crime rate than other parts of the country, thefts, break-ins, assaults, and murders do occur and are still high by international standards.” Roatan is currently struggling with the recent disappearance of four local boys who have not been seen since December 3rd, with fears that they have been murdered.  

Somana and LaRomana, Dominican Republic:  Yahoo says that "abject poverty, filth, and drugs in these two ports" leave many passengers wondering why they are included in any cruise itinerary.  

My view: There's no question that the Caribbean has some of the poorest and most dangerous ports of call in the world. There are more & more, new, and bigger & bigger cruise ships coming on line each year. The Caribbean is already crowded with ships. The cruise lines are left to market itineraries with ports which a prudent family would otherwise avoid. 

December 11 2014 Update: Nassau's Tribune newspaper comments on the Yahoo article and our coverage of the story.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / TampAGS, for AGS Media 

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

Don't miss reading: Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World.

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger from Vision of the Seas

Vision of the SeasLocal 10 News in St. Petersburg reports that the U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a cruise passenger suffering from heart-attack-like symptoms in Tampa Bay, Florida, on Saturday.

The Vision of the Seas contacted the Coast Guard in St. Petersburg about a a 59-year-old man was who was in need of emergency medical assistance.

A Coast Guard surgeon recommended that the passenger be medevaced from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship. 

A Coast Guard response boat from the Coast Guard station in St. Petersburg medevaced the man from the cruise ship.  

This medevac was one of at least five medevacs from cruise ships this weekend.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / ZipIt

Did the Freedom of the Seas Fail a USPH Sanitation Inspection?

On November 27, 2014, I received a communication directly from a Royal Caribbean crew member indicating that the United States Public Health (USPH) conducted a surprise health inspection of the Freedom of the Seas on November 23rd. The crew member said that the USPH flunked the cruise ship for being unsanitary.  

The crew member, who is still working on the ship and wishes to remain anonymous, said that the USPH gave Royal Caribbean a failing score of "84" (85 or below is a failing grade).

A failed USPH score is a big thing. Only two major U.S. based cruise ships (the Ocean PrincessFruit Flies and Silver Discoverer) failed such an inspection this year. It's embarrassing to the cruise line. It has sometimes ended a F&B (food & beverage) manager's career.  

Since communicating with the crew member, I have checked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USPH) database daily for the official report.

Today, the CDC report was finally released. To my surprise, the official score was an "86," one point above failing.  So what happened between November 23rd and today?

The crew member's account of the inspection seems credible to me. The crew member indicated that there was a great deal of controversy over the failed inspection when the government inspectors left the ship. The crew member mentioned particular aspects of the failed inspection. I tend to believe the account.

Did the inspectors reconsider and change the score after leaving the ship? If so, why? Was this a good faith reconsideration and recalculation based on objective criteria? Or were there behind-the-scenes shenanigans and arm-twisting that resulted in the score being changed to a passing score? There can be no doubt that Royal Caribbean has a cozy relationship with the federal agencies; it routinely hires from the CDC, USPH, FBI and USCG.

So what does the official report say? Here are a few of the findings:

  • Two crew members working with symptomatic acute gastroenteritis;
  • Improper cooling logs for food, risking illness;
  • Cases of food stored on heavily soiled decks;
  • Trolley with plates stored in elevator lobby;
  • Food soil in Sorrentos galley; and
  • Live fruit flies in Windjammer buffet, Chops galley, Windjammer pot wash, Sorrentos bussing station, Cafe Promenade bar, Diamond Lounge buffet, and Crown Viking bar.

The last cruise ship I recall flunking a USPH inspection for fruit flies was the old Monarch of the Seas

If the Freedom's score was not really a "F," it sure sounds like a solid "D-."  

 

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

Photo Credit: Batzner Pest Management

Pukefest on the Dawn Princess

Dawn PrincessNew Zealand newspapers are reporting that Norovirus has sickened over 200 passengers cruising on the Dawn Princess traveling around New Zealand. The cruise line confined the ill people suffering from diarrhea and vomiting to their cabins at the request of New Zealand health officials. 

The report indicates that the Dawn Princess has been traveling to various port town in New Zealand such as Akaroa, Dunedin and Fiordland. 

Cruise operators Carnival Australia informed New Zealand health authorities of the outbreak. 

Health officials said that ill passengers were not allowed off the ship when it docked.

Over 10% of the passengers, an extremely high percentage, were sickened.  

You can read about the previous official noro outbreak involving the Dawn Princess here

Update: The Otago Daily News cites Cruise Law News today in its article 'Pukefest' as norovirus bug hits cruise ship.

December 8 2014 Update: A new Zealand newspaper reports that a tour operator claims that that the "Dawn Princess failed to reveal true extent of norovirus outbreak."  That newspapers also states that this is the second norovirus on this ship this year, with a previous norovirus outbreak on the Dawn Princess during a 75 day cruise through Asia and Alaska.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Bahnfrend

Royal Caribbean Executive Cashes In Again

Adam Goldstein Royal CaribbeanI've written many articles about the rich-get-richer schemes of cruise executives: paying the crew members a pittance, making the crew work for 10-to-12 hours a day 6-to-8 months without a single day off, firing hundreds of office employees when the stock drops, and so forth and so on.

Well you can add this article to the list.

The Securities & Exchange Commission revealed that Royal Caribbean's Chief Operating Officer Adam Goldstein unloaded 90,000 shares of the company’s stock yesterday. Goldstein sold a small portion of his RCL stock at an average price of $77.31 for $6,957,900.00. Following the the sale, he still owns 310,724 shares of his cruise stock, valued at approximately $24,022,072. 

I last wrote about cruise executive Goldstein's stock sales this summer - The Rich Get Richer: Cruise Executive Goldstein Unloads $2,599,935.36 of Royal Caribbean Stock.

Goldstein caused an uproar in August when the cruise line announced that it was charging kids $10 to have breakfast with Shrek

Now you can understand where all those nickels and dimes go - into the cruise executives' pockets.

 

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

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean Press Center

"F" for Transparency: Cruise Lines Refuse to Release Environmental Practices

The Friends of the Earth (FOE) non-profit organization just released its "Cruise Ship Report Card" for 2014. In a press release, the FOE states that "cruise ships dumped more than a billion gallons of sewage in the ocean this year, much of it raw or poorly treated . . " 

The amount of raw sewage discharged from cruise ships is truly staggering. Cruise ships are permitted to dump untreated raw fecal matter directly into the ocean, just three miles or more from shore.

For anyone who knows the cruise industry's dismal environmental record, the fact that cruise ships dump raw sewage from the bowels of its ships is hardly new. But what's remarkable this year is that the entire cruise industry - through its trade organization Cruise Line International Organization (CLIA) - Cruise Ship Pollutionrefused to respond to Friends of the Earth’s requests for information on pollution-reduction technologies. The FOE believes that the cruise industry is trying to stifle scrutiny of dirty cruise ship environmental practices

The Good News

The FOE ranked Disney Cruise Line, a/k/a Magical Cruise Company, as the most environmentally responsible line, earning an "A" for sewage treatment.

The Bad News

The worst offender is Carnival Cruise Line by a long shot. Carnival has the world's largest fleet of 24 cruise ships but, according to the FOE, only two ships with advanced sewage treatment technology. It earned an "F" for sewage treatment again this year.

According to the FOE, "over 40 percent of the 167 ships in operation still operate using waste treatment technology that’s more than 35 years old."

The Sad News

The FOE also grades cruise ships for air pollution. Unfortunately, most cruise lines burn filthy high-sulfur fuels including nasty bunker fuels. According to the EPA, each day an average cruise ship is at sea it emits more sulfur dioxide than 13 million cars and more soot than 1 million cars.  

You can see a copy of the report here.

Earlier this year, we published videos of MSC crew members dumping bags of plastic and oily discharge into a marine sanctuary from a cruise ship.  Many crew members state that this is common practice at night. The FOE gave MSC an "F."

All cruise lines received an "F" for their lack of transparency.

False Man Overboard Report: Radiance of the Seas Recovers Body of Missing Fishermann

Today a number of people contacted me believing that a passenger had gone overboard from the Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas near Auckland, New Zealand. 

The cruise ship notified the local coast guard last night and a helicopter arrived from Auckland. The cruise ship turned back to guide maritime authorities to the location where the body had been seen. The cruise ship sent a rescue boat to the scene. 

It turns out that no one went overboard and the body in the water was that of a missing fisherman.

Radiance of the Seas Here is an account by a passenger on the cruise ship:

"At approximately 7:45pm on Dec. 3, 2014, as the ship sailed from Auckland to Tauranga, New Zealand, an "Oscar" alert (port side) was announced from the Bridge. The ship was stopped and the emergency rescue operation was immediate.

I viewed the activity from Deck 11 (Windjammer) as the yellow ship rescue boat retrieved an orange life ring from the ocean on the port side of the ship. It made many passes as it looked for the person. A dark colored rescue helicopter was also present.

While it was after sundown, there was still light to conduct the operation. However, they were going to lose the light soon.

At approximately 8:35pm, from the starboard side of the ship, the yellow rescue boat appeared to have the person at the side of the boat. There were three crew on the rescue boat: one navigating and the other two holding on to the person over the side of the boat. From what I could see, the person appeared to be wearing a dark shirt or sweater and appeared to be large in size. It appeared the person could not be lifted onto the rescue boat by the two crew holding on.

A red and yellow rescue helicopter joined the dark colored helicopter on the starboard side of the ship near the rescue boat. A wet-suited diver with swim fins jumped from the red/yellow helicopter into the ocean, holding some sort of harness (it appeared to be black and bright pink in color). The diver swam to the yellow rescue boat.

An orange and white boat drove up and appeared to be some sort of Coast Guard vessel. From what I could see, the Coast Guard vessel did not get close enough to the yellow rescue boat to allow a handover of the person. There did not appear to be a hoisting of the person into the red/yellow helicopter via the harness.

At approximately 8:45pm, the yellow rescue boat left the scene and proceeded to return to the port side of the ship (from which it was launched). I was standing at the aft end of the ship and watched as the yellow boat drove by me. It appeared to contain only three people: the navigator and two crew members in white RCCL jumpsuits.

The red/yellow rescue helicopter appeared to fly over the ship once before returning to shore. The white/orange Coast Guard vessel departed the scene, but did not appear to be traveling at a great rate of speed.

The Captain made an announcement from the Bridge (this is the general jist of what he said....any direct quotes are noted with "......"): "This is the Captain speaking from the Bridge. As you can see, we have deviated from our course." This is because a guest noticed a person in the water and we started a rescue operation. "The person was recovered and is in the care of the Coast Guard. We are hopeful for a happy ending." This will not impact our arrival at our next port of call. We appreciate your patience and are grateful for the help of all guests involved."

. . . The crew sprang to action at once and crew not involved in the operation directly appeared somber as they continued their duties . . .

The Captain made an announcement at dinner tonight: The "Oscar" incident did not involve a passenger or crew member from the ship. It was a local fisherman who had been reported missing at sea earlier. He obviously did not survive the incident, but the Chief Safety Officer and the rescue crew were able to find the body and hand over to the Coast Guard. At least his family has closure and he can be laid to rest properly . . . ."
 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Fletcher6 Creative Commons 3.0

Royal Caribbean Uses Illegal Lobbyist to Conceal Cruise Fares

Over the years, Royal Caribbean has been sued by the State of Florida for antitrust violations for its confusing advertisements. The cruise line previously agreed to end its misleading advertised cruise fares, including failing to reveal hidden fuel supplements. An agreement signed by cruise executive Adam Goldstein is attached. Royal Caribbean and sister company paid a settlement of $21,000,000.

But it doesn't seem like Royal Caribbean learned its lesson.

The Tampa Bay Times has exposed shenanigans between Royal Caribbean and the former and present Pam Bondi Tom McCollum Royal CaribbeanFlorida Attorney Generals which suggest that the cruise line is still trying to conceal the true price of a Royal Caribbean cruise fare.   

Royal Caribbean hired former Attorney General Bill McCollum last year to meet with his successor, current Attorney General Pam Bondi, and Royal Caribbean's general counsel Brad Stein in an effort to conceal the true costs of its cruise fare. 

The Tampa Bay Times writes: "Royal Caribbean's advertised rates would no longer have to include fees for services like baggage handling and loading cargo. The fees, which can inflate a trip's cost by more than $100, could be listed separately from the company's advertised rates." 

The Times explains that McCollum didn't register himself or his client Royal Caribbean with the state "which is a requirement for anyone who lobbies the executive branch." 

McCollum claims that as a lawyer he's exempt from registering as a lobbyist.

McCollum's firm contributed $650,000 to Bondi's re-election campaign over a two year period.  

In my view, it seems that the Republican controlled Florida Attorney General is open for secret Royal Caribbean Cruisesbusiness for her friends and corporations lacking transparency like Royal Caribbean. 

Earlier this year the Miami Herald reported that John Fox, Royal Caribbean Cruises' vice president for government relations, met with the chairwoman of the Miami-Dade County Commission and voiced the cruise line's opposition to a proposal to build a new soccer stadium next to the cruise company's headquarters at the Port of Miami. 

Miami-Dade rules require company principals to register if they are going to discuss items pending before the county with government officials.

Royal Caribbean called the lack of registration an "oversight."

 

Photo Credit:  Rick Flagg, Florida Broadband News

Happy Thanksgiving from Cruise Law News

Today we enjoyed a great day in St. Petersburg, Florida at my father-in-law's house.

The weather was amazing and our extended families congregated and enjoyed our time together.

Our extended family ranges in age from 1 year old to 93 years old. There was lot's of laughter, hugging and fellowship.

Thanks to all of our clients, friends, and foes.  A Happy Thanksgiving to all. 

 

 

Cruise Passenger Missing From Sun Princess Again

A cruise passengers is missing from a Princess cruise ship heading towards Sydney today. The ship in question, the Sun Princess, is completing a 13-day cruise to New Zealand.

There is no explanation how or when the passenger went overboard.

Unfortunately, it again appears that this Princess cruise ship does not have am automatic man overboard system as required by the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.

Sun PrincessLast year there was an overboard passenger from the Sun Princess. I wrote this article last October: Princess Cruises: Why No CCTV or Man Overboard Systems on the Sun Princess?    

Princess Cruises released the following statement: 

"Princess Cruises confirms that an 84-year-old male passenger was reported missing early today onboard Sun Princess, which was on the way to Sydney completing a 13-day New Zealand cruise.

A thorough search of Sun Princess was conducted but the passenger could not be located.

The Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) in Canberra was contacted and Sun Princess turned around and retraced its path off the coast of New South Wales.

Sun Princess was scheduled to arrive in Sydney this morning.

She will continue its search efforts until released by the RCC.

Sun Princess’ arrival in Sydney will be delayed and the next cruise will be impacted." 

You can see a video of the story here.

 

Photo Credit: Daily Telegraph

Honduras: A Dead Beauty Queen and Another Murder in "Paradise"

Roatan, Honduras came onto my radar this year when several tourists contacted us after being robbed or sexually assaulted at gunpoint during cruise stopovers. Later we were the first to report on a Norwegian Cruise Line crew member who was shot in the head for his cell phone in Coxen Hole near the cruise port.

The Foreign Policy blog says that "7,172 people were murdered in Honduras in 2012. Much of the violence plaguing Honduras is drug and gang-related. The country is a shipment point for drugs bound for the United States, and fierce gang wars have broken out to control that lucrative territory." SFGateDestiny Roatan Honduras says that Honduras is "imbued with narco culture represented by the image of a man who moves in a big car, drinks, takes drugs, walks around armed and is bad. The culture of violence and death."

Fox News Latino describes Honduras as being caught in a "homicidal bloodbath" which involves not just "gangsters, drug traffickers and police officers" but "taxi drivers, journalists, abused women and other nameless innocents."

You can now add to that list beauty queens and hair dressers.

The latest murder in Roatan involved a well-liked hair stylist in Sandy Bay named Luis Alfredo Garcia. Known as "Destiny" to his friends and customers, he was the personal stylist to Miss Universe Honduras (no connection to Miss Honduras).  Two days ago, he was found dead in his apartment at the Coral Stone Plaza. News accounts describe a gruesome scene where his throat was reportedly slit, with some accounts suggesting that his arms and legs may have been bound with rope. The expatriates in Roatan are taking steps to try and solve the crime, knowing that the local police are inept and unmotivated to do so.

Destiny's murder followed the murder last week of Miss Honduras, 19 year-old Maria Jose Alvarado, who was gunned down along with her sister, Sofia, age 23, by her sister's jealous boyfriend who buried their bodies along a remote river bank near the border with Guatemala. (Ms. Alvarado's murder reminded me of the murder this year of beauty queen Monica Spear who was gunned down by armed robbers in Venezuela, another exceedingly dangerous country). 

According to ABC News, a top law enforcement officer said that Honduras' image has been "stained forever by this horrible crime."  ABC also noted that "the country has the world's highest homicide rate for a nation not at war, with an estimated 90 to 95 killings per 100,000 people (some says that the Roatan Hondurashomicide rate has dropped down to around 79 - 80 per 100,000). Street gangs and drug traffickers are the de-facto authorities in many areas, enforcing their will through violence, fear and extortion."

The expatriate residents in Roatan are quick to try and distance them from the criminal madness on the mainland of Honduras. The dive-shop owners, resorts, realtors and tour operators go as far as to describe the Bay Islands as an idyllic "paradise." They claim that they don't even lock their doors at night.

But there are far too many stories about crime and murder in Roatan to consider the "it's paradise" stories as anything other than marketing aimed at naive retirees from the U.S. or Canada. In a one week period from November 13th to November 20th, the Televisual Insular TV station in Roatan reported on the robbery of a U.S. citizen, multiple rapes, multiple thefts to fuel crack habits, a machete attack, and the burglary of a pastor's house. The articles include photographs which portray a sense of poverty and desperation in the Coxen Hole neighborhood next to the port.  

Roatan has hardly escaped the scourge of the cocaine trade. International drug trafficker Carlos Arnoldo Lobo, alias "El Negro," owned multiple properties in Roatan where he ran his criminal drug empire shipping cocaine from Colombia before he went into hiding. (The new Honduran government seized his money, automobiles and properties in Roatan and the U.S. finally extradicted El Negro to Miami earlier this year).  

Honduras is trying to clean up its act and market itself as a destination for the ever-growing cruise Roatan Hondurasindustry.

A French newspaper reported on the incredibly tight security which met passengers in the new cruise port in Trujillo, Honduras when the Norwegian Jewel arrived last month. Two naval boats and 500 military soldiers and police officers and several hundred plainclothes officers patrolled a radius of 70 kilometers, while a plane flew overhead.

I have a hard time reconciling the assurances from the tourism people that a cruise location is "safe" with the reality that it's necessary to assign a small army to a port of call to protect the guests.   

Honduras is one of the few cruise destinations subject to a critical crime warning from the U.S. State Department ("Although Roatan / Bay Islands . . . have a lower crime rate than other parts of the country, thefts, break-ins, assaults, and murders do occur and are still high by international standards"). I named it the second most dangerous cruise destination in the world earlier this year. 

Whether it's Roatan or Trujillo, Honduras is one tropical "paradise" that I don't plan to visit anytime soon.

 

November 23 2014 Update:  Honduras is a corrupt and violent place, where journalists are killed and witnesses are intimidated. Since posting this article, I have received numerous threats of violence from Honduras and the Bay Islands. One reader, Dale Woods Jones, posted: "They need to cut his tongue out so he don't talk and cut his hands off so he don't write a load of garbage about the islands."

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

Photo Credits: Top - Twitter; Middle & bottom - LaPrensa

Child Porn Pervert Arrested, About to Cruise with Disney

Cruise Ship Child Pornography A Fort Myers, Florida news station reports that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) arrested a man after finding child porn in his home.

NBC 2 reports that FDLE agents arrested Bryan Ludlam, age 42, a father of three young children.

He reportedly possessed child pornography, including videos depicting sexual battery of children as young as 5 years old. 

Ludlam was reportedly planning to cruise with his family on a Disney cruise ship this month.

The judge prohibited him from leaving Southwest Florida or using the internet.

He is free on a $50,000 bail. 

The cruising public should remember that there are child perverts present on cruise ships, even on family oriented cruises.

We have written numerous articles about child porn addicts and perverts who cruise:

Is Child Pornography Widespread on Cruise Ships?  

Celebrity Cruises Crew Member Arrested on Child Porn Charges

Royal Caribbean Cruise Passenger Sentenced to Jail for Over 5,000 Images of Child Pornography.

Watch your children. 

 

 

NBC-2.com WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral

Should the Bahamas Be Permitted to Register Cruise Ships?

Nassau BahamasThree Shots In Just 12 Hours reads the headlines in the Tribune newspaper today. Other articles in the local newspapers in Nassau include Tourist: I was Victim of Sex Attack by Jet Ski Operators.

The U.S. Embassy in Nassau has issued a warning to U.S. citizens of the danger of women (including girls) being sexually assaulted by jet ski operators on Paradise Island near the Atlantis resort.  

The murder count in the Bahamas just reached 106 for the year and is rising. Last year 111 people were murdered there. The body count will exceed that number this month. The vast majority of the homicides involved local citizens and occurred in Nassau (New Providence) with a population of only 250,000.  By contrast Miami-Dade County has a total population of 5,500,000 with only 229 murders (Miami-Dade has twenty-two times as many people and only twice as many murders as Nassau).

Compounding the problem is the inability of the local police in the Bahamas to solve these crimes and prosecute the criminals. The same police officers who can't solve a crime when a U.S. tourist is robbed at gunpoint in downtown Nassau are often tasked with investigating crimes on Bahamian-flagged cruise ships.

Cruise lines like Carnival, Disney, NCL and Royal Caribbean register many of their cruise ships in Nassau to avoid U.S. taxes, labor laws and safety regulations. By flying "flags of convenience," the Miami-based cruise ships divest the U.S. authorities  from law enforcement duties. In cases where U.S. citizens are victims, the FBI has special maritime jurisdiction and are permitted to become involved (although the FBI rarely does).

But when the victim is not a U.S. citizen (over 95% of the crew are not) the FBI has no jurisdiction and the responsibility to investigate crime on Bahamian-flagged ship falls to the Bahamas. 

This is, of course, an absolute joke. There are well over a thousand ships registered in the Bahamas, including not only cruise ships but tankers, bulk carriers, and cargo ships of all types. Does anyone really think that the local police in Nassau have the interest or resources to fly to Bahamian cruise Bahamas Flag of Convenienceships around the world and solve crimes when they can't solve a crime when a tourist is assaulted in front of their own police station?

I have never heard of the police in Nassau ever solving a single crime on a Bahamian-flagged cruise ship.  But if you are a crew member from the Philippines assaulted by another crew member from Central America, it's the Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA) who has jurisdiction. The BMA won't do anything but may (but usually not) delegate responsibility to the Nassau police. The local police, in turn, will simply not show up.

Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship, the Quantum of the Seas, has dominated the news as of late. There's endless news about all of the technological marvels on the ship. But Royal Caribbean registered the ship in crime-infested Nassau.  When the first violent crime occurs on the Quantum, don't expect anyone from the Bahamas to show up and investigate.

 

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

Don't forget to read: An "Outlaw Industry" Watched By "Paper Tigers"

Photo Credit:  Tim Clarke / Tribune

Andy Stuart - No Wonder He's Smiling

The Securities & Exchange Commission reports that Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Executive Vice President Andrew Stuart sold 67,701 shares of NCL stock in a transaction last week at an average price of $40.35, for a total value of $2,731,735.35.

You can read more information about the stock sale at Ticker Report.

Mr. Stuart reportedly now owns 180,099 shares of the cruise line stock, valued at approximately $7,266,995.

So, including just his NCL cruise stock and cash from his recent NCL stock sale, Mr. Stuart is worth at least NCL's Andrew Stuart$10,000,000.

Cruise executives make fantastic money. We all know that Carnival executive Micky Arison is worth somewhere between $5,000,000,000 and $6,000,000,000 (billion). Royal Caribbean executives Richard Fain and Adam Goldstein have raked in over $100,000,000 between them. And even a vice president, like Mr. Stuart, can make $10,000,000.          

At the same time, the tax-free cruise industry is incredibly cheap when it come to paying crew members a decent salary. Cleaners routinely work well over 300 hours a month for as little as $550. Crew members receive virtually no benefits.

Mr. Stuart's company, in particular, routinely refuses to permit cruise passengers who have just lost a family member, or children diagnosed with cancer, to reschedule their vacations.  

All those nickels & dimes NCL is saving off of its hard-working crew members and unfortunate customers are lining the pockets of the cruise executives. 

 

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

Photo Credit: Twitter

What Does the USA Have to Do with the Quantum of the Seas?

Quantum of the Seas There came a point during the inaugural festivities aboard the Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas last night when I couldn't help laughing.

The cruise line portrayed a gigantic (digital) American flag on the cruise ship's massive screens. The crowd of travel agents, cruise bloggers, quasi-celebrities and Bon Jovi tribute band went wild.

The Royal Caribbean PR feed began releasing carefully posed photo-shopped images of the Quantum sailing next to the Statute of Liberty. The frenzied cruise fans and make-believe journalists began posting comments on Twitter like "iconic," epic" and "goosebumps."

Then one of my "Twitter friends" tweeted #USA #cruise and posted a photograph of old glory. 

What on earth does the USA have to do with the Quantum?

The ship was built in Germany. Royal Caribbean is incorporated in Liberia (think civil wars & Ebola) to avoid U.S. taxes. The Liberian corporation registered the ship in Bahamas (think corruption and crime) to avoid U.S. safety laws and labor regulations. After a few months, the ship will be home-ported in Shanghai, China (try not to think of human rights violations). The crew members are over 95% from the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Eastern Europe and South and Central American.  

About the only connection to the USA is that's where the cruise CEO's live in their waterfront Miami mansions. 

Quantum of the Seas Statute of Liberty

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

Don't forget to read: Despite the Hype, Quantum of the Seas is Just Another Dumb Cruise Ship.

 

Photo credit: Twitter and Royal Caribbean

Violent Protests Disrupt Cruises to Acapulco

The last time that I wrote about Mexico I'm sure that I angered the tourism representatives there: Three Cruise Lines Plan to Return to Mazatlan: Will They Provide Bullet-Proof Jackets to Passengers?   

Taking your family to a place like Mazatlan, Acapulco or most any port in Mexico seems unnecessarily risky to me. Admittedly, the majority of cruise tourists have an enjoyable time in Mexican ports like Cabo or Cozumel. I have received more than my fair share of hate emails after writing articles about my view of Acapulco: Seven Tourists Raped in Acapulco: What is the Cruise Industry's Spin? and Mexican Violence: Does Anyone Cruise to Acapulco Anymore?  

It never ceases to amaze me that people vacation Acapulco Mexico Protests in destinations where the local tourism officials try to convince you that it's safe when the city is filled with the federal police riding around in armored personnel carriers with machine guns.    

I have been watching CNN lately and reading articles about the abduction and apparent murder of forty-three students in Mexico. The latest news is that the mayor of southern Mexican city of Iguala, José Luis Abarca, was arrested. It seems that Mr. Abarca was angered that the students interrupted an event that his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, was giving in an effort to succeed him as mayor. So the mayor reportedly instructed the local police to apprehend the students. Then the local cops turned the students over to a drug cartel who slaughtered the kids, burned their bodies, and dumped them in a river.

There are violent protests now in Acapulco (and other locations) about the corrupt mayor and police department being in cahoots with a murderous drug gang. I make it a point never to cross a picket line and I certainly won't cross a protest line formed by the parents of abducted children and their supporters. 

The Washington Post discusses this dreadful story in Mexico: Violent Protests Hit Acapulco’s Tourism. The Post says that "three years ago, 180 cruise ships docked in the city. So far in 2014, just five have made port calls . . . "

In my opinion that's five port calls too many. 

Mexico seems like a lawless country where there is considerable collusion between Mexican officials, the local police and organized crime. I don't see the point of risking your family's lives by sailing south of the border.

 

Photograph Credit: Eduardo Verdugo / AP

Medical Malpractice on the High Seas: Cruise Passengers Have Rights!

Three years ago, i wrote an article lamenting the sad state of affairs surrounding cruise ship medical care entitled: Medical Malpractice on the High Seas: Do Cruise Passengers Have Any Rights? 

The answer, in short, was no.  I wrote that a cruise ship is about the only place on earth where a doctor can negligently kill your loved one and there is no accountability.

In "If the Ship Doctor Kills You, Too Bad," I explained that passengers were plagued not only by the limited nature of cruise ship medical care but by the cruise industry's immunity from legal responsibility. Cruise cruise lines were able to avoid all liability even when the ship doctor or nurses negligently Royal Caribbean Cruise Medical Careharmed the passenger.  Cruise lines had immunity for medical malpractice lawsuits under the antiquated "Barbetta doctrine."

Passengers were left to seek accountability by trying to sue the doctor. This was problematic for several reasons. The doctor inevitably does not live in the U.S. and it was difficult to serve a ship doctor with a lawsuit or obtain personal jurisdiction over him in a U.S. court. Also, many ship doctors do not have liability insurance and have few assets.

You can read this case to see the extraordinary steps that the ship doctors and cruise lines went to to avoid liability even in clear cut cases where the doctor acted irresponsibly. Over the years, cruise lines fought tooth and nail to maintain their immunity from medical negligence on cruise ships even though they collect tens of billions of dollars a year and pay no U.S. taxes. 

With the recent 11th Circuit decision in Franza v. Royal Caribbean, the law has now changed. Cruise lines are finally responsible when passengers receive bad medical care on cruise ships. 

The landmark decision reflects the reality of the cruise industry today. Cruise lines are extremely wealthy, pay no U.S. taxes, and operate state-of-the-art medical facilities in what are essentially floating cities. Royal Caribbean's newest ship, Quantum of the Seas, cost over $1,000,000,000 and is touted as the most sophisticated ship in the world.  Plus, it offers some of the most dangerous attractions in the cruise industry, with the iFly simulated sky-diving and FlowRider simulated surfing attractions. Why shouldn't this cruise line be responsible when cruise passengers are seriously injured and then the cruise ship doctor commits malpractice?

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

Photo Credit: Jim Walker

Despite the Hype, Quantum of the Seas is Just Another Dumb Cruise Ship

Quantum North StarThe cruise industry is abuzz with excitement about Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship, the Quantum of the Seas. I wrote yesterday that during an interview with CNBC, cruise chairman Richard Fain called the giant ship "wonderful, exciting, fantastic and terrific." The CNBC reporter excitedly called the ship the "best and brightest."

The "smart ship" is how the cruise line pitched the $1,000,000,000 cruise ship. The media jumped aboard without first objectively testing the new ship. There are dozens of articles by travel publications endorsing the cruise line's marketing image of the giant ship as the "most technologically advanced ship ever to sail."

Putting the marketing-hysteria aside, just how smart is the cruise ship?

Yes, the Quantum has the North Star viewing pod, the first iFly simulated sky-diving on a ship (which will keep the personal injury lawyers busy for a decade), another FlowRider simulated-surfing-device (a real money-maker considering the cost of private lessons), a robotic bartender and the first (old school) bumper cars at sea. But these are just gadgets designed for passenger fun. Same goes for the virtual balconies for the windowless interior cabins, for which the cruise line can now charge a premium.    

The internet connection on the Quantum is reportedly faster than other cruise ships, so the kids can download movies I suppose. But it's still slower than land-based connectivity. Do you really want to Automatic Man Overboard see the kids turning into couch potatoes staring at their gaming devices during a cruise?

Unfortunately, Royal Caribbean didn't invest in technology to make the Quantum safer for the guests or the crew. In 2010, President Obama signed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, requiring the installation of automatic man-overboard devices. Other than Disney which reportedly has installed the safety devices, Royal Caribbean and the rest of the cruise industry refuse to invest the monies to utilize the technology, even though there is no question that the technology is available.

Automatic man-overboard systems are designed to immediately send a signal to the bridge and capture the image of the person going overboard so that prompt search and rescue measures can be undertaken. Royal Caribbean has experienced more than its share of passengers and crew going overboard in its fleet of ships. It needs to invest some of its tax-free bounty to install such safety systems. But instead it spent money on gee-whiz contraptions designed to WOW the public and increase profits. 

So as the Quantum passengers enjoy the iFly, FlowRider and North Star, drink gin-and-tonics served by robots, and gaze out of their simulated balconies, people will continue to disappear at sea. And the Quantum will continue to sail on without knowing, like the dumb ship that she is.  

 

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

Photo Credits: Top - Royal Caribbean; bottom - CruelKev2's blog         

Royal Caribbean's Billion Dollar Smart Cruise Ship - A Slow Boat to China?

CNBC's high-energy Simon Hobbs (my favorite) interviews Royal Caribbean Chairman Richard Fain about the Quantum of the Seas which is being called the world's first "smart ship." 

Mr. Hobbs interviewed me last year about Carnival's troubles following the ill-fated "poop cruise."  I found him to be fast-paced and quick-witted.

In the video, Mr. Hobbs asks the Royal Caribbean boss some interesting questions about Royal Caribbean's decision to send the cruise line's most spectacular cruise ship, with the NorthStar capsule contraption, iFly simulated sky-diving attraction (there's already been an injury) and bumper-cars, to China.

Mr. Fain called the Quantum, his baby"wonderful, exciting, fantastic and terrific." He explained his intention of moving the cruise ship to Shanghai because his cruise line has received "terrific interest and great prices" from the Chinese.

I guess that sums it up.   

 

Watch Out for Crime in the Bahamas - WPRO Interviews Jim Walker

WPRO radio interviewed me this morning on its news talk radio show with Gene Valicenti about the New York Times article focusing on crime in Nassau, Bahamas. 

WPRO has a large readership in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

We talked about U.S. citizens who were victims of armed robberies. We talked about tourists, including minor children, sexually assaulted by jet-ski operators on Paradise Island in Nassau.  

You can listen to the interview here (after the Jimmy Buffett into).    

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

Photo Credit: Atlantis Paradise Island - Wikipedia / D Ramey Logan Creative Commons 3.0 / WPPilot Atlantis Paradise Island

11th Circuit Rejects Cruise Lines' Immunity Defense to Medical Malpractice Claims

Today the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal published an opinion which recognizes the right of cruise ship passengers who become victims of medical malpractice to hold cruise lines vicariously liable for the negligence of the shipboard doctors and nurses.

The case is PATRICIA FRANZA, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Pasquale F. Vaglio versus ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES, LTD., a Liberian corporation.  You can read the opinion (63 pages) here.    

Previously, cruise lines were able to hide behind the immunity defense set forth in Barbetta v. S/S Bermuda Star, 848 F.2d 1364 (5th Cir. 1988). The so-called “Barbetta rule” immunizes a shipowner Quatum of the Seas from respondeat superior liability whenever a cruise ship employee renders negligent medical care to its passengers. Cruise lines enjoyed broad immunity "no matter how clear the shipowner’s control over its medical staff or how egregious the claimed acts of negligence."

The Franza v. Royal Caribbean decision involved an "elderly cruise ship passenger (who) fell and bashed his head while the vessel, the Explorer of the Seas, was docked at port in Bermuda. The injured traveler, Pasquale Vaglio, was wheeled back onto the ship, where he sought treatment from the onboard medical staff in the ship’s designated medical center. Over the next few hours, Vaglio allegedly received such negligent medical attention that his life could not be saved. In particular, the ship’s nurse purportedly failed to assess his cranial trauma, neglected to conduct any diagnostic scans, and released him with no treatment to speak of. The onboard doctor, for his part, failed even to meet with Vaglio for nearly four hours."

The Vaglios then encountered another delay when "the onboard medical staff would not examine Vaglio until the ship’s personnel obtained credit card information." Tragically, Mr. Vaglio died a week later.

Mr. Vaglio's daughter, Patricia, filed suit to hold Royal Caribbean vicariously liable for the shipboard medical team's negligence under two theories: actual agency (also termed respondeat superior) and apparent agency. 

After the trial court dismissed Ms. Vaglio's lawsuit under the "Barbetta rule," she appealed the dismissal of her case to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal.  

In a decision authored by Justice Stanley Marcus, the Eleventh Circuit rejected the "Barbetta rule" and recognized that maritime employers have long been vicariously liable for the negligence of their ship employees. The Barbetta rule was fashioned at a time when ships had sparse, if any medical facilities, and often no ship doctor or nurses. But now the cruise industry boasts state-of-the-art medical facilities and touts that its cruise ship doctors and infirmaries comply with the the American College of Emergency Physicians guidelines. 

Justice Marcus pointed out that in a Royal Caribbean press release authored by Royal Caribbean cruise executive Adam Goldstein, he boasted about the cruise line's "onboard laboratory equipment, x-ray units, and clot-busting thrombolytics" which were important to the public's "tranquility and peace of mind." The court stated that it was "disingenuous for large cruise lines to disclaim any medical expertise when they routinely provide access to extensive medical care in the infirmaries they have constructed for this very purpose."

Justice Marcus stated: 

“Here, the roots of the Barbetta rule snake back in to a wholly different world. Instead of nineteenth-century steamships, we now confront state of the art cruise ships that house thousands of people and operate as floating cities, complete with well-stocked modern infirmaries and urgent care centers. In place of truly independent doctors and nurses, we must now acknowledge that medical professionals routinely work for corporate masters. And whereas ships historically went ‘off the grid’ when they set sail, modern technology enables distant ships to communicate instantaneously with the mainland in meaningful ways. In short, despite its prominence, the Barbetta rule now seems to prevail more by Philip D. Parrish Lawyer Miamithe strength of inertia than by the strength of its reasoning. In our view, ‘the reasons that originally led’ other courts to adopt ‘the rule have long since disappeared.’”

The decision is an important one because cruise lines will no longer entice cruise passengers aboard their cruise ships by representing the excellence of the medical care and then assert immunity when the shipboard doctors and nurses maim the passengers. 

The case was handled by trial lawyers Andy Waks and Joel Barnett at the trial level and appellate specialist Philip D. Parrish at the appellate level (photo right).  Mr. Parrish has handled other important maritime cases on behalf of cruise ship passengers.  Mr. Parrish successfully handled several high profile decisions for our firm's clients: Chaparro v. Carnival (cruise lines have duty to warn of crimes in ports of call), Johnson v. Royal Caribbean (flowrider liability waiver is illegal), and Doe v. Princess (addressing scope of crew member arbitration agreement).    

 

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Wedel 04 CC BY-SA 4.0 Frank Schwichtenberg

43 Year Old Sexually Assaults Minor on Carnival Triumph

Carnival Cruise RapeBreitbart reports today that a member of the Kansas National Guard pleaded guilty to transporting a minor across state lines for the purposes of having sex on a Carnival cruise ship.

Paul Francis Grimm, age 43, from Wichita, Kansas flew a girl under 18 from her home in Ohio to Houston in order to take her on the Carnival Triumph cruise ship sailing from Galveston, Texas.

Grimm used to live in Ohio and his daughter was friends with the underage girl. Grimm falsely told the girl's mother that he was taking his children on the cruise and wanted the girl to accompany them.

At the end of the cruise, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) became suspicious when they realized that Grimm and the minor had different last names. The CBP separated Grimm from the child and found out that Grimm possessed nude photographs of the girl, brought sex toys with him, and had engaged in sexual conduct with the underage girl. 

There is a lot of blame to pass around in this situation. No parent should ever permit a man to take their child on a cruise. A cruise line should never sell a single cabin to a man and an unrelated child twenty-five (25) years younger than him.

The Customs and Border Patrol should begin vetting the name of passengers before the cruise starts, rather than screening passengers only at the end of the cruise.  Unfortunately this is standard practice Custom and Border Patrolfor the CBP, which routinely permits rapists, criminals with outstanding warrants and other misfits to board cruise ships. Then there is great fanfare at the end of the cruise when the CBP finally take a look at the ship manifest. 

Consider how often this occurs:

Are You Cruising with a Wanted Felon? Five Passengers Arrested on Carnival Magic in Galveston.

Passenger Wrongfully Arrested On A Carnival Cruise Ship

U.S. Customs & Border Agents Terrorize Cruise Passenger.

Cruise passengers Steven Mark Anthony Requena (photo right), age 28, was arrested while disembarking the Carnival Inspiration at the Port of Tampa. His name was flagged by a sweep of the manifest of passengers by Homeland Security officials who determined that the passenger was wanted for sexual assault in addition to assault with a weapon and forcible confinement. The U.S. Marshals arrested Requena only after the cruise ship returned to port. Regretfully, our federal government routinely looks at the ship passenger list only after the bad guys have already boarded the cruise ship. 

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Photo Credits: Top - Brietbart; bottom - United States Marshal's Office.

Paulgrimm Complaint

 

United States Virgin Islands - One of the Safest or Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World?

US Virgin IslandseTN Global Travel Industry News recently published an article about  tourism issues in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) and the USVI Commissioner of Tourism, Beverly Nicholson-Doty.

In its original publication, eTN cited several sources of information for the proposition that the USVI has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world. The territory has a staggering homicide rate around 35.5 per 100,000 people, whereas the United States as a whole has a rate around 4.7 per 100,000 people. (In 2012, the per capita murder rate in the USVI was even higher, around 56 per 100,000 people). 

We selected the USVI as the eight most dangerous cruise destination in the Caribbean in 2014. Earlier this year, I wrote that there are "way too many guns, drugs, robberies, and murders to pretend the USVI is a place for a family to vacation."

The leading maritime case involving a cruise line's duty to warn passengers of dangers ashore involves a young girl murdered while visiting St. Thomas during a cruise ship stop.

eTN concluded that "the discrepancy between the socioeconomic status, ethnicity and colonial history of the local population stands in contrast to that of the tourist, straining the relationship between residents and visitors which is evidenced, in some cases, by poor service and worker hostility. Negative employee behavior combined with infrastructure decline pushes tourism to other destinations and creates a downward spiral for USVI visits." This is an accurate insight in to the crime and tourism problems in my opinion. 

But then eTN received a phone call from the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). CTO claimed that the article "had many errors" and disputed that the USVI is dangerous. CTO failed to provide eTN with any evidence or statistics to indicate that the USVI is safe.

Inexplicably, eTN published a second article in which it wrote "of course it should be acknowledged the US Virgin Islands is one of the safest travel and tourism destinations in the world when it comes to U.S. Virgin Islands Crimecrime."  It cited no evidence to support this conclusion which was 180 degrees opposite of what it concluded in its original article.

Tourism officials in the Caribbean are in the business of selling tropical vacations to their islands. To accomplish this feat in an ever-increasing dangerous environment, tourism bureaus often suppress crime statistics and dispute the statistics when they are released.

There's no dispute that the USVI murder rate has been 8 to 12 times higher than the U.S. rate in the last couple of years. It's dangerous for families cruising to St. Thomas not to understand this.

It's disappointing to see a reputable publication like eTN flip-flop so dramatically after receiving a single telephone call from the Caribbean Tourism Organization. 

 

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Photo Credit: Top - Wikipedia / Charlotte Amalie Creative Commons 2.5; bottom - Virgin Islands Daily News

Are Jihadists Sailing on Cruise Ships?

The Associated Press (AP) reports that jihadi fighters are increasingly buying tickets on cruise ships to join extremists in battle zones in Syria and Iraq.

The AP states that jihadists are trying to bypass travel restrictions in neighboring Turkey.

According to the AP, Turkey says that it has been deporting hundreds of terrorists caught in airports and bus stations.  But there are some 15,000 fighters or more from 81 countries traveling to the Middle East to fight for extreme Islamic causes. 

The BBC reports that Islamic militants are using of cruise ships "more and more."

The AP quotes outgoing Interpol chief Ronald Noble as saying:

"Originally, our concern about people on cruise ships - dangerous people on cruise ships - really al Qauda Cruise Shipfocused on the classic sort of rapist, burglar, or violent criminal. But as we've gathered data, we've realized that there are more and more reports that people are using cruise ships in order to get to launch pads, if you will - sort of closer to the conflict zones - of Syria and Iraq."

Terrorism is a concern for any kind of international travel. The current news does not suggest an attack by such groups on cruise ships but there is historical evidence of such attacks. We have written about plans uncovered two years ago by al Qaeda to seize cruise ships and dress passengers in orange jump suits and execute them. Three decades ago, Arab terrorists killed cruise passenger Leon Klinghoffer on the Achille Lauro cruise ship and a decade ago our U.S. Navy lost several dozen sailors who were blown up during the attack on the U.S.S. Cole by an al Qaeda group.

 

Photo Credit: CNN

Cruise Law News Celebrates Five Year Anniversary

Cruise Law News just celebrated our five year anniversary. 

It's difficult to remember a time when we did not have a blog to comment on the ins-and-outs of the cruise industry and the ports of call where the cruise ships unload their passengers. Since 2009, I've written over 2,100 articles and received over 8,000 comments from our readers.

In 2014, Cruise Law News has been mentioned in over one hundred newspapers, television programs, cable news program, and radio shows.  We have broken many stories that the cruise industry would have preferred that we not mention, such as MSC Cruises dumping garbage bag in the seas, Royal Cruise Law NewsCaribbean exploiting its crew members and Carnival cutting employment programs that existed for years while the cruise CEO's racked in the cash.

Our motto remains writing about "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know," and we believe that we have lived up to that goal. 

Our blog is ranked the fourth most popular law blog in the United States and the number one law blog authored by a law firm as opposed to a for-profit commercial website.  

A year ago at our fourth year anniversary, I wrote that "1,000,000 different people read over 3,500,000 pages of our blog in the last 12 months."  We have far exceeded those numbers in 2014. In just the first four days of this month alone, over 86,000 unique users have read over 239.000 pages of our website. We have a readership which substantially exceeds the paid circulation of the newspaper of the town where I was born.  

Our Facebook page has over 126,000 followers, mostly crew members as well as cruise passengers and travel agents who wish to remain anonymous. We receive many thousand of comments a month. We routinely receive real-time insights into problems on cruise ships from passengers and the crew.

You either love us or hate us.

I receive more than my fair share of hate e-mail. However, many people write to us and thank us for bringing attention to issues such as crew members working 12 hour a day for just $550 a month or sexual assaults of children on the "fun ships," the cruise industry's dirtiest secret. We warn passengers about crime in the tropical ports of call where the cruise lines collect millions of dollars of tax-free money.

We have followed our clients to testify before Congress to advocate in support of legislation to protect cruise passengers and write about the experiences as they occur.

There's always the other side of the cruise story. We try to be the first to tell it. 

Thanks for reading Cruise Law News!

Quantum of the Seas Diverted to Azores Due to Medical Emergency

Yesterday, I received a number of emails about Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas as it continued its transatlantic crossing to the U.S.  

There is talk onboard that the new ship needed a medevac due to a medical emergency. The ship had to be diverted and made an unscheduled stop in Azores where a pilot boat picked up a passenger lying in a stretcher with a neck restraint. He had to undergo emergency surgery. 

A passenger also dislocated his shoulder on Royal Caribbean's FlowRider.  

I'm not certain whether the medevac and the FlowRider injury are connected.

I'm wondering whether Royal Caribbean is still requiring passengers to sign the legally unenforceable waivers of liability before they step onto the FlowRider or into the cruise line's new iFly® simulated sky-diving contraption or before they participate in the bumper-car demolition derby. 

Last year I wrote a tongue-in-cheek article about all of the new ways that passengers will be injured on Royal Caribbean's much proclaimed first "smart ship," entitled Quantum of the Seas - A Cruise Lawyer's Dream?  

I suspect that the first lawsuit will be filed against the Quantum before the ship even reaches the U.S.

Video Credit: YouTube / Morgens Hallas

 

 

Are the Police in Nassau, Bahamas Covering Up Crimes Against U.S. Citizens?

I had not previously heard of the specific incidents of crimes against U.S. citizens listed in yesterday's advisory from the U.S. Embassy in Nassau. The embassy said that "over the past several weeks there has been an increase in the level of crime in areas where U.S. citizens live and frequent." The embassy listed seven recent violent crimes against U.S. citizens:

  • "three armed robberies of U.S. citizens . . . in daylight hours in heavily frequented tourist areas;" 
  • "a U.S. citizen who resides in The Bahamas was kidnapped and violently raped while walking home;" and
  • "three reported sexual assaults on U.S. citizens, including minors, by jet ski operators on Paradise Island."

I read the Nassau Tribune, Nassau Guardian, Bahamas Journal, Bahamas Weekly and Bahamas Press on a daily basis. There is no mention of any of these crimes in the newspapers in Nassau. I find the press in the Bahamas to be transparent. There are a lot of newspapers in New Providence. With a Cruise Port Nassau Bahamaspotential readership of only 250,000, the newspapers compete against one another for the top story. There is no doubt that the press in Nassau would report the crimes against Americans if the Royal Bahamian Police Department (RBPD) released the information to them.

The Nassau Guardian even seemed surprised by the embassy advisory, saying that "there were no reports to the media" that Americans were recent crime victims.

I also read the crime reports in the RBPD web page on a daily basis. There is no mention of these recent crimes in the official on-line crime data-base, even though the criminal offenses are extremely violent (kidnapping, rape, armed robbery and sexual assault of children). 

Is the Bahamian police department in cahoots with tourism and governmental officials to suppress information regarding crimes against tourists?

Certainly, there's no doubt that admitting that U.S. girls are being sexually assaulted by jet ski operators on Paradise Island is bad for tourism. It's not the image tourism officials wish to portray. What family would ever travel to Nassau if they knew that perverts were targeting their children and sexually assaulting them on the beach or in the water?

Unfortunately, the police department in Nassau appears to be receiving cues from the tourism officials on what not to disclose to the public. Rather than announcing the crimes committed against tourists and bringing attention to them in order to locate witnesses and demand accountability, the police seem motivated to keep the embarrassing information secret. 

The police in Nassau have been accused of covering up crimes mentioned in previous warnings this year from the U.S. Embassy.  Listen to how one cruise tourist robbed in Nassau several years ago characterized the Bahamian police.

Bahamian Police Superintendent Paul Rolle is sensitive to issues of tourism. He understands the negative effects of crime on tourism. When a U.S. crew member was shot and killed in Nassau last year, Rolle defended his office's failure to solve the crime saying "We aren’t no play-play cartoon police force." He told the Nassau Guardian that "tourism is our life blood.”

Just last week gunmen pretending to be policemen murdered 44 year-old Andre Cartwright as he tried to defend his elderly parents after the gunmen kicked their front door in. Superintendent Rolle refused to reveal the name of the hotel where the police found one of the gunmen hiding.  He mentioned only Central Police Station Nassau Bahamasthat the suspect was apprehended "in a hotel room over the bridge” and was hiding in a "Paradise Island hotel."  Is it really too potentially distressing to tourists to hear that the murderer might be holed up in a room next to them in a tourist attraction, like Atlantis for example?

The only time a U.S. citizen is mentioned by the police seems to be when they arrest a cruise passenger at the cruise wharf for possession of a small amount of pot. But when a U.S. tourist is jacked up at gunpoint or violently assaulted, no official information is available to the press or the public.

Certainly U.S. tourists are not the only visitors who are being victimized; however, the Bahamian police data-base is completely lacking any crime data when the victims are tourists from Canada, the U.K., Europe, China or South America.  

The Bahamas is in the business of selling an illusion of a tropical paradise to tourists. Unfortunately, the police department appears to be more interested in being a part of the country's tourism team rather than preventing or solving violent crimes against the country's guests.   

November 7 2014 Update:  

The New York Times cover the story and quotes Cruise Law News: U.S. Embassy Warns of Crime in Bahamas.

The Tribune newspaper in Nassau picked up this story as well: Blogger: ‘Is There Cover-Up Of Crimes Against Tourists?’ 

Meanwhile the police in Nassau defend themselves. But DNA Leader Branville McCartney said:

“The crime issue is out of hand. You’ve got all sorts of things happening in this country that we don’t even hear about. I don’t want to hear no foolishness from this government or from the police department talking about ‘crime down.’ I’m scared in my own country. The fear of crime is not down. Don’t talk fool around my head about the crime is down, when it isn’t. This crime is out of control and I ask the government to deal with it."

Crime in Nassau Bahamas 

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / TampAGS, for AGS Media Creative Commons 3.0; Wikipedia / Ritchie Sieradzki Creative Commons 2.0.

U.S. Issues Another Crime Warning for Nassau, Bahamas: Fourth Advisory this Year

Yesterday, the U.S. took the unprecedented step of issuing a fourth crime warning for the Bahamas in 2014. The latest advisory was issued by the U.S. Embassy in Nassau. No other cruise destination in the world is the subject of such repeated and graphic crime warnings. 

The advisory says warns against armed robberies, kidnapping and rape of U.S. citizens, including the sexual assault of girls from the U.S. by jet ski operators on Paradise Island: 

Security Message: Recent Criminal Activity in Popular Areas of Nassau & Crime Warning Nassau Bahamas Holiday Season Security Awareness - November 3, 2014

"The U.S. Embassy in Nassau advises U.S. citizens residing in and traveling to The Bahamas to be aware of their surroundings and remain on heightened alert to avoid being victims of crime.

While U.S. citizens have not been targeted directly, over the past several weeks there has been an increase in the level of crime in areas where U.S. citizens live and frequent. We also have noticed criminals increasingly becoming more brazen and creative in their methods. For example, three armed robberies of U.S. citizens have occurred in daylight hours in heavily frequented tourist areas, including an armed assailant assaulting and robbing a woman walking near Ardastra Gardens. In mid-October during daylight hours in a heavily populated area, two men armed with handguns robbed customers waiting in the drive-thru line at a local restaurant. Armed assailants have placed random items in the street as impromptu roadblocks so unassuming drivers would stop and could be robbed. A man was shot at Potter’s Cay, near the base of the Paradise Island bridge, at a time when tourists would still be frequenting the area.

Police recently warned women to be extra vigilant after a recent spike in the number of reported sexual assaults in Nassau. In October, a U.S. citizen who resides in The Bahamas was kidnapped and violently raped while walking home. The water sports rental industry is only loosely regulated; since July, there have been three reported sexual assaults on U.S. citizens, including minors, by jet ski operators on Paradise Island.

Home invasions in Nassau have become more numerous and violent. A home invasion on October 28 resulted in the murder of the homeowner. In August, a U.S. citizen was the victim of a home invasion and attempted sexual assault in the Cable Beach area.

As the holiday season nears with its many celebrations there is often, unfortunately, an increase in criminal activity. During each year’s holiday season, the Embassy receives increased reports of crime, particularly armed robberies and burglaries."

You can read about the first warning (U.S. Embassy - January 2014), second warning (U.S. Embassy - March 2014) and third warning (U.S. State Department - May 2014) here, here and here.

Canada issued a crime warning in September this year.

The Latin America Monitor issued a crime warning which rocked Nassau in June this year.

The cruise lines finally began warning their passengers about crime in Nassau last year. 

You can read our most recent articles about the crime problem in Nassau:

It's Murderous in the Bahamas: Homicides Expected to Exceed 2013 Rate.

99 Murdered in the Bahamas (So Far in 2014) - How Many Times Will My Family Be Assaulted?

Update: The Tribune reported this afternoon U.S. Citizens Warned Over Nassau Crime (read comments to article). The Nassau Guardian reported U.S. Embassy Warns on Sexual Assaults. The Tribune also published Insight: Stopping The Bloodshed

November 5 2014 Update: Are the Police in Nassau, Bahamas Covering Up Crimes Against U.S. Citizens?

 

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Photo Credit: Nassau Tribune

Are Cruise Lines Discriminating Against Crew Members from Serbia & Bosnia-Herzegovina?

Royal Caribbean CruisesNewspapers in Serbia are reporting that several cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, are allegedly refusing to hire crew members from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. You can read one article from the Telegraf newspaper here.

The newspapers are suggesting that the cruise lines took this action to blacklist young people from this part of East Europe because the prospective employees intended to fake injuries and bring lawsuits for compensation soon after joining the cruise companies.

The Sef Foruma Facebook page says that even candidates who are just waiting to join cruise ships receive rejection letters (see blow) after the crew members have already gone though pre-employment medical examinations. 

These allegations surprise us. We have represented many crew members from these countries (as well as Croatia). Many of these cases involve serious accidents and injuries resulting in surgeries as well as substandard medical care by cruise ship doctors. One of our last cases involved the refusal of the cruise line to provide medical treatment to a young Serbian woman suffering from cancer.

I suspect that if cruises line are refusing to hire employees from Serbia or Bosnia-Herzegovina, it's because the companies can hire crew members cheaper from Indonesia, India and the Philippines.

There is nothing that can be done even if the cruise lines are openly discriminating against citizens from these countries. Cruise lines are free to hire and fire (or not re-hire) ship employees with impunity. There is a saying in Miami amongst maritime lawyers that cruise lines can fire crew members for good reason, bad reason or no reason. Unfortunately, its the crew members who are trying to support their families who suffer the most.  

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Serbia Crew Members

 Photo Credit: Wikepedia / Baldwin040 Creative Commons 3.0; Image Credit: Sef Foruma.

Update: I received this comment from a reader from Serbia saying that the hiring agency had its contract with the cruise line canceled because it was charging recruits for a job:  

"AGENCY Service published false news in TELEGRAF newspapers , In order to hide behind their bad deeds The point is that the agency -Kouzon lost license , they have lost their license because they charge recruits for trainings , which the company ( Royal ) already paid to them ,,,,,,Also, they charge recruits for services 350Eur + training 120 Eur it is at least 450 Eur per recruit ,,, as well This is against the law to do in the Republic of Serbia ,,,, to make long story short ,,, they took money for too many recruits, and now they lost license ,, and they are not able anymore to send recruits to work for Royal,,, that is a problem,,, so they make false story and they are hiding behind ....Crew members from every country sue the company if they got injured, From Brasil, Agentila, USA, China and nobody got banned for that .......That is a false news, a thousand peoples from Balkan are waiting for a job because they paid to the agency for that, but they will not go because agency lost license ,,that ia all truth ,,,,,and And these are the bills that confirm that the agency collect money for services and training."

Bahamas Celebration Cruise Ship Runs Aground and Strands Passengers in Freeport

Bahamas CelebrationWPTV reports that the Bahamas Celebration was forced to return to Freeport after the cruise ship "touched bottom" while leaving port last night.

The Bahamas Celebration sails between the Port of Palm Beach and Freeport.

Although there have been no reports of whether the cruise ship sustained damage, it sounds like there may have been damage to the ship's hull.  I'm not sure what "touched bottom" means. It may be a nice way of saying that the ship smashed a reef. 

Update: The Nassau Tribune reports that the ship sustained a hole in the side of the vessel, and is listing 10 degrees. Initial reports suggested that the ship was in danger of sinking.  Passengers were instructed to wear life preservers.  Photo Credit: Nassau Tribune.

Marco Polo Cruise Ship Runs Aground in Norway Again

The Marco Polo cruise ship is back in the news after it ran aground while trying to dock at a pier in Norway.  It previously ran aground in March 2013 in Norway. News accounts estimate that somewhere between 750 and 1,000 passengers were aboard. 

The AP says that maritime rescue services are hoping to pull the cruise ship free at high tide later today, after tugboats and a coast guard vessel failed to push it free. 

The ship is chartered by U.K. based Cruise & Maritime Voyages.

Marco Polo was last in the news in February of this year when it proceeded to sail in extremely rough weather.  A wave crashed through a window in the vessel's dining room and killed a passenger.  

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Photo Credit: AP

Marco Polo

Tragedy on the Coral Princess - Crew Member Killed

On Friday October 24, 2014, a "rescue boat" on the Coral Princess was being raised on davits with two crew members aboard when a cable snapped. The vessel fell into the water. One crew member identified as Husnan Fauzan sustained mortal injuries and died. The second crew member identified as Steven Bagshaw sustained injuries and was treated in the hospital. 

The fatal accident occurred in Colon, Panama. 

Princess Cruises released this statement on Facebook:

"It is with deep sadness that I must share the news that our colleague Husnan Fauzan has passed Coral Princessaway from injuries he sustained in the tragic accident on Coral Princess yesterday. Husnan, who served as SGP1, joined Princess in 2004.

Husnan, along with Bosun Steven Bagshaw, were onboard a rescue boat that was in the process of being hoisted when it fell back into the water. Both men were taken to the hospital for treatment, but unfortunately, Husnan did not survive. Steven is currently still in the hospital in stable condition."

We also received this statement from Princess:

"On October 24 two of our crew members were in one of the ship’s rescue boats doing some maintenance work on the hull of Coral Princess. When the boat was being raised back onboard the ship, one of the cables that raises and lowers the boat parted, and the boat dropped back into the water with our two crew members inside.

We immediately responded and discovered that these crew members had, unfortunately, sustained injuries which necessitated their transfer to a shoreside hospital for evaluation and treatment.

It is with an extremely heavy heart that we confirm that one of the crew members subsequently passed away from his injuries. This has devastated everyone across the entire Princess Cruises organization.

We are, and will continue to support his family during this difficult period."

It is a dangerous practice to raise boats with crew members inside. Cable and davit failures are relatively common and cause catastrophic injuries.  

In 2012, the cruise industry's trade group, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), adopted a new policy prohibiting crew members in lifeboats when they are being raised or lowered. But some ships still engage in this dangerous practice.

In 2013, we wrote about another cruise line which ignored the CLIA-safety policy with disastrous consequences: CLIA Safety Proposal Ignored: Lifeboat Plunges 60 Feet, 5 Dead

We will post any photographs or videos of the tragic incident if they are available.

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Cliff from Arlington, Virginia, USA Creative Commons 2.0

Carnival's CEO Gerry Cahill to Retire - Why?

Carnival released a statement this morning that Gerry Cahill will retire as the CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines at the end of next month. 

Mr. Cahill, age 63, has been with Carnival for 20 years. He joined Carnival Corporation in 1994 as vice president - finance. In January 1998, he was promoted to senior vice president - finance and chief financial officer. In 2007, Mr. Cahill became the CEO of Carnival Corporation's largest cruise brand, Carnival Cruise Lines. 

Mr. Cahill guided Carnival Cruise Lines during its expansion. He introduced a new class of cruise ship (the Dream class), which included the Carnival Dream, Carnival Magic and CarnivalGerry Cahill Carnival Retires Breeze. He appears to have a likeable, easy-going personality. 

Mr. Cahill was often on the proverbial hotspot during the last several years. He had to respond when the Carnival Splendor lost power in 2010 and had to be towed into San Diego. He also was at the helm of the cruise line during the disastrous PR debacle when the Carnival Triumph suffered an engine room fire and had to be towed across the Gulf of Mexico.

The incident was covered by CNN extensively. Carnival's brand recognition suffered dramatically as it became know as the "poop cruise" line. 

Mr. Cahill also caught the wrath of Senator Jay Rockefeller who conducted a series of cruise safety hearings last year and this year following the Costa Concordia disaster. Rockefeller voiced his disapproval of the short prepared statement that Mr. Cahill read at the 2013 hearing (photo, second from right). 

In what seemed like a vote of no confidence for Mr. Cahill, Carnival invited former Carnival Cruise Line president Bob Dickinson back as a "special consultant" to Carnival Cruise Line in June 2013.

In all fairness to Mr. Cahill, Micky Arison was missing in action when the Splendor and Triumph went adrift and Carnival's reputation began to sink following the Concordia debacle. Mr. Cahill took a lot of heat for cruise line issues outside of his responsibility. 

He will retire on November 30th. Carnival has not announced his replacement yet. 

 

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It's Murderous in the Bahamas: Homicides Expected to Exceed 2013 Rate

The headlines in the Nassau, Bahamas newspapers over the last 24 hours are ominous -  Man Shot Dead in Home InvasionShot Dead Defending Parents and Fatal Shooting in Fox Hill

These murders take the number of homicides in the Bahamas to 96 and 97 for the year.  

The Nassau newspapers read like a war correspondent's daily account of mayhem and misery.  In the last week, the Tribune has blasted headlines like Shootings on the IncreaseTwo Murders in Six Hours, and Latest Armed Robberies Bring Month’s Total To 30. The Nassau Guardian's recent Crime Nassau Bahamasgruesome headlines include Two Killed in Weekend Violence and Man Gunned Down Protecting Family

Last year there were 111 murders in the Bahamas in 2013. The country is averaging 10 murders a month in 2014. The 2013 rate will be exceeded sometime in December.

Defenders of the Bahamas point out that the Bahamas consists of some 700 islands. But there's no question that the vast majority of these violent crimes occur in New Providence (Nassau) where the majority of the cruise passengers disembark.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Miami's metro area has a population of around 5.5 million. That's twenty-two times the population of New Providence (250,000). Miami-Dade had 229 murders in 2013. Even though the Miami metro area has 22 times more people, it has only approximately 2 times as many murders. Plus the police force in Nassau is ineffective, the legal system is broken and the tourism officials try to cover the violence up.

Many cruise tourists have an image of Miami as being high in crime, but they don't understand that disembarking in Nassau is far more dangerous.

Both the U.S. and Canada have issued crime warnings for the Bahamas because of the violence.

More and more cruise passengers tell me that they stay on the ship when they reach port in Nassau. They say that they're bored with the straw market and run-down Bay Street. They don't want to risk walking off the ship into a shabby port and becoming a victim of armed robbery by a young man with a gun. 

 

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Photo Credit: Nassau Tribune

Department of Transportation Creates Cruise Ship Information Site

In July of 2013, Senator Rockefeller introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2013. The bill was designed to provide the Department of Transportation (DOT) with greater authority to protect consumers and investigate complaints of unsafe conditions and ill-treatment on cruise ships.

The cruise industry opposed the proposed cruise legislation because it was designed to provide greater consumer awareness to the public and required the cruise lines to provide consumers with clearer summaries of their rights and limitations while aboard cruise ships. The cruise lines also fought against the bills because it requires more accurate reporting of crimes on cruise ships.

The DOT just announced the launch of a new DOT website that will provide cruise consumers with a "reliable one-stop resource" where they can find information on important consumer protection issues Senator Rockefeller Cruise Linesrelated to cruise vacations.

Senator Rockefeller issued the following statement:

“I am so pleased to see Secretary Foxx take this important and extraordinary step to help protect passengers on cruise ships. Passengers desperately need access to accurate and updated information, which is why Secretary Foxx’s leadership on this issue is a game changer. As Chairman of the Commerce Committee, I’ve repeatedly urged the cruise industry to strengthen their consumer protections and disclosures, but they have very disappointingly failed to act. It is far past time that we step up to help American citizens when something goes wrong on a cruise ship, and I commend the Department of Transportation for this first step toward providing consumer protections for passengers.”

The DOT site is rather modest at this time. It primarily contains links to the Coast Guard, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), three federal agencies with a history of doing little to assist consumers. But it is a good start.  

In July 2014, Rockefeller chaired his most recent hearing to examine the cruise industry’s poor consumer protection practices.

You can watch the hearing here and listen to the testimony of our former client and friend Laurie Dishman (photo above, with her father) as well as other victims of cruise line's negligence. 

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Carnival and Royal Caribbean Threaten to Pull Out of Belize Due to Ebola Screening

7 News Belize reports that after Belize’s Ministry of Immigration announced new stringent measures for Ebola screening at the Belize Harbor, Carnival and Royal Caribbean "threatened to pull scheduled cruises fast and furious."

In an article entitled Cruise Ships Balk At New Ebola Screening, Threaten Mass Cancellations, the leading news station in Belize said that the new stringent Ebola protocols caused delays due to the tight schedules and the large number of cruise passengers who come ashore.

There is mention in the article of Belize customs representatives taking and inspecting the passengers' passports during the screening. Belize’s government has already stopped issuing visas for nationals from Nigeria, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Travelers who have visited any of these four countries in the past 30 days will be prohibited from entering Belize. This will require an inspection of passports, not just birth certificates many people use to cruise.  

The cruise industry protocol so far relies upon passengers to voluntarily disclose this information on questionnaires, rather than the cruise lines inspecting the passengers' passports before the cruise to verify that they have not traveled to these countries in West Africa. Unlike Belize, the U.S. has not banned travelers from the infected African countries.

7 News Belize reports that Royal Caribbean threatened to cancel earlier this week; however, the Ebola Carnival Magicscreening process was streamlined and the Navigator of the Seas called on port  as scheduled. 

The Minister of Tourism in Belize told the news station that " . . . as a government we have to be extremely cautious. The tourism industry is a very sensitive industry and it's the bread and butter of many destinations." 

Last week, Belize barred the quarantined Carnival Magic passenger from coming ashore after it was disclosed that she handled the blood samples of the deceased Ebola victim who was treated at the Texas hospital in Dallas. 

According to the news station, around 1,000,000 tourists will arrive in Belize via cruise ship this year.

 

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Longbowe Creative Commons 3.0

Carnival Magic Returns to Galveston - "#EbolaCruise" Scare Over?

This morning the Carnival Magic returned to the U.S. as the sun arose over the sleepy little town of Galveston.  

The Texas Presbyterian Hospital worker who handled Ebola-infected Thomas Duncan samples disembarked the ship after attempts to fly her back to the states from Roatan failed. As the Magic headed back from Mexico, a helicopter arrived courtesy of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to pick up her blood samples to make certain that she was not infected with the Pier 23 Galveston Carnival Magicdeadly disease. 

Ms. Clueless-Cruising-Ebola-Handling-Healthcare-Worker is probably the most hated cruise passenger in the world right now after a boat load of fun seeking cruisers had to miss two ports of call and endure wild speculation whether they all could become infected during what Twitter was calling the #EbolaCruise

Carnival is telling everyone that the healthcare worker was at low risk of becoming infected because the virus is difficult to contract and she was already at day 19 of the 21 day incubation period. But this is a cruise line which refuses to consider issuing a refund to a passenger who discloses that they may have come into contact with Ebola. And this begs the question why Ms. Typhoid-Mary-Cruiser was on the cruise during the incubation period of such a deadly disease in the first place,

Carnival didn't bother to have an Ebola health questionnaire in place to screen the worker from the cruise ship (assuming it would be answered honestly) , a major faux pas from a cruise line still stinging from the Triumph "poop cruise" and Concordia "crash cruise" blunders.

Carnival also invented a new phrase during the #EbolaCruise scare - "self quarantine."  I would have loved to have seen the Cruise Director's face when the CDC informed the Carnival ship that the Texas Presbyterian Hospital worker was aboard. I wonder where they found her? On the Lido deck by the pool? In a jacuzzi with a pina colada in her hand? Loading her plate at the buffet?

Carnival assures us that she had "self quarantined" herself in her cabin. B.S. I say. The cruise line tried to get her the hell off of the ship and into a waiting jet in Roatan until Honduras government officials nixed the emergency flight.

I wonder whether Carnival insisted that she use a red bio-hazard bag when she emptied her bowels and bladder during the cruise? Or did she just use the cabin bathroom and her feces and urine were dumped untreated at sea by Carnival with everyone else's raw sewage?  Oysters-Ebola anyone?

There is a joke circulating on the internet that the first symptom an Ebola patient suffers from is an uncontrollable urge to go on a cruise.

Carnival was not going to let this lady wander around the decks for no other reason than drunk angry passengers might have thrown her overboard.  

 

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Photo Credit: Galveston.com Pier 23 Web Cam

Ebola on the High Seas: Will the New Cruise Health Questionnaire Work?

The cruise industry finally instituted Ebola-specific protocols after the highly publicized incident yesterday when a healthcare worker from Dallas was discovered to be on a Carnival cruise to the Caribbean. 

TravelPulse published an article discussing the new protocols Cruise Industry Adopts Stricter Ebola Screenings.

Cruise lines like Carnival are finally asking cruise passengers whether they have come into contact with an Ebola patient or worked at a healthcare facility where such a person was treated, within the Cruise Ebolalast 21 days. Cruise lines are also finally inquiring whether the passengers have visited Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone within the last three weeks.  It was a glaring error not to have such a basic protocol before yesterday.    

But there is a problem with the questionnaire. It doesn't address what happens if a passenger checks "yes" to these questions.  

Obviously the questions are designed to bar the passenger and his companions from traveling on the cruise ship. The issue remains will the passenger's cruise fare and travel expenses be refunded? Will the cruise passengers receive a full cruise credit?

We know from norovirus cases that many cruise passengers, although they are symptomatic, refuse to disclose that they have a fever and a runny nose. They then get on the cruise ship and infect others. 

Many passengers are inherently selfish. They have planned the cruise far in advance. They have obtained vacation time from work and blocked a week of "family time." They have looked forward to the cruise for many months. They have flown or driven long distances to the cruise port at considerable expense. They realize that they will be barred from embarking and their vacation will be ruined if they provide full and complete answers about their health.  

Cruise lines are inherently selfish too. Although they collect literally billions and billions each year and pay no U.S. income tax, cruise lines are notoriously stringent in not permitting cruise vacationers to cancel if they experience last minute medical emergencies or even deaths in the family.  There is great debate about the need for travel insurance. The attitude toward people who don't purchase insurance and then suffer a medical problem is often "screw 'em." 

The result is that cruise passengers are often not honest about their health and the cruise lines are often unreasonable in not permitting their guests to reschedule and issue them a cruise credit.

So they sneak aboard, already infected with the nasty norovirus.

But unlike the noro bug, Ebola is deadly. The consequences of carrying Ebola aboard a cruise ship packed with 5,000 passengers and crew members is too great. 

The health questionnaire should include language which states that if you checked "yes" to any of the Ebola questions, don't worry. No you won't be able to cruise, but you are entitled to a full refund and your travel expenses will be refunded as well.  

Cruise Critic posted an article today about the new questionnaire. The articles states: "Notably, cruise lines rely on passengers and crew to provide honest and accurate answers in health screenings and on health questionnaires. CLIA said intentionally providing false or misleading answers is a criminal offense and is subject to prosecution."

Threatening cruise passengers with criminal prosecution is ridiculous. It's the wrong idea. First of all, there is no criminal law which applies and no prosecutor will ever take such a case. You can't scare a consumer into doing the right thing. 

Instead, the cruise industry has to anticipate that cruise passengers will be less than candid. Cruise lines need to provide an incentive by way of a refund. You can call it the "Ebola refund."

This will require a substantial change in the greedy attitude of the cruise industry. But it's absolutely necessary to prevent what happened yesterday on the Carnival Magic.Cruise Ebola Questionnaire

 

Cruise Industry is Completely Unprepared for Ebola Outbreak

A week ago, I went to Twitter and complained that the cruise industry had not issued an Ebola-specific protocol for the cruise lines to follow. The threat of Ebola was growing, but the cruise lines seemed asleep at the helm.  Neither the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) nor its CEO Christine Duffy had even mentioned Ebola.

I had received many inquiries from the public about whether it was safe to cruise. So I tweeted:      

"Passengers fearing #Ebola asking me whether its safe to #cruise / Why no statement byCruise Ebola Scare - Carnival @CruiseFacts or @CLIACEO?"

The popular cruise blog Cruise Hive (@CruiseHive) followed up on the issue and asked via Twitter about the cruise industry's protocols: "I asked the major cruise lines about their Ebola preparation but not one replied! Costa did but no details . . ."

I wrote a short article Ebola on the High Seas: Should Cruise Passengers Worry About Becoming Infected?

CLIA and its CEO didn't tweet or blog or post a story on Facebook about the threat. This is during the heart of the popular CLIA "Cruise Week" when travel agents are in a marketing frenzy to sell cruises. Better-not-scare-the-business-away seemed to be the attitude.

So today we learn that a Dallas health care worker who handled clinical specimens from Ebola-infected Thomas Duncan is on a Caribbean cruise aboard the Carnival Magic.  She apparently went ashore with other passengers in Roatan. When the cruise ship sailed to Belize, the government barred her from going ashore. The government of Belize and the U.S. State Department were in discussions to permit her to board an air ambulance and be flown back to the U.S. When Belize prudently refused, she was stuck on the ship, which sailed on to Cozumel which also barred the ship from port. The Magic is now returning to Texas.

Carnival calls this a "self quarantine." That's hardly true. The U.S. scrambled to fly a jet to medevac her back to Texas. Carnival negligently permitted her aboard in the first place and is not going to let her wander around the ship while she is still within the incubation period.        

Carnival didn't even have a questionnaire to ask passengers whether they had come into contact with an Ebola patient or had worked at a hospital or healthcare facility which treated such a patient in the last three weeks.

Certainly it was easily foreseeable that a nurse might drive down to Galveston for a cheap cruise on a Carnival fun ship.

The reality is that cruise ships are perfect petri dishes for diseases to flourish. 5,000 passengers and crew members are mashed together for a week on the Carnival Magic, using public restrooms and spooning food using the same ladle from gigantic buffets. No wonder in the last ten years we have seen ships plagued not only by outbreaks of gastrointestinal diseases, noro virus and e-coli, but measles & rubella, Legionnaires Disease, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and other infectious diseases.

It's outlandish that the cruise industry has no protocols specifically related to Ebola to keep hospital workers who worked around Ebola the heck off of cruise ships.  And if this lack of preparation is any indication, I shudder to think how ill prepared the cruise ships are to respond if an outbreak occurs.

This afternoon, ABC News published a photo taken by a Carnival Magic cruise passenger Jeremy Malone who saw 30 to 40 crew with buckets of disinfectant to deal with the Ebola scare. I think the photo says it all. No protective clothing, no protective boots, no protective masks, etc. Just tired, hard-working, low-paid Filipino crew members assigned yet another extra job without sufficient training or equipment.

Think that the cruise lines' slogan that the "health and safety of our guests is our highest priority" is true regarding Ebola? Think again.

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

 Photo Credit:  Jeremy Malone via ABC News

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

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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) 

Netherlands Fines Royal Caribbean Over $750,000 for Overworking Crewmembers

A newspaper in the Netherlands reports that Royal Caribbean has to pay at least €600,000 in fines for violating labor rules and regulations while the Oasis of the Seas was in the Netherlands. The newspaper says that ship employees lacked proper residence papers and worked excessive hours. Some of the crew members worked "up to 16 hours per day" the inspectors found.

The newspaper explains that the Oasis was undergoing maintenance and repairs while in dry-dock in in Rotterdam last month. Inspectors at the Netherlands labor department informed Royal Caribbean Cruises in advance that when its cruise ship would be in Rotterdam it would have to adhere to Dutch Oasis of the Seasrules and legislation.

According to the newspaper, when ten inspectors boarded the Oasis they found certain working conditions to be in violation of Dutch law. This lead to a second visit by 45 inspectors.

The inspections reportedly revealed that at least 48 crew members did not have proper Dutch work permits. The majority of these crewmembers were from the Philippines and South America.

The reported fine of at least €600,000 turns out to be over $760,000.The inspectors can access a fine of €12,000 per violation. The precise fine will be determined when the investigation is completed.

This fine may be an eye-opener for many people who are unfamiliar with the inner-working of the cruise industry. But it is business as usual as far as we are concerned.

When we interview Royal Caribbean crew members, without exception they tell us that the cruise line requires them to work in excess of the hours permitted by the Maritime Labour Convention. The ship employees have to arrive at work early and attend meetings but they are not permitted to clock in. When they work over 10 hours, they have to clock out and keep working. When they are pressed to work extra hours preparing for USPH inspections, they are required to work off the clock.

It remains to be seen whether Rotterdam receives any more work from Royal Caribbean in the future. Royal Caribbean has decided that the dry-dock repairs needed for sister ship Allure of the Seas will be performed in Cadiz, Spain.

Royal Caribbean has not responded to our request for a statement. 

October 15 2014 Update: A Dutch law firm indicates that 77 Philippines and 8 South-Americans worked on the Oasis without a permit. With a €12,000 fine per person, the fine could amount to one million euro’s. The Dutch firm is urging Royal Caribbean to appeal the fine, claiming that there is an exception for crew members working aboard sea going vessels.

October 16 2014 Update:  There is a very active discussion about this story on our Facebook page. Over 1,600 people have liked it, over 500 shared it and over 400 people have commented.  Most seem to be crew members. As the cruise line overworks and underpays its crew members, the cruise executives at Royal Caribbean enjoy over $100,000,000 in cruise stock. Read: The Rich Get Richer

 

If you have a thought, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.  

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Baldwin040 Creative Commons 3.0  

Cruise Ship Law: Don't File Suit at the Last Minute in the Wrong Courthouse

Last week, the Third District Court of Appeal in Florida enforced the terms of a Royal Caribbean passenger ticket and dismissed a lawsuit filed at the last minute in the wrong courthouse.

The case was filed on behalf of a passenger against Royal Caribbean for personal injuries sustained in a cruise ship accident. The passenger hired a local law firm which filed suit a few days before the expiration of the one-year limitation period set forth in the ticket. But instead of filing in federal court as required by the terms of the ticket, her attorneys filed in state court in the Miami-Dade courthouse Roya; Caribbeanwhere most negligence cases can be pursued.

Royal Caribbean filed a motion to dismiss the case. The trial court denied the motion, and the cruise line appealed.

The appellate court reversed the trial court. The appellate court ruled that the cruise line had reasonably communicated the important terms and conditions of the ticket to the passenger before she boarded the cruise ship. The ticket stated in bold and capital letters that the ticket contained important terms and conditions, including a one year limitations period to file suit and a forum selection clause indicating that suit must be filed in United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

The appellate court held that it is irrelevant whether the passenger actually received or read the ticket contract, as long as the ticket contained conspicuous terms and conditions.  

The decision was consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute, 499 U.S. 585 (1991).  

The appellate court also ruled that Royal Caribbean had no obligation to remove the case to federal court after the lawsuit was mistakenly filed in the wrong state courthouse. Because of her counsel's error in filing suit in state court rather than federal court, and the running of the one year limitations period in the interim, the passenger was prohibited from filing suit against the cruise line in the right courthouse.

The only lawsuit the passenger can possibly pursue under these circumstances at this time is a legal malpractice claim against her attorneys.

Practice Tips for Passengers:

  • The cruise line must receive a written notice of your intention to seek compensation within six (6) months of your accident. Have your lawyer write the letter.
  • You must file your lawsuit within one (1) year of the accident.
  • The lawsuit must be filed in the location specified in your ticket.  Most cruise lines like Carnival, Celebrity, NCL and Royal Caribbean require that lawsuits be filed in federal court in Miami. 

Read the terms of your ticket!  The terms are legally enforceable.  

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

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Baldwin040 Creative commons 3.0

Can a Canadian Porn King and the Cruise Lines Keep Cruise Passengers Safe in the Banana Coast in Honduras?

This week the "Banana Coast" cruise port in Honduras opens for mega-cruise ship business.

The travel publications all appear to have written essentially the the same article announcing with great fanfare that large cruise ships will begin calling at the port in the Bay of Trujillo, Honduras. Billed as the newest cruise port in the western Caribbean, the facility in Trujillo (mainland Honduras) will host the arrival of Norwegian Cruise Line's (NCL) Norwegian Jewel on October 15th.  

Ships from Holland America, Silversea, Oceania and P&O Cruises will follow. 

Banana Coast Travel Agent Central and TravelPulse each describe the new port as including a jewelry shop, a shop selling organic frozen coconut drinks, a duty-free liquor, a gift shop, and kiosks offering refreshments and souvenirs crafted by local artisans. Sounds like every other cruise port in the Caribbean designed to separate cruise visitors from their cash as soon as possible. 

The official website of the Banana Coast says that the Bay of Trujillo was the first mainland landing spot of Christopher Columbus in 1502 during his fourth voyage to the New World. It also says that this part of Honduras has a rich cultural heritage and visitors will experience the culture of the Afro-Caribbean Garifuna, an indigenous group who have lived in the area for centuries. 

What the developer and travel publications aren't saying is that there has been considerable controversy surrounding the development of the Honduran port and condominium projects. 

One of the principal developers of the mega-tourism project in Trujillo is Randy Jorgensen, general manager of Grande Trujillo Authoridad. He's a Canadian multi-millionaire who reportedly became wealthy in the pornographic video business. Several publications call him the "Canadian Porn King" (photo below with former Honduran President Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo Sosa). He created Adults Only Video (warning XXX). Canada's Macleans magazine reported in 2001 that Jorgensen had been "accused of making X-rated films with underage girls in his vacation home in Honduras," according to Media Lens organization.

Jorgensen and others are accused of converting the beautiful Honduran coast into a large scale tourism project that includes vacation condominiums and the cruise ship facility, which have displaced and destroyed the indigenous Garífuna communities. The developers are accused of illegally obtaining the land and expelling the Garífuna people from the Bay of Trujillo.

Travel Pulse says that cruise tourists will be "welcomed by local Garifuna performers . . .  and dancers in colorful attire." Sounds to me like a faux Disney World recreation of the displaced local inhabitants for the amusement of the arriving U.S. cruise passengers.

In related news, Cruise Critic reports that the airstrip at the Mayan site of Copan in Honduras will open in December and will provide flights for cruise passengers to travel to Copan as a shore excursion. Cruise Critic says that this will "allow passengers, for the first time, to make an excursion off the island (from Roatan) to the country's interior."

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández has been working with the cruise lines and representatives of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) to market Copan as a cruise Randy Jorgensen "Porn King"attraction

There's no mention in any of the travel publication hullabaloo of the fact that Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world, or that it is subject to critical crime warnings from the U.S. State Department.

Real estate developers and agents, resort owners, dive and water-sport companies, and land-owners in the Honduran cruise port of Roatan have touted Roatan as a crime-free paradise, even though cruise passengers and crew members have been victims of violent crime and one NCL crew member was killed there this year. The U.S. expatriates claim that as an island, Roatan is much safer than the mainland of Honduras. 

So what's going to happen when the cruise lines disembark passengers in the Honduran mainland or fly passengers to the country's interior? The murder rate in Honduras has ranged between 70 and 90 per 100,000 in the last several years compared to 4 to 5 per 100,000 in the U.S. What safeguards do the cruise lines, the Honduran president, and the Caninadian porn businessman have in mind, if any, for those cruise tourists arriving in Trujillo?

 

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

Photo Credit: Top - Banana Coast via Travel Agent Central; Bottom - Honduras Living The Top 10 Reasons to Invest in Trujillo Honduras  

 

Ebola on the High Seas: Should Cruise Passengers Worry About Becoming Infected?

I have received a dozen inquiries in the last few days about the chances of contracting Ebola during a cruise. My thought is that the chance is slim that anyone is going to go on a cruise and return home infected with the virus.  But there are some issues that concern me.

For U.S. Travelers, Chances of Infection Are Slim at this Time

From what I have learned, it's very difficult to contract the the virus. A cruise passenger would first have to come into close personal contact with an infected person. The infection could come from contact with the infected victim's bodily fluids (blood, saliva, vomit, feces, urine, or semen) or through contaminated needles. This would first require travel to the affected countries in West Africa (Liberia, Cruise Ship EbolaSierra Leone, and Guinea) and then intimate contact with an Ebola victim.

So far, the only victim in the U.S. is Thomas Duncan who traveled to Dallas from Liberia and since died. There is a chance that the persons who he came into contact with could develop the disease, but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is carefully monitoring the health of all persons who possibly could have come into contact with Mr. Duncan.  

Cruise lines are prudently avoiding ports in West Africa. Holland America Line, Seabourn Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Fred Olsen are dropping West African ports in Ghana, Gambia and Senegal. Princess Cruises is considering rerouting its 30-day "West Africa Adventure," according to the L.A. Times. 

Royal Caribbean does not call on any ports in West Africa, although ironically Royal Caribbean is incorporated in Liberia to avoid taxes and regulations.

Bloomberg says that the Ebola scare has lowered cruise stocks. Carnival's stock price fell 5.5 percent, NCL was down 2.8 percent, and Royal Caribbean fell 5.9 percent even though it doesn't sail near the affected (infected) area.

To my knowledge, there are no cruise lines which routinely hire from Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea. In fact, I have never met or even heard of crew members from these countries. I anticipate that if there are any crew members from these countries, they will not be be re-hired when they return home on vacation. Miami-based cruise lines enacted such hiring freezes on crew members from affected areas during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in the past.

But I'm Uncertain About the Future

There are some factors, though, that make me nervous about the future.

  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that as many as 1,400.000 people could be infected with Ebola by January 2015.  
  • The virus will get worse in the West African countries.
  • Experts predict the virus to appear in Europe within the month.
  • There are reports that Ebola can survive on surfaces for anywhere from a few hours to several days, depending on the type of surface, the temperature, and the amount of light. 
  • According to the CDC, the average time for symptoms of Ebola to appear is 8-10 days. 
  • Many travelers don't disclose illnesses either before or during their cruises because they don't want to be barred from the ship or confined to their cabin.   
  • Some employees don't report to the ship infirmary because they don't want to lose their tips.

My concern is that the outbreak will continue and expand. It has already reached Spain. Jacquie Kubin writes in her article Ebola: Lessons Learned from SARS, the Flu, and HIV / AIDS that there is a 75% probability that the virus will reach France by the end of October and a 50% chance that Ebola will migrate to the U.K.

If the virus reaches Europe so quickly, future cruise travelers and employees could become infected. If those infected are booked on cruises, it is foreseeable that an infected person will fail to disclose the early symptoms of Ebola (intentionally or simply because they doesn't know they have been infected) when they appear at the airport or terminal and then embark the aircraft or cruise ship.

We already know from noro virus cases, many cruise passengers are ill when they come to the cruise ship. Unfortunately, they sometimes lie to get on the ship, and they won't stay in their cabins even when they are infectious.

We also know from past experiences that some crew members report to work when they are ill, including food handlers. This is documented in the CDC literature.  

Cruise ships are not prepared to handle a situation with an infected Ebola victim aboard. Any crew Cruise Ship Ebolamembers called upon to clean up the vomit and diarrhea and other bodily fluids of a sick passenger would likely become infected. An infected chef or waiter shedding Ebola would be a disaster and could potentially infect hundreds of passengers.  

We have seen that cruise ships can easily be plagued by outbreaks of diseases which include not only gastrointestinal diseases, noro virus and e-coli, but measles & rubella, Legionnaires Disease, SARS and other infectious diseases.

Unlike noro virus which lasts a few days, Ebola is potentially deadly. The victim needs immediate and specialized treatment that a cruise ship can't provide. An Ebola outbreak on a cruise ship could result in deaths as well as a public relations disaster.

Stay Tuned and Hope for the Best

There currently is no vaccine for Ebola. Clinical trials are just starting.

For the next many months, cruise lines will consider West Africa to be a no-man's land. Until the disease is eradicated, the cruise lines must avoid the ports there. Cruise ships will continue sailing wide of West Africa until the coast is clear. Hopefully the virus will not spread to Europe and find its way onto cruise ships. 

October 17 2014 Update: Texas Hospital Worker Who Handled Ebola Samples is on the Carnival Magic

October 18 2014 Update: Cruise Industry is Completely Unprepared for Ebola Outbreak

 

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

Read circular letter (No. 3484) about Ebola published by the International Maritime Organization.

Photo Credits: Top - Daily Times; Botton - CDC via AP

Costa Terminates Crew Member Who Posted Broken Dishes on Facebook

Costa Fascinosa  Ten days ago, the Costa Fascinosa was hit by 90 knot winds after the cruise ship left Venice. The captain failed to give any warnings to the passengers and crew members before the storm struck. The cruise ship listed heavily and plates and glasses crashed to the decks and floors throughout the galleys and bars on the ship. Passengers experienced widespread panic.

A Filipino pastry chef working aboard the Fascinosa posted his accounts of the storm on Facebook and included photographs and video of considerable damage in the galley where he worked.  

Other crew members shared his account on Facebook. Several Italian newspapers published his photos and video accounts. Cruise bloggers (such as Cruise Fever, Cruise Hive, Cruise Currents, etc.) also recounted the story and included his images of the mishap in their publications.  We were the first blogger here in the U.S. to link to the crew member's Facebook posts and to cover the story of the violent storm and the Costa officers' poor response to the incident. 

Costa issued a press release, downplaying the incident, after the photos and video were widely distributed on the internet. You can still see the video below, via the Cruise Fever website.

Today, we learned that Costa terminated the pastry chef's employment for mentioning the incident on Facebook. Costa flew the crew member back to the Philippines where he remains currently jobless, unable to support his family.

This is how Costa and parent company, Carnival Corporation, treat their employees. Embarrassed by the scene of a thousand plates and covers on the galley floor, Costa retaliated against the chef for simply recording what happened and saying it was the most terrifying experience of his life. Meanwhile, the Costa captain remains at the helm. 

Concordia-plagued Costa has a culture of cover-ups. 

When the Costa Europa slammed into a pier in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, ripping a hole in the ship's hull and killing three crew members, Costa was tight lipped. It didn't mention the casualties until photographs were leaked to the press in the U.K. Neither Costa nor flag state Italy refuse to release reports on the deadly accident to this day. 

This is business as usual for Costa's owner, Carnival Corporation. Carnival terminated and black-Costa Fascinosaballed 150 Indian waiters who quietly protested low pay when the P&O Arcadia cruise ship was in Seattle. The captain promised that there would be no reprisals if the crew members would return to the ship and wait on the guests. But Carnival quickly fired them all and made certain that the hiring agency would never consider rehiring the men on another Carnival owned cruise line. 

We have seen the same vindictive, retaliatory conduct by other cruise lines.

When the MSC Magnifica smashed into a pier at the entrance to the port in Piraeus Greece, the cruise line issued a statement claiming that the damage was minor and that the vessel's itinerary was not affected. However, a crew member photographed widespread damage to the ship and extensive repairs needed to repair a large hole in the hull which delayed the ship's departure. After the photos appeared on Facebook, MSC quickly terminated the crew member's employment for releasing the photos.

The cruise lines rely on carefully crafted images of idyllic vacations at sea. But when crew members complain about unsafe conditions or merely take photographs showing the truth of the matter, the company views them as expendable.  

Like Vegas, what happens on the ships is supposed to stay on the ships. It's an unwritten rule that a crew member who airs the cruise line's dirty laundry risks immediate termination and a one-way ticket back to Manila.

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Ecstasy Tragedy: Clemson Student Knocked Off Radar Platform

There's more to the story regarding how 20 year old Kendall Wernet, a student at Clemson, died aboard the Carnival Ecstasy than the cruise line disclosed in its carefully crafted PR statement on Monday.

Carnival claimed that Mr. Wernet climbed up onto the cruise ship’s forward mast and "subsequently fell and landed on the deck." But Carnival left out some key facts from its statement.

Mr. Wernet was an outstanding student who was on an "awards cruise" with other top achieving students who decided to walk up to the radar platform at the end of the cruise, according to a news Carnival Ecstasy Radarstation in South Carolina, quoting the organization owner, Steve Acorn.

"They had seen a group up there the night before and thought it would be a good idea to go there at about 5 a.m. to see the sun rise over Miami," Mr. Acorn says. No drinking was involved.

Mr. Acorn tells WYFF News 4 that a small group of students decided to go to the "top of the front mast to watch the sunrise, and talk about how happy they were in their life, and started planning their next journeys . . . They had been up there for approximately 45 minutes, just talking about life. There had be no drinking or any drugs involved, during that time, or prior. They had witnessed 4-6 individuals do the same thing the previous night. It was not their original idea, and they thought they would do the same for the last night on the ship."

Mr. Acorn said that four students had laid down on the platform, but Mr. Wernet had not. When the radar disc was turned on and began to rotate, it knocked Mr. Wernet to the deck below.

Given the Carnival reputation for out-of-control partying, there was wide-spread speculation that alcohol was involved in the accident. Carnival's press release about the student "climbing up the mast" created the false image that Mr. Wernet was perhaps a drunk and reckless person, like a scene out of Forrest Gump when Lieutenant Dan climbs to the top of the Jenny shrimp boat.

Carnival claims that the area was "restricted" which raises more questions than provides answers.

Were the "restrictions" enforced? Other students had reportedly gone up on the radar platform the night before without consequence. The students had also reportedly been up on the platform for 45 minutes before the accident. Where were the cruise line security personnel? Was the area protected by a locked door or security fence? Were alarms in place? Were CCTV cameras covering the area and were the cameras monitored? Or was the area "protected" by just a sign?

Carnival needs to spend more time providing greater security measures and protecting its guests rather than writing incomplete and misleading PR statements to protect its reputation.

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October 2 2014 Update: "Personal responsibility" proponents keep in mind that a corporations is considered to be a "person" in the eyes of the law.  Unfortunately many people (see below) don't hold corporations to the same standard as a person.  They use the term "personal responsibility" to mean "no corporate responsibility." Of course the passengers have a legal obligation to use reasonable care for their own safety, but corporations also have the legal duty to use reasonable care for their guests' safety. They go hand in hand. The greater the risk of danger to the passengers, the higher the care owed by the cruise line to the passengers. Carnival apparently used only a "restricted area" sign. It did not cordon off the entrance, didn't use a lock, didn't use an alarm, didn't use CCTV cameras, didn't monitor the area, didn't use security personnel, etc.) The cruise line used virtually no reasonable care at all. It just posted a sign, and if all the sign said was "restricted area" that's not much of a warning.

Does anyone have up close photos of the sign and entrance to the mast / radar tower?

     

 

Photo Credit: RyG's Cruise Guide

No Grandi Navi? Norwegian Jade Photobombs George Clooney's Wedding in Venice

Last night, like most nights, I was watching Erin Burnett's show Outfront on CNN.

At the end of the program, Jeanne Moos did a short special on George Clooney's wedding in Venice earlier that day. He had gone to the wedding in a highly published boat procession down the beautiful canals of Venice.

Venice, of course, is embroiled in the No Grandi Navi controversy which I have written about many times where environmentalists are trying to safeguard Venice by prohibiting giant cruise ships from Norwegian Jade sailing by the historic city. 

So there was handsome Mr. Clooney with his beautiful wife-to-be on a little beautiful little vintage, highly-polished wooden speed boat in a canal with lots of other little boats full of Hollywood guests and hundreds of paparazzi with cameras when the wedding procession was blocked by - you guessed it - a gigantic cruise ship.  

The villain was the Norwegian Jade which loomed over the canal like the huge Cloverfield science fiction monster.

Jeanne Moos commented to Erin Burnett: "The only obstacle in way of the Clooney cavalcade -- a giant cruise ship. Steer clear, George, the last thing you want on your honeymoon is to kiss the bride with a norovirus."  Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York (END VIDEOTAPE)

Ah, a norovirus cheap shot from CNN! (But CLIA tells us that the dreaded noro bug is really a rarity!)

As the program ended, Erin Burnett also couldn't help herself. She responded to Ms. Moos, referring to the feces and urine filled red bio-hazard bags from the infamous Carnival Triumph "poop cruise" which CNN aired endlessly, "that's true, you don't need any red bags on your honeymoon."  

 

September 30 2014 Update: As pointed out by TravelPulse, CBS has an interesting video of the NCL cruise ship crashing the party.

Photo Credit: Twitter via TravelPulse

Agony on the Ecstasy: What Causes People to be Cruel in Times of Tragedy?

Yesterday was the worst day in the lives of a family from North Carolina. A 20 year old fell twenty to thirty feet from a mast on the Carnival Ecstasy at the port of Miami. The young man was later pronounced dead at the Ryder Trauma Center in Miami.

What started as a tropical dream vacation instantly turned into a nightmare. 

The local news stations rushed teams of reporters and film crew over to the port to cover the sad story. The reporters were all solemn and respectful in their tone and demeanor while covering the tragedy.

Carnival EcstasyI wrote a short article about what happened and posted it on Facebook

Cruel and hateful comments soon followed.

Joanna Medvesek commented: "WTF was he doing up there in the first place. Some people are just plain stupid. Did it not even enter his pea brain that it was RESTRICTED because it may be dangerous. Serves him right."

Samantha Mills de Rosas said "Idiot . . . Sorry no sympathy from me here."

Troy Madsen called the dead young man a "dumb ass."

Monte Mathews called him a "moron."

Ms. Medvesek's cruelty was "liked" by 14 others on Facebook. Saying that a young person involved in an accident deserves to die ("serves him right") infuriates me. It literally spikes my blood pressure. How can people be so uncaring and abusive?

But others who commented on Facebook were kind. 

Marianne Fearnside, who lost her son last year during a ferry cruise, summed up my feelings perfectly, saying "how very sad."

Leslie Hall was obviously troubled by all of the selfish and mean-spirited comments. She gave the matter some sensitive and meaningful thoughts:

"A man fell to his death on the Fantasy during my first cruise several years ago. He had been extremely verbal throughout the entire cruise, loud, obnoxious, he stayed hammered the whole time, and spent his evenings at the various bars complaining to everyone about how he didn't want to work in the family business. One evening he decided that he should do handstands off the atrium balcony after a night of drinking and it ended in his death. Needless to say, even after witnessing his behavior throughout the whole trip, I could never think of a reason why it would have "served him right" to be dead.

That's what's wrong with so many people in this country these days - empathy and humanity have been replaced with the ease of speaking the hatred in their hearts without thinking first. For the [selfish], inhuman people who think death is deserved just because someone entered a restricted area, I truly hope no one close to you ever dies due to a sudden accident. I'm sure you wouldn't walk up to his grieving parents at the wake and shake their hand and say 'well, the moron deserved it'. No one should break the rules and go into a restricted area, of course, but by no means does that give any imperfect human being the right to place judgment on his lost life."

25 people on Facebook "liked" Ms. Hall's comments. Others left respectful comments offering their blessings to his family. 

I can offer no explanation for the wide disparity between the hateful words of some and the compassionate words of others.

September 30 2014 UpdateUSA TODAY reports that the young man "had been on an awards cruise for Macomb, Mich-based Student Painters, the company's owner, Steve Acorn, said Tuesday. A group of five or six climbed up on the platform as the Carnival Ecstasy returned to port at the end of a three-day cruise. "They had seen a group up there the night before and thought it would be a good idea to go there at about 5 a.m. to see the sun rise over Miami," he said. No drinking was involved. "They were up there talking ... and the radar system went on," Acorn said. "Based on where you were standing, it caught Kendall and threw him down."

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Photo Credit: Local 10 via Cruise Fever

Carnival Passenger Falls to His Death on the Ecstasy

A twenty year old cruise passenger from North Carolina fell from a mast on the Carnival Ecstasy this morning, according to several local television stations. 

Channel 10 (video credit) says the passenger fell as the cruise ship was underway returning to the Port of Miami. Channel 6 says that the ship was docked as Terminal E at the port.  

The area was reportedly restricted.

There is no indication whether alcohol was a factor. 

The fall was equivalent to falling two stories, approximately 20 to 30 feet..

The man was taken to a trauma unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital where he later died.

Carnival released the following statement:

"Earlier this morning as the Carnival Ecstasy was approaching PortMiami, a 20-year-old male guest entered a restricted area and climbed up onto the ship’s forward mast. He subsequently fell and landed on the deck. He was initially treated by the ship’s medical team and later transferred to a local trauma center in Miami. Unfortunately, he has passed away. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones at this difficult time."

September 30 2014 Update: USA TODAY reports that the young man "had been on an awards cruise for Macomb, Mich-based Student Painters, the company's owner, Steve Acorn, said Tuesday. A group of five or six climbed up on the platform as the Carnival Ecstasy returned to port at the end of a three-day cruise. "They had seen a group up there the night before and thought it would be a good idea to go there at about 5 a.m. to see the sun rise over Miami," he said. No drinking was involved. "They were up there talking ... and the radar system went on," Acorn said. "Based on where you were standing, it caught Kendall and threw him down."

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video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

 

"Seasick Princess" Redux: Princess Cancels Another Cruise on the Sea Princess

The newspapers in Australia are blasting Princess Cruises for canceling another cruise on the Sea Princess, again at the last minute, leaving thousands of passengers stranded.

We previously reported on the cancellation of the September 14th sailing because the cruise ship went into dry dock to try and perform repairs to the ship engines after the Sea Princess had missed ports in Broome and Bali because of what Princess nebulously called a "technical problem" which reduced the ship's speed. 

The ship has been wracked the week before with norovirus during a cruise from Fremantle to Sea PrincessSingapore, causing as many as 400 people became to be ill.

Last Friday, Princess told passengers that the Sea Princess will not depart Brisbane as planned but the ship would leave from Sydney, and Auckland will not be included in New Zealand trip.

Princess has known for months that there have been problems with the engines on the cruise ship but has put off placing the ship in dry dock. This has caused great uncertainty with the passengers and, ultimately, ruined their vacations.

The cruise line promised a refund of their cruise fare, air costs, taxes, fees and port expenses, and a future cruise credit equal to the cruise fare paid for this voyage.  

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Bahnfrend Creative Commons 3.0

False Man Overboard Alarm on the Royal Princess

A passenger commented on Cruise Critic this morning that the Master of the Royal Princess cruise ship announced that a person had been reported overboard and the ship was going to take a head count of the passengers and crew.  

The cruise ship performed a partial Williamson maneuver (as shown on AIS systems) and also deployed a rescue boat.

The passenger commented later that all that was found was a fishing marker. "Nobody missing from our crew and pax, so we've been given the all clear!" 

Royal PrincessThe ship was heading to New York.

It always good news when a man overboard turns out to be false.

But false positives are one of the reasons that the cruise industry claims that automatic man overboard systems (required long ago by the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act) haven't been installed. The cruise lines claim (falsely I believe) that the man overboard systems are not reliable and can be triggered by birds or debris. The cruise industry says that it doesn't install man overboard systems because it would be too expensive to turn the ship around and deploy rescue craft if the automatic system malfunctioned. 

In my opinion lives are being lost because of the cruise lines refuse to comply with the law. It's excuse that responding to false man overboard alarms is too high is bogus. The cruise industry is already responding to false reports.  

This is the second man overboard report in less than two weeks.  We most recently reported on a false report on the Pacific Pearl on September 14th.  

There will be some false reports with both the automatic systems and with no automatic systems. There is no justification to ever say that it's just too expensive to invest money into saving lives. The cruise industry collects $40,000,000,000 a year and pays no taxes. Its CEO's make tens of millions of dollars. Its greed is endless.  

Automatic systems, even if not 100% perfect, are a far cry better than no automatic system on a cruise ship when a passenger or crew member goes overboard and disappears into the dark waters as the cruise ship continues to sail on.    

 

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What Happened on this Costa Cruise Ship?

Costa Cruise A reader of Cruise Law News sent me a link to this Costa crew member's Facebook page which contains video and photographs of hundreds of broken dishes in the ship's galley.

It appears that the cruise ship experienced some type of incident affecting the ship's navigational system; I'm not sure of the details.

You can see a video of the damage here

I have seen this type of damage before in cases of rough weather, but it appears that poor seamanship may have been a contributing factor in this incident.

Does anyone know about this incident, including the name of the Costa ship and the itinerary? 

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September 25 2014 Update: We received a number of comments on our Facebook page indicating that the cruise ship involved was the Costa Fascinosa. An Italian newspaper says that the cruise ship was sailing from Venice to the Greek islands when it was struck by bad weather and rough seas for two hours. The newspaper says (translated) the ship "yanked from the waves and with one engine failed, it began to turn on itself. It was like being on a spinning top."

Passengers described "glasses, plates and utensils flying in the air." Several passengers fell "driven by the centrifugal force" imposed by rotation of the ship. People cried and prayed.  

Another Italian newspaper refers to the ship being hit by a water-spot / tornado. The article has a video of the captain's announcement about the storm. The captain reportedly informed the passengers to put life jackets on.

Costa released the following statement today: "We are very sorry for what happened and any inconvenience this caused. We confirm that the evening of 22 September, the Costa Fascinosa met with winds over 90 knots that have influenced the course and met with the inclination of the hull . . . The command of he ship immediately activated the procedures necessary to re-establish a regular and normal navigation, and then proceeded to warn and assist passengers. Costa has taken the route planned in the program."   

 

Photo Credit: Facebook

 

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger from Carnival Miracle

Yesterday we mentioned that the U.S. Coast Guard flew 400 miles out to sea from Honolulu to drop blood supplies to the Carnival Miracle to help the ship medical team treat a passenger with internal bleeding.

But the passenger's medical condition continued to worsen, and the Coast Guard returned to the Carnival cruise ship with a helicopter to medevac the sick man.

The Miracle was approximately 80 miles north of Oahu at the time of the rescue. The crew hoisted the man from the cruise ship around 9 p.m. Tuesday and took him for emergency medical treatment.

Video credit: U.S. Coast Guard via Star Advertiser 

 

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.

 

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

Photo: Top - Falmouth, Jamaica by Jim Walker

Micky Arison Cashes In On Carnival Stock, Again

Carnival Chairman and major stockholder Micky Arison sold 212,474 shares of Carnival stock on Friday, September 19th at an average price of $40.22 for a total of $8,545,704.28, according to the Securities & Exchange Commission.

Yes, this is a serious amount of money. But its peanuts for this cruise tycoon. 

By last June, Arison had unloaded over $490,000,000 of Carnival stock in a little over 3 months.

Arison is the richest person in Florida. He's worth between 5 and 6 billion dollars.

I was interviewed in a special about him last year.

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Mystery Shrouds Disappearance of 23 Year-Old Macedonian Crew Member from M/S Serenissima

A newspaper in Macedonia, Press 24, published an article "Семејството ја бара веќе 4 дена: 23 годишна Македонка отишла да работи на брод и исчезнала" ("A family looks for 4 days for a 23 year-old Macedonian went to work on the boat and disappeared.")

It's about the disappearance of a young crew member from the M/S Serenissima five days ago, as the cruise ship sailed between Rhodes to Crete. We mentioned the young woman's disappearance in an earlier blog.

The article in the Macedonian press identifies the crew member as Denisa Markoska. The article Denisa Markoska Cruise Ship describes Ms. Markoska as a happy person who shared the joy of her job with relatives and friends. Other news accounts (link here) indicate that she signed a new contract and looked forward to working on the ship when it re-positioned to the Caribbean. But then she just "disappeared," or so the story goes.

The article states (translated): 

"Denisa mysteriously disappeared from a ship that sails the seas, in the early hours of September 13. Serenissima ship sailing under the Russian flag in the territorial waters of Greece. And no one saw what happened ... investigation is conducted with many gaps and inconsistencies by Greek police in Crete.

Parents still have not received any official report from the captain of the ship, or from the Greek police, nor by any competent Macedonian institutions. Parents are desperate. Crying for help as well as pressure on the authorities of all the countries involved to find out what happened to Denisa and where she is. Perhaps the girl is kidnapped or killed ... God forbid."

We have spoken to people in Macedonia who know Denisa and her family.  The captain of the cruise ship, a Russian citizen, kept sailing the ship for two or three hours after Denisa was reported missing. He permitted all of the passengers to disembark the ship when it reached the next port, "not to disturb the guests," before notifying the police. Denisa was last seen smoking a cigarette on the open deck with several other Macedonian crew members around 2:30 A.M. There was a video camera on the ship; however, there was no recording device connected to the video camera.

No serious investigation of any type took place, is what I am being told. The captain sent a short note to the family expressing his condolences without an explanation regarding how Denisa disappeared.

Complicating matters is that the ship was registered in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to avoid taxes. St. Vincent obviously has no interest in Macedonians citizens or ability to investigate disappearances from vessels bearing its flag. There is information that the ship is owned and/or operated by Premier Cruises based in Finland. Premier is owned by Russian Vladimir Esakov, who owns the Russian Volga Dream company.  

There is a suggestion from the captain that the young woman must have committed "suicide."  But there is no evidence of that. The available information is to the contrary - that she was happy, popular, and a good employee, according to her friends and family. Denisa looked forward to continue her job, sailing in the Caribbean.

Unfortunately, "suicide" is the favorite excuse of cruise lines whenever a young woman disappears at sea. It's a cruel ploy. It is heartless to suggest such a thing when there is no evidence to make such an accusation.   

Are there crew members or passengers on the ship who have accurate information to share?

Please contact us confidentially if you want to pass on information directly to the family. Please email me at jim@cruiselaw.com 

If you wish to offer words of support for Denisa's family, join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Denisa Makoska

 

It's Always Bigger in Texas: Cruise Passengers Taxed on Cruise Booze

KHOU 11 reports that alcohol and cigarettes purchased by cruise passengers, represented by cruise lines as "duty-free products," are being taxed by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) once the ships return to Galveston.

The state of Texas will start collecting similar taxes from cruise passengers at the Port of Houston by in October.

The television station says that the state of Texas has collected over $280,000 from cruise passengers since January. 

The cruise lines misrepresent that the liquor and cigarettes are tax free, and then the TABC officials confront the returning cruise passengers as they come through customs.

The station quotes a passenger saying "They advertise it as duty free on the ship and when we get off the ship, to our surprise, it's not duty free. I think it's wrong." 

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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.   

 

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

Photo Credits:  Jim Walker

Measles On Alaska-Bound Cruise Ship

According to Alaska Business Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Anchorage Quarantine Station notified the Alaska Section of Epidemiology on September 11, 2014 of a "suspected measles (rubeola) case associated with the cruise industry."

The press release stated that "an adult crew member had recent contact with a confirmed measles case abroad, and subsequently developed classic clinical symptoms of measles on September 9 while onboard a ship in Alaska waters."

The patient apparently flew on international and domestic flights as well as cruise travel while infectious. The release says that "all cruise passengers will be informed of possible exposure directly Cruise Ship Measleswhile on board the ship."

The release downplays the chances of the crew member infecting someone who might have disembarked in Alaska. But there remains the possibility that the infected crew member may have infected passengers or other crew members (to the extent that they were not vaccinated) who could get off the ship either in Vancouver or Seattle, assuming this was a cruise which originated in these cities.   

The governmental agencies did not mention the name of the cruise ship, but claims that all cruise passenger who possibly could have been infected "will be" notified.

The report raises troubling issues.

Why would the governmental agencies keep the name of the cruise ship secret, except to avoid embarrassment to the cruise line? 

Have the cruise passengers (and crew) in fact been informed? 

If not, when will the passengers (and crew) be notified?

I'm asking the readers of Cruise Law News the following questions:

Has anyone been notified of the risk of being infected during a cruise to Alaska?

Does anyone know what cruise ships were in Alaskan waters on September 9th?

Measles outbreaks on a cruise are very serious. We reported on such an outbreak earlier this year - Measles Outbreak On Costa Pacifica Cruise Ship.

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

September 16 2014 Update:  We received the following comments on our Facebook page:

"I just returned from a cruise to Alaska I was on the cruise ship the Pearl we were notified on Saturday that we may have been exposed to the measles.

"We were notified - the crew member was removed from the ship while we were at sea." 

NCL Cruise Measles

Graphic (top): www.gmanetwork.com

Cruise Safety: Be Prepared Before Things Go Wrong (Via Travel Channel)

The Travel Channel just posted a cruise safety video as part of it's Travel 911 series (be prepared before things go wrong on a cruise ship).

Its a very friendly sounding video that says that there's nothing better than a cruise, but bad things can happen on cruise ships.  

Here are some tips:

  • Bring anti-bacterial wipes and avoid public bathrooms. And check out which ships have high scores on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.
  • Attend muster station drills. They are mandatory before the ship sails and can be a life-saver.
  • Limit your drinks. The number one reported crime during cruises is sexual assault. The victims are usually intoxicated.
  • Don't flaunt your jewelry, handbags, or money. Yes, there are thefts during cruises.
  • Be extra-safe during shore excursions. Keep your cash and jewelry in the cabin safe and wear a traveler's pouch.   

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False Man Overboard Report on the Pacific Pearl

Pacific PearlThis morning I received a message from a Facebook friend that there was a search underway for a man overboard from the Pacific Pearl. The cruise ship was sailing off Newcastle, New South Wales.

But the only information I could find were a couple of posting on the Cruise Critic board. 

One person said that " . . . all passengers had to go back to cabins for over an hour and do a rollcall. The ship was stopped and they found 2 lights in the water, apparently lifejackets. It is believed someone threw them in the water."

It was interesting to see the path of the cruise ship on a AIS tracking system. You can clearly see the ship make a Williamson maneuver to return to the spot where the ship thought the person went overboard.

It was nice to see that it turned out to be a false alarm.

Freemantle - Brisbane Cruise Canceled: Princess Cruises To Finally Fix Sea Princess Engines

The Sea Princess is back in the news.  Following widespread coverage of "cruise from hell" articles about a noro-infected  cruise from Freemantle where the ship was nicknamed "Pandemic Princess," Princess Cruises announced that the sailing to Brisbane was canceled in order to address "technical problems" causing the ship to lose speed. 

Perth Now reports that Carnival Australia spokesman, which is responsible for the Sea Princess, stated that “all guests will receive a full refund of their cruise fare plus a 100 per cent future cruise credit.”

Passengers had complained during earlier cruises that the Sea Princess had been suffering from Adonis Sea Princessreduced speeds which shortened times in certain ports of call and required changes in the ship's itineraries including dropping Bali and Broome.

A poster commented on the Cruise Critic boards: "this ship has been limping along slowly and arriving late to ports/missing ports for months. Princess handled this situation badly."

Another person commented: "Really disappointing. All summer long people have been saying that Princess should just bite the bullet and cancel a couple of cruises down the line and fix this ship. People would have had at least a couple months' notice. Instead, they now have 1900 passengers kicked off on the second day of a cruise that never left port. What a mess."

It's currently unknown how many cruises will be affected.

The Sea Princess is an old ship. It was built by Fincantieri, Italy and began sailing in 1998. It was transferred to P&O Cruises in 2003 and renamed the Adonia (photo above right). It was transferred back to Princess in 2005.  

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Cruiser1210 Creative Commons

Carnival Reimburses Couple for Cruise After Kicking Them Off For Husband's "Minor Alzheimer Moment"

WTSP 10 in Tampa reports on a cruise where Carnival disembarked a couple in Cozumel from the Legend after the husband had a "minor Alzheimer's episode, leaving his stateroom alone at 4 a.m. for a cup of coffee."

Carnival personnel claim that they found the husband disoriented and the ship doctor declared him to be a danger to himself, so the ship disembarked the couple off the ship at the next port.   

But when the news station contacted Carnival, the cruise line "quickly admitted the situation was Carnival Legendmishandled" and reimbursed the cost of the cruise and the airfare home. 

Carnival claims that it initially provided a future credit for the unused days of the couple's cruise. However, given the "specialized circumstances" in this case, Carnival said that it was proceeding with a full refund for the unused days of the cruise as well as reimbursement for their flights home. 

The strange thing about the story is that neither the cruise line nor the passengers explained what the "specialized circumstances" were.

Cruise lines are legally entitled to remove a passenger from a cruise ship if the captain or ship physician determine that they present a risk to their own well-being or that of any other passenger or crew member. 

We have reported on cases similar to this before. It sounds like Carnival handled the situation better than Celebrity Cruises did when it kicked an elderly couple off the Millennium and abandoned them after the wife exhibited signs of dementia. 

Watch the video here.

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Robertsrules Creative commons 3.0

23 Year Old Crew Member Overboard From M/S Serenissima

Serenissima Cruises A reader of Cruise Law News has informed us that a 23 year old female crew member disappeared from the M/S Serenissima cruise ship.

A Greek newspaper has a short article about the disappearance.

The crew member is reported missing north of the island of Crete, Greece.

The cruise ship is a small vessel carrying only 110 passengers with 48 crew members.  You can read about Serenissima Cruises here.

Before this incident, cruise expert Professor Ross Klein has recorded 238 people going overboard from cruise ships since 2000.

If you have additional information about this overboard case, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit: Serenissima Cruises.

High Times in Nassau Will Cost You $500 or 2 Months in Her Majesty's Prison

This spring I wrote a couple of articles about cruise passengers getting busted in Nassau for small amounts of pot.  

In April, I wrote about seven passengers from various cruise ships who were arrested for possessing one or a few marijuana cigarettes. In several cases of those arrested, the Bahamian customs officer boarded the Miami-based ships without an arrest warrant or probable cause and confiscated the pot in the cabin safes and arrested the passengers when they returned to the ships.

I commented on the double standard where cruise lines like Royal Caribbean or NCL make hundreds of millions of dollars pushing booze on their ships to the point that the passenger are knee-walking-Nassau Bahamas Potdrunk, but the cruise ship security officers will nab a guest for a single joint and turn them over to the police.    

A common complaint we hear from those who get off the ships in Nassau is that pot dealers canvas the port and sell pot up and down Bay Street and in and around every bar in town. And of course Nassau has a major crime problem which the local police can't control.

Nonetheless, the Bahamas devotes considerable resources into making tourist-related pot arrests, even though the majority of those arrested don't even try and leave the ship with the pot.   

You can read my articles here: 

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

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

Well yesterday the issue resurfaced.  The Tribune newspaper reports that the Bahamian police arrested four young men in their early 20's from several cruise ship for small amounts pot.

The first two men arrested were from Georgia and disembarked an unidentified cruise ship. They had possession of one gram between them when the police arrested them on the cruise wharf.  The magistrate told them that they "could have faced up to seven years in Her Majesty’s Prison." He questioned whether they knew that marijuana was illegal in the Bahamas. One of the men told the magistrate “it’s everywhere.” He fined each passenger $300 to be paid by 5:00 P.M. or they could spend a month in prison.

The second arrest involved a passenger from Miami. The customs officers came on board the Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas and arrested the passenger for possessing three grams. He told the magistrate that he "wasn’t planning on bringing it off the ship.”  The magistrate threatened the passenger with "sitting in a prison cell for seven years," and fined him $400 or two months in jail. 

The third and last arrest involved another young man from Miami who was aboard the Norwegian Sky. The NCL security chief invited the Bahamian police onto the ship and led them to the passenger's cabin. The police discovered 12 joints and arrested the passenger.  The magistrate fined him $500 or 2 months in prison.

The comments to the article mocked the magistrate. My favorite was "7 years for a dime bag? GTFOH." The last comment said: " . . . stop wasting the tax payers money with this crap, I hope the fine is more than your $800 per hour charge Magistrate Forbes." 

Nassau has a major problem with gangs, drugs and armed robbery involving young violent men. But the local magistrates and police officers would rather round up stoned American cruisers with a joint or two back in the cruise ship safe. It's easy pickings for the local law enforcement and judicial departments who have otherwise lost control of Nassau. 

 

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Photo Credit:  feathersboutiquevintage.com

"Virus From Hell" - Gastroenteritis Strikes Passengers on Sea Princess

MSN / Ninesman reports on a viral outbreak aboard a Princess cruise ship cruising from Australia which sickened "hundreds" of passengers this week.

A passenger who was interviewed by MSN refers dramatically to being inflicted by a "virus from hell" with sounds of "vomiting echoing down the hallways."  The Sea Princess left Fremantle on August 18th and was heading, eventually, to Singapore. This was reportedly not the first outbreak.  New passengers who boarded in Singapore were not warned of the outbreak and were described by one passenger as "lambs being Sea Princess led to the slaughter . . . they just didn't know what they were in for."

The virus was allegedly on the cruise ship "for months." One passenger says that some of the bar and wait staff were already sick, when some passengers boarded, with gastroenteritis and influenza.  The passenger said that the sick crew members were afraid to report to the infirmary out of fear of losing their jobs. In our experience, some crew members who rely on tips keep working after they are ill.

MSN says that around 500 people were affected; however, Princess claims that this was not a major outbreak with only around 100 passengers becoming ill.  Princess confirmed to a newspaper in Australia that 100 passengers were sickened by what it innocuously referred to as a "tummy bug."

Princess is declining to compensate passengers for the outbreak and will not be reimbursing them for the shipboard medical treatment needed on the ship. 

We asked Princess for a comment but have not heard back from the cruise line.  

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Bahnfrend Creative Commons

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Read about cruise norovirus cases from Barfblog.

September 11 2014 Update: We just received a couple of comments from passengers on the ship (below), stating that the story is over-dramatic and the criticism of Princess is overblown.

September 12 2014 Update: Passengers who were struck down by the gastro-intestinal virus have disembarked at Fremantle this morning, according to abcnet.au. One passenger said he "was compensated for his bad experience. We got a special on our next cruise deal and the compensation was a couple of dollars as well, so they looked after us." Another passenger said "they were not told about what had happened but believe they should have been."

September 13 2014 Update: PerthNow reports that passengers said up to 400 people were ill on the ship which many are nicknaming “Pandemic Princess” and “Purgatory Princess.” Princess is sticking with its story that only a “small percentage” of passenger were affected. Passengers were offered a 50 per cent refund to be discounted from their next cruise. One retiree said that a "nice glass of brandy every night” kept him from becoming sick. 

Crystal: A Cruise Line with a Conscience? Try Again.

The headline in the Asbury Park Press stunned me - "Crystal: A luxury cruise line with a conscience."  

Surely this must be a joke I thought, given Crystal's dreadful environmental record of polluting the oceans and air.

But the article was serious. it talked about Crystal donating used furniture to a "Spanish organization that supports recovering addicts." It mentioned that it turned the guests' used toiletries into soap for Crystal Symphony Cruise Ship"800 impoverished families" over three years. It "contributed goods to charities in Africa." 

The article also mentioned that Crystal is refurbishing the staterooms aboard the Serenity later this year to install purification equipment, "creating the industry’s first hypoallergenic cabins for passengers with allergies and/or respiratory ills."

But neither the Serenity nor the Symphony have installed advanced sewage treatment systems, resulting in a grade of "F" for the company’s zero percent sewage treatment score. The Crystal cruise ships also burn dirty fuel, including burning cancer-causing sulphur fuel in port because Crystal has not invested in shore-side power hook-ups. Friends of the Earth has consistently awarded Crystal "F's" in how this cruise line treats the water and air.

In the eyes of environmentalists, Crystal is best known for an incident in 2003 when a Crystal ship dumped around 35,000 gallons of grey water, sewage, and bilge water in a marine sanctuary in Monterey Bay. It had promised earlier not to foul the marine sanctuary's waters.

According to the L.A. Times, Crystal Cruises said 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.

"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.

When the Friends of the Earth gave Crystal Cruises an "F," Cruise spokesperson Weisband responded by saying that Crystal Cruises "deserved an A ... if not an A+."

The elite Conde Nast Traveler cruisers may consistently vote Crystal the "world’s best cruise line," but its the one cruise line that has never exhibited an environmental conscience. 

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0

Overworked & Underpaid on the High Seas

This weekend I read an interesting article in the Springfield Register-Guard about Royal Caribbean Cruises' plans to add employees at its call center in Oregon.

There are currently over 700 employees at the call center in Oregon, according to the newspaper. The cruise line is planning to add another 220 mostly full time employees.

What struck me about the article was the lucrative pay and benefits which the cruise line provides to its employees. The newspapers says "Royal Caribbean touts its modern facility, which includes a fitness center and cafeteria; base pay that starts at $8.85 to $10.50 an hour, not including incentive pay; Royal Caribbean Call Center Spinngfield Oregonhealth care insurance; a retirement plan; the chance to advance rapidly, and cruising privileges."

The cruise line also received lucrative incentives to open the call center back in 2006. The state of Oregon provided $1.3 million in incentives, including a $600,000 loan. The company was required to pay back only around $64,000. 

What a great employment package for the people in Oregon (especially compared to the Royal Caribbean operations in the U.K. which was out-sourced to Guatemala earlier this year). They can make over $400 working 40 hours a week, plus benefits, in a nice facility doing a cushy job. 

How does that compare to a cleaner from Jamaica who works on a Royal Caribbean ship 10 to 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, with no time off and no benefits?  A cleaner on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship makes around $550 a month performing strenuous work under difficult circumstances, far from the comforts of home. That turns out to around $1.75 an hour. They are tied to contracts lasting anywhere from 6 to 9 months without a single day off.

The cruise line pays no taxes on the billions of dollars paid each year by cruise passenger, because it is incorporated in Liberia and it registers its ship under flags of convenience (Bahamas and Liberia) on its cruise ships. It rakes in millions and millions each year in profits. Its cruise executives, Mr. Fain and Mr. Goldstein, are collectively worth well over $100,000,000 because of the hard working and minimally paid crew, mostly from the Caribbean islands, east Europe, India, Indonesia and the Philippines.

The U.S. executives are swimming in cash while paying the "foreign" crew peanuts. 

There is something wrong when a U.S. call center employee sitting in a cubicle answering the phone for the cruise line can work less than one-half of the hours of a shipboard employee yet earn three times more, plus benefits and perks.   

 

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

Don't forget to read:  

Cruise Law Visits Royal Caribbean in Oregon

Globalization at Work? Royal Caribbean's U.K. Call Center Outsourced to Guatemala

A Bahamian's View of Cruising to the Bahamas

This morning I read an interesting letter to the editor while reading the Nassau Guardian

It was from a Bahamian woman who cruised on a Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) ship with her extended family on a Caribbean cruise to St. Maarten, St. Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands) and Nassau.

She and her family were distressed to see several safety warnings about Nassau in the NCL daily brochures. They also observed a sign on a deck on the cruise ship about the topic of passenger safety and the danger of Nassau Bahamasbringing valuables ashore in the Bahamas.  

There were no warning signs or brochures about the other ports of call, in St. Maarten or St. Thomas.

She complained about other issues, such as the port being dirty and disorganized, as well as the abuse of a horse carrying a surrey and passengers. She was disgusted and commented "how can we claim it's better in the Bahamas?"

She summed up her feeling by saying: "I can tell you it's not a pretty sight for passengers stepping off the ship, if they dare to do so after the safety warning about Nassau!" 

I have written extensively about the problem of violent crime in Nassau. Most U.S. passengers mistakenly think that Nassau is some type of tropical paradise immune from crime.  They don't even begin to understand that the place is a far cry from the glossy images portrayed by the cruise lines until they disembark and it is too late.  

Most of my information in my prior articles comes from the local press in the Bahamas, with my favorite sources being the Tribune or the Nassau Guardian, as well as U.S. passengers returning from the islands with a horror story to tell. 

It's a change to see to a Bahamian provide an insight into the Bahamas while traveling in the Caribbean and arriving at the port in Nassau,

 

Photo Credit: Wikitravel Creative Commons

Celebrity Says Goodbye to Century Cruise Ship

Multiple sources are reporting that Royal Caribbean entered into an agreement to sell the Celebrity Century cruise ship to a Chinese cruise company. 

The company buying the Century is identified as Exquisite Marine Ltd., a holding company controlled by Ctrip International Ltd.

Royal Caribbean says that the Century will "complete its scheduled sailings through the March 22, 2015, itinerary. The 15-night, Dubai to Rome sailing on April 5, 2015 is being redeployed to a 14-night sailing from Dubai to Singapore. Guests with affected individual bookings and named group bookings Celebrity Centuryon Celebrity Century's April 5, 2015 sailing from Dubai to Rome have the option to either cancel their booking and receive a full refund or move to an alternative sailing and receive a re-accommodation onboard credit as well as compensation to cover air change fees. Guests with reservations affected by the transition will be proactively contacted by Celebrity Cruises. Guests and Travel Agents with specific questions are welcome to call 1-888-283-7275."

The Century joined the Celebrity fleet in December 1995. 

On of my first cases against a cruise line involved the Century. An elderly woman fell on a worn-out, slippery deck, breaking her hip.    

It was a different era back then. The Century was a 70,00-ton ship carrying only 1,800 guests with 860 crew. We will see more and more cruise ships of this vintage appear in the Chinese and European markets as Royal Caribbean brings its monster ships on line.  

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Riley Huntley (Huntley Photography)

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered and Cruising to the Bahamas? Think Again.

This weekend, the “Bahamas Pride Freedom Weekend” was scheduled to take place at a resort on Grand Bahama.

Beginning last Friday, the four-day festival was intended to celebrate and strengthen support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) community in the Bahamas.

According to the Tribune newspaper, the event was organized to "underscore the critical need for outreach and empowerment" within the LGBT community. The event's organizer, Victor Rollins, says that the LGBT community is often "stigmatised, manipulated or exploited."

This weekend was designed to feature a variety of parties and festivities, as well as a memorial to Bahamas LGBT remember LGBT individuals who were victims of hate crimes or HIV. The events were scheduled to take place at the Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach Resort.

But the Nassau Guardian reports that the festivities and memorial were canceled "out of fear" of violence from "irate" members of the public. The organizer Mr. Rollins reportedly received death threats. The newspaper also reported that local talk shows included vitriolic comments by those Bahamians who wished the LGBT community harm and suggested that God would condemn the LGBT members. 

A religious leader, Dr Myles Munroe, of the Bahamas Faith Ministries International, added fuel to the anti-LGBT sentiment. He has made numerous public denouncements of homosexuality. After learning of the LGBT events, he issued a press statement that homosexuality dismantles "the very core of the natural existence of humanity.”

According to the Tribune, Dr. Munroe claims that "90 per cent of the Bahamas and Bahamians consider (homosexuality) unacceptable and violates their collective convictions, moral standing and values." He characterized gay and lesbian men and women as "selfish," possessing "unnatural preferences," and engaging in "unnatural human-destroying behaviour."

You can read a letter to the editor of the Tribune entitled the Homosexual And Bisexual Plague to understand this view of the LGBT community in the Bahamas.  Or you can read this Bahamian minister's view on his Facebook page - "the Bahamas has to be careful that we don't inherit a reputation as a 'Gay Destination.'"

Frommer's says that the Bahamas is "increasingly gay-friendly," but "single gays and gay couples should still travel with discretion."

Some say that over 10% of cruisers are affiliated with the LGBT community. But whatever the number may be, why would anyone chose to cruise to such a hateful place?  

 

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

Photo Credit: The Tribune.

Guernsey Coast Guard Medevacs Severely Ill Passenger from the MSC Opera

BBC News reports that a "severely ill" passenger had to be evacuated from a MSC cruise ship. 

The MSC Opera was anchored off Guernsey. According to the BBC, the Guernsey Coast Guard described the patient's illness as severe. 

Guernsey is an island near Normandy in the English Channel between France and England. 

Photo Credit: Guernsey Harbours via BBC Jersey

MSC Opera

NCL to Buy Prestige Cruises

Oceania CruisesReuters reports that Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) is in "advanced talks" to purchase Prestige Cruises for approximately $3 billion.
 
The owner of Prestige Cruises, private equity firm Apollo Global Management, owns 20% of NCL. 
 
Prestige Cruises is based in Miami and operates the Oceania and Regent brands, which has eight luxury cruise ships. 

 

Coast Guard Medevacs Ill Passenger From Carnival Fantasy

Carnival FantasyAccording to First Coast News, a Coast Guard helicopter medevaced a 67-year-old woman from the Carnival Fantasy to a Jacksonville hospital yesterday evening.

The passenger was reportedly experiencing life-threatening symptoms.

The Coast Guard helicopter, based out of Air Station Clearwater, lifted the cruise passenger off the ship and flew her, along with her husband and a cruise line nurse, to UF Health Jacksonville.

Neither the cruise line nor the passenger has to pay for these emergency medevac services.

The United States taxpayers foot the bill.

Carnival Magic Crushes Coral Reef in Cayman Islands

A newspaper in the Cayman Islands reports that the Carnival Magic cruise ship severely damaged a pristine coral reef when it anchored in an unauthorized zone near George Town on Wednesday,

The newspaper quotes the deputy director of the Cayman's Department of Environment saying that “the impact where the anchor landed was very severe; there was a lot of crushed live coral and sediment.”

The newspaper says that local pilot boats operated by Bodden Shipping Agency guided the Carnival cruise ship to anchor outside of the designated public port anchorage.

There's no mention whether the tourism dependent island will fine either the cruise line or the shipping agency.

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

Coral Reef Cayman Islands

Photo Credit: Don Foster's Dive Cayman via Cayman Compass 

 

Royal Caribbean Cruise Executive Fain: "We've Done Loads to Make the Crew's Job Easier . . . We're Proud of Our Low Staff Turnover" True or False?

Travel Weekly just published an "interview" of Royal Caribbean cruise executive Richard Fain as part of the cruise line's promotional build-up to the arrival of the Quantum of the Seas. 

it's hyperbolic, razzle-dazzle, gobbledygook at it's finest.  

Royal Caribbean has been been invading crew gratuities for years, doubling up officers in what were previously single cabins, and working the ship employees harder than ever before. When I read the $100 million executive Fain say: "We’ve done loads to make the crew’s job easier . . . We’re proud of our low staff turnover lower," I though that I would pose the following simple question to the crew members who follow Richard Fain - Royal Caribbeanour Facebook page: 

True? or False?

Well here are some of the answers from the Royal Caribbean crew that you will never see in a publication like Travel Weekly:

" . . . on any rccl ship the crew members go (especially from f&b dept.) they always complain they are short of equipment to serve the guest! Your sweet words are only for your market benefits but they are actually false!"

"False . . . Every week there's at least one person who resigns . . . . If you resign with prior notice, you have 1 year to be rehired. Last year they decided to place all 2 stripe officers in shared cabins and take away most privileges, this cost many of them to resign as well."

"Long hours without any benefits."

"I worked 9 years for Royal Caribbean, nothing improves for the crew, all the opposite."

"I think he is talking like a politician.....there are many resignations now due to the working conditions and they are not being replaced; just the other crew members being made to work longer hours and do unpaid extra duties. 'Turnover' is the total of ins and outs, so by not replacing people the turnover figure is falsely low."

"Robots taking over the ships. Crew members start looking for other jobs!!"

If you want to read all of the comments on our Facebook page about Fain's interview, click here.

 

Photo Credit: Wall Street Journal Smart Money / by Jeffrey Salter / Redux

Nassau, Bahamas Crime Watch: Time For Another State Department Warning?

Latore Mackey, the press secretary to the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, was shot in the neck and killed early Monday morning.

Mr. Mackey's death was the fifth in less than 36 hours according to the Tribune newspaper in Nassau. 

Violent crime in out of control in Nassau. 

Young gun-totting men are on the rampage. The Tribune reports that four men, 18, 20, 22 and 24 Nassau Bahamas Crimeyears old, were arrested for the murder. 

In March, the U.S. Embassy in Nassau last issued a crime warning, advising U.S. citizens residing in and traveling to the Bahamas to be aware of their surroundings and remain on "heightened alert" to avoid being a victim of crime. The warning referred to a number of armed robberies which occurred in the last two weeks.

That was the third critical crime warning for the Bahamas since December 2013.

The most recent warning stated, in part:

"Armed robbery and violent crime remain major threats facing both U.S. citizens and residents of the Bahamas, including in areas frequented by tourists on New Providence and Grand Bahamas Islands. In the past year, a number of U.S. citizens have fallen victim to armed robbery."

The vast majority of the armed crimes are by local citizens against local citizens in the Bahamas. But these crimes are rarely solved and that's especially true when the victims are tourists.

I remain of the opinion that the tourism dependent islands are "one gunshot away" from the cruise lines concluding that it too dangerous to unload boatloads of cruise passengers in Nassau. Many cruise passenger tell me that they stay on the ship when the cruise calls on Nassau.

I don't blame them. 

When government employees are gunned down while driving on Market Street, it's time for the U.S. State Department to issue another warning to tourists traveling to Nassau.  

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

 

Image Credit: The Tribune

Fewer Cruise Passengers Sail From Seattle

Cruise Seattle Alaska King 5 TV reports that there has been a drop in the number of departures of cruise ship and cruise passengers through Seattle.

The video below features the Carnival Miracle which arrived back in Seattle after a cruise to Alaska.

805,000 passengers and 178 cruise ships will pass through Seattle during the May-September cruise season. That's compared to 870,000 passengers and 187 ships in 2013, and 934,900 passengers and 202 vessels in 2012.

The estimated drop of 8% in passengers equates to a loss of $30 million hit to the local economy. 

The seafood businesses and selling fresh salmon at Pike Place Market are a major attraction to cruise passengers arriving in Seattle. 

I'm currently in Seattle with my law partner (and spouse). We attended a vessel inspection of the Carnival Miracle yesterday.   

Haiti to Charge Royal Caribbean Passengers $2 More to Visit Labadee

Haiti-Caribbean News Network reports that Haiti will require Royal Caribbean cruise passenger to pay an extra two dollars to visit the cruise line's "private destination" in Labadee.

The extra money, to be paid by the cruise passengers and not the cruise line, is intended to fund social projects benefiting the local community.

Effective March 15, 2015, cruise passenger will pay $12 a piece instead of the $10 being paid now. 

Royal Caribbean has invested virtually nothing into the local community over the past 20 years. Royal Labadee - Royal CaribbeanCaribbean built a modest little school four years ago, which it named after itself.  The school was built using materials donated by third parties and cost only around $425,000. 

With around 600,000 cruise passengers visiting Labadee a year, that turns out to be only a little over seventy cents a person for the school.  The cruise line has been criticized for erecting a barb-wire fence around the resort to keep the Haitians out (photo right), and not providing food for the children at the school or transportation to transport the children safely there.

On the other hand, Royal Caribbean has spent tens of millions of dollars in labadee building a deep water port, a huge zip-line and other improvements for its passengers.

Haiti's Prime minister, Laurent Lamothe, announced last month that he agreed to permit Carnival to develop the island of Tortuga in a deal that sounds like the Royal Caribbean-Haiti deal in Labadee. 

 

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

Photo Credit: Rudbeckia Flickr Photostream "A Haitian view of Labadee"

Crew Member Disappears From Independence of the Seas: Why No Mention in the Press or Social Media?

A crew member disappeared from Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas earlier in the week.

We were first notified of the crew member's disappearance from another crew member who was concerned about the incident. Today we received confirmation that a crew member went overboard from a reliable separate and independent source. 

The missing crew member was reportedly a galley worker from India. The crew member went overboard early in the morning before the cruise ship called on its scheduled port in France. 

The ship is currently on a two week cruise, starting on August 9, 2014 from Southampton and sailing to Independence of the Seas Gibraltar, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, before returning to Southampton.

This is the third time in two months a person has gone overboard from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship without any mention of the incident in the press or on social media. 

A passenger went overboard from the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas on August 7, 2014. There were no rescue attempts by the ship. The cruise ship, like all other Royal Caribbean cruise ships, has no automatic man overboard system which could detect someone going overboard and immediately alert the bridge. The passenger was not noticed missing until a cabin attendant entered the cabin over 14 hours later. There was no mention of the incident in the press or on social media until we first mentioned the incident.

Another passenger jumped from the Splendour of the Seas on June 13, 2014. The cruise ship personnel rescued him because he was seen going overboard by other passengers and crew members. Again, there was no mention of the incident until we reported on it. The incident demonstrates that even when a person intentionally goes overboard (an act often considered to be suicidal), the cruise ship can safely rescue them if man overboard steps are immediately taken.

A passenger also recently went overboard (August 2, 2014) from the Caribbean Princess. Like the situation on the Splendor, the passenger intentionally jumped overboard but was quickly rescued because he was seen going into the water.  Again, there was no mention of the incident until cruise expert Ross Klein first mentioned it on his website

Of course, many people going overboard are not witnessed. That's why automatic man overboard systems are important. The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 requires the installation of man overboard technology. The history of the legislation indicates that it does not matter whether the person intentionally went overboard (suicidal or not), accidentally went overboard (due to alcohol, recklessness or otherwise), or was thrown overboard. Cruise ships must install the available technology.  

Why are these incidents not being mentioned in the press or discussed on social media? Some people believe that it's nobody's business. They say that if someone wants to jump overboard, they must be suicidal and there's nothing the cruise line could do or should do.  

Other people say that I'm just making these incidents up. If they can't find confirmation of the overboard on the internet after a Google search, they say I must be lying. This view permeates the group-think, cult-of-personality, lynch mob mentality on Cruise Critic message boards

In situations like the Grandeur, or more recently the Independence, the person is not discovered missing until hours and hours later, when the ship reaches port or a crew member doesn't report to work in the morning or a cabin attendant finally enters the cabin.  The ship is then over a hundred miles away. 

My thought is that it comes down to a lack of transparency. Cruise lines don't like news of their guests or employees disappearing at sea. Cruise lines sell images of magical vacations with happy, smiling customers and friendly crew members. They don't like stories of out-of-their-mind-drunk-on-cruise-booze passengers, or over-worked and despondent crew members or, God forbid, passengers or crew thrown overboard into the dark waters. They suppress the information. They don't like lawyers who point out that their entire fleet is in violation of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.

 

Interested in this issue? Consider reading Is Royal Caribbean Working Its Crew Members to Death? 

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

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Aztec06

Norwegian Breakaway Passengers Busted in Bermuda for Drugs

Norwegian BreakawayThe Royal Gazette reports that Bermuda customs officials arrested two cruise passengers from the Norwegian Breakaway for possession of marijuana and drugs. 

A passenger from New York pleaded guilty to possessing ecstasy, cocaine and cannabis. 

According to the newspaper, cruise officials notified customs officers of a smell from the passenger's cabin. The customs officers entered and woke up a the passenger, who was sleeping. He allegedly admitted that he was in possession of the drugs. He opened the cabin safe which had "25 green pills, five yellow pills and a white powder," later determined to be ecstasy, a prescription drug and cocaine.

A local magistrate fined the passenger $3,950.

A second passenger from California also pleaded guilty to possessing pot. Cruise ship officials and customs officers searched her cabin when she was not there. They opened her cabin's safe where they found the pot. She explained she had been prescribed pot for medical reasons.

The magistrate fined her $1,000.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Dickelbers

 

NCL's No-Cruise-for-the-Cancer-Child Public Relations Disaster Continues: "Shocking What Norwegian Did"

NCL Norwegian Cruise Line Cancellation Policy The case of Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) callously refusing to permit the family of a five year old boy with a cancerous tumor, "the size of a soda can," to reschedule their cruise is back in the news today.

A Long Island, New York news station PIX11 aired an interview with the mom and her son discussing the sad case. NCL refused to cooperate in rescheduling the cruise when the family discovered that their son had cancer.

You can read about our prior article here.

Sitting on the interview couch with the mom and her son was a formidable ally for the cancer-stricken child - Pauline Frommer.

Ms. Frommer is the daughter of the legendary travel expert Arthur Frommer. Ms. Frommer, an accomplished and highly respected travel expert in her own right, explained that NCL has the "most draconian" attitude toward cancellations in the cruise industry.  

She added that "most of the other lines would have shown more compassion."

Ms. Frommer concluded "I think it's pretty shocking what Norwegian did." 

Interested in this topic? Read Rigid Policies Can Sink Cruise Lines' Image.

 

Caribbean Princess Passenger Overboard, Rescued

Cruise expert professor Ross Klein reports, based on passenger accounts, that a passenger went overboard from the Caribbean Princess and was rescued on August 2, 2014.

Here are the two separate accounts told to Professor Klein:

"I was on a cruise on August 2, 2014 on the Caribbean Princess out of Fort Lauderdale. A 24 year old male passenger went overboard around 10 pm. We were stopped for about an hour. They did find him alive in the water. I think he jumped from the 8th deck. They took him to medical after rescue. Some passengers said he was a "special person" but I don't know if that is true. There was a group from a Caribbean Princess group home on board. That's really all I know."

"The man overboard happened around 7:50 PM - the "Man Overboard - Crew to your muster stations" announcement was made with just a little sunlight left, but by the time we stopped and turned around, and the rescue boat took off it was dark. The man was rescued relatively quickly (10-15 minutes). Either people threw him life jackets or he jumped with one. We also heard rumors of mental health, and we can confirm there was a group on board but we don't know if he was part of that group. We also heard he was put off at the next port (St Thomas) but cannot confirm. There appeared to be another rescue boat that helped with the search, possibly from another ship?"

This is the third passenger overboard in two months that was not mentioned in the press or discussed on social media. 

A 70 year old passenger went overboard from the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas on August 7, 2014. There were no rescue attempts by the ship and no announcements by the crew.

A passenger in his 20's jumped from the Splendor of the Seas on June 13, 2014. Fortunately, the cruise ship personnel rescued him.

Regarding this most recent overboard, we have reached out to Princess for a comment.  We will publish whatever Princess has to say if it responds.  

 

Have a thought about this or any of the recent cruise overboards?  Leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page

Photo Credit: loimere / Flickr

Transgender Cruise to Roatan: What About Lele?

This morning I read an article in Travel Agent Central about a cruise in December aboard the Navigator of the Seas which is being advertised for transgender travelers.

Out Traveler first reported about what is being called the first ever cruise for "trans travelers." Out Traveler explains that Transgender Vacations organized the cruise so that 'both transgender individuals as well as those who crossdress (but don’t necessarily identify as trans) can take a vacation and be themselves . . . for us to feel comfortable with who we are.'" 

Transgender CruiseAt first blush, I thought what a great idea. But then I looked at the itinerary and cringed. The first port of call was Roatan, Honduras. 

I have written a series of articles about the high crime rate in Roatan. There's a tendency in the local tourism industry to gloss over the armed robberies and murders there and falsely characterize the Honduran island as "paradise."

A concerned expatriate living in Roatan told me about the vicious death of a transgender mute, named Lele, who was tied to a tree and beaten to death on the island last year.  

The Bay Island Voice, one of the few publications on Roatan, wrote a rather unflattering article about the heinous murder of who it alternated between calling a "transvestite" and a "transgender," saying the victim "... was deaf and could speak only a few words, was a familiar sight along the road between French Harbour and Coxen Hole parading about in hotpants and a tube top and similarly flamboyant transgender apparel. His body was found beaten to death and wrapped in a sheet on the roadside near Juticalpa on Roatan’s East End July 18. He was 22."

The article explained that Lele experienced a "history of suffering abuse" and had been "beaten by groups of young men multiple times."

The murderers of Lele were arrested and then soon set free, notwithstanding substantial evidence implicating them in the crime. 

Is this really where the "first transgender cruise" wants to go?

The organizer of the cruise, "Stephanie," knows nothing of this, I'm sure.  She writes: "My suggestion to you is to do the shore excursions with the group so you will feel safe. If you want venture on your own, please use common sense . . . My recommendation is to stay around others and you will be fine."

Let's hope so. But the story raises the issue of how LGBT's are treated during cruises and ashore in the ports of call in the Caribbean.

Two years ago we wrote about bizarre behavior of Carnival responding to a drag queen cruise - Who Will Be The First Drag Queen Kicked Off The Carnival Glory? - as well as a gay couple arrested on a gay cruise to Dominica - Rouges & Vagabonds:" Gay Cruise Couple Fined, Insulted & Deported From Dominica.  

Being a LGBT traveler in the Caribbean is not easy.  Jamaica, Caymans, Bahamas, Dominica, Honduras, and St. Lucia are begrudgingly tolerant at best and openly hostile at worst to LGBT visitors.

Is there anywhere in the Caribbean with open arms to the LGBT community?  

Interested in this topic? We suggest reading: Travel Weekly's Go or no? Should LGBT travelers visit hostile places? ("I will get pressured by journalists wanting to cover Roatan, in Honduras," she said. "I've been there; it's a beautiful place. But four transsexual women were murdered [in Honduras], and activists were beaten. ...")

August 13 2014 Update: Reports of murdered trans people in 26 countries in the last 12 months, with the majority from Brazil (95), Mexico (40), the USA (16), and Venezuela (15), followed by Honduras (12), Colombia (12), and El Salvador (5).

According to planetransgender.com, "while Brazil, Mexico, and the USA have the highest absolute numbers, the relative numbers show even more worrisome results for some countries with smaller population sizes. Honduras, for instance, has a rate of 1.5 reported trans killings per million inhabitants, for El Salvador the rate is 0.71, while for Brazil the rate is 0.49, for Mexico the rate is 0.36, and for the USA the rate is 0.05." 

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger from Carnival Fascination

Carnival FascinationA local CBS news station reports that the Coast Guard medevaced an ill passenger from a cruise ship today. 

The Miami Coast Guard station received a message this morning that a 26-year old man aboard the Carnival cruise ship Fascination was suffering symptoms of appendicitis.  At the time, the Carnival cruise ship was about 32 miles east of Lake Worth, Florida.

The cruise passenger was medevaced by a small Coast guard vessel and taken to a marina where local emergency medical workers were waiting.

Providing emergency medical services like this is one of the many services which our federal government provides for free to cruise lines like Carnival. 

Person Overboard From Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas?

Cruise Law News has been told that a person allegedly went overboard from the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas as the cruise ship was returning from Bermuda to Baltimore earlier this week. 

The incident reportedly occurred around 3:00 AM late Wednesday night / early Thursday morning, August 7th.

According to a person on the cruise ship who wishes to remain anonymous, a state room attendant found a note when he entered the cabin on Thursday. The ship was searched, the CCTV Grandeur of the Seas cameras reviewed, and the overboard was eventually discovered.

The passenger was reportedly a U.S. citizen, 70 years old and traveling alone. The missing person alert was raised 12 hours or so after the overboard (from the CCTV review).

The cruise ship continued on to Baltimore. It didn't go back. There appears to be no search.

If this information is accurate, it appears that the incident may have involved a suicide. However, it also illustrates that the cruise line has still not installed automatic man overboard systems as required by the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010. The cruise safety law requires such technology regardless of whether the passenger or crew member intentionally jumped, accidentally went overboard, or was thrown into the ocean. 

There are lots of questions which remain unanswered. Did the captain of the cruise ship make any announcements?  Why didn't the ship turn around much earlier and conduct a search? Did the cruise ship notify the U.S. Coast Guard?

We have written about people going overboard from the Grandeur before.  

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein have documented 235 people (in addition to this one) going overboard from cruise ships since 2000. 

Are there passenger or crew members who have additional information to share?

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

August 10 2014 Update: This is the second overboard passenger from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in the last two months who was not reported in the press or discussed in social media. Three weeks ago, we reported on a passenger who went overboard from the Splendor of the Seas. Fortunately the cruise line personnel quickly rescued him. You can read about that incident here

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Citking

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger From Carnival Ecstasy

A local FOX News station in Clearwater, Florida reports that the U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a passenger with a medical emergency from a Carnival  cruise ship.

The Carnival Ecstasy was sailing around 250 miles southwest of the Florida Keys on Thursday, when a 51 year old male passenger began experiencing symptoms of a heart attack.

The Coast Guard crew flew out to the cruise ship in a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter. They hoisted the sick passenger onto the helicopter and flew the man to a hospital. 

FOX 13 News

Royal Caribbean to Charge Kids $10 To Have Breakfast With Shrek

An article by Cruise Critic titled No More Free Breakfasts caught my eye today.

Cruise Critic says that Royal Caribbean is adding a $10 surcharge for kids and parents to dine with the cruise line's DreamWorks characters at breakfast on the Oasis, Allure, Freedom, Liberty, Voyager, and Mariner of the Seas.

According to Cruise Critic, "character breakfasts" have been free since Royal Caribbean first launched them in 2010.

Dreamworks Character Royal CaribbeanHowever, starting September 1st, the cruise line will charge the fee to any passenger over 5 years old.

The first three comments on Cruise Critic summed up my thoughts perfectly:

"I'm glad my grandson was able to do the breakfast last year. RCCL is getting greedy."

"Disappointed with RCCL. More nickel and dimeing . . ." 

"Just another way to nickel and dime you . . ."

For a mom and dad and with 2 kids over  5 years old, the cruise line charge will come to $40 a day to have breakfast with Shrek (photographed with Adam Goldstein). 

It is particularly greedy for Royal Caribbean to nickel and dime their little guests considering that just last week we reported that cruise CEO's Fain and Goldstein have a combined net worth over $100,000,000 on their cruise line operations and are getting richer.

I'd be tempted to move up to Disney Cruise Line and have have my kids meet and greet Micky Mouse and Cinderella for free.

 

Note: The Royal Caribbean Blog first reported on the charge. 

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean Press Center 

Video of Bahamas Jet-Ski Accident Goes Viral

A video of a jet ski accident on a beach in the Bahamas has gone viral with the U.K.'s Daily Express newspaper saying that it is the most viewed story in the world on its website.

The video shows the moment a young tourist sitting on a jet-ski narrowly escaping injury as another jet ski crashes into and flies over her jet-ski. 

Fortunately the young girl was scared but uninjured.  Unfortunately, accidents like this causing serious injury are not uncommon. We have been contacted by cruise tourists injured in jet-ski mishaps.

Bahamas Jet Ski AccidentOperating jet-skis in the Bahamas is particularly dangerous. There are absolutely no safety standards in that country governing the operation of such watercraft. The operators are often not affiliated with the major waterfront hotels and resorts and have poor maintenance of the machines. Safety training and instruction is spotty. Holding negligent owners and operators responsible is often difficult.

To make matters worse, most owners and operators have no insurance.

The Bahamas 2014 Crime and Safety Report states the following about the Bahamas:

"Rental of personal watercraft (jet skis) is very popular at many resorts and beaches. Visitors should use extreme caution and not operate such watercraft unless they are experienced in using them. Use of life jackets is highly recommended. The Embassy has seen numerous injuries as a result of not following proper safety instructions by the jet-ski operators."

In prior years, the U.S. Department of State has provided the following warning:

"The water sports and scooter rental industries in The Bahamas are not carefully regulated. Every year people are killed or injured due to improper, careless, or reckless operation of scooters, jet-skis, and personal watercraft or scuba/snorkeling equipment. Visitors should rent equipment only from reputable operators, and should insist on sufficient training before using the equipment. There have been reports that some operators do not actually provide insurance coverage even when the renter opted (and paid) for insurance coverage. Visitors should insist on seeing proof that operators have sufficient medical and liability insurance."

We have written many articles about jet-ski mishaps in the Bahamas: 

Atlantis Jet-Ski Accident in Nassau: Was A Carnival Cruise Passenger Killed?

Carnival Passenger Killed on Jet Ski in the Bahamas,

Cruise Passenger Disappears on Jet Ski In Nassau, Bahamas.

The Freeport News recently reported on the death of a prominent doctor in the Bahamas, Dr. Havard Cooper, Jr, who died in a jet-ski accident. 

 

Photo / Video Credit: express.co.uk / LIVELEAK/BRIAN PRAHL / MediaEntertainmentTV

Senator Rockefeller: "It's Time to Bring Accountability to Cruise Industry"

Senator Rockefeller - Cruise Ship SafetyOn July 23rd, Senator John (Jay) Rockefeller convened a hearing regarding the “Cruise Passenger Protection Act (S.1340): Improving Consumer Protections for Cruise Passengers." We attended the hearing, together with our friend and former client, Laurie Dishman who testified about the way she was treated after being sexually assaulted during a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Senator Rockefeller released the following statement about the hearing:

"Imagine that you and your family are about to embark on a cruise vacation. Like millions of Americans, you’ve been looking forward to a fun-filled vacation that the cruise line has advertised as a “once in a lifetime experience."

Most of the time, the cruise line meets this expectation with a nice trip and safe return. But once in a while, things can go terribly wrong: ships catch fire, passengers fall overboard or get sick, crew members sexually assault passengers. Incidents like these are unfortunately also part of the cruise experience.

But unlike people who choose to vacation in the U.S., cruise ship passengers do not have immediate access to law enforcement even when they’re victims of crimes aboard ships. And if they should suffer a health emergency on a cruise, they could be hundreds of miles away from a health care facility that operates at U.S. standards. Despite these gaps in access to security and health care aboard cruise ships, the cruise industry has repeatedly assured the public that cruises are safe – though the facts I’ve uncovered as Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee tell a different story.

For many years, I’ve been working to bring more accountability to the cruise industry through rigorous oversight and better access to information for passengers. In March 2012, I held a Commerce Committee hearing on this issue after a series of safety incidents on cruise ships, most notably the Costa Concordia grounding in Italy that killed more than 30 people.

At this hearing, our witnesses raised concerns that the public was receiving incomplete information regarding alleged cruise crimes, which prompted me to launch another investigation into the cruise industry that focused on reporting of crime. In the meantime, I also reached out to the cruise lines again and asked them to explain how their safety procedures and security were effectively protecting passengers.

The results of the Committee’s investigation were alarming. We learned that hundreds of cruise crimes were not being publicly reported and, for those crimes that were being reported, consumers had no easy way of accessing this information. The Committee held another hearing to focus on this report and the challenges facing the cruise industry. At that hearing, I put cruise lines on notice that the safety and Laurie Dishman - Cruise Safety Hearingprotection of passengers must be their number one priority, whether they liked it or not.

Last week, after more months of meeting resistance from an industry reluctant to change its ways, I held another hearing of the Commerce Committee so we could hear first-hand from victims of incidents and crimes on cruise ships about how things have not changed. What they had to say was alarming.

One witness bravely recounted her 2006 rape on a cruise. What should have been a happy celebration of her birthday with her best friend turned into a tragic nightmare when she was raped by a cruise line security officer. Another one of our witnesses, a lawyer representing victims of cruise crime, described a violent attack on one of his clients – a teenage girl – who was raped by two other passengers. We also heard from a woman who told us the heartbreaking story of losing her mother after the mother suffered a medical emergency on a cruise ship. Our witness described in her testimony the horrific experience of desperately trying to seek help and medical attention for her mother, and the lack of access to medical equipment or speedy care. According to our witness, had she been able to access timely, effective medical care, her mother probably would have survived.

In addition, we heard from another victim who was a passenger last year aboard the Carnival Triumph. A fire in the ship’s engine room left passengers without electricity, water or access to a running toilet for days.

These witnesses further described the callous disregard the cruise industry showed after their harrowing experiences – from leaving one family stranded in a foreign country with no assistance during a medical emergency, to not preserving evidence that could have been used to help prosecute a rape victim’s attacker.

Sadly, their horrifying testimony is nothing new. And in spite of the evidence that crimes, fires, mechanical failures, drownings, and mishandled medical emergencies occur with disturbing regularity on cruise ships, the industry continues to deny it has a problem. Instead, the industry has reflexively fought all efforts to provide consumers more information about the risks of cruise ship vacations.

That’s where my legislation comes in. Last year, after witnessing the Costa Concordia tragedy, the Carnival Triumph debacle, and learning about the underreported number of crimes on cruise ships, I introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2013.

This legislation would require that cruise lines publicly report all crimes aboard their ships; establish the Department of Transportation (DOT) as the lead agency for cruise passenger consumer protections; and, make it easier for consumers to report complaints about problems on cruise ships. I have also proposed simplifying ticket contracts and establishing an advisory committee at DOT to help give passengers a voice in how the cruise lines operate.

Consumers already have similar protections if they travel in airplanes or by rail, so it only makes sense that these protections are extended to cruise ships and the cruise industry. We also know from the testimony we heard last week that consumers need these protections.

So it is my hope that the cruise industry was paying attention, and that it is finally considering how to improve protections for their customers so no one has to experience what our witnesses experienced. As I said during the hearing, the time to act is now, and I will continue pushing to make cruising safer for all families."

 

Article credit: Independent Herald

Captain Schettino Lectures Graduate Students on "Management of Panic Control"

Disgraced Costa captain Francesco Schettino is back in the news after a professor at the University of Rome invited him to lecture to a class of graduate students studying forensic science.

A number of news sources quote Schettino saying: "I was called in because I am an expert. I had to illustrate the management of panic control."  He later said: "I have sailed the seas of the world and I know what to behave and how to react."

Of course it was Schettino, now known as "captain coward", who killed 32 passengers and crew members because he was frozen with panic after he ran the cruise ship into the rocks off of Giglio. He fled the scene of the disaster he caused, by hopping Schettino the Deadly Buffoonin a lifeboat and abandoning his responsibilities. 

When I think that this debacle couldn't get any more absurd, this deadly buffoon re-emerges to pour salt in the wounds of the victims' grieving families. 

Last month, the tan, slick-haired captain was photographed jetting around the holiday island of Ischia, surrounded by a "gaggle of glamorous women" while celebrating signing a book deal.

Meanwhile, a newspaper reports today that a human skull was found in the remains of the Concordia cruise ship, which has been towed to  the port town of Genoa for scrapping.

 

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

Image credit: National Post

Engine Problem Forces Grand Princess to Return to Seattle

KIRO TV reports that the Grand Princess cruise ship experienced a problem with one of its engines and was required to return to port in Seattle for almost four hours.

The U.S. Coast Guard said that a port-side engine "died" on the cruise ship around 4:50 PM after the the ship left Seattle heading on an Alaskan cruise. 

KING 5 news station says that a tug had to assist the ship back to port.

Grand Princess

The cruise ship has two shafts and two fixed propellers.

Princess Cruises spokesperson Julie Benson said in a prepared statement:

“Grand Princess has returned to the Port of Seattle, in consultation with the U.S. Coast Guard, following an earlier issue with one of the ship's motors. At no time was guest safety impacted as the ship had propulsion and steering control. As a precaution the ship is returning to port for a safety check and we hope to depart again later this evening. We will keep passengers fully informed.”

The KIRO television station reports that Ms. Benson also said "several similar incidents" have happened with Grand Princess before.

A passenger, identified as David Meers, was critical of the cruise line's lack of communications. He reportedly said “thirty or forty minutes into the cruise, the ship listed to one side. Shortly after that, we turned around. We started asking the crew members what happened, and nobody seemed to know anything.” 

It was 40 minutes after turning around that the captain announced there was a propulsion alarm that required them to go back to Seattle. For the next 4 hours, the passenger said there was little communication at all, about any possible changes to their itinerary or whether customers would be compensated for the delay. He said “it certainly left a lot of confusion, among the folks that we were asking. And most of the passengers around us were also very confused.” 

To Princess' credit, the cruise line communicated with this passenger via Twitter saying: @DavidMeers Hi David, we apologize for the delayed start to your vacation (1/2) and later @DavidMeers Grand Princess is returning to port for an inspection due to a technical issue, and we hope to depart later this evening (2/2).

After the unspecified repairs, the cruise ship left Seattle around 10 PM. 

The passenger's last tweet?  @PrincessCruises Glad it wasn't more serious. All is well that ends well. Enjoyed the beautiful Seattle skyline again.

The mechanical problem seems to have been fixed with the ship sailing at 22 knots to Alaska.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Ivan T. 

Will Carnival Become the New Pirates of Haiti?

A reader of Cruise Law News  brought to our attention that Haiti Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe recently tweeted:

"Le Gouvernement a signé aujourd'hui un protocole d'accord avec Carnival Cruises pour la construction d'un resort sur l'Ile de la Tortue."

Translated, this says that Haiti and Carnival have struck a deal to develop a resort on the Ile de la Tortue (Tortuga Island).

Tortuga Island HaitiPrime Minister Lamothe later tweeted that Carnival will initially invest $70 million into the development.

Tortuga is a very popular place in Haiti for tourism. In the 17th century, it was a major center of Caribbean piracy. Some say that it is synonymous with the Pirates of the Caribbean. There are many people in Haiti excited by the news.

But the devil is in the details. Will this be a private island for the exclusive benefit of Carnival and its passengers? Will this be a lease similar to the 260 acres of prime waterfront property (Labadee) which Royal Caribbean leased (ripped off) from Haiti?

Will Haitians really be employed? Royal Caribbean initially employed only Europeans on its private resort in Ladadee.  

Will a pier be developed which can accommodate giant cruise ships? This would involve substantial dredging and environmental destruction to a beautiful, pristine area. 

The Haiti Internet Newsletter covered the story. There are interesting comments to the article, including this one which was spot on:

It is very likely going to be private on long term lease, run by them, not much employment for Haitians and we'll never know how much they are polluting the environment on and around the island since it's probably a long term lease with all kind of exclusions since they will basically own it for the terms on the lease.

Unlike so many, I'm not having a party over this. I know the cruise industry too well to trust that this is going to benefit Haiti in any significant way. I can guarantee you Carnival is getting more out of this than Haiti ever will.

Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean are inherently predatory (see articles below). Let's hope that Prime Minister Lamothe has his eyes wide open while dealing with Carnival.  

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

August 5 2014 Update: The AP covers the story and quotes Cruise Law News.

August 6 2014 Update: CBS covers the story and quotes Cruise Law News. 

 

Interested in the cruise industry's relationship with Caribbean islands? Consider reading:

Royal Caribbean "Returns" to its Trademarked, Private Fantasy Island of Labadee® - While Haiti Suffers

Falmouth Jamaica: Victim of the Royal Caribbean System

Belize Tourism Industry Association Sues NCL to Block Mega Cruise "Harvest Caye" Development in Belize

Photo credit: BriceFoundation.org

The Rich Get Richer: Royal Caribbean's Fain Cashes In

Richard Fain Adam GoldsteonReuters reports that Royal Caribbean's CEO Richard Fain recently sold 94,850 shares at average price of $62.38 for a total value of $5,916,743.00; and exercised options for 51,143 shares at $7.27 per share for a total value of $3,190,300.00.

CEO Fain holds over a million shares of his cruise line's stock.  Reuters says he holds 1,380,000 (million) shares for a value of over $86,000,000. Tech Insider says that owns 1,153,689 company shares for a total value of around $72,000,000. This excludes the shares owned by various trusts for the benefit of of the Fain family. 

Earlier this week, we reported that Royal Caribbean Chief Operating Officer (COO) Adam Goldstein unloaded sold 42,152 shares of RCL stock at an average price of $61.68 for $2,599,935.36. COO Goldstein still owns 370,724 shares valued at $22,866,256.

Notwithstanding the vast wealth of these cruise CEO's, Royal Caribbean has made substantial cut-backs in the salaries of its staff and crew members, increased work, and reduced benefits. 

 

Photo Credits: Royal Caribbean Press Center

Royal Caribbean Bars Pregnant Passenger, Then Apologizes

News sources in Canada are reporting that Royal Caribbean barred a woman from cruising with her family after she admitted that she was pregnant but didn't have a note from her doctor stating that she was fit to travel. 

Global Toronto states that Michelle Ligori, her husband and their two sons were booked aboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas out of Fort Lauderdale.

According to the television station, the following exchange took place between Ms. Ligori and a cruise line representative. 

Oasis of the Seas"The girl at the counter said, ‘Any chance you're pregnant?'" Ligori said. "And I was taken off guard and said, ‘Yes, I found out a few days before we left,' and she said, ‘Do you have a note?' She told us you cannot get on without a note."

The station further states that Ligori was positive on a home pregnancy test but she had not seen her family doctor yet. She and her husband did not want to say anything to family members or their two young sons because the pregnancy was at the very early stages. She was in compliance with the cruise line's pregnancy restriction which prohibit cruising after 24 weeks of pregnancy.

"We were treated like parasites," Ligori said of Royal Caribbean.

Ms. Ligori scrambled to obtain a doctor's note but the cruise ship sailed. The couple spent $1,200 for additional hotels, taxi fares and a flight for her family to catch the cruise in the Bahamas two days later.

Royal Caribbean initially refused to compensate her until the media began covering the story. When the case went public, the cruise line contacted the family to offer an apology and refund them for the missed days and their expenses. 

We have written about cruising while pregnant before: Pregnancy & Cruising: What To Expect If You Are Expecting.

 Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Baldwin 040

 

 

Norwegian Cruise Line Wins Worst Cruise Line in the World Award

Nicolas-1It's been a while since I awarded my "Worst Cruise Line in the World" award. Quite frankly, I became tired of giving it to Carnival and Royal Caribbean every month.  But a reader of Cruise Law News just sent me a story of little Nicolas Colucci, age 5, who underwent emergency surgery after doctors found a "a large cancerous tumor growing inside his liver." He is now undergoing chemotherapy. 

The Lil' Mama website explains that the Colucci family bought a family cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) that was scheduled for June 1, 2014. The family asked NCL to reschedule their cruise to another date. NCL refused.  NCL wouldn't bend their corporate policies regarding medical emergencies - not even for a child battling cancer. You can read about the dreadful story here.

This is not the first time that NCL has acted in such a heartless manner. 

A couple of years ago, I wrote about a man from Key Largo who purchased a NCL cruise on the Norwegian Sky leaving from Miami. But his brother died, and the funeral was in Georgia on the day the cruise ship sailed. So he notified NCL, asking for a credit on a future cruise. NCL said no. He asked for his cruise to be donated to charity (Make-A-Wish). NCL said no.

Now comes the sick part. NCL then re-sold the cabin to someone else. Yep. NCL got a double profit due to the death of a guest's brother. Really sick. 

NCL is active on Twitter @CruiseNorwegian, so I tweeted a reference to the article.

No response.

NCL's "Executive Vice President of Global Sales and Passenger Services," Andy Stuart, is also active on Twitter @nclandy. So I tweeted him "Double cruise profit for death? Say it aint so Andy!"

No response.

Nicolas-2NCL should have permitted a child with cancer and parents go on a once-in-a-lifetime cruise. Or make a small donation in memory of their customer's brother. But to double sell the cabin under these circumstances?  It's cruel, greedy and outrageous.

Last year, I wrote again about NCL. A grandmother who drives disabled kids to school booked a cruise aboard the Norwegian Jewel for her family and grandkids at the cost of over $4,000. Then Superstorm Sandy struck, submerging her home under four feet of water. The storm ravaged her home, leaving her with nothing. She asked NCL to reschedule or refund her cruise. NCL said no way.

She appealed to NCL CEO Kevin Sheehan but the cruise line and its CEO wouldn't make an exception. Absolutely no refund or rescheduling. Heartless.

Yesterday, I attended a hearing before Senator Jay Rockefeller entitled "Improving Consumer Protections for Cruise Passengers." Cruise passengers testified regarding all types of harsh conduct by cruise lines who hide behind the unreadable fine print in their one-sided, passenger tickets. At one point during the hearing, Senator Rockefeller exclaimed that he was "fed up" with the cruise lines and their "callousness."

NCL is all smiles when it sells a family a "cruise of a lifetime." But when death, disaster or a medical emergency strikes, it shows its true colors.

NCL may have a great marketing image, but it can be your worse enemy in a time of true need.

Have a thought? Leave a comment below or join the conversation on our Facebook page. And let NCL know what you think by contacting them below:

Kevin Sheehan NCLNCL Corporation Ltd.
7665 Corporate Center Drive
Miami, Florida 33126

Corporate: (305) 436-4000

Andrew Stuart
Executive Vice President of Global Sales and Passenger Services
astuart@ncl.com
(305) 436-4000 

Andrew Stuart's twitter account: @nclandy

Kevin Sheehan (photo right)
Chief Executive Officer
ksheehan@ncl.com
(305) 436-4000

NCL Twitter: @CruiseNorwegian

July 26 2014 Update: According to a FOX NEWS station today, a "CEO of a popular cruise line reached out to the Colucci family to offer them a free cruise. The CEO asked that his cruise line not be named because he said he was genuinely touched by their story and didn't want any publicity for his gesture."

So who was the CEO?  Which cruise line did the right thing?

Here's a clue:

Last year, NCL abandoned a grandmother (and her grandchildren) after she bought a NCL cruise when her home was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.  NCL CEO refused to reschedule his customer's cruise. But Royal Caribbean stepped up to the plate and gave the family a free cruise. Read the story: Norwegian Cruise Lines Abandons Sandy Victims, While Royal Caribbean Steps Up to the Plate!  

July 27 2014 Update: The story goes viral. First a  national Fox News station covers the story and then the U.K.'s Daily Mail (the largest online newspaper in the world) covers it. Bad Karma for NCL.

July 29 2014 Update:  The public relations fall-out continues.  Opposing Views ran a story. TravelPulse also covered the story.  Gawker wasn't too subtle with its headline Cruise Line Screws Over Family of 5-Year-Old With Cancer. PRNews wrote Norwegian Cruise Line Drowning in Bad PR. Huff Post Parents Parents Outraged Cruise Line Won't Reschedule Their Trip In Light Of Son's Cancer Diagnosis. Anti-Jared wrote a letter to the NCL CEO.  

All of this reminds me of one of my favorite sayings - "Karma is a bitch only when you are."

 l to the NCL CEO.

Cruise Ship Safety Hearing: Senator Rockefeller Demands Accountability From Cruise Lines

At the hearing today before Senator John (Jay) Rockefeller regarding the “Cruise Passenger Protection Act (S.1340): Improving Consumer Protections for Cruise Passengers," three women told the committee their horrific experiences on cruise ships.

All of their accounts involve the common theme of a lack of basic consumer protections. Laurie Dishman was a victim of rape, Amanda Butler's mother experienced medical neglect leading to her death, and Kimberly Ware travel led aboard the carnival Triumph that suffered a complete power loss. 

Chairman Rockefeller has explained the purpose of the hearing as follows: “This hearing – along with the other hearings and inquiries I have made into the cruise industry since I have been Chairman of this Committee – are about one thing, accountability. When it comes to the cruise industry, we have been doing our job, while the industry has not. We have held hearings, we have analyzed the data, and we Cruise Ship Safety Hearinghave talked to many different people with experience in this industry. This oversight has led us very clearly to the conclusion that we have to act and pass legislation to better protect consumers. No other passengers should have to suffer when there are basic steps that can and should be taken to protect their safety and health.”

Laurie Dishman (testimony here) was a victim of a violent rape aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship (photo right with her father, Bill Dishman).

Although she was strangled (with ligature marks left around her neck) and the rapist impacted her tampon while assaulting her, the FBI quickly ended its limited investigation the same day that the cruise ship returned to port. The cruise line acted outrageously after the rape, sending officers into the cabin who sat on the bed where the rape occurred and the ship doctor handed her garbage bags and instructed her to return to the crime scene and collect evidence.

Amanda Butler's (testimony here) mother was a victim of medical neglect aboard the Carnival Conquest. It took Carnival 15 minutes to send a nurse to the scene but she arrived without a defibrillator. The medical center was closed and it took additional time to open the infirmary. The Butler family flew Ms. Butler to a trauma center via a private jet but she died two weeks later. You can read an interview with Amanda here

Ms. Butler explained at the hearing that Carnival sued her family for the $1,200 in medical expenses charged for the negligent medical care.

Kim Ware (testimony here) was a passenger aboard the ill-fated Carnival Triumph. Although a long time cruiser, she had no idea of the onerous terms, limitations, and disclaimers buried in the cruise ticket when the engine room ignited and the cruise ship lost power and drifted in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. 

There is evidence that things have gotten worse for crime and medical malpractice victims on cruise ships over the years.  Ms. Dishman's testimony revealed that:

  • There is substantial under-reporting of crimes on cruise ships. For example, in 2011, there were 563 alleged crimes reported by the cruise lines but only 105 publicly disclosed.
  • Few cruise ship crimes are investigated and prosecuted. In 2012, the FBI opened only 18 cases and there were only 4 convictions.
  • The cruise lines do not disclose when a crime involves a minor.  There are sexual predators (both passengers and crew members) on cruise ships. Passengers deserve to know if children have been sexually abused in child daycare centers and in their cabins on prior cruises.
  • The medical care on cruise ships is often substandard. Cruise lines try to isolate themselves when they main or kill passengers through incompetent doctors and bad medical care. Most cruise lines claim that ship doctors are “independent contractors” for whom they are not liable. Few consumers understand this, until it is too late.
  • The cruise ship passenger tickets, drafted by cruise line defense lawyers, are one-sided, unfair and entirely anti-consumer and pro-cruise line.

To address these concerns, Chairman Rockefeller introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act. The proposed law will improve consumer protections by establishing the Department of Transportation (DOT) as the lead federal agency for cruise ship passenger protections. The bill will require the DOT to set standards for providing consumers with a clear language describing the passenger's rights in the cruise ticket. The bill will also establish a consumer website, provide the DOT the authority to investigate complaints, and create an advisory committee for passenger consumer protection.

The bill will further help consumers by requiring accurate crime data to be published by cruise lines on an internet database. The cruise line will have to reveal whether the victims is a minor. The legislation will strengthen requirements for surveillance cameras public areas and establish requirements for the retention of surveillance videos. The bill will establish a victim advocate to assist the victim, and help the victim understand her rights. 

It's about time that Congress passed a bill like this. 

Bad Medical Care, Lack of Accountability, Plague Cruise Industry

One of the dangers which cruise passengers face is incompetent medical care provided by non-U.S. doctors and nurses. And when these go wrong in the high seas, most cruise passengers don't realize that the cruise lines are not legally responsible for the malpractice of the cruise ship medical team. 

One of our ten most outrageous cruise stories last year focused on the extraordinary steps the cruise lines take to avoid responsibility when cruise ship doctors maim or kill cruise passengers. I also suggest reading: If The Ship Doctor Kills You, Too Bad.

Tomorrow at the Senate hearing on cruise safety there will testimony that it took 15 minutes before cruise ship medical employees arrived after Armada Butler's 51 year old mother collapsed during a Carnival Conquestcruise aboard the Carnival Conquest. In a NBC Channel 6 interview, Amanda said it took even longer to get inside the closed medical facility on the ship where the defibrillator was located.

The family flew Ms. Butler from the Cayman Islands (where she was medically disembarked) to the Ryder Trauma Center in Miami via private jet, but she died two weeks later

Local cruise celebrity Stewart Chiron defended the industry, telling NBC 6 "It looks like in some cases, persons are upset about certain responses . . . but you see the same types in complaints on shore."

But unlike shore-side cases where doctors commit malpractice, the cruise lines are largely immune from legal liability arising out of the malpractice of the cruise ship doctors. Without legal and financial consequences, cruise lines like Carnival have little incentive to voluntarily invest in better medical facilities or more experienced and trained doctors and nurses.

Tomorrow Amanda Butler will discuss the circumstances surrounding her mother's death at the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing titled “The Cruise Passenger Protection Act (S.1340): Improving Consumer Protections for Cruise Passengers.”

The hearing will take place tomorrow, Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 2:45 p.m. at the 253 Russell Senate Office Building in Washington D.C.

The hearing will be webcast live via the Senate Commerce Committee website. Be sure to click on the link and watch the hearing.

November 11, 2014 Update: Breaking News! Cruise passengers are now permitted to sue the cruise lines for medical negligence. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that cruise lines are no longer permitted to assert an "immunity defense" when their ship doctors and nurses commit medical malpractice. Read: 11th Circuit Rejects Cruise Lines' Immunity Defense to Medical Malpractice Claims. Contact us for further information.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Derek Kastner

Senator Rockefeller Announces Witness List for Hearing to Examine Cruise Passenger Safety

This afternoon, Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, announced the witness list for its Full Committee hearing this Wednesday, July 23, 2014, at 2:45 p.m. titled “The Cruise Passenger Protection Act (S.1340): Improving Consumer Protections for Cruise Passengers.”

Date: Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Hearing Start Time: 2:45 p.m.
Senator Rockefeller Cruise Hearing Location: 253 Russell Senate Office Building

There are three cruise ship victims who will be testifying Laurie DishmanAmanda Butler and Kimberly Ware.

The hearing will address sexual assaults, unsafe conditions and sub-standard medical care aboard cruise ships. 

The hearing will be webcast live via the Senate Commerce Committee website.

Click on the website 10 minutes prior to the hearing. The comments by Senator Rockefeller and other senators, the victims testimony, and questions and answers will be streaming live.

I will be attending the hearing on Wednesday in support of my friend and former client Laurie Dishman. 

last year I attended the hearing before Senator Rockefeller with my youngest son, John. (See photo). This year I will be attending with my oldest son, Madison. 

Passenger Disappears from the Costa Victoria

Costa VictoriaThe China Post reports that a female passenger disappeared from a cruise ship, during a cruise to Japan, which returned to Taiwan yesterday. 

The woman, whose last name is Hsieh, age 53, was aboard the Costa Victoria. She was supposed to leave the ship in Keelung Harbor, but did not. The Coast Guard said that her belongings were left in her cabin.

The Coast Guard said "it could be a case of suicide or an accident, but they are not ruling out any possibilities for her disappearance."

The newspaper says that Ms. Hsieh was part of a tour group that left Keelung for Japan on July 12th. The ship returned on July 17th without the passenger. 

According to cruise expert Professor Ross Klein, this is the 235th person to have gone overboard from a cruise ship since 2000.  

July 19 2014 Update:  Why didn't the cabin attendant observe that the passenger was missing from the cabin?  Many crew members have commented on our Facebook page that it's not the cabin attendant's job to "babysit" the passengers.  But without an automatic man overboard system (none of the Carnival brands have implemented such technology), and if it isn't the cabin attendant's job to at least  make his or her observations known that a passenger is missing to their supervisor, whose responsibility at the cruise line is it?

Please leave a comment below or join the conversation on Facebook. 

Senator Rockefeller Convenes Another Hearing to Protect Cruise Passengers

Senator John D. Rockefeller has scheduled another hearing to address legislation designed to protect cruise passengers. The hearing is scheduled for next week.

The hearing is scheduled for July 23, 2014 at 2:30 PM before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in 253 Russell Senate Office Building in Washington D.C. (Some media sources erroneously report the hearing is scheduled for July 22nd).  

The hearing is titled “The Cruise Passenger Protection Act: Improving Consumer Protections for Senator Rockefeller Cruise CrimeCruise Passengers.” 

Senator Rockefeller has presided over hearings about the cruise lines in 2012 and 2013 following the Costa Concordia disaster and the Carnival Triumph fiasco. We attended both hearings. You can read our coverage of the hearings in our prior articles:

Senate Hearing on Cruise Industry Accountability Reveals Less Than 3% of Cruise Ship Crimes are Revealed to the Public

Senator Rockefeller Blasts Cruise Industry: "You Are A World Unto Yourselves"

Senator Rockefeller introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act on July 23, 2013, in order to involve the Department of Transportation into overseeing the cruise industry and to provide greater protection to cruise consumers. The Senator announced that he intended to “close gaps in cruise industry consumer awareness and crime reporting."

At the last hearing, the cruise lines promised to voluntarily disclose crimes which occur on cruise ships, in response to Senator Rockefeller's request for transparency by the cruise industry. The cruise lines announced this last minute measure to stave off legislation. Unfortunately, Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines has refused to disclose all crimes against its crew members and guests over the course of the last year. 

Carnival has been particularly sneaky. It lumps crimes on all of its cruise ships (Carnival, Cunard, Holland America Line, etc.) into one category.  By doing so, it is impossible for consumers to learn how many crimes occur on which ships or even which brands. This is an effort to trick the public from not realizing that by far most crimes occur on Carnival ships.

The cruise lines have failed to re-write their passenger contracts to provide consumers with certain consumer protections that they promised to Senator Rockefeller that they would provide to the public. There is a big difference between what the cruise lines are telling the Senators at these hearings and what their defense lawyers are trying to enforce in a court of law.

Senator Rockefeller has rightfully pointed out that the cruise lines pay no federal U.S. taxes but rely heavily on the federal agencies to conduct their business.   

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

 

Photo Credit:  Jim Walker

Another Murder in Roatan

In less than three days after Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández declared that guns are prohibited in Roatan and the Bay Islands, a young man was gunned down early on Sunday morning. 

Teledifusora Insular reports that Henry Alexander Almendarez Orellana was shot by two men in the early morning