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."

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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. 

 

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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?

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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.  

 

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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).    

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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.  

 

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

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

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

Update: Cruise Industry is Completely Unprepared for Ebola Outbreak

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

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 embark 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.  

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

 

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? 

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

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

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

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 hours of July 13th.

The crime reportedly took place where the young man lived in Barrio La Punta of Coxen Hole. 

Roatan HondurasThe online source says that police are trying to figure out the identity and whereabouts of the perpetrators of this killing. The murder occurs just when the Government of Juan Orlando Hernández has declared a general disarmament of Roatan to safeguard this main tourist destination. 

Last Friday we reported what we predicted would be a futile policy, Roatan: Gun Free Zones.  

President Hernández blamed U.S. drug policy for sparking violence in Central American countries and driving a surge of migration to the United States, according to an interview published today in a Mexican newspaper.

The U.S. State Department updated Honduras travel warning in June mentioned Coxen Hole as a place to avoid after dark.

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world. 

Murders against local residents in Roatan, like this or this, are rarely solved. 

Propulsion Problems Plague Celebrity Silhouette

Celebrity Silhouette Cruise Critic reports that a unspecified propulsion problem is slowing the Celebrity Silhouette down, causing it to shorten time spent in certain port of calls.

Celebrity does not specify the nature of the problem or indicate when the problem will be fixed.

A Celebrity Cruises spokeswoman provides this gobbledygook explanation: the "slight restriction" on the ship's top speed "is due to a portion of the propulsion system operating at less than optimal efficiency."

The Celebrity Reflection was recently delayed in Civitavecchia due to unspecified mechanical problems. Celebrity was secret about that problem.

A Celebrity cruise ship was delayed in port was last December when the Celebrity Constellation suffered an engine problem in Key West.  

Anyone know what's the problem with the Silhouette?

 

Photo Credit: Wikepedia / Kyle.died.rich

USA TODAY / 10 BEST Announce John Heald As Best Cruise Blogger, Cruise Law News Comes In Sixth Place

USA TODAY / 10 BEST announced the winners today in the "10Best Readers’ Choice New Media Award for Best Cruise Blogger."

An initial list of 20 cruise bloggers was selected by a panel of experts.  The experts were USA TODAY Cruise Log blogger Gene Sloan, long-time Cruise Diva Linda Coffman, Doug Parker with Cruise Radio, and Stewart Chiron a/k/a The Cruise Guy. All of these expert bloggers could have been picked as top 5 cruise bloggers themselves.

 John Heald Carnival After the initial list of 20 was selected, the "top 10" cruise bloggers were determined by popular vote. John Heald (photo right), the witty Cruise Director for Carnival, seems to have won in a land-slide. 

Our blog came in 6th place, not a bad result considering that many people consider me the "anti-cruise" blogger.  I am surprised that Cruise Law News was voted that high.

Here is the top ten list:        

  1. John Heald - John Heald's Blog
  2. Matt Hochberg - Royal Caribbean Blog
  3. Anita Dunham-Potter - Expert Cruiser
  4. Scott Sanders - Disney Cruise Line Blog
  5. Chris Gray Faust - Cruise Critic's The Lido Deck
  6. Jim Walker - Cruise Law News
  7. Fran Golden - Porthole Cruise News
  8. Chris Owen - Chris Cruises
  9. Danielle Fear - Cruise Miss
  10. Sherry Laskin - Cruise Maven

The other ten nominees included Aaron Saunders (From the Deck Chair), Anne Campbell (Ship Critic Blog), Carrie Finley-Bajak (Cruise Buzz Blog), Jason Leppert (Popular Cruising), John Honeywell (Captain Greybeard), Linda Garrison (About.com Cruises), Mike Faust (Cruise Currents Blog), Paul Motter (CruiseMates Blog), Peter Knego (Peter Knego’s Sea Treks and Peter Knego's Decked!), Ralph Grizzle (Avid Cruiser), and Steve Newman (Time Spent At Sea).

I voted for Peter Knego's blogs on Maritime Matters.

Thanks to everyone who voted for us.

Yes, it's true that our blog is often viewed as "negative."  But the voting proves that there are cruise fans out there who like to hear the "con" as well as the "pro" aspects of cruising and understand that being forewarned is being forearmed!

Thanks again and safe cruising!

 

Photo Credit: Carnival Corporation

Carnival Finally Bans Smoking on Balconies

Carnival Cruise Lines announced today that smoking will be prohibited on stateroom balconies effective October 9, 2014.

Carnival Cruise Line  spokesperson Vance Gulliksen said that the new policy is in response to comments by the majority of its customers.  

It's about time. 

In 2007, our client Lynnette Hudson, testified before Congress after her father died on the Star Smoking Cruise ShipPrincess in 2006 because a passenger flicked a cigarette butt from an upper balcony on the cruise ship.

The cigarette butt landed in a lower balcony. It smoldered in a towel or clothing and then caught fire.

Due to the highly combustible balcony partition materials and the absence of heat detectors and sprinklers on the balconies, the fire rapidly spread and burned 100 cabins, killing her father.

Princess knew of the danger of permitting cigarette smoking on balconies but didn't do anything about it before the fatality

You can read about her story here

Carnival already prohibits smoking in cabins.

However, Carnival still permits smoking in designated open-deck areas, night clubs, casinos and casino bars. 

U.S. Coast Guard Medevacs Cruise Passenger From Carnival Paradise

Carnival ParadiseThe U.S. Coast Guard medevaced an ill 65-year-old woman from the Carnival Paradise early this morning.

The Carnival cruise ship was approximately 70 miles west of Boca Grande, Florida. 

According to the Coast Guard, the master of the cruise ship notified the Coast Guard station in St. Petersburg, around 10:46 p.m. last night, that the passenger needed medical assistance due to chest pains. A Coast Guard flight surgeon was consulted and recommended that the passenger be medically evacuated from he ship.

At approximately 1 a.m. this morning, a Coast Guard helicopter, a MH 60 Jayhawk, lifted the passenger and a cruise ship nurse aboard and transported them to Tampa General Hospital.  

Video Credit:  dvidshub.net via News-Press; Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Beau Hudspeth - Digi-Gen Design Studios

 

 

Crew Member Overboard From Carnival Spirit Near Vanatu

Tonight we received information from a former crew member that a search and rescue operation is underway near Vanuatu after a Carnival employee has gone overboard from the Carnival Spirit cruise ship. 

There is an article from Australia stating that there is a man overboard lost from a Carnival cruise ship who is "believed to be a member of the kitchen crew" aboard the Carnival Spirit on a voyage out of Vanuatu.

The newspaper states that a passenger on the cruise ship, who did not wish to be identified, stated Carnival Spiritthat an announcement was made more than 10 hours ago that a crew member had gone missing "for up to 20 hours by that point." 

The Carnival cruise ship turned back towards Vanuatu, which is about 20 hours away from its current position. 

Under the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2010, cruise lines are suppose to have implemented automatic man-overboard CCTV systems to detect man-overboards as soon as they happen. Under applicable U.S. maritime law, there should never be this type of mystery when a crew member (or passengers) disappears on the high seas.

Does anyone have information regarding this incident to share?

Cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein reports that 233 people have gone overboard from cruise ships since 2000.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Hpeterswald

German Cruise Ship Showered By Rocket Debris From Israeli - Hamas Dispute

The murder of the three Jewish boys in the West Bank last week was about the worst thing I have heard of recently until learning of the retaliatory murder of the 16 year old Palestinian boy whose burned body was found in East Jerusalem.  

Hamas and Israel are now exchanging rocket and bomb strikes. 

This afternoon, a Facebook friend working on a cruise ship contacted me saying that a German TV Israeli Hamas Rockertschannel reported that the German cruise ship AIDA DIVA was hit by debris from rockets fired between the Israel & Hamas forces. 

There are several news accounts of the incident (below) but it is less than clear who is shooting at whom at this point. 

Read for yourself what the news reports are saying:

Massive Attack - "Aida Diva" in Rocket Fire.

Rocket Parts Meet "Aida Diva."

German Passenger Cruise Ship Under Rocket Attack in Israel.

The mother of the dead Palestinian boy and the mother of one of the Jewish boys are pleading for a cease-fire. 

 

Photo Credit: AP/dpa via express.de

Royal Caribbean Premiers Google Street View of Allure of the Seas

Royal Caribbean is using Google Maps Business View (the commercial version of Google’s Street View) to advertise the Allure of the Seas. 

The Telegraph newspaper writes that "visitors to the website select from a series of options to enable them to 'tour' the ship’s restaurants, cabins and pools as well as the ship's 'unique activities,' which include a surfing machine, rock-climbing wall and zip wire."

Take a tour here. It's pretty cool.

Its too bad that Royal Caribbean hasn't invested the same time and effort into implementing automatic man overboard video camera technology required by the 2010 Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act. Read: Royal Caribbean's Misplaced Priorities: Fast Internet, Virtual Balconies But No Automatic Man-Overboard Systems.

Royal Caribbean Google Tour

Mega Ship Disasters, Risky Shore Excursions & Other Ways to Become Seriously Injured (or Worse) on a Cruise Ship

Thomas Dickerson Cruise Passenger RightsAnyone and everyone who practices maritime law involving cruise ships knows Judge Thomas Dickerson. 

For years he has written the definitive collection of law cases involving what can go wrong on cruise ships and during international vacations.

My alma mater Tulane School of Law just published one of his amazing articles entitled The Cruise Passenger’s Rights and Remedies 2014: The COSTA CONCORDIA Disaster: One Year Later, Many More Incidents Both on Board Megaships and During Risky Shore Excursions

Our blog is often criticized by cruise fans who claim that we are focusing (unfairly) on all of the bad things that happen on cruise ships on the high seas. Actually, we are just touching upon the tip of the iceberg.

After reading Judge Dickerson's law review article you can begin to understand the extent of what can go wrong on what should be a fun, relaxing family vacation.  

You can also appreciate how the cruise industry has severely limited your rights.  

Arnold Donald, Interesting Fellow, But What Has He Done for Carnival Crew Members?

Arnold Donald Crown HoldingsThe Miami Herald just published an article about Arnold Donald, who has now spent one year at the helm of Carnival Corporation after Micky Arison selected him following a series of disasters (Costa Concordia, Carnival Triumph, etc.) The article is entitled One Year In, Carnival CEO Arnold Donald is Working to Right the Ship.

Unfortunately, the Herald article is mostly a feel-good piece. The reporter interviewed only Mr. Donald's friends, other cruise executives or financial analysts. It contained absolutely no critical insight into Mr. Donald.

There's no question that Mr. Donald is an interesting and impressive fellow, growing up in up in New Orleans as a child and overcoming the challenges which came with being an African-American born in the 1950's in the deep south. He excelled as a student and became a successful executive of chemical-giant Monsanto Corporation. He's certainly no born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-his-mouth Micky Arison.

But what has he done for the crew members, who are the heart and soul of the company, after joining Carnival? 

In my assessment, Carnival cruise ship employees are collectively in their worst shape in the forty-plus history of the company. They are working harder than ever before for less money and fewer benefits. Shortly after Mr. Donald appeared on the scene, Carnival gutted the meager retirement benefits of its crew members. I mentioned the massacre of the retirement program in an article entitled Cruise CEO Arnold Donald's First Blunder: Carnival Guts Crew Retirement Benefits.

Like other cruise line employees, Carnival crew members have no union representation and no bargaining power. Carnival can easily exploit them. Mr. Donald has taken the exploitation to a higher level. 

You can read the thoughts and comments of Carnival ship employees in this article on our Facebook page.

Mr. Donald has also drawn the ire of unionized workers in a company, Crown Holdings, in Canada where he sits on the board of directors. Crown became involved in a labor dispute after it demanded Arnold Donald Crown Holdingsthat Crown's new employees agree to wage cuts.  When the union employees would not agree, Crown replaced them with non-union workers.

In response to Mr. Donald's actions, the United Steel Workers (USW) of Canada recently organized a boycott of Carnival cruise brands. The boycott includes the million-member Ontario Labor Federation and the 500,000-member Congress of Union Retirees of Canada.

Terminating employees for complaining about working conditions or wages is nothing new for Carnival. In 2012, Carnival fired and black-balled 150 cruise ship waiters from India who protested low wages.

Mr. Donald has an interesting past and he brings a dynamic personality to Carnival. But he's the perfect business executive to continue the cruise giant's exploitation of its crew members.  

 

Photo Credit: Top - Businessweek via Power in a Union; bottom - LaborNotes.org.

The George Smith Case - Nine Years Later

George Smith DisappearanceTomorrow will be the nine year anniversary of the disappearance of George Smith from the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas during his honeymoon cruise. 

Mr. Smith went overboard from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship on July 5, 2005 as the ship was sailing to Turkey.

Suspicions have focused on several men who were in Mr. Smith's cabin before he went overboard, particularly after one of the men made incriminating statements. We have written many prior articles about the case which you can review here.

CBS will air an updated story of the efforts of Mr. Smith's family tomorrow night on 48 HOURS.  A preview is below. 

The Smith family has recently announced a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for his disappearance. 

 

If you have information about who may have killed Mr. Smith, please consider using the following contact information:

1 (844) 651 1936 

georgesmithtipline@gmail.com

Justice for George

Passenger Smuggles Cocaine Aboard Carnival Liberty

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit:  Orlando Sentinel  

Why Did the Westerdam Catch on Fire? Does Anyone Care?

Shortly after the Holland America Line (HAL)'s Westerdam caught on fire this weekend, HAL issued a press release characterizing the fire as "small" and "quickly" extinguished. It also said that it returned to port in Seattle "out of an abundance of caution."

Cruise line press statements like this rarely tell the whole story. We know that this fire was not immediately extinguished by the automatic suppression system on the ship and had to be fought by crew members with fire hoses, but the fire still re-ignited. The cruise line did not bother to explain why the fire ignited in the first place.  Was it a ruptured fuel or oil line? If so, did the cruise ship have splash guards? Was it a HAL Westerdammechanical failure of some type?  Why wasn't the fire suppressed by the automatic systems? Why did it re-ignite? 

Carnival Corporation, HAL's parent company and the owner of the cruise ship, stated last year that it invested hundreds of millions of dollars in safety improvements throughout its fleet of ship, primarily in the engine rooms. The announcement was a major public relations strategy after the bad press following the fires aboard the Triumph and other Carnival cruise ships. Did the Westerdam receive any of the much touted safety improvements?

There are many hundreds of newspaper articles mentioning the fire.  But no one is asking these basic questions. Returning to port after a fire "out of an abundance of caution," seems like a gross understatement to me. Can you imagine a major airline battling a fire and then saying that it returned to the airport voluntarily, just to be on the safe side?  

A fire at sea is one of the most dangerous experiences imaginable. But most cruise fans don't seem to be particularly bothered by these issues.  HAL quickly announced a $250 per cabin credit to be used during the remainder of the cruise which is now continuing. The incident will soon find itself out of the news and forgotten.  

 

Photo Credit: Becky Bohrer / AP 

Holland America Line's Westerdam Catches on Fire

King 5 News in Seattle reports that the Holland America Line (HAL) Westerdam caught fire this evening as it was sailing to Alaska and was forced to turn around and return to Seattle.  The news station is saying that the fire broke out in the engine room.

HAL released the following statement:

"There has been a small fire in one of the boiler rooms onboard  MS Westerdam as she sailed from Seattle earlier this evening which was quickly extinguished. All guests and crew are safe. Out of an abundance of caution and in coordination with the United States Coast Guard the ship has returned to Seattle. The ship is fully operational and there has been no impact on guest services. It is HAL Westerdamanticipated that the ship will depart again once the assessments are completed and continue her voyage to Alaska." 

HAL's statement does not explain exactly what caused the fire and omits the fact that after the fire was put out, it flared up again. Descriptive phrases like a "small" fire which was "quickly" extinguished can be misleading many times. 

The Westerdam is a 10 year old cruise ship and is owned by Carnival Corporation.

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

June 29th Update:  The Seattle Times reports that the cruise ship has left Seattle to continue its cruise. It also provided a little bit more detail regarding the fire. Interesting, the automatic fire suppression did not extinguish the fire and the crew had to use hoses:

"The Westerdam left Seattle again around 10:15 a.m. Sunday, said Public Relations Vice President Sally Andrews.

Because of the delay, Holland America has revised the 7-day sailing schedule. Passengers will miss their visit to Sitka, but will be given a credit of $250 per room to use during the cruise.

Coast Guard petty officer George Degener told The Seattle Times the ship's crew knocked the fire down, but a while later it restarted.

A combination of high-pressure mist and crew members with hoses extinguished the fire, Kyle Moore, spokesman for the Seattle Fire Department, told the paper. The city dispatched a fireboat, and a few units to the Pier 91 cruise terminal, as a precaution."

Neither the cruise line nor the Coast Guard have explained why the fire broke out.

June 30th Update: Why Did the Westerdam Catch on Fire? Does Anyone Care?

 

Photo Credit: Flickr - Don Shaw

Death of Birdie Africa on the Carnival Dream Reveals Shortcomings of Emergency Medical Treatment on the High Seas

Last year, we reported on the tragic death of 42 year old Birdie Africa, who drowned in a hot tub aboard the Carnival Dream cruise ship during a vacation cruise. 

Back in 1985, Mr. Africa was a child who survived an attack by the Philadelphia Police Department which dropped explosives on the row house of the radical group MOVE. The explosives sparked a blaze that destroyed 61 homes and killed 11 people, including five children. You can read our prior article here.

We first heard of the incident on the Carnival cruise ship when a passenger on the ship notified us that a passenger was found on the bottom of a hot tub. In turn, we asked Carnival for an explanation regarding what Carnival Dreamhappened. Carnival released this statement to us:

"On Friday evening, while the Carnival Dream was en route to its homeport of Port Canaveral, Fla., the shipboard medical staff was notified that a 42-year-old male guest was experiencing a medical emergency. The medical staff responded to the location, one of the ship's Lanai areas, and administered emergency aid but, tragically, the guest passed away."

Today, the Philadelphia Inquirer provides an insight into what really happened. 

The newspaper reports that Mr. Africa's father subsequently spoke to a doctor, vacationing on the Carnival cruise ship with his wife. The doctor said that a "flustered passenger" burst into the ship and told a bartender that "someone was at the bottom of the nearby hot tub."

"The doctor ran outside and saw a crowd gathered around the tub . . . the crowd included members of the ship's staff, seemingly spellbound."

The doctor had to tell the crowd to pull Mr. Africa out of the tub.

" A nurse on the ship's medical staff arrived soon after . . . but she didn't have a defibrillator or other vital equipment.

"Even worse . . . , when the nurse obtained a defibrillator, she was hesitant to use it and allegedly asked a colleague if it was safe to use on a wet body - basic knowledge when using that device."

Mr. Africa's father told the newspaper: "It's just devastating in the fact that there was a potential that he could've lived. Especially the callousness of not only ship's personnel, but the mere aspect of society - that people would rather stand and watch than do something."

Over the past 20 years, we have heard of stories of medical delay and incompetence like this on the part of the cruise ship medical personnel and crew members responding to shipboard drownings.

A cruise ship is the last place that you want to experience a medical emergency. Moreover, most people don't realize that the cruise lines will always argue that cruise ship doctors and nurses are "independent contractors" for whom the cruise lines are generally not responsible. (Read story number three here). In most situations, passengers' families cannot sue the shipboard medical team even when their negligence kills the passenger.

The autopsy report on Mr. Africa indicates that he was heavily intoxicated. Cruise ships over-serving passengers alcohol is a major problem. Cruise lines make enormous and tax-free profits selling booze on the high seas.  If cruise lines like Carnival are going to sell such huge quantities to passengers, this is another reason why they should employ lifeguards around the pools to oversee passenger safety and to be trained in emergency life saving procedures when things go wrong.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Longbowe

U.S. State Department: Crime and Violence in Honduras Remain Critically High

The Department of State in the United States issued another warning about the high crime rate in Honduras, saying that "the level of crime and violence in Honduras remains critically high." You can read the June 24 2014 warning here.

The last warning from the U.S. state Department was issued on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2013. 

A lot has happened since last December. As far as tourists, cruise passengers and crew members are concerned, there have been several armed robberies and one death. Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) temporarily pulled its cruise ships out of the island port of Roatan after a NCL crew Roatan Honduras Crime Cruisemember was shot and killed near the port in Coxen Hole.

The report states that "crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country, and the Government of Honduras lacks the resources to address these issues." Since 2010, Honduras has had the highest murder rate in the world. The homicide rate for last year (2013) was 75.6 to 79 per 100,000 people in 2013.  

Crime is also significant in tourist areas. The report states:

"Although Roatan/Bay Islands, Copan Mayan ruins, and other tourist destinations and resorts 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."

Crimes against U.S. visitors and residents are rarely solved. As we mentioned before, of the last 50 U.S. citizens killed in Honduras, only 2 cases have been solved.

We have reported on several armed robberies against cruise passengers in Roatan this year like this, and the murder of the NCL crew member last April.

This year, to the howl of protests from expatriate resort owners and tour and dive operators in Roatan, we selected Honduras as the second most dangerous cruise destination in the world

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / JoeyBagODonuts

USA TODAY's "Best Cruise Ships For Infants & Toddlers" Misses the Boat

USA TODAY published an article today entitled "Baby on board: Best cruise ships for infants, toddlers." 

Like most USA TODAY articles, it was mostly a "puff piece," trying hard to praise all of the cruise lines while writing nothing provocative or controversial.

The article picked four Disney cruise ships, three Royal Caribbean ships, two Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) ships and one ship from Cunard.

The factors for being the best were not identified. The article mentioned things like providing baby Cruise Ship Kids formula, diapers, organic baby food, cribs, high chairs, booster seats and strollers.

But are these really the issues that parents of minors should be worried about? 

The articles doesn't mention serious issues that parents should be concerned with - like minors drowning in swimming pools without lifeguards or little kids being molested by predator crew members or perverted passengers.

Swimming Pools Without Lifeguards:

Disney is the only cruise line that assigns lifeguards to all of its cruise ship pools. It took this step only after a six year child slipped under the water and is now severely brain injured.

NCL and Royal Caribbean haven't bothered to employ lifeguards to protect little kids in and around the cruise ship pools even though several minors have drowned or been seriously injured in pools without lifeguards.

The USA TODAY article picked the NCL Breakaway as one the best cruise ships for minors but two children were pulled from a swimming pool on this cruise ship by other passengers just last February. One child is dead.

The article also selected a Royal Caribbean ship too, but last month a child nearly drowned on the Independence of the Seas

If you are worried about the potential that your little kid could drown in the ship's pools, Disney is the only cruise line that I would recommend.

Sexual Perverts and Predators:

Minors including toddlers have been sexually abused on cruise ships. Take a minute and read:

Sexual Perverts & Pedophiles on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships

Royal Caribbean is hardly the only cruise line with this problem. You can search this site and read of minors being victimized on cruise ships operated by Disney, Celebrity, and the Carnival brands. Yes, even cruise ship baby-sitters have been accused of molesting minors.

The article mentions "play zones" or "kid zones" on cruise ships.  Before you leave your minor kid in one of these places, do your homework. Don't assume all of the employees have been carefully vetted. 

Child pornography is also a problem on cruise ships.  There are frequent arrests by custom officials of crew members whose iPhones and laptops are loaded with hundreds/thousands of photos and videos of child pornography. You can read our many articles about this problem here

Have a Healthy Skepticism of Paradise:

Don't trust best-cruise-ships-for-kids articles written by cruise fans and travel writers. They are often given free cruises and other perks. They will go out of their way to avoid embarrassing the cruise lines. They do the public, who doesn't know any better, a disservice. Read other sources of information. Check around. Educate yourself as a parent before you take your child unwittingly into danger. And once you're on the cruise ship, keep your eyes on your kids at all times. 

 

Photo Credit: Frommers

Deadly Cruise and Ferry Air Emissions Debate: U.K. Shipping Companies Deceive the Public

New air emission regulations will shortly affect the U.K. shipping industry. Toxic sulfur emissions must be reduced to 0.1 per cent, from a current high of around 4.5 per cent, by January 1, 2015. 

The reason for the new regulations is that high sulfur fuel contributes substantially to emphysema, lung disease, congestive heart failure, birth defects, and premature deaths. It is a topic we have written about regularly.

The health risks posed by the cruise industry's use of high sulfur fuels are enormous. I published an article years ago called Bunker Fuel - Nasty Tar Sludge! which explains how bunker fuel - which is P&O Ferries a tar-like substance left as the residue of the refinery process - is the nastiest and most toxic fuel on planet earth. It is unconscionable to burn it.

But bunker fuel is the cornerstone of the shipping industry. Cruise and ferry companies burn it all of the time. Why? Because it is dirt cheap and the shipping industry profit handsomely by using it.

The new air emissions standards will cut into the cruise and ferry lines' profits. The fuel is, of course, more expensive. The public will need to pay higher fares.   

The shipping executives are continuing to try and delay the implementation of the new health regulations. We have been writing about the need for new regulations ever since I started this blog five years ago.

Over the years, the cruise industry has done just about everything possible to avoid regulation and continue to burn high sulfur fuel.  In the U.S., the industry sued the Environmental Protection Agency to keep burning dirty fuel. It has initiated scare tactics saying that jobs in the maritime sector will be lost and passengers will face astronomical fares. 

In the U.K. and Europe, the executives at the major ferry lines - P&O Ferries, DFDS and MyFerryLink - are all facing the same challenge to maintain profits. But their approaches are all different.  

According to the Dover Express, P&O claims that the clean fuel costs will now soar to £30 million a year and it has no choice but to stick it to their passengers.

But the Danish ferry operator, DFDS, has invested £80 million in "scrubbers" to improve the air quality of its ship emissions.

P&O on the other hand has joined in a campaign by the UK Chamber of Shipping to scare the public. Helen Deeble, CEO of P&O, joined in an open letter posted in the U.K. Telegraph, claiming that the low sulfur is prohibitively expensive, will lead to pay-offs in the shipping sector, and thousands of more trucks will clog the roads.

Deeble and the U.K. shipping and port CEO's claim that shipping is responsible for 90 per cent of world trade but emits just 2.7 per cent of global CO2. They cite no authority for this claim. it is a bold face lie. 

The U.S. EPA has concluded that a single cruise ship will emit the same amount of sulfur dioxide as 13,100,000 (million) cars and as much soot as over 1,000,000 (million) cars.

The new quality regulations will not suddenly cause ferries to be scrapped and the roads in the U.K. to become clogged with lorries spewing smoke and smog over the pastoral landscape of Great Britain. These claims are part of the cruise and ferry companies' scare tactics.

We have seen this irresponsibility from the U.K. ferry operators before.  P&O Ferries won't invest a pence into CCTV camera technology even though it has a problem with passengers and crew disappearing from the open decks of its ships. P&O and other U.K. operators have had a long time to implement scrubber technology to protect the health of their passengers and crew and the general public. But they have persistently refused to do so.  

Faced with the January 1st deadline, the shipping industry in the U.K. is crying wolf.

 

Photo Credit:  Dover  Express

Passenger Overboard From MSC Divina

Univision reports that a passenger has gone overboard from the MSC Divina cruise ship.

In an article entitled "cae al mar un mexicano que viajaba en crucero mundialista," the network says that a passenger fell 50 meters from deck 15 into the water.  

The MSC cruise ship was sailing with around 3,500 Mexican citizens to various locations in Brazil for the World Cup. A Mexican newspaper, Tribun Digital de Quintano Roo, says that the cruise ship was transporting Mexican passengers between the three cities where Mexico plays in the first phase of the World (Natal, Fortaleza and Recife). 

MSC Divina The cruise ship stopped to search for the overboard passenger without success.  

The Consulate of Mexico in Rio de Janeiro confirmed that "a Mexican citizen who was aboard MSC Divina cruise ship fell into the sea after the ship sailed from the city of Fortaleza in northern Brazil, heading to port of Recife."

The report further states that it is unknown if the Mexican citizen was traveling alone, with family or with friends. 

The report says that the passenger was intoxicated. 

According to cruise ship expert Dr. Ross Klein, 232 people have gone overboard since 2000.

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

June 19 2014 Update: The missing passenger has been identifies as Jorge Alberto Lopez Amores

 

Photo Image: Tribun Digital de Quintano Roo 

Who's the Best Cruise Blogger?

I returned from a two week vacation last week to find that our blog was picked as one of the top 20 cruise blogs by readers of USA TODAY.

The newspaper and "10 Best" are now asking the public to pick the best blog out of this group.  At the end of the voting on July 11th, a "top 10" list will be published.

You can see the listing here.  

Best Cruise BlogI have picked my top cruise bloggers over the years and have listed the most popular cruise bloggers in terms of traffic.

The USA TODAY top 20 list includes many of the bloggers who I have picked in the past: Chris Cruise, Captain Greybeard, CruiseMates, Expert Cruiser, Peter Knego's Decked (Maritime Matters)(which is really outstanding), and Cruise Maven.

At the moment, Carnival Cruise Director John Heald is the top vote receiver. 

I was surprised that this blog made the list. The other 19 bloggers promote the cruise industry and never criticize it. Our motto, on the other hand, is "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know." 

The voting continues for the next three weeks.  You can vote once everyday.   

Vote here.

Thanks!

Another Crime Report Rocks Nassau

The Latin America Monitor published an article about the high crime rate in the Bahamas entitled "Business Environment Analysis - Rising Murder Rate Poses Risk To Tourism Sector - JUNE 2014." the publication reports, in part:

". . . rising murder rates in the Bahamas, including some recent killings of foreign tourists, could weigh on the islands' business environment. If the trend continues unabated, or if there were to be particularly high profile incidents that gained coverage in foreign press, the attractiveness of the Bahamas as a tourist destination could deteriorate, threatening the islands' medium-term growth outlook.

The Bahamas has seen a rise in murder rates in recent years and several high profile killings of foreign tourists in recent months, trends that present downside risks to the country's medium-term growth prospects due to its heavy reliance on the tourism industry as a driver of economic activity. The Nassau Guardian reported early this year that the total number of murders in the Bahamas increased to 120 in 2013 from 111 in 2012, an increase in the murder rate from 29.8 to 34.1 per Crime Nassau Bahamas100,000. Additionally, there have been well-publicised armed robberies and murders of both UK and US citizens in recent months.

Compounding this rise in homicides is that the Bahamas has seen its murder rate increase relative to other Caribbean islands. Whereas the Bahamas reported the fifth highest murder rate in 2010 amongst the countries reviewed by the Nassau Guardian, it has since risen to third highest, behind only Jamaica, where the murder rate was 44.1 per 100,000 in 2013, and St. Kitts and Nevis, which reported a murder rate of 45.5 per 100,000."

The Tribune newspaper in the Bahamas discusses this report in its article "Crime Warning Is Latest Blow."  The newspaper says: "A SECOND report in a month by an international agency has warned that 'rising murder rates,' specifically recent killings of tourists, in The Bahamas could affect the country’s business environment."

We went on record a long time ago with our opinion that the murder of a cruise passenger could result in the cruise lines avoiding Nassau: "Bahamas One Gunshot Away From Cruise Line Exit."

 

Image:  The Tribune

In Last Week Micky Arison Sells Over $78,000,000 of Carnival Stock - He's Sold Over $473,000,000 of Carnival Stock in 3 Months

In the last week, Carnival's Micky Arison sold over $78,000,000 of his cruise line's stock.

On June 6th, Arison sold 961,717 shares of the cruise company’s stock at an average price of $40.24, for a total value of $38,699,492.08.

On June 10th, Arison sold 992,369 shares at an average price of $40.35, for a total value of $40,042,089.15.

Micky ArisonHe also sold $395,000,000 in Carnival stock in early March.  By my calculations, Arison freed up over $473,000,000 in cash in 3 months. You can track Arison's Carnival stock transactions here.

It's an extraordinary amount of money. Yet Carnival continues to screw its crew members, left and right. Consider reading Greed On the High Seas: "Poop Cruise" & Concordia Cruise Executive Cashes $395,000,000 of Carnival Stock.

Speculation in publications like this and this suggest that he may be interested in buying the U.K. Aston Villa soccer club. 

Considering how badly Arison's Miami Heat have been playing basketball in the NBA finals (now down 3-1 to the San Antonio Spurs), perhaps Arison will be spending some time in the future in England watching soccer.

June 16 2014 Update: On June 12th Arison sold another 445,008 shares of Carnival stock at an average price of $40.15, for a total transaction of $17,867,071.20.  That means, by my calculations, Arison has unloaded over $490,000,000 in a little over 3 months. 

 

Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports via 7500toholte.sbnation.com/

Sexual Assault on Cruise Ship in St. Kitts? No One's Talking

Today the SKNVibes newspaper in St. Kitts reports that a crew member aboard a cruise ship docked in St. Kitts (Port Zante) sexually assaulted a cruise passenger.

You can read the article below.

It's a strange article.  The newspaper decided not to name the cruise line or the cruise ship, which is something we see in a few other countries where the local press prefer not to embarrass the cruise lines.

Carnival Valor Cruise ShipThe newspaper also contacted the police department which would not comment whether a rape occurred on the unidentified cruise ship or not.

Earlier this year we named St. Kitts as one of the top 10 most dangerous cruise destinations in the world.  We also reported on a sexual assault of a Royal Caribbean cruise passenger during an excursion in St. Kitts two years ago,

The article is below:

" . . .  the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force is making investigations into an incident of assault that occurred on a cruise vessel which was berthed at Porte Zante yesterday (Jun. 6).

Unconfirmed reports suggest that an act of sexual assault may have been perpetrated against one of the cruise passengers by one of the vessel’s crew members.

SKNVibes understands that the authorities on St. Kitts were made aware of the situation and investigations had begun.

The Police Force’s Press and Public Relations Officer Inspector Lyndon David - when contacted by this publication and questioned about this issue - declared that he could not confirm or deny at that moment.

And he promised to look into the matter."

June 8 2014 Update: A reader pointed out that the Carnival Valor was in port at St. Kitts on June 6 2014.

June 10 2014: The St. Kitts and Nevis Observer reports "Cruise Ship Employee Charged With Rape." This newspaper states that the Carnival Valor was in fact the cruise ship in port (Port Zante). It says that St. Kitts police took a crew member into custody the day of the report of the sexual assault and that the Valor left port later than its scheduled time due to the incident.

The Observer understands the individual was charged with the offense over the weekend following the arrest on a Friday.

Upon questioning the local police would say nothing other than “someone has been charged for an incident.”

The newspaper also says that it is "not known if the alleged offence was committed while the vessel was docked, however the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force has jurisdiction to investigate and/or arrest once a crime has been reported in sovereign waters or airspace."   

June 15 2014 Update: A radio station in St. Kitts states that the local police in St. Kitts has finally acknowledged that a crew member from the Carnival Valor was arrested on charges of raping a cruise passenger while the cruise ship was in territorial waters of the island. However, the police still refuses to release the alleged assailant's name.  The radio station says: 

"In St. Kitts and Nevis, the names of persons accused of sexual offenses against minors are not released, however WINN FM is not aware that those charged with offences against adults are withheld by the authorities."

 

 

Photo Credit: sknclt.com

Love Letters from Roatan

This year I have written a dozen articles about the high crime rate in Roatan Honduras. 

The purpose of my blog is to report on "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know."

So if there is a destination which the cruise line and tourism officials market (for profit) as a "tranquil" and "peaceful" paradise, but it is really a dangerous place, I will tell you about it. 

If cruise passengers and crew members are robbed, raped and killed in a cruise destination touted as Roatan Hondurassafe, I will tell you about it.

So far this year, I have told you about a family of five with three young kids from a Carnival cruise ship whose rental car was shot up during an armed robbery; a Royal Caribbean family robbed at machete point and a tourist interested in diving the reefs who was violently assaulted; a NCL crew member shot in the head, dead; and several local residents of Roatan killed and left in the streets. 

All of this violent crime occurred in Roatan, Honduras. Yes the Roatan marketed by Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean as the idyllic, tropical get-a-way, the paradise island of Roatan.

I have written about other dangerous cruise destinations: the Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Kitts, Columbia, El Salvador, Guatemala and Belize. But the residents of these countries have never come close to voicing the level of animosity and threats which I receive from the residents of Roatan when I write about crime.

I received a half-dozen emails yesterday from Roatan. Here are two good ones. Judge for yourself:

From Doug in Roatan: 

You are a fucking piece of shit im sure its real safe where you live which I assume is miami which is a complete shit hole how many people die there every night do you tell cruise ship passengers how fucking dangerous the departure ports are of course not ie: miami, new orleans, houston all shit hole cities if you want to write about violence try san pedro sula you fucking moron I will take my chaces in both roatan and san pedro sula before visiting any one of the cities in america mentioned all you are doing is praying on a bunch of people who are afraid of there own shadow you cant hold everybodys hand when they travel but shit happens in colorado at the resorts but you dont make a big deal out of that senseless crime happens everywhere you fucking idiot whatever your deal is with roatan all your doing is making it harder in aplace where life is already hatd enough fuck you

From Michelle in Roatan:

Interesting stats you're choosing to post about Roatan. I live here and am NOT afraid for my safety. You mention that the expatriate community downplays the crime issue and where are your stats about crime regarding them? The truth of the matter is ANYWHERE you go in the world there is crime, except perhaps, Iceland. The crime that we're witnessing here on Roatan is mostly what others would consider, drug related, revenge related or motivated as well as "Indian on Indian". Which is why the deaths of the man by mud hole or by la colonia belfate were featured but aren't causing a stir.
They have nothing to do with the general public. My safety is not jeopardized by the death of either of those men and neither is anyone else's; unless they were associated with them in whatever business or crime they were previously involved in.

People die violent deaths in US cities every single day and the reason people still feel safe in their homes is because they don't hear about them due to the fact that it isn't considered news. "A woman was found shot/strangled or beaten to death in her apartment" could be a news title on just about any newspaper in just about any city or town in the US but once officials realize that she was murdered by her drug dealer boyfriend, that she herself was a drug user and that she is a woman of color, she no longer is classified as news. And her death does not change or influence anyone else's safety. The same goes here. So I urge you to stop focusing your interest in stories that are not being shared and worry about your own interests. It is unfortunate that many people have had negative experiences while traveling here. It really truly is but it doesn't represent the island as a whole. People are safe, just like anywhere else in the world; again, except for Iceland, one must ALWAYS be mindful of what they are doing, where and with whom. Bad choices and bad decisions usually have bad results.

Murder in Roatan: A Peaceful, Tranquil Paradise?

Roatan Honduras came onto the radar of Cruise Law News in January of this year when a U.S. family who took a Carnival cruise to the island was robbed at gun point while driving in a rental car. The bandito shot the car up, terrifying the three children in the car as well as their parents, who had no idea that they had taken the kids to such a violent place for a family vacation. 

The mother subsequently left us a message saying:

"My Husband, 8, 14, 15 year old daughters and I were shot at, robbed and almost killed after returning Roatan Honduras Crimefrom one of the Roatan Beaches. I find it hard to believe that cruise lines would be wanting to increase tourism to Honduras. People innocently go there to enjoy it's beauty unaware of the danger lurking. My heart goes out to the family of the Norwegian cruise line crew member that was just killed there in broad daylight."

We subsequently reported about several other tourists robbed or assaulted at gun point this year. We were also the first in the U.S. to report on the murder of a NCL crew member in Coxen Hole.

What struck me most about Roatan when I began speaking to local residents and people who fled the island was not just the crime and sense of lawlessness. I was surprised by the extraordinary efforts of the expatriate U.S. citizens who live in Roatan to create the false and misleading impression that the place was a safe, tropical paradise.

Today in reading the local Insular Teledifusora Facebook page, I see that a local man identified as Rodrigo Mendoza Nelson was shot multiple times. His body was dumped along a road from Coxen Hole to Sandy Bay near an entrance to a place called "Mud Hole" late last night.

The images of the lifeless body on the Teledifusora Insular page are graphic.

Roatan Honduras Crime The web page also shows several crude images of men who were quickly arrested for the murder. 

A week ago I wrote about another murder of a local man who was bludgeoned to death near the  Balfate colony area.

None of these images or stories will be seen by tourists to Roatan.

Nor will the expatriate citizens running the tour or dive shops, or the restaurants or bars, or the resorts or realty companies mention these incidents to cruise ship passengers. 

 

Image Credit: Teledifusora Insular

Near Death Experience Aboard the Independence of the Seas: When Will Royal Caribbean Hire Lifeguards?

Four days ago, we discussed the near drowning of a six year old boy whose heart had stopped when he was found on the bottom of a swimming pool on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas.

People contacting us say the boy slipped and struck his head. Other children reportedly pulled the unconscious boy from the pool. Royal Caribbean was not supervising the Royal Caribbean pool. 

Royal Caribbean, like Carnival and NCL, has no lifeguards assigned to its pools. Only Disney takes the responsible step of employing lifeguards on cruise ships.

Independence of the Seas Pool - LifeguardI have written at length about these type of situations.

Saving children's lives requires the joint efforts of the parents and the cruise line. Parents must obviously supervise their children, and the cruise line must supervise their pools.  If the pools are intended for adults only, then there must be cruise employees at the pools enforcing that rule as well as any other rules such as "no children," "no running on the pool decks" or "no horseplay." 

Contrary to what many people believe, a "no lifeguard" or "swim at your own risk" sign, without more, is legally insufficient to exculpate the cruise ship from liability.

Disney used to rely on "no lifeguard" signs, but after the near drowning death last year of a child who was rendered severely brain damaged and needs expensive lifetime care, the Magical Cruise Line now employees lifeguards throughout its fleet. It took only one prior incident for Disney to throw away the "no lifeguard" signs and do the right thing by assigning ship employees to the pools.

Today we were notified that a similar incident occurred previously on the Independence of the Seas. A concerned parents told us: 

"The same happened to my daughter, six years ago, who was age six at the time, on the Independence of the Seas. We had gone with large group of family and friends and it was our first full day at sea. All the kids were so excited and it was our first cruise so we didn't really know the rules or anything about the ship. The kids were running around on the children's area where the water fountains were, this area was a water area for kids, however, in the same area was a pool, which was really deep water, we had no idea and this is where my daughter jumped in, after following her cousin, who was eight months older than her and could swim a little. The pool was six feet deep, we checked afterwards and this was the deepest pool on the ship, even deeper than the adults pool, why this was put next to the kids area, I have no idea. My daughter could not swim and panicked, she tried alerting her cousin who tried to help but as she was so small too, she nearly pulled her down.

It was only by chance that my sister was walking past to go back to her room that she spotted them and had to jump in fully clothed to save her. We were only yards away but as this pool was right in the middle of area we couldn't see them."

It's easy to blame parents whenever they let their guard down for a minute. But its entirely foreseeable and predictable that parents, especially parents on vacation, will make mistakes - perhaps only for a few precious seconds.

Ignoring a prior similar incident when a child nearly drowns is a dangerous proposition for a cruise line. A prior incident provides "notice" of the danger and requires the cruise line to take corrective measures to prevent similar injuries or fatalities from occurring.

Putting away legal issues of liability, the best way to protect kids is to have the parents supervise the kids and the cruise line supervise the pools. 

That's why a responsible cruise line (so far only Disney) employs lifeguard to supervise the pools. 

How many other incidents will it take before Royal Caribbean does the right thing and hires lifeguards?

U.S. Report on Crime in Nassau Worries Atlantis Resort

The owners of the Atlantis mega-resort in Nassau are worried about the U.S. report on the high rate of crime there, according to the Nassau Guardian

The U.S. report from Department of State states that armed robbery and sexual assault are all on the increase in Nassau and these crimes are affecting tourists and cruise passengers, including around the hotels, resorts and casinos. 

Over the years, Atlantis has experienced significant problems with crime. Tourists have been robbed at Atlantis Resort Bahamasgunpoint and the resort's own employees have attempted to rob the casino. You can read about the crime here:

Official: Security foils robbery at Bahamas resort

Tourists robbed outside Atlantis

Last September, the Nassau Tribune reported that Atlantis was “very concerned” about a crime warning issued to cruise passengers by Carnival cruise line.  Atlantis seemed afraid that the cruise line might scare off the resort's potential customers by warning its passengers of the crime problems ashore before the passengers disembark.

You can read our article: Atlantis Discourages Carnival from Warning Cruise Passengers of Crime in Nassau.

Nassau needs to get a grip on crime and its effect on tourists and cruise passengers.

Atlantis has to reassure its lenders that the situation is under control as it tries to refinances its debt. But the cat is out of the bag. Few rational people can dispute that the island has a problem. The cruise lines are seeing fewer and fewer people actually get off the cruise ships.  

It's a house built of cards. They could all fall down. Atlantis, the cruise lines, and the Bahamas tourism people are all hoping, and praying, that a tourist doesn't get shot. 

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / WPPilot

 

Nassau Newspapers Cover U.S. Crime Report on Bahamas - A Tropical Paradise?

A day after we summarized the U.S. report on the high level of crime which is affecting U.S. tourists and cruise passengers in the Bahamas, the major newspapers in Nassau published articles about the report. 

The Nassau Tribune published U.S. Warns Again Over Crime In The Bahamas. The Tribune also published several other articles about murders which routinely plague the capital of the islands.

The Nassau Guardian published U.S. Embassy See Jump in Assault Reports - State Department Highlights Bahamas' Crime Problem. The article was positioned next to another article about a murder Nassau Tribune with a large photo of a body in a bag being taken away a medical examiner's team.

When we published our article yesterday - 2014 Bahamas Crime Report: Armed Violent Crime Escalates - we received a great deal of hate emails. The criticism fell into general categories. The local Bahamians didn't like a U.S. citizen discussing crime in the Bahamas. Many wanted to discuss crime in the U.S. and talk about mass murders in U.S. schools. And many people in the Bahamas claim that it is perfectly safe in Nassau. 

In response to all of that I say this: of course there are crime problems in the U.S. But there are a few salient point to keep in mind. There are around 304,000,000 (million) people in the U.S. There are a little over 350,000 people in all of the Bahamas with 70% of them living on New Providence island (Nassau).

The Bahamas unemployment rate is staggering. Almost 16% of people in New Providence and almost 20% of people in Grand Bahama have no job. There are too many people with no money and nothing to do.

Not surprisingly, the per capital murder rate in the Bahamas is substantially higher than the U.S rate. The per capita homicide rate in the Bahamas is seven or eight times higher than the U.S. rate. There are around 4.5 murders per 100,000 in the U.S. but between 29 and 35 murders per 100,000 in the Bahamas.

The biggest point to keep in mind is that no one pretends that the USA is a tropical paradise. If you are coming to America, I won't bullshit you. Compared to the UK or the European countries which have few guns and little armed violence, the U.S is the wild west.  But many U.S. tourists who jump on a cruise ship for a vacation to the Caribbean mistakenly believe that the Bahamas is a tranquil, idyllic and peaceful place. It's clearly not. 

Many people who rail against our publication own businesses in Nassau, like bars, restaurants, resorts, excursions companies, jet-ski shops and so forth. They can't afford to lose business. They are characterizing Nassau like a magical safe location.  

But the 2014 crime report bears out what we have been discussing frequently here. That tourists and cruise passengers are being targeted for robbery by criminals armed with guns, knives and machetes. There are too many young men not employed who can make a month's wages with a single grab of a purse or gold chain.

Yes, Nassau has assigned more police officers to the ports and the officers are working longer shifts (which the report acknowledges). But crime in general and crime against cruise passengers has still increased. That speaks poorly for the future of Nassau and its fanciful notion that it is a tropical paradise.

 

Image Credit: Nassau Tribune

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia / Bahnfrend

Are Cruise Ships Vectoring Chikungunya Virus to Florida?

Today I received a comment from a Royal Caribbean passenger who said that he was infected with the dreaded chikungunya virus when he sailed to St. Martin last year on the Oasis of the Seas:

You might need a new cruise category "Disease" as the cruise industry has become a vector for spreading the Caribbean epidemic of Chikungunya Fever virus to Florida . . . I got infected during my Oasis trip to St Martin last Dec - this thing is horrible and can be catastrophic for older passengers - one major "coincidental" cause of increased death among these folks isn't the virus ... it is suicide. 

He also referred me to an article on a local CBS station "Fourth Case Of Mosquito Borne Chikungunya Chikungunya Cruise ShipFever Confirmed In Florida."

The disease is transmitted through infected mosquitos.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says:

"The most common symptoms of chikungunya virus infection are fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash. Outbreaks have occurred in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. In late 2013, chikungunya virus was found for the first time in the Americas on islands in the Caribbean. Chikungunya virus is not currently found in the United States (no longer true). There is a risk that the virus will be imported to new areas by infected travelers (now true). There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection. Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites. When traveling to countries with chikungunya virus, use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens."

We have been contacted in the last 6 months by many cruisers concerned about being infected. But this is the first time that someone has contacted us after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

There has been a good amount of chatter on the cruise fan pages about the virus and fears of contracting it while cruising to the Caribbean. 

Some but not all cruise lines warn about the disease.

Do you know someone who has been infected during a cruise to the Caribbean? Does anyone know effective medical treatment to combat the symptoms?  Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Honduras Works with Florida Caribbean Cruise Association to Promote Cruise Tourism

The Honduras newspaper La Prensa reports today that Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández will accompany representatives of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) on possible locations which will be marketed to cruise passengers arriving in Honduras. The FCCA is an organization which promotes the interests of the U.S. based cruise lines doing business in the Caribbean ports of call.

Tomorrow the president of Honduras will accompany the FCCA representatives during tours of the city of Gracias, Lempira, and the Copan Archaeological Park (el Parque Arqueológico de Copán), as part Gracious Honduras Cruise Visitof a "reconnaissance" trip to sites where the cruise tourists from Roatan, Bay Islands may visit.

The newspaper says that President Juan Orlando Hernández will accompany visitors on Thursday, May 29th together with representatives of the largest cruise lines in the world, including Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean Cruise. 

The distance from the island of Roatan to the city of Gracias, which is in the mainland of Honduras, is around 190 miles.

Is this really a suitable tourist spot for a U.S. tourist arriving in Honduras by cruise ship?

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world and is subject to warnings from the U.S. Department of State. 

I previous listed Honduras as the second most dangerous cruise destination in the world

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

 

 

Photo Credit: La Prensa

Near Drowning Aboard Independence of the Seas: Six Year Old Boy Fighting for Life in French Hospital

BBC News reports that a six year old boy was pulled from a swimming pool on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas yesterday. 

The AFP news agency says that the child's heart had stopped when he was found in the cruise ship pool.

BBC says that the cruise ship's doctor was able to re-start the boy's heart. The cruise line then requested that the boy be taken for emergency medical treatment ashore in northwest France by Independence of the Seas Swimming Poolhelicopter. 

A spokesman for a maritime agency in Brest, France said that the "child was found in a state of cardio-respiratory arrest at the bottom of the ship's pool."

This incident will be certain to trigger another debate whether cruise lines should staff their swimming pools with lifeguards. 

In the last year, four children six years of age or younger have drown or nearly drown on the major cruise lines, Disney, Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Lines. None of these ships had lifeguards assigned to their pools at the time. 

A 4 year child remains brain damaged after he nearly drowned on a Disney cruise ship, the Fantasy, in March of last year.  A 6 year old child is dead after drowning on a Carnival cruise ship, the Victory, in October of last year. A 4 year old is dead and his 6 year old brother is injured after similar tragedies on NCL's Norwegian Breakaway, last February.

In our view, there is no excuse not to assign lifeguards to cruise ship pools. The costs is minimal and the need is substantial.  Yes, parents need to supervise their children but cruise lines need to exercise their corporate responsibility to supervise the pools, enforce pool rules, and be ready to perform CPR if necessary.

Here are two of our many articles on the issue:

Imperfect Parents & Corporate Irresponsibility: Why No Lifeguards?

Dangerous Disney Cruise Ship Swimming Pool: Thoughts from a Concerned Cruiser

Disney is now the only cruise line which employs lifeguards, after the near-fatality last year. 

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

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Jolly Janner

Roatan, Honduras - Update on Crime

We've received a fair share of hate e-mail this year after we reported on several crimes against cruise tourists in Roatan during the first three months of this year. Many expatriate property owners and business operators became highly agitated when we were the first in the U.S. to report on the murder of a NCL crew member shot near the port in April.

Two men were arrested regarding the crew member murder. The first man arrested was quickly arrested but apparently had nothing to do with the murder. The second man, who apparently killed the NCL employee, was shot in the leg by his friends and turned over to the police for a modest little Roatan Murder Suspectranson. He remains in jail.

A U.S. citizen, Cory Lee Beckner, who lives in Roatan was arrested for allegedly being involved in an armed robbery of a family visiting the island on a cruise ship. His sister recently posted, on our Facebook Page, an affidavit from a local police department suggesting that her brother is innocent. If this is true, then whoever robbed the several cruise tourists has not been apprehended.

In the last two months, there have been several break-ins of homes and businesses run by expatriate U.S. citizens and local residents of roatan. Many people have expressed frustration with the crimes and the absence of any follow-up by the understaffed and ill-equipped local police.

Just last Sunday, a local resident was found murdered, apparently killed with a concrete block which was found bloodied upon discovery of the dead body. The incident reportedly occurred near the impoverished Balfate colony area.  

The arrests of two gunmen who allegedly killed two residents in separate incidents over the course of the last year or so was recently a topic of discussions in Roatan among expatriates. Some people are calling for the alleged gunmen to be publicly hanged to deter other murderers. 

The president of Honduras and tourism officials have announced meetings with the cruise lines to deal with the reports of crime in Roatan. There have been no details released of what has been discussed.

The expatriate community in Roatan is an interesting lot. Half of the people there spend considerate effort trying to convince you how safe and peaceful the island is. But they have a different conversation amongst themselves. There are others who are interesting in exposing the crime problem in the hope that the problem will be addressed and improved.

More Reefer Madness from Bermuda's Kangaroo Courts

Busting U.S. cruise passengers for small amounts of pot is big business for the customs officers in Bermuda. It's a topic we have written about often.

The cases all seem the same. When the cruise guests go ashore, the customs officers board the ship with their sniffer dogs and conduct warrant-less searches without probable cause. They even request the ship security personnel to open up the safes in the cabins.  A gram or two brings a $500 or so fine which the passengers pay with a credit card to avoid the threatened three month jail sentence. 

This week, a newspaper in Bermuda reports that a U.S. passenger, age 25, "Chelsea," arrived in NCL Norwegian BreakawayBermuda on NCL's Norwegian Breakaway. The customs officers found 2 grams of marijuana in her cabin's safe. A man who shared her cabin (apparently her boyfriend) said the pot was his, but that didn't stop the police from handcuffing Chelsea and hauling her off to jail.

Chelsea claims that she was suffering from pain due to the cuffs and asked for relief several times from one of the officers. The newspaper says that after the arresting officer "repeatedly ignored her cries of pain," intimating that the officer intentionally tried to hurt her by twisting the middle part of the handcuffs, Chelsea cursed the officer saying:.

“You f***ing stupid b***h. You’re hurting me, you b***h.” 

This outburst led to the prosecutors charging her with "violently resisting arrest."

The presiding judge, Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner, scoffed at the charges pointing out that the woman did not become violent and cursed only after she was ignored when she complained of pain.

The prosecutors introduced no evidence on the resisting arrest charge.

Magistrate Warner then fined Chelsea $500 for the pot. You can read about Magistrate Warner in these articles: 

Bermuda's Kangaroo Courts Back in Action

Business As Usual In Bermuda: Cruise Passenger Arrested & Fined For Small Amount of Pot

Reefer Madness Continues: Bermuda Shakes Down Another Cruise Pot Head

People ask me, why do you care if cruise stoners get fined?

The problem is that Bermuda has a strange sense of priorities. It delights in small time pot busts of vacationers with a cigarette or two in the cabin safe to be smoked for recreational use on the high seas, an issue the cruise line security should deal with. But rapes or violent shipboard crimes? Bermuda is indifferent to prosecuting rapists and criminals on Bermuda flagged ships.

Compare Bermuda's madness with the customs policy in Canada toward cruise ships. For a period of a year or so, customs officers in Halifax, Canada arrested four crew members and cruise passengers with child pornography on their computers. All of them served jail time. A good use of Canadian customs and judicial resources.

But in Bermuda, you'll never see a cruise rapist, pedophile or child porn pervert arrested by police or customs officers or sentenced by Magistrate Warner. There's no money to be made in arresting real criminals.

Photo Credit: Bermuda Sun

 

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

 

Consumer Reports: Don't Get Sick on a Cruise

Cruise Ship Medical FacilitiesA news station in California KFSN (ABC) channel 30 reports that being ill with norovirus or in a medical emergency presents challenges when you are "days from the nearest port, on a ship without diagnostic equipment like an MRI machine, a blood bank or even specialty doctors."

According to a Consumer affairs medical doctor, although many passengers may believe that they are boarding a "floating hospital," a cruise ship is more like a "floating hotel with a doctor at hand."  

She says "think twice about traveling with a chronic medical condition.

The Coast Guard can't always launch a rescue, if the seas are rough or the ship is too far from land. Next, know that most prescription drugs are not available on a cruise ship. Always travel with an extra supply of all medications."

The Consumer Affairs medical team also warns that medical care aboard a cruise ship costs a premium.

Cruise ships don't accept medical insurance so consider purchasing travel insurance from an independent company. .

Swiss Diamond River Ship Strikes Pillar to "Old Bridge" in Bratislava, Passengers Injured

Swiss Diamond River CruiseA newspaper in Slovakia reports today that a Swiss river cruise ship struck a pillar of the "Old Bridge" in Bratislava.

This newspaper reports that seven passengers were injured aboard the Swiss Diamond river cruise ship. (Another newspaper says that 9 people were injured).

The bridge in question is being disassembled and replaced. Several pillars to the bridge remain as hazards in the river.

TASR newswire broke the story

All of the injured were women, except one man.  Ambulances were sent to the scene.

Five people were taken to the hospital. The injuries included wounds to people’s heads and limbs.

The Swiss Diamond is in the fleet of the Swiss shipping company Scylla AG. The ship was built in 1996 and operates on the Danube river between German and Hungary. 

Photo credit below: Palo Bartos / Flickr

Old Bridge in Bratislavia

Independence of the Seas Arrested in Norway

A newspaper in Norway reports today that a pilot association seized the Independence of the Seas for non-payment of the association's fees. The association petitioned a court in Norway to detain the cruise ship. A local bailiff served the arrest papers today.

The Independence of the Seas was in Alesund, Norway at the time of the legal action.

In the U.S., vessels can be seized for non-payment of provisions and services such as pilotage fees, crew member wages, food and fuel. The vendors and service providers have a maritime lien for the goods and services. Norway has a similar legal provision permitting the courts to "arrest" a vessel when Independence of the Seasit refuses to meet its financial obligations to creditors and satisfy the maritime lien. If the lien is not satisfied, the vessel can be sold at auction.  

"Vessel arrest" is a  common legal remedy to collect money from fly-by-night maritime owners and operators which try to avoid paying their debts to third parties. You can read about one such case here. I have heard of only one modern cruise ship operated by a top cruise line being arrested, and that was the Carnival Triumph several years ago

In Norway, as well as many other countries, local pilots are required to be at the helm of a ship that enters the local waters of the country. The shipping companies are required to pay the pilots who are more familiar with the local waters. 

The pilot association, Norwegian Coastal Administration (NCA) (Kystverket in Norwegian), issued a press release, stating that the pilot and security fees incurred by Royal Caribbean during several cruises last year have been owed since at least last October.  

The newspaper says that the lien was for  around NOK 600,000 which is approximately $100,000 U.S.

NCA says that it is owed substantial other fees from other cruise line and will be stepping up its collection efforts as the cruise ships return to Norway.

NCA says in its press release that non-payment or delayed payment from some cruise lines have been a major problem and the the association has been unable to convince the cruise lines to pay punctually. The association has been unable to convince certain companies with the worst payment history to meet their obligations voluntarily.

A representative of the association was quoted saying that sometimes it's been many months, up to a year before the outstanding amounts have been paid. How can we operate?

The newspaper further states that once the arrest papers were served on the cruise ship, the captain contacted Royal Caribbean which paid the lien (as well as court costs and interest) within one hour. The cruise ship was then released by the local marshal and was free to sail. 

The Independence of the Seas was last in the news in April when its thrusters swamped a boat in St.Kitts involved in mooring operations, killing two local men handling the lines. 

May 23 2014 Update: The BBC is now covering the story.

Passenger Medevaced From Majesty of the Seas

Majesty of the Seas Injury Accident Local Miami news station WSVN channel 7 reports this morning that Miami Fire Rescue medevaced a Royal Caribbean cruise ship passenger who sustained a serious head injury. The medevaced occurred last night. 

The medical evacuation occurred on the Majesty of the Seas cruise ship. WSVN says that the passenger suffered the injury while the cruise ship was approximately four miles from the port of Miami. 

The video shows the cruise ship passenger being transferred from the Majesty through an open crew entrance into the Miami Fire Rescue rescue vessel. These type of transfers are dangerous. Passengers have been dropped into the sea during the transfers if they are done incorrectly. You can see a terrifying botched passenger rescue here.

The Fire Rescue then returned to port and the passenger was taken for emergency medical treatment at Mercy Hospital. 

The video also shows cruise passengers who witnessed the event cheering and applauding the paramedics.

Update: A local CBS news station reports that the passenger is a 32 year old Swedish citizen. A spokesperson for the cruise line said that the passenger was first treated in the medical facility on the Majesty of the Seas ship on Tuesday but on Wednesday the passenger required “additional and urgent medical attention.” 

 

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

No Answers, No CCTV & No Justice: P&O Ferries Leaves Fearnside Family in the Dark

It was a dark night when 30 year-old Richard Fearnside disappeared from P&O Ferries' Pride of Kent ferry as it was sailing from Calais back to Dover. His girlfriend said that he was going to the top deck to smoke a cigarette. Richard never returned. P&O didn't sound an alarm until the ferry returned to port.

P&O Ferries could offer no explanation to Richard's parents, Bob and Marianne, regarding what happened to their son while the P&O ferry was cruising in the middle of the English Channel. Although other passengers and crew had disappeared from P&O ferries under mysterious circumstances in the past, the ferry company had not bothered to install a single CCTV camera on the decks of its fleet of Richard Fearnside P&O FerriesP&O ships for safety and security purposes.  

P&O chose instead to install surveillance cameras only in its duty free shops on the ferries. Jewelry and alcohol, it appears, are more precious to P&O than its customers.

Richard vanished a year ago today.

It's an anniversary date no parent wants.

For a year, Richard's parents have faced what they believe to be P&O's cover-up of his disappearance. 

Richard's mother, Marianne, wrote a letter to P&O Ferries CEO, Helen Deeble, about her son's disappearance and sought information. P&O sent a boorish response, not from Ms. Deeble, but from a public relations clod at the ferry company. The PR company man told her that installing safety cameras was a silly, impractical idea.

Last December, I sent an open letter to Ms. Deeble about the absence of CCTV cameras on the P&O ferries. There are huge cruise ships in the U.S. that have literally over 1,000 CCTV cameras installed on board. Ms. Deeble chose to ignore my letter just like she initially ignored Marianne's letter. 

Ignored by P&O, Marianne started a petition to require P&O Ferries to install CCTV cameras on its passenger decks. The petition resonated with the public. To date, over 95,000 people have signed the petition while making insightful and poignant comments explaining why safety camera are required. You can see the petition here

Bob and Marianne FearnsideThe Fearnsides remain in the dark about what happened to Richard. P&O's attitude toward them, and its irresponsible refusal to install cameras on its ships, ensure that other passengers will disappear without explanation.  

Please take a moment to click on the petition. Please sign it. Please tell P&O why it should finally install cameras. 

 

Please read a few of our other articles:

P&O Ferries Refuses to Install CCTV or Man Overboard Systems after Passenger Disappears

P&O Ferries Plagued By Overboard Passengers & No Safety Systems

P&O Ferries Crisis Manager Is No Stranger to Ferry Disasters

P&O Ferries No-CCTV Camera Controversy: Expect a Long Fight

 

Bottom photo credit: Canterbury Times

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

Costa Deliziosa Loses Power in Valenzia

SeaTrade Insider reports that the Costa Deliziosa cruise ship suffered a power failure and blackout in Valencia, Spain yesterday which shut down the ship's electrical systems. After a few hours, the engineers were able to restore power and essential services. However, the cruise ship will not try to sail back to Italy. Costa stated that the cruise ship will remain in port until the cause of the outage is identified and corrected. 

Costa is apparently arranging for charter flights to return the passengers to Rome. 

Costa Deliziosa Cruise ShipLate today Costa told cruise passengers scheduled to sail on a 13-night Eastern Mediterranean cruise from Civitavecchia (Rome), leaving tomorrow, that the cruise is canceled.

Of course there are thousands of people who are currently flying to Rome thinking that they will board the cruise ship, which remains in Spain.

Cruise Critic mentions that the passengers on the current, abandoned cruise will receive a 50 percent refund on the cruise fare and a 100 euros of onboard credit per passenger as compensation. A couple on the Cruise Critic message board says that for the canceled May 29th cruise, Costa offered either a 50% refund and another cruise or a full refund and 250 euro voucher each to be used before the end of the year.

Although a cruise ship going out of service unexpectedly at the last minute is a major inconvenience for the passengers, it is a real hardship for the crew members who earn tips. They will receive no income for the next two weeks.

The Deliziosa is four years old, and is owned by Carnival Corporation.

May 21 2014 Update: Members of Cruise Critic are saying that: "instead of the 21st, their departure from Savona will be on the 23rd, therefore the cruise will now be instead of 13 days only 11 days
(they will get a new itinerary later). Because of that they will get a refund of 25 % and 100 Euro bord account."

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger From Bahamas Celebration Cruise Ship

The Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) reports that the U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a cruise passengers from a cruise ship returning from Freeport Bahamas yesterday.

The Coast Guard deployed a MH-65 dolphin helicopter to perform a medical evacuation of a a 56-year old male passenger suffering severe pain aboard the Bahamas Celebration northeast of Palm Beach, Florida, on May 18, 2014.

The man was airlifted to St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Video Credit: U.S. Coast Guard via DVIDS  

 

Royal Caribbean Tries to Block David Beckham's Soccer Stadium

International soccer star David Beckham plans to build a soccer stadium at the Port of Miami with the dramatic vista of downtown Miami in the background. But the Chairman of Royal Caribbean Cruises is doing everything possible to block Beckham's plans. 

In an interview with television station Local 10, cruise executive Richard Fain says that the port isn't a suitable location for the stadium. 

It's also a location where Fain's cruise line built a parking lot and a gym for its employees, which are David Beckham Soccer Stadium obviously not the best uses of the 12 acre property. Unlike Norwegian Cruise Lines and Carnival which operate their headquarters on the north and north-west sides of the Miami International airport, Royal Caribbean's headquarters are located right at the port.

Fain and his "well-funded Miami Seaport Alliance" seem to be using scare tactics, arguing that the new stadium "will jeopardize more than 200 cargo and cruise-related jobs," a claim that newspaper researchers find false.

Fain doesn't want to talk about losing his parking lot and the gym. He couches his argument against the soccer stadium in terms of "protecting our port."  But the land is not suitable for deep water use by today's mega-liners.

May it just be that Fain doesn't want to see the new stadium towering over his cruise line's offices and causing traffic delays disrupting his daily drive into the office?     

Miami's mayor, Tomas Regalado, says the decision on the new stadium site will rest with the people of Miami. 

Photo Credit: Design Boom

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No Lifeguards for Children on Cruise Ships? Maritime Law Encourages Cruise Lines to Act Irresponsibly

WKMG Local 6 (ClickOrlando) aired a special report last night on the issue of children drowning on cruise ships. In the last year, four children 6 years old or younger have drowned or nearly drowned in the pools of Carnival, Disney and Norwegian Cruise Line cruise ships. 

In all cases, the cruise lines did not employ lifeguards.   

The news station interviewed the parents of a 6 year old child, Qwentyn Hunter, who drowned during a Carnival Cruise Ship Drowning cruise aboard the Carnival Victory.  

I believe that it's clear negligence for a cruise line not to employ a lifeguard to supervise cruise ship swimming pools. Yes, it a matter of personal responsibility of the parents to supervise their children, but its also a matter or corporate responsibility of the cruise lines to staff their pools with trained lifeguards.  A sign saying things like "swim at your own risk" or "no lifeguard on duty" is not only meaningless to a child, but it's legally insufficient to exculpate a cruise line.  

The cruise lines are able to hide behind a maritime law also known as the "Death on the High Seas Act" which prohibits the recovery of emotional damages such as pain and suffering, grief, bereavement, and mental anguish. As matters now stand, the cruise line face virtually no financial consequence when children die in cruise ships pools with no lifeguards.

The news station interviewed me during the program. Here's what I said:

"'Children are not wage-earners and because of this archaic law pertaining to cruise ships there’s no financial incentive for cruise lines to do the right thing,' said Jim Walker whose law firm deals exclusively with legal issues on cruise ships.

Walker called it the cruise industry's dirty little secret.

'The cruise lines love that law that doesn’t permit any recovery so they’re completely isolated and when you isolate a large corporation from all legal and financial consequence basically what you’re saying to them is it’s OK if children die in your pool because it doesn’t really affect your bottom line. That’s a terrible situation. That needs to change,' said Walker.

. . . Walker contends there's another troubling issue. He says no cruise employees, other than medical personnel are trained in CPR.

'If you're going to assign someone to a pool deck to hand out the towels and take drink orders, you’ve got to train them on basic CPR because CPR can save a life,' said Walker who also says he believes the cruise line industry could pass the cost of employing lifeguards on to the passengers.

'If you charge each one a dime you’re going to have enough money for a lifeguard. How about a dime for each person? Isn’t a child worth a dime?' said Walker.

Walker believes it is going to take some type of legislation really to force the cruise lines to take added safety precautions."

We have discussed this issue in prior articles:

Imperfect Parents & Corporate Irresponsibility: Why No Lifeguards on Disney Cruise Ships? (Disney now has lifeguards on its cruise ships).

Dangerous Cruise Ship Swimming Pools: Thoughts from a Concerned Cruiser

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

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Photo Credit: Ariza Talent & Modeling Agency via CBS News

Roatan Crime Watch: Honduran Officials & Tourism Representatives Meet With Cruise Line Security Executives

Radio Honduras reports today that security managers of Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and Carnival Corporation recently met with governmental officials and tourism representative of Honduras in a "workshop" to discuss the safety of passengers and crew members in Roatan.

The news account indicates that the Director the Honduran Institute of Tourism, Emilio Silvestri, said that the meeting with the security executives of the cruise lines "is the result of a request from President Juan Orlando Hernández during his recent trip to Miami . . . "

A week ago we reported that President Hernández announced that he has traveled to Miami to meet Roatan Honduraswith cruise line officials regarding the violence this year against cruise ship passengers and crew members. 

This year we have reported on the murder of a NCL crew member, the armed robbery of Carnival passengers, and the armed assault of tourists and Royal Caribbean cruise passengers.

NCL pulled its cruise ships from Roatan for one week but quickly returned. Travel writers, travel agents, and expatriate owned or operated dive shops, resorts, bars and real estate businesses still promote the island as a tropical paradise.

The Honduran tourism representative Silvestri mentioned security measures allegedly implemented in Roatan by the Honduran government but didn't specify the nature of such measures.  The cruise line security executives apparently discussed the security measures during the workshop. 

The report identifies those attending the security workshop as Matthew Lewis from Norwegian Cruise Line; Dwight Morris and Alvaro Duron from from Royal Caribbean Cruises; Robert Williams and Jose Negron of Carnival Cruise Line; Luis Colon from Mahogany Bay; Security Minister Arturo Corrales; Research Director Julian Pacheco; as well as municipal authorities and the tourism representatives of Roatan and the Bay Islands. 

The report stressed the importance of the revenue generated by cruise passengers to Roatan. Each cruise passenger spends around $80 in "ground transportation, buying souvenirs, gratuities" and other expenditures during an eight-hour stay on the island.

In April. we placed Honduras on the list of the Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World

(305) 749-5493 "Free Cruise" Text Scam?

Free Cruise? Local news ABC-7 Fort Meyers is reporting that "scammers" are sending out text messages claiming that you have won a "free cruise."

Of course, there is no such thing as a truly free cruise but it seems like some people forget that.

The news station explains that "the scammers text you and tell you you’ve won a cruise. But when you call the number, a customer service representative says all you have to do is pay the $60 port fees. They suggest for you to put it on your credit or debit card – just give them the number."

"Don't do it," says Sgt. Dana Coston with the Cape Coral Police Department.  The news station calls them "crooks" looking for "free money" from victims.

The telephone number involved, according to the news station, is (305) 749-5493.

Give them a call and listen to the sales pitch. Just don't get talked into giving them your credit card number! 

Cruise Critic published an article several years ago about the "free cruise" offer: The Free Cruise Offer: Scam or Legit?

Photo Credit: Cruise Critic

 

 

Pullmantur Cruises' Sovereign Suffers Major Engine Problems

Newspapers in Europe are reporting that the former Royal Caribbean Sovereign of the Seas suffered an engine failure on one of its two main engines on May 10th while sailing from Barcelona to Tunis. It then limped instead to Naples for repairs.

Its current owner/operator, Pullmantur Cruises, attempted to repair the cruise ship in Naples but the repair pair attempts were unsuccessful. The ship was re-positioned to Civitavecchia and the cruise was cancelled. 

Sovereign Cruise ShipThe plans are now to undergo repairs at a shipyard in Marseille in the hope that it will be able to cruise under full power at the end of May. 

After leaving the Royal Caribbean fleet, the cruise ship was re-named the Sovereign and it underwent a new, blue paint job of its hull.

According to one news account, the cruise line company said it regretted "deeply" the interruption of the cruise, thanking passengers for "patience and collaboration."  It said that it will return the fare for the cruise, and reimburse passenger expenses related to the problem with the ship. It also offered a 60% discount on the purchase of another Pullmantur cruise.

The Sovereign is a relatively old cruise ship, having been delivered in 1988. 

Update: A reader of our Facebook page stated:

"It has four main engines. Made by Pielstick 9PC 20L and they are a piece of shit engines. Only made 13 totally of them for Sovereign,Majesty and Monarch of the seas.... One of them on Sovereign had a major breakdown many years ago and they got the 13th engine that was a test engine installed in replacement.

They have never been good engines. They run on heavy fuel, mounted on rubber 2+2 on the same gear and they delivered a lot less power then they where supposed to on test run. No problem Pielshit said and mounted a lot bigget turbo chargers on them to boost the power up. And that worked,, but that made them run hotter and we changed exhaust valves on them all the time. So the French guys should stick to eating snails and crock monsieurs and leave the engine building to the Germans." 

Photo Credit: Portal World Cruises

Time for Transparency: Senators Request Coast Guard to Make Cruise Ship Inspection Reports Public

The U.S. Coast Guard made a remarkable statement during the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) conference in March regarding passenger safety aboard cruise ships.

It said that it targets cruise ships with a history of safety problems. That's a good idea, of course. But the NTSB failed to ask the Coast Guard a simple follow-up question - what cruise line(s) and what cruise ships have demonstrated a pattern of poor maintenance and safety concerns?

The Coast Guard didn't point the finger at any particular cruise line and the NTSB didn't ask the question that the public needed to know. 

Allure of the Seas Life BoatMy thought is that the NTSB didn't want to embarrass the cruise lines who organized the conference. This reveals one of the major problems inherent in cruising. The federal agencies which are suppose to be watchdogs of cruise safety are in bed with the cruise lines. 

In response to this situation, Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV (D-W.V.) (Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation), and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Coast Guard Admiral Robert Papp, Jr. asking that that inspection reports be made available to the public over the Internet. 

The senators wrote “ . . . we respectfully request that the records and results of the unannounced inspections be made public and easily available over the Internet for prospective cruise passengers to peruse before booking a trip.”

The senators added:

“We agree it is strategic of the Coast Guard to target ships and vessels that have a pattern or history of safety problems, but we further expect that consumers should also be privy to the insights and patterns that the Coast Guard already knows, in addition to the ones it discovers in the future. Furthermore, the Coast Guard does a disservice to the public when it shields from consumers the identity of cruise ships and lines that have a pattern of noncompliance.”

No response from the Coast Guard so far.

Coast Guard Medevacs Two Passengers From Carnival Splendor

The U.S. Coast Guard released a video showing a medevac of two passengers yesterday morning, approximately 135 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

The Coast Guard stated that it medevaced a 25-year-old man and 60-year-old woman at around 5:45 a.m. from the Carnival Splendor after the cruise ship being reported them ill and in need of emergency medical attention. Earlier, a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and HC-130 Hercules were dispatched.

The Coast Guard helicopter hoisted the two passengers from the ship and up and flew them to New Hanover Regional Medical Center. 

Red Bugs in Bahamian Palms? Nassau Vendors in Uproar Over NCL Straw Market Ban

Red Palm Mite Straw MarketThe Tribune newspaper in Nassau reports on a controversy which developed when a Miami-based cruise line apparently banned its passengers from buying items at the local straw market due to fear that the straw may be infested with a pest called the "red palm mite."

The Tribune says that Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) has apparently prohibited straw crafts from being brought back on its cruise ships in Nassau for the past several weeks.

Tourism officials told the Tribune that the ban was connected to the infestation of the palm mite in the Caribbean. However, Bahamas allegedly has no incidents of palm mite infestation according to the tourism officials. They also say that the straw in the Bahamas is cured anyway.

Local vendors are complaining that NCL cruise passengers are saying that anything they buy in the straw market will be confiscated by cruise ships guards when they return to the ship.

According to the Tribune, the tourism officials have tried to resolved the issue with NCL and have alerted the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association about the problem. 

The issue shows how dependent the Bahamas is on cruise ship tourists.  

NCL sails nearly 15,000 passengers to Nassau on a regular basis on five cruise ships - the Breakaway, Gem, Pearl, Sky, and Getaway

 

Photo Credit: University of Florida

Coast Guard Medevacs Sick Passenger from the Carnival Imagination

Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System reports that a San Diego-based Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter evacuated an ill woman from a Carnival cruise ship yesterday.

The Carnival Imagination was approximately 30 miles off the coast of Point Loma, California on May 7, 2014 when it contacted the Coast Guard and requested a medevac for a 41-year-old American woman, believed to be a passenger. She was experiencing abdominal pain.

Video (no audio) credit to U.S. Coast Guard video.   

 

What Happened on the Carnival Paradise Last Night?

Carnival Paradise Cruise ShipLast night a cruise passenger, @omasaid, tweeted that a fire may have broken out on the Carnival Paradise after the cruise ship left Cozumel.

Around 12:36 AM, he tweeted: "Keep us in ur prayers folks, white smoke maybe a fire is billowing from top of our cruise #carnival#paradise we r in the middle of ocean" 

At 12:40 AM he tweeted: "Update #carnival #paradise still no A/C people appear to be calm, Captain stated we r proceeding to Tampa maybe cruise is shortened..."

At 1:29 AM, he left this final tweet: "Update: #carnival #paradise all systems appear to b stable. A/C is operational, although another carnival ship traveling oddly close to us"

This morning, we asked Carnival for an explanation. So far we have not received a response. We also asked @omasaid for another update.

Does anyone else on the Paradise have information to share?

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

May 7 2014 Update:

We received this statement from Carnival this morning:

CARNIVAL PARADISE STATEMENT
May 7, 2014 - 9 a.m. EDT

"Earlier this morning while the Carnival Paradise was en route from Cozumel to its homeport of Tampa, an air conditioning compressor overheated causing some smoke in the forward section of the ship.

Shipboard personnel immediately responded and addressed the situation. All safety and hotel systems are operating normally and the ship is expected to arrive in Tampa Thursday morning as scheduled.

Announcements were made keeping guests apprised of the situation and the U.S. Coast Guard was notified as per standard protocol.

Carnival Paradise is currently operating a five-day cruise that departed Tampa on Saturday, part of its year-round four- and five-day schedule from that port."

May 8 2014 Update:

The Paradise returned to Tampa this morning.  We are waiting to hear from cruise passengers whether this was a minor event as Carnival suggests. 

See comments below . . . 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Beau Hudspeth - Digi-Gen Design Studios - Photography

Roatan Crime Watch: Honduran Politicians Travel to Miami to Meet Cruise Lines

The President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, has updated his Facebook page, indicating that he has traveled to Miami to meet with cruise line officials.  He posted:

"Este día ha sido muy productivo, después de una reunión con 2 empresas de Cruceros en Miami, donde definimos incrementar el número de turistas a Honduras."

Translated, he says that he had a productive day in Miami after meeting with two cruise lines in an effort to increase the number of tourists cruising to Honduras.

Roatan Honduras CruiseHe reportedly traveled with Honduran Congressman Jerry Hynds who represents the Bay Islands. Several cruise ships (Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean) cruise regularly to Honduras (Roatan).

President Hernandez is seen in the Facebook photo with Honduran and Carnival officials. 

Roatan has been in the cruise-news after a rash of violent crimes against Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise passengers this year who were attacked by armed robbers. A NCL crew member was murdered by a criminal from Coxen Hole, near Roatan's port. Roatan is on our list of the top 10 most dangerous cruise destinations this year. You can read some of recent articles about Roatan below:

Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World 

NCL Crew Member Shot & Killed in Roatan, Honduras

Roatan: The Irresponsibility of Travel Writers

Broken Thruster or Strong Currents? Norwegian Breakaway Delayed Returning to Pier 88

A number of news sources are reporting that a NCL cruise ship, the Norwegian Breakaway, was delayed in the Hudson River after one of its thrusters malfunctioned this morning.

The Daily News reported that the Breakaway, while returning to New York after a week-long Caribbean cruise, lost its steering as it headed toward Pier 88 on the West Side when a thruster malfunctioned. 

NCL Norwegian Breakaway Cruise ShipCoast Guard officials said they were notified of the predicament around 7:45 AM, and a tug boat assisted the cruise ship to the pier around 10 AM.

NCL didn't mention any type of propulsion problem. A NCL spokeperson said “The ship was slightly delayed because of strong currents in the Hudson River.” 

A cruise passenger @NoelDallacco tweeted that the incident was not a big deal. She posted a photo of a tug pushing the NCL cruise ship to port. 

NCL cruise ships have experienced problems trying to make it into New York piers in the past. In 2012, the Norwegian Star cruise ship struck the pier next to an aircraft carrier at the Intrepid Museum in Manhattan. In 2008, the Norwegian Spirit smashed Pier 90 while trying to dock at Pier 88. 

Ten days ago, there was dramatic video posted on Facebook and Twitter when NCL's Norwegian Gem was attempting to return to port to attempt a medical disembark after a passenger was injured. The cruise ship began drifting sideways toward an anchored tanker and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. (The pilot aboard the NCL ship sounds like Woody Allen). The video is from NY Harbor Webcam: 

 

 

 

 

May 6 2014 Update: According to a NBC news station, "A dead 30-foot whale found on the Brooklyn side of New York Harbor Monday morning may have gotten tangled in the steering system of a cruise ship, disabling the boat for several hours, authorities said Tuesday.

The whale was found near Pier 4 on Monday, and towed to the New Jersey side of the harbor.

The NOAA Fisheries Service said it is believed to have been struck by the Norwegian Cruise Lines ship, which then stalled for several hours in the Hudson River as it was preparing to dock in Manhattan Sunday. 

Bahamas Crime Watch: How Do You Manage a Country's Reputation With Stories Like These?

News accounts of violent crime against both tourists and residents in the Bahamas continue to be regularly published in the international and local press. 

David Jessop, the Managing Director of the Caribbean Council, has written insightful articles this year regarding the damage to the image of the Bahamas caused by articles in social media regarding such crime. He states that that the Bahamas, like other Caribbean islands, doesn't have the social media skills necessary to promptly and effectively minimize damage to the country's reputation when tourists become victims of violent criminal acts. I suggest reading his articles: Social Media and Managing Mitchell Nini Crime BahamasReputation published in January, and Reputational Damage published a few days ago in the Bahamas Tribune.

But how does the Bahamas manage its reputation when its newspapers are regularly filled with gruesome stories of violence virtually every day?

On April 30th the local newspapers in the Bahamas reported that a jury acquitted three Bahamian men in their 20's of the "near-fatal stabbing" of a Canadian tourist, Mitchell Nini. Mr. Nini was stabbed 7 times in the chest, back and stomach when the thugs robbed a gold chain from Mr. Nini's friend. 

I have written before that tourists injured during violent crimes in Nassau cannot find justice in the archaic Bahamian legal system, although the Bahamian tourist police seem effective in boarding cruise ships at the wharf and arresting U.S. citizens for small amounts of pot

I first learned of the acquittal of Mr. Nini's attackers when his friends and family posted the news of the acquittal on Facebook and Twitter.  The articles posted by his mother on Twitter indicate that the three men confessed to the crime but later claimed that the police beat them into signing the confessions. 

The Canadian press published New Brunswick Man Warns of Traveling After Being Stabbed in Bahamas. The newspaper article shows a photo of Mr. Nini recovering from the vicious attack in the hospital while saying that tourists should stay clear of the island. He told the Global News "Whether you feel like you’re safe on the resort, as soon as you step off the resort you’re in a war zone.”

Mr. Nini's reference to a "war" is appropriate.

Bahamian Prime Minister Perrie Christie told that Tribune newspaper last week that the government is "developing new crime fighting strategies to win the 'war' that they are fighting against the 'hostile young men' in the capital."

Meanwhile, Democratic National Alliance (DNA) leader Branville McCartney made the news stating that he does not feel safe given the ongoing scourge of crime in the Bahamas. He told the Tribune “I don’t feel safe in this country . . . We live in paradise, but we are paralysed by fear. We are in prison in our own homes because of the criminal element running amuck in this country.”

There is good reason for even the politicians to be afraid of crime in Nassau. In December, the Acting Prime Minister Philip Davis was robbed at gunpoint. Then in January a police officer assigned to guard a residence of the Prime Minister Christie was arrested on suspicion of stealing a television at the residence. The latter is a petty crime I know, but you have to shake your head when the bad guys are bold enough to stick up the Acting Prime Minister and the police are stealing from the Prime Minister.

What's the response from the Bahamas to these and many other stories about trouble in paradise?  I have received many comments from the citizens of the Bahamas chastising me for suggesting that the out-of-control crime in Nassau also exists throughout the many islands which make up the country. But there are too many stories about crime against tourists outside of Nassau as well.

Last month Edgar George Dart, a 56-year-old British citizen who lived in Canada, was shot and killed and slowly died in front of his family after three masked intruders burst into his mother's home in Freeport. And a 14 year-old U.S. girl was raped on one of the out islands just ten days ago.   

Violent crime is a part of life in Nassau. Dangerous young men with knives and guns are menacing the residents and tourists alike. Do the families on Carnival, Disney and Royal Caribbean cruise ships know that a war is raging in Nassau and even the top politicians in the Bahamas are afraid of crime and have been victimized themselves? How can a country even attempt to manage its reputation as a paradise for tourists when the local residents are paralyzed by fear? 

Watch the video of Mr. Nini below: 

Consider reading: Bahamas Responds to Making the List of Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations: "The Bahamas Is Safe"

Bahamas Weekly: The Bahamas - Still Paralyzed by Fear: "Over the past two weeks, newspaper headlines have recounted horrific stories of violence, murder and mayhem which have gripped communities here in New Providence and on Grand Bahama Island; cementing crime and the fear of crime as one of the country’s most pressing national issues."

Have a thought? Leave a message below or join the discussion on Facebook.

Photo Credit: Global News

Cruise Law News Enjoys Record Month in April

Last month, 247,433 people read 843,370 pages of Cruise Law News (per Google Analytics). That's a record month for us.

If our readership continues to grow, as it has done over the years, we are on track to having 3,000,000 people reading over 10,000,000 pages of our blog a year.

Our blog is currently the number three most popular law blog in the U.S. (via Alexa) and the number one Royal Caribbean Cruise Norovirusmost popular law blog in the U.S. written by a practicing lawyer (again via Alexa).

The motto of our blog is "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know."  If you want idyllic images of perfect cruise ship vacations to tropical paradises, stick to the travel publications and cruise fan blogs. We offer a glimpse into the world of cruising that the cruise executives prefer you not know.

In the last year, we broke stories involving MSC Cruises dumping garbage bags at sea, Silvesea Cruises hiding carts of food from U.S. health inspectors, and Carnival scrapping its crew retirement program.  We provide an inside look at norovirus outbreaks that the cruise lines always blame on the passengers. This past week, our blog was featured in newspapers and on television in the Bahamas regarding the issue of crime against cruise passengers.

Thank you for reading our blog. Take a moment and subscribe by clicking on the RSS feed or sending us your e-mail address in the box to the lower left.

You can also follow the latest developments in the intersecting worlds of cruise ships and the practice of law on our Facebook page.

Thanks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reshuffling the Deck: Royal Caribbean Elevates CPA to Oversee New Risk Management Department

Effective Monday May 5, 2014, Royal Caribbean will create a new risk management department which will be managed by a certified public accountant, Tom Burke. Mr. Burke joined the cruise line in 2003 and most recently worked as the Vice President of Audit and Advisory Services. He was previously a manager at the accounting firm KPMG in Miami.

The creation of the new risk management department will require the reshuffling of a number of in-house lawyers and employees of the cruise line's crew medical department.

Claims handling and litigation matters are currently handled by the company's legal department managed by General Counsel Bradley Stein. With that responsibility being transferred to Mr. Burke Adam Goldstein President Royal Caribbean Cruisesnext week, the Associate Vice President of Litigation, Paul Hehir, will be assigned to the newly created risk management department. He will manage five in house lawyers, six crew claims adjusters, and four passenger claims adjusters.

Members of the crew medical department will also transition to the new risk management department. Vince Warger, Penny Shifrin, Dr. Fabio Acevedo and LaShawn Knight will move to risk management, as well as eight crew medical managers and coordinators.  A new team leader will be hired to supervise the medical group and report to Mr. Burke. 

Associate Vice President of Guest and Employee Legal Services,Tony Faso, will remain under Mr. Stein.

The new risk management department is the idea of Chief Operating Officer (COO) and President of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., Adam Goldstein (photo above right), who recently replaced Richard Fain (now Chairman) at the helm of the cruise line. 

We anticipate that this restructuring will have an impact on the medical treatment of crew members and the management of the legal claims asserted against the company by passengers and crew members. 

Over the recent years, we have watched Royal Caribbean make dramatic cost-cutting steps. In 2001, Royal Caribbean fired 500 employees. In 2008, it fired around 400 employees in its headquarters (including many senior female managers in its legal department). And last year, it terminated the employment of another 100 employees in its shore-side offices.

Officers in the Royal Caribbean fleet complained last year of job and cost cuts, additional work and lower compensation, while shipboard tip earners (cabin attendants and waiters) have complained that the cashless, pre-paid gratuity was really a scheme to divert tips from the guests into the cruise lines' coffers to defray the costs to the cruise line of paying the salaried ship employees.

We have most recently witnessed a renewed effort by the cruise line's crew medical department to refuse to authorize significant medical treatment, needed by sick crew members, in order to save money. Some of the cases are heart breaking, including the abandonment of ill crew members who need surgeries and ship employees stricken with cancer who have been sent home with no arrangements for chemotherapy.

The transfer of medical managers & coordinators responsible for providing medical treatment to ship employees, as well as the re-positioning of lawyers & adjusters responsible for crew injuries and medical claims, to a new department overseen by an accountant may signal an effort to further reduce costs.  

COO Goldstein's plans for his new risk management department specifically envision cost reduction. We predict that fewer benefits to the ill and injured crew members will be the net result.    

 

Photo Credit: Merco Press

Friends of the Earth Sue EPA Over Cruise & Cargo Ship Sewage

Yesterday the Friends of the Earth (FOE) filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington D.C. against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in an effort to force the federal agency to regulate sewage discharges from cruise ships and other vessels in U.S. waters.

As the Palm Beach Post points out, cruise ships alone dumped more than one billion gallons of sewage in the ocean last year. And much of what cruise ships discharge is poorly treated.

The FOE stated: "Cruise ships with populations the size of small towns ply the waters off our coasts and massive cargo ships carrying goods to our ports produce and then dump large amounts of partially Cruise Pollution treated sewage and other wastes into our oceans. 

“The EPA is required under the Clean Water Act to protect people who swim, boat, and fish in waters affected by ship sewage discharges. Modern sewage treatment options are available for relatively low cost, but EPA hasn’t updated it regulations to reflect those advances since 1976. As a result, ships can dump bacteria-laden wastewater in some of our most valuable waters."

You can read the lawsuit here.

As we have mentioned in the past, the FOE "grades" the cruise lines for their treatment of the environment. Last year, the FOE report card contained F's for Costa, Crystal, MSC and P&O. Royal Caribbean received a C and Carnival received a C-.  Disney received an A.

Here's how the cruise lines have treated the planet over the last few years:

Enemies of the Environment? Costa, Crystal & P&O Cruises Flunk Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card, While Carnival & Royal Caribbean Receive "D+" (2012)

Cruise Ships Turn British Columbia Waters into "Toilet Bowel of Raw Sewage" (2010)

New Report Details Cruise Industry's Record of Pollution (2009)

The cruise industry claims that it is the "guardian of the seas." But this year we posted videos of MSC Cruises dumping garbage bags and plastic materials into the waters of Brazil.

 

Image credit: Cruise Ship Cartoon Shields via earthisland.org and Campaign to Safeguard America's Waterways 

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

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

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

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

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

We have talked about this foolishness before:

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / TampAGS, for AGS Media

FOX 4: "Couple Appalled By Cruise Line's Rescue Effort to Find Missing Man"

Man Overboard Bahamas CelebrationA couple from Cape Coral, Florida say that they are "shocked" at how ill-equipped and unprepared the Bahamas Celebration cruise ship and crew seemed during the search and rescue mission of the overboard passenger yesterday. FOX 4 / WFTX (Fort Meyers) reported on the man overboard situation via reporter @GabrielleSarann.

They send a letter to the cruise line which said in part:

" . . . In my opinion i think the cruise line should be better prepared for a man overboard situation. What we saw could have been better. 1 we noticed that the search light was broken we did see it working for a few minutes and then noticed crew members unsuccessfully trying to repair it. 2 we noticed that there were 2 boats on board that could have been used in the rescue attempt and only one was used, and the one that was used broke in the middle of the search i have on video the crew trying to start the boat and paddling back to the boat with oars. 3 the music on the pool deck was not turned off for about 40 min after the rescue attempt started which made it impossible to hear anybody yelling for help. 4 I noticed one crew member who I'm guessing was supposed to be searching for the person sleeping. I think that the cruise line could of and should of done a better job in this situation.

I know the coast guard got there quickly but those 30 to 40 min before they arrived i think are the most important only one life buoy ring with a light was thrown in. giving any possible survivor only one point of reference to see not to mention the ability to help track the currents. Please for the future safety of your future customers fix these things." 

You can watch the video here.

Man Disappears From Bahamas Celebration Cruise Ship

Bahamas Celebration Cruise ShipA local newspaper in South Florida is reporting that a man disappeared from the Bahamas Celebration cruise ship operated by Celebration Cruise Line.

CBS Miami states that sometime shortly after 2:00 AM last night, the cruise ship notified the U.S. Coast Guard received that a man from South Carolina was missing from the ship. The article indicates that the cruise line did not know how the man went overboard. 

The ship had departed Freeport, Bahamas on Saturday around 6 PM and was heading to its home port in West Palm Beach when the man went overboard.

The cruise line says that it searched for the man but was unable to locate him. 

The Celebration Cruise Line is one of many cruise lines which has not bothered to install an automatic man overboard system, in violation of the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act.

A Canadian passenger, Fariba Amani, disappeared from the Bahamas Celebration 2 years ago. Her disappearance remains a mystery.

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein has documented 231 cases of overboard passengers and crew members since 2000.

This particular cruise ship has been the subject of cocaine smuggling arrests, sexual assault and fire in the last couple of years.

April 29 2014 Update:

FOX 4: "Couple Appalled By Cruise Line's Rescue Effort to Find Missing Man."

Palm Beach Post: "Uncle says man who jumped off cruise ship not suicidal."

 

Photo Credit: thebahamasweekly.com

Disney Child Molestation Case: "Swept Under the Rug"

Disney Cruise Ship CrimeWKMG Local 6 (Orlando) aired the second segment of an interview with a former Disney security officer regarding an incident in 2012 when the Disney Dream staff captain ordered her to "keep her mouth shut" after she investigated the sexual assault of an 11 year-old girl by a 33 year-old Disney waiter.

The incident occurred in U.S. waters in Port Canaveral but Officer Dawn Taplin was ordered by the staff captain to be quiet.  She feared that she would lose her job if she notified the local police at the port or in Brevard county or called the FBI. She quit her job, according to WKMG, a few weeks after the crime.

Disney sailed the Dream out of U.S. waters and flew its employee home to India rather than promptly reporting the sexual molestation to U.S. law authorities who had jurisdiction.

Officer Taplin said that she felt like Disney tried to sweep the crime under the carpet, partly because the little girl and her grandmother were Brazilian. "Disney wouldn't have got away with it if they were Americans," Officer Taplin told WKMG's Mike DeForest.

You can watch other portions of the eye-opening interview here and here.

WKMG has been a leader in reporting crimes which occur on cruise ships.  Read and watch: "Murky reporting obscures some cruise ship crimes."

Credits: WKMG Local 6 (Orlando)

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

 

Consumer Reports: Getting Sick at Sea on Cruise Ships

Consumer Reports published a good article about some of the issues cruise passengers will encounter (like norovirus) and has some advice for the traveling public. According to Consumer Reports medical adviser, Dr. Orly Avitzur: 

  • A cruise ship is more like a "floating hotel with a doctor at hand", than a floating hospital. 
  • Think twice about traveling with a chronic medical condition. The Coast Guard can't always launch a rescue, if the seas are rough or the ship is too far from land.
  • Know that most prescription drugs are not available on a cruise ship. Always travel with an extra supply of all medications.
  • Cruise ships don't accept insurance. Get ready to pay a premium, out of pocket, for any on-board care.
  • Buy travel insurance. Avoid policies that are sold by tour operators, travel agents and cruise-lines.

Interested in this issue? We suggest reading: Cruise Ship Bathrooms, Norovirus and Medical Care.

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.

Disney Dream Child Molestation Case: Staff Captain Instructed Security Officer Not to Contact U.S. Law Authorities

After a 33 year-old Disney waiter molested an 11 year-old girl aboard the Disney Dream at the port of Cape Canaveral, the cruise ship's staff captain ordered a security officer not to contact local U.S. police officers or the FBI. 

That's what former Disney security officer Dawn Taplin told Orlando news station WKMG Local 6 in an interview which aired last night. WKMG reporter Mike DeForest conducted the interview.  

The Dream then left the U.S. port and sailed to Nassau where Disney flew the pervert back to his home in India.

According to the WKMG interview, Officer Taplin previously worked for the Palm Bay Police Department and Port Canaveral Police. Disney Cruise Child MolestationDisney recruited her to work for the family-oriented cruise line as a Security Officer. She was responsible for supervising 8 or 9 security guards. She was the first female security officer at Disney. 

In 2012 Officer Taplin was involved in the investigation of a child molestation case on the Disney Dream. An upset, crying 11 year-old girl told her that a 33 year-old Disney waiter followed her into an elevator and grabbed her breast and kissed her on the mouth. Officer Taplin reviewed surveillance video that confirmed the incident and wanted to call Port Canaveral police or her longtime contact with the FBI in Brevard County. However, Officer Taplin says that the cruise ship's staff captain ordered her not to report the crime. 

WKMG reported that the Disney Dream left Port Canaveral promptly at 5:02 p.m. with the victim and the molestation suspect still on board.

Officer Taplin told WKMG that "Disney waits on passengers' luggage . . . not setting sail on time. I remember waiting until 6:30 one time on somebody's luggage."

The Disney staff captain was not identified in the interview.  it will be interesting to determine his identity and find out whether he is still working on Disney cruise ships. It will also be interesting to learn whether the staff captain contacted Disney's shore-side risk management department about the crime before the cruise ship left the jurisdiction and determine whether the quick departure was approved by Disney's corporate management. Disney was quoted, when WKMG exposed the cover-up, saying that the ship handled the case properly. 

Image and video credit:  WKMG Local 6 (Orlando)

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

 

WKMG Local 6 (Orlando): "A Former Disney Cruise Officer Speaks Out"

Tonight an Orlando television station is airing an interview with a former Disney Cruise Line security officer about her experiences working aboard Disney cruise ships.

WKMG (Orlando) has released a short preview of the interview on a Facebook page. The program tonight is entitled "Exposed - Crimes Going Unreported."

The interview was conducted by WKMG reporter Mike DeForest. The Facebook page states:

"I speak exclusively with a former Disney Cruise Line Security Officer. She'll expose the Disney Cruise - Sexual Assaultcrime she saw while working on the inside, and share info you and your family need to know before sailing."

WKMG has been the leader in reporting on cases where Disney cruise line employees have sexually molested girls during cruises. 

Last year, WKMG reported on a 33 year old Disney waiter sexually assaulted an 11 year old girl. Even though the crime occurred at the port in Cape Canaveral in Florida waters, Disney refused to report it to U.S. law enforcement and sailed the cruise ship to the Bahamas where Disney flew the sexual predator back to India.

This year, a 36 year old Disney cabin attendant sexually molested a 13 year old girl aboard the Disney Dream.

Hopefully this former Disney security officer can shed some insight into the case where Disney refused to report the child molester to the police in the U.S. 

I will be posting the interviews when they become public. Update: Watch the complete video here: Disney Dream Child Molestation Case: Staff Captain Instructed Security Officer Not to Contact U.S. Law Authorities.

 

 

Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World

Caribbean Crime Cruise ShipThe last thing that a family going on vacation wants to think of is being victims of crime. Cruise lines spend literally hundreds of millions of dollars a year creating idyllic illusions of tropical vacations on beautiful Caribbean beaches.  But behind that slick marketing facade lies danger.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime recently released a Global Study on Homicide 2013. The Huffington Post posted an article based on the study entitled the 10 Countries With The World's Highest Murder Rates

The most dangerous countries mentioned in the study read like a cruise line itinerary: Honduras (No. 1), Venezuela (No. 2), Belize (No. 3),  El Salvador (No. 4), Guatemala (No. 5),  Jamaica (no. 6),  St. Kitts - Nevis (no. 8), and Colombia (no. 10).  The UN executive summary says that Caribbean countries are home to to 8.5% of the world's population, but they account for about 27% of world crime. 

I made my own list of the most dangerous countries you can cruise to.  No, its not scientific in nature based on empirical evidence. It's anecdotal in nature based on information we receive from cruise passengers who contact us and complain about being a victim of crime in a port of call. 

99% of the people who contact us, both passengers and crew, are victims of crime in the Caribbean countries. A few people complained of being pick-pocketed in Italy. But we have received no reports of guns or knives from people visiting European or African ports ever. Of course, ports in Australia and New Zealand are fabulously safe. We have also never received a complaint about crime in the Asian ports.

We know what people will think when they read the list. "Crime occurs everywhere. Just use common sense. Stay with the cruise line excursions ashore." I say nonsense to that. The fact is that crime occurs in certain places far more than others. No one has ever contacted us about crime during a Seattle / Vancouver / Alaska cruise.

"Common sense" is no help when a port advertised as a peaceful getaway has a murder rate 25 times more dangerous than where you live and no one has bothered to tell you that. Some of the Caribbean countries have high homicide rates, one as high as around 90 murders per 100,000 people, whereas the average city in the U.S. is a little over 4 homicides per 100,000. 

The tourism officials in the islands? Worthless. They'd just as soon sell you a straw hat as a wooden box to transport your body back home.  And don't think that being on an official cruise tour is safer than exploring on your own. A busload of U.S. tourists may look like Fort Knox to a gang of armed banditos in an impoverished country, as you can read below.

Many people living in these Caribbean countries will be insulted and say how can you point the finger at us when you have cities like Detroit or Newark? But who on earth would ever vacation in one of these U.S. cities? Everyone knows Newark is dangerous. But few people who just bought a St.Lucia Cruise Ship Crimecruise realize that Nassau is also dangerous. 

The other problem facing cruise tourists in the Caribbean is that once you are victimized, the crooks are rarely apprehended. There is little justice. Of the last 50 U.S. citizens killed in Honduras, for example, the local police have solved just 2 cases.

Here's my list:

10. St. Lucia: This island is a good case study on what can go wrong during a cruise excursion. 69 cruise passengers were robbed at gun point on just two excursions. There were no warnings by the cruise lines or the local tourism officials, even though there had been prior crimes against tourists. The St. Lucia tourism officials lied to the victimized passengers, telling them that nothing like this had ever happened before.

55 Celebrity Cruise Passengers & 2 Crew Members Robbed at Gun Point in St. Lucia.

14 Cruise Passengers Robbed at Anse-La-Raye Waterfall in St. Lucia.

Norwegian Cruise Line Drops St. Lucia.

U.K. Couple Attacked on Yacht in St. Lucia, Husband Killed.

Liar, Liar Pants On Fire? St. Lucia Tourism Board Denies Prior Armed Robbery of Cruise Passengers

9. El Salvador: El Salvador is one of a few countries which is subject to a "critical" crime warning from the U.S. State Department. It has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world. In Carnival Cruise Passenger Robbed2012, it suffered from a murder rate of 69 per 100,000 people. By comparison, the murder rate in Massachusetts, with a similar geographical area and population, was 2.6 per 100,000. Murders and crimes against U.S. citizens are rarely solved. 

8.  United States Virgin Islands (USVI):  The cruise industry already abandoned one of the major islands in USVI, St. Croix, after tourists were murdered over a decade ago. Cruise ships are still sailing to the other major island, St. Thomas, after a 14 year old girl from a cruise ship visiting St. Thomas was murdered.

There are way too many guns, drugs, robberies, and murders to pretend the USVI are a place for a family to vacation. The leading maritime case involving a cruise line's duty to warn passengers of dangers ashore involves St. Thomas.

Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas.

Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals: Cruise Lines Have Duty to Warn of Danger of Crime in Ports of Call.

Antigua Crime Cruise Ship7. Antigua: Like other beautiful but impoverished islands in the Caribbean, Antigua seems like paradise but it has seen more than its share of tragedies. The murder of a young woman during a cruise for her sister's wedding led to the cruise company dropping the island as a port of call, but it quickly returned. Travel writers and cruise bloggers tend to hide the ugly side of ports of call in exchange for free perks.

Passenger From Star Clippers Murdered in Antigua

Cruise Passengers Attacked & Robbed in Antigua While Cruise and Tourism Officials Meet.

Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News.

Murder in Antigua: Store Employee Shot in Cruise Tourism Zone Heritage Quay.

6. St. Kitts - Nevis:  Another pretty but poor island where cruise passengers have been robbed "in bulk." The disparity in wealth between the locals and the affluent cruise passengers often leads to armed robberies.

17 Cruise Passengers Robbed in St. Kitts.

Visitors Warned About Safety in St. Kitts After Tourist Robbery.

Royal Caribbean Passenger Alleges Sexual Assault During Sailing Excursion in St. Kitts & Nevis.

Mexico Cruise Ship Murder5. Mexico: This country has suffered some of the worst crime stories over the years. Drugs and be-headings are usually not in the tourists areas, but the tourist spots suffer from the nation's poor image. Places like Acapulco are literally defended by army soldiers.   

Armed Banditos Rob 22 Carnival Passengers on Excursion in Mexico.

Gun Fight in Cabo San Lucas - Is It Safe to Cruise to Mexico?

Royal Caribbean Passenger Alleges Gang Rape in Cozumel.

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Murdered in Mexico.

Mexican Violence: Does Anyone Cruise to Acapulco Anymore?

Mexico Vacation Awareness.

4. Guatemala:  Guatemala is not a place where you should think of renting a car and driving in remote areas, as ambushes of tourists and armed robberies are not uncommon. Many people consider El Salvador equally dangerous to cruise tourists.

Norwegian Cruise Line Passenger Murdered in Guatemala.

3. Venezuela:  Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates. Crime has increased substantially over the last few years.

Cruise Passenger Murdered in Venezuela's Margarita Island.

Roatan Crime 2. Honduras:

Roatan Honduras has been in the news lately following the murder of a NCL crew member who was gunned down in a gruesome crime for his cell phone. The expatriate land and business owners are campaigning that crime is rare, but they are suffering violence and many break-ins and burglaries of their homes and businesses.

We have chronicled several armed robberies of cruise passengers and the sexual assault of a U.S. tourist this year. Like many other Caribbean islands, the police are either indifferent or corrupt. The legal system is somewhere between barbaric and non-existent. 

NCL Crew Member Shot & Killed in Roatan, Honduras.

Roatan: The Irresponsibility of Travel Writers.

U.S. Department of State Critical Crime warning.

Cruise Ship Armed Robbery1. Bahamas: We have been warning about crime in Nassau ever since we started this blog in September 2009. In October 2009, two "vicious robbers" robbed a group of 11 terrified cruise passengers from a Royal Caribbean ship by gunpoint in Nassau. In November 2009, 18 cruise passengers were robbed during excursions from Royal Caribbean and Disney cruise ships.

Crime has gotten worse in Nassau. We receive more complaints about crime in Nassau than all of the other ports in the Caribbean combined. Armed robberies, sexual assault of teenagers and young women, and the murder of a tourist makes this port a dangerous place to take your family. The second you step off the cruise ship you're likely to be offered drugs.

The U.S. State Department has issued multiple critical crime warning for the Bahamas.

The Bahamian archaic legal system is indifferent to the plight of U.S. crime victims and the country is inept at solving crimes in port or on Bahamian-flagged cruise ships.  

Warning: U.S. Citizen Murdered in Nassau - Cruise Passengers Urged to Avoid Travel to the Bahamas!

Cruise Passenger Beaten and Raped in Nassau.

U.S. Attorney Raises Alarm Over Crime - Bahamas "One Shot Away" From Cruise Line Exit.

U.S. Embassy in Nassau Issues Critical Crime Warning.

 

Additional Reading: The New York Times publishes an story called "When Crime Comes to Barbados Cruise CrimeParadise." Written by Michelle Higgins in the Times' "Practical Traveler" section, the article suggests that crime is rising in the Caribbean islands such as Belize, Dominican Republic, and St. Lucia.

Dis-Honorable Mentions:

Barbados: Two British Cruise Passengers Shot in Barbados During P&O World Cruise.

Caymans: Police in Cayman Islands Investigating Sexual Assault of Cruise Ship Passenger.

St. Marteen: Crew Member Shot in St. Marteen.

 

April 23 2014 Update:  St Lucia OnLine: St. Lucia ranked in top 10 most dangerous cruise destinations in the world (read comments to article).

St. Maarten Island Time: Port of St. Maarten Not Listed in Cruise Law News Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World - Destination must remain safe, secure and hospitable.

Barbados Nation News: US Blogger Takes a Swipe at Barbados.

Nassau Guardian: U.S. Based Attorney Lists Bahamas As "Most Dangerous" Cruise Port

The website Cruise Line Fans released its Top 5 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations a couple of years ago, as follows: 1. Antigua,  2. Jamaica,  3. Brazil,  4. Nassau Bahamas,  and 5. cruise ships.

The website Crew Center lists: Mexico, Brazil, Nassau Bahamas, Barcelona Spain and Naples Italy.

Nassau Tribune: U.S. Girl Strangled, Sexually Assaulted in the Bahamas.

 

Photo Credit: 

Crime tape - Crime Will Destroy Us! bahamas B2B.

St. Lucia armed robbery - DBS TV St. Lucia via the Times.

Acapulco killings - "Drug Related Killings on the Rise in Acapulco."

Nassau armed robbery - Caribbean 360.

Barbados Shooting: Splash News/Alamy.

Roatan: The Irresponsibility of Travel Writers

The last two weeks has been an eye opener for knowledgeable tourists thinking of traveling to Roatan. A cruise line employee was gunned down near the port. The bloody death was widely reported in the local newspapers which published gruesome photographs of the dead crew member.

As a result, a major cruise line temporarily pulled out of Roatan. A major excursion company also canceled all tours of the island expressing concerns for the safety of cruise passengers.

The story revealed some disturbing information about the island.  A number of tourists, some arriving by cruise ship and some by air going to dive, have been robbed at gun point and machete point this year. 

Hundreds of people have left comments on our website and Facebook pages about what they think of Roatan Honduras Murder CruiseRoatan. Many islanders and expatriates who bought homes and invested in businesses in Roatan swear that the beautiful island is perfectly safe. Others have stated that it is a dangerous place, with corrupt and/or incompetent/indifferent policemen, where crimes are covered up.

I have received a wide range of responses to my articles, including curses and threats from those who feel an obligation to protect the island's reputation, whether it be for sincere, patriotic reasons or in the calculated defense of their financial investments. I have also received comments from expatriates who have fled the island in fear, or who are stuck with their debt on the island, saying you-have-no-idea-how-bad-it-is-here. 

The most expressive of expatriates in Roatan have informed me of the dangers they perceive presented by what they describe as the thugs in gangs or crack-heads desperate to feed their drug habits. These types intimidate the good people in the community who are afraid to swear out complaints to the police out of fear of retribution. There is animosity between the islanders and the people from the mainland where murders are so frequent as to earn Honduras the infamous designation of having the highest murder rate in the world since 2010. Honduras and the Bahamas are the only cruise destinations in the Caribbean with critical crime warnings from the U.S. State Department.     

Some defenders of Roatan argue that things will get better and justice is possible in Roatan, pointing out that the police quickly apprehended the man who shot and killed the cruise line employee. (Photo above) But others point out that police work really didn't solve the murder. Rather, the mayor's $5,000 reward led to the alleged murderer's friends shooting him in the leg and then calling the cops for the reward money. Some people has posed the question to me - do you want to live in a place where a ship employee will be gunned down for a $250 cell phone and the crime will be solved only when the murderer's friends commit another crime by shooting him for a $5,000 reward?

It is with this backdrop that I read an article today in the Huffington Post entitled "Your Next Trip Should Be to Roatan, Honduras. Here's Why."

It's what I call a "puff-piece" by a travel writer, extolling the quiet "authentic island charm" and the "warm and friendly" people. There is no mention of murder or robbery or crime in the article - only images of the beautiful blue waters, the white sandy beaches, and the thick green forests of the "paradise island of Roatan." 

The article has seemingly been liked and re-tweeted by virtually every resort, dive shop, and bar on Roatan Honduras CrimeRoatan.

Is Roatan the "paradise" portrayed by the article? The article mentioned several resorts and tourist attractions. Did the travel writer pay for her stay on the island or was this a quid-pro-quo great review for a free vacation?      

Some people have warned me that if I travel to Roatan to check things out for myself, not to take a taxi or rent a car.  Some of the tourists and locals have been held up by the taxi drivers. Tourists renting cars have been ambushed when they leave the main roads (photo right). If you complain to the police, I am told, there is an even chance the police will do nothing or, worse, they will be in cahoots with the crooks.

I have written before about travel writers ignoring crime and violence and painting a false and misleading image of travel destinations: Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News.

As I said before, travel writers who ignore the murders and violence in the Caribbean ports are not doing anyone a favor. And they are providing a grave disservice to the next unsuspecting family who travels to Roatan blindly looking for paradise.  

April 21 2014 Update: Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World 

 

Read: Crime, What Crime? - Bay Village Voice January 2006  

Photo Credit: Cruise Critic (bottom) 

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

The Nassau Tribune reports on a criminal hearing last weekend in the Bahamas after five cruise ship passengers from two different ship were arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana.  The five passengers each had between one and five grams of pot. I'm told that's enough pot for a couple of joints.

A 28 year old from Leesburg, Florida was apprehended by the Chief of Security on the Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas with 1 gram of pot. The ship's security invited the Bahamian police onto the Enchantment and handed the joint and the passenger over. The Magistrate filed him Pot Bahamas$500 and threatened that if he didn't pay the fine immediately he would throw him in jail, adding “and unlike US prisons, our prisons are not as hospitable.” 

A 27 year old man from Sarasota, Florida was arrested after he bought 2 grams of pot ashore in downtown Nassau. He arrived in Nassau on the Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas. The Magistrate fined him $500 as well, telling him "some countries in Asia can carry a punishment as severe as death."

A 60 year old woman on the Enchantment of the Seas was arrested with 5 grams of pot. The magistrate filed her $800, stating (and I quote): "It is a shock that individuals at this age would be engaging in such illegal activities.” 

A 61 year old man from Fort Meyers on an unspecified cruise ships was arrested after the cruise ship turned him over to the Bahamian police with 5 grams of pot. He received a $800 fine.

The last pothead was a 37 year old who bought 2 grams for $50 at the straw market. The stoner told the judge “I was walking around the straw market. I was drinking. I had like two rums that morning . . " The judge was unimpressed and threatened him with a three month jail sentence if he didn't pay $500 right away.  

It never ceases to amaze me that cruise lines like Royal Caribbean make hundreds of millions of dollars pushing booze on their ships to the point that the passenger are knee-walking-and-puking drunk, but a cruise ship security officer will collar a guest for a single joint and turn them over to the police. 

The double standard also applies to the Bahamas where pot dealers canvas the port and sell pot up and down Bay Street and in and around every bar in town. One of the chief complaints we hear from Crime Nassau Bahamascruise passengers sailing to Nassau is that they are constantly harassed by the local citizens to buy pot the second they step off the cruise ship and walk into town.  

The Bahamas has one of the highest crime rates in the world. It lets child predators go free, it has a deplorable record solving crimes on Bahamian-flagged cruise ships, and it is clueless when it comes to solving murders and violent crimes against tourists

Nabbing cruise tourists with a joint or two, and teaming up with the cruise lines to pull passengers off the ship with small amounts of pot while Bahamians are openly selling the stuff at the straw market, are duplicitous revenue collecting exercises.

The Bahamas is one gunshot away from losing the cruise lines. It needs to concentrate its limited resources on protecting its citizens and visitors from armed bad guys and not hassle the tourists who bring money into its impoverished country. 

 

Photo Credit: Vibe (top); Nassau Tribune April 9 2014 newspaper - Tribune.

Arrest Made in Roatan for Robberies of Cruise Passengers & Tourists

A number of people have sent me links to news sources in Roatan indicating that the local police arrested a 20 year old islander, identified as Cory Lee Beckner, as a suspect in the robbery of several cruise passengers and tourists.

Teledifusora Insular indicates that the young man is the son of the owner of Palm Beach in Roatan. He allegedly is the "ringleader of a gang" which preyed on tourists to Roatan.

He reportedly was born in the U.S. although he was raised as an "islander" in Roatan. This comes to the surprise of many who blamed the Hondurans from the mainland for causing all of the trouble on their island.

The Trip Advisor site contains a comment by a cruise passenger (from Royal Caribbean) to Roatan which said this about Palm Cory Lee Beckner Roatan Honduras CrimeBeach after a cruise to Roatan last month:

"We booked an excursion from cruiseexcursions.com to go zip lining in South Side, and Eco-tour there and a beach trip to West Bay Tabyana. The local company who facilitated the tours was Christopher tours. For some non-understandable reason, we were taken instead to Palm Beach. There was only one other family there and we got eated up with sand flea bites within minutes of getting there. On the way out from the beach to the main road, we were shot at by robbers. They shot the tire out on our cab, held a gun to my 15 year old sons head and a knife to my 16 year old sons throat and robbed us of money, cameras, phones, shoes and clothes. Apparently this is common on Roatan."

Was 20 year-old Mr. Beckner really involved in this crime or any of the other crimes alleged by tourists who visited Roatan this year? 

Anyone with information regarding the suspect or crime in Roatan, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

More Trouble for Cruise Tourism in Roatan

The Telegraph reports that Cruising Excursions, a company which operates tours exploring Roatan's "fishing villages, mangroves, iguana farms and beaches," announced that it is canceling its tours on the island.

An excursion company representative said that “a string of reports of robberies, violence against visitors and now this horrific murder have forced us to suspend our cruise excursion programme on this beautiful island. "

The newspaper further quoting the spokesperson saying that it is “very sad for the majority of law Roatan Hondurad Cruise Crimeabiding island residents, especially those who make a living from tourism but we cannot recommend cruisers go ashore until we are reassured that measures are in place to protect visitors."

The excursion company also said that all bookings have been canceled with full refunds.

Roatan is in crisis mode trying to respond to the murder of a Filipino crew member from the Norwegian Pearl a week ago. We previously reported on the horrific crime

The excursion company's withdrawal from Roatan is significant because it was based not only on the recent homicide but on what it describes as a string of violent robberies this year. 

We reported on prior armed robberies in January and March

Roatan attended the Cruise Shipping Miami convention in Miami Beach last month to promote its port. I stopped and took a photo of the booth. I thought that it was just a matter of time before something like this happened.

 

Photo Credit:  Jim Walker

A Week the Cruise Industry Would Like to Forget

This week has been a public relations disaster for the cruise lines and the travel industry.

A Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) crew member from the Norwegian Pearl was gunned down in Roatan after he walked off the ship to call his wife and check on his child back in the Philippines (suspect photo below right). A Disney crew member sexually molested a 13 year old girl on the Disney Dream.  A visitor from Canada was murdered and his family terrorized in the Bahamas. A MSC cruise ship, the Magnifica, was raided by the police and labor officials in Brazil for human rights violations. Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise ships infected hundreds and hundreds of guests with norovirus aboard the Grandeur of the Seas and the Crown Princess

You can read about the stories here.

A month ago I attended the Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM) and listened to NCL CEO Kevin Sheehan Roatan Murder Suspect Cruisesay: "we are ruled by public opinion; unless we can keep our business running right we will always be on defensive." The NCL boss added: "a period of operational excellence and no media incidents are needed."

A month ago I wrote that the continuous stories about mistreatment of crew members, sexual assaults, and children victimization will continue to damage the cruise industry's image. Its like reputation death by a thousand cuts. I heard no PR plan by the cruise lines at CSM to turn things around.  I said at the time that the cruise lines were just "hanging in the balance hoping for the best."

Well the best didn't come and cruise executive Sheehan didn't get his prayer answered for "no media incidents."

This week Sheehan pulled his cruise ships out of Roatan after one of his crew members was murdered last Sunday, but the move is just temporary. His ships will again start calling on Roatan at some point. But the danger is still there. Many cruise passengers, from Carnival and Royal Caribbean, as well as other tourists, have been robbed at gunpoint or machete point in Roatan earlier this year.

Crime in Roatan will not magically stop.  Other cruise tourists will undoubtedly be robbed. Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world not to mention dysfunctional police and legal systems. Where do the cruise line go instead? Belize? The Bahamas? Their crime and murder rates are also some of the worst in the world.

Roatan, Belize, and the Bahamas are all beautiful but they are all dangerous places to visit. What families want to save up all year and go on a Caribbean vacation to get away from the stresses of their lives just to end up in some of the most dangerous countries in the world?

A new Harris Poll revealed that the cruise industry's image is sinking. The poll says that the U.S. public questions the safety and reliability of cruising. The poll cited the numerous norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships as one reason for the lack of confidence in the cruise industry. The poll was taken before the Roatan shooting or the Disney child molestation case this week.

Crime, Crew Member Treatment & Environmental Practices - Not "Wow" Gadgets - Will Shape the Millennials' View of Cruising in the Future

This week I have read a couple of articles about the Cruise Lines International Association's (CLIA) "Cruise 3 Sixty" conference in Fort Lauderdale. I read an article in the Sun Sentinel (Cruise Execs Talk About Industry's Future) and an article in Travel Weekly (CEOs Say Cruise Lines Must Wow Travelers).

CLIA's Christine Duffy moderated the conference attended by the travel agent loyals. She discussed the future of cruising with the executives of the major cruise lines like Richard Fain (Royal Caribbean), Arnold Donald (Carnival), Kevin Sheehan (NCL) and Pierfrancesco Vaga (MSC Cruises).

"The Millennials"

To attract more first-time cruisers, CLIA is targeting the "Millennials" (consumers born between 1980 & Millennials2000).  

The Sun Sentinel quotes Ms. Duffy saying: "This demographic group offers a window into the next generation of travelers and provides opportunity for serious growth. They have a strong desire to travel and to share experiences."

In simple terms Ms. Duffy is talking about the next generation of young people from age 14 to 34 (like my children and nieces) who CLIA is targeting as the next wave of 25 to 55 year-old cruisers. 

Who are these "Millennials?" What will they be interested in for their vacations?

Selling cruises to the the "Millennials" will not be an easy task. 

First, they are poorer than prior generations. They have more debt and student loans. And it won't be difficult to sell them cruises just because they will have lower incomes and less wealth. It's because there will be a disconnect between what the Millennials are interested in and what the cruise lines are offering, and because the Millennials will have a greater social consciousness than the current cruisers.  

Wow Gadgets Won't Wow the Millennials

The articles report that the cruise industry is trying to attract more first time cruisers by offering the public "more innovative ships with 'wow' features."

A recent publication correctly called the Millennials "digital wizards." Like my kids, they have grown up with high tech gaming toys seemingly before they could walk or talk. I don't see the Millennials being impressed by the "gee-whizz" and so-called "wow" gadgets being touted by Royal Caribbean (virtual balconies & the "North Star" device) or Princess (the "SeaWalk"). The Millennials are smart and their taste for technology is sophisticated. My kids have been mastering Apple products for 15 years. They Royal Caribbean Bumper Carsare not easily impressed with what I or the 60 and 70 year old cruise executives think are "cool." 

Some of the new attractions touted by the cruise lines are hardly wow gadgets in the first place. The bumper cars projected to appear on Royal Caribbean's next ship are a silly, old-school idea.  The Travel Weekly article even talks about "bowling alleys and self-leveling pool tables" and quotes Royal Caribbean's Chairman Richard Fain saying: "All of that conveys what cruising has to offer. It says something about what the industry stands for.”  Circa 1950 bumper cars, bowling alleys, pool tables for the Millennials? You have to be kidding me.   

The Millennials are less privileged, more diverse, and more liberal than today's cruisers. 4 out of 10 will not be white. They will be more sensitive to the plight of workers in the international community being over-worked and underpaid. They will be more attuned to environmental issues. They will have a greater understanding of the fragility of the air and water ecosystems that the cruise lines routinely abuse.

Human Rights, Not Bumper Cars

In the last three months, one cruise line in particular, MSC Cruises, has repeatedly made the news in the worst sort of way. Just this year, passengers and crew members have accused it of dumping garbage bags at seas in marine sanctuaries. The police and labor authorities raided one of MSC's ship to investigate allegations of the cruise line abusing crew members. MSC has drawn the ire of environmentalists by sailing through the San Marco basin and damaging the port in Venice.  

The traditional newspapers, like the Sun Sentinel and the Miami Herald, and travel publications like Celebrity Crew MemberTravel Weekly, have given little attention to these type of horror stories.

The image of the cruise industry will be shaped by issues like crime on cruise ships (a Disney crew member allegedly molested a 13 year old girl yesterday), crime in ports of call (a NCL crew member was shot and killed this week in Roatan), treatment of crew members from around the world (Carnival & Royal Caribbean seem to be competing to see who can best screw the crew members), and the cruise industry's pollution of the air and sea (have you seen the videos of MSC dumping trash?)

These are important issues that the Millennials will focus on. In the next 10 to 20 years, we will see the continued rise of social media and the presence of more contemporary publications focusing on issues of relevance to the Millennials.

Old school newspapers, which often blindly cater to the cruise industry, will continue to decline in readership and relevance.  

The bumper-car-and-pool-table and gadget-promoting cruise lines will lose the Millennials as customers unless they understand what the future really holds and begin to address issues of crime, crew member rights and environmental problems.  

Cruise Nightmare: Disney Crew Member Arrested on Charges of Molesting Child on Disney Dream

Ahmed Sofyan - Disney Cruise MolestationNews sources in Florida are reporting that the Port Canaveral Police Department arrested a 36 year old Disney crew member today on charges of molesting a 13 year old girl on the Disney Dream cruise ship.

Florida Today states that "the Port Canaveral Police Department has arrested a Disney Cruise Line crew member today for alleged lewd or lascivious molestation of a minor."

WKMG Orlando, which has been a leader in covering cruise ship crimes, identifies the Disney crew member accused of molesting the 13-year-old girl as Ahmed Sofyan, age 36, of Jakarta, Indonesia.

He was charged with two counts of lewd or lascivious molestation and one count of false imprisonment.

The alleged incident occurred aboard the Disney Dream ship while it was docked in Port Canaveral this morning. 

The Port Canaveral Police Department says that at approximately 8:12 AM, Canaveral Port Authority Police responded to the request of Disney Cruise Lines regarding a lewd or lascivious molestation that occurred aboard the Disney Dream cruise ship while docked at terminal 8 in Port Canaveral. Upon conclusion of the investigation, crew member Ahmed Sofyan (DOB: 07/22/77) of Jakarta, Indonesia, was charged with two counts of lewd or lascivious molestation and one count of false imprisonment. The victim was a 13-year-old female not known to the suspect.

Last year Disney refused to timely report a similar incident when a 33 year old Disney waiter molested an 11 year old girl on the Disney Dream. Although the incident occurred while the cruise ship was in port in Port Canaveral, Disney sailed the cruise ship to the Bahamas in what appeared to be an attempt to aid the crew member in escaping justice.  The Bahamas, as expected, refused to arrest the molester and Disney then flew the crew member back to his home country, India. WKMG covered the disturbing story. You can see photos of the incident here and read our account of the crime here.

Indonesian crew members have received bad press lately.  In February an Indonesian crew member on a HAL cruise ship was arrested in a horrific case where he tried to kill and throw a passenger overboard from the Nieuw Amsterdam.

Sexual assaults against children is an issue we have discussed many times on this blog.  In 2010, we reported on a situation - Passenger Indicted for Sexual Abuse of 13 Year Old Girl on Disney Wonder Cruise Ship 

A news report from WKMG on the latest Disney Cruises child molestation case is below: 

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

 

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Norovirus Aboard Crown Princess Sickens 66 Passengers & 17 Crew Members

Multiple news sources are reporting that an outbreak of a gastrointestinal illness has stricken "at least 66 passengers and 17 crew members" aboard Princess Cruises' Crown Princess.

A spokesperson for Princess Cruises says that the nasty digestive bug is likely norovirus. 

There have been 6 prior gastrointestinal outbreaks on cruise ships calling on U.S. ports this year. There were just 9 in all of last year.

We have been contacted by passengers complaining that passengers were sick and there was a strong smell of vomit in the hallways.

Norovirus has plagued the image of the cruise line. There was a massive outbreak aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas in January. A recent Harris Poll revealed that norovirus was one reason why the public does not perceive cruising as safe or reliable.  

We previously reported on a norovirus case involving the Crown PrincessHere We Go Again: Norovirus Sickens 100 Passengers on Crown Princess Sailing to Galveston

April 10 2014 Update:  The infected count is now at 104 passengers and 25 crew members on the Crown Princess. 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NCL Crew Member Shot & Killed in Roatan, Honduras

This evening we received reliable information that a Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) crew member was shot and killed in Roatan, Honduras earlier today.

The crew member reportedly was from NCL's Norwegian Pearl cruise ship.

The only information we received is that a Pearl crew member named "Jacob" from the Philippines was killed by a gunshot today while the Norwegian Pearl was