Is the Anthem of Seas More Unseaworthy Than It Looks?

Anthem of the Seas StormThe maritime blog gCaptain published an article yesterday, written by Rick Spilman, author of the well written Old Salt blog, entitled Anthem of the Sea - is She  Seaworthy?  The Old Salt blog takes issue with an article I wrote several years ago entitled Are Cruise Ships Dangerously Top Heavy?

In my article I was critical of the cruise industry's trend to build these jam-packed mega cruise ships of today - the 'floating condo" as some call them, which "seem to be out-of-proportionally tall, perched precariously on a hull which seems incapable of safely supporting a structure towering hundreds of feet into the air."  Fours years ago, I said that these monster ships "look like condominiums ripped out of Collins Avenue on Miami Beach and placed on a barge. They look eager to tip over."

I am more convinced today of these observations after the Anthem of the Seas debacle this past week. 

Commenting on the recent fiasco, the Old Salt blog stated that the cruise ship passed the test of encountering a major storm. It said that the cruise ship "survived" what it characterized as a "full-scale blowout trial in highly dangerous conditions." It pointed out that "no one died or was seriously injured" and "the ship made it into port under its own power."

The Old Salt blog scoffed at the notion that the Anthem of the Seas was "unsafe" and concluded that the gigantic cruise ship and others designed like it "are a lot more seaworthy than they look."

But the article was published before the Coast Guard announced that one of the vessel's two azipods Anthem of the Seas Abandon Shipmalfunctioned during the storm and that the Anthem returned to port in New Jersey with only one propulsion unit operating. Late yesterday afternoon, the Coast Guard stated that "during the storm the port azipod, which is one component of the vessel's propulsion system, burned out all four clutches." Royal Caribbean, which initially denied any damage or injury to the ship or the passengers and then claimed that the only damge to the ship was cosmetic, was forced to try and quickly replace the clutches on the storm damaged azipod before the ship's scheduled departure today. The cruise line also decided the starboard azipod 's clutch also needed to be replaced "as a precaution," raising the possibility that it also sustained damage during the storm.

So putting differing opinions aside, the undisputed fact of the matter is that the Anthem of the Seas sustained significant damage to its propulsion system during the storm and returned to port unseaworthy.

The failure of portions of the cruise ship's propulsion system is very troubling  It raises an issue which I discussed in my article four years ago: "ask yourself whether you really want to take your family onto one of these floating sky-scrapper hotels when, God forbid, it loses power while encountering rough seas?"

If the Anthem's propulsion was further disabled during the storm, the cruise ship would be in serious trouble. 

“Major casualties are the result of synergy from multiple causes. If one bad thing happens, you probably get through it,” Coast Guard spokesperson Larry Brennan told the media. “If a ship loses propulsion in a storm, it’s at the mercy of the seas. Instead of cosmetic or structural damage, there’s a much better chance that a ship can be lost.”

Cruise passengers reported that the waves crashed over the top of the lifeboats tethered along the side of the Anthem of the Seas as the ship listed heavily to one side. Even if passengers could have gotten into the lifeboats, this class of Royal Caribbean ships does not have enough lifeboats for both passengers and crew member. The ship is designed such that the crew are forced to use a system of sliding down chutes into life rafts - a dangerous design even in pleasant weather. Panic may cause the crew members and the passengers to compete to get into the lifeboats which are far safer than the liferafts. As I explained and illustrated in my article Titanic Redux, there is a danger of the tether ropes breaking, the chutes twisting, or the life-rafts ripping away from the chutes during the type of rough weather which the Anthem faced this week.  

Of course a vessel can be unseaworthy not only when it is designed in an unsafe manner, or it is in state of disrepair, but when the vessel has unsafe procedures. The fact of the matter is that the Anthem of the Seas and other huge cruise ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet do not have a safe means of evacuating passengers and crew members at sea, particularly in dangerous storm conditions.

But most passengers don't seem to be aware of this dangerous practice. The Anthem is claimed to be a technological marvel with all types of bells and whistle to wow the passengers: from being served by a robotic waiter to simulated surfing on the FlowRider to simulated sky diving on the iFly to riding on the North Star. But it has no way to evacuate people safely if disaster strikes, which almost happened last week.

All issues considered, I would say that the Anthem of the Seas is far more unseaworthy than it looks.

Images credit: Weather Nation YouTube - top

Anthem of the Seas Returns to New Jersey: Has Royal Caribbean Learned a Lesson?

Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas StormThe storm-ravaged Anthem of the Seas is returning to port in New Jersey tonight with around 4,500 passengers aboard, many of whom feel traumatized by the cruise to the Bahamas run amok.

Many passengers on the cruise ship have contacted our office to complain that they literally feared for their lives and those of their families when the ship sailed into the predicted storm earlier this week. Many couples say that they told their partners that they loved them and said goodbye, afraid that as the cruise ship was rocked by 30 foot waves and blasted by 125+ MPH winds the ship would list over and they would drown in the surging ocean.

Many passengers also told me that they knew that there would be no way to safely board life boats in light of the high winds and intense waves if they had to abandon ship. They mentioned their panicked children who saw the fear in their parents' eyes of perishing at sea.

Today I was interviewed by several local news stations in New York City, including the local CBS station channel 2 (video below) about the cruise line's ill-fated decision to cruise into the storm

Meanwhile, it appears that Royal Caribbean has come to the realization that it made a mistake by not paying attention to the weather forecasts (which accurately predicted that there would be a storm developing with waves predicted of over 30 feet). Travel Market reports that Royal Caribbean has formed a shoreside team of meteorologists and captains to monitor the weather and advise the navigational teams of its cruise ships of storms and whether it is prudent to proceed.

Royal Caribbean sent the following statement to the media:

"Anthem of the Seas will return to Cape Liberty, NJ this evening, and we are grateful for the safe return of our guests and crew.

We apologize for exposing our guests and crew to the weather they faced, and for what they went through.

Our ship and our crew performed very well to keep everyone safe during severe weather. Of more than 6000 people on board, only four minor injuries were reported.

Despite that fact, the event, exceptional as it was, identified gaps in our planning system that we are addressing. Though that system has performed well through many instances of severe weather around the world, what happened this week showed that we need to do better.

The severity of Sunday's storm, with its sustained 120-mph winds, far exceeded forecasts. Even so, it is our responsibility to eliminate every surprise we possibly can.

As of today, we are strengthening our storm avoidance policy, and have added resources at our Miami headquarters to provide additional guidance to our ships' captains.

As for Anthem of the Seas, much of the superficial damage caused by the storm has been repaired. We expect to resume her planned itinerary for next week's cruise.

Again, we offer our apologies to our guests and crew." 

Statement courtesy of local ABC station 7 in New York City.

 

Is the Public Sick of Lying Cruise Lines Endangering Passenger Safety?

Anthem of the Seas Captain VideoYesterday, Florida Senator Bill Nelson stated that he is proposing that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigate the circumstances surrounding Royal Caribbean's decision to cruise the Anthem of the Seas into a storm with over 4,500 passengers aboard. The Senator expressed frustration with the fact that the Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailed into a storm with expected 30 foot seas and hurricane force winds.

The captain of the cruise ship spoke to the passengers on the ship yesterday via video, telling them that the forecasts of the storm indicated that there would be winds of only around 12 to 15 feet which is clearly contradicted by several forecasts indicating that the waves would be twice that in height.

The Today Show's weatherman Al Roker summed it up accurately saying that the cruise line's claim that it was surprised by the storm was "bull feathers." (video)

Some may question the wisdom of having the master of the cruise ship providing false information to the cruise line's guests after he terrorized them by recklessly sailing into the storm, but this is a cruise line which has a Pinocchio-like tendency of lying to the public when the truth would serve it better.  When a TV weatherman makes you the butt of a joke on a popular morning television program, you may want to re-think your PR strategy.

Just last July, Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas caught fire as it sailed into Falmouth, Jamaica. Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas FireWhat makes the fire so memorable is that the cruise line went out of its way to downplay the event, calling the major event - which burned from the bottom to the top of the ship - just a contained and quickly extinguished "'small fire." It repeated over and over the cruise line's talking point that the safety of its passengers is always its highest priority. The "small fire" hoax, as I called it, and the cruise line's habitual practice of placing profits over safety, were revealed by video of the large ship fire posted on social media and the cruise line's decision to flaunt IMO recommendations and keep sailing without anyone conducting a survey of the heavily damaged ship. 

The Anthem of the Seas debacle places the cruise industry back before before a cruising public which is increasingly weary of dealing with the high seas drama of rough weather, cruise ship fires, and cruise mishaps - ranging from poop cruise inconveniences to Costa Concordia-scale disasters, when families are just trying to enjoy a vacation at sea with their kids. Providing false and misleading information to these families after the fact just makes things worse. It tarnishes the credibility of the entire cruise industry before the public.

Newspapers are again posting videos of cruise ship disasters from the past. like the one below from USA TODAY. The question of "who is policing the cruise ship industry" is again being asked in public forums.  No one, we believe.

The bottom line is do you trust the cruise lines when they claim that your family's safety and security is their top priority? If this were the case, then cruise ships would not be sailing to the majority of the ports in the Caribbean which are mostly far more dangerous than the U.S.'s most dangerous inner cities.  

Some people may scoff at the notion that a cruise lines would possibly risk a new billion dollar cruise ship filled with many thousands of passengers and crew by sailing into a storm forecast with extreme winds and sea conditions.  But cruise ships don't make money if they are not operating. When cruising requires prudence and caution, whether it be dealing with proper maintenance of cruise ship engines or respect for mother nature, cruise lines seem prone to exhibit a macho "we can't sink" mentality that invokes historical references to the Titanic. 

Photo/video credit: Sean Ferguson YouTube

 

Master of the Anthem of the Seas: Storm Not Accurately Forecast

A YouTube video of the Master of the Anthem of the Seas was broadcast to the staterooms on the Anthem of the Seas internal channel the day after the storm. A passenger, Sean Ferguson, recorded it with his iPhone.

The captain stated that, in his opinion, the low pressure system was not forecast accurately and the Anthem of the Seas faced wind and wave conditions much worse than were forecast.

His comments are in stark contrast to a number of meteorologists who have stated that the storm was accurately forecast last week. Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell, a local meteorologist from Ohio, posted photographs of the damage on his Facebook page. Another meteorologist, Ryan Maue, a "digital meteorologist for WeatherBell Analytics, said it's hard to believe no one at Royal Caribbean had been aware of a storm system that had been forecast — and included in official advisories and warnings issued by the National Weather Service — days in advance, " says NJ.com in the article Royal Caribbean ripped by weather pro for routing 'Anthem' cruise ship into storm.

The meteorologists at the Weather Channel were highly critical of Royal Caribbean last night and stated that the storm was accurately predicted in several programs and widely reported. The Weather Channel broadcast images showing that the seas were predicted to be over 30 feet last week (see photo below), which sharply contrasted with the Royal Caribbean captain's claim that the waves were forecast to be only 12 to 15 feet in height.   

Of interest is the Master's statement that the winds which rocked the cruise ship were up to 170 MPH which is actually higher than the estimates of many terrified passengers who contacted us of around 150 MPH.  He also stated that the passenger were understandably extremely uncomfortable and fearful of the weather conditions.

Ar the 18 minute mark of the video, the Master used an online chart from PassageWeather.com which, ironically, accurately predicted the development of this storm before the Anthem of the Seas sailed into danger. 

Al Roker, the popular television weatherman on the Today Show, best summed up Royal Caribbean's claim that the storm was not predicted:  "Royal Caribbean's claim that this was not predicted is bullfeathers.

USA TODAY published Meteorologists: Royal Caribbean blew it on sailing into storm. 

Florida Senator Bill Nelson was quoted in the press asking why would the ship continue right into the path of the ferocious storm that had been predicted at least four days on February 3rd, before the cruise encountered it, according to the Daily Mail.

Storm Anthem of the Seas Cruise

 

Anthem of the Seas Cruises Into Rough Weather

Anthem of the Seas StormRoyal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas was pounded by rough weather last night, according to passengers leaving comments, photos and video on the internet.

New accounts initially indicated that there was no damage to the cruise ship or injuries to the passengers but this notion was quickly dispelled by images of extensive damage caused by the storm.

Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell, posted photographs of the damage on his Facebook page.

The storm was the result of a sudden although predictable intensification known as "bombogenesis," which is explained by this article in Forbes magazine.

ABC News reported that "after seeing pictures and people’s comments on Twitter and other social media platforms, the USCG contacted the Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas to check in.”

Passengers contacted us indicating that several guests were injured in the mayhem caused by the hurricane strength 125+ MPH winds and 30+ foot waves.  

The cruise line said initialy that it would be late getting to Port Canaveral but later said that the Anthem would return to New Jersey. Passengers would be refunded 100% and, in addition, receive 50% of their fares a future cruise credit in compensation. 

The storm and damage to the ship reminds me of a harrowing incident on the Brilliance of the Seas when several passengers were seriously injured when a storm hit the Royal Caribbean cruise ship in December 2010. The ship tried to outrun a known storm into Alexandria, Egypt. Royal Caribbean tried to spin the story in the media, saying that the storm was far worse than expected. 

Watch Top Five Worst Cruise Ship Disaster Videos

February 8 2016 Update: Seems that Royal Caribbean is playing the "unforseeable" weather game again. Weather professionals are not buying it  - Royal Caribbean ripped by weather pro for routing 'Anthem' cruise ship into storm. Also read 4,000-passenger cruise ship inexplicably sails into Atlantic mega-storm.  The Weather Channel pointed out that several weather programs predicited the high waves and high winds last week, and questioned where the cruise line obtained its weather forecasts.

February 9 2016 UpdateMaster of the Anthem of the Seas: Storm Not Accurately Forecast.

Image Credit: NOAA/NASA via Forbes

Storm Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas

Customs & Border Protection Arrest Passenger on Kidnapping Charges, But Only After Cruise

News accounts are reporting that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) arrested a cruise passenger in Miami on charges that he has outstanding arrest warrants for kidnapping as well as assault and battery. 

The charges involve criminal allegations made in South Carolina. The newspaper said the unidentified person is now awaiting extradition to South Carolina.

A CBP spokesperson at the port in Miami was quoted saying: "intercepting wanted criminals and detaining them on behalf of a law enforcement agency is part and parcel to what CBP does to ensure those crossing the border into the United States do not pose a risk to our nation and its population.”  

The above quote is rather bizarre because the man arrested is apparently an U.S. citizen who went on a cruise out of Miami which included a port in Jamaica.  So the CBP should have arrested the cruise passenger on the assault and kidnapping charges at the beginning of the cruise rather than at the end.

The news release by the CBP is misleading and says that the man was arrested "after he arrived here on a cruise ship from Jamaica." Of course, there are no cruises which originate in Jamaica.  

The CBP boasts that the arrest demonstrates "vigilance and dedication exercised every day by CBP officers to secure our homeland and safeguard our citizens."  But the truth of the matter is that the CBP didn't bother to screen the cruise manifest and arrest the wanted man before he sailed from U.S. waters.

We have seen this problem many times. Read our article two years ago - Are You Cruising with a Wanted Felon? Five Passengers Arrested on Carnival Magic in Galveston.

This reveals a major flaw in the CBP which does not bother to review who is leaving the country on cruises.  This person had an outstanding arrest warrant for serious violent felonies yet he was permitted on the unidentified cruise ship to mingle with passengers when potentially he posed a danger to others.  

The CBP's primary mission is anti-terrorism, it admits, so it is inexcusable that it does not scrutinize passenger lists before cruise ships sail out of U.S waters.       

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 Customs and Border Protection - Cruise Ships for 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. 

As we reported before, cruise passengers Steven Mark Anthony Requena (photo right), age 28, was arrested while disembarking the Carnival Inspiration at the Port of Tampa two year ago. 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.

It is one of the reasons why cruising is more dangerous that it should be. At a time when the world is focused on dealing with ISIS, it is irresponsible for our Federal employees not to look at the passenger list before the cruise ship leaves a U.S. port. 

Cruise Law News Named One of the Best Law Blogs to Follow

Jim Walker Cruise Law BlogFirst Site Guide just announced the Best Law Blogs to Follow. It names 23 law blogs to follow and ranks them on three criteria: Alexa rankings, social media followers (total number of followers combined from the  blog's social media profiles including Facebook and Twitter), and SemRush Rank (ranked by organic traffic coming from Google's top 20 organic search results).

It says that is is "judge, jury, and executioner as far as this list is concerned. The chosen blogs are guilty of being the best law blogs on the internet."

Cruise Law News is first of all law blogs in social media followers (around 210,000); fourth in Alexa rankings and fourth in SemRush rankings. We have a popular Facebook page and we are active on Twitter.

The list includes 23 law blogs, many of which I read regularly. There are a few that are new to me, like Hugh Hewitt, the self-titled blog which has been very informative during this election year.   

Royal Caribbean Freedom of Seas Fire Cruise Law News was read by over 2,000,000 different people last year (2015) who read over 7,000,000 pages. 2006 looks like another popular year, with over 200,000 different people reading over 650,000 pages in the last month. 

Our motto is "everything cruise lines don't want you to know." We try to be among the first to report when things go wrong on the high seas,  We have many friends on cruise ships at sea who contact us when there has been a fire, or a crime, or someone who has gone overboard.

For example, when the Freedom of the Seas caught fire heading into Falmouth, Jamaica this last summer, a crew member friend of ours videotaped the fire. The video was watched over 1,150.000 times on our Facebook page and was widely circulated by international news outlets. We also posted photographs of the extensive fire damage Royal Caribbean Freedom of Seas Fire taken on the ship. Marine experts around the world chimed in.

The cruise line effectively misled the public about the extent of the fire and acted recklessly continuing to sail without a thorough post-fire inspection and survey.  Read the Royal Caribbean "Small Fire" Hoax.

We have also exposed crew members ordered to hide food and galley equipment from U.S.P.H. inspectors and dumping garbage bags and oily rags into a marine sanctuary at night

When the cruise executives say that they are going to make a lot of money sailing passengers into North Africa and the Middle East, we will be the first one to urge caution and call them out when they sail their guests into danger.

We have a perspective which comes from representing many hundreds of cruise passengers and crew members and battling the cruise lines here in Miami.  

Thanks for reading our blog!  Don't forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter,

UK Naval Commander Warns that ISIS Could Target Cruise Ships in Mediterranean

Multiple news outlets in the U.K. are reporting that the U.K. naval commander for NATO is warning that ISIS presents a threat to shipping in the Mediterranean Sea.

The popular Daily Mail published UK Commander Warns Mediterranean Cruise Ships Could be Terror Targets.  

It's a topic we cover often.  It is our belief that cruise ships are woefully unprepared to address the threat of an ISIS attack on a cruise ship and when cruise passenger are sent ashore on excursions, where they are particularly vulnerable.  

We were interviewed in several online articles about the issue, including Yahoo Travel: Is Your Cruise SISIS Terrorismhip Prepared for a Terrorist Attack?

There are few travel writers willing to have a frank and realistic assessment of the vulnerability of cruise ships to terrorists.

We have been criticized before for discussing how how ISIS will attack cruise ship passengers:  How the Next Jihadist Terror Attack Against Cruise Passengers Will Happen.

Today the Telegraph published an article Are Cruise Holidays Safe from Terrorism? written by U.K. cruise travel specialist Jane Archer who, in our assessment, down played the threat or terror.

She argues that: "One of the benefits of a cruise holiday is that cruise companies can change itineraries immediately in response to incidents. Hotels cannot do that. If the cruise lines believe it is dangerous to visit a particular port, they can simply alter course and so (sic) somewhere else so holidays are not ruined."

Ms. Archer also says that "there is no evidence at all that terrorists have targeted cruise passengers in the past."

She also claims that "cruise lines conduct stringent security checks on everyone embarking their ships. Luggage is put through X-ray scanners, just as it is at an airport before flying, and passengers have to walk through detectors before being allowed on board." 

Ms. Archer's article is essentially a regurgitation of the talking points released by the cruise industry's trade organization, Cruise Line International Association

In response, I would point out these facts: 

22 cruise tourists from a Costa and a MSC cruise ship were slaughtered when they disembarked excursion buses at the Bardo museum in Tunis with absolutely no security and no warnings even though it was widely known to these cruise lines that ISIS presented a danger in the region.  The cruise lines cruised their guests into danger and should have sailed them elsewhere but didn't. Cruise lines are often motivated primarily by financial considerations, not the safety and security of their passengers.  

Yes, of course terrorists have targeted cruise passengers in the past. Putting aside the Achille Lauro terrorist attack back in the 1980's, the Rand corporation has more recently stated that cruise passengers are targets. CNN reported that al Qaeda contemplated seizing a cruise ship, forcing the passengers to dress in orange Guantanamo Bay-like suits, and videotape their executions to inflict maximum terror on the public. Read al Qaeda Planned to Seize Cruise Ships, Execute Passengers. Of course, ISIS just targeted the cruise passengers' excursion buses in Tunis.

Think that all passenger luggage is carefully screened for security purposes? Ask yourself that question after reading Port of Miami Security Guards Arrested for Stealing Cruise Passenger iPads. Large quantities of drugs are also often smuggled aboard cruise ships by crew members without detection. If crew members or passengers can smuggle large quantities of drugs onto ships in luggage or taping the drugs to their bodies, they can do the same with explosives. 

U.S. immigrations officials typically do not review passenger manifests until after the cruise ship sails and arrest people with outstanding warrants only when the cruise ship returns to port.  Are you about to cruise with a terrorist in the cabin next door?  Maybe. The Customs and Border Protection officials may arrest the bad guys but only if you make it back to port.

ISIS already blew up an Egyptian frigate at sea, just last year (photo above).  As we all know, Islamic extremists blew up the USS Cole many years ago, by ramming a small boat packed with explosives into the naval ship, killing many U.S. service men and women. 

The warning signs are all there. It's your decision who to believe or disbelieve. Do you tend to trust the top NATO naval commander for the U.K. or a cruise writer for the Telegraph? 

Photo Credit: Daily Mail

Labadee® in Limbo - When Will Royal Caribbean Return to Its Private Resort?

Today is the third occasion when Royal Caribbean has canceled a port call in its private destination of Labadee, Haiti. The Vision of the Seas was supposed to call on Royal Caribbean's fenced-off private port today but instead the cruise line has chosen to avoid Labadee and take passengers on the Vision of the Seas to San Juan a little earlier, according to the unofficial RCL Blog.  

The last two times a Royal Caribbean cruise ship was suppose to call on Labadee ( Freedom of the Seas on January 19th and the Navigator of the Seas on January 21st), the cruise line initially encountered a small group of boats with protesters aboard and then on the second occasion refused to disembark its passengers there because it had not yet received assurances from the Haitian government that the drama would not be repeated. It replaced the port on these two cruises with a sea day. Royal Caribbean has reportedly returned the passengers' port taxes for Ladabee, as it is permitted to do in its one-sided passenger ticket. There are rumors and a couple of postings on social media sites that Royal Caribbean has replaced Labadee with Belize, but the company has decided not Labadee Haitito post anything official. The cruise line has done a poor job notifying guests who are booked on cruises which include Labadee in the next few weeks exactly what is happening. 

Today was suppose to be the day of the much anticipated national elections in Haiti. Royal Caribbean has implied that the protests in Labadee were about the national elections, but there appears to be far more to the story that the cruise line is admitting publicly.  

The cruise line took over sovereign Haitian land when it made its deal with Baby Doc Duvalier in 1986. It separated the village of Labadie with a 12 foot chain-linked fence, covered with barbwire, from its private resort which it trademarked Labadee®.  

Labadee® is a major money maker for the cruise line. Royal Caribbean pays no actual rent of any kind for the 260 acres of waterfront property, but its passengers pay a $10 to $12 head tax. Few people will argue that this money reaches the local villagers in Haiti, which some local people contend is the real source of the local protests last week. Passengers pay hundreds of dollars to Royal Caribbean to ride on the "Dragon's Breath Flight Line" (a zip line which towers over the beach), or to rent jet-skis, or to lounge in a private cabana.  A "Labadoozie" frozen rum drink costs a whopping $14 plus 18%. Needless to say, Haitians on the other side of the barbwire do not receive any of this money and are mired in abject poverty. The local artisans, who are permitted thought the barbwired scurity fence, receive only a pittance selling their local artwork. In contrast, cruise ships from Royal Caribbean and its sister company Celebrity bring many millions of dollars of money generated in Labadee back to their headquarters in Miami on each cruise.  

Many cruise passengers don't know, or seem not to care, about the troubled history of Haiti or Royal Caribbean's sharp deal with the former corrupt leaders of Haiti, which resulted in the Miami-based cruise line obtaining 260 acres of water front land for 50 years. Many people don't seem to understand that the resort of Labadee is part of Haiti. Some still believe that it is an island unto itself or is part of Hispaniola, a marketing image encouraged by the cruise line knowing that selling a vacation spot in an impoverished and sometimes violent country like Haiti was a long shot. Even a travel article published recently in the News-Gazette newspaper in Champaign, Illinois about cruising to Labadee mistakingly calls it a "private island" located just "off the shore of Haiti."  

Indeed, Royal Caribbean's official video of Labadee misleadingly refers to it as "Royal Caribbean's Private Island Paradise."

Large multi-national companies obtaining sweet deals for valuable land of impoverished Caribbean or Central America nations for private destinations seems like business as usual in the winner-take-all world of the cruise industry. Multi-billion dollar, Fortune 200 companies gobbling up ports in one-sided deals with beholden and often corrupt leaders of tiny countries in the Caribbean and Central America seems to be viewed as just good business.  

Cruise lines are making sharp deals throughout the Caribbean. The government of Belize just passed a bill which "legislates tax and duty exemptions for Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), a billion dollar multi-national company that has been given a 25-year exclusive contract to control cruise operations in southern Belize," according to a local newspaper in Belize. The Supreme Court of Belize earlier found that NCL "fast-tracked" its dredge-and-fill Harvest Caye project with the government hastily approving the NCL’s new port and resort project over environmental concerns. 

The indefinite postponement of the elections, apparently due to violence and fear of corruprion, will result in Royal Caribbean postponing its decision when it will return its ship to Labadee.  Have no doubt about one thing - Royal Caribbean will return to Labadee. It has directed far too much of its profits on building a pier, zip-lining and roller-coaster rides and cabanas to walk away from such an immensely profitable waterfront boondoggle that it has tied up for the next 24 years.

It seems questionable to me whether any significant percentage of Royal Caribbean passengers care about whether the cruise line is exploiting the local villagers. It's just another private destination, they say, like Coco Cay (another Royal Caribbean private resort), or Half Moon Cay (operated by HAL), or Castaway Cay (operated by Disney).  

But it seems, unnfortunately, that Royal Caribean feels compelled to first make a point with the protesters. It will continue to freeze out the local people, just like Carnival Corporation did when 150 Indian P&O waiters congregated on the pier in Seattle and politely protested their low wages and the withholding of tips. When it was over, despite promises that there would be no retribution, the Carnival CEO's terminated all of the waiters and black-balled them from ever working in the cruise industry

One Royal Caribbean crew menber left a comment on my Facebook page: "guests did not pay to change the world during their visits but to relax and have fun." Is this true? Once Royal Caribbean shows the protesters who is boss of Labadee®, will passengers again be unloaded into the cruise line's private resort to zip-line, parasail and drink $14 Labadoozies in their private cabanas, or will they wake up to the injustice of Labadee®? 

Photo Credit: Tancy Talks Cruising Part 2: Fake Haiti

January 26, 2016 Update:  Time magazine weighs in

January 28, 2016 Update: A travel agent takes a look at Labadee.

 

 

 

Pukefest on the Crown Princess - Why Does Princess Cruise Have So Many Norovirus Outbreaks?

The first norovirus outbreak on a cruise ship calling on a U.S. port this year has been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And, no surprise to anyone that follows cruise ship outbreaks, it involved a Princess Cruises cruise ship. 

The Crown Princess just returned to Los Angeles following a two week cruise from January 3 - 18, 2016. 180 of the 3,060 passengers (5,88 %) aboard the cruise ship were sick with symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. 24 of 1,168 crew members (2.05%) became ill with gastrointestinal symptoms which the CDC confirmed were due to norovirus.  You can read the CDC report here.

During the six year period from 2010 to the current date, Princess Cruises experienced the most Princess Cruise Ship Norovirus Outbreaknorovirus outbreaks on its cruise ships calling on a U.S. port, according to the CDC. Princess reported nineteen (19) cases to the CDC during this time period. Carnival cruise lines reported just two (2) cases during the same time period.  

Celebrity Cruises reported 15 cases (and Royal Caribbean reported 9).  HAL also reported a high nummber (12) during the 2010 to 2016 time period.

Cunard reported 4; NCL -3; Oceania - 3; and Crystal - 2.  

The Crown Princess alone has suffered through five (5) norovirus outbreaks since 2010 to the present. Before the current outbreak, the last outbreak on the Crown Princess was from October 18 to November 16, 2014. Prior to that, it was February 5 to 12, 2014. It also experienced back-to-back outbreaks from January 29 to February 4, 2012 and February 4 to February 9, 2012 (photo above).

The Crown Princess alone experienced two and one-half time more norovirus outbreaks that the entire fleet of Carnival cruise lines from 2010 to the present!

So why is Princess Cruises far more prone to norovirus outbreaks than Carnival cruise lines, for example?

The cruise industry always blames the passengers for bringing the virus aboard, rather than its food handlers, or contaminated food or water. So are Princess Cruises customers the sickest and the least hygienic cruisers around? Do they wash their hands the least of any cruisers?  That seems like a absurd argument to make.

Is there a correlation between the age of the cruise ships and gastrointestinal outbreaks?  Are different food sources and food handling techniques a more reasonable explanation?  How about different sanitation procedures?  I'm not sure. The CDC doesn't have time to determine the source of the norovirus outbreak (sick food handlers versus contaminated food or water or a sick passenger) so it is of no help.  

But blaming the passengers when one cruise line (and one cruise ship in particular) has far more gastrointestinal outbreaks than its competitors is certainly not the answer.  

CDC Expands Zika Travel Warning

Zika VirusThe U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added eight (8) more destinations to its recent Zika virus travel alert yesterday.

In addition to the 14 countries already on the CDC list (Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti , Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Paraguay, Suriname, and Venezuela), the CDC added these 8 more countries:

Barbados, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, St. Martin, Guyana, Cape Verde, and Samoa.

The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) states that the move to add countries where a traveler could be injected "follows the CDC's initial Jan 15 travel advisory recommending that pregnant women and those trying to become pregnant consider postponing travel to countries where Zika virus is circulating, and if they must travel to the destinations they should follow strict steps to avoid mosquito bites."

As we explained in our first article, there is a risk of to pregnant women of having a baby with a small, underdeveloped heads (microcephaly).

This latest development comes at a time when "three travellers who returned to the UK from South and Central America have been diagnosed with the Zika virus."

So far, we have heard of some cruise lines which are cruising to one of the countries subject to the CDC warning are refusing pregnant women to cancel their cruises.  We do not know whether those travel insurance companies are providing coverage when a pregnant cruiser cancels and submits a claim.

The CDC's Recommendations for Pregnant Women Considering Travel to an Area of Zika Virus Transmission

Because there is neither a vaccine nor prophylactic medications available to prevent Zika virus infection, CDC recommends that all pregnant women consider postponing travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. If a pregnant woman travels to an area with Zika virus transmission, she should be advised to strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites. Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite both indoors and outdoors, mostly during the daytime; therefore, it is important to ensure protection from mosquitoes throughout the entire day. Mosquito prevention strategies include wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA - registered insect repellents, using permethrin-treated clothing and gear, and staying and sleeping in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms. When used as directed on the product label, insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, and IR3535 are safe for pregnant women. Further guidelines for using insect repellents are available online (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/avoid-bug-bites).

January 26, 2016 Update: The CDC added  the United States Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic to the list of destinations with Zika virus disease outbreaks.

Photo Credit: "Aedes aegypti CDC-Gathany" by James Gathany - PHIL, CDC. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons Wikipedia

Is Your Cruise Ship Prepared for a Terrorist Attack?

Yahoo Travel just interviewed me for its article Is Your Cruise Ship Prepared for a Terrorist Attack?

There are nearly 500 comments to the article some of which are quite interesting to read.

The Yahoo article does not really touch upon the issue that cruise ships are largely unarmed. So regardless how you feel about the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the cruise ships by and large don't have armed security guards. Contrary to people who want to believe that the ships are armed but the cruise lines don't want to tip their hand to the terrorists, there is in fact no hidden cache of weapons ready to be deployed by the cruise ship's security forces.  

Cruise ships are flagged in foreign countries like the Bahamas or Panama. The international Maritime Organization (IMO) has no authority to regulate the use of guns on these foreign flagged ship. The IMO does not even recommend that cruise ships have guns.

We have written about the dangerous current set of affairs where some cruise ships are sailing into Somali pirate infested waters where the few security guards had to use fake wooden rifles, deck chairs and water cannons to fight off pirates armed with rocket propelled grenades. You can read about pirate attacks against cruise ships here:

Are Cruise Lines Taking Adequate Steps to Protect Passengers from Pirate Attacks?
Cruise Line Liability for Injuries to Passengers and Crew Members Caused by Pirate Attacks

Some cruise ships go as far as to install razor wire around the rails and position logs to be dropped on the pirates below if they run their skiffs up to the cruise ship. You can see a photo of this spectacle here.

As we explained in this article, the IMO issued "guidance" on the use of armed guards on ships, but stresses that it is still not recommending them. Instead it states that shipping companies should consider arming crew members or hiring private armed guards on board only after conducting a risk assessment subject to approval by the flag state. The IMO also recommends that shipping companies follow all laws and regulations imposed by that flag state regarding the use of armed guard apply to their vessels.

The only cruise ships which seems to permit weapons aboard Cruise Ships - Weapons at Seaare flagged in Italy, which seems to have a different attitude towards guns and permits cruise ships flagged there (like Costa) to have weapons aboard.

A Costa ship got itself into a bit of scandal a couple of years ago when a female crew member was photographed holding a huge automatic weapon in the bridge of the cruise ship. The Italian newspaper Oggi published photographs of the attractive Romanian blonde, Sasha Alexandra, posing in the bridge of the Costa Atlantica. She was photographed next to the captain in a tight cocktail dress holding a large machine gun.

But cruise ships from Carnival, Royal Caribbean or NCL, flying the flags of the Bahamas or Panama, have no weapons at sea.

One reader on our Facebook page remarked:

"Cruise lines can't even keep the Ranch Dressing filled at the salad bar . . You are fooling yourself if you think they would be able to fight off an armed boarding / takeover attempt."

I tend to agree.

Photo Credit: Oggi via Telegraph

Royal Caribbean Cancels Another Cruise to Labadee

Royal Caribbean announced that it is canceling another port stop, this time by the Navigator of the Seas, at it's "private destination" in Labadee, Haiti. According to the RCL Blog, Royal Caribbean said today:

"Royal Caribbean has not received any guarantees or assurances that there will not be any protests in the future. If a protest takes place while a ship is port, there would be a significant impact on our guests’ ability to enjoy Labadee, or we may have to cancel the visit completely."

As we mentioned on the 19th, a small flotilla of boats carrying Haitians protested when the Freedom of the Seas tried to call on Labadee.  Although most of the traditional media tried to down-play the Labadee Haiti Cruiseincident or suggest that it was part of the protests about the national election in Haiti, many have suggested that the protests were focused on the exploitation of Haitian people brought about by Royal Caribbean and its trademarked resort of Labadie. (Royal Caribbean's "Labadee®" is derived from the name of the 1600's French plantation baron and slave owner Marquis de La'Badie.) 

We recently published an article by a cruise passenger on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship yesterday - Local Protesters Greet Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship as well as an article which I wrote: Haitians Protest at Royal Caribbean's "Private Destination" at Labadee.  

After the Royal Caribbean ship was turned away, Prime Minister Evans Paul issued a press statement on Twitter, praising the cruise line and promising that regular tourist activities would continue in Labadee:

“The Haitian government strongly condemns with the utmost vigor the incident that occurred, this Tuesday, January 19, 2016, at the tourist port of Labadee with the inopportune arrival of a group of protesters to the dock of this port. This situation caused a regrettable tension for cruise passengers arriving at the site.

Therefore, the Government believes that some different can be resolved through dialogue and calls for calm everyone. The government has taken steps to remedy this situation caused by social order demands. Government officials will have to meet as soon as possible, residents of Labadee area and thus start a dialogue process.

On the other hand, we want to reassure and give our largest tourism partner of the cruise ship company Royal Caribbean all the guarantee that the arrangements will be made by the government to secure the area and allow the tourism activity to continue on the site of Labadee as usual.

The Government of the Republic of Haiti reaffirms the implementation of its overall policy to ensure that Haiti can become one of the main tourist destinations in the Caribbean that can accommodate visitors from around the world."

Royal Caribbean also said: "We will continue to closely monitor the situation and are in close communication with local and government officials in Haiti. At this time, we have not made any decisions regarding any additional upcoming port calls to Labadee. The next schedule call is Vision of the Seas, on Sunday, January 24."

The photo above, credit Freedom of the Seas cruise passenger Tom Fox, was taken on January 19th. 

January 22, 2016 Update:  A Haitian on-line site claims that "representatives of the Haitian Government met Thursday the residents of the community of Labadee to start the dialogue process. Meanwhile, the Minister Villedrouin will meet today Royal Caribbean with a view to guarantee a early resumption of tourism activities in Labadee."

Embarquement pour Labadee, "prison pour touristes"  Boarding for Labadee, "prison for tourists" - (use Google Chrome to automatically translate). "Six years after the earthquake that struck Haiti January 12, 2010, Caterina Clerici and Kim Wall, two independent journalists, respectively photographer and writer, visited the country the time to four geographic and thematic chapters, to understand how tourism can definitely transform the country - for better or for worse."

Local Protesters Greet Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship

By Tom Fox, currently aboard the Freedom of the Seas

Dozens of chanting protesters, banging pots and cymbals, and packed onto a half dozen small vessels, greeted Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas cruise ship as it docked this morning in Labadee, Haiti.

Labadee is a 260-acre peninsula – dubbed a “vacationer’s paradise” by the cruise line -- along Haiti's lush, mountainous and secluded north coast. A small beachfront resort with palm covered cabanas, the area is separated from the rest of the island, cut off by a 12-foot high fence and guarded by security forces.

Royal Caribbean, according to various cruise websites, has leased the land until 2050.

At first it appeared the vessels were approaching the docked ship as part of a rehearsed welcoming ceremony. However, when two coast guard ships arrived and began circling the vessels and encouraging them to leave the waters, it became clear this was a protest – though the specifics of the protesters complaints were not completely spelled out.

One sign, held by one of the protesters, read “USA Away!”

The Freedom of the Seas cruise ship states it carries 3600 passengers. Many were waiting near the gangplanks waiting to disembark shortly after breakfast. With the protests going on many on the ship watched from their balconies taking pictures and waiting for further instructions

After some thirty minutes’ delay the ship, a voice over the ship’s loudspeaker system announce there would be a short delay before passengers could leave the ship. The vessels continued to play cat and mouse with the coast guard vessels, slightly larger than the protesters’ boats, but all dwarfed by the docked cruise ship.

After more than two hours a voice once again came across the loudspeaker system explaining to passengers that local Haitian elections will take place in another week and that the protests they were watching were a local matter.

It seemed a number of passengers and crew members weren’t buying this explanation. 

Finally, the voice stated that the cruise ship would not be disembarking today “for the safety of our passengers, which we hold to be of the utmost importance.”

One veteran crewmember told me said she had been sailing into Labadee for 13 years and this was the first time she had seen such a protest.

Nestled on the northern coast of Haiti, Labadee, according to Royal Caribbean’s website, “is the ultimate private destination for cruise vacationers – and we're the only cruise line that sails there.”

According to several cruise websites, passengers are not allowed to leave Labadee to venture out to see the rest of the island. Haiti is the poorest of the nations in the Western hemisphere and suffered a devastating earthquake in 2010, although it apparently did not affect the northern part of the island where Labadee is located.

Cruise travel websites state that only a small group of Haitian merchants are given rights to sell their merchandise and establish their businesses at the Labadee resort. Most workers are employed by Royal Caribbean and come from outside nations.

Royal Caribbean proudly advertises its private Haitian resort. One advertisement reads: “Looking to unleash adrenaline? Strap on a helmet and harness, and soar down 500 feet on the Dragon's Breath Flight Line, the world's longest zip line over water. Curious to explore Haiti's unique culture and incredible landscapes? Explore Haitian life, its coastline, flora and fauna on one of our exciting shore excursions and tours. Ready to kick back, relax and sip a Labadoozie? Get the VIP treatment while unwinding beachside in our private cabanas. Take it all in on one of our eastern or western Caribbean cruises to Labadee.”

Visitors don’t spend the night at Labadee. For years blogs and message boards have been critical of the idea of tourists frolicking in the sun at Labadee when so much hunger and poverty rest only miles away.

"Royal Caribbean is performing a sickening act to me by taking tourists to Haiti," wrote one poster on CNN's Connect the World blog. "Having a beach party while people are dead, dying and suffering minutes away hardly makes me want to cruise that particular line," wrote another.

Freedom of the Seas
was back at sea by mid-morning with Captain Ron Holmes on one of the ship’s channels reassuring passengers that the protests were solely a local matter and that there would be plenty of activities on board the ship, all intended to make up for the lost fun they had suffered from being kept at sea by the protesters.

Video Credit: Tom Fox

 

Haitians Protest at Royal Caribbean's "Private Destination" at Labadee

Many news sources are reporting that thousands of Haitian protesters have rioted in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and other locations in Haiti against President Michel Martelly and the upcoming election to determine his successor, which some say is rigged in favor of his ruling party, according to Time magazine. The turmoil comes before the scheduled runoff election this coming Sunday between Jovenel Moïse, who is backed by the current government, and opposition candidate Jude Célestin. 

Protests are also taking place today in the port at Labadee, an idyllic 260 acre "private destination" operated by the Royal Caribbean cruise line on the northern coast of the country. Small boatloads of protesters have blocked cruise passengers from disembarking the Freedom of the Seas which arrived Labadee, Haiti - Royal Caribbean by Tom Foxin Labadee this morning.

The controversy has been witnessed first hand by Tom Fox, a passenger aboard the Freedom of the Seas. Ironically, Mr. Fox just retired after 35 year as the publisher of the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) two weeks ago.

You can read Mr. Fox's account here

Mr. Fox says that the cruise ship was met by a number of small vessels packed with protesters clanging pans and shouting, One or two Haitian coast guard vessels kept watch, guiding through and among the other vessels. Mr. Fox reports that the demonstration has been non violent so far. The captain of the Royal Caribbean cruise ship announced that the protests were "due to the upcoming Haitian election."

It is curious, however, that one of the signs on one of the vessels read "USA Away," according to Mr Fox. 

In 1986, Royal Caribbean shook hands with the tyrant Baby Doc Duvalier to seal a deal where it obtained exclusive control of 260 acres of sovereign waterfront land from Haiti. Royal Caribbean trademarked it's new "private island" - "Labadee®" - derived from the name of the 1600's French plantation baron and slave owner Marquis de La'Badie. It then erected a 12 foot high security fence around its "island" and hired armed security guards to keep the impoverished Haitians out.

Royal Caribbean ran into a public relations nightmare in 2010 following the earthquake which devastated Port of Prince, when it sailed its mega cruise ships into its private resort.

Mr. Fox points out that a Freedom of the Seas crew member says that the protest at Labadee has been unprecedented in her 13 years of visiting the port, although Mr. Fox tweeted that some crew members doubt that the protests are, in fact, due to the Haitian elections.

There is a video on Facebook (shown below) with people leaving comments that the protests are about a work-strike and the use of the $10 passenger head tax collected by the cruise line.  

All photo credit to Tom Fox.

Video Credit Jc Roy.

 

 

MSC Fantasia Terror Alert?

MSC Fantasia A Greek newspaper is reporting that the MSC Fantasia has been subjected to a search for explosives today after calling on Haifa. 

The MSC cruise ship arrived today in the Bay of Souda near Chania in Crete. A Greek newspaper in Athens "To Vima" reports that suspicious passengers or explosives may be on board the ship.

The MSC ship carries 3,393 passengers with a crew of 1,259 people. The ship was originally headed for the port of Heraklion. The Coast Guard and other authorities at the Souda naval base were reportedly notified. 

The newspaper says that the MSC Captain advised the authorities that the ship was changing course because of the weather and that a passenger, apparently a German citizen, had died and needed to be autopsied to determine whether the passenger died from cardiac causes as suspected. However, the newspaper reports that the ship had already changed course for security reasons.

The article said that the recent terrorist attack in Istanbul by ISIS had raised an alert regarding terrorism including attacks on cruise ships sailing in the region.

The next port for the Fantasia will be Civitavecchia in Italy.  

A German newspaper contains a quote from MSC Cruises saying that bad weather was the reason for the diversion. The cruise line said rumors of security issues are "totally unfounded."

I would be interested in hearing what crew members and passenger have to say about the weather conditions at the time.

There nonetheless appears to be a heightened security alert following the terrorist attack in Turkey. 

ABC News reported yesterday that Crystal Cruises announced that it was canceling stops for the Crystal Symphony in Istanbul and Kusadasi, Turkey "in response to ongoing security concerns."

The itineraries for Crystal voyages that set sail April 24 and May 1 will reportedly include destinations in Greece instead of Turkey.

U.S. cruise operators are being tight lipped about whether they are reasonably equipped to respond to security challenged presented by ISIS. However, German tour operators recently admitted that terrorism is their top challenge in 2016. And German tourists may be re-thinking their travel plans as tourists have become terror targets.

Photo Credit: "MSC Fantasia 2012 2" by Benjamin Nagel licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons / Wikipedia

Royal Caribbean Bus Excursion Kills One Cruise Passenger From Independence of the Seas

The Jamaican Observer reports that cruise ship passengers were injured today "when the Toyota Coaster tour bus they were travelling in was involved in a four-vehicle collision on the Carey Park main road in Trelawny."

The Jamaican newspaper says that "one of the cruise ship passengers was rushed to the Falmouth Public General Hospital."

The newspaper article identified a "grey Toyota Corolla motor car, a white Freightliner truck and a Cruise Bus Excursion Accident yellow Toyota Hiace panel van were the other motor vehicles involved in the collision."

We have learned that the tour bus was on an excursion taking cruise passengers from the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas (in Falmouth) to Dunn's River. 

Royal Caribbean released a statement, indicating that one passenger was killed and three others were injured:

"Today 21 guest from Independence of the Seas participating in an excursion were involved in a traffic accident in Falmouth, Jamaica. We are saddened to report that a guest passed away. Three other guest were injured and are being treated at the local hospital. Crew members have gone to the hospital to assist. Join us in keeping them in our thoughts and prayers."

There have been a number of bus excursion accidents in Caribbean islands involving Royal Caribbean and its sister company Celebrity Cruises over the last 6 years.

Photo Credit: Jamaica Observer / Mark Cummings

 

 

Are Cruise Lines Warning Pregnant Passengers of the Zika Virus?

ZIKA VirusThe New York Times published an article yesterday that should alarm women who are pregnant and thinking about taking a cruise calling on ports in the Caribbean or South America or Central America. CDC May Warn Pregnant Women Against Travel to Countries With Zika Virus written by science and health reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr., says that test results from the CDC seems to establish a link between the mosquito-borne virus and Brazil’s rise in babies born with abnormally underdeveloped heads (microcephaly).

According to Helen Bramswell, an infectious diseases and public health reporter from STAT News, there have been  "at least 3,530 cases of microcephaly and 46 deaths in Brazil since the increasing number of cases was recognized last October. The country saw fewer than 200 cases of microcephaly annually over the previous five years." 

The CDC is thinking about issuing a warning for pregnant travelers against travel to Brazil, as well as other Latin American and Caribbean countries where the virus has spread.  According to the Times, the virus has been located in 14 countries in the Western Hemisphere: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti , Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Paraguay, Suriname, and Venezuela.   

The Times spoke to corporate communications representatives of Carnival. Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise lines who reportedly denied knowing anything about the Zika virus and directed inquiries to their trade association, the Cruise Line International Association.  CLIA suggestions include the same general things suggested to prevent the infection with the chikungunya virus - using mosquito repellents and wearing protective clothes.

According to Caribbean 360, the Zika virus was first detected in humans about 40 years ago in Uganda. It is spread by the same Aedes aegypti mosquito as dengue and chikunguya. The disease was first identified in the South Americas less than two years ago and has spread rapidly across South and Central America.

January 15 2016 Update: It's Official. U.S. issues travel alert over Zika virus in Latin America, Caribbean.

January 16 2016 Update: CDC alert for Zika virus may curb Caribbean 'babymoon' vacations. "The CDC had been urging all travelers visiting areas of Latin America and the Caribbean to take extra precautions against mosquito bites to avoid contracting the virus. But officials upgraded the warning late Friday to a Level 2 travel notice and are now advising pregnant w.men and women trying to become pregnant to consider avoiding travel to the affected areas out of concern that Zika may cause a catastrophic birth defect called microcephaly.

"We likely will see a significant decline in trips by women who are pregnant or trying to conceive to these regions in light of the apparent link between the virus and birth defects,"

CBS Pregnant women warned about Zika virus

Photo Credit: "Aedes aegypti CDC-Gathany" by James Gathany, CDC, licensed under Public Domain via Commons / Wikipedia.

U.S. Embassy in Nassau: Jet Ski Operators Sexually Assaulted 5 Tourists in 18 Months

The AP reports that the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas yesterday has singled out operators of jet skis following the latest sexual assault of a U.S. citizen by a man on a jet ski on Cabbage Beach. We reported that the police in Nassau arrested a Bahamian on January 2nd following the rape.

According to the AP account, the embassy reported there had been five sexual assaults of U.S. citizens by jet-ski operators in Nassau since July. The actual warning refers to July of 2014.  In addition, the embassy "banned its staff from using jet-ski rental companies because of insufficient regulation. It recommended U.S. citizens not use them either."  The recommended ban applies to Cabbage Beach and Miami Cruise Ship Crime - NassauCable Beach.

You can read the warning from the embassy here.

In 2014, the New York Times published an article about the high crime rate in Nassau, in general, and watercraft operators there in particular after the embassy issued a similar crime warning last year. The Times interviewed me in the article, after jet ski operators sexually assaulted at least three American tourists. The embassy warned of "increasingly brazen" crimes sweeping the Bahamas. 

The article said that the prime minister convened a special national security meeting last year after allegedly devising "several crime-fighting strategies." The Bahamas never disclosed these so-called new strategies to the public. The long-standing problem with rogues associated with jet ski operators assaulting tourists seems to have continued until today. Many in the Bahamas are critical of Prime Minister Cristie who has repeatedly told the press throughout the year that his government would roll out new policies to counteract the rise in crime but such plans never materialized. 

The Tribune news paper in Nassau said yesterday that the Bahamian arrested for the alleged rape was was not a water sports operator but “just a man with a Jet Ski and a boat hanging on the beach."

The newspaper also said that Bahamian officials are discussing using police and Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers to assist her ministry in patrolling the beaches to address the problem. 

One person commenting on the article said: "This is just what our tourists come here to see, machine gun toting cops and marines on the beach fraternizing with the jet-ski operators. What a scene of tropical paradise."

The recent warning from the U.S. Embassy is one of over ten crime warnings from various government agencies about Nassau in a little over two years.

Many cruise ship passengers still don't know that when they get on a ship here in Miami heading for the Bahamas, they are heading to a country with a national crime rate many times higher than the U.S. rate. The cruise lines don't issue warnings before selling cruises to Nassau but typically warm their guests of the high crime rate there during the cruise.

More Per Capita Murder than Detroit: Nassau Continues with Mayhem in 2016

The Tribune newspaper in Nassau, a newspaper anyone thinking of cruising into the Bahamas with your family should read, blasts the following headline today: Four In Hospital After New Year Shootings.

The Bahamas reached a record murder rate in 2015 of 148 homicides, reported by the Tribune. Putting this murder rate into perspective, the U.S. murder rate is around 4.5 per 100,000 people. The Bahamas, with around 330,000 people, has a per capita murder rate of approximately 44.4 per 100,000, That's right, the Bahamas has a per capita rate of approximately 10 times that of the U.S. The Bahamian country's per capita murder rate places it among the most violent and dangerous cities in the U.S., a little higher than Detroit (43.5 per 100,000) and New Orleans (39.6 per 100,000).  

Now, defenders of the Bahamas will argue that the Bahamas consists of almost 700 islands; most of Nassau Bahamasthem have not experienced a single murder in a long time. They are right, most of the murders have been in New Providence (Nassau). But this actually makes the per capita murder rate significantly higher in Nassau, where the majority of cruise ship passenger are unloaded, when you calculate the Nassau per capita murder rate based on its population of around 250,000. 

When I started this blog in 2009, there were two incidents in Nassau (which you can read about here and here) where two groups of cruise passengers from Disney and Royal Caribbean ships were robbed at gunpoint. The first group were visiting a popular tourist spot on a Sunday (Queen's Stairway in downtown Nassau) and the other group were on an official cruise line "Segway excursion."  I mention these facts now because many people in Nassau will try to convince you that only drunk cruise passengers "looking for trouble" (i.e., looking for drugs or prostitutes or those who wander "over the hill") are at risk for being a victims of crime. Given the lackadaisical response by the Bahamas police to these violent crimes and the fact that cruise ships were not even warning of the crime problem back then, I have written about this issue repeatedly. 

Enough passengers have been robbed or raped in Nassau for the U.S Embassy, the U.S. State Department, the U.K. and Canadian Foreign Affairs Offices to issue 10 crime warnings in less than 2 years. 

Travel Weekly just featured an interview with Joy Jibrilu, Director General, Ministry of Tourism, of the Bahamas. I was stuck with just how out of touch she sounds with the reality of the crime around her that threatens to scare knowledgeable vacationers away from considering Nassau as a vacation place. Compare her interview with the frank talk of Adrian Gibson who wrote an opinion piece for the Tribune a couple days ago titled A Young Man's View: The Matters That Must Be Resolved In 2016. Among other issues, he points out that arrivals by cruise ship are falling and and "crime is out of control."  

Cuba will soon provide a much safer and many say a far more interesting port than downtown Nassau. However, in the cruelest of ironies, Ms Jebrilu mentions that many "Americans and Europeans will be thinking about where they’re going to take their vacations." She adds that "where they may have gone to North Africa, even to places in Europe or Turkey, I think they’re going to think twice and wonder if they should stay closer to home (because of international terrorism) . . . we have proven to be a very safe destination."

I suggest that Ms. Jibrilu walk over to the Prince George Wharf when all of the cruise ships from Miami and Fort Lauderdale are crowded into port and interview the tourists who decide to stay on the ships rather than tour Nassau. I think she will quickly find out that whereas ISIS may be the last thing on their minds, many U.S. passengers will tell her that they are keeping their families on the ships because of fear that they will have a gun pointed in their faces if they walk down the gangway.  

Photo Credit: TampAGS, for AGS Media Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Creative Commons / Wikipedia

Cruise Ship Terrorism: "The Elephant in the Room" for 2015

We are just a few hours before placing 2015 is in our rear view mirror as we start upon a fresh New Year. So what are the memories which come to mind when we think of taking a cruise in 2015?  And what are the lessons that the cruise industry learned in 2015 which will ensure that history does not repeat itself in 2016?

I started the draft of this article by listing all of the ship fires this year, as well as the cases of passenger and crew member overboards, children drowning in cruise ship swimming pools without lifeguards, and sexual assaults of children and women. But all of these incidents, no matter how tragic, don't come close to the scope of the death and mayhem associated with the murder of two dozen cruise passengers by terrorists in Tunis, Tunisia.  

The incident which kept coming back to me as I wrote this article was the massacre of twenty-two Tunis Terror Attackcruise passengers from Costa and MSC cruise ships in Tunisia. This terrifying incident involving cruise ships which were docked at the La Goulette cruise port in Tunis should have brought the reality of radical Islamic terrorism directly to the attention of cruise executives in the U.S. and Europe. We warned about incidents like this happening a month prior in ISIS Poses Terrorist Threat to Cruise Ships in Mediterranean. The passengers, however, received no warnings from the cruise operators which sent bus loads of tourists to the Bardo Museum without making any security arrangements whatsoever. 

The day before the massacre, the cruise executives presented a “state of the cruise industry” speech at the annual trade convention on Miami Beach, Cruise Shipping Miami. The CEOs of Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), and MSC Cruises discussed building bigger ships and expanding into new markets such as Cuba and China. The CEO of NCL, Frank Del Rio, remarked that “Libya, Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon could be more lucrative than Cuba.” The convention audience politely applauded and the other cruise executives smiled. I couldn’t help tweeting “have you heard of ISIS?

With the blood of twenty-two dead passengers on their hands, the cruise lines doubled down and announced that there were no indications that terrorism could strike a cruise ship or its passengers and crew in Tunis. The cruise industry not only refused to take any responsibility for the massacre but the spokesperson for the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) boasted that "cruise ships are a safe and secure place for our guests in the rare event of a shore side incident." MSC Cruises USA CEO Rick Sasso said "There was no hint of terrorism or uncertainty in Tunisia before the attack . . . There are a zillion ports around the world, and we follow all of them. . . There was nothing going on there that indicated this should've been a concern."

The truth is that Tunisian soldiers were engaged in ongoing battles against Al Qaeda when the MSC and Costa ships sailed there. There were prior suicides bombers which targeted hotels and museums filled with tourists. The U.K. had issued a prior warning of a terrorist attack on tourist sites and the U.S. repeatedly urged caution. ISIS was recruiting young men from mosques in Tunis to be trained and radicalized in Libya. The signs of trouble were all there.

The most frequent question which I have received this year is "is it safe to cruise in the Mediterranean with my family?" Yahoo asked me to write an opinion piece about the cruise industry shortly after disaster struck at the Bardo museum. In response, I penned Is Cruising Safe? A Chilling Look at an Industry Under Siege which provides my thoughts about the issue of safety and international terrorism.

The cruise industry needs to wake up. Tunis was preventable. Greater attention to Al Qaeda and ISIS is necessary to avoid a similar if not worse attack on innocent passengers. Dangerous ports need to be avoided. In the past, Princess Cruises used security teams / police to accompany tour bus excursions in Egypt. Maritime security teams are also required in foreign ports of call to address the risk of waterborne attacks. Cruise lines are overflowing with cash. The cruise industry collects around $45 billion a year, pays their crew members peanuts and doesn't pay U.S. taxes. The industry needs to start investing some of those tens of millions of dollars into substantial security to keep their guests safe. 

NCL's executive Del Rio, who salivated over record profits in Tunis and other risky Arab/Middle Eastern ports earlier this year was interviewed by Travel Weekly last week. Of course he remains bullish about cruising in 2016 but said that terrorism is always the "elephant in the room."  Well it's time that the cruise lines began talking about the elephant.

In the past couple of weeks, travel agents and travel writers have written articles about whether cruise lines are prepared for radical Islamic terrorism. A Florida travel agent wrote "A Boatload of Reasons Why You Should Feel Secure on a Cruise Ship" for Travel Pulse. Australian travel writer Michael Gebicki wrote "How Do Cruise Ships Guard Against Terrorism?" Neither article explains what cruise lines are actually doing or provide any reason why you should feel protected on a cruise ship. Both articles are just spinning the story to assure that travel in places like North Africa and the Middle East are not disrupted. These articles don't even admit that most cruise lines do not have any weapons on the ships to repel an organized attack up the gangway. Take a look at the pitiful way cruise ships responded to the threat of pirates and you can quickly realize that the industry is unarmed and not prepared to protect the passengers or crew. 

Cruise ship security teams seem to have their hands full responding to drunk passengers on their ships.  A well organized attack by ISIS will send the weapon-less security guards scurrying into the ship. The obvious will then become apparent - that cruise ships are sitting ducks.  We already know that al Qaeda has planned to seize cruise ships and execute passengers years ago. The difference today is that terrorists are no longer interested in holding hostages, but are motivated to simply kill and terrorize as many people as possible.

There will be travelers who read this and will respond that the threat of terrorism is everywhere; just ask the residents of Paris or the citizens in San Bernardino, California. Don't be afraid because the terrorists will already be winning, they will say. Perhaps so.  But my thoughts are that a family looking for a relaxing vacation who picks a cruise vacation to the Mediterranean on a huge cruise ship fiiled with thousands of other passengers is just asking for trouble. 

Photo Credit: Bottom AFP

Bloody Ecstasy: Graphic Video Shows Aftermath of Deadly Elevator Accident

FOX 4 Fort Myers aired a gruesome video last night taken by passengers on the Carnival Ecstasy of blood pouring out of the top of the elevator running down the elevator door like a sheet. The passenger said "it sounded like a rainstorm . . . "

The news account reported that the couple were heading to dinner on the 10th floor of the ship Sunday night when they saw the horrifying scene.

The video apparently shows the aftermath of an elevator accident where a crew member who was in the elevator shaft was mortally injured.

The FOX channel reported that cruise ship employees told the couple that the accident seriously injured an electrician who later died.

The Miami-Dade Police Department identified the victim as 66-year-old Jose Sandoval Opazo.

The family reportedly said that Carnival offered to pay for them to go to three counseling sessions.

WARNING: Graphic content. 

January 5 2016 update: Ms. Sandoval's daughter left a message (below) seeking relevant information, saying in part: "Does anyone know the truth, and why he was there alone. anyone who wants to help me, my contact is singa1982@hotmail.com Thanks Carolina"

 

Norovirus Nightmare: Cruise Industry Plays the "Blame-the-Passenger" Game

The accounts of the gastrointestinal outbreak on the P&O Pacific Eden portrayed in today's Daily Mail are disgusting: overflowing toilets on a dirty ship with barfing, sick kids.  Ill passengers, who paid handsomely for a family cruise vacation over Christmas, complain that not only did their complaints fall on the deaf ears of surly cruise staff members but the cruise captain blamed them for the outbreak in the first place. 

Long ago, the cruise industry elected a "blame the passenger" public relations strategy whenever a ship become infected with norovirus. When an outbreak takes place due to contaminated food, the cruise lines accuse the passengers of not washing their hands and ignoring the "washy, washy" p&o Pacific Edeninstructions of the cruise hostesses stationed at the entrance to the dining room who spray sanitizers (which are worthless against norovirus) on the passenger's hands.  

Admittedly, the cruise lines face a PR headache when norovirus breaks out on the high seas. Invariably, the cruise industry faces sensational news accounts from online newspapers that blast cruise-from-hell headlines which include references to "floating petri dishes." The cruise lines seemingly feel compelled to respond to the media with the same old, worn-out blame-the-passenger game.

Travel agents and travel publications perpetuate the cruise industry's talking points. Just today Travel Agent Central covered the recent outbreak of an gastrointestinal illness on the Holland America Line Veendam by writing this whopper: "most cases of norovirus are brought onboard by guests." There is absolutely no empirical evidence of this. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration concluded that norovirus is primarily caused by contaminated food or water.   

But the last thing that the cruise industry ever wants to admit is that there is a problem with food poisoning on their fleet of ships, or that a cook or food handler, like a waiter who works primarily on tips, worked after exhibiting signs of a gastrointestinal illness and infected the paying guests.

Determining the causative source of an outbreak is the business of an epidemiologist, but have you ever heard of the CDC ever coming to a scientific determination that the cause of a cruise ship outbreak was traced back to a salad which contained contaminated bean Cruise Ship Norovirussprouts eaten by 100 passengers?  Of course not. The CDC does not have the time or inclination to perform such an analysis during the short turn-around in port when the ships quickly re-rack with thousands of other passengers and head out to sea without a firm understanding of the scientific nature of the disease that just sickened its passengers. The lost revenue of a "sick ship," shut down for a comprehensive epidemiological analysis, far exceeds any legal claims contemplated by sick passengers.   

Can you imagine Chipotle, with its recent norovirus and e-coli outbreaks, blaming its customers like the cruise industry does? Instead, Chipotle has already recognized and admitted that it is facing a "food safety" issue. It immediately began to work on an enhanced food safety program. It retained an independent laboratory to reassess its food safety practices that included a "farm-to-fork assessment of each ingredient we use with an eye toward establishing the highest standards for safety.” It also is considering whether the outbreaks are caused by "food poisoning" or "bad employee hand washing." 

The cruise industry, on the other hand, has chosen to focus on short term PR efforts. The only enhancements it engages in are "enhanced cleanings" of its infected ships where everything is sprayed down by crew members, some not even wearing protective suits, in a couple of hours. It's an impossible task to enlist already overworked crew members to eradicate the billions and billions of noro microbes which are puked in every nook and cranny of the bathroom and into the fabrics of the carpets, couches and blankets in hundreds of cabins in just a few hours. The cruise industry has never dedicated itself to getting to the root of the noro problem which may well point to it's ships which are always on the go or its sick crew members as the primary source of the problem.

After all, this is the same industry where the exclusive Silversea Cruises brand duped USPH inspectors and hid food in crew member cabins. Butt the real surprise came when I asked crew members on Facebook: Do cruise lines hide pots & pans, galley equipment and food from USPH inspectors? Of the first 100 crew members who answered the poll (admittedly unscientific), around 90% said yes, cruise lines routinely hide galley items from inspectors. One crew member said: "There will be more equipment in the crew cabin during the inspection then in the galley that's for sure!!!"

That's not to say that sick passengers are never the cause of an outbreak. Sometimes passengers don't admit that they are ill and lie on the pre-cruise medical questionnaires. This becomes a real problem when the cruise lines refuse to permit passengers to re-book their cruises when they become ill. And some passengers refuse to report ill to the ship infirmary to avoid the exorbitant shipboard medical bills that follow their arrival. There is no doubt that that shipwide contamination can become worse and the virus can spread via passengers when they refuse to be confined to their cabins.      

So yes, passengers are not immune from blame. But every single time there is an breakout, the cruise lines blame the passengers! The blame is automatic and often leveled against the passengers even before it is possible for the CDC to even test the nature of the disease and notwithstanding the fact that the ship may have experienced outbreaks during prior cruises.

One of the books written by cruise expert Professor Ross Klein, "Cruise Ship Squeeze," addresses this issue. Professor Klein has been recognized as an expert regarding cruise line issues by both the House of Representatives and the Senate before whom he has testified several times. In chapter 8 of Dr. Klein's book, at pages 179 - 183, he discusses Princess Cruises always blaming the passengers. A dozen years ago during a 2003 cruise, passengers were stricken with a gastrointestinal illness. Princess accused their guests sick with norovirus of "bringing it with them." But the truth is that during the prior cruise, the cruise ship had experienced passengers sickened with the same sickness. No scientists arrived at this conclusion. And there was nothing remotely scientific about what Princess represented to the public.

Ever since then, Princess says the same thing over and over every time norovirus sickens its guests.

Who needs epidemiologists when the cruise line PR teams and their friends in travel publications have already figured out what to say?  

 

Photo Credit:  "Pacific Eden, Fremantle, 2015" by Bahnfrend licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons / Wikipedia. 

Don't forget to read: 

Another cruise ship hit by norovirus, blames passengers.

"Worse than a one-star motel": P&O Pacific Eden cruise sees 60 hit with gastro.

HAL's Veendam Hit with GI Outbreak

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that fifty-seven (57) of 1429 passengers (3.99%) and ten (10) of 588 crew members (1.70%) have been reported ill with gastrointestinal illness aboard the Veendam cruise ship operated by Holland American Line.

The CDC has yet to figure out what type of outbreak is involved. It is probably norovirus, as was the case in the last 11 GI cruise ship outbreaks this year. A CDC environmental health officer will board the HAL cruise ship at the end of the cruise in San Diego, California on December 27, 2015.

The Veendam had its last norovirus outbreak in 2014, in February.

 

Denial, Skepticism Plague Sexual Assaults Against Passengers on Cruises

Disney Cruises Sexual Asssault

I have found that whenever I write about a crew member sexually assaulting a passenger, a certain number of the co-employees instinctively defend the crew member, even when the victim involves a child. 

On Christmas Eve, a local Miami news station reported that a 31 year old Disney crew member was arrested for allegedly sexually molesting an 11 year old girl on the Disney Magic cruise ship which sailed from Miami.

We posted the article on our Facebook page. Cruise passengers who regularly follow our page did not express surprise (this is not the first time this has occurred on a Disney cruise). Many readers expressed their disgust with the news; however, a number of people (mostly crew members) accused the little girl and her family of perpetuating a fraud on the Disney crew member.

The fact that the Disney crew member reportedly confessed to molesting the little girl (according to the news station) did not dissuade the crew member supporters from disparaging the child and her family.

" Working with him i kno (sic) he would never do something like that. Thats a f**king lie. Poor innocent guy getting locked up for sh*t," commented a current crew member on our Facebook page." 

Other comments by people identifying themselves as current or past crew members were equally accusatory of the child and blindly supportive of the Disney employee:

"Was my room mate I don't believe this for one second . . . I've worked with him too . . . I can't believe this  . . . No chance that he would do this, he's been put in an awkward situation by a guest and now paying for it! . . . Man he was my helper sometimes, he wouldn't do this, disgusting guests! . . .   This Disney Cruises Sexual Assaultis a Hugh (sic)  lie . . . . most of the People coming and finding the way to get money From This company and if you as a Cruise member say Hello to one kid the parents already say you are abusing their Child but they do Not Know the company wash their hands and do Not give nathing and they fix a inocent person..!!! . . . I worked with this guy, this just cannot be true. Plus after being on ships for more then 4 years, I have seen everything when it comes to guests trying to get things for free and to get money from the company. Its sick, and some people will stoop to really low levels . . ."

"I don't think the guy did it i know this guy nobody here can tell me anything I've been working with him and I still work for the company .. .  is about americans that wants money for free just saying nonsenses . . . "

One crew member who said he previously worked with the alleged assailant on the Disney Fantasy made this outlandish, misogynous attack:   'I think you need to educate your kids, cause you can not blame a man when your daughter is wearing a short showing what she's not suppose to show at her age." 

Unfortunately, every time we write an article about a crew member molesting a child, I hear these same type of groundless accusations by crew members expressing doubt of the crime and attacking the victim. Similar comments were made last year when a 36 year old Disney crew member Ahmed Sofyan (photo above) molested a 13 year old girl on the Disney Dream cruise ship. His co-employees claimed he couldn't have done it. But he pled guilty to the crime against the child, and is now in jail. 

These defensive and mean-spirited comments are troubling. They also reveal a fundamental lack of proper training and a lack of empathy on the Disney fleet of cruise ships. The problem is wider than just Disney Cruises. 

Costa Sexual AssaultLast October, a Honduran Costa crew member allegedly sexually molested a 15 yer old girl aboard the Costa Diadema.  When we mentioned the alleged crime on our blog, crew members made these comments: "I dont't think it's true story written here. The guy is 50 , and the girl is 15. Honduras guy is not a stupit (sic) to do something drectly. Maybe she called him to came to cabin to ask something and he misunderstand what she says . . .  That's why, never go to guest cabin, where a minor is staying, they will make up all kind of stories, just to get something out of it."

On the same Costa cruise ship, a bartender, Mark Guinucud from Manila, Philippines, allegedly followed an 18 year-old French woman into her cabin and raped her brutally. But his co-employee friends quickly came to his defense: 

"I do not believe this! I know that guy and I've been his colleague from a hotel before and he is not that kind of man to rape a woman specially a foreigner? Mark is kind and gentleman and he is a good friend of ours. He will never do anything like this. Why would he even rape a girl when he came over there just to work for him and for his family? I suspect that the French woman is making up stories. . . ." 

After Royal Caribbean Karan Seechurn from Mauritius (a mini-bar attendant) was arrested on the Quantum of the Seas after he used his master key to enter a woman's cabin at night while he was Royal Caribbean Sexual Assaultwas off-duty and molested the woman while she was sleeping, a crew member friend commented "I worked RCCL and I think . . . this is a vindictive allegation for money."  Seechurn later pleaded guilty and was sent to jail. 

Some crew members reacted cynically even when there is no denying that the attack was particularly brutal. A Holland America Line (HAL) crew member Ketut Pujayasa, age 28, from Indonesia, sexually assaulted, brutally beat and then tried to throw a woman overboard from her balcony on the Nieuw Amsterdam. Even though the crew member was later sentenced to 30 years in jail, the passenger who was savagely victimized was faced with baseless criticism from some of the crew members. One commented on our article:

"Some passenger sometime will do anything to avoid paying, including false aligation for rape, American are full of drama, they complain about everything they could from the first time they step on the cruise. Finding a way to cut cost. Some single lady's already are so lonely , and sluty they are desperate for sex on the cruise, they invite a crew member, if they are not satisfied they do something like this . . . "

In fact, the crew member beat and choked the woman so savagely (warning graphic photos) that she is lucky to be alive. Certainly no rational person would suggest that a victim faked such horrendous injuries in order to file a false claim against a crew member. 

But the cynicism against such claims brought by passengers is pervasive on the ships. This attitude flows from the management of cruise lines through the supervisors down to the crew. The "us versus them" mentality when a crew member is accused of a crime is alive and well in the cruise ships' security departments.  Yahoo Travel just published Ships Have HAL Sexual AssaultPadded Cells for Problem Passengers and Other Confessions of a Cruise Security Officer in which a security officer for Holland America Line makes the claim that some passengers specifically come on the cruise ship to "scam the ship" and allege that the "ship did something wrong to them" in order to claim money or a free cruise.  

Such a discussion makes a mockery of the reality of cruise ship crime and illustrates the built-in bias of the cruise lines when dealing with crime victims. Yet, the cruise industry seems to love the Yahoo article; the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) twitter feed re-tweeted the Yahoo article as a sign of approval. 

A victim of sexual molestation, particularly a young girl, needs unqualified love and support from the community around her, not cynical accusations of conspiracy, particularly from the crew members of the magical cruise community which promised her a dream cruise right before Christmas. 

11 Year Old Girl Sexually Assaulted on Disney Magic Cruise Ship

Juan Manuel Palma Ortega / Disney Wonder Sexual Assault MinorWSVN Channel 7 reports that a 31 year old man was arrested for allegedly molesting  an 11-year-old girl aboard a Disney cruise ship which sailed last week from the port of Miami.

The news channel says that the man is from Honduras and he allegedly fondled the little girl on board the Disney Magic, which sailed from Port Miami on December 18, 2015. The stations says that "while on the ship, the girl told her parents that a man, later identified as 31-year-old Juan Manuel Palma Ortega, fondled her three times."

The Magic returned to the port of Miami yesterday.

The station further reports that "Miami-Dade police detained Palma Ortega back at Port Miami, where he allegedly confessed to the crime. He was charged with three counts of lewd and lascivious molestation of a minor and is being held without bond."  

His mug shot is to the left.

The news article does not state whether he is a crew member or not. His Facebook page states that from Tegucigalpa, Honduras where many crew members are from. However, there is no information confirming this yet.

This latest alleged crime should serve to remind the public that sexual assault of minors do occur on cruise ships, even on those cruise ships which cater to families.

Last year, a Disney employee, age 36, of Jakarta Indonesia (photo below right), employed as a cabin attendant on the Disney Dream, molested a girl during a family cruise. He befriended the family during the cruise and assaulted the 13 year old girl on the last morning of the cruise. We are representing the family of the child.  The Port Canaveral Police department arrested the Disney cruise employee. He was Disney Pervert Cruise Shipsentenced earlier this year to 70 months in jail.  You can read about that case here.

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.

Florida is the only state which gives jurisdiction to state police agencies to arrest foreign crew members or passengers who commit sexual crimes in international waters and provides jurisdiction to state prosecutors to criminally charge these perverts. Typically other states must rely on the FBI and federal prosecutors who do a terrible job investigating crimes at sea,  

Photo Credit: Top: Miami-Dade County Police via WSVN; Bottom FOX 35.

Windstar Cruise Ship Runs Aground

Seabourn Pride a/k/a Star PrideWindstar Cruises' Star Pride (photo left in Europe when it was operated by Seabourn) hit rocks near Isla de Coiba, Panama yesterday morning. 

Professor Ross Klein's website says that according to a passenger aboard the Star Breeze:

"We have just picked up 109 passenger and crew from another Windstar Cruise Liner in (what I think is) the south end of Costa Rica. The other Windstar ship hit rocks and took on water near the port where people got off. We left our port in an emergency to assist and it took 13 hours to get to them. According to people on that Windstar ship no one was injured which makes us all happy. We are going to be back tracking to get them to the closest airport. The ship we all saw is clearly damaged at it is listing."

News sources says that guests were refunded 100 percent of their voyage fare. Cruise Critic says that the cruise line offered '100 percent of cruise fare paid for future cruise credit." 

The cruise ship will be towed to the port of Balboa in Panama for repairs to the hull. Windstar is also reportedly canceling the December 26th Star Pride voyage. 

The cruise ship was renamed the Star Pride after Seabourn Cruises stopped operating the vessel last year. 

Photo Credit: Seabourn Pride by Churchill188 licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikipedia.

December 26 2015 Update: It seems that this occurred on a UNESCO World Heritage site. According Star Pride Groundingto the Facebook Sea Shepard Panama page (Photo Credit for photo right):

"A Cruise Ship Passing Through UNESCO World Heritage Site Coiba National Park, hit some slightly submerged rocks while attempting to navigate through a shallow channel.

The ship is undergoing repairs In this delicate ecosystem so it can continue on its way. Meanwhile other Cruise Ships navigate around it as they load and unload their 100's of passengers for waterskiing and other activities.

We hope that while repairs are happening on the Ship that there is no furthur negative impact to the environment.

At this stage it is unknown how much damage has-been done to the Reef and Marine life at the site of impact."

8 Year Old Child Drowns on Liberty of the Seas

Yesterday, a young child drowned on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas, according to the website of cruise expert Ross Klein. A letter (below right) handed out to passengers states that the child was pulled, apparently unconscious, from one of the cruise ship's pools by a passenger. A medical team administered CPR on the boy which was not successful.

This incident will again raise the issue of why virtually all cruise lines do not assign lifeguards to cruise ship swimming pools. The problem is widespread and well known in the cruise industry.  

As matters now stand, only Disney Cruises assigns lifeguards to cruise ship swimming pools. However it did so only after a 4 year old child nearly drown and sustained a catastrophic brain injury aboard Liberty of the Seas - Child Drownsthe Fantasy cruise ship requiring life-time medical care and resulting in a multi-million dollar settlement.

This year began with a 4 year old boy nearly drowning aboard the Oasis of the Seas on January 3, 2015. Royal Caribbean. The Miami Herald published Near-drowning on Royal Caribbean cruise raises concerns about lack of lifeguards after that incident. Royal Caribbean also experienced a near drowning of a child on the Independence of the Seas in May of last year that left a 6 year old boy fighting for his life in a hospital.

I have long advocated for having a lifeguard at every pool on a cruise ship. Lifeguards are needed because parents are not perfect, and there is a natural tendency for parents to let their guards down when they are on vacation. Kids deserve to have their parents and the cruise line working together to keep them safe. The cruise industry collects $45 billion dollars a year from passengers and pays virtually zero in U.S. taxes. It's shameful for every cruise line except Disney to refuse to hire lifeguards to keep kids safe.

In an article published earlier this year titled Cruise Ships Are Unregulated Trouble on the High Seas, the New York Times wrote that Congress has exempted these cruise ship behemoths from virtually all regulations. The Times characterized the last death of a child in a pool without a lifeguard as a problem with letting cruise lines regulate themselves.

All major cruise lines have lost children and passengers in swimming pools on their ships. Like Royal Caribbean, Carnival, NCL and Princess Cruises continue to refuse to hire lifeguards.

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

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

Jury Finds Cruise Cocaine Smuggler Guilty

Norwegian SunA jury in Tampa, Florida has returned a guilty verdict against a man who was part of a group of cruise ship employees who smuggled cocaine into Tampa from Roatan, Honduras. According to the Tampa Tribune, Desrick Gordon, age 23, faces 10 years to life in prison. 

Mr. Gordon is from the country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He and five other NCL crew members from the Norwegian Sun reportedly transported packages filled of cocaine from Roatan, Honduras to the U.S. 

When the cruise ship docked in Tampa, the crew members handed the drugs to local drug traffickers with ties to the Honduran source.

The other cruise ship employees, Jason Carmichael, Teffan Delice, Johnson Cherubin, Alfred Ince, and Arkine John, previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the case and will be be sentenced in January.

We reported on the initial arrest here - NCL Crew Members Arrested for Smuggling Cocaine from Roatan to Tampa. You can see photo of the crew members here.

Photo Credit: "NCLSunAlaska" by Image licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons. 

Cruise Lines Poised to Take Legal Rights Away from Crew Members

The cruise industry is attempting to prevent its crew members from using U.S. law when they are injured or when they have been denied appropriate medical treatment.  

The cruise lines' lawyers and lobbyists have inserted language in the Coast Guard Re-Authorization Act to strip "foreign" crew members of their rights under U.S. law after they have suffered an accident or when they are a victim of bad medical care.    

The prohibition strikes at the heart of cruise lines employeess. The vast majority of crew members are "foreign" (i.e., non-U.S. citizens). 

Historically, non-U.S. crew members have been covered by U.S. law when they become injured and Crew Memberwhen they have been denied appropriate medical care on U.S. based cruise ships. The "maintenance and cure" doctrine, which has applied to seaman on U.S. based cruise lines regardless of the crew member's nationality, is one of the oldest legal doctrines in the United States. It requires the cruise lines to be responsible when their ship employees become ill or injured.  Without this doctrine, the cruise lines can simply terminate and abandon their crew members at the next port of call when they become ill.     

The irony of the proposed legislation is that none of the major cruse Ines are U.S. corporations. Carnival, for example, is a Panamanian corporation and Royal Caribbean is a Liberian (Africa) corporation. Cruise lines are incorporated in foreign countries and register their cruise ships there in order to avoid U.S. taxes and wage and labor laws. By stripping its ship employees of their legal rights, the cruise industry will create a situation where they can avoid paying their employees' medical bills. Foreign incorporated cruise lines will not take take adequate care of their ship employees workers. U.S. hospitals and clinics (and U.S. taxpayers) risk bearing the cost of providing medical care for non-U.S. workers. 

The efforts of the cruise industry to kick crew members out or the U.S. are unnecessary. Cruise lines have already been successful in forcing crew members to resort to international arbitration where many arbitrators apply non-U.S. law to crew member cases. In addition, many maritime cases are already thrown out of U.S. courts. Procedures already exist for the dismissal of cases that do not belong in U.S. courts. For example, when a foreign seaman is injured by the owner of a foreign-flagged vessel, owned and operated outside of the U.S., and the injury occurs outside the U.S., the doctrine of f"orum non conveniens" will result in the dismissal of the case. 

In Florida, we are calling the office of Florida Senator Nelson (202) 224-5274 and asking him to oppose the cruise industry's efforts.  If you care about the welfare of crew members, please contact your Senator and do the same.

Passenger Overboard From Saga Sapphire

Saga SapphireThe World of Cruising reports that a passenger from the Saga Sapphire went overboard from the cruise ship while the ship was cruising across the Atlantic Ocean.

The magazine's Facebook page says that "a passenger has gone missing from cruise ship Saga Sapphire in the middle of the Atlantic. The ship, specializing in holidays for the over 50s, has turned round and is conducting a search."

Saga issued the following statement today:

"During the morning of Sunday 13 December, whilst the Saga Sapphire was crossing the Atlantic, a passenger was reported missing by her traveling companion. Following a comprehensive search of the ship, she could not be found. Working in conjunction with maritime authorities the Saga Sapphire has turned round to conduct a search . . ."

The Saga Sapphire is currently on a 35 day cruise from Southampton to the Caribbean.  

Photo Credit: "Saga Sapphire by Pjotr Mahhonin - Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons / Wikimedia.

December 14 2015 Update:  The Mirror newspaper is now covering the story.  The woman overboard has not been identified.  She is reportedly is a 70 year woman.

December 30 2015 Update: ‘Lovely caring lady’ from Sudbury feared dead in cruise ship tragedy.

Small Fire, Pod Failure on QM2

small fire reportedly broke out in the gas turbine exhaust of the QM2 on December 12th. It was quickly extinguished although the cruise ship temporarily lost power.

One of the cruise ship pods also malfunctioned and the ship was briefly delayed in Lisbon to address this problem. 

The QM2 is headed now back to the U.K. and on Tuesday, June 15th will be headed on a trans-Atlantic voyage to New York.  

Photo Credit: "Queen Mary 2 outbound from Southampton 2 Sept 2013" photographed by Brian Burnell with permission was uploaded to Commons by George Hutchinson.Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons / Wikipedia. 

QM2 Ocean Liner

Crime Watch Daily's When Cruise Ship Passengers Disappear Without a Trace

Crime Watch Daily is a new program which focuses on stories of crime in the daily life of average Americans.  Last month, it published it's first show regarding crime on cruise ships - Cruise Ship Crime: Hard to Prosecute, Convict about the difficulties prosecuting crimes on the high seas.

The program has now published its second show about cruise ship dangers - When Cruise Ship Passengers Disappear Without A Trace.  

When 40 year old Boston resident Merrian Carver "disappeared" from the cruise ship Mercury operated by Royal Caribbean’s subsidiary brand Celebrity Cruises, 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, Merrian Carvereven though the cabin attendant reported her missing early in the cruise. Merrian’s father, insurance executive Ken Carver, began a serious investigation. Royal Caribbean responded by lying to Mr. Carver and disposing of evidence. Mr. Carver didn’t go away and the story went public. The The Arizona Republic published an excellently researched and written story. In response, the cruise line reached into its bag of tricks and pulled out a good excuse: " . . . there is very little a cruise line, a resort or a hotel can do to prevent someone from committing suicide."

Aside of the speculation fueled by the cruise line's lawyers and PR team, there was no competent evidence whatsoever for Royal Caribbean's self serving announcement to the media. If it was a suicide, why did Royal Caribbean work so hard to cover the incident up and lie to Mr. Carver? Indeed, there is now an issue whether a crew member was involved in Merrian's death.

Other cruise lines would duplicate the shameful way that Royal Caribbean handled the case. In 2009, I wrote "Suicide" - One of the Cruise Lines' Favorite Excuses When a Passenger Disappears at Sea.

Since then, we have seen repeated mysteries where young, healthy and seemingly happy crew members and passengers disappear from cruise ships, with the cruise line wildly speculating that they probably committed suicide, like Denisa Markoska, or Angelo Faliva, or Fariba Amani, or Annette Mizener, or George Smith, where there is absolutely no evidence supporting such a conclusion.

Royal Caribbean refused to speak to Crime Watch Daily. The cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Organization, claims that automatic man overboard systems - which can easily detect a person going overboard and immediately report the incident to the bridge - are somehow just an "emerging technology."  

 

Celebrity Passengers Killed, Injured in Excursion Bus Mishap in Tortola

Celebrity SummitVirgin Islands News Online reports that at least two cruise passengers have been killed and many other passengers injuired on an excursion bus transporting cruise tourists to Cane Garden Bay beach today in Tortola, British West Indies. 

According to this news report, the excursion bus apparently lost control near "Round Hill" on the Cane Garden Bay Hill. 

The newspaper says that the roadway was steep and wet but it does not state how or why the accident occurred.

The cruise passengers were from the Celebrity Summit. Royal Caribbean has tweeted: "We are saddened to report the deaths of two Celebrity Summit guests after a local bus accident in Tortola. Several others are being treated." It earlier tweeted that "16 of 20 passengers reported injured, 2 critically."

In 2010, an excursion bus carrying Princess cruise passengers crashed in Tortola, killing one young man.  

This is not the first time that cruise passengers from Celebrity's Summit cruise ship have been seriously injured in an excursion vehicle mishap in the Caribbean islands. In 2009, a dozen passengers from Celebrity Cruises' Summit were seriously injured when an open air excursion vehicle ran off the road in Dominica. We represented passengers against the cruise line and the excursion company in that accident. You can read information on the Dominica excursion accident in an article "Injured Visitors to Dominica Airlifted to Miami."

There were two cruise excursion bus crashes in 2012 in Caribbean islands, both involving Royal Caribbean passengers.

Photo Credit: "Celebrity Summit" by Yankeesman312 Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons / Wikipedia.

Exposed: Fake Doctor Working Aboard Cruise Ships

A reader of Cruise law news has brought to our attention that newspapers in Germany are reporting that the police in Berlin arrested a cruise ship employee impersonating a cruise ship doctor.

In an article titled "Fake Doctor Treated Hundreds of Cruise Passengers," the German newspaper Aftenposten says that a 40 year old man was arrested in Germany after flying from Miami yesterday to join an AIDA cruise ship.  He had been working on cruise ships in the Caribbean, after falsifying documents in order to claim that he was a doctor. He was actually educated as a nurse but had he had worked as a ship doctor for five years the newspapers suggest.

AIDA Cruise Another German newspaper Berliner Morgenpost covered the story and says that the so-called doctor falsely claimed that he specialized in anesthesia and intensive care.  

Carnival-owned Aida Cruises offered no explanation why it hired someone with no medical school education or credentials.  The cruise line obviously did not conduct a thorough pre-employment background check.  It also potentially compromised the heath and well-being of hundreds of passengers and crew members. This also raises the issue whether adequate background checks were performed on other cruise employees.

The strange thing about the articles is that neither the supposed ship doctor nor the Aida cruise ship where the "doctor" was headed or the ships where he previously worked were identified.

Does anyone with information about the identity of the fake doctor or the cruise ships where he fraudulently treated passengers and crew members?

December 8 2015 Update: Based on reliable information I have receiced, it appears that the bogus ship doctor worked aboard the Aida Vita. 

Photo Credit: "Aidasol" by Patrick Martini - www.schiffgiganten.de Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons

Sexual Assault Alleged on Mariner of the Seas

Mariner of the SeasCourt House News reports that a former Royal Caribbean crew member working on the Mariner of the Seas has alleged in a lawsuit filed in Miami that another crew member sexually assaulted her in November 2013. 

"Jane Doe" alleges that when she returned to her cabin, the crew member was having sex with her roommate in her cabin and she left the cabin. When she returned, she alleges that her roommate and the male crew member were sleeping. She claims that she then got into her bed and fell asleep. She alleges that later, she awoke when the male crew member began to sexually assault her.

After the alleged sexual assault, Jane Doe claims that "she notified the ship's chief of security, and then went to the ship's medical center to have a rape kit performed."

The complaint also alleges that Jane Doe did not receive appropriate medical treatment.   She has since left the cruise line's employment.

The crew member is represented by Michael Winkleman of the Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman law firm in Miami.  

Photo Credit:  Spaceaero2 Creative Commons 4.0 via Wikipedia

Fire on Grand Princess Near Hilo

Grand PrincessA reader of our Facebook page has reported that a fire broke out in the engine room of the Grand Princess this morning as the Princess cruise ship approached Hilo, Hawaii. The reader cites the Cruise Critic Boards as the source of her information:

"BAD news first…...about 0530 the captain came on and advised the was a small fire on deck 4 near the engine room…we were losing propulsion and had limited lighting…well that certainly wakes you up!
20 minutes later he advised fire was out but we have limited propulsion and limping onwards to Hilo Hawaii, our first port since leaving SF…

GOOD news… we are about 6 miles fro Hilo…
there isn't enough power for brewing coffee and limited lighting in horizon court ….which was a zoo with limited lighting and people acting as if they were rushing to avoid a food shortage…some folks really amaze me…."

There has been a string of engine room fires this year. 

Fairplay recently published an article about the "continuing string of cruise ship engine room fires" in the article Cruise Engine Room Fire Risk Persists. The following cruise ships have faced fires over the course of the last year: NCL's Norwegian Pearl (November) in Caribbean; Royal Caribbean’s Splendour of the Seas (October) while sailing to Greece; Carnival Liberty (September) while at dock in St Thomas; Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seasbefore it arrived in Falmouth, Jamaica; P&O’s Oriana (April) after leaving Miami, Florida; Fred Olsen’s Boudicca (January) Casablanca, Morocco; Oceania Cruises’ Insignia St. Lucia (December).

Photo Credit: Grand Princess (ship, 1998) Ivan T. - Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

November 20 2015 Update: The Star Advertiser newspaper in Honolulu reports that the Grand Princess, cruising to Hawaii from San Francisco, experienced a fire in its engine room and lost power about 100 miles from Hilo this morning. The crew extinguished the fire just before 8 a.m. and restarted its engine, resuming its voyage.According to a passenger, “the ship has only one working engine and there are two small tug boats that might get the ship into port.”

November 23, 2015 Update from Princess Cruises @ 3:05 PM EST:  Princess released the foltowing statement this afternoon:

"At approximately 5:30 am local time, the propulsion circuit breaker in the aft switchboard aboard Grand Princess suffered a significant failure, resulting in smoke. The ship was 20 miles off the coast of Hilo, Hawaii. All guests and crew are accounted for and there were no injuries.

The incident did cause a power outage resulting in the use of emergency lighting and limited air conditioning for a short time. The ship is currently operating on three diesel generators and will arrive in Hilo later today.

We are currently investigating the cause of this incident and the impact it may have on the current voyage.

Grand Princess is carrying 2,592 guests and 1,095 crew. The ship is on the fifth day of a 15-day Hawaii cruise that departed San Francisco on November 25." 

November 30, 2015 Update from Princess Cruises @ 5:53 PM EST:

"At approximately 5:30 am local time, a propulsion circuit breaker in the aft electrical switchboard aboard Grand Princess suffered a significant failure, resulting in smoke and a small fire contained within the switchboard. The ship was 20 miles off the coast of Hilo, Hawaii.   All guests and crew are accounted for and there were no injuries.

The incident was isolated but did cause a power outage resulting in the temporary use of emergency lighting and limited air conditioning for a short time. Power has been restored and all hotel and guest services are in operation.

The call to Hilo has been cancelled in order to proceed to Honolulu where shoreside engineers have been deployed to meet the ship for an on-time arrival at 0700 am local time on December 1.

Once the technical officers and engineers complete their assessment of the situation it will be determined if there will be any further impact to the itinerary."

Le Boreal Cruise Ship Fire Survivor Tells of Ordeal

A Canadian cruise ship entertainer is back home after an ordeal aboard a cruise ship which faced a fire which it could not control.

As reported by CBA, a fire broke out on the Le Boreal

"We were all concentrated on the top deck in the front, to get away from the smoke, which was coming from the back in the bottom," he said from his home in Woodstock.

The entertainer was reportedly ordered into a life raft after five hours in the darkness. 

The RAF conducted a major evacuation of a very serious cruise ship fire.

 

 

U.S. Issues Worldwide Travel Warning Due to Terror Attacks

Cruise Ship SecurityThe U.S. State Department has alerted its citizens of possible risks of travel due to increased terrorist threats. "Current information suggests that ISIL (aka Da’esh), al-Qa’ida, Boko Haram, and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions. These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics, using conventional and non-conventional weapons and targeting both official and private interests."

The warning, which technically ended on Tuesday, advises U.S. citizens to exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for a number of high-profile incidents including the October 31st bombing of a Russian airliner in Egypt, killing 224 people. on a flight from Sharm El-Sheikh to St Petersburg and the recent November 13th attacks in Paris. 

President Obama spoke this afternoon on the terror alert and stated that there is no "specific and credible" threat to the U.S. Even assuming that to be true, there have no doubt been prior terrorist incidents which have affected cruise passengers. Cruise passengers from Costa and MSC cruise ships were massacred in Tunis last earlier this year.  We have predicted how the next terrorist attack against a cruise ship will take place

But what can a cruise passenger do? Not much it seems. There is no right for a refund if there’s a terrorist incident in a country where a cruise passenger is traveling to. Passengers from Viking River Cruises, for example, traveled around Paris in Viking buses after the recent attacks waiting for their cruises because they had no right to cancel their upcoming cruises. it goes without saying that the mere threat of an attack is a not legal basis to cancel a cruise with any reasonable expectation of obtaining a refund. Read Five Myths About Travel Insurance and Terrorism.

Le Boréal Fire and Evacuation More Serious than Disclosed

Le Boreal The engine room fire which erupted aboard Ponant’s luxury cruise ship, Le LeBoréal, near the Falkland Islands on Wednesday night was far more serious than initially reported by the cruise line. 

U.K. newspapers report that the crew was unable to extinguish the major fire forcing the passengers and crew to evacuate the cruise ship into rafts as well as to be medevaced aboard helicopters. The Telegraph newspaper shows dramatic film of British helicopter crews winching people from the Le Boréal

The Telegraph says that all 347 passengers and crew were rescued from the stricken ship which had lost power and was in danger of grounding on East Falkland on Wednesday. "Two Royal Air Force Sea King helicopters and two other support helicopters winched passengers and crew members the deck of the cruise ship and from two life rafts in the water."

The Telegraph further states that the "Royal Navy patrol vessel HMS Clyde was also dispatched to the scene to ensure two further lifeboats with more than 200 evacuees were brought to safety."

The Commander of British Forces in the South Atlantic Islands characterized the emergency evacuation as "an extremely complex and hazardous rescue operation in difficult conditions."

Yesterday, the cruise operator Ponant said simply that the passengers and crew were evacuated only as a "precaution."

Photo Credit: U.K. Ministry of Defence via gCaptain

Fire on Ponant's Le Boréal, Passengers and Crew Evacuated

A number of news sources are reporting that a fire broke last night on Ponant’s luxury cruise ship, Le Boréal, as the ship was sailing north of the Falkland Islands. The vessel was heading from Grave Cove to South Georgia when the alarm sounded shortly after 2:00 A.M. last night.

347 passengers and crew were on the ship. All persons were safely evacuated. 

A number of sources are saying that 90 of the 347 passengers were air-lifted to safety from life-rafts and the rest were transferred to the L'Austral. The company said that the passenger and crew were evacuated as a "precaution" although the life saving measures seem to be far from routine.  

The rest of the cruise was canceled and the passengers will be flown home once they arrive in the capital of the Falklands.

Photo Credit: Pjotr Mahhonin creative Commons 3.0 via Wikipedia

Le Boreal Cruise Ship

 

Woman Overboard from Cruise Ship, Rescued

Star BreezeAccording to Professor Ross Klein's Cruisejunkie, the Italian newspaper Il Tirreno reports that a 43 year old U.S. woman went overboard when the Star Breeze cruise ship was between Civitivecchia and Portoferraio. She was traveling with her boyfriend and a group of friends.

The translated account says that it is unknown how the passenger went overboard. One translation suggests that she has an argument before she went into the water,  The Master of the cruise ship mentioned that the woman consumed alcohol before she went overboard. The cruise ship had just left the island of Giglio. As soon as learning that a passenger went overboard, the captain of the Star Breeze triggered the man overboard procedures and reversed course, warning the maritime authorities of what was happening.

The passenger was found in the water after approximately an hour. 

The Star Breeze previously operated as the Seabourne Spirit and entered the Windstar Cruises fleet this year. 

 

Photo Credit: David Orlovic Creative Commons 3..0 via Wikipedia 

"Cruise Ship Crime: Hard to Prosecute, Convict"

Jim Walker Cruise LawyerCrime Watch Daily is a new program which focuses on stories of crime in the daily life of average Americans. 

It just published it's first show regarding crime on cruise ships.

Today it aired Cruise Ship Crime: Hard to Prosecute, Convict about the difficulties prosecuting crimes on the high seas.

Laurie Dishman, a friend and former client, talks about being sexually assaulted during a Royal Caribbean cruise.  Former Disney Cruise security officer Dawn Taplin talks about being told by her supervisors not to call U.S. authorities when a Disney crew member molested an 11 year old girl while the Disney Dream was still docked in a Florida port. The Disney cruise ship then sailed on to the Bahamas where it flew it's crew member back home to escape prosecution.  

Photo: Crime Watch Daily

 

 

Passenger Overboard from Oasis of the Seas

A video posted by a passenger on YouTube shows a man holding on to the support bracket of a lifeboat when his hands apparently slip and he falls overboard from the Oasis of the Seas last night around 1:00 A.M.  

The video (warning, graphic content, available on Sun-Sentinel) taken by another passenger from a higher balcony cabin records a confusing set of circumstances taking place as the man tries to hold onto the side of the lifeboat, apparently loses his grip, and falls into the water. 

"He's there! He's there! Stop! Get the lifeboat! Get the life ring! Throw it over!" yells the woman videotaping the terrible ordeal after he plunges into the water.

ABC News quotes Royal Caribbean saying that the incident occurred "17 miles east of Turks and Caicos Islands (when) a 35 year old male guest from Brazil went overboard. He was spotted by Oasis of the Seas crew members intentionally going over the side of the ship.” 

 

Seattle Jury Awards $21,000,000 Verdict Against HAL

Yesterday, a jury in Seattle awarded $21,000,000 to a cruise passenger hit in the head by an automatic glass door on Holland America's MS Amsterdam in 2011.

KIRO Channel 7 reports that the passenger suffered a traumatic brain injury which included debilitating headaches, problems with his balance and fatigue.

His lawyers at the Friedman Rubin Law Firm showed the jury that sliding doors injured 30 others across Holland America's fleet of cruise ships in the three year period before the accident. 

Holland America Line said in a statement that it is "committed to the safety and security" of passengers, and that it will appeal the verdict. 

 

 

New Critical Crime Warning for Honduras

Roatan HondurasAlthough crime in the country of Honduras has declined in the past two years, the U.S. Department of State continues to warn that the level of crime and violence in Honduras remains "critically high,"

The State Department website warns that:

"Crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country. The Government of Honduras lacks sufficient resources to properly respond to, investigate, and prosecute cases. As a result, criminals operate with a high degree of impunity throughout Honduras."

The State Department says that the country's murder rate has decreased to 66 per 100,000 in 2014, down from its peak of 86.5 per 100,000 in 2011.  The murder rate so far this year is less than last year, although it is far more than the murder rate in the U.S. which is around 4.5 per 100,000. 

The warning for Roatan says that crime there and in the Bay Islands is lower than the Honduras mainland. There were efforts last year to improve tourism security.  However, "as on the mainland, thefts, break-ins, assaults, rapes, and murders do occur, and rates are still high by international standards."  

"If you are traveling on a cruise ship, you should take safety precautions, avoid unfamiliar areas, and take care to book only with reputable tour companies during your stopover in Honduras."

The State Department indicates that "the vast majority of cruise line passengers in Honduras experience no problems, but incidents of armed robbery and carjacking have been reported.

We have written many article about crime in Roatan after the murder of a NCL crew member in 2014 as well as the robbery of cruise passengers and murder of local citizens.

The last critical crime warning for Honduras was issued in May 2015.

Photo Credit: Westbrowncanada Creative 3.0 Wikipedia

Jurisdictional Hurdles Hinder Filipino Crew Member Raped on Cruise Ship

A 23 year old female Filipino crew member, who alleges that she was raped onboard a NYK cruise ship, filed a claim against the cruise line in Tokyo, Japan,

According to the Manila Bulletin, the Free Legal Assistance for Seafarers said that crew member filed a civil suit after Filipino law enforcement agencies failed to assist her file criminal charges as the alleged rape was committed on high seas.

The victim alleges that she was sexually assaulted while onboard MS Asuka II (the old Crystal Harmony), which was sailing from Saipan to Australia. The crew member alleged that four other Filipino Asuka II - Crystal Harmonyseafarers convinced her to drink with them. The newspaper says that she woke up the next morning naked with one of the men. She immediately reported that she had been assaulted but the men denied raping her.

When she disembarked in Sydney, Australia, she reported the incident to the Australian Customs and Border Protection, which forwarded her report to INTERPOL.

When the crew member returned to Manila she reported the alleged crime but was turned away, according to the Manila Bulletin.  She went to a local criminal investigation bureau which could not assist her because the alleged crime took place on the high seas. Her attorneys are now considering  filing criminal charges against the four Filipinos in Australia because the cruise ship was heading to Australia when the alleged crime occurred.

This case is one of many cases where female crew members are unable to pursue assailants at sea due to a lack of concern of the cruise lines and jurisdictional hurdles blocking prosecutions of crimes on the high seas. 

Photo Credit: D.Seeruttun Creative Commons 3.0 Wikipedia 

Cruise Executive Goldstein Sells Royal Caribbean Stock for $8.9 Million

Richard Fain Adam Goldstein Royal Caribbean Cruises President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Adam Goldstein sold 90,000 shares of the cruise line's stock today.

Mr. Goldstein sold the shares at $98.88 per share for a total value of $8,898,804.

Mr.Goldstein last sold RCL stock in July when he sold 4,184 shares at at $91.08 per share for a total value of $381,094.19.

At that time, he joined other cruise line executives dumping RCL stock. Royal Caribbean chairman Richard Fain sold 151,032 shares of his cruise line's stock for $13,650,151 at an average price of $90.40 a share. Royal Caribbean's General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer Bradley Stein sold 2,402 shares of the company stock for for a total value of $218,748.70. These insider traders sold $14,249,993 of company stock last summer.

October 27, 2015 update: Royal Caribbean Chairman & CEO Richard Fain sold 80,516 shares yesterday. The Insider Trading Report said that the insider selling transaction was disclosed on October 26, 2015 to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The shares were sold at $98.80 per share for a total value of $7,955,335.00. Together, cruise executives Fain and Goldstein sold $16, 854,139 worth of Royal Caribbean stock yesterday and over $30,000,000. since July. 

According to the DFN, "following the completion of the transaction, the chief operating officer (Mr. Goldstein) now directly owns 253,153 shares in the company, valued at $25,031,768.64."

October 29, 2015 updateRoyal Caribbean's Vice President Harri U. Kulovaara reportedly sold 8,228 shares of RCL stock on October 27th at an average price of $100.32, for a total of $825,432.96.

Italian News Station: Crew Member Sexually Molests Girl on Costa Diadema

Costa DiademaAn Italian news station reports that a Costa crew member allegedly sexually molested a 15 yer old girl aboard the Costa Diadema.

The Costa crew member is described as a 50 year-old Honduran man employed on the cruise ship as a cleaner. Italian police arrested him and criminally charged him with sexually assaulted the girl in her cabin. The assault occurred yesterday while the ship was at the La Spezia terminal.

The Primocanale news station says that girl, who was traveling with her aunt and uncle, left the dinner table to return to her cabin. The crew member apparently entered her cabin and began to touch the child's private parts and kiss her. The child broke free, escaped and told her aunt and uncle what happened.

Costa then notified the police who arrested the crew member. 

In August of this year, a Costa bar tender was arrested on charges on sexually assaulting an 18 year old passenger on the same cruise ship. 

Photo Credit: Luca Mauri licensed under CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia 

Splendour of the Seas Catches on Fire

Royal Caribbean's Splendour of the Seas caught on fire this morning as the cruise ship was sailing in the Mediterranean near the Greek islands. 

“There’s thick acrid smoke all over the cabins," reported an Irish passenger according to UTV in London.

“We can constantly smell smoke. Smoke here. Smoke everywhere. Everywhere on the ship we can smell smoke," added the passenger.  

A crew member contacted me after the engine room fire, saying that it was a "big fire" and the crew were summoned to their emergency stations for many hours. The ship is now heading toward Venice.

There were no deaths and the cruise line claims that there were no injuries. However, a passenger commented that "many elderly and disabled passengers appeared to be struggling." 

Spllendor of the SeasHe added “everything is smoke. damaged. The smell of burning plastic and burning rubber was very thick on our floor so everything in our room is contaminated.”

Royal Caribbean tweeted: "#SplendourOfTheSeas experienced a fire this morning in 1 of its engine rooms. Fire was contained & extinguished, all systems are functioning."

Royal Caribbean experienced a large fire in July when the Freedom of the Seas erupted in flames as it approached Falmouth, Jamaica.  In May 2013, the Grandeur of the Seas sustained a large fire which the crew battled for over 2 hours as the ship headed to Jamaica.

Photo Credit: Ivan T. Creative Commons 3.0 Wikipedia 

Update: The CruiseNeeds website reports that consumer expert Clark Howard, who is a passenger on the cruise ship, reported “We had a severe engine fire that lasted just under two hours . . . We were adrift at sea for a good while, and now we’re moving on less than half power.”

Royal Caribbean subsequently disclosed that "1 guest, 19 crew treated for smoke inhalation and released. 1 crew still being treated."

One passenger commented "currently running on one engine, very rocky. It's hard to walk around, very many people are sick."

Zip Line Mishap Kills Cruise Passenger in Puerto Rico

Zip Lining Excursion CruiseThe Associated Press reports that a cruise ship passenger from New Mexico died after falling from a zip line in Puerto Rico. 

Police said the 56 year old passenger fell approximately 20 feet from the zip line at the Hacienda Campo Rico outside of San Juan. "She could not move her legs and complained of chest pain after falling. She died at a hospital hours later."

The excursion company involved is Ecoquest Adventures & Tours. The cruise passenger was one of two dozen passengers taking the excursion, according to the AP.  The cruise line was not identified

The zip lining industry in Puerto Rico and other countires where cruise ships go are largely unregulated. Each year there are numerous injuries and deaths on zip lines around the world. The AP reports that "nearly 17,000 people were treated for injuries from 1997 to 2012." 

CBS News says that the deaths have "drawn attention to a regulatory safety net full of holes."

Cruise lines who send passengers on excursions should have protocols in place to ensure that third party excursions undergo safety inspections.

It is not unknown whether the line broke, or there was a problem with the harness and hardware.

The zip line company's website says that it uses "double cable(s)" for "double protection."  It identifies Carnival and Disney as cruise lines that it does business with.

Photo Credit: Campo Rico Zip Lining by Ecoquest

Coast Guard Medevacs Woman from Grand Princess

The United States Coast Guard medevaced a female passenger last night after she sustained a heart attack on the Grand Princess cruise ship. 

The woman was described as 57 years old. At the time of the medevac, the Princess Cruises' ship was approximately 80 miles southwest of Monterey, California. 

The Coast Guard flight surgeon recommended that the passenger be medically evacuated to a hospital for emergency care. A MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from San Francisco flew to the ship and hoisted the woman aboard and flew her to California. 

Story and video credit: Defense Imagery and Distribution Systems.

Azipod Failure on Norwegian Star

NCL Norwegian StarPassengers aboard NCL's Norwegian Star are telling me that the ship's azipod system has failed. The cruise ship is skipping Miami today and is heading for Tampa one day early. One passenger said that the next cruise is reportedly canceled. (The cancellation of the next cruise is not confirmed information. Please double check this information with your travel agents or the cruise line).

Another passenger said that he did not know whether the next cruise on Monday is canceled. He told me that the captain made the announcement about the azipod problems and said that "all communication with us has been absolutely clear, giving us free internet and phone calls and helping us to change hotel, and transportation bookings. Although it not an ideal situation the crew has behaved amazingly in this transatlantic and they have always provided us with transparent information."

This ship experienced propulsion problems earlier this year which were supposedly fixed while in dry dock.

Anyone have additional info?

Photo Credit:  Pjotr Mahhonin Creative Commons Via Wikipedia

Mystery Life Raft

Cruise LifeboatTwo nights ago, the Thomson Dream stopped when the crew noticed an abandoned life raft. The cruise ship was sailing from Sardinia towards Naples. 

The ship stopped for around 40 mins. The crew pulled the life raft to the shell doors and then went aboard to inspect it. The life raft was brand new and undamaged. It was too big to take onboard. It had a capacity of 100 plus. It had no IMO number or other identification markings. 

The captain decided to cut the life raft free and notified the Italian coast guard. 

Several passengers on the ship have asked me for an explanation. I would think in most cases that an abandoned life raft probably broke free from the ship. But the lack of identification on the life raft is confusing. 

Anyone else run across this life raft during a cruise? Does anyone have a reasonable explanation?

Viking Cruise Executive Indicted for Corruption

Viking Ocean Cruises CEO Torstein Hagen has been indicted in Norway on corruption charges arising out of the christening of the Viking Star cruise ship.

As we previously reported last week, the Godmother for the new cruise ship, Trude Drevland, the mayor of Bergen City in Norway, has been under police investigation due to allegations of bribery by the ship owner. Among other things, Godmother Drevland is accused of being flown in a private jet to Venice to participate in the launch of Viking Star. In addition, her stay at a luxury hotel was Viking Cruise CEOpaid by the Viking CEO. Plus Ms Drevland accepted a free cruise (which she subsequently canceled) given to her by the Viking CEO.

CEO Hagan has been accused of lobbying the mayor regarding the flagging of his cruise ship in Norway. A Norwegian newspaper says that CEO Torstein wants to change the regulations for the Norwegian International Ship Register (NIS), so that his cruise ship may call the port of Bergen and go between Norwegian ports which the NIS currently prohibits.The free flight in the CEO's jet, the complimentary luxury hotel and the free cruise have been viewed as bribery where the CEO sought special consideration from the government official for a favored economic benefit to the cruise line.

The VG News in Norway refers to emails between Torstein and Drevland where he specifically requests the "very most favorable treatment."

Viking denied that it received any benefit and says that this is business as usual in the cruise industry. 

In a statement appearing in a Norwegian newspaper, Viking says in part:

"Viking Ocean Cruises is confident that the company has done nothing unlawful in this case. The company has followed perfectly normal business practice in the cruise industry (regarding) baptism of vessels is concerned. This is a practice that has been implemented by ships for decades, and that will be practiced in the future of our line - and other shipping companies worldwide." 

Yes, it is well known that cruise lines will give godmothers and travel writers, cruise bloggers and friends in the media free or heavily discounted cruises and special favors in return for the benefits of good publicity and favorable reviews.  

But it quite a different matter that Viking gives a governmental official such benefits while lobbying her for favorable treatment in the registration of the ship.

Viking's defense that "everyone does it" may be true but its an indictment of the cruise industry. 

The irony of all of this is that the adverse publicity came about only after the Viking Star, notwithstanding its serious mechanical defects and other problems, "won" the Cruise Critic "best new cruise ship" award by Cruise Critics editors.

I wonder what special favors Viking may have given to the Cruise Critic editors for the award in the first place?

Photo Credit: VG News

Carnival Spirit Propulsion Problems

Carnival SpiritThe Carnival Spirit has developed a problem with its propulsion system, forcing it to reduce its cruising speed. As a result, the Spirit will be delayed arriving in Sydney on Wednesday, and will arrive at approximately 3:00 PM. 

According to Carnival, the cruise ship obviously needs to disembark its current passengers.So check-in for the next cruise is delayed and will not begin until 6:30 P.M. The ship will not sail until midnight.

Carnival plans to send "technicians" to meet the ship when it returns to port "to make the necessary repairs." Carnival plans to operate its current scheduled itinerary. 

Carnival is giving the boarding guests a 100.00 AUD per person credit to their Sail & Sign accounts. 

Photo Credit: Wikiwand

 

Quality of Crew Food on Queen Elizabeth? Depends Who's Coming to Dinner

In the last couple of weeks I've posted photographs of the crew mess on a number of cruise ships. Some of the photos are gross, Some of the photos don't seem too bad. One crew member said the food on the Queen Victoria was great.

Today a crew member on the Queen Elizabeth sent me these photographs, which I posted on our Facebook page.  They seem to fall into the "yuck" category. A main criticism seems to be repetitive meat dishes, tasteless vegetables and an absence of fresh fruit.   

Cruise Ship FoodThe crew member made an interesting comment when he sent the photos:

"One day we had David Dingle the CUNARD CEO at the time onboard for a visit. The ship was aware of his pending visit and his schedule well in advance. He was scheduled to eat lunch in the crew mess, you can guess what happened that day, fresh fruit and the food was guest standard. Any other day of the week, that wouldn't be the case . . . "

The problem of course is not just the spotty food, but the combination of factors: long hours working, long contracts, little time off, time away from home and family, demanding supervisors and a lack of respect from passengers. 

Have a comment? Please join the discussio on our Facebook page.

Passenger Overboard From SuperStar Gemini

Newspapers in India are reporting that a thirty year old male Indian passenger disappeared in the Strait of Malacca from the SuperStar Gemini operated by Star Cruises.

Rajkumar Agarwal, from Calcutta, India, was cruising with his extended family who boarded the SuperStar Gemini on October 4th. He is the youngest of three brothers and was involved in the family's business.  

He was last seen around midnight on October 6th. 

SuperStar GeminiHis family is complaining that the cruise line is keeping them in the dark regarding what happened. 

Mr. Agarwal's family did not know that he was missing from the ship until the next morning. 

The captain of the cruise ship allegedly said that CCTV cameras recorded someone going overboard around 12.22 A.M. but refused to show the footage to the family.

The cruise ship apparently did not have an automatic man overboard system which would have automatically signaled the bridge that a person went overboard and into the water. 

There apparently were not any type of search and rescue procedures initiated by the cruise line. 

The Malaysian police and the cruise line are apparently claiming that Mr. Agarwal committed suicide. This is a usual defense quickly raised by a cruise line. The newspaper says that the police are theorizing that Mr. Agarwal may have "lost heavily" at the casino. 

But a Calcutta newspaper says that family members describe Mr. Agarwal as "happy, cheerful" person with no history of suicide who "having a great time at the casino." 

You can read additional information here.

The disappearance was first reported on Professor Ross Klein's website.

In March of this year, a passenger went overboard from the Star Cruises SuperStar Libra. His body was later recovered.  

Photo Credit:  Facebook via Telegraph of India

Passenger Overboard From P&O Ventura

Ventura Cruise Ship Overboard PassengerLast night a reader of this blog sent me an AIS screen shot of the P&O Ventura sailing in circles south of the Isle of Wight in an apparent attempt to search for an overboard passenger.

This morning the British press is reporting that a passenger went overboard fron the Ventura around 04:30 BST as it was returning to Southampton. 

The cruise ship had left Southampton on September 27th on a cruise in the Mediterranean.

BBC reports that the P&O cruise ship retraced its route for several hours as part of an emergency search by sea and air for the unidentified passenger,

This is the 264th overboard case since 2000.  

Donkey Kills Cruise Tourist in Santorini

SantoriniThere are lots of things that can go wrong during a shore excursion. Some are foreseeable, like injuries on a zip-line or being robbed during a stop-over on a Caribbean island. But some things are not.

The Greek Reporter covers the bewildering story of a German tourist, a 67 year old woman, who was killed yesterday during a cruise in the Aegean Sea when she and her husband went ashore on the Greek island of Santorini.

The Greek newspaper reports that "a donkey, used by tourists to navigate around the island, freed itself from its owner and ran away . . . the animal hit the 67-year-old woman and then trampled her while its owner was frantically running behind it trying to subdue the animal."

Her husband, who celebrated his wife’s birthday one day ago, was left alone and bewildered. He was helped back to the unidentified cruise ship, holding only his wife’s watch and jewelry. 

Photo Credit: Berard Gagnon via Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0

NCL Names Pittbull Godfather of the Norwegian Escape

Norwegian Cruise Line announced that Miami remix rap artist "Pitbull" (Armando Christian Pérez) will become the Godfather of the company's newest cruise ship next month at the Port of Miami.

NCL cruise executives CEO Frank Del Rio and President Andy Stuart will attend the naming ceremony of the Norwegian Escape on November 9th. 

Pitbull will perform at the christening ceremony.  He has performed on NCL ships in the past

I have not been invited.  

Part 2: Cruise Critic Picks Viking Star As Best New Cruise Ship?

A number of people contacted me after I wrote about the editors at Cruise Critic picking the Viking Star (Viking's first ocean-going cruise ship) as the "Best New Cruise Ship" for 2015.

Cruise passengers and crew members brought to my attention that there have been problems with the Viking Star from day one. They mentioned "technical" issues like the failure of the propulsion systems only five months in service. Apparently, no one from shore-side management from the home office appeared in Tallinn following the fiasco.

A major issue faced the cruise ship this summer when glass shower doors, that has been installed wrong, began exploding while in use, leaving passengers bleeding.  

There has reporedly been a significant turnover of ship employees. Many crew members were not provided with written contracts until later and the financial terms were allegedly lower than verbally promised.

The new ship apparently did not have employment or technical manuals. Many crew members were told to bring manuals and procedures from their former cruise ship. There were inconsistent procedures from a mishmash of cruise line protocols. Some people even allegedly started to put Viking logos over the former logos just to have procedures.

Many crew members were frustrated that there seemed to be a general lack of experience of operating ships at sea rather than in a river. One person sent us a video of an anchoring mid fjord when the Viking Star almost ran aground. 

Another reader talked about the scandal surrounding the Godmother for the new cruise ship, Trude Drevland, the mayor of Bergen City in Norway. She is recently under police investigation due to allegations of bribery by the ship owner.  You can read an article here (it is Norwegian, so you will need to translate it). Among other things, Godmother Drevland is accused of being flown in a private jet, to Venice in June to participate in the launch of Viking Star. The air travel and stay at a luxury hotel were allegedly paid by the chairman and chief executive officer Torstein Hagen. You can read more details here.

In an industry which relies on marketing images and rave reviews, it appears that there is dirt behind the scenes that neither Cruise Critic nor the Viking Star owners want you to know.   

 

U.S. Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger From Norwegian Breakaway

The U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a woman from a NCL cruise ship approximately 165 miles east of Virginia Beach today.

The Coast Guard was called for assistance after a 30-year-old woman complained of abdominal pain.

The Coast Guard helicopter crew responded to the Norwegian Breakaway and flew the woman to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

Cunard Crew Mess Food: Good or Gross?

Cruise Ship FoodThe other day I posted an article entitled Grub on the High Seas.  I also posted photographs on Facebook of the food served in the crew mess, primarily on MSC, Costa and Cunard cruise ships.

A number of crew members sent me photos of some nasty looking stuff (photo left from Cunard).  One cruise passenger who follows me on Facebook asked me to delete a photo because she claimed that a pan of greasy-looking undercooked meat of some kind was causing her extreme mental anguish.

But other crew members commented that food on their cruise ships was fantastic.

One crew member from the Cunard Victoria posted photographs of delicious looking meals with fresh-looking vegetables, soups and cakes & pastries (photo bottom). These photos contrasted sharply with the photo of disgusting gruel served on another Cunard ship.

So I organized his photos in this album on Facebook. You can contrast them with the prior album I posted.

I suppose the food varies a bit from time to time from ship to ship.  That being said, which album best illustrates the food served to you in the crew mess on your ship?

Please leave a comment on our Facebook page.

Or send us a photo of what is served on your ship.

Please feel free to message me confidentially on Facebook or email be privately at jim@cruiselaw.com with your photos if you are afraid that your company will fire you.      

Cruise Ship Food

 

Cruise Critic Picks Viking Star As Best New Cruise Ship?

Viking StarThe Cruise Critic Editors' Picks Awards selected the "best new cruise ship" to be the Viking Ocean Cruises' Viking Star

I first heard of the Viking Star two months ago when the new cruise ship lost power in Tallinn, Estonia. After a great deal of confusion, the cruise was canceled amidst a storm of controversy. I received a lot of comments from passengers and crew members alike, critical of Viking, on both this website and on our Facebook page.  

But it doesn't seem that any of the Cruise Critic judges were on the Viking Star back in August when its power failed. The judges wrote that the ill-fated ship was a "state of the art cruise liner that has earned rave reviews." The judges described the cruise ship as having the "charm of a boutique hotel - homely and comfortable after a long day exploring in port. In fact, the ship is so beautifully designed - with terrific afredo restaurants, beautiful pool area, a superb spa and the two-level Explorer's observation lounge - you will be tempted not to go ashore." 

Gobbledygook like this drives me crazy. It seems far more relevant to me if the cruise ship has a history of power failure, or fires, and how the company handles an emergency. How are the crew members treated? Cruise Critic is silent on these basic issues.

TripAdvisor, a unit of Expedia, owns Cruise Critic. So hype like this is to be expected, I suppose. The Cruise Critic community is the largest group of cruisers in the world. And they are probably the most fanatical in their love for cruising; however, a discussion of a controversial issue on the CC message boards often turns turns into an ugly brawl. The editors and moderators at Cruise Critic act like cruise industry cheerleaders. Criticize a cruise line? Chances are that your comments will be deleted. 

 

Photo Credit: "MS Viking Star passing the O2 dome" by NFH Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons - Wikipedia

Star Princess Sickens Dozens with Norovirus

Tonight I received the following message from a Princess Cruises' passenger just off the Star Princess:

"I just arrived in Vancouver on the Star Princess. Cruise was September 19 - October 4 2015 Vancouver-Hawaii-Vancouver. I contacted the worst type flu of my life on the 21 September afternoon. By the third day I notified Medical Services after 2 days in bed running a unbelievable fever and was given tamiflu medication. I was sick almost the total cruise and was still coughing when I left the Star Princess.

I am a totally healthy individual, normal weight, & have no history of illness in years. Later, I heard many were sick on the ship, the Captain announced 2 separate viruses on board. We were 3 days from Star Princess returning to Vancouver before they started taking precautions in the dining areas.

We have traveled by ship for many years & all has been great until this trip. The worst & most expensive holiday of my life. The cruise ship needs to be held accountable for their careless hygiene on board & should give some compensation to individuals suffering such a miserable vacation. They keep piling them on larger & larger ships without any regard for the individuals exposed to all the germs being circulated. Extreme cleanliness was exercised only when there is a outbreak on board.

I feel for the elderly who are not in good health & are being exposed to these terrible viruses."

The press in Canada has picked up on the story. CBC News reports that a least one norovirus-stricken Star Princess passenger flew home from Hawaii, instead of cruising back to Canada. When the Princess cruise ship docked this morning in Vancouver, two passengers were transported by ambulance from the dock to hospital with norovirus. 

Princess told the newspaper that there were allegedly 78 people infected with norovirus during the two week cruise. The actual number is probably higher than that because many passengers do not report their symptoms and the cruise lines are quick to under-report the disease outbreaks.

Despite the extended outbreak during the last 2 weeks, the Star Princess is scheduled to depart tonight after a so-called "enhanced cleaning." 

The Star Princess had a noro outbreak last May.  

Princess Cruises has experienced 4 of the last 11 cruise ship norovirus outbreaks reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Photo Credit - Jim Walker

Ship Life - Grub on the High Seas

In past months, I have posted photographs and videos sent to me by crew members depicting life on cruise ships. 

The "ship life" photos are not the pretty images carefully arranged for the guests to see during behind-the-scene tours.

Ship Life - The Pot Wash Blues revealed the incredible amount of work required daily by the pot wash crew responsible for the non-stop cleaning of hundreds or pots and pans in the galley.  These cleaners work a minimum of 10 to 12 hours a days, 7 days a week, 30 or 31 days a month for 6 to 8 months Cruise Foodstraight, for as little as $550 a month.

Some photographs are more dramatic, like MSC crew members were ordered to throw black plastic garbage bags into the sea at night. Or when Silversea crew members were ordered to hide trolleys of food from USPH inspectors, in the Silversea crew quarters.

Some cruise passengers could care less about what life is really like for the crew. Many heartless cruise passengers justify the long hours and low pay by arguing that crew members receive "free" food and lodging. 

Today a crew member sent me photos of the food he eats on the cruise ship.  

Anyone familiar with this food like this?  Heavy gravy, mystery meat and lots of salt.  Certainly not suitable for a healthy lifestyle over the course of 6 months of hard work. Grub for the grubs?

See the photos here on our Facebook page.

If you are a crew member, feel free to send us your photos and videos of the working and living conditions you face on a daily basis.  Your name will remain confidential. 

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

 

Definition of "grub:"  Noun, 1. the short legless larva of certain insects, esp beetles; 2. food; 
3. a person who works hard, esp in a dull plodding way.

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger From Carnival Triumph

Defense Video and Imagery Distribution Services (DVIDS) reports that the United States Coast Guard medevaced a passenger passenger from a Carnival cruise ship about 115 miles southeast of Galveston yesterday morning.

At around 3:47 a.m., the Carnival Triumph contacted a Coast Guard  station in Galveston requesting a medevac for a 43 years old female passenger suffering from a heart attack.

A MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew shortly flew to the cruise ship and arrived at the ship approximately 4 hours later. The helicopter hoisted the woman and ship’s nurse aboard. They were flown to the airport in Galveston and then by ambulance to the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

China, China, China.

China CruiseEvery day it seems that there is an article about another cruise line expanding into China.

The Wall Street Journal just reported that cruise lines are posting some of the strongest earnings in history with profits this year for Carnival more than quadrupling. Earnings at Norwegian grew 26% and Royal Caribbean earnings rose 20%. Much of these profits are coming from China. The cruise lines are all charging premium fares for the China market.

The cruises lines are all mercenaries, selling their cabins to the highest bidder. Why sail from New York or Miami if the Chinese will pay 50% more for the Quantum? These flags of convenience have no loyalty to the U.S.

MSC announced that the Lirica will home port in Shanghai from May 2016. Princess is already over there, of course. Royal Caribbean seems to be taking the lead in China. Next year the Ovation of the Seas will be joining the Quantum of the Seas in China. together with the Mariner of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas and Legend of the Seas.   

Carnival CEO Arnold Donald, whose cruise line is also making a play for China, and Adam Goldstein, COO at Royal Caribbean, are headlining the 10th China Cruise Shipping show in two weeks. 

All the cruise executives want to talk about is China.

China, China, China.

The China frenzy reminds me, in a way, of the Donald Trumph campaign.  He can't say a sentence without mentioning China. 

And yes, the Chinese are pretty weird passengers, as you can read here and here.  

 

Insanity: Caymans to Build Cruise Pier

Cayman Island Cruise PierAccording to the Cayman Compass, the premier of the Cayman Islands says the government intends to build a huge, monolithic concrete cruise pier in George Town harbor.

The environmental impact assessments indicate that the controversial dredge and fill project will cause significant and irreversible environmental damage to the ancient beautiful reefs in the Caymans.

The cruise industry is itching for the Caymans to start on the project.

One of the comments to the article says: "Shameful is all I can say. The very thing thing that attracted me and so many others to Grand Cayman is being destroyed by short sighted people whose only motive is money. Sad day for this great Island. When you let the cruise lines dictate to you, you have lost!"

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

Photo Credit: Cayman Compass

 

Bahamian Buffoonery: Nassau Politicians Spat Over Carnival Cruise Crime Warnings

Crime BahamasThe Bahamian newspapers report today on a dispute which has arisen between the government of the Bahamas and the competing party, the Democratic National Alliance (DNA), over Carnival Cruise Line's apparent intention to issue crime warnings to its passengers.

A DNA official produced copies of e-mails which seem to reveal that Tourism Director Obie Wilchcombe failed to respond to repeated concerns from Carnival about the crime problem in Nassau. Mr. Wilchcombe denied receiving the emails.

The DNA official contended that Carnival was going to issue Nassau "crime warnings" this week. The Tribune newspaper says that that Mr Wilchcombe "angrily refuted Mr McCartney’s allegations" and claims that "Carnival had yesterday confirmed to him it was not intending to issue such Nassau 'advisories.’"

Both parties, to me, seem out of touch with reality. There is no question that crime in the Bahamas, including the rape and armed robbery of tourists, is a major problem for the country. Carnival's decision to warn its customers of the danger in the port is not dependent on whether the tourism officials respond to Carnivals' inquiries. I thought that this cruise line was already warning its passengers about the high crime rate in  Nassau. 

For those cruise passengers and travel agents in the know, it is common knowledge that there is an epidemic of crime in Nassau as the country heads to a record high number of murders. Many cruise passengers know that it is prudent to stay on the cruise ships when they arrive in Nassau. 

The problem remains for those tourists who are swayed by the marketing images of Carnival and the Bahamas and who cruise their families into the Nassau-war-zone with no knowledge of the considerable danger there.

Carnival owes its customers honesty. The cruise line should disclose to their guests the dangers in Nassau. The local politicians are just a sideshow. Carnival owes its passengers the same warnings that the U.S. and the U.K. and the Canadian governments have provided to their citizens.  Neither the PLP nor the DNA want to truth to be known - that Nassau represents an unreasonable danger to tourists.

Photo Credit: Caribbean 360

Crime in St. Lucia Worries Cruise Merchants

St. Lucia The St. Lucia Times reports today that, according to the the Saint Lucia Vendors Association, crime is escalating to the point that cruise lines may consider dropping Saint Lucia from their itinerary. Five years ago, Norwegian Cruise Lines, (NCL) dropped St. Lucia because of attacks on cruise passengers (see below).

The president of the vendors association described several incidents of what he said are "daily muggings of both visitors and locals in the Saint Lucia capital."

Last year I named St. Lucia as the tenth most dangerous port in the world.  I cited:

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.

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

Photo Credit: Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Saint_lucia_mountain_resort.JPG#/media/File:Saint_lucia_mountain_resort.JPG

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger from Carnival Pride

The U.S. Coast Guard medevaced an 80-year-old passenger from a Carnival cruise ship yesterday, according to a news station in North Carolina

Yesterday afternoon, a Coast guard station in North Carolina received an emergency call from the Carnival Pride that a woman on the cruise ship was having health complications.

The Coast Guard sent a helicopter crew to the cruise ship and hoisted her aboard around 3:15 p.m. The helicopter flew her to Carteret General Urgent Care in Morehead City. 

Video Credit WITN

Like a Broken Record, U.S. Warns of Crime in Nassau

As reported in the Nassau Guardian yesterday, the United States Department of State again warned U.S. citizens about traveling to the Bahamas because of high crime.

A recent travel advisory posted on the Department of State’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) website warns visitors of an increase in armed robberies in tourist areas in New Providence (Nassau).

The reports says that “an apparent two-year rise in armed robberies in The Bahamas has spurred Cruise Law Jim Walker Nassaunumerous warnings by foreign governments to their citizens visiting the country. Given the large volume of US tourists that visit The Bahamas and recent criminal incidents in popular tourist destinations, American visitors to tourism hubs in Nassau should be cognizant of heightened criminal risks.”

I have lost track of exactly the number of warnings issued by the Unites States, whether it be from the Department of State or the U.S. Embassy in Nassau. 

I have also conveyed numerous warnings from the U.K. and Canada official governmental sites.

I have been warning cruise passengers of the dangers in Nassau since I started this blog in 2009. 

There is a major problem in Nassau with armed robbery, murder and rape.

There have been around a dozen warnings from these three countries in the last couple of years, more for any other tourist destination.  

There have been 111 murders in 2015 in the Bahamas, primarily in Nassau. The country will establish a record number of murders this year. The murders include citizens of the U.S., U.K. and Canada. 

Nassau was recently embroiled in a controversy when two Disney cruises crew members were terminated from their jobs after making a satire video of the capital city, portraying it as a dirty, smelly crime-filled port.

Nassau is one port which I recommend avoiding. Many passengers stay on the cruise ship when it gets to port out of safety concerns. 

Cruise Passengers' Rights to be Sacrificed to Aid the Bahamas?

A retired Supreme Court justice is suggesting that all Bahamas-flagged cruise ships require that passenger disputes (including claims involving personal injury) be arbitrated in the Bahamas, according to the Tribune newspaper

The Bahamian newspaper reports that former justice Rubie Nottage told a group of arbitrators yesterday that arbitrating cruise passenger disputes would generate a "significant volumes of business."

The Tribune states that "with many of the major cruise lines, such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean, Arbitration Nassau Bahamasoperating Bahamas-flagged ships, Mrs Nottage called on them to insert a clause into passenger contracts ensuring “that matters that arise on Bahamas-flagged vessels be arbitrated in the Bahamas."

Currently, cruise passengers are entitled to trials in the United States federal courts. Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian Cruise Line passengers are required (according to the cruise lines' tickets) to file suit in Miami. Princess cruise passengers are required to file suit in Los Angeles. Holland America Line passengers must file suit in Seattle. All cruise passengers are entitled to have juries decide their claims against the cruise lines.

However, if arbitration clauses are inserted into cruise line tickets, and such provisions are enforced, cruise passengers would lose their right to a jury trial in the U.S.  Passengers would also be required to travel to Nassau, incur additional expenses,and risk being a victim of crime there. The murder rate in Nassau is many times higher than in the U.S. The Tribune reports today that a former government official said there is something “drastically wrong” with the government in the Bahamas and a "spirit of fear, sparked by escalating crime, shrouds the country."

As far fetched as it may sound, the prospect of cruise passengers bring forced into arbitration and losing their right to a jury trial is possible.  The cruise lines began requiring all crew members, including U.S. crew members, to submit to foreign arbitration in the last decade. Our firm is now now prosecuting crew arbitration cases in Panama and Europe where the applicable law is that of Panama, Norway or the Marshall Islands. The cruise lines resorted to this tactic to take rights away from their crew members.

Last year, the Tribune reported that the Bahamas had “a very good chance of being the arbitration centre of choice” for thousands of crew member cases generated annually. Michael Crye, a U.S. lawyer and former Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) executive vice-president, remarked that the Bahamas’ long-standing ties to the cruise industry placed it in position to “grab a substantial amount of this opportunity.”

It is questionable that a U.S. citizen could obtain a fair hearing before a Bahamian arbitrator deciding a case involving a cruise line which registers its cruise ships in the Bahamas. In addition to the inherent conflict of interest, there is a culture of corruption in Nassau. Consider the two comments to the article in the Bahamian newspaper. One comment mentioned "we are not an impartial jurisdiction, and the corruption will prevent anyone from using Bahamians as arbitrators." The other comment said: "I would only come here and when i already bribed everyone involved, that's how it works here . . ."

An Unexpected Blog Award

Today, I was picked by Go Port Canaveral (a publication of Florida Cruise Ports, Inc.) as one of "Our Favorite Cruise Blogs."

Admittedly, I am (very) critical of the cruise industry and, as such, I assumed that automatically disqualified me from a cruise sponsored competition. 

But lo and behold Cruise Law News was not only picked as one of the top eight cruise blogs but the Go Port Canaveral people gave my law blog Cruise Blogtop billing to boot. Here's what Go Port Canaveral had to say:

"Jim Walker is a partner at the law firm Walker & O’Neill and the go to source for legal services on the high seas. If there’s a question of liability or a crime committed on a cruise ship Mr. Walker and Cruise Law are usually the first to report it. If you have a concern about safety on ship or during a port call Cruise Law is the place to visit to find out what to watch for and where. He’s been the go to source for news outlets like the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Mr. Walker also takes a moral stance on some issues like whaling in the Faroe Islands or drinking aboard. You may not necessarily agree with his opinions, but it is nice to see a lawyer with scruples, and one that is honest with them."

Thanks Go Port Canaveral! 

Photo Credit:  Go Port Canaveral Favorite Cruise Blogs

Brazil Fines MSC Cruises R$2,505,000 for Dumping Bags of Garbage

The Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente E Dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) (IBAMA) levied a fine of R$ 2.505 million against MSC Cruises.

Based on today's exchange rate, the fine is approximately $635,545 in U.S. dollars.

IBAMA said that MSC Cruises released garbage into the sea during a cruise between Madeira Island and MSC Garbage Dumpingthe Port of Recife.

The complaint of the environmental crime was made by one of the ship's passengers who was on board the MSC ship during a cruise between November 26 to December 10, 2013.

I previously wrote about the crime in an article dated December 2013 titled Video: MSC Cruise Ship Dumps Garbage Bags Off Coast of Brazil.

I later posted an article and showed videos of the illegal dumping from the Magnifica sent to me by a crew member on the MSC cruise ship.

It appears that the fine was issued in 2014 after IBAMA viewed video and photographs and listened to testimony, but the fine was not immediately disclosed to the public.

You can see photographs of the dumping here

MSC later touted itself an a steward of the seas.

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

  

  

 

Vote for Cruise Law News!

Vote Cruise Law NewsThe Expert Institute has a law blog competition between 250 law blogs.  

The institute received more than 2,000 nominations for the "Best Legal Blog Contest." It then narrowed the field to 250 blogs which it is calling the "most exciting, entertaining, and informative legal blogs online today."

Cruise Law News was placed in the "Niche & Specialty" category. There are 35 blogs in that category. I was ranked second to last place as of yesterday. Yikes! I am currently in 8th place. 

There are money prizes for first ($1000), second ($500) and third place ($250) in the overall category. I plan on donating the money prize to charity if Cruise Law News is a winner.

Thanks for voting for me.  Just click on this link.  Then click on the voting box which is in the right upper corner just above the number.

Thanks!

Fire Breaks Out on Carnival Pride

Carnival Pride Fire Several people on the Carnival Pride tell me that a fire occurred in the engine room of engine no. 1 last night.

One passenger described the fire as involving an explosion of the engine.

The fire was extinguished and the Pride was delayed arriving at the next port (Half Moon Cay) today.

One passenger sent photographs of a crew member / fireman in a 4th deck hallway getting dresssed for the fire and passengers on deck wearing lifevests.

10 days ago, a fire broke out on the Carnival Liberty when the cruise ship was in St. Thomas USVI.

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

Carnival released the following statement: 

MIAMI -- At approximately 1.15am this morning, the Carnival Pride experienced a mechanical failure of one of its diesel generators which triggered the automated fire suppression system. It is unclear as to whether there was an actual fire and the matter is presently under investigation. At no time did the ship lose power and the vessel is currently continuing on its itinerary which involves a seven-day cruise from Baltimore that departed Sunday. The ship is currently in Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas for its regularly scheduled port visit there. There were no injuries to guests or crew and all safety, hotel and other operational systems are fully functional.

Carnival subsequently added the followng statement:

"CCTV footage has confirmed that there was not an actual fire, only smoke."

Cruise Passenger Seriously Injured on Carnival Victory

Christina RicciA local news station in Boston (MyFoxBoston.com) reports that a young woman from New Hampshire is "fighting for her life after falling on a cruise ship."

MyFoxBoston reports that Christina Ricci was on the Carnival Victory with her boyfriend when she fell shortly after the cruise began.

She reportedly  hit her head hard and not taken off the cruise ship (via medevac) to the hospital for six to eight hours during which time she suffered several strokes. She reportedly may be partially paralyzed and may not walk again.

Her family started a GoFundMe page. Take a moment and help her family out.

 

 

Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

Nassau: A Dangerous Dump?

The Tribune newspaper in the Bahamas has a headline Lawyer Says Nassau ‘Is A Dangerous Dump.' It quotes me talking about Nassau, something I have done in the past when the Nassau Guardian quoted me saying that the Bahamas are 'one gunshot away' from cruise line exit.

My personal opinions about the problems in Nassau are irrelevant, of course. There is no dispute that Nassau has a major crime problem. Just read the Bahamas Tribune (which I do every day) or  the Nassau Guardian, Bahamas Weekly or other Bahamian newspapers. Cruise passengers and crew members contact me regularly about what's happening in Nassau. Insiders at the cruise lines are not happy with Nassau as a port of call.  Serious crime, rape and murder, is a daily occurrence. Why any family sailing from Miami gets Nassau Bahamas off the cruise ship in Nassau is beyond me. 

Since Friday, the Tribune reported on a half dozen murders and a dozen shootings in the Bahamas.  

That's a lot of dead people and gunshot victims. There are only around 250,000 people in Nassau (New Providence) and only around 330,000 people in all of the 700 or so Bahamian islands (New Providence, Grand Bahama, the family islands, etc.) The murder count for the year is already well over 100 with three and a half months to go. That's to be compared with around 225 murders or so a year in Metro Miami-Dade which has 5,500,000 people, 22 times more than Nassau. This year there will be a record murder count in the Bahamas.  2015 will go down in history as the most murderous year in the history of the Bahamas. Until 2016, of course.  

Crimes against U.S., Canadian or British citizens in Nassau are rarely solved. Within the last two years, the murders of American sailor Kyle Bruner, American student Mason Hart, British diving instructor Gary Vanhoeck, British tourist Edgar Dart, and retired Canadian doctor Geoffrey Harding have not been solved, There are no arrests following assaults, robberies, thefts and muggings of Americans. The police in Nassau never arrest criminals or child predators on cruise ships flagged in Nassau.   

The U.S. Embassy and the U.S. State Department routinely warn about the threat of criminal violence in Nassau.

But most families flying or cruising into Nassau don't know of the incredible violence there. And I will keep warning, to whomever listens, of the risks in this dangerous dump.

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

Photo credit: BrokenSphere Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons - Wikipedia.

Rape on the Carnival Liberty?

Carnival LibertyMultiple news sources are reporting that a Carnival crew member was detained today in Puerto Rico on allegations that he raped a woman onboard the Carnival Liberty cruise ship. 

Yahoo News says that, according to police, the alleged rape occurred in one of the cabins on the Carnival cruise ship which is now docked in San Juan following an engine room fire in St. Thomas, USVI last week.

The Carnival crew member was not identified nor charged with a crime. 

Carnival spokeswoman Jennifer De La Cruz said the woman is a cruise ship employee from Australia.  

The local police and a newspaper in Australia identify the victim as a tourist.

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

Update:  A local news station contains more details. (Use Goodle Chrome to automatically translate).

September 13, 2015 Uupdate:  The U.K. Daily Mail covers the story.

Photo Credit: Carnival Corporation

 

Islamic Terrorism: Are Cruise Executives Asleep at the Wheel?

Cruise TerrorismTwo articles caught my attention this morning.

Cruise Industry Believe Red Tape and Visa Restrictions are a Bigger Threat than Terrorism, written by cruise fan and Mirror blogger Captain Greybeard, suggests that the cruise line CEO's were downplaying the threat of terrorism this week at the Seatrade Europe conference held in Hamburg.

The Islamist Menace Shadowing This Sept. 11th, written by former mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, indicates that America is in denial of the "increasing and diversifying" jihadist threats of violence. Unlike President Obama who avoids any characterization of terrorism linked to Islamic radicalism, Giuliani traces the threat of killing Americans in terror attacks squarely back to  "extremist interpretation of Muhammad’s call to jihad." He cites the 1985 murder of Jewish cruise passenger Leon Klinghoffer, who was killed by "Islamic terrorist terrorists" while in his wheelchair and dumped into the Mediterranean Sea, as an example of what can happen today.   

But families booking cruises to Mediterranean ports of call don't read history books. I doubt that 5 percent of U.S. cruisers know the story of Leon Klinghoffer or could name the cruise ship he was slaughtered on. 

This week I was contacted by cruise passengers who were upset that their cruises to Istanbul were canceled. They scoffed when the captain mentioned the threat of terrorism as an explanation.

ISIS radicals today present a threat far more widespread and deadly than the PLO terrorists of the 1980's. Are cruise passengers in denial?  Yes, of course. No one wants to contemplate terrorism at sea during a holiday cruise any more than they wish to consider experiencing a cruise ship fire, which is a relatively common occurrence as recent events illustrate.

Are cruise executives downplaying the threat of ISIS blowing up a ship or holding passengers hostage? Such talk is bad for business. Other than occasionally canceling a port of two, the cruise industry routinely sails through the Suez canal and to ports in Morocco, Algeria, and Egypt.

Don't assume that the cruise lines will avoid a dangerous port of call. Islamic terrorists killed 32 cruise passengers in Tunisia earlier this year when Costa and MSC cruised blindly into the Goulette port in Tunis. Despite the foreseeable risk of danger presented by Islamic terrorists active in the country and in nearby Libya, the cruise lines provided absolutely no security or warnings to their guests. 

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

Photo Credit: International Business Times

Woman Overboard from Seabourn Quest

Seabourne QuestA number of new sources are reporting that a woman went overboard from the Seabourn Quest this evening. The cruise ship had left Boston and was headed for Bar Harbor, Maine. 

The Glouster Times reports that a woman fell off the Seabourn cruise ship 10 miles off the Cape Ann coast tonight. The U.S. Coast Guard dispatched a 47-foot rescue vessel from Gloucester, a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Cape Cod, and the 270-foot cutter Campbell from Portsmouth, N.H.

The Rockport Harbormasters found the woman's body  about seven miles out around 8:30 p.m. tonight.

WHDH 7 says the women died.

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

Update: The passenger has been identified as a 59 year old woman. The FBI has taken over the investigation.

Photo Credit: Christian Ferrer voa Creative Commons 3.0 Wikipedia 

 

7News Boston WHDH-TV

Nassau Spoof Video By Disney Crew Members Causes Uproar

A three minute satire video of downtown Nassau filmed by two Disney Cruises crew members has caused Bahamian officials and newspapers to freak out.

The video, titled "Nassau," was reportedly filmed by Disney Cruises employees Casey Gill and Joseph Oster. It has been was widely viewed on Facebook this week.

The video shows the two crew members posing as tourists on Bay Street and Junkanoo Beach amidst filth, stinking garbage, drugs, vagrants and derelict buildings with the words “visit nassau / getoutnow or call 1-800-IDONTFEELSAFE,” scrolling across the screen. The video captures what many cruise Nassau Guardianpassengers and tourists feel about Nassau - it's dirty and dangerous.

I picked Nassau last year to be the most dangerous cruise destination in the world. The most common comment that I receive from cruise passengers is that Nassau is the one port where they don't get off the cruise ship. There is high crime and an out-of-control murder rate. The sight of heavily armed police with automatic weapons causes the cruise tourists, I am told, to experience more stress than the security that the police are suppose to provide.

Cruise passenger also routinely state that they are offered drugs as soon as they get off the cruise ship. The service / tourist industry is often surly. I have been traveling to the Bahamas since the 1970's. The good-old "its better in the Bahamas" days are long gone.

Bahamian government officials and some local newspapers reacted to the video in a juvenile manner. Bahamian Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe reportedly called the President of Disney Cruises and protested the video. Some newspapers like BahamasNews Ma Bey called for a boycott of Disney and asked that the two young crew members be sacked.  242 Breaking News mocked the crew members and later reported that Disney allegedly terminated them.

The Bahamas' overblown reaction to the video controversy reflects poorly on Nassau. The truth of the matter is that Nassau, circa 2015, is a dangerous dump. Thinking of cruising there?  Watch the uncontroversial video here and catch a glimpse of Nassau without endangering your life. 

September 11, 2015 Update: The two Disney Dream crew members previously submitted the video to Disney as part of a cruise sponsored event. The Disney Cruises steering committee approved the video and selected it for the event.  Disney subsequently caved into to the yellow journalists in Nassau and not only fired the crew members but took the crew member's pay and charged them for airfare home in retaliation.

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Photo Credit: Nassau Guardian

Fire Breaks Out on Carnival Liberty

Carnival LibertyThere are reports that the Carnival Liberty cruise ship sustained an engine room fire today.

The fire took place when the cruise ship was docked in St. Thomas USVI.  Cruise passengers were reportedly evacuated ashore, some wearing life vests.

John Heald, the popular blogging cruise director for Carnival, posted this statement in his Facebook page:

"Earlier today, while the Carnival Liberty was docked in St. Thomas, there was a fire in the ship’s engine room. There were no reported injuries to guests or crew. All guests are ashore in St. Thomas. Crews are working to confirm the fire has been completely extinguished." 

Please leave a comment if you have information, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Think cruise ship fires are rare?  Think again. Read:

Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires - Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?

What cruise lines don't want you to know.

Update September 8, 2015 @ 5:00 P.M

CARNIVAL LIBERTY STATEMENT September 8, 2015 – 5pm EDT The Carnival Liberty continues to remain in St. Thomas following an engine fire that occurred yesterday while the ship was docked there during a scheduled port of call visit. The ship’s command is presently awaiting permission from authorities to sail. Once the vessel departs, it is scheduled to return to its homeport of San Juan. Guests will have the option of remaining on board through the rest of the week and exploring San Juan or disembarking and traveling home. If clearance to depart St. Thomas is not received by later this evening, the company will move forward with arrangements to fly all guests home from St. Thomas. All guests are being provided with a full refund of their cruise as well as a 50 percent discount on a future cruise. This is in addition to a $150 per person credit that has already been applied to guests’ shipboard accounts. There were no injuries to guests or crew as a result of the fire which was extinguished by the ship’s automated suppression system. All hotel services including air conditioning, elevators, toilets, galleys, etc. are fully functional and the ship's normal array of activities, entertainment, dining options and programming are being offered. We apologize to our guests for this unexpected disruption to their vacation and the inconvenience they are experiencing. Carnival Liberty departed San Juan on Sunday for a seven-day Caribbean cruise with 3,346 guests and 1,150 crew on board.

Photo Credit: Chargarther licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Baby Born on Board the Independence

Independence of the SeasI received these comments today from a Royal Caribbean passenger:

"Just got off the Independence of the Seas. We had a medical emergency on 9/1 and headed full speed to San Juan because a woman gave birth to a little boy on Tuesday morning at 3am. According to the captain he told us on Friday that the little boy and mother were doing great and they made it back to South Florida where they are in the hospital . . .  

 . . . I watched them getting in the ambulance on Tuesday when we got to San Juan two hours before the scheduled arrival. I saw the lady at dinner Monday night and thought, how in the world is she allowed in the ship that pregnant? Sure enough 8 hours later she delivered a baby. Crazy.

The captain said in his update to us Friday morning that the birth certificate said, place of birth - at sea."

It's hard reconciling the story with the fact that cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have polices against cruising when you are past 24 weeks pregnant.  Read Pregnancy & Cruising: What To Expect If You Are Expecting. Glad that mom and the infant are reportedly doing fine.

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

Photo Credit; Aztec06

 

Busy Week for Cruise Medical Emergencies

Coast Guard HelicopterI have been contacted by three cruise passengers stating that there have been medical emergencies and two evacuations during cruises,

The Oasis of the Seas had to turn around near the Cayman Islands at the beginning of the week, apparently because of a medical emergency involving a passenger. 

Another person said that there was a medical emergency on the Norwegian Getaway, and that the ship was proceeding full speed ahead to Nassau. It seems strange that any U.S.-based cruise ship would speed to Nassau given the dreadful medical care in the public hospitals there.

Today, I heard from a person sailing on Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas out of Southampton on a 14 day Mediterranean voyage:

"On the evening of September 2nd, there was an "Alpha" alert (code for medical situation). On September. 3rd (Day 3), there was a medical evacuation by helicopter of the patient and his family at approximately 11am. I believe Captain Klaus Anderson indicated the patient was being flown to a hospital in Portugal. The evacuation occurred at the aft end of the ship, and all guest services areas (ie. Windjammer aft seating, Flo-Rider, iFly by RipCord, Rock climbing wall, etc.) were closed during the procedure."

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Photo Credit U.S. Coast Guard

"Pool Rovers" Not the Answer to Lack of Lifeguards on Sapphire Princess

Sapphire PrincessInstead of hiring trained lifeguards in response to the drownings on the Sapphire Princess, Princess has tasked bartenders, dishwashers, and other crew members to add an hour of work each day to being "pool monitors" or "pool rovers".

The U.K.'s Maritime Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) recently criticized Princess after a passenger drowned on the Sapphire Princess. The cruise line did not hire lifeguards around the pool, it failed to conduct a risk assessment and the ship employees had no training on CPR or pools safety. 

A second passenger, a child, also nearly drowned last month. The child sustained serious, permanent injuries in a pool on the same lifeguard-less cruise ship.   

Despite these two tragedies, Princess still refuses to hire trained and experienced lifeguards. Instead, supervisors in the hotel and food and beverage departments on the Sapphire Princess are instructing their employees, hired to work in the galley, bars or passenger cabins, that they must work an extra hour around the ship's swimming pools as "pool rovers."   

This is an unpaid position. It is not considered a part-time job. These crew members people have no training in CPR, they have no idea about lifesaving techniques and procedures, and they have no clue what to do in case of a real emergency. There has been no training for these positions. These are inexperienced and non-trained "rovers" playing by it by ear. 

Sapphire Princess is in service to the Chinese market now. That means that virtually 100% of passengers are from China and only Mandarin Chinese. Most crew members cannot speak Chinese. There is a significant language barrier on the cruise ship.  What will happen in case of a real drowning involving another Chinese passenger?

The "pool rovers" are just instructed to hold a radio and call the Bridge if they see someone drowning. 

This is hardly what the MAIB recommended when it released its recommendations following its investigation into the drowning on the Sapphire Princess. 

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Photo Credit: Spaceaero2 licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via creative commons / wikipedia.

Cruise Cocaine Bust in Fort Lauderdale

Cocaine Cruise News outlets are reporting that a cruise passenger sailing to Port Everglades from the Bahamas was arrested after the U.S. Customs & Border Protection discovered 2.4 pounds of cocaine in the man's luggage and additional drugs taped to his ankles. 

LOCAL 10 News and Breaking 911 report that "Customs officers noticed the man nervously moving items in his luggage as he was being questioned, so they inspected the luggage and found two packages of cocaine inside."

The articles say that the passenger was arriving on a "cruise ferry" from the Bahamas on August 13th.

The Customs and Border Protection, like many Federal agencies, did not disclose the name of the cruise company in question. 

Anyone know what cruise ferry was sailing from the Bahamas to Fort Lauderdale on August 13th? Leave a comment.

Photo Credit:  U.S. Customs & Border Protection

 

 

 

 

Crew Member Allegedly Rapes Passenger on Costa Diadema

Costa Employee Marc Gregor GuinucudAn Italian newspaper reports today that a Costa crew member is accused of raping a young passenger aboard the Costa Diadema while the cruise ship was docked in Naples.

The newspaper says that a Costa bartender allegedly followed an 18 year-old French woman into her cabin and raped her brutally. 

The accused rapist is identified as 30 year-old Costa employee Mark Guinucud from Manila, Philippines.

Crew member Guinucud was supposed to fly back to the Philippines, but an Italian prosecutor reportedly blocked him from flying. The crew member was arrested and taken into police custody when the cruise ship arrived in the port of La Spezia.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Monday. Guinucud at this time is held in the prison of La Spezia.

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Photo Credit: Facebook

Vision of the Seas Rescues Migrants

Several crew members from the Vision of the Seas notified me that earlier this morning the cruise ship was involved in the rescue of 45 or 46 migrants.

The crew of the Vision provided food and water to all of the migrants.  It then transported the migrants on a tender boat to a nearby Greek island, after which the Vision continued on to its port of call in Kusadasi, Turkey.

The crew members wish to remain anonymous.

Congratulations to the effort by the Vision crew!

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Vision of Seas Migrant Rescue

Celebrity Cancels More Stops in Istanbul

Celebrity Cruises canceled a stop in Istanbul earlier this week because of concerns with terrorism.  We were the first to report on the cancellation involving the Equinox.

Today, Celebrity canceled more port stops, announcing that the Reflection will not stay in Istanbul on August 31st and will depart earlier in the day. Celebrity will also skip the Reflection's port call in Istanbul on September 4th & 5th and will instead call on Athens. 

Cruise IstanbulOn August 19th Costa canceled all port stops in Istanbul for the remainder of the year.

Costa and other cruise lines are under pressure not to sail more passengers into danger like Costa  recklessly did when it cruised to Tunisia in March, resulting in passengers being slaughtered. I called for the security chiefs to be sacked

There are hundreds of cruises scheduled for Istanbul this year. Expect more cancelations

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Photo Credit: rehbergundemi.com

Stop the Grind - Boycott Cruise Lines that Cruise to Faroe Islands

Faroe Islands Whale SlaughterEuropean cruise lines AIDA, Hapag-Lloyd, and P & O have already decided to avoid the Faroe Islands because of the cruel and gruesome slaughter of pilot whales (Grindadrap). Kudos to them. Disney is the only U.S. based cruise line avoiding the Faroes. Double Kudos to the Magical Cruise Company for doing the right thing. 

But Royal Caribbean and Royal Caribbean-owned Azamara, NCL and Oceania & Regent Seven Seas (both owned by NCL), Silversea Cruises, Windstar, and HAL & Princess (both owned by Carnival) are still sailing to the Faroes. I doubt that people would cruise on these companies' cruise ships to the Faroe islands if they knew about this slaughter. 

Yesterday the Sea Shepherd's Paul Watson mentioned this blog is his commentary "STOP THE VOYAGES TO HELL - Whale Friendly Tourists are not Welcome in the Danish Faroe Islands." Captain Watson explains that the Faroes recently passed a law that requires tourists to report pods of whales so that the country can slaughter them. He writes that:

"One of the pods of Pilot Whales exterminated by the Faroese whalers earlier this summer was spotted and reported by a tourist because the "special" new Grind Laws of the Faroe Islands makes it a criminal offense for anybody to not report a pod of whales to the whalers.

So when tourists have been recruited into being accessories to the slaughter, it is time to discourage more tourists from being recruited." 

It's time to act. If you are disturbed by this evil spectacle, do something about it.  Call your travel agent. Complain to the cruise lines that support the Faroe Islands and which profit from excursions to this location. Refuse to cruise on ships that cruise there. Don't give your money to cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, NCL and Carnival brands that sail there. 

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

Photo Credit: campaign-whale.org  Be sure to watch the short video below:

State of the Cruise Industry: Dangling Lifeboats, Missing People, Molested Teens, Drowned Guests & Dead Whales

I have always wondered how the public relations people at the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) manage to show up at work. 

Their sole purpose is to spin the news and try to make the cruise lines look good.

It seems, to me, that's a hard thing to do.

In just the last ten days, a lifeboat on a Costa cruise ship broke free and was left dangling from the side of the Costa Mediterranea. Three people went overboard within four days from the Cunard QM2, the MSC Magnifica, and the Carnival Glory, all cruise ships without automatic man overboard systems. A Costa Cruise Lifeboatstateroom attendant molested a teen on the Carnival Valor. A well respected maritime accident investigation board roundly criticized Princess Cruises, after the needless death of a young Chinese woman, for taking no precautions other than posting a cavalier swim-at-your-own-risk sign by a lifeguard-less swimming pool on the Sapphire Princess. Princess didn't learn a thing from that death and a 8 year-old child nearly drown on the same ship last week. The girl sustained serious brain damage and is on a ventilator. 

Five deadly or life-threatening events in just ten days! Where is the industry's trade organization, CLIA, trying to put a happy face on the deaths and injuries?

CLIA is reeling from the quick exit of its new CEO, former admiral Thomas Ostebo, who used the words "frightening" and "shocking" to describe his one month experience at CLIA. No one at CLIA bothers to even try and spin these recent events. CLIA doesn't even try to convince anyone anymore that the "safety & security of its passengers" is truly its highest priority.

The priority of the greedy cruise executives seems to be lining their pockets with money while cutting crew benefits, stealing increased gratuities advertised for the crew, and nickeling and diming the passengers to death. 

So what's next for the cruise industry?  Dead whales. 

There is a widespread and well organized movement to boycott the Faroe Islands for its barbaric and heart-wrenching slaughter of pilot whales. Trouble is that most cruise lines tout the Faroes as a key port of call for their cruise ships. But an international coalition of mammal lovers, environmentalists and decent-hearted, concerned citizens, organized by non-profits and the powerful and media savvy Sea Shepherd organization, is making a change. Disney abandoned its plans to go there and three other lines, all European companies, announced that they will no longer support the Faroes in response to social media campaigns geared toward educating the public about the despicable whale slaughter.

But U.S. based cruise lines are still sailing there regularly. Royal Caribbean, Azamara, NCL, Oceania, Grindstopand Carnival owned HAL and Princess all still plan on calling on the Faroe Islands. I have written about the deadly and disgusting practice here. The Faroe locals slit the throats of the little whales and rip the babies from their mothers. It's up close and personal terror. Don't read the article if you are squeamish. 

Disney was smart enough to get out of the way of the oncoming media blitz. It will maintain its reputation because of its awareness, just like it wisely assigned life guards to its pools and installed automatic man overboard systems on its ships. But the Carnivals and Royal Caribbeans and NCLs are too CEO-egocentric and arrogant to figure out a way to avoid the train of public opinion coming their way.

CLIA, meanwhile, is clueless. It doesn't know what to say when a lifeboat breaks a cable or a passenger drowns in a pool with no lifeguard. It is a heartless and passionless group of former federal employee hacks trying to keep their jobs. 

I don't blame the CLIA 9 to 5'ers for staying home, hiding with the covers over their heads.

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

 

Photo creit: Top - kolektiv; bottom - Sea Shepherd.

Princess Cruises Criticized After Passenger Drowned

A year ago, I wrote about a passenger drowning on the Princess Sapphire Princess. The passenger's death is just one of many mishaps where cruise passengers were killed or seriously injured in a lifeguard-less swimming pool on a Carnival, Disney, NCL, Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

Princess responded to our request for a comment at the time. After the obligatory "our thoughts and prayers are with our guest's family," the cruise line refused to comment except to say that "the incident is under investigation."

Well, the investigation is over.  The UK's Maritime Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) concluded that Sapphire Princessthe cruise line's use of a warning sign (stating that lifeguards are not on duty & persons using the pools do so at their own risk) was inadequate to reasonably safeguard its guests. 

The drowning occurred in the Neptune pool on deck 14 forward. The MAIB noted that the swimming pool was not supervised. The medical team, once it finally arrived, did a good job but was unreasonably delayed. Crew members who first responded were not trained in CPR. The victim was discovered by other passengers who were unfamiliar with CPR. The crew member (a Serbian) involved in calling 911 for emergency medical attention could not communicate with the crew member (an Asian) who answered the call due to a language barrier.

Princess had not performed a a risk assessment relating to hazards involved in the use of swimming pools. Princess also failed to assign designated attendants to the pool and failed to monitor the pool via CCTV.

The regulations on safety in swimming pools ashore "strongly indicates that constant poolside supervision provides the best assurance of pool users’ safety." However, it also recognizes that a risk assessment may determine circumstances where a safe swimming environment can be delivered without constant poolside supervision, which Princess did not conduct. The guidance specifically recommends constant poolside supervision with deeper polls and where food and drink are available to pool users, both of which applied to the Neptune Pool on the cruise ship.

Princess also failed to train their hotel staff in medical first-aid techniques or require such training prior to being hired.

The MAIB stated that "the lack of dedicated pool attendants potentially delayed the response to the incident in respect of raising an alarm and administering appropriate medical treatment. The monitoring of CCTV coverage of the area might have prompted an earlier response and would have given post-incident information."

The MAIB said, simply, that the "use of a ship’s swimming pools is a significant part of a holiday experience, and a passenger’s awareness of any attendant risk is likely to be lower . . . "

The report also stressed that "with no designated attendants at the vessel’s pools, it was left to other pool Cruise Shipping Poolusers and bystanders to recognize that (the victim) was in need of urgent assistance and to raise an alarm . . . had there been a dedicated pool attendant monitoring the passengers in the pool, the victim’s situation could have been identified at the earliest possible opportunity."

The MAIB concluded that 'the staffing of pool areas with personnel who are suitably trained in medical first-aid would allow a more appropriate response to medical emergencies." 

The MAIB mentioned two further swimming pool accidents involving passengers on board Princess cruise ships - a drowning on the Diamond Princess on June 23, 2015, and a near-drowning on the Sapphire Princess on  August 5, 2015 which you can read about here. We are unfamiliar with the June 23, 2015 incident (does anyone have info?)

It appears that as of this late date, despite multiple incidents, Princess has still not even conducted a risk assessment for its pools nor has it assigned lifeguards or monitors to this dangerous location.  

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Photo Credit: Top - gov.uk MAIB; bottom - Pro Publica

Man Overboard from Carnival Glory

Carnival Glory Overboard PassengerThere is a report of a "man overboard" this afternoon from the Carnival Glory cruise ship. 

A reader from Honduras listening to channel 16 heard the report and said that the Honduran Navy and locals were searching for a person overboard at certain coordinates in Honduran waters.

A person also notified me on my Facebook page.

Richard Elston has a friend on board the Glory and tells me that a passenger went overboard from the cruise ship. 

This is the third person overboard from a cruise ship in four days. A crew member from Chile went overboard from the Queen Mary 2 over the weekend.  A 23 year old passenger went overboard from the MSC Magnifica this morning. 

This is the 19th person going overboard so far this year.

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

AIS Credit: Richard Elston  

A college student disappeared from the Carnival Glory last March.

Update:  I received a message from a reader who indicated that her aunt had gone overboard. She was reportedly notified by the Honduran ambassador that her aunt's body was located.

August 24, 2015 Update: Exclusive: Family Appalled By Carnival’s Response To Woman Overboard.

Nassau, Bahamas - the "Wild, Wild West"

I have written several dozen articles in the last several years about the high crime rate in Nassau.  The murder rate in the Bahamas is well over 30 per 100,000 compared to the U.S. murder rate of around 4.5 per 100,000. I have published articles about cruise passengers being raped and robbed ashore (29 cruise passengers were robbed in just two incidents). Cruise passengers on excursions have been targeted. 

The Nassau Guardian wrote an article after interviewing me a couple of years ago: U.S. Attorney Raises Concern over Crime - Bahamas "One Gunshot Away" from Cruise Line Exit. The response by the locals was mostly denial and to plaster me with hate e-mails. Since then, crime has steadily Crime Nassau Bahamasincreased. 

There is no doubt that Nassau is plagued by runaway crime (this year the number of murders will reach a record high). There are far more crime warnings issued for by the U.S. State Department for the Bahamas than any other country in the world. The unemployment rate for young men is record high and rising. Nassau is filled with guns. The police are ineffective. The legal system is broken.

Many cruise passenger stay on the cruise ships when they reach Nassau.   

Make no doubt about it. Tourists and cruise visitors to Nassau need to be warned, it's dangerous in the Bahamas.

Today, I read an article in the Tribune newspaper: American Businessman Considers Leaving The Bahamas After Business Is Robbed. Here's what the victim told the Tribune:

"This place has become the Wild, Wild West . . . It’s like having a group of people arguing over how to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. The boat’s going down with everybody on it. And unfortunately here we see a deterioration of the quality of life . . .

We have a higher per capita murder rate than New York City does, than a lot of major cities in the US do. And nobody seems to be getting it."

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Allegation: Carnival Crew Member Sexually Assaulted Boy on Valor

WFTV reports that a crew member on a Carnival cruise ship allegedly sexually assaulted a teenage boy last Friday.

The news station says that Carnival announced the incident, although it is less than clear when or how the cruise line made the statement. 

The incident allegedly occurred on board the Carnival Valor, which is based in Port Canaveral.

Yovany Sauzo-BatizThe news article reports that the cruise line notified the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI of the incident. Here's how WFTV described the case, based on the Sheriff's office.

"Yovany Sauzo-Batiz, 46, of Honduras, was working on the Carnival Valor as a stateroom steward Friday when he tried to start a conversation with a teenage passenger in a sauna. The victim then moved to a shower area to avoid the suspect when the alleged sexual conduct occurred. Immediately following the incident, the victim identified the crewmember to his father, who detained him with the assistance of other passengers until ship security arrived.”

Sauzo-Batiz was charged with sexual battery of a person under 16 years of age and lewd and lascivious molestation.

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Photo Credit:Brevard Sheriff's Office via WFTV

Child Nearly Drowns on Sapphire Princess

A newspaper in Shanghai, the Shanghaist, reports that an eight-year-old girl is in critical condition after being found unconscious in the swimming pool of a Princess cruise ship last week.

The child and her mother, both from Shanghai, reportedly sailed on the Sapphire Princess, scheduled to call on ports in Japan and South Korea's Chejudo Island.

The newspaper reports that the mother had taken her daughter to play in the "kiddy pool" and was lounging nearby when she noticed the girl was missing. Other passengers found the child unconscious Sapphire Princess Cruise Shipin a deeper pool. Surveillance film revealed that the girl had been struggling for some seven to nine minutes before she was discovered.

The child was put on a ventilator. She was eventually transferred to a hospital ashore in Shanghai, 12 hours later. 

Princess had no life guards are on duty. Princess said that there were warning signs written in Chinese posted around the pool, stating that parents were responsible for supervising their children.

Warning signs are no substitute for attentive parents and alert lifeguards.

A 29 year-old woman was found dead in a pool on the same cruise ship a year ago. 

This latest incident will spark a debate whether there should be lifeguards on cruise ships.

All of the major cruise lines without lifeguards have seen children killed or seriously injured in the cruise ship swimming pools. You can read about the incidents:

A  ten year old girl on the Norwegian Gem in May 2015.

A four year old on the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas January 2015.

A six year old on Carnival Victory October 2014.

A six year old boy on Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas May 2014.

A four year old boy drowned and his six year old brother was medevaced after nearly drowning in a pool on the Norwegian Breakaway in February 2014.

A four year old on Disney Fantasy March 2013. The child on the Disney cruise ship was permanently and seriously injured. Disney paid a multi-million dollar settlement and began employing lifeguards on its ships. No other cruise lines have followed Disney's lead. 

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Photo Credit: "Sapphire Princess02" by Yankeesman312 licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Alaska Alleges Cruise Lines Violated Air Emission Laws

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation contends that cruise lines have violated Alaska air pollution regulations for the past five years. 

Tradewinds, a shipping trade organization, and the Juneau Empire report that Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) and Royal Caribbean Cruises disclosed in recent SEC earnings reports that they violated Alaskan Marine Vessel Visible Emission Standards.

Alaska Air EmissionsKRBD reports that the v\alleged violation of the Alaskan air pollution law is widespread in the cruise industry. The community radio program interviewed a specialist at the Alaskan environmental program who identified other cruise lines who are accused of violating Alaskan law. In addition to NCL and Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Holland America, Princess, Celebrity and Silverseas violated the emission standards according to the environmental specialist. 

Alaska issued 18 notices of violation involving 48 instances of excessive air emissions since 2010, according to KRBD. Each violation of law carries a fine of approximately $37,500. 

The cruise line are contesting the violations and are in negotiation with Alaska. 

The cruise industry, which largely burns cheap filthy bunker fuel, is installing scrubbers to reduce air emissions.

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

Bahama Mama Flunks CDC Sanitation Inspection

Bahamas MamaThe  Bahama Mama cruise ferry, operated by Balearia Bahamas Express, recently failed a bi-annual sanitation and health  inspection conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

I first read about the Bahama Mama flunking the CDC inspection in an article by Theresa Norton Masek in Travel Pulse titled Bahama Mama Ferry Fails CDC Inspection.

The official CDC report chronicles a disgusting list of filthy conditions (with the requisite dead flies and crawling insects) on the ship as well as disturbing failures to comply with health procedures designed to avoid food contamination. The report indicates that the ship did not even have acute gastroenteritis surveillance logs for each voyage, although there were ill crew members on the ship.

You can read the report here.

The ship has not complied with the CDC and submitted a corrective action report. 

The ship sails between Port Everglades and Freeport, Bahamas. 

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Photo credit: Vicens Gimenez / © Vicens Gimenez via Sun Sentinel

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger from Carnival Fascination

the U.S. Coast Guard medevaced an ill cruise ship passenger from the Carnival Fascination 40 miles east of the Sebastian Inlet in Florida on Sunday, according to Defense Imagery and Video Distribution Services.

The Coast Guard dispatched an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter which hoisted the 55-year-old passenger from the cruise ship and transported him to Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne. 

The passenger was reportedly suffering from severe stomach problems.

Passenger Medevaced from Grandeur of the Seas

Grandeur of the SeasA number of news stations are reporting that the Maryland State Police sent a helicopter to medevac a cruise passenger from the Grandeur of the Seas in the Chesapeake Bay.

The Maryland police officers were notified by the Coast Guard Friday evening that a passenger onboard the Royal Caribbean cruise ship needed to be taken to a hospital for cardiac care.

The helicopter crew stationed at St. Mary’s County Airport in Hollywood, Maryland, was the closest aircraft to the cruise ship which was sailing southwest of Tangier Island.

According to Southern Maryland Online, the Maryland State Police Aviation Command has served Maryland citizens since 1970, and operates a fleet of ten helicopters from seven bases throughout Maryland on a 24/7/365 basis. State Police Aviation Command crews have conducted several hoists of patients off cargo ships, but they believe this is the first hoist of a patient from a cruise ship.

The cruise ship sailed from Baltimore to the  Bahamas and Florida on a 7-night cruise.

Photo Credit:  J. Glover - Transferred from en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Grand Celebration Delayed in Port of Palm Beach Due to Electrical Blackout

The Grand Celebration suffered an electrical blackout yesterday which delayed its departure from the Port of Palm Beach to the Bahamas for over 6 hours.

WTPV-5 says that passengers complained that there was no electricity, water or air conditioning on the cruise ship and the toilets would not flush The television station interviewed one person on the ship who said:

"It's a hundred degrees on that ship. Everyone is just kind of standing there. They don't tell you anything. Then they have a little attitude because we're asking questions. But we want to know. It took us a lot of time to get from home to here." 

The cruise ship, which was supposed to leave at 6:00 PM, finally departed after midnight.  Some passengers refused to cruise on the ship and stayed in local hotels.

Photo Credit: Williamd Reynolds via WPTV

 

 

 

Sell Out? Royal Caribbean Executives Sell Stock For Over $14,000,000 After Freedom of the Seas' Fire

Royal Caribbean Cruise StockYesterday, Royal Caribbean chairman Richard Fain sold 151,032 shares of his cruise line's stock for $13,650,151 at an average price of $90.40 a share. President and Chief Operating Officer Adam Goldstein sold 4,184 shares at at $91.08 per share for a total value of $381,094.19. Royal Caribbean's General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer Bradley Stein sold 2,402 shares of the company stock for for a total value of $218,748.70.  In sum, these insider traders sold $14,249,993 of company stock.

A little over 10 days earlier Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas burst into flames as the cruise ship approached Falmouth, Jamaica. The ship burned for one and one-half hours and destroyed all of the insulation around the exhaust stack from the bottom deck to the fifteen deck. Many passengers, crew members and maritime experts believe that the fire may have started due to the instillation of a scrubber system on the cruise ship and the welding process to accomplish the work. Royal Caribbean is not saying, of course. 

The cruise lines has also been criticized for downplaying the fire, saying that it was just a "small fire" which was contained in the lower mechanical spaces and it was quickly extinguished, all patently false statements as we have demonstrated in video and photographs. To make matter worse, the cruise ship sailed onto the next port without a post-fire inspection by the flag state (Bahamas) or the classification society. This ship never should have sailed on without a rigorous inspection after the fire. The photographs clearly show that the ship sustained major damage. The photographs and first hand observations by the crew confirm that the fire destroyed the insulation around the exhaust stack and this presented a grave potential danger to the ship's passengers and crew. 

My opinion is that the Royal Caribbean cruise executives effectively misled the public about the fire in order to maintain the stock's improved performance. The company shares have rallied 46.38% in the past year. On July 31, 2015, the shares had rallied to one year high of $90.88 compared to a one year low on October 15, 2014 of $52.32.

If the executives had shut the ship down in Jamaica for the mandatory SOLAS inspection, this would have resulted in tens of millions of dollars spent by the company on lodging, airfare of all passengers back to Miami and cruise refunds to over 4,000 people which would have had a material negative effect on the company's stock.  Did the executives put their financial interests ahead of passenger and Royal Caribbbean Freedom of the Seas Firecrew safety? Absolutely they did, in my opinion. 

What do these executives really think about the stock value now that the fire is out and the cruise line has dodged, so far, a publicity fall-out?  One analyst said that "Mr. Richard’s trade could mean only one (thing): that he’s a pessimist when it comes to the Company’s prospects and its stock price."

Fain & company bamboozled the public with the "small fire" hoax. I suspect that the executives thought that it was time to cash out and put some more millions in their accounts before the truth comes out. 

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Interested in this issue? Read Cruise Executive Richard Fain Hits the Jackpot Again.

Photo Credit: Bottom - Facebook

Cruise Industry Image Up But Problems Remain

Cruise Industry Financial InformationA reporter for the Marketplace interviewed me yesterday regarding the state of the cruise industry.

I explained that compared to a year or two ago, the general perception of cruise lines is up. More than 23,000,000 passengers will cruise this year. Bigger and bigger cruise ships are being constructed. Travel agents seem more energized than before and appear to have lost their funk brought about by the Costa Concordia and Triumph "poop cruise" disasters.

Industry leader Carnival Corporation, with over 100 cruise ships in its multi-brand fleet, is reaping the rewards of hiring Arnold Donald with his dynamic and charismatic style of leadership.    

Cruise fares are up, prices for excursions and alcohol are up while the cruise CEO's are driving costs down.  

On the other side of the coin, critics say that the same-old-problems remain in the industry. Last week the Freedom of the Sea erupted in flames and literally burned from bottom of the ship to deck 15. Royal Caribbean tried to down-play the fire, but YouTube videos and photos posted on Facebook and Twitter showed that the fire was indeed dangerous and that the cruise lines still suffer from a lack of transparency that has tarnished the industry for years. Our friend and former Royal Caribbean cook Kevin Chamber's video of the ship on fire has been viewed well over a million times.  

Crew members and passengers tell me that contractors aboard the Freedom of the Seas were installing a scrubber system when the fire erupted. The captain of the ship says that the cruise line will disclose why the fire broke out, which the suits at Royal Caribbean's headquarters in Miami will never do. Its been over two years since the Grandeur of the Seas ignited near the Bahamas and the cruise line still refuses to tell the public what happened. The Freedom of the Seas fire will become just another mystery where the cruise line will keep its customers in the dark.

Just a couple of days ago, the Safari Voyager also erupted in flames in Seattle, due to welding operations. Welding at sea rather than in dry-dock is one of the risks of cruising and only one of many dangers that the cruise industry won't tell you.

Today, the Professional Mariner published an article titled "U.S. Coast Guard cites loose bolts, escape-route issues in fatal fire" about a Coast Guard marine safety alert regarding the deadly fire aboard the Oceania Insignia where three crew members perished when the cruise ship ignited in port at St. Lucia last December.       

This week two crew members were seriously injured when a rescue boat was being lowered from the NCL Pride of America in Hawaii when the cables broke. 

In just the last couple of months, passengers and crew members disappeared from Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Costa, MSC, NCL and HAL cruise ships. Yet, the industry as a whole still refuses to invest in automatic man overboard technology.

Sexual assaults at sea still occur with alarming frequency. In the last month, the news mentioned a passenger and a crew member assaulting women on Celebrity cruise ships in separate incidents. A sexual predator employed by Disney Cruises was recently sentenced to  over 5 years after pleading guilty to molesting a 13 year old passenger on the Disney Dream.   

Four months ago, twenty-two cruise passengers from Costa and MSC cruise ship were murdered by terrorists in Tunis, after these cruise lines sailed them into danger without a single warning.  The specter of ISIS terror remains a dark cloud over cruise ships which risk proceeding along itineraries across North Africa.  

Cruise Ship Fire - Royal CaribbeanBut the 40 billion-dollar-a-year cruise industry is rich and powerful. As a result of incorporating its businesses in place like Liberia or Panama and registering its ships in third world countries like the Bahamas, cruise lines avoid U.S. taxes and can pay their crew members peanuts. The industry has a huge advantage over U.S. resorts and hotels. It's cheaper to sail on a Carnival cruise out of Galveston than it is to stay in a Motel 6. 

That's why Royal Caribbean's stock price was largely unaffected after the Freedom of the Seas burned last week. CNBC's Simon Hobbs reported that as long as propulsion is not lost and passengers are not stranded at sea, a cruise ship fire is "not material for investors."  Mr. Hobbs is right about that, it seems. That's probably why the cruise executives decided not to comply with the International Maritime Organization's recommended Safety of Life at Sea regulations, which require a post-fire investigation and survey, but instead chose to keep the cruise ship sailing on to the Caymans and Mexico. 

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Video of Freedom of the Seas Fire

A passenger on the Freedom of the Seas sent us a copy of the video that he took of the fire.

There are a couple of things to note.

First, as you can hear on the video, this passenger and his wife were on their balcony and had seen black smoke 15 minutes earlier. The ship is still at sea at this point, approaching the port of Falmouth Jamaica. It then took approximately 20-25 minutes for the cruise ship to finally dock at Falmouth. So the ship was burning for about 35 to 40 minutes before it reached port in Jamaica.

Many media outlets erroneously reported that the fire broke out when the ship was docked at port.  

There are no crew members seen on or around the deck in the video, although you can catch a glimpse of one crew member with a wet vacuum cleaner at the very end.

The fire has obviously spread from the engine spaces at the bottom of the ship up to the top deck above the Viking Crown lounge.

The video was taken by Michael Alden.

 

Aegean Paradise Cruise Ship Collides with Greek Coast Guard Vessel

Aegean ParadiseAccording to a Greek newspaper, a cruise ship collided with a Greek Coast Guard today. 

The Aegean Paradise and the Coast Guard vessel collided near Chios. 

No injuries were reported in the collision. 

The newspaper says that the collision was caused due to "misty conditions." The coast guard vessel, which was carrying 25 migrants, suffered damage.

The "Aegean Paradise" will remain at Chios harbor until an inspection is carried out by the appropriate maritime authorities. 

Photo Credit: Marc Ryckaert (MJJR) - Own work, licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia. 

Freedom of the Seas Fire: Is Royal Caribbean Installing a Scrubber System With Passengers Aboard?

Freedom of the Seas Fire Falmouth JamaicaA number of Royal Caribbean crew members have contacted me complaining that they don't feel safe because of ongoing construction on the Freedom of the Seas to install an advanced emission purification system (AEP), also known as a "scrubber system." 

Contractors from Harris Pye Engineering have been aboard the cruise ship retrofitting the ship with the AEP system. Royal Caribbean routinely uses cheap fuel with high-sulphur levels. Instead of using expensive low-sulphur fuel, the cruise line made a decision to install the AEP scrubber equipment in and around the engine and exhaust systems in order to try and comply with new air emission standards of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). 

This type of work is routinely done when a cruise ship is not in service, but in dry dock when passengers are not aboard for safety reasons. There is a risk of fire and attendant danger of potential injury during the AEP installation. 

One of the crew members sent me a copy of a letter that Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley sent to the employees on the ship shortly after the fire. The crew member, who wishes to stay anonymous to avoid being terminated, feels that the letter is misleading.

The cruise CEO says that the fire was allegedly contained within the ship's mechanical spaces.The crew members who I have communicated with say that is absolutely not true. The fire started down near the engine and exhaust system and spread from the mechanical spaces up to the top deck. The fire was clearly not contained. Photos confirm this and show flames actually burning through the top and erupting so that onlookers could see the exhaust superstructure on fire from ashore. 

The crew members question their safety and the safety of their guests while this work is ongoing. Receiving a letter from a Miami cruise executive, which is inconsistent with the truth as they observed it on the ship, just increases their concerns.   

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

See: Photographs of the fire damages here.

Watch: Video of the fire here.

Read: The Royal Caribbean "Small Fire" Hoax.

Photo Credit:  Raymond Bower via Facebook

Freedom of the Seas Fire Falmouth Jamaica

The Royal Caribbean "Small Fire" Hoax

Freedom of the Seas Fire Falmouth JamaicaA hoax is defined as a "deliberately fabricated falsehood made to masquerade as truth."

Royal Caribbean engaged in a hoax when it characterized the big, dangerous fire on the Freedom of the Seas which engulfed the little port of Falmouth with billowing black smoke as just a "small fire."

Cruise lines used to be able to get away with these shenanigans, before social media took over the internet and exposed the truth. Now everyone has an iPhone and can record what happens in real time for all to see.

The video of the fire which I posted on my YouTube page (taken by former Royal Caribbean crew member and Jamaican Kevin Chambers) has been viewed over 1,000,000 times on Facebook. It speaks for itself. 

Some of the world's foremost maritime experts have chimed in on Royal Caribbean's misrepresentations.  

Captain Michael Lloyd said: "There is no such thing as a 'small fire' except in the minds of the PR reps in the cruise line offices. At sea especially, every fire is serious regardless of the whereabouts and size. Any Merchant Navy officer or fire officer for that matter knows that. I suppose in cruise line jargon someone has to be killed for it to be serious."

Captain Bill Doherty of Nexus Consulting commented: "That's one major fire! Why wasn't there a proper Flag state and Class post casualty survey done prior to sailing?"

former officer at a senior level within the cruise industry remarked: "This practice is all to common. The crew may be drilled on a regular basis, when it boils down to it, safety will play second fiddle to profit and keeping the passengers onboard. Why the classification society would allow the vessel to sail without inspection I don't know - there is a genuine risk of deficiencies that may invalidate the vessels P&I coverage. How the senior officers onboard sleep when signing their names to the paperwork I don't know."

A Chief Marine Engineer said: "Judging from this image, that kind and size of smoke suggests a big and serious fire in the Engine Room. The vessel should have not been permitted to sail without a thorough investigation of the cause and the integrity of her sailing out once again have been established."

A reader of this blog sent us several photos of the internal damage to the Freedom of the Seas today. Take a look here

A "small fire?" Ha!

July 28 2015 Update:  The video below taken by Kevin Chambers has been viewed over 1,000,000 times on our facebook page.

The word is out that this was no small or quickly extinquished fire.  Falmouth cruise ship blaze was no ‘small fire’ – US Maritime Lawyer.

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Freedom of the Seas Fire Falmouth Jamaica 

Photo Credit:  Facebook 

Cruise Ship Fire Video Viewed Over 1,000,000 Times

Freedom of the Sea Fire Falmouth JamaicaThere is an ongoing social media battle between the cruise industry and the proponents of improving the industry. This blog is part of that struggle.  Our motto is "every thing the cruise lines don"t want you to know." 

Every time there is a cruise ship fire, the cruise lines rush to send out the message that the fire was "small," "quickly extinguished," and no passengers were injured. In the world of social media, It is irrelevant to the cruise lines that the fire may have been large and prolonged and that crew members were burned or killed, as was the case in the fire aboard the Oceania Insignia.

Our former client Kevin Chambers used to work for Royal Caribbean and lives in the Montego Bay area. He rushed to Falmouth when the fire on the Freedom of the Seas broke out (the smoke could be seem for miles) and videotaped the spectacle. I posted it on our Facebook page and, later, on our YouTube page. 

In less than two days, it has been viewed over 1,000,000 times on our Facebook page alone.

You can see it here: Fire on the Freedom of the Seas in Falmouth, Jamaica.

As expected, the cruise line is spinning the story. It's just another "small" fire that was "quickly extinguished," says Royal Caribbean. Hogwash. 1,000,000 people know better. They've seen the video. 

Fire on the Freedom: The Show Must Go On

Royal Caribbean started spinning the story on the Freedom of the Seas fire yesterday before the ship stopped burning, saying things like:

It was just a small fire that was quickly extinguished. All systems are operational. Passengers mustered only as a precaution. No injuries to passengers. Guests able to leave the ship to enjoy Falmouth by 1:00 P.M. The cruise will continue with its regular scheduled itinerary. Next stop is George Town, Grand Cayman, tomorrow.

Freedom of the Seas Fire Some media outlets took the bait. The New York Times published a clueless article titled "Royal Caribbean Ship Has Small Fire in Jamaica" which characterized the fire as "small" and "brief" and showed a beautiful photograph of the cruise ship without the flames and dense smoke.     

The truth of the matter is that this was a large fire that took one and one-half hours to extinguish (per the Miami Herald). When we heard of the fire yesterday, we immediately asked a former Royal Caribbean crew member to go to Falmouth from Montego Bay and photograph and video the fire. Over 900,000 people have watched his videotape on Facebook so far. Take a look yourself. It's hardly a small fire.

Captain Bill Doherty of Nexus Consulting* weighed in on the fire yesterday, stating on Facebook:

"That's one major fire! Why wasn't there a proper Flag state and Class post casualty survey done prior to sailing? That could not have been completed in the short time the ship was in that port. Also there HAD to be a large amount of expendable fire fighting assets used putting the fire out. Extinguishers, foam, CO-2, air packs and so many other expendable items. Was the ship restocked to proper level and breathing apparatus recharged in that short time or did ship sail in an unseaworthy condition for the sake of expedience?"

The U.S. Coast Guard is not going to inspect the Freedom until the ship returns to the U.S. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) can't do anything and is powerless to intervene to enforce the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) recommendations. The flag state, the Bahamas, is another feckless Caribbean flag of convenience that is too busy dealing with a run-away crime rate to bother inspecting another cruise ship that catches on fire. So the vacationing passengers will be herded like sheep on to the burnt cruise ship which will sail on to the Caymans because Royal Caribbean doesn't want to incur the expense of putting 3,600 passengers in hotels in Montego Bay, hiring twenty chartered jets to fly them back to the states, and giving refunds in the millions of dollars.

The cruise line's CEO's are in control here. Screw the IMO, SOLAS and the need for post casualty surveys. The show must go on.

July 25,2015 Update: From a passenger on the cruise ship: "Just don’t buy the PR put out to news outlets by Royal Caribbean. The fire was significant. I’ve recorded the captain’s video where he described the extent of the fire, how long it took to put out, etc. It varies greatly from RC’s description.” 

 

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Photo Credit: Raymond Bower - top;  Falmouthpo - bottom

*Captain Bill Doherty is a 1967 graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, a licensed US Coast Guard Master-Unlimited tonnage, and qualified First Class Pilot, Prince William Sound, Valdez, Alaska. Captain Doherty has served on numerous U.S. Navy warships and was the Head of Maritime Affairs for the Chief of Naval Operations during Operation Desert Storm. Over the course of his career, he has commanded tankers, container ships, research vessels, high-speed ferries, and was an instructor at his alma mater. Before retirement, his latest position was as Safety Manager for Norwegian Cruise Lines. Captain Doherty now serves as the director of maritime affairs for Nexus Consulting, and has appeared as a cruise safety expert before the United States Senate.

Freedom of the Seas

Passenger Charged with Raping Woman on Celebrity Reflection

Celebrity ReflectionThe Times of Malta reports that a 20 year old passenger from Scotland was charged today with raping a woman who he met on a cruise aboard the Celebrity Reflection.

The newspaper says that the man allegedly raped the woman on the Celebrity cruise ship a year ago today. The man also faces charges of holding the woman against her will and committing "violent indecent assault" on the woman.

The young man and woman were on the cruise with their families. The alleged rape took place after the woman had her drink spiked.

Celebrity / Royal Caribbean registered the Reflection in Malta. The police is Malta issued an "European Arrest Warrant" to bring the alleged assailant to court. This is an unusual case insofar as most flag states, like the Bahamas, never issue warrants or even try to prosecute crimes committed on cruise ships flying flags of convenience. 

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Photo Credit: Celebrity Reflection cruise ship by Moonik - own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Woman Sexually Assaulted on Celebrity Millennium

Celebrity Crew Member Eduar Klay Moran Bonilla,The Juneau Empire reports that a 40-year-old cruise ship worker from Honduras.was caught sexually assaulting a 26-year-old woman, also a crew member, from Ottawa, Canada.

On July 12th at 2:30 A.M., the woman reportedly had "left the crew bar and was walking back to her room alone when a man she didn’t know grabbed her from behind. He covered her mouth, groped her breast and behind, and attempted to force himself on her . . . "

Meanwhile, a comedian on the cruise ship stepped out of his cabin to search for Ibuprofen for an ear ache when he "heard a woman scream behind a door that led to the crew members’ stairwell. When he opened the door, he saw a man holding one hand over a woman’s mouth and his other hand across her waist."

The newspaper says that the comedian startled the assailant who was later identified as Eduar Klay Moran Bonilla.

The arrest of a foreign (i.e., non-U.S.national) attacking another foreign crew member is a relatively rare event in the U.S.  If the incident occurred in international waters, U.S. local police would not have jurisdiction. The FBI and Department of Justice would have jurisdiction only if either the assailant or the victim were a U.S. citizen. Most of the time there is no arrest in these type of incidents. The offending crew member is simply flown home and the matter is swept under the rug. Here the Alaska state troopers had jurisdiction because the ship was in state territorial waters at the time of the crime.

Over a decade ago, we obtained through a court order confidential internal documents from Royal Caribbean / Celebrity where they studied the problem of sexual assaults in their fleet. Outside experts concluded that most crew members know if they are caught, the worst that can happen is that they will be flown home.  The experts concluded that only when there is a real deterrent like being arrested and imprisoned will the cycle of sexual violence on the ships be reduced. The experts recommended improvements in ship security and human resource policies which the cruise lines ignored. 

We are currently representing a young crew member who was sexually assaulted on an Oceania cruise ship by a Honduran crew member

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Photo Credit: Michael Penn | Juneau Empire

Freedom of the Seas on Fire Near Falmouth, Jamaica

Freedom of the Seas Cruise Fire JamaicaI have received several calls this morning from friends in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios that the Freedom of the Seas is on fire as it docked at the port of Falmouth, Jamaica.

I also have friends / former Royal Caribbean crew members in Falmouth who are going to obtain photographs of the blaze on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship. 

The photo to the left was taken by a former client, Kevin Chambers, who lives in the Montego Bay area. You can see Kevin's video of the cruise ship coming into port here and at the bottom of this page.

We have been studying the issue of cruise ship fires for many years.

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

Read: Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires - Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?

Update: The passengers were ordered to their muster stations. The cruise line says that the fire erupted in a "mechanical area." The initial reports are that there are no injuries to pasengers, which is good news.  The question remains whether crew members were injured. Last December, a fire erupted on the Oceania Insignia when the cruise ship was in St.Lucia. Initial reports from the cruise line were that the passengers were not effected, but it turned out that three crew members were killed

The latest news is that one crew member was treated for burns, according to Royal Caribbean.

Incredibly, although not surprisingly, Royal Caribbean decided to continue on with the cruise, says the Miami Herald. The U.S. Coast guard is not going to inspect the cruise ship until it returns to the U.S.

 

You can see dramatic photographs of the fire here.

Freedon of Seas Cruise Ship Fire

Freedom of Seas Cruise Fire

Photo Credit: Top Kevin Chambers; middle @JuanDwptv ; bottom @MssJayne.  Video below taken by my friend and former client Kevin Chambers:

 

U.S. Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger from Carnival Breeze

Carnival Breeze MedevacDefense Imagery and Video Systems has reported that the U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a 79 year-old passenger from the Carnival Breeze yesterday.

The cruise ship was approximately 90 miles northwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico when the passenger needed emergency medical treatment.

The Coast Guard helicopter hoisted the patient and a cruise ship nurse and transported them to the Isla Grande Airport, where emergency medical services transported them to the "Centro Medico" Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Photo Credit: Defense Imagery and Video Systems 

 

 

Suicide on the Crystal Serenity?

Le Télégramme reports that a British chef was found hanging in his cabin aboard the Crystal Serenity cruise ship.

The ship left Bordeaux yesterday for Brest. The crew member was found in his cabin Saturday morning.

The investigation and the autopsy reportedly will be held in Bordeaux. 

Crystal SerenityThis is the third alleged suicide by hanging of a crew member on a cruise ship in the six weeks.

On June 2nd we reported on the apparent suicide of a safety officer on the Disney Dream.

On June 3rd we mentioned the apparent suicide of a young woman employed in the Carnival entertainment department on the Carnival Sensation.

On July 3 we mentioned a Brazilian crew member who disappeared from the Norwegian Sun in Alaskka. NCL suggests that it's a suicide.

Four crew member suicides in just 6 weeks?

Under U.S. maritime law, cruise lines are legally required to provide medical treatment to all crew members who suffer from any type of physical or emotional injury or sickness while working on the ship. The ships are required to provide psychiatric and.or psychological treatment, including ashore, if a crew member is suffering from depression or anxiety. The treatment must last, by law, until the crew member reaches his or her maximum medical improvement.

In our experience, the medical treatment for physical injuries is spotty at best. Ibuprofen is often the only "treatment." Medical care for emotional issues is virtually non-existent. 

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

Hat tip to Professor Ross Klein who first mentioned this incident on his CruiseJunkie site

 

Photo Credit: D.strutting via Wiped Creative Commons 3.0

Woman Overboard from Costa Fortuna

Costa FortunaA Norwegian television station is reporting that a woman went overboard today from what is described as an "Italian cruise ship" near Flåm, Norway.  The woman was critically injured.

TV 2 Nyhetene reports that the woman is 40 years of age and she went overboard after a violent episode with another person on the cruise ship. (Her age was subsequently updated to 52 years old). The station does not state whether she is a passenger or a crew member not does it state her nationality (She was later identified as Italian). 

The title of the article is "Kvinne kritisk skadet etter fall fra cruiseskip."  (Woman critically injured after falling from cruise ship).

The woman was quickly rescued after she was in the water for two to three minutes. She was unconscious when taken ashore to the hospital via helicopter

No one has been arrested. Police officers are investigating. 

The incident was brought to my attention by a crew member who identified the ship as the Costa Fortuna.  A person on the TV 2 Facebook page, who said she heard screaming and then a splash,  also says that the ship involved the Costa Fortuna.

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

September 4 2015 Update:  The story finally reaches a U.S. newspaper. Woman wakes from coma to deny she jumped from cruise ship; attempted murder investigation opened.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia by Ed g2s Creative Commons 3.0; below ARNE VEUM /NTB SCANPIX via TV 2 Nyhetene and Bergens & Tidende  

Costa Fortuna

Costa Fortuna

 

Terrorism: ISIS Attacks at Sea

The images posted on Twitter yesterday of ISIS blowing up an Egyptian Navy frigate are frightening. 

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. The SITE Intel Group says that the terrorists destroyed the naval ship with a guided missile. The images were widely broadcast. Time and Al Jazeera and many other newspapers and news stations published them. 

No travel or cruise magazine will publish them, for obvious reasons. 

Is it foreseeable that ISIS will attack a cruise ship?  Of course, but you would never know that if you rely ISIS Attacks at Seaon the cruise industry or your local travel agent for information and advice.

The cruise industry has a nonchalant view of terrorism. It reassures its customers that it's allegedly safe to cruise in the Mediterranean. Costa and MSC (and five other cruise lines) scheduled calls in Tunis (La Goulette) even after the Bardo Museum massacre where 22 cruise passengers were slaughtered. The second attack in Tunisia was predictable and came in June when a single radicalized Muslim with a Kalashnikov gunned down 38 more tourists at the resorts in Sousse.  

Cruise ships sailing in Mediterranean waters are sitting ducks. I have been criticized before for explaining how the terrorists will attack cruise passengers as they sail off the Coasts of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.  

Terrorists have demonstrated that they can blown up a U.S. Navy vessel (USS Cole - 16 years ago). When the jihdists want to focus the cross-hairs of their weapons on a slow moving cruise ship, they can easily do so. The only question is whether the action will be in the form of an external attack (suicidal jihadists on a small boat with explosives ram the ship or the terrorists fire RPG's into the hull), or whether the terrorists will try and board the ship and take the cruise passengers hostage and begin beheading them on video.   

Have a comment? Join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit: SITE Intel Group via Al Jazeera

Sexual Assault - Florida Court Sentences Disney Cruise Employee to 70 Months in Prison

Disney Cruise Sexual AssaultA Florida state court judge today sentenced a Disney Cruise Line crew member to 70 months in prison for sexually assaulting a thirteen year old girl on the last day of a cruise aboard the Disney Dream

The crew member admitted in open court that he engaged in lewd and lascivious conduct after he lured the child into an empty cabin. He also pled guilty to enticing the child into the vacant cabin and holding her against her will.  

The Disney employee Ahmed Sofyan, age 36, of Indonesia, was employed as a cabin attendant on the Dream. He was the cabin attendant for the girl and her family.  

On the last morning of the cruise, while the family was packing up to leave the ship, Sofyan lured the child into a nearby cabin which has been vacated by another family. This is where the sexual assault occurred. We previously wrote about this case here and here.

In our experience, the last evening or morning is often when sexual predators will strike.    

Disney Cruise Sexual AssaultThe plea hearing was took place in Viera, Florida at the Harry T. & Harriette Moore Justice Center.

Sofyan will serve at least 85% of the 70 month sentence and is entitled to credit for the 15 months of time he has already served. 

The courtroom was packed with reporters and television cameras.  One of the problems we have observed over the years is that many crew members think that the worst thing that will happen to them if they engage in a crime like this is that they will simply be fired and flown home but not go to jail. It is important that sexual offenders on foreign-flagged cruise ships serve stiff jail penalties in order to spread the word on the ships that there are real consequences if you sexually abuse children at sea.  

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

Photo Credits:  Above - Jim Walker; below - My13.com 

Update: A number of news outlets covered the story:

Ex-Disney Cruise worker sentenced to 5 years in molestation case.

Disney cruise worker charged with molesting teen takes plea deal.

Judges pushes for deportation of former Disney cruise line employee accused of molesting girl.

Disney Cruise Sexual Assault

  

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Smith Family Calls for Justice for George

WNEM reports that Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut joined the family of George Smith to plead for a federal law to protect cruise passengers.

Senator Blumenthal and Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts have introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2015. WNEM says that the new law will:

  • Require vessels to integrate technology that can be used for capturing images of passengers and detecting passengers who have fallen overboard, to the extent that such technology is available.
  • Improve medical standards aboard cruise ships.
  • Require vessels to be staffed with an appropriate number of sea marshals, who have been certified by, and are operating under the jurisdiction of, the United States Coast Guard.
  • Establish the Department of Transportation (DOT) as the lead federal agency for consumer protection for cruise ship passengers, similar to the role the Department has in aviation consumer protection.
  • Give consumers a clear upfront summary of the restrictive terms and conditions in cruise contracts. The Secretary of Transportation would develop standards for the cruise lines to provide prospective passengers with a short summary of the key terms in the contract. Consumers would be able to read a plain language summary of the key rights and limitations that passengers have during their cruise so they are fully aware of what rights they have, and don't have, before they book their tickets.
  • Establish a consumer complaints toll-free hotline telephone number, give the DOT the authority to investigate complaints, and create an Advisory Committee for Passenger Vessel Consumer Protection, which would be charged with evaluating current consumer protections and generating recommendations for improvements.
  • Require the reporting of crimes against minors to the list of currently reported crime statistics.
  • Address crimes on cruise ships by strengthening video surveillance requirements in public areas, and setting requirements for the amount of time cruises lines must retain videos.
  • Establish a victim advocate to be the primary point of contact in assisting victims, including helping the victim to understand their rights in international waters, get access to appropriate law enforcement and consulate services, and have access to necessary victim support services.

  

WNEM TV 5

 

Ship Life - The Pot Wash Blues

Cruise Ship Pot Wash Yesterday I announced that we will begin regularly featuring photos and videos from crew members of the conditions which they face working on cruise ships.

There was a spirited debate which followed on our Facebook page about the issue. 

One cruise passenger commented: " No one forces these people to work on the cruise ships. So if they have complaints, get another job!!" 

It seems that some passengers could care less about the crew members or the working conditions which they face.

Other passengers, and even a few crew members, disputed the authenticity of the photos, or thought that they were staged or exaggerated.

Here are some more photos, of what a pot wash looks like. One photo is of the mess.  Another photo of a greasy pan that needs cleaning. Its hard, hard work for very little money. Long hours are the norm.

Stay tuned for more photos and some videos. Many crew members are sending images of what "ship life" is really like.  

Join in the discussion on our Facebook page or leave a comment below.

Cruise Ship Pot Wash

 

Ship Life - What It's Really Like to Work on a Cruise Ship

Cruise Ship - "Ship Life"Over the years, crew members have sent me lots of stories about what it's really like to work on a cruise ship. Lots of time they send photos and videos of the working conditions they face. 

It's not the pretty images shown to the guests who occasionally go on behind-the-scene tours. 

"Ship life" is how the crew members describe it.

I have shared some of these photos and videos on this blog from time to time.  

Like when MSC crew members were ordered to throw black plastic garbage bags into the sea at night. Or photos of trolleys of food, hidden from USPH inspectors, in the Silversea crew quarters.

Starting this month, I will begin to regularly post photos and videos sent by crew members to us showing the actual working and living conditions of the crew. The photos and video will be a glimpse into actual "ship life," like the incredible amount of cleaning that needs to be accomplished in the galley after the second seating is over.

The identities of the crew will, of course, remain confidential.  

See the photos here on our Facebook page.

If you are a crew member, feel free to send us your photos and videos.  Please don't get caught.  The cruise lines will quickly terminate your employment.

Finally, First U.S. Female to Captain Cruise Ship

Celebrity Cruises announced with great fanfare today that it appointed Kate McCue as the master of the Celebrity Summit cruise ship. She reportedly will be the first U.S. woman to captain a large cruise ship when she joins the Summit next month.

McCue has been with sister brand Royal Caribbean for 15 years.  

Royal Caribbean first named a woman as a captain of a cruise ship in the male dominated industry in 2007 when it appointed Swedish mariner Karin Stahre-Janson as the master of the Monarch of the Captain Kate McCueSeas.

Royal Caribbean named its second female cruise ship captain, Lis Lauritzen, aboard its Vision of the Seas in 2011.   

In 2010 Inger Klein Olsen took the helm of Cunard's Queen Victoria and joined this very small group of women in the male dominated industry.

Later Sarah Breton became the first female captain in P&O Cruises’ 170 plus year history when she was appointed to sail the Artemis.

In 2012 Silversea Cruises promoted Margrith Ettlin to the position of captain aboard the Silver Explorer

Sexism has been a problem for the industry over the decades.  Having women in places of authority and control can only make the cruise lines a fairer place for crew members to work.

Kudos to all of these pioneers and best of luck to Ms., er, Master McCue!  

Mission Impossible: Evacuating Behemoths at Sea

The Miami Herald's article today (by Hannah Sampson) regarding what is described as the "behemoths at sea" raises a basic question - how can you safely evacuate 5,000 passengers and 2,000 crew members from one of these "super-size" cruise ships?

The answer is simple, you can't. 

Maritime regulations require the task to be completed in just 30 minutes. Several retired Coast Guard officials (who didn't sell out and join the cruise industry) tell me that there is no way that a cruise ship like Royal Allure of the SeasCaribbean's Oasis, Allure or the to-be-built Harmony can accomplish this feat. 

It doesn't seem like the cruise lines have much confidence that they can either. Quite frankly, they don't seem to think that they have an obligation to do so. Ms. Hannah interviewed a dozen cruise executives and managers, including Carnival chief maritime officer William Burke who said "big ships are inherently more safe than the smaller ships . . . and so as a result, there is less likelihood of ever needing a lifeboat.”

Royal Caribbean’s global chief communications officer Rob Zeiger echoed this we-really-don't-need-a-lifeboat sentiment telling Ms. Sampson: “These things are designed now on the theory that the ship is its own best safety vessel. It’s as much about designing them to remain stable and in motion as anything else.”

Of course this is same mentality that doomed a thousand souls on the deck of the sinking cruise liner Titanic over a hundred years ago.  

Two years ago, I pointed out in Titanic Redux that the Allure and the Oasis were designed not to have enough lifeboats for all of the crew and passengers. The crew, and maybe some passengers, will have to jump down a chute into a raft.  It's a dangerous procedure even if the weather is perfect and the ship is in port. But if the giant ship is engulfed in flames, experiencing storm conditions or heavy seas, or is far from port, the outcome will become a disaster.

Ms. Sampson interviewed one voice of reason in her article, Captain Bill Doherty (former safety manager for NCL), a director with Nexus Consulting Group. Captain Doherty said “You’ve got to get out there and you’ve got to physically assess your worst-case scenarios. Real time, real people, real hardware drills that clearly identify where the holes are."

The reality is that the cruise lines, which are in competition to build bigger and bigger ships, are not conducting such real life, worst-case-scenario drills. It's disturbing to hear Carnival and Royal Caribbean cavalierly tell Ms. Hannah that lifeboats may not really be needed after all.

I hate to think what the guests and crew will be thinking when they hear the captain announce "abandon ship" from one of these gigantic monsters floundering in the middle of the Atlantic.

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

Photo Credit:  Jim Walker

A "Creative Solution?" Crew Member Raped Aboard Oceania Marina

Our firm represents a young crew member who was raped while she was unconscious aboard the Marina cruise ship operated by Oceania Cruises. 

We usually do not write about cases we handle, but we are doing so only after the Oceania defense lawyers in Miami felt compelled to write an article about the case on their website.  

The young woman (identified as Jane Doe in order to maintain her confidentiality as a victim) was found unconscious on the floor of her cabin by her roommate. The cruise ship doctor diagnosed anal tears and other signs of rape injuries. Oceania MarinaThe ship doctor did not permit the crew member to leave the ship (which was in the South Pacific) for medical rape-crisis psychotherapy or counseling. The crew member contracted herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV), and sustained substantial physical and mental injuries, due to the rape.

After Oceania refused to cooperate, we flew the rape victim to Miami, where the cruise line and hiring agent are located, in order for the cruise line to provide medical and psychological treatment within their network of doctors. We allege that Oceania refuses to provide the rape victim with ongoing and uninterrupted medical and therapy, as well as the "maintenance and cure" to which she is entitled as a crew member. 

The defense attorneys explained on their web page that the case "stemmed from the crew member's allegations that she was sexually assaulted by a fellow crew member. She filed suit against the defendants in Florida state court alleging Jones Act negligence, unseaworthiness, failure to provide medical treatment, failure to provide maintenance and cure, and failure to pay seaman wages. In addition to those claims, the crew member brought common law tort claims arising from the cruise line’s alleged conduct for false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, spoliation of evidence, invasion of privacy, and fraudulent misrepresentation."

The federal judge ruled that all of the causes of action were subject to international arbitration and, as such, the case cannot be pursued in state court in Florida. The cruise line defense firm rejoiced in the decision, stating that "we invite you to contact us to discuss the ruling, its effect, or for other creative solutions to your legal issues."

Of course, this case is not remotely "solved." 

Next week we will proceed in the court-ordered arbitration process and will seek to bring this disturbing case to a hearing as soon as possible. 

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

 

Photo Credit: Jordandkatz licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Terror in Tunis: Did the Cruise Lines Get the Memo?

MSC and Costa sailed their guests into danger in March when terrorists slaughtered cruise tourists as they exited into the Tunis museum excursion site from cruise buses transporting them from the port. The cruise lines neither provided nor arranged security for their customers or, for that matter, announced even a single warning of the risks of danger. 

Terrorists have attacked tourist spots in Tunisia before and would so again. 

The cruise lines ignored the considerable risks posed by the ISIS and Al Queda terrorists growing in La Goulette Cruise Terminalneighboring Libya and already festering in Tunisia. After the bloodshed, the cruise industry quickly launched a PR campaign stating that cruising to Tunis was safe

Soon, MSC and Costa began rescheduling calls to Tunis, notwithstanding the loss of life.

Princess, Croisieres De France (CDF), Holland America Line, Viking Ocean Cruises and Star Clippers also scheduled cruise ship to head to Tunis, as reported by the Cruise Arabia website

But then terrorists targeted a resort in Tunisia frequented by tourists.  On June 26th, 38 tourists were killed. Terrible, gruesome deaths. These were not cruise vacationers, but mostly British and European families on holiday, so the story was not portrayed as an attack on the cruise industry.  

Today, the prime minister of Tunisia says that additional plots, aimed at "massive deaths," are in the works. He earlier declared a state of emergency.

60 tourists to Tunisia were killed in the two deadly attack in Tunisia in the past three months. I suppose it doesn't really matter what the PR departments of the cruise lines say anymore. Their lack of credibility has been established. I believe Minister Habib Essid when he says that the terrorists are plotting the deaths of tourists, whether they arrive by cruise ship, airplane or bus. 

I reached out today on Twitter and Facebook to determine which cruise lines canceled their stops in Tunis. A couple of passengers tell me that Costa, which canceled cruise after the March attacks but scheduled stops in August, just canceled some of their calls later this summer.  But no word from any travel agents, or cruise lines for that matter, whether they are still selling cruises to North Africa. 

July 9 2015 Update:  MSC announced today that the "MSC Preziosa no longer will visit La Goulette, Tunisia between November 15, 2015 and April 23, 2016 as scheduled. The ship instead will stop in Valletta, Malta. Also affected are single sailings of the MSC Magnifica and MSC Poesia in November and December, respectively. Both of the ships instead will stop in Alicante, Spain."

July 10 2015 Update: According to Time magazine, the terrorist trained with extremists in Libya at the same time as the two gunmen who killed the 22 cruise passengers in the March attack during the Bardo museum excursion for Costa and MSC in Tunis.

"Thirty of the 38 people killed in Sousse were British tourists. Britain’s Foreign Office warned tourists Thursday to leave Tunisia as soon as possible, saying a further terrorist attack was 'highly likely.'”

 

Photo Credit: La Goulette Village Harbor

NTSB Releases Preliminary Report of HAL Excursion Crash: Limited Visibility

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its preliminary factual report finding, as anticipated, that visibility was limited when the excursion flightseeing plane operated by Promech crashed in Alaska.

The  NTSB described that the pilot was operating under visual flight rules during “marginal visual meteorological conditions.” 

You can read one of our prior articles on the crash here

Video credit KTUU.

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The "Fathom" Ruse Revealed: Carnival Really Wants to be Friends with Cuba

I didn't trust Carnival for a second that it really wanted to build a sustainable business relationship with the Dominican Republic through its "voluntourism" brand, "fathom" (not capitalized). I expressed my doubts here.

Hiring pseudo-sustainability expert and faux-celebrity Tara Russell to market the brand seemed as un-authentic as the "workers" who posed in the new cruise brand's advertising photos. Next to the poor Dominican farmers standing in the photos, the "fathom" crew looked more like United-Colors-of-Benetton Fathom Cruise Brandmodels who got lost during a South Beach photo-shoot.  

Well the truth is out. Carnival's much ballyhooed new social travel brand "fathom" will operate to Cuba next year after Carnival won the right to start doing business in that country. The catch was that Carnival couldn't just detour a crowd on the Triumph swigging buckets of Bud Lights to Havana; it had comply with strict "U.S. Department of Treasury rules that allow licensed travel companies to transport approved travelers to Cuba to engage in activities that support the Cuban people," says Travel Weekly.

It seems like this was Arnold Donald's plan all along. Mr. Donald was using all of the right words in the announcement today: "We look forward to working with the Cuban authorities for their approval to help make the social, cultural and humanitarian exchanges between US citizens and the people of Cuba a reality."

But Cuba is no Dominican Republic whose claim to fame is, well, that it is not as poor as Haiti and that it could actually use volunteers.  Cuba, on the other hand, will become the economic powerhouse of the Caribbean, to the detriment of Nassau and all other cruise ports in the region. So the Adonia will be one of the first cruise ships to officially enter the former communist island from the U.S. Carnival will use the fare-paying, feel-good cruise tourists to subsidize the soon-to-be-highly-profitable enterprise.  Yes, Carnival's CEO Donald is a genius. Tricky but a genius.    

Was Ms. Russell in on the switch-a-roo from the start? Was she part of the cruise team lobbying Washington for the Cuba gig? The Adonia will still sail to the Dominican Republic for a while it seems (but it will doubtlessly be phased out as people will prefer Havana). But anyway, Ms. Russell is happily singing the corporate cruise gobbledygook: “Our goal remains the same for both destinations – to enable travelers to immerse, learn, serve and flourish while making enduring, sustainable contributions on a scalable and systematic basis."

Yeah, right.  

 

January 8 2015 Update:  It doesn't seem that Mr. Donald ever lost his home as a child to Fidel Castro

Photo Credit: Carnival / fathom

Cruise Crime, Dangers & Doubts Linger

The cruise industry is trying to put the bad news behind it.  Cruise lines are announcing more and more cruise ships coming on line. The industry is moving into the Chinese market with great fanfare. Today Carnival said that it is ready to start cruising from Cuba. Travel agents and reporters are faithfully reporting the positive stories and trying to add to the excitement.

But there is a steady stream of bad news that simply won't go away.

A couple of days ago, a NCL crew member went overboard from the Sun but the ship security didn't know about the missing crew member for 13 hours and never bothered to turn the ship around for a Cruise Ship Crimesearch and rescue. The Coast Guard shut the search down before the public knew what happened, 

Australian television just broadcast a special insight into the cruise industry titled "Murky Water: The Dark Side of the Cruise Industry," which looked at a part of cruising that many people may be disturbed to learn - sexual assaults, drugs, excessive alcohol and the loss of passengers overboard. An Australian newspaper reported, just today, that "most incidents on cruises go unreported because victims fear their attackers may throw them overboard. Crew members who fall victim also face the threat of losing their job if they complain. It is estimated that one person goes overboard on a cruise ship every two weeks . . . "  

This year, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of an U.S. woman who was brutally attacked on a HAL cruise ship in the Caribbean.  The room service attendant beat, choke and raped the women in her cabin over an incredibly violent 45 minute period of time and then tried to thrown her overboard.  The danger of permitting male cruise employees to use master keys have proven to be an irresponsible and dangerous practice over the years, Another service employee pleased guilty this year to using his master key to open a woman's cabin door at night and sexually assault her on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Quantum of the Seas

But all the while, the cruise industry markets itself as safe and responsible. Its a shame that the marketing and lobbying association of the cruise industry, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), is also the part of the industry that interacts with the Federal agencies responsible for enforcing the few laws that relate to passenger safety issues.   

Mark Brimble, president of the Australian chapter of the International Cruise Victims, recently told a victimology conference: "The cruise industry is cleaning up its image but it may not necessarily be cleaning up its act."  

The Security Management publication in an article titled Safety at Sea by Holly Gilbert Stowell, explained today how the U.S. Coast Guard has permitted the cruise lines to slide on their legal requirement to install effective automatic man overboard systems. At a bureaucratic level in Washington D.C., the Coast Guard seems more motivated in keeping the cruise lines happy than saving lives at sea.     

The article said that there are "two wildly different pictures of crime statistics are painted by cruise lines and by industry critics. For example, in 2011, victims reported 563 incidents of crime aboard cruise ships. But cruise line websites only documented 102 of those crimes" according to cruise expert Professor Ross Klein who obtained the FBI data under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request."

The article also quoted me explaining that the FBI ". . . may be great at dealing with white collar crime but they’ll just say that they’re not interested in getting themselves involved in bar fights and people smashing each other with beer bottles or women who are raped."

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut met today with the family of George Smith who disappeared from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Brilliance of the Seas ten years ago. Senator Blumenthal and U.S. Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts have proposed legislation mandating the use of safety technology and man-overboard detection that could have prevented Mr. Smith’s disappearance.

But the cruise lines have done little over the past decade to improve passenger safety. The cruise industry reminds me of an addict in denial and unable (unwilling) get past step one in a twelve step recovery program. Passengers and crew members will continue to disappear at sea as the Coast Guard and cruise lines work together to dismantle the man overboard system legal requirements. The Coast Guard will continue to posture for cozy jobs with the cruise lines and its lobbying organization. Lives which could be saved will be lost 

The cruise industry has wasted the last decade. It could have agreed to real changes, fully implemented the man overboard technology, and put the issue behind it. But it resisted change, taken the easy cuts and engaged in a massive PR game. The cruise lines have proven once again to be more determined to overcome a bad image than to learn from their bad conduct.

 

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Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger From Carnival Pride

The United States Coast Guard is reporting that it last night it medevaced a 77 year old female cruise ship passenger suffering from a stroke approximately 200 miles east of Wilmington, North Carolina.

The ill woman was on the Carnival Pride. 

The Coast Guard air crew arrived on the scene at at sea on scene and hoisted the passenger, a family member and a nurse from the cruise ship into a MH-60 helicopter at about 7:30 p.m. 

The helicopter flew the woman to the Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, North Carolina, arriving at about 9 p.m.  

A Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircraft crew, dispatched from Elizabeth City. North Carolina, assisted in the medevac.

Video Credit: Defense Imagery and Information Systems   

Maasdam and Summit Lose Propulsion

MaasdamCruise ships losing power or propulsion have been a dime a dozen in recent years.  

But two major cruise ships losing propulsion and being stranded in an U.S. port seems just a tad unusual. That seems to be the situation with the Holland America Line's Maasdam and the Celebrity Summit cruise ships this weekend.

The HAL Maasdam lost propulsion for in Boston Harbor on Saturday July 4th and got an extended view of the fireworks display, But the ship was still stuck in port as of Sunday morning with engineers working on the engines. 

The Celebrity Summit petered out yesterday in New York with reports being that there was either an unspecified motor breaking down or there was some type of problem with the ship's Azipod propulsion system, according to the popular Cruise Hive publication.

There was a lot of discussion on social media about the incidents, but fortunately no fires or rough weather reported that could have turned these minor incidents into real trouble. 

Photo Credit: Caught in Southie / . 

Recent Overboard Reveals Irresponsibility of Cruise Industry & Coast Guard

George Smith Cruise 48 HOURSThis weekend I watched the 48 HOURS' episode of the disappearance of Royal Caribbean cruise passenger George Smith from the Brilliance of the Seas in July 2005. 

There were no alarms that sounded when Mr. Smith was thrown over his balcony railing ten years ago. No signals were sent to the bridge alerting the navigational officers that a person had gone over the rails. Of course, Mr. Smith didn't fall into the water but landed onto an overhang over the lifeboats where he lay, bleeding, for some time. The cruise ship had a second opportunity to rescue him before he fell over the side and into the water. But there was absolutely nothing resembling an automatic man overboard system on the cruise ship in place.

The cruise ship plowed forward in the dark waters ignorant that a guest had disappeared in its wake. 

I reflected on the last ten years and asked myself whether cruise ships are any safer today. The answer seems to be no for many passengers and crew members.

This weekend a 27 year old Brazilian crew member, working on the Norwegian Sun as an entertainer, went overboard in the early morning hours in Alaska.  I was one of the first to write about it, after several crew members contacted me after hearing nothing about the troubling incident on the NCL cruise ship.

The Associated Press soon published a story. It included details which explained the time-line of events which, in my opinion, just added more disturbing facts to an already disturbing story. 

The crew member reportedly jumped, says NCL, at 4:16 A.M., however NCL didn't notify the Alaskan State Troopers of the overboard until after 5:00 P.M. - a delay of around thirteen (13) hours.  NCL explained that its ship security was notified around 2:00 P.M. of the missing crew member with the implication being that it didn't know what happened any earlier and that it had to literally rewind the surveillance film and see if any of the ship's cameras showed anyone going overboard. 

What kind of cruise ship can't figure out that a ship employee had gone overboard for 13 hours, an even longer delay than in George Smith disappearance case ten years earlier? 

The blame is on NCL, no doubt, for such an embarrassing display of incompetence. The victim's group, International Cruise Victims, which formed in January 2006 following the George Smith debacle, helped introduce legislation which led to the requirement of automatic man overboard system as part of the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) of 2010. NCL obviously didn't have a functioning system on the Sun this weekend. 

But this is not just another story about the cruise industry ignoring the law. The U.S. Coast Guard is also at fault. The AP story said that the Coast Guard had abandoned the search within just five hours.

By the time that the AP had published its first first story on Friday evening, the Coast Guard search had already been over for 24 hours as 10 P.M. on Thursday. A five hour search?  The Coast Guard stopped searching before the public even knew that the crew member had gone overboard.

My law partner reminds me that the crew member was not going to survive 13 hours in the cold waters of Alaska, even in the summer months. But this is why cruise ships need a man overboard system in the first place. 

The Coast Guard has been working hand-in-hand with the cruise lines during the rules making procedures to water-down the automatic man overboard requirements that President Obama had signed into law in 2010. The Coast Guard and the cruise industry are bedfellows. They enjoy a cozy relationship where the senior Coast Guard officials view the cruise lines as a nice place to work for the big bucks after they retire from service. It's no coincidence that the new CEO of the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) is a former Coast Guard Rear Admiral.

The Coast Guard has discounted the IVC's comments and lets the cruise lines, like NCL, handle the man overboard issue as they see fit. So if the Sun didn't have the alarms, signals, radar and thermal detection technology needed to detect a man overboard at night, it's no big deal according to the Coast Guard.

Do U.S. citizens care if "foreign" crew members disappear at sea? One person leaving a comment to an article speculated that the Brazilian probably jumped in order to swim to shore in order to enter Norwegian Sunthe U.S., saying he's just "another illegal alien."

NCL issued its usual hollow press statement after the incident, saying that “our thoughts and prayers go out to the individual’s family during this difficult time.”

Surviving family members of both passengers and crew members don't want after-the-fact platitudes in a corporate press statement. They want the cruise lines to install state-of-the-art overboard systems and the Coast Guard to require them on all cruise ships.  

Photo Credit: CBS' 48 HOURS (top); Richard Martin via Flickr / Wikepedia Creative Commons 2.0 (bottom)

A Decade of Injustice: The George Smith Case

This weekend will mark 10 years since George Smith disappeared from Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas in the early morning hours of July 5, 2005. 

Mr. Smith was on a honeymoon cruise with his newlywed bride, Jennifer Hagel, who we later represented on behalf of Mr. Smith's estate against the cruise line over his disappearance.

I have written about this terrible tragedy many times, including writing a series of articles about some of George SmithCruise Mystery the details about the case. 

I have always thought that the case involved foul play, and that George Smith was tossed over-the-rails.

The case was mentioned routinely on television and cable news back in 2005-2006. We were interviewed on a regular basis. Royal Caribbean sent a slew of people to appear in the media like the former captain (whose opinions were ludicrous) as well as PR representatives, crisis communication experts and even the CEO of the cruise line. They tended to cast aspersions against Mr. Smith, or his bride, or both, or played dumb. They never ever produced videos in the cruise line's possession. 

What Royal Caribbean didn't disclose to the media back then was that it had a video recording of some of the other passengers who were last with Mr. Smith in his cabin early on the morning in question. After Mr. Smith's disappearance, the men were recorded mocking Mr. Smith. One of them then said: "we gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute." This video was in the possession of the cruise line by the end of the cruise and, later, in the possession of the FBI which did not disclose it to any of the family members. It eventually became known to the Smith family only around 7 years after the incident.

The greatest mystery about this cruise line crime case is not what happened to George Smith; it's why the FBI shut its investigation down and why the Department of Justice didn't arrest those responsible long ago.

What do you think of the Captain's excuse that George Smith may have been smoking a cigar on the balcony and just lost his balance?

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

CBS is airing an episode on 48 Hours tomorrow night about the case. A preview is below:  

 

 

VIDEO: "Murky Waters - The Dark Side of the Cruise Industry"

An Australian newspaper published a mini-documentary about cruise ship dangers in Australia today.

SBS' "The Feed" published Murky Waters: The Dark Side of the Cruise Industry, written and produced by Hannah Sinclair.

The video takes a look at a part of cruising that many Australians may be disturbed to learn - sexual assaults, drugs, excessive alcohol and the loss of passengers overboard. 

The video includes a look at the sad case of Dianne Brimble, which was one of the first cases I wrote about on this blog long ago.

It does not appear that the cruise industry has learned much over the years.  

 

Update on HAL / Promech Air Excursion Crash

The Daily Mail identifies the names of the 8 cruise passengers and the pilot killed in the "flightseeing" excursion in Alaska. The HAL passengers were from California, Nevada, Oregon and Maryland.

The Alaska Dispatch News takes a look at this type of excursion and describes it as a "lucrative subset" of the cruise industry.  

Yahoo Travel published an article today and discussed the dangers associated with flying in unregulated HAL - Promech Air Crashairspace in bad weather with limited visibility. I was interviewed for the article and I conveyed the thoughts of many residents and cruise passengers who have been on this type of excursion before:

Maritime lawyer Jim Walker points out that there is tremendous pressure exerted by the cruise lines and the excursion companies to fly, notwithstanding poor weather, in order to maximize profits. “I have heard many complaints from Alaskan residents and cruise passengers that excursion planes and helicopters routinely take off in poor weather with very limited visibility,” Walker told Yahoo Travel. “The cruise passengers cannot cancel if the weather is bad without a penalty.”

According to Walker, many excursion policies state that there is a 100 percent cancellation fee if a passenger cancels within three days of sailing. “It’s a tough choice — lose your excursion fee or risk your life,” says Walker. “This is an unreasonable and irresponsible policy. Profits over safety.”

You can read our first article about this ordeal here

Photo Credit: Promech via worldairlinenews

Cruise Ship and Tanker Full of Highly Flammable Fuel Collide Near Turkey

A near disaster unfolded early this morning when the Celestyal Crystal, a cruise ship operated by Celestyal Cruises, collided with the STI Pimlico fuel tanker, according to the Turkish publication, SeaNews.

Celestyal CrystalThe tanker was filled with a cargo of extremely volatile naphtha (flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture). The cruise ship's bow struck the midsection of the tanker and both vessels sustained heavy damage. One of the cargo tanks with the fuel exploded. The tanker leaked fuel into the water and began to list.

The collision took place in the Dardanelles straits off of the coast of Turkey.

The passengers and crew totaling approximately 1200 people had to evacuate the ship and be ferried to nearby Gallipoli. 

You can see a video of the vessels after the collision on our Facebook page.

Have a comment? Please leave one below or join the discussion on line.

June 29 2015 Update: CruiseArabiaOnLine reports that "a passenger aboard Celestyal Crystal (said) that the collision with the oil tanker off Turkey felt like an 'explosion' and said passengers were thrown off their feet by the impact. It felt as though something has exploded at the front of the ship,” he said. “The ship shuddered and a horrible crunching, grinding noise reverberated right through the ship. I was convinced we would sink.”

Photo Credit: Жизнь в Резервации Twitter via Travel Pulse

STI Pimlico Collision

 

Plea Hearing Regarding Disney Pedophile Cabin Attendant Delayed

Ahmed Soyhan Disney Child Molestation CaseA plea hearing was scheduled for today in Viera, Florida at the Harry T. & Harriette Moore Justice Center regarding the criminal case against a Disney cruise cabin attendant who is accused of luring a 13 year old passenger into an empty cabin on the last day of the cruise and molesting her.

Indonesian Ahmed Sofyan, age 36, worked on the Disney Dream as a state room attendant at the time of the incident.

The Disney cruise line steward is accused of false imprisonment and lewd and lascivious molestation of the little girl. You can read our initial article on the case here. Sexual molestation of minors is a problem on cruise ships including Disney Cruise Line which caters to families with children. 

As WFTV reports, before the hearing could begin, a question arose over Sofyan’s alleged ability to understand English. The defense attorney claimed that his client has difficulty understanding English (notwithstanding Disney's requirement that all crew members must speak English fluently as a Ahmed Sofyan Disney Child Molestation Caseprerequisite to employment). The judge decided to make an attempt to locate an Indonesian interpreter in order to make certain that the defendant crew member could fully understand the nuances of the serious criminal charges pending against him. When an interpreter could not be promptly summonsed to the courthouse, the hearing was rescheduled until mid July. 

The victim's mother and brother had driven 20 hours from another state to attend and speak at the hearing. They will return in three weeks. 

As the local news station reported, each of Sofyan’s charges are felonies with the most serious charge carrying a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

Photo Credits: Top - Jim Walker; Middle & Video - WFTV

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8 Holland America Line Passengers Die in Plane Crash

Holland America Line Flight Seeing TourNewspapers are reporting that 8 Holland America Line (HAL) cruise passengers were killed today when the sightseeing airplane they booked through HAL crashed near Ketchikan, Alaska.

The Seattle PI newspaper reports that the pilot of the charter plane and all eight cruise passengers died when the plane crashed about 20 miles northeast of Ketchikan. The aircraft reportedly hit the granite rock face of a southeast Alaska cliff.

The Alaska Dispatch News says that the passengers were from the HAL Westerdam cruise ship. They reportedly booked an excursion through the cruise line to go sightseeing on a turboprop de Havilland Otter "floatplane" operated by Promech Air, a charter  service in Southeast Alaska.

The video below shows the weather conditions at the time of the crash.

You can see the video advertisements for the HAL "flightseeing" excursion sold by the cruise line here (June 26, 2015 update: HAL has deleted the web info for this particular excursion).

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

 

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

 

150,000 Facebook Fans Can't Be Wrong!

This morning Cruise Law News hit a milestone when the 150,000th person "liked" our Facebook page.

The motto of this blog is "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know." Our main goal is to educate the public about dangers on cruise ships and in ports of call that the cruise industry would like to keep secret. It's exciting to see that many people become a fan of our Facebook page.

Our Facebook page is primarily non-U.S. readers.

Who are the top readers outside of the U.S.? In order they are from India, Philippines, Mexico, Peru, Elvis 50000000 Fans Can't Be WrongIndonesia, Venezuela, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Myanmar, Romania, Turkey, Italy, Croatia, Macedonia, and many other countries. 

Lots of crew members send us information, video and photos of what really happens on cruise ships. (We keep the identity of the crew confidential). We have learned that "ship life" is a lot different from what the cruise lines and travel agents represent. 

The readership of this blog has taken off this year. So far, we have had over 1,000,000 different people who have read over 3,500,000 pages of Cruise Law News, We are on schedule to have over 7,000,000 pages read by over different 2,000,000 people this year.

Why the reference to "150,000 fans can't be wrong?" It's a take-off on the famous 1959 Elvis Presley album "50,000,000 Elvis fans can't be wrong." (Yes, I'm one of those fans).

Thanks to everyone who like our Facebook page, read my articles, and leave comments! I'm always pleased to answer any questions from crew members free of charge and without obligation.

Carnival Increases Profits, But at what Cost to U.S. Taxpayers?

Carnival Cruise TaxesCarnival Corporation announced its second quarter profits today.

Its revenues to date for 2015 (June 30th) were $7,180,000,000 (billion), consisting of passenger fares (tickets) of $5,425,000,000 and onboard purchases (booze, spa, specialty meals, casino) of $1,755,000,000. It's net income was $271,000,000.

And Carnival paid taxes of?  Nothing.

You have heard me say this before. By incorporating in Panama and registering its cruise ships in third world countries like Panama and the Bahamas to avoid taxes (and wage and safety laws), Carnival enjoys an enormous advantage over land-based business by paying virtually no U.S. taxes.

But Carnival uses our Federal agencies daily: the U.S. Coast Guard, Customs & Border Protection, FBI, USPH, EPA, DOT, Homeland Security and many others. It pays nothing for these services.

Those federal agencies are paid for by U.S. taxpayers, like you and me.

I have paid many millions of dollars in U.S. income over the years.  I'm not complaining. I love the U.S. and know that it takes money to operate a country like ours. 

But there is something fundamentally wrong when Carnival avoids taxes, enriches its executives hundreds of millions of dollars a year and pays its crewmembers around the world only a small pittance for their hard work. 

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

Photo Credit: Craig Rubadoux via Florida Today

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy 

U.S. Issues Travel Warning for El Salvador

El Salvador CruiseThe U.S. Department of State issued another warning to U.S. citizens that crime and violence in El Salvador continue to be at high levels. U.S. citizens traveling to El Salvador should remain alert to their surroundings. This travel warning supersedes the last warning (November 21, 2014). 

Since January 2010, 34 U.S. citizens have been murdered in El Salvador with only 6 convictions of those murders.  During the same time period, 419 U.S. citizens were victims of crime including violent crimes.

Like other Central American countries, El Salvador lacks sufficient resources to properly investigate and prosecute cases and to deter violent crime.

Last year, we picked El Salvador to be the ninth most dangerous cruise destination in the world. Here's what I wrote: 

"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 2012, 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."

Fox News picked El Salvador as the second most dangerous cruise port in the world. There are two cruise ports, La Union and Acajutia. The major cruise lines avoid them but Fred Olsen has sailed there and Azamara is scheduled to do so next year.

The latest murder rates (2014) is 68.6 per 100,000 inhabitants (the U.S. murder rate is less than 5 per 100,000). There are numerous violent gangs. In addition to violent crime, a common crime affecting U.S. tourists credit is card skimming. U.S. citizens have been victimized at well-known restaurants, hotels, and El Salvador retailers.

This year I visited the El Salvador booth at Cruise Shipping Miami (photo above).

Last month, the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) held its 2015 regional meeting in El Salvador to promote cruising to Central American countries. 

In March, El Salvador Tourism Minister José Napoleón Duarte (photo) met FCCA / Carnival chairman Micky Arison at Cruise Shipping Miami in March to promote his country to the cruise industry.

You will find no mention of this latest crime warning by the FCCA, CLIA, Carnival, or El Salvador tourism representatives. 

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

Photo Credit: top Jim Walker; bottom seatrade-cruise  

Silversea Cruises' Deceptive WI-Fi Announcement

I just read incredibly misleading headlines about Silversea Cruises' new WI-Fi policy - "Silversea: Free WiFi for All Guests."

Cruise Industry News quoted Silversea Cruises' Kristian Anderson, Silversea's senior vice president of sales and general manager for the Americas: 

"For well over 20 years, Silversea has set the course in defining the all-inclusive, ultra-luxury cruise experience. By offering truly free Wi-Fi to all guests regardless of the suite reserved, Silverseas is Silversea Cruises Wi Fionce again setting the standard for all-inclusive luxury. Because we know how important it is for travelers to stay informed and connected, we're delighted to enhance the all-inclusive Silversea experience with this new benefit."

The Sun Sentinel headline: "Free Wi-Fi for Everyone on Silversea Cruises" was equally misleading and deceitful. 

In truth, unlimited free Wi-Fi will be available only to select guests staying in owner's, grand, royal, silver and medallion suites. Otherwise the rest of the passenger get only one free hour! (Can you imagine trying to load a Facebook page?) And it used to be included in fare for Mediterranean sailings!

Silversea didn't bother to disclose what it will charge its customers after an hour.  

Sounds like the Silversea people are back to their fun and games, like when they were caught hiding trolleys of food from the USPH inspectors.   

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June 20 2015 Update: You can see what Silversea charges passengers here.

Photo Credit: Silversea Cruises via iCruise

Anonymous "Thanks" from the World Wide Web

Today I received a nice "thank you" from an anonymous cruiser who, as she says, stumbled on this website:  

Thank you sooo much for your web site. Stumbled upon it looking for cruise ship deals for myself and my teenage daughter. We were not aware of the dangers of the ports. Thank you for all your hard work to warn travelers and help make our vacations happy and safe. 

I get my fair share of hate mail, so I always appreciate it when someone takes time to express their Thank Youappreciation for this little blog.

We are on track for over 2,000,000 different readers this year. They will read a little over 7,000,000 pages of Cruise Law News. 

Negative comments, accusations and insults come with the territory, particularly on our Cruise Law News Facebook where we have around 150,000 followers. Approximately 23,000,000 people will cruise this year and have a positive experience. There are lots of people who, I have learned, hate lawyers and love to cruise. They don't like their favorite cruise line criticized. They are quick to shoot the messenger. 

But for the anonymous mother who contacted me today, thanks again . . .  

Credit: Razzle

Disney's Man Overboard System

Disney Cruise Man OverboardOne of my interests is automatic man overboard systems on cruise ships.

Cruise lines are super-secret when it come to whether their ships have man overboard systems and, if so, what type of system is installed.

Acquaintances of mine went on a Disney cruise in March and watched as the ship's man overboard system was tested.

A crew member threw a rubber test dummy on a rope over the rail and logged the results whether the system detected the "person" going overboard.

An officer also talked to them about the man overboard system, saying that the monitoring equipment on the bridge is a "pain" for the bridge officers.

There is also an issue with false alarms, mostly from the ocean spray.

Anyone has details regarding what type of system Disney, or other cruise lines, is using?

Have a comment?

Please leave one below or join the discussion on our Facebook page

Disney Cruise Overboard

Update: Credit for info below, the Disney Cruise Line Blog

Man Overboard Systems

 

 

Good News: Carnival's New LNG Cruise Ships

Last week Carnival announced its new brand "fathom" as the first "first voluntourism cruise line." It said that the new cruise line will focus on the "environment" and "sustainability," which seem like ridiculous propositions to me given Carnival's deplorable record of polluting the air and water. Plus the new brand is going to operate the bunker-fuel burning and smoke-belching ship Adonia cruise ship.    

Today, Carnival released a PR statement that it signed a multi-billion dollar contract to build four "next-generation" cruise ships with the largest guest capacity in the world. The new ships will be able to carry 6,600 passengers which is 200 more passengers than Royal Caribbean'd gigantic Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. However, the news ships will at 180,000 gross tons which is Carnival Cruise 45,000 gross tons less than the Royal Caribbean "monsters of the seas." 

Most significantly, Carnival says that it's four new ships will feature a revolutionary "green cruising" design. "The ships will be the first in the cruise industry to be powered at sea by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) -- the world's cleanest burning fossil fuel, representing a major environmental breakthrough."

The four new ships will be the among the first in the cruise industry to use LNG to power cruise ships in port and on the open water which will eliminate emissions of soot particles and sulfur oxides. I have written many times about the harmful effects of the tremendous amount of bunker fuel burned by the cruise industry. Carnival's announcement, admittedly long overdue, is truly unprecedented by a major cruise line.  

Carnival and its PR agency just won an award for improving a brand's reputation after a crisis. They recovered from an "onslaught of negativity" over the last two years. Some of the initiates of the new successful PR campaign include launching a “good news” storytelling campaign to change the tone of the conversation about the brand, and positioning CEO Arnold Donald as a "leader, change agent and collaborator."

I may be skeptical that "fathom" will be anything other than another polluting cruise line, but it certainly seems that the new ships Carnival announced today will be a major step in the right direction in reducing air pollution.

The new ships will sail for the AIDA and Costa brands.     

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Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger From Norwegian Sun

Norwegian SunThe U.S. Coast Guard in Alaska is reporting that it deployed a helicopter to medevac a 63-year-old woman from the Norwegian Sun on Sunday.

The helicopter crew hoisted the sick woman and flew her to Cordova Community Medical Center.

The Master of NCL cruise ship said that the passenger was suffering from abdominal complications. 

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Photo Credit: NCL

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger from Carnival Splendor

Carnival SplendorThe U.S. Coast Guard is reporting that it medevaced a sick passenger from a Carnival cruise ship on Monday. The cruise ship was approximately 140 miles east of Cape Charles, Virginia at the time.

The Carnival Splendor notified the Coast Guard at approximately 5 p.m., requesting a medevac for a 73-year-old passenger experiencing health complications.

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew and an HC-130 Hercules airplane crew from Elizabeth City, North Carolina, launched at approximately 6 p.m.

The helicopter crew arrived at the Splendor at approximately 7 p.m. and  hoisted the man and a nurse to the helicopter and flew to a hospital in in Norfolk. 

No video is currently available.

The Splendor is perhaps best known for an engine room fire in 2010 which disabled the ship. The Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier had to ferry it food for the passengers. The stricken ship was towed to San Diego.  

Photo Credit: "Carnival Splendor 2009" by Sparrowman980 via Wikipedia commons 3.0.

Baltic Cruising: Rapes, Violence Growning Exponentially?

Viking CinderellaAccording to a documentary on Swedish TV4 as discussed in the Finnish newspaper Uutiset, cruise ship violence in the Baltic has grown “exponentially.” 

36 women and girls were raped on Baltic cruise ships last year (2014), according to a report from another Finnish newspaper, HBL, covering the documentary. 

The reporters used  hidden cameras to document "violent, dangerous, drunken behavior by ship passengers" and a "lack of proper oversight by ship personnel." The documentary focused on three cruise ships, the Viking Line Cinderella (photo above), the Tallink Silja Galaxy and the Birkaline Birka.

The hidden cameras revealed fights between passengers and cruise staff ignoring young women so intoxicated they were nearly unconscious. Cruise lines were criticized for selling liquor to inebriated guests and allowing passengers to drink duty free liquor during the cruise. These problems were characterized as endemic and something something the cruise companies deny.

In 2008, there were 43 reported rapes on these cruise ships. Although the program suggested that violence is increasing, it appears that there have dozens of sexual assaults each year on cruise ship in the Baltic for the past decade.

 

Photo Credit: EnDumEn via Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0 

Man Overboard from Baltic Princess, Rescued

Yesterday, a passenger on the Tallink's Baltic Princess went overboard while the ship was cruising from  Stockholm to Turku.

The young man, in his 20's, fell into the icy waters of the Finnish Archipelago Sea. 

Another passenger witnessed the incident and called for help. The cruise ship turned around and the man overboard was rescued with the involvement of a rescue boat. A Coast Guard helicopter then transported the man to Finland. The rescue operation lasted twenty minutes.

The Tallink Silja group is a major operator of cruise ships in the Baltic Sea between ports in Sweden, Finland, Latvia and Estonia.

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Baltic Princess

Photo Credit: Turun Sanomat newspaper (Finland)

Death Aboard the Disney Dream

Disney Dream Several people informed me that there has been a death aboard the Disney Dream.

An officer was reportedly discovered dead on the cruise ship yesterday. The officer reportedly was discovered hanging, in what I am told is an apparent suicide. His body was located in an air conditioning room reportedly on deck seven.  

The body of the Disney officer was reportedly removed from the cruise ship in the Bahamas. 

The cruise ship was last in Castaway Cay, Disney's private island in the Bahamas. It returned to Port Canaveral and is now heading back to Nassau.

The Dream is registered in Nassau Bahamas. Any investigation will be conducted by the Bahamas Maritime Authority.  

We made an inquiry to Disney Cruise Line but it has not responded.

June 1 2015 Update: Bahamas Police Probe Deaths of 2 Employees of Cruise Lines

June 2 2015 Update: There has been a second crew member death, on a Carnival ship, within a 24 hour period - Suicide on the Sensation

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

Photo Credit: Nozzleman75 via Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0

Charlie, Charlie Can We Play? Not in the Bahamas . . .

Charlie CharlieThis weekend I read an article in a Bahamian newspaper (the Guardian) about - are you ready for this? - a "homosexual Mexican demon" called "Charlie" who the teachers in the Bahamas were concerned with. Kids in the schools in Nassau were apparently playing a game with paper and a couple of pencils where they would summons the so-called "demon" out by asking "Charlie, Charlie can we play?"

"Charlie" sounds like a variation of the ouija board game that my brother, sister and I used to play in the 1960s, when were little kids. We would turn the lights out in our bedroom and pull out the silly game from under the bed. We would quickly whip ourselves in a childlike frenzy of fear and become hysterical with nervous laughter. My Mom disapproved of the game but never made a big deal about it. The ouija board fad lasted about a month and we soon lost interest in the Parker Brothers game. Our ouija board quickly found itself out in our garage and then in our dumpster by the street.

That was fifty years ago. But things are different in the Bahamas today. 

The Bahamian school administrators responded to the "Charlie" game by summonsing 20 local clergy members to pray for the students and try and remove the evil "demon" from the premises. The Minister of Education even became involved and told the Tribune newspaper: "It should be regarded as serious. When dealing with supernatural things, I can't explain it, but I don't want our kinds to be exposed to anything supernatural that causes problems. It's difficult to explain but we don't know the extent to which this could impact our children so I wouldn't sanction it."  

As a general proposition, a signifigant portion of Bahamians are superstitious. Having been raised in Arkansas Ouija Boardand the Mississippi Delta, I'm used to people with a propensity to proselytize and try to scare you with images of evil monsters. I've encountered more than my share of desperate bible-thumpers, preaching snake-handlers and speaking-in-tongue charismatic "Christians" who are happy to save your soul in return for a check.

But the Bahamas' reaction to "Charlie" is completely over-the-top. The phenomenon is not unique to the Bahamas but the preachers there turned the "Charlie" demon not only into a Mexican devil but a hated and despised gay one at that. 

On Saturday, I posted the Nassau Guardian article on Facebook with my tongue-in-cheek comment: "The Bahamas officially lost its marbles." I also posted a photo of a stereotypical gay-appearing Latin man in a red outfit wearing horns and a pitchfork. By Sunday, my Facebook page had hundreds of hateful comments from angry Bahamians. 

Deon Deveaux posted that I am "gay and a demon."

Jason Neil Roberts called me a slave owner. He lectured me that the Bible teaches that "homosexuality is a demonic, foul, wicked, diabolical spirit." He questioned whether I was a "proponent of what caused Sodom and Gomorrah to be wiped out?"

"Yolanda" left these comments to an earlier article: "You people still bad mouthing my country! Hell with da likes of you! Charlie CharlieMay Satan make your wheels fall off as you drive! Mr. Walker, may your family die of cancer! Hope to God your mother and father are dead! I dream your eyes lose sight of all da is! When you fall asleep tonight may you never awaken again! You are da child of da Devil! May your seed never produce! If they have already, may they lay dead to the side of the road! Mr. Walker, "IT IS BETTER IN DA BAHAMAS"

The other comments were more of the same. 

I have a profound interest in the Bahamas, particularly Nassau. I want to know everything I can about it's history, culture, politics and religion. Over 1,100 ships are registered in Nassau in order to avoid U.S. taxes, wage and labor laws, and health and safety laws. Many Miami-based cruise ships fly the flag of the Bahamas as a "flag of convenience" in order to avoid the oversight of the U.S. government. 

A result of the Bahamian flag of convenience is that the Bahamas is suppose to investigate and prosecute crimes on Bahamian-flagged cruise ships. So I read the Bahamas Tribune, Nassau Guardian, Bahamas Press and Bahamas Weekly every single day. I want to understand how Bahamians think. Will Nassau be a fair place for a trial if a woman is raped? How will a jury of Bahamians treat a member of the LGBT community? How will the Bahamian legal system treat a U.S. citizen?  

I have traveled to the Bahamas since the 1970's to the present day. I have interacted with taxi cab drivers, store owners, hotel clerks, restaurant operators, bartenders, court bailiffs, police and the like. My conclusion? The country is going backwards. Crime is out of control. A RBPF policeman is afraid Crime Bahamasto apprehend gang members with guns. The legal system is a joke and criminals are quickly released from custody. If you are homosexual, or not from the Bahamas, you can't obtain a fair trial in Nassau in a million years.

If you're a victim of crime on a cruise ship flying a Bahamian flag, no one from the Bahamas will show up. When a Bahamian police officer gets involved, he is there to protect the interests of the flag state and not the victim, even if the victim is a child. Over the last 30 years, I know not a single case where the Bahamas successfully prosecuted a violent crime on a cruise ship.

There is a deeply rooted notion in the Bahamas that the country is blessed. The 1970's marketing slogan that "It's Better in the Bahamas" is interwoven with the provincial and self-righteous thought that God provides special protection to the islands. But it is a judgmental, condemning, fire-and-brimstone God of wrath that the Bahamians seem to pray to, from behind their burglar bars, as the murder rate increases to over seven times higher in the Bahamas than the U.S. Bahamians are killing Bahamians, and an occasional tourist, in unprecedented numbers. There have been eight critical crime warnings about Nassau from the U.S. State Department, U.S. Embassy and the U.K. and Canadian consulates in just the last 17 months. 

The only industry in the Bahamas is tourism. But if If you have a difference of opinion with a Bahamian, be prepared to be labeled a gay demon. If you're a passenger raped on a Bahamian-flagged cruise ship or shot on a sailboat or robbed on Bay Street and need to be protected by the Bahamian police or in a Bahamian courtroom, God help you.  

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

Photo Credits: Charlie, Charlie and Ouija Board - Hello Giggles; Devil - el infierno en Costa Rica blog.

Passenger Sues HAL Over Vicious Rape

HAL Rape LawsuitA lawsuit was filed against Holland America Line (HAL) in Seattle for the vicious attack unleashed by a HAL crew member on a young woman last year on HAL's Nieuw Amsterdam.

The crew member is identified as Ketut Pujayasa, age 28. from Indonesia. He worked a stateroom attendant. He used a master key card to gain illegal entry into the victim's cabin.

Pujayasa raped, beat, punched and strangled her and then tried to throw the woman from the balcony into the ocean in international waters. 

The attack, lasting over 45 minutes, was absolutely horrific.

I'm surprised that HAL permitted this case to be filed.  

Records show another passenger’s report of an overflowing toilet was tagged as a “high priority” by the ship’s front desk the night the woman was attacked, Calls from passengers concerned about the woman’s cries or help were deemed to be of a lower priority.

Permitting crew members (cabin attendants, room service attendants, etc,) a master key is a terrible idea. Rapes by such crew members have occurred in the past.

A Seattle newspaper covered the story. I was interviewed for the story. 

Photo Credit: SeattlePI

Fire on Crown Princess

Crown PrincessA fire broke out on the Crown Princess Thursday night in the back stage of the Princess theater. It was extinguished with no reports of injury.

I received an account from the cruise ship:

The fire started in a store room behind the theater. The entire theater had to be evacuated. The smoke-generating machine had been left on, overheated and caught fire. The crew had to put on breathing apparatus. It turned out to be nothing but caused a lot of smoke at the time. At present they are investigating how/why the machine caught fire.

Princess Cruises tweeted the following to me:

 "Last night aboard Crown Princess a small fire occurred backstage in the Princess Theater during a performance. The cause of which was determined to be a piece of theatrical equipment used for special effects. The fire was quickly extinguished by our fire team. We immediately initiated our response procedures & all guests on board were asked to return to their staterooms. The ship's Captain made several announcements during the incident to keep guests informed of the situation & no one was injured. We're currently investigating the cause of the special effects equipment malfunction."

it has been 9 years since the deadly Star Princess fire which burned through one hundred cabins, injured a dozen passengers and killed Mr. Richard Liffridge

 

Photo Credit: Brian Burnell via Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0

SeaWorld's Chief Financial Officer Joins Carnival Cruise Line

Orcas SeaWorldA number of news sources report that SeaWorld's Chief Financial Officer (CFO), James Heaney, will be joining Carnival Cruise Line as CFO next month. Mr. Heaney worked at SeaWorld since 2011.

As the movie Blackfish reveals, SeaWorld profits by forcing captive orcas, which swim a hundred miles a day in the wild, to entertain tourists. The orcas spend the majority of their lives virtually motionless in concrete tanks that are the human equivalent of a bathtub until their dorsal fins collapse. Have you read of the plight of Tilikum?

I responded to the news on Facebook with a single comment: "ugh." Here's how readers of our Cruise Law News Facebook page reacted:

  • Now they can identify the marine mammals stuck on the bow of their ships.
  • Going from a company that is sinking to a company that runs ships is not a good combination.
  • Bad business ... Carnival is the worse, low quality company I've ever know.

Before SeaWorld, Mr. Heaney worked at Disney Cruise Line for 17 years. 

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A Normal Weekend in Nassau

The Bahamas Weekly reports that four Florida residents wre arrested this weekend for possession of pot on a cruise ship moored in Nassau, Bahamas.

The newspaper reports that the incident occurred on Sunday, May 24, 2015.

The report says that "officers from the Tourism Policing Unit acting on intelligence went to a cruise ship moored at Prince George Wharf, where they found the four suspects in possession of a quantity Nassau Bahamasof marijuana."

Snagging America cruise passengers on cruise ships in the Port of Naasau is big business in the Bahamas. I write about it frequently. The local police don't bother obtaining a search warrant or establishing probable cause before barging into cruise ship cabins and hauling the passengers off to jail. It's easy revenue for the island.    

The article doesn't specify the anount of pot (which the Bahamas calls a "dangerous drug"). But if these arrests are similar to the last dozen or so at the port in Nassau, probably not more than a few joints.   

Meanwhile Bahamas Weekly reports that the police are asking for public assistance in apprehending the criminals associated with two armed robberies and the murder of a woman whose lifeless body was found over the weekend in a pond near a service road with injuries to her head.

The murder count in the Bahamas, now at 60, is heading for an all-time high.     

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Photo Credit: BrokenSphere via Wikipedia Commons 3.0

Witnesses to Gem Drowning: "NCL Screwed Up"

Earlier this week, a 10 year old child drowned in a crowded swimming pool on NCL's Norwegian Gem

It's the seventh time that a child has drowned, or nearly-downed, on a cruise ship in just two years. The incidents occurred on cruise ships operated by all of the major cruise lines' ships: Carnival, Disney, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean. None of the cruise lines employed life guards at the time. (Disney subsequently changed its policy after a child sustained catastrophic and permanent injuries requiring lifetime medical care.) 

Following the death of the little girl, NCL issued a press release, which avoided the issue of lifeguards, but touted its allegedly "quick" and "full" NCL Norwegian Gemresponse by its ship's medical team.

"On Sunday afternoon, the ship's medical team responded to an emergency call from the pool deck, as a ten year-old female guest was reported unresponsive. The team quickly administered CPR and full emergency care. After extensive efforts, the guest could not be revived."

But witnesses on the ship dispute NCL's PR statement.  

Several cruise passengers left messages regarding what they witnessed:

One passengers said: 

"I'm still on the Gem now. And i was right there. On this incident I can blame NCL for their lack of effort. Passengers who were nurses and doctors did all the work while NCL workers watched and looked panicked. They did not know what to do. They kept telling the real nurses and doctors to stay away. I talked to one of the ICU nurses and she said they are handling it all wrong. They told her to move away meanwhile shes yelling at them on what to do. The girl had a pulse. . . . Bottom line, NCL dropped the ball on this on big time. If you weren't there then don't say a thing backing NCL. Cause they did absolutely nothing. The passengers came to the rescue. Applaud them. They were fighting for the kid while NCL looked DAZED."

Another passenger remarked:

"My wife and I witnessed this tragic event right before our eyes while on board the Gem this past week. My wife is a registered nurse and tried to help, but was told 'they were handling it and to stay away' . . . she was completely upset with the lack of treatment she witnessed by the staff personnel. That poor girl was being worked on by inexperienced people, pool side for more than 15 minutes before being rushed down to the medical center.

As a parent traveling with 3 kids, I agree it is our responsibility to "watch our children." However the pool deck was really crowded at that time, and with those crowds it was very easy to lose sight of your kids. The family pool is 5' - 6' deep, which is very dangerous IMO for children and inexperienced swimmers. I'm amazed that NCL wouldn't employ trained lifeguards with that setup.

The bottom line is an innocent child died, and my heart goes out to the family."

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) argues that cruise lines "manage pools with the safety of passengers" by providing "signs that a lifeguard is not present."

This, of course, is double-talk. Four and six year old kids like the ones who drowned on lifeguard-less cruise ships can't read or comprehend warning signs. A no-lifeguard sign recommended by the cruise lines' defense lawyers is an acknowledgment that the cruise industry is committed to a policy of not providing reasonable safety to children. 

Airborne Norovirus - What Now Cruise Lines?

Cruise Ship NorovirusEarlier this month, we reported that researchers in Canada concluded that norovirus can spread by air, according to a publication in the highly respected Clinical Infectious Diseases. Eight doctors participated in a study of norovirus and determined that norovirus can be transmitted in an airborne form.  

Researchers collected air samples (about 3 feet away from the sick patients) and then tested areas further away, such as by the door of patient rooms and down the hall at nursing stations.

A reporter for HealthDay News / U.S. News and World Report wrote an article titled 'Cruise Ship' Norovirus Bug Can Spread by Air, Study Finds, saying that "notorious bugs that have infected scores of people and ruined countless cruise ship vacations -- can spread through the air and infect people several feet away, according to new research."

Airborne concentrations of norovirus "ranged from 13 to 2,350 particles per cubic meter of air." As few as 20 norovirus particles can infect someone.

The cruise industry had been misleading the public for years that the virus is primarily brought aboard by passengers, whereas it is more likely caused by a combination of contaminated food and/or water, crew members working while infected and poor cleaning practices.

Now, irrespective of how the virus came on the ship, the cruise lines have to deal with the reality that the nasty virus spreads by air. That's particularly troublesome considering the cramped spaces on cruise ships. If infected norovirus particles can float down a hallway to a nurse's station, the disease can just as easily float down the hall on a cruise ship or find its way into the air-conditioning ducts.

News station WWLP jusr ran a story on the issue/ (See video below)

Few media outlets have discussed this news. Travel publications are staying away from the news. But when the news get out, expect the cruise lines and CLIA to launch a campaign of misinformation.

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Norwegian Dawn Hits Reef Near Bermuda

A friend just notified me that the Port Bermuda cam operated by PTZtv shows that the NCL Norwegian Dawn has just hit a reef near the port. 

The cruise ship reportedly launched lifeboats, although there is no indication that anyone was injured. The weather looks nice.  The boats may have been checking the damage to the cruise ship and reef.  

Passengers are tweeting that the cruise ship hit the reef hard and churned up the reef.

The ship was heading back to Boston. 

Some news outlets are reporting that the Dawn lost power shortly after leaving Bermuda. 

You can watch the webcam here.

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Photo Credit: J. Zsiros via CBS Boston

NCL Dawn Bermuda

10 Year Old Girl Drowns on Norwegian Gem

A young passenger, reportedly a 10-year-old girl, drowned in a swimming pool aboard NCL's Norwegian Gem while the cruise ship was 75 miles east of Myrtle Beach yesterday afternoon. 

I first learned of the incident on Twitter from CNBC's @RyanRuggiero who tweeted "The Coast Guard is investigating a death that occurred aboard the Norwegian Gem off the coast of NC. The investigation is still ongoing." He mentioned that the death involved a child drowning on the Gem.

This incident will rekindle the debate whether cruise lines should employ lifeguard their ships.

Norwegian GemThere have been a number of drownings and near-drownings of minors on cruise ships in the last couple of years. 

This is not the first time a child has drowned on a NCL cruise ship.

Last year, two small children were pulled from a pool on NCL's Norwegian Breakaway as the cruise ship was sailing from New York to the Bahamas. Both children were unresponsive. The younger child (age 4) died on the cruise ship. The other child (age 6) was medevaced by the Coast Guard. Read our article: Drowning Tragedy Aboard the Norwegian Breakaway: Where Are the Lifeguards?

All of the major cruise lines without lifeguards have seen children killed or seriously injured in the cruise ship swimming pools. You can read about the incidents:

A four year old on the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas January 2015.  

A six year old on Carnival Victory October 2014

A six year old boy on Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas May 2014. 

A four year old on Disney Fantasy March 2013.

The child on the Disney cruise ship was permanently and seriously injured. Disney paid a multi-million dollar settlement and began employing lifeguards on its ships. No other cruise lines have followed Disney's lead.

Inclined to always blame the parents and give the cruise line a pass?  Think again. Read: Imperfect Parents & Corporate Irresponsibility: Why No Lifeguards on Disney Cruise Ships?

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Photo credit: Captain-Tucker via Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0

8th Violent Crime Warning for the Bahamas in 16 Months

Nassau BahamasThe U.K.'s  Foreign and Commonwealth Office has issued "foreign travel advice" for travelers to the Bahamas. The U.K. crime warning says

"There have been incidents of violent crime including robbery, which is often armed and sometimes fatal, in residential and tourist areas of New Providence, Grand Bahama and Freeport. The number of break-ins and robbery incidents reported to the High Commission has increased. There are police patrols in the main tourist areas.

Be vigilant at all times and don’t walk alone away from the main hotels, tourist areas, beaches and downtown Nassau, particularly after dark. Take care if travelling on local bus services after dusk on routes away from the main tourist areas. Do not carry large amounts of cash or jewellery. Robbers may be armed."

I first learned of the crime warning from Travel Weekly

Incredibly, this is the eighth crime warning for the Bahamas in the last 16 months.

In 2014, Bahamas was the subject of four critical crime warnings to U.S. citizens (one from the U.S. State Department and three from the U.S. Embassy) and one warning from Canada. There have been 2 prior crime warnings from the U.S. for the Bahamas this year. With this latest U.K. warning, that's a total of 8 warnings.

I have never heard any country being the recipient of 8 crime warnings in such a short time period. The U.S. warnings are much more specific, mentioning that U.S. tourists have been raped and robbed at gunpoint. 

We last wrote about the sorry state of affairs in the Bahamas earlier this month. We received a number of interesting comments to the article which you can read here. Many people avoid a cruise itinerary which includes the Bahamas, or they stay on the cruise ship when it reaches Nassau. 

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

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Photo Credit: Bahamas B2B

Balmoral Cruise Passengers Hit By Massive GI Outbreak

Fred Olsen Balmoral Cruise passengers on the Fred Olsen Balmoral cruise ship are affected by a massive viral outbreak.

The cruise ship's medical staff is overwhelmed with sick passengers who are suffering from diarrhea and vomiting. The person who contacted us says that at least 300 of 1,100 passengers, as well as crew members, are ill with the gastrointestinal sickness..

The cruise line curtailed the cruise from 8 to 7 days to return to Southampton for "Barrier Cleaning." 

News sources in the U.K. are reporting that Fred Olsen passengers hit with a "vomiting bug" which causes vomiting and diarrhea.

Fred Olsen said it was "company policy" not to reveal the number of passengers affected, but the Daily Echo says that as many as 250 had contracted the bug.

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Photo Credit: Daily Echo
 

 

FlowRider Accident Seriously Injures Passenger on Independence of the Seas

FlowRider The Independence of the Seas returned early to Fort Lauderdale this morning because a passenger sustained a serious injury yesterday.

Several passengers emailed me stating that the Royal Caribbean passenger sustained major head trauma after he fell on the FlowRider. It is unclear exactly when or how the accident occurred, but the Independence of the Seas returned to port in Fort Lauderdale this morning around 3:00 A.M.

Flowriders are exceedingly dangerous. There have been numerous broken ankles, wrists, elbows, shoulders and necks and even one death on Royal Caribbean cruise ships when a passenger broke his neck and was killed. We believe the FlowRiders are unreasonably unsafe, defectively designed with negligent instructors. 

Most passengers do not realize that the Royal Caribbean waiver which the cruise line forces passengers to sign is illegal and unenforceable under Maritime Law.  

Don't forget to read: FlowRider Accidents: Royal Caribbean Liability Waivers Are Unenforceable!

Danger on the High Seas - Royal Caribbean's Deadly FlowRider. Don't watch video if you are squeamish. 

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Video Credit: Jim Walker

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger from Carnival Pride

The U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a sick cruise passenger from a Carnival cruise ship today approximately 70 miles south of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

The Carnival Pride request a medevac for an ill 47-year-old passenger. An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Elizabeth City, North Carolina arrived at approximately 4:40 p.m.

The helicopter hoisted the passenger and few him to Carteret General Hospital in Morehead City, North Carolina.   

Video Credit: Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System  by PO3 David Weydert

Gastrointestinal Illness (Noro?) Outbreak on the Oceania Marina

Oceania MarinaA gastrointestinal outbreak on the Oceania Marina has been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

69 passengers reported being ill with nausea and vomiting during the last cruise. 11 crew members reported being sick. 

This is the 8th gastrointestinal illness outbreak in just the first 5 months of this year.

Last year there were 9 outbreaks in all of 2014.  In the last two years, Princess and Royal Caribbean have been the leaders with the most sick ships.

According to a newspaper in Hawaii, the outbreak was determined to be norovirus and "a spokeswoman for Princess Cruises said a total of about 100 passengers were affected by the virus over several days."

The Eternal Debate: After each outbreak, the armchair quarterbacks debate how the norovirus outbreak occurred. On one side is the cruise industry and cruise line employees who always blame the passengers. "Those dirty passengers with their filthy fingers" they say "waddling up to the buffet after using the toilet and not washing their hands." But where is the scientific analysis  by the epidemiology experts?  

The CDC doesn't even try to figure causation out and the cruise line don't want the scientists to figure it out.  God forbid that the experts blame the outbreak on contaminated cruise line water or food, or dirty surfaces laden with norovirus particles, or a cook or waiter working while ill with acute GI or inadequate cleaning or air contamination

In 2013, ABC News published an interesting article titled Norovirus: Why washing your hands isn't enough. Here's a portion of the article:

"It gets in your food, in your laundry, it sticks to plates and it might even float into the air when you flush your toilet . . . ."

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Photo Credit: "Ms Marina Martinique" by Jordandkatz CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Noro on the Princess Cruises' Star Princess

News sources in Hawaii are reporting that dozens of Princess cruise ship passengers have been quarantined on Maui after a norovirus outbreak.

Newspapers are saying that Princess Cruises' Star Princess is ported at Lahaina. According to the local health department, around 30 people are quarantined in their rooms. Health officials report that the virus originated in San Francisco. 

Princess Cruises notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

There is no official CDC information  because there is no need for the CDC to make a report to the public unless 3% or more of the cruise passengers or crew are ill. 

This week 8 Canadian doctors published a blockbuster article confirming that norovirus can be transmitted in an airborne form.

Unfortunately, given the short time that cruise ship are in port, no health officials ever determine whether the outbreak is caused by contaminated food and / or water versus a sick food handler versus poor hygiene practices by the cruise ship or passengers. I expect the cruise line will still publicly blame the passengers, whatever the true cause. 

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Star Princess Noro Virus

Photo Credit: Jim Walker in Seattle

 

Samoan Crew Member Remains Missing at Sea

Somoa FlagThe Talamua New Agency in Samoa in the South Pacific reports that a Samoan crew member who disappeared from an unidentified cruise ship last November remains missing. 

According to this source, Falevi Leiataua Leapai went missing while working on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean.

The crew member was placed on a cruise ship by the Samoa Shipping Services. The article states that the shipping agency was informed by the Mediterranean Shipping Company that Leapai was missing.

Leapai’s family have been frequenting the Shipping Company for any information without success  They are now thinking of having a memorial service. 

I went through my archives and couldn't find any mention of this incident.  Does anyone have information regarding what happened and which cruise ship was involved?

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Norovirus Spreads by Air on Cruise Ships

Researchers in Canada have concluded that norovirus can spread by air, according to a publication in the highly respected Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Eight doctors participated in a study of norovirus and determined that norovirus can be transmitted in an airborne form. They published an article titled "Detection and Quantification of Airborne Norovirus During Outbreaks in Healthcare Facilities."  

Researchers collected air samples (about 3 feet away from the sick patients) and then tested areas Norovirusfurther away, such as by the door of patient rooms and down at nursing stations.

"Airborne noroviruses were identified at six of the eight facilities included in the study. These germs were found in 54 percent of the sick patients' rooms. They were also found in 38 percent of the hallways leading to these rooms and at 50 percent of the nursing stations."

A reporter for HealthDay News / U.S. News and World Report wrote an article titled 'Cruise Ship' Norovirus Bug Can Spread by Air, Study Finds, saying that "notorious bugs that have infected scores of people and ruined countless cruise ship vacations -- can spread through the air and infect people several feet away, according to new research."

"The measures applied in hospital settings are only designed to limit direct contact with infected patients," the study's leader, Caroline Duchaine, a professor at Universite Laval's Faculty of Science and Engineering in Quebec, Canada, said in a university news release."

The medical experts concluded that rules need to be reviewed to take into account the possibility of airborne transmission of noroviruses. She suggested the use of "mobile air-filtration units" or the "wearing of respiratory protection around patients with gastroenteritis" should be considered. 

The news article said that concentrations of norovirus "ranged from 13 to 2,350 particles per cubic meter of air."  As few as  20 norovirus particles can infect someone.

The cruise industry's lobbying team at the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) has been lecturing the public for decades that passengers not washing their hands is usually the cause of the virus' spread. I have always thought that blaming the passengers was malarkey.

Now we have reliable information that norovirus can spread in the air. It can easily be blown throughout the ship by the cruise ship's air-conditioning.  

I wonder how CLIA will spin this new clinical study?

Passenger Missing After MSC Magnifica Calls on Katakolon

MSC MagnificaA reader of Cruise Law News has notified me that a French passengers, age 86, is missing after the MSC Magnifica called on the port of Katakolon yesterday.

The passenger's wife visited the Ancient Olympia during an excursion. But when she went back on board the cruise ship, she could not locate her husband, who disembarked earlier that morning. He left the ship at 08:30 A.M. according to the ship's CCTV cameras.

The Hellenic Coast Guard and local police officers are trying to find the French tourist.

There is an account in a Greek newspaper

 

Photo Credit: "MSC Magnifica" by Bracodbk - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Silver Shadow Fails CDC Sanitation Inspection Again

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) flunked Silversea's luxury cruise ship, the Silver Shadow, for unsanitary conditions. 

The Silversea cruise ship received a failing score of only 82. The inspectors determined the ship had improper medical protocols for crew members with acute gastroenteritis. The inspectors found 40 unsanitary conditions such as improper temperatures for stored food, improper sneeze guards at the ship's buffet stations, and unsanitary whirlpools.  

Incredibly, Silversea refused to submit a corrective action report.

Two years ago, this cruise ship engaged in an intentional, calculated scheme to hide food and galley equipment in crew cabins.Crew members on the ship alerted our firm that they (galley workers) were being ordered by their supervisors to take trolleys of perishable foods (eggs, fish & cheese) to the crew quarters and hide the food from inspectors during bi-annual CDC inspections. We advised the "whistle-blower" crew members to notify the CDC. As a result of a surprise inspection, the CDC discovered that the cruise line hid "over 15 full trolleys" of food and food equipment, pans, dishware and utensils to "over 10 individual cabins"  in order to avoid scrutiny of vessel sanitation inspectors. It flunked Silversea with a score of 82.

We were interviewed by CNN regarding Silversea's scam.

We found Silversea Cruises to have acted deliberately and unethically. It was obviously not committed to safe food practices, a conclusion which is reinforced by this latest series of violations.

Unfortunately, the CDC can't enter significant sanctions against renegade cruise lines like this even when the cruise ships intentionally violate CDC sanitation protocols. Our government should impose meaningful monetary sanctions and shut cruise ships down when they threaten the health of passengers. 

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The CNN video of the last CDC failed score is below:

 

Maasdam Latest HAL Cruise Ship to Get Sick

HAl MaasdamThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting that 60 passengers aboard the HAL Maasdam are ill with symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea.

That is 5.27% of the 1,138 total passengers aboard the cruise ship.

In addition, 11 of the 578 crew members are stricken with the gastrointestinal illness. 

A local CBS station is reporting on the outbreak. 

The CDC hasn't figured out whether the outbreak is due to norovirus. Unfortunately, given the short turn-around time in port for cruise ships and the agency's limited investigation, the CDC has never determined whether a GI outbreak on a cruise ship was due to contaminated food or water versus an ill crew member versus being brought aboard by a sick passenger and then spread through poor hygiene or inadequate cleaning.   

This is the seventh GI outbreak this year which falls within the U.S. CDC parameters. Only ships with more than 3% of the passengers ill and calling on a U.S. port are listed. There were 9 outbreaks in all of 2014 versus 7 in just 4 months this year. The HAL cruise ship fleet is one of the more likely locations to contract norovirus if you are a cruiser. 

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Photo Credit: Andrew J Bryson Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons 

USCG: Top Cruise Ship Deficiencies for 2014

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) has released its list of the top safety violations for cruise ships for 2014. 

As you can see in the list of "deficiencies" below, the majority of the violations by cruise lines pertain to fire safety issues. The Coast Guard issued 329 deficiencies. Here is the list released by the USCG:

Fire Screen Doors Not Closing Properly - Fire doors didn't operate correctly.

Blocked Escape Routes - Hallways and doors used to escape were partially or completely blocked.

Crew Drills and Training Issues - Crews members were unable to operate fire suppression systems, U.S. Coast Guard - Cruise Ship Inspectionlifeboats and rescue boats and could not communicate effectively during fire and abandon ship drills.

Lifeboats and Rescue Boats Problems -  Lifeboats, rescue boats and launching appliances were in deficient shape. Davits and lifeboats were not operating properly and were missing equipment.

Improper Use of Space - Crew members stored combustible materials in spaces without adequate fire protection and suppression systems.

Fire & Smoke Detection Problems - Fire and smoke detection systems didn't work. 

Fire Suppression Problems - Sprinkler heads were in a poor shape or missing. Fire pumps didn't start and valves and CO2 systems didn't work.

Pollution Prevention Equipment Problems - problems were noted with bunkering station piping, marine sanitation devices, pumps, and oily water separators. 

Emergency Lighting Problems - Lighting to assist passengers and crew with locating emergency exits did not work.

Fuel and Oil Leaks -Engine rooms were found to have oil leaks around the main engines, in the oil purifier room and in shaft seals.  

It's a shame that the Coast Guard does not disclose which cruise line have committed the violations or the top violators. 

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Photo Credit: U.S. Coast Guard

Noro on the Coral Princess

The Coral Princess arrived in Los Angeles today with 71 of the 1,958 cruise passengers aboard the  Princess Cruises' ship stricken with norovirus symptoms of nausea/vomiting and diarrhea.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that the noro-infected passengers comprise 3.63% of the total passenger population on the ship. 6 of 881 crew members are also infected.

The CDC determined the the gastrointestinal outbreak to be norovirus. Unfortunately, the CDC was unable to conclude where the norovirus came from. I am not aware of a single time when the CDC has pinpointed the cause of a cruise ship disease outbreak. The public is left with the "blame game" of wondering whether the cruise ship food or water was contaminated, or the outbreak was caused by a Coral Princess Cruise Shipsick galley worker, or was brought aboard by sick passengers and then spread because of inadequate hygiene and poor cleaning procedures.

Last year, Time magazine titled The 13 Worst Norovirus Outbreaks on Cruise Ships. The overall winner of Time's top 13 list was Princess Cruises which had five outbreaks on its brand alone: Crown Princess (January 2010) with 396 ill; Crown Princess (February 2012) - 363; Ruby Princess (March 2013) - 276; Coral Princess (February 2009) - 271; and Sun Princess (July 2012) - 216.

The Coral Princess has been one of the Princess cruise ships most likely to be infected with norovirus. Princess and Holland America Line historically have the sickest cruise ships in the cruise industry's fleet.

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Photo Credit: "Coral Princess - IMO 9229659 (2937202430)" by Cliff from Arlington, Virginia, USA - Uploaded by Navigans. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Pleads Guilty to Sexual Abuse

A Royal Caribbean crew member pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a cruise passenger last year, according to a New Jersey newspaper.

NJ.com reports that Karan Seechurn of Mauritius, an employee who worked aboard the Royal Caribbean Quantum of the Seas, pleaded guilty to one count of abusive sexual contact.

In December of last year, crew member Seechurm (a mini-bar attendant) used a master key while he Karan Seechurn Royal Caribbean Cruisewas off-duty to enter a woman's cabin and molested the woman while she was sleeping. 

As we wrote last year, it's a dangerous practice to give male cabin attendants or mini-bar attendants a master key to passenger cabins. Prior sexual assaults have occurred on Royal Caribbean ships under similar circumstances. Royal Caribbean touts the Quantum as the most technological advanced cruise ship on the high seas. It's too bad that the cruise line didn't use old school technology and deactivate the master keys and cards to passenger cabins after hours.

The crew member faces up to three years for the sexual abuse charge. The sentence seems quite light. Seechurn tried to prevent the woman from leaving her cabin and threatened her when she awoke.

Many of his co-employees came to his defense on social media last year and posted comments disparaging the victim. 

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

 

Photo Credit: Karan Seechurn Google Plus Page

Ryndam Passengers Medevaced to Miami

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Oriana Limps Back to Miami After Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Video Credit: @PTZtv 

 

NCL Crew Member Arrested in Drug Bust in Roatan

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

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

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

You can read about that drug bust here.

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

 Drug Bust Roatan Honduras

Carnival Passenger Killed in Jet-Ski Accident in Cayman Islands

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carnival Refuses Refund for Slain Police Officer's Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video and photo credit: WKMG

 

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Horizon Passenger Goes Overboard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Croiseires de France

Mexico Travel Warning

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last year I recommended avoiding cruising to Acapulco.

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

Palma Police Arrest 2 Crew Members After Crime Spree Ashore

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

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

The incident occurred last Friday, April 10th. 

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

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

Photo Credit: Below - Symbolfoto via Mallorca Magazin

Costa Cruise Ship Palma

GI Outbreak on the Celebrity Infinity

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

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

We have received emails from sick passengers on the ship.

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

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

The Infinity suffered through a norovirus in 2013

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

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

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Photo Credit: WikiCopter

Canadian Couple Attacked Sailing to Roatan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does this sound like paradise to you?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo Credit: South China Morning Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He asks this question at the end of the article:

Costa FascinosaIs the cruise industry taking terrorism seriously?

The reader then selects one of two possible answers:

No, it needs to do more  ___

Yes, it's doing enough to protect passengers  ___

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

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

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

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

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Photo Credit: Rene Grob via Wikimedia Creative Commons 3.0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We complained to Carnival, but it could care less. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo Credit: WKBN 

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

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

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

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

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

       

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Two Passengers Found Dead on HAL's Ryndam

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

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

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

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

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

The FBI has taken over the investigation.

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

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

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

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

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Photo Credit: Roger Wollstadt via Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0

Passenger Dies in Queen Elizabeth Tender Mishap

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

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

There are no details of the accident in either publication. 

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit: 663highland via Wikipedia / Creative commons 3.0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Mafia Drugs Hidden Aboard Doomed Costa Concordia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo Credit: ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty 

Passenger Medevaced from Diamond Princess

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Barrylb creative commons 3.0

Another Critical Crime Warning for Nassau, Bahamas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo Credit: Tribune 

International Cruise Victims (ICV) Expands in Europe

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

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

Here is the press release:    

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

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

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

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

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

Ken Carver – Chairman; Telephone 602-852-5896

Jamie Barnett – President; Telephone 818-355-6462

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

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

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

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

Tunis Terror Attack CruiseTwo newspapers covered the firings.

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

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

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

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

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

Tunisia should be commended for taking responsibility and cleaning house.

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

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Photo Credit: AFP/Getty via DailyMail

How the Next Jihadist Terror Attack Against Cruise Passengers Will Happen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Said the Biggest Whopper at Cruise Shipping Miami 2015?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terrorists Kill Tourists as Costa Fascinosa and MSC Splendida Visit Tunis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mail Online has dramatic photos and video of the attack.

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo Credit: Bottom AFP

Passenger Overboard from Carnival Triumph

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

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

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

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

There is a discussion on a Cruise Critic message board.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read our recent articles about passenger overboards:

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

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

 

Man Overboard from Star Cruises MV Super Star Libra

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Cprogrammer Creative Commons 2.0

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NCL Crew Members Arrested for Smuggling Cocaine from Roatan to Tampa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo Credit: Hillsborough County Sherrif's Office 

As Predicted, Poop Cruise Lawsuit Poops Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo Credit: CNN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 12 2015 Update: Statement by Senator Richard Blmenthal: