Floating Drydocks at Sea - A Growing Problem?

AIDAperlaPassengers aboard the Norwegian Sun are still complaining about the massive renovation projects that ruined their two week cruise from Miami through the Panama Canal to Los Angeles several weeks ago. 

We wrote about the problem almost three weeks ago in an article titled NCL's Panama Canal Fiasco Cruise. The Miami Herald just reported on the continued fallout from the large scale project yesterday in They booked a two-week Norwegian cruise. Instead, they got a 'nightmare at sea.'  

For a cruise where customers paid for what should have been a relaxing and care-free vacation at sea, NCL scheduled the sanding and application of noxious smelling chemicals and compounds throughout the open decks of the ship. Ship employees and contractors involved in the work were wearing respirators due to the dust but the passengers were left to inhale dust generated by the work. 

The project obviously should have taken place in a dry-dock. The heavy construction caused NCL to shut down numerous bars, deck spaces and restaurants. The work also risked the health and personal AIDAperlasafety of the guests. Photos from the Facebook page, Panama Canal Sun, show paint particles and metal shards covering the decks. Doors leading to muster stations on the ship were blocked which seems dangerous, especially considering the buckets of flammable chemicals stored all over the decks. Many passengers complained of burning, itching and runny eyes and difficulty breathing due to the strong fumes and/or particles.

But cruise industry supporters told the Miami Herald that a cruise ship undergoing construction projects outside of a dry dock is not uncommon (although the level of construction on the Norwegian Sun was quite unusual).

Over the years we have been contacted by dozens of cruise passengers who have complained that grinding of exterior decks, painting of portions of the ship exteriors and other noisy and smelly projects ruined their vacations. Take a moment and read our article HAL's Upgraded Cabin From Hell. Watch the video here

I have always been amazed that a travel/vacation company of any type would subject their customers to such an inconvenience, much less a health hazard like what happened on the Norwegian Sun

But cruise lines don't make money unless they are sailing their ships. The industry's enormous tax-free profits come from shipboard activities like sales from the casinos, shore excursions, gift shops, AIDAperlaspecialty restaurants and the tremendous amount of booze sold during cruises. Several thousand  passengers each paying many thousands of dollars in cruise fares and many hundred of dollars in onboard purchases is simply too much loot for the greedy cruise executives to walk away from. 

We typically don't get involved in such disputes. But writing about such bait-and-switch tactics seems to be an insight in the nickel-and-dime mentalities of most cruise lines.   

I was recently contacted by a German couple who is cruising with their young child on the AIDAperla, which I understand to be the newest and most modern cruise ship of AIDA Cruises. AIDA did not bother to tell them that some of the pools were closed due to renovations/repairs taking place during the cruise. Passengers witnessed grinding and sanding which required workers to use masks or respirators (top left) during the project. Paint and chemicals were stored on the deck next to passengers sitting around the emplty pool (middle right).  Experiencing such inconveniences would seem to be the last thing that any guest should expect from a new ship (launched just last year).

But the Carnival-owned cruise line brushed off the couple's complaints, offering just an onboard credit of 30 euros for the adults and a 15 euro credit for the child - after the German couple paid over 1,200 euros for the cruise which left Hamburg.    

I suppose that this inconvenience is a far cry from the outrageous conduct of NCL in the Norwegian Sun fiasco, which eventually resulted in a "full cruise refund" after the passengers organized themselves and their complaints went viral.   But it all seems reflective of the we-take-our-guests for granted if not outright contemptuous attitude of most cruise managers and executives toward their passengers.

Have you encountered a similar inconvenience or aggravation during a cruise that you paid for your family? How did the cruise line respond?  Join the conversation on out Facebook page.  

Photo and video credit: Anonymous

Lawsuits Against Miami-Based Cruise Lines: Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean

Bloomberg Legal reports today that according to data which it collected over the last several years, 83 federal personal injury cases were filed against cruise lines in the first three months of 2018. Bloomberg concludes that this figure continues an upward trend over the last two years in which 188 negligence suits were filed against cruise lines in in 2017 and 164 in 2016. 

Bloomberg also states that "personal injury cases against the three biggest cruise lines - Carnival, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings - accounted for 78 to 87 percent of all federal litigation they faced over the last five years, according to the data which it collected. 

Bloomberg explains that the lawsuits "often involve slip-and-fall claims, but recent complaints also Miami Cruise Linesallege serious illnesses and injuries worsened by shipboard medical decisions."

The article does not explain that according to the terms and conditions in the passenger contracts, most cruise lines require that all legal claims be filed in the cruise line's home city, such as Miami for Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean. These terms have been held to be binding by the United States Supreme Court in Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute, 499 U.S. 585 (1991).

Cruise lines based outside of Miami typically require that lawsuit be filed in the location of the city or state where their headquarters are based. For example, Holland America Line requires Seattle, Washington and Princess Cruises requires California.  

Cruise lines now require that lawsuits be filed in federal court, which is typically more conservative than state court. 

Although the article suggests that litigation against cruise lines is on the rise compared to the last two years, the fact of the matter is that lawsuits filed against the cruise industry have dropped off substantially compared to 15 years ago.

For the five year period from 2001 to 2006, there was an average of 423 lawsuits filed a year against cruise lines, according to the Miami Herald article "Law on the High Seas," by Amy Martinez (article at bottom). In contrast, for the last two years (2016-2017), there was an average of only 176 according to the data collected by Bloomberg, which is just 40% of the 2001-2006 average (even though over 50% fewer people were cruising fifteen years ago).

The reason for this decline is that most cruise lines no longer permit crew members to file lawsuits in the  U.S., but instead require the filing of international arbitration where judges and juries are not permitted. 

The only lawsuits which are now permitted to be filed against the cruise industry involve passengers who are injured during cruises.

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Photo credit: Marc Averette - Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 wikipedia

Lawsuits Against Cruise Lines

Suspicious Death Reported on Carnival Vista?

Carnival Vista Several passenger who disembarked from the Carnival Vista today stated that there was a suspicious death on the cruise ship near the end of the eight day cruise leaving from and returning to Miami.

One of the passengers stated that yesterday (Saturday) there was an announcement over the ship's intercom where a passenger's name (which I will keep anonymous) was repeatedly paged to report to guest services. The ship was approximately 20 miles from Cuba at the time. 

"I just debarked from Carnival Vista. There was a death on the 6th floor and they kept someone inside their cabin with security not allowing them to leave the room . . . There was a man with a black jacket that said “Security” sitting outside of the door with a walkie talkie and a clip board with a pen."   

The passenger sent me a number of photos and videos which she took of the of the cabin door sealed with a sign which stated: "DO NOT ENTER This is a secured area and can only be entered with authorization by the Captain or Staff Captain"

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Photo credit: Passenger Carnival Vista passenger (anonymous) 

Passenger Goes Overboard From Anthem of the Seas

Late yesterday afternoon, a young man was reported overboard from the Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas which was heading back to its home port in Bayonne, New Jersey at the time of the incident.

The overboard occurred around 4 P.M. yesterday. The Anthem arrived in Bayonne early this (Saturday) morning. 

The cruise ship was returning from a trip to the Bahamas.

Anthem of the Seas OverboardA passenger on the Anthem stated that a "an overboard alarm sounded onboard the Anthem of the Seas . . . followed by (an) announcement saying they are searching 'for one of your fellow passengers,'and asking passengers to stay clear of the decks where they are operating life boats. They are asking passengers to keep a look out. The ship did a hard turn to return to the man overboard spot."

We reported the incident on our Facebook page

Royal Caribbean has released a statement stating that “we are sorry to report that a guest on board Anthem of the Seas was observed intentionally going overboard while the ship was en route to Cape Liberty, New Jersey.”

The passenger was reportedly a 24-year-old man from the United States. Passengers on the ship state that he apparently jumped from an upper deck near the stern of the ship. 

The Norwegian Gem participated in the search which was not successful in locating the passenger. The U.S. Coast Guard also sent search aircraft.

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Passenger Reported Overboard From P&O's Pacific Dawn

ABC News in Australia reports that a woman has gone overboard from the P&O Pacific Dawn today. The cruise ship left Brisbane, Australia last weekend on a cruise of the Pacific Islands. 

The P&O ship is now conducting a search for the missing guest. 

P&O released a statement today stating that a crew member observed the unidentified woman going overboard from the ship around 4 P.M. today (April 12, 2018).  The incident reportedly occurred when Overboard Pacific Dawnthe Pacific Dawn was approximately 300 kilometers west of New Caledonia.

The crew member apparently notified the bridge and the ship turned to conduct a search. Other vessels in the vicinity assisted in the search. 

A spokesperson for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said that the ship faced three-to-four-meter swells and high winds (55 kph winds).

According to cruise expert Professor Ross Klein, at least 308 people have gone overboard from cruise ships since 2000.

According to the Herald Sun, a passenger on the cruise ship posted a photograph of a life ring in the water about an hour after the ship began its search, stating that the passenger had not yet been located although it was getting dark at the time.

"Horrendous here on ship. Man over board an hour ago. Ship going round and round searching." pic.twitter.com/jpC0NGRomU — Jonathan Trevithick (@JonTrevithick) April 12, 2018

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April 12, 2018 P.M.Update: New details emerge regarding the passenger reported overboard from the Pacific Dawn earlier this morning - From news.com.au: "A cruise ship passenger who was lost at sea had gone onto the deck because she felt sick and was knocked overboard by a freak wave."

Missing Carnival Crew Member Identified

Deepak GadA newspaper in India has identified the crew member who disappeared from the Carnival Glory on March 18. 2018 as Deepak Gad.

The Herald newspaper in Goa stated that Mr. Gad (photo left) was a young seamen from Velim, India who went missing from the Carnival cruise ship last Sunday as the ship was heading to Amber Cove, in the Dominican Republic. 

We reported on the cruise employee's disappearance after passengers informed us that the ship made constant announcements for a galley worker to report to work after the Carnival Glory arrived in the Dominican Republic.

The crew member apparently was depressed and wanted to leave the ship. But Carnival reportedly told him that if he wanted to return home he had to buy his own ticket to travel, which the crew member could not afford after working for only three months on the ship.

The ship has not officially stated that the crew member went overboard, and Carnival refuses to respond to our request for information which we made several days ago. 

According to the Herald

"Deepak had called a night before he went missing and complained of a back pain and was on treatment on board. It is also learnt that he wanted to come home but his company told him that he has to buy his own airline ticket which he could not afford as he was only three months in his first contract. He was very depressed and disturbed according to his brother who the GSAI (Goa Seamen Association of India) met on Wednesday. The Indian consulate in New York is also monitoring the situation as well as the NRI Department Government of Goa.

This is second incident in less than a year from the same cruise line wherein Mr. Symron Almeida from Cuncolim went missing last year and the body has still not been found. "It is a matter of concern as many seafarers are going missing lately due to work load and harassment on board. Our Government needs to be more serious in handling such cases as most of the time the families cannot get justice," says Dixon Vaz, spokesperson for GSAI."

Four months ago, another Indian crew members working on a Carnival ship disappeared at sea. The crew member was later identified as Symron Santana Almeida, age 33, a resident of Cuncolim, India. He was employed as a wiper in the engine room of the Carnival Inspiration

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Photo credit: Vijay Prabhu.  

NCL Raises Gratuities Again: The Greedy Gets Greedier

NCL Norwegian Cruise LineNorwegian Cruise Line (NCL) plans to increase the automatic gratuities charged to its cruise passengers, effective April 1, 2018. Travel Pulse states that NCL informed travel agents of the so-called “nominal adjustment” to its daily service charges today.

The new rates for standard cabins will increase from $13.99 to $14.50 per passenger per day. The new gratuities for suites will increase from $16.99 to $17.50 per person per day.

Just last year, NCL raised gratuities on April 1st from $13.50 per person, per day, to $13.99 (except for the Norwegian Sky where NCL increased daily gratuities to $18.99 a day (an increase over 40%). NCL increased daily gratuities for suites from $15.50 to $16.99 on all of its ships (again, except for the Sky where it increased the daily charge to $21.99).

Regarding the Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Sun, the gratuities will increase from $18.99  to $19.99 for cabins and from $21.99 to $22.99 for suites, per person per day.  

It seems that there is no limit to the greed of cruise executives. 

Del Rio's NCL has gouged its customers before, with extra charges, including increased room services charges, automatic gratuities and restaurant cover charges. He made this statement at an earning conference in 2015: "... we have looked across the fleet to identify areas where marginal changes ... can be implemented to improve performance. A few examples include a 6.7% average increase in beverage prices, the introduction of a nominal room service fee and lower costs from renegotiated shore excursion agreements. To put into perspective how these small changes can add up quickly, every dollar increase in yield translates to approximately $15 million to the bottom line."

Of course, all the major cruise lines nickel-and-dime their customers. Royal Caribbean began charging for room service  last year and, in the past, increased its gratuities while attempting to create the appearance that the increases were for its hard-working crew members (Read: Loyal to Royal? Expect to Pay Higher Gratuities! And the Money's Not for the Crew). Carnival Corp. did exactly the same thing while it also pocketed the increased gratuities (Read: Carnival Hikes Pre-Paid Gratuities But Will Passengers Secretly Remove Tips?)

Cruise CEO's like Del Rio, who collected nearly $32 million in 2015 alone, have an unhealthy, unchecked pursuit of profits in an industry which has always overreached into the American public's pockets. The cruise industry pays virtually no taxes, exploits their workers from around the world, and still nickle-and-dimes their tax-paying customers whenever they have a chance.

Of course, as crew members tell me, the increased gratuities go into the cruise line's coffers, not into the pockets of the hard working crew members.

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Photo credit: Coolcaesar CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Crew Member Missing from Carnival Glory

Carnival Glory A crew member is missing from the Carnival Glory which arrived in Amber Cover, Dominican Republic yesterday morning around 7:00 A.M. The Carnival cruise ship left Miami on Saturday, March 17, 2018 and sailed at sea on Sunday, March 18th. 

The crew member is reportedly a galley worker from India. Several passengers reported the ship making constant announcements for the crew member to report to the galley yesterday morning, after the Carnival Glory arrived in the Dominican Republic. 

Several crew members have also stated that a galley worker went overboard prior to the Carnival ship reaching Amber Cove. 

The ship has not officially stated that the crew member went overboard, and Carnival refuses to respond to our request for information which we made yesterday evening.  

Unfortunately, Carnival is one cruise line which refuses to install any of the available automatic man overboard systems which are available on the market. Maritime Executive has featured several articles from a highly reputable captain and maritime expert explaining that the MOB technology is successful and feasible.

There have been at least two prior overboards in the last several years from the Carnival GloryMan Overboard from Carnival Glory (August 2015) and Carnival Glory Loses Passenger Overboard - Why No Automatic MOB System? (March 2015).

The Carnival Glory was last in the news two weeks ago when the ship became stuck near the port of San Juan, Puerto Rico after dropping several hundred feet of anchor chain and an anchor, which divers eventually cut so the ship could proceed on its cruise.

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Photo credit: Sunnya343 Creative Commons 4.0. 

Royal Caribbean's CocoCay: A Vote of No Confidence in Nassau?

In a media blitz, Royal Caribbean recently announced that it plans a massive overhaul of its "private island," CocoCay, in the Bahamas.

USA Today reported that Royal Caribbean's will spend $200,000,000 for what is described as a "massive makeover" of its private destination in the Bahamas that will include the addition of one of the largest water parks in the Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean is one of the many Miami based cruise lines which entered into a long term lease with the Bahamas of one its native islands.

The island is in the Berry Islands in the Bahamas and was previously known as Little Stirrup Cay. Royal CaribbeanCoco Cay Bahamas assumed the lease of the island upon acquisition of Admiral Cruises and renamed the island CocoCay. Royal Caribbean is one of the first cruise lines to lease islands in the Bahamas for their exclusive use.

The newspaper reports that the overhaul of the 125-acre island, to be renamed "Perfect Day at CocoCay" will include a 1,600 foot-long zip-line, the largest freshwater pool in the region, a helium balloon ride that takes cruise passengers 450 feet into the air and several other "over-the-top" features.

The project will also include dredging of the coral basin around the island and the installation of a pier in order to accommodate Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class ships which each carry over 6,000 passengers.

The water park will have a “South Beach” area where the cruise passengers can, for an extra fee, rent  jet skis or cabanas or pay for boat excursions or parasails trips.

Royal Caribbean will receive 100% of the profits from the revenues generated by the zip lines, helium balloon rides and other activities operated by the cruise line in the renovated private island. 

In my view, the project seems to be a vote of no confidence in the existing ports in the Bahamas, Nassau and Freeport.  

According to the Tribune newspaper in Nassau, an activist in the Bahamas, Heather Carey, denounced the project in a Facebook post yesterday. 

Ms. Carey said in her post on Facebook: “Just another example of how the cruise ship industry does little to benefit us locally, and instead continues to make the visitor experience more insular to the cruise ship islands, taking away any motivation to explore places like Nassau or to enjoy the excursions we offer. . . . We cannot give away any more of our beautiful Bahamas to these bottomless pits."

Ms. Carey is absolutely correct is her assessment of the Royal Caribbean's plans. I should also add that the high crime rate in Nassau probably factored into the cruise line's decision to invest heavily into the cruise line's private destination.

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Photo credit: Royal Caribbean via USA Today. 

Grand Jury Indicts Passenger on Carnival Elation of Sexual Abuse

The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) announced yesterday that a grand jury indicted a man  from Jacksonville, Florida for aggravated sexual abuse by force of a young woman on Carnival cruise ship. The FBI announced the news via a press release.

The indictment arises out of a incident which occurred on February 27, 2018 on the Carnival Elation when a 23 year old man  reportedly sexually assaulted an 18-year-old woman with special needs during a cruise to the Bahamas. The incident occurred in a hot tub aboard the Carnival cruise ship.

According to the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA), cruise lines are required to report Carnival Elationcrimes to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Last year, 35 passengers and crew members reported being victims of sexual sexual attacks on Carnival Cruise Line ships, for an an average of three a month.

The FBI identified Brian Holland as the assailant.

The FBI earlier released a statement about the incident, saying: 

. . . agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation were notified by the security department of the Carnival Cruise Line vessel Elation that a passenger onboard the ship had been involved in an incident of sexual abuse on February 27, 2018. The victim stated that she was in the Jacuzzi with Holland on the cruise ship when he kept attempting to put his arm around her and she attempted to move further away from him. Holland then tried to put his hand on her shoulder and pull her back toward him. The victim stated that Holland touched her on her genitals over her bathing suit and then under her bathing suit, digitally penetrating her by force. The victim left the Jacuzzi and immediately reported what happened to family, who then reported it to ship security. The victim was examined by medical personnel on the ship, who found abrasions on her genitals consisted with digital penetration by force.

The FBI states that Mr. Holland faces  a maximum penalty of life in federal prison and a potential lifetime of supervision.

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Photo credit: WFTS ABC News

Incinerator Fire on Regal Princess

Regal PrincessSeveral Princess Cruises passengers informed me that an incinerator fire occurred on the Regal Princess during the week of February 25th (two weeks ago). An alarm was sounded, and cruise passengers were later advised that the incinerator fire had been extinguished.

Incinerator fires are not uncommon, as we have reported before, but all cruise passengers should be fully informed of such fires and the efforts of the ship's systems and crew to respond to the fires. 

We have reported on other fires on Princess cruise ships over the years, from minor fires around the ships to the deadly, wide-spread conflagration on the Star Princess (photo right) a dozen years ago which was caused by the tiniest of fires (a smoldering cigarette). Below are some of the Princess Cruises fires which have occurred in the last seven years. Most are "small" and "quickly extinguished" fires as the cruise industry likes to say when asked.  Most have not been mentioned in the media. 

Island Princess, Emerald Princess, Grand Princess, Crown Princess, Emerald Princess, Dawn Star Princess FirePrincess, Coral Princess, Crown Princess, and the Royal Princess

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein testified before the U.S. Congress that there were over 60 cruise ship fires from 2009 through 2013. Most ship fires are not reported by the major media organizations.  

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We suggest reading: Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires - Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?

Photo credit: Scorcolano - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Passenger on Carnival Spirit Assaulted After Wrongly Identified By Ship Security as a Pedophile

Carnival SpiritAn Australian cruise passenger, Mr. Sun, sued Carnival Australia after the cruise line falsely accused him of exposing himself to two young girls on the Carnival Spirit.

According to an Australian new station, the incident occurred during a cruise from Sydney to New Caledonia in December 2016.

Ship security personnel were notified that a man had "exposed and then touched himself" in front of young girls on the Carnival cruise ship. 

The security staff showed one of the girls, and the parents of the girl, photographs of Mr Sun. The girl apparently misidentified Mr. Sun as the culprit. The girl's father then took matters into his own hands, accusing Mr. Sun of exposing himself to his daughter as he physically assaulted and battered Mr Sun in his own stateroom in front of Mr. Sun's wife and child. 

The news report article states that when Mr. Sun called security for assistance, they instead escorted him to a room where they interrogated him for one-and-a-half hours and intimidated him from leaving.

The ship security finally showed Mr. Sun CCTV footage of the incident footage of the incident, which showed that the pedophile in the video was not heavily tattooed like him and exhibited other “obvious physical differences” from Mr. Sun.

Security eventually allowed Mr. Sun back to his room but denied him medical attention for the physical assault. 

Carnival was recently in the news following a series of brawls on its cruise ships leaving from Australian ports. Its security guards are shown in certain trending videos violently kicking passengers and trying to stop bystanders from videotaping the melees.  The lack of training and heavy handed tactics of the Carnival security are painfully obvious in the videos.

This latest fiasco seems again to be due to a lack of training by Carnival of its shipboard security personnel. 

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Photo credit: Hpeterswald - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Galician Rescue Helicopter Medevacs Passenger from P&O Ventura

Last night, a Galician search and rescue company, Helimer 401, medecaved an ill passenger from the P&O Ventura cruise ship, after flying from its base in La Coruña, in North West Spain. Galicia is an autonomous community in Spain’s northwest, on the Atlantic coastline.

In the late evening of March 10, 2018, in the middle of a storm, the P&O Ventura requested the medical evacuation of a sick passenger. At the time, the cruise ship was more than 500 kilometers from the Spanish search and rescue (SAR) zone. The ship was reportedly requested to divert to a meeting point at the SAR limit. The Helimer 401 helicopter crew flew approximately 100 miles, with winds of more than 100 km, at night in the storm, to the rendezous point and hoisted the patient. The rescue helicopter then flew to the A Coruña airport in Galicia, where an ambulance took the passenger to the hospital.  

10.03.2018 Helimer 401 Evacuación médica buque Ventura from Salvamento Marítimo on Vimeo.

Video credit: Salvamento Marítimo (Vimeo)

Sexual Assault: Yet Another U.S. Warning for Nassau, Bahamas - Avoid Jet Ski Operators

The United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security issued another warning to U.S. tourists about the danger of sexual assault in Nassau , Bahamas yesterday.  The warning states:

Avoid Jet ski operators: Jet ski operators continue to commit sexual assaults and other crimes against tourists. U.S. Embassy personnel are instructed not to use jet ski rentals on New Providence and Paradise Islands, including Cabbage Beach and Cable Beach. We strongly recommend you also avoid patronizing jet ski rental operations.

The warning also advises tourists to drink responsibly due to the foreseeable risk of being drugged and Nassau Bahamas Crimethen sexually assaulted:

Stay in a group of friends who have your safety in mind when in clubs, bars, out walking in dimly-lit areas, or in a taxi at night. Visitors found alone or incapacitated have been victims of sexual assault, robbery, and physical assault. Watch your drink at all times. Intoxicated individuals may be targeted for drugging and sexual assault.

The warning is targeted to students traveling via cruise ship or air to the Bahamas for spring break to be on the alert for these dangers. 

We have reported many times on jet ski operators in the unregulated jet ski business in the Bahamas, who have raped tourists near Cable Beach or Paradise Island. Two years ago, the U.S. Embassy in Nassau states that jet ski operators sexually assaulted 5 tourists over the course of in 18 months.

We reported on four prior warnings about crime this year alone for Nassau, Bahamas by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Nassau as well as by Canada.

In the past decade, there have been more crime warnings for Nassau, Bahamas than for all of the other Caribbean cruise ports combined. Nassau earned the title of the most dangerous cruise port in the world in 2014.

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Photo credit: TampAGS, for AGS Media - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Narco-Terrorism and Bombs on Ferries - Cruise Lines Warn About Excursions Between Cozumel and Playa del Carmen, Mexico

An explosion aboard a Mexican ferry in Playa del Carmen ten days ago, followed by at least one explosive device planted on the hull of another ferry which was discovered yesterday, triggered a United States embassy's alert last night, prohibiting embassy employees from using ferries operating between Cozumel and Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo.

On February 21, 2018, we reported on a violent explosition on a ferry in Playa del Carmen which seriously injured around 25 passengers, includuing 7 U.S. citizens. The explosion on the Barcos Caribe, which has been operating a Playa del Carmen-Cozumel route, injured passengers as they were disembarking from the ferry to the dock. Mexican authorities initially said that the explosion was the result of a Carmen del Playa - Cozumel Warning Explosive Devices mechanical malfunction; however, news sources are now reporting that the explosion was the result of an explosive device.     

This news comes after a second device was located on another ferry in Cozumel also owned by the Barcos Caribe company, which provides regular service to toruists between Cozumel and Playa del Carmen. A Mexican newspaper article contains a photograph of one of the explosive devices attached to the hull of a ferry. According to news accounts, Barcos Caribe is associated with former Quintana Roo Governor Roberto Borge Angulo who acquired the ferry line while he was still in office. After leaving office, Borge became a fugitive and was later captured in Panama. 

Roberto Borge Martín was apparently on board the first ferry at the time of the February 21 explosion, although the was reportedly uninjured. 

A Mexican drug cartel recently claimed responsibility for the explosion. According to a news source, the Cártel de “El Pumba” y “Tata,” associated with the Los Zetas drug cartel, threatened blow up the home of the current mayor of Carmen del Playa.

At least one cruise line, Princess Cruises, has cancelled excursions which use ferries between Playa del Carmen and Cancun. A copy of a letter dated today from Princess to cruise passengers on the Royal Princess sailing to Mexico arriving to Cozumel is above to the right.  The Princess letter to its guests on the Royal Princess states that "we strongly advise that ferries to the mainland be avoided." 

The violent ferry explosition injurying U.S. tourists is an ominous reminder of the often violent and dangerous state of the Mexican tourism industry. 

Meanwhile the Ministry of Tourism for State of Quintana Roo in Mexico is issuing press releases where it claims that there is "no risk" to tourists when visiting Cozumel. 

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Video credit: El Pais YouTube  

Three Carnival Cruise Passengers Missing in Jamaica

Carnival SensationThe Jamaica Observer reported yesterday that three U.S. citizens did not return to the Carnival Sensation which docked in Ocho Rios, St, Ann on Wednesday. The newspaper identified them as Glen Triston, age 35, Tricia Tahecia Forrester, age 24, both of New York, and Clinton Hill, age 42, of North Carolina.

Reports are that all three passengers disembarked the Carnival cruise ship at approximately 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning with baggage which reportedly contained items for family members in Jamaica.

Loop Jamaica reports that the police in Jamaica "launched a massive search" for the three U.S. nationals. Comments to the article speculate that they may have met with foul play after departing the cruise ship, although there is no indication of this in the local newspapers. 

Last month, a state of emergency was declared in St. James Parish, Jamaica due to extensive violence and crime there, with the United States warning U.S. citizens to exercise extreme caution while traveling to the popular destination of Montego Bay. St. James Parish covers Montego Bay, which has a cruise port and is a short drive away from the cruise ports in Falmouth and Ocho Rios. 

Over the last six years, there have been eleven cruise ship passengers who have temporarily "gone missing" in Jamaica, including these latest three people this week. The last eight cruise tourists have all later returned to the port where they disembarked or were later found (and, sometimes, arrested) in Jamaica. 

In July 2012, three passengers of one family from the Carnival Freedom went missing for a short while in Jamaica after disembarking the cruise ship in Ocho Rios.

In August 2012, a fifty year old U.S. citizen from the Carnival Freedom disappeared for a period of time after disembarking in Ocho Rios.

In January 2015, two U.S. passenger went missing after leaving the Carnival Victory in Falmouth Jamaica.

In April 2016, two U.S. passengers from Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas were reported missing after the cruise ship docked in Falmouth Jamaica.

All eight of these passengers eventually showed up or were located by the police in Jamaica. They all voluntarily over-stayed their legal status. It is against both Jamaican and U.S. law to fail to return to a cruise ship in the middle of a cruise.

As I mentioned before, Jamaica seems to be a favorite place for cruise passengers to "get lost" and later show up after what appears to be an extended vacation. Let's hope that is true with these latest passengers.

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March 3, 2018 Update: Contact made with two of the three missing US nationals.

Photo credit: WikiEK at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

18 Year Old Woman Sexually Assaulted on Carnival Elation

Carnival Cruise Sexual AssaultYesterday, a male passenger aboard the Carnival Elation reportedly sexually assaulted an 18-year-old woman with special needs during a cruise to the Bahamas. The incident occurred in a hot tub aboard the Carnival cruise ship.

A Jacksonville, Florida news station reported that that the mother of the victim said her “18-year-old daughter has the mental capacity of a young teen." She believes the man "watched her then targeted her in the hot tub.”

CBS-47 Jacksonville reported that the young woman says her daughter left on a birthday cruise / girl's trip with her grandmother. The woman, who has the mental capacity of a 13-year-old, was excited according to her mother - "This was really her first time experiencing a little freedom, you know?"

According to the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA), cruise lines are required to report crimes to the U.S. Department of Justice. Last year, 35 passengers and crew members reported being victims of sexual sexual attacks on Carnival Cruise Line ships, for an an average of three a month.

Carnival was last in the news regarding a series of brawls that took place on the Carnival Legend. The ship's security guards, who added to the violence, were shown to be poorly trained.

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Video and photograph credit: CBS-47 Jacksonville

Top 5 Brawls on Carnival's Fun Ships

Carnival Cruise BrawlCarnival Cruise Line characterized the recent brawl on the Carnival Legend as limited, isolated and unprecedented. But anyone who follows the cruise industry knows that these type of fights which occur on Carnival ships are hardly rare. 

There literally are dozens of videos on YouTube of fights which have erupted on cruise ships over the years. The vast majority of these brawls occur on Carnival ships. 

There are reasons for this problem, in my opinion:

The "wider audience:" Cruising is now more popular than ever. The cruise line's trade organization, CLIA, says that over 27 million passengers will take a cruise this year.  Cheaper fares have attracted what Carnival Corporation chairmen Micky Arison characterizes as the "wider audience." Eight years ago in an article titled Cruise Ship Brawls - A Problem that Will Get Bigger with Bigger Ships, I wrote about CEO Arison discussing potential issues associated with cheap cruise tickets and a more diverse group of passengers.

Cruise executive Arison said: “cruise ships are a microcosm of any city or any location and stuff happens . . . The negatives of discounting might be less commission for agents and less revenue for us but the positive is it opens up the product to a wider audience.” I mentioned that the "wider audience" will undoubtedly include a younger crowd from a different demographic, including what I call the hard partying "Bud Light - tank top" crowd.

Too much alcohol on increasingly gigantic ships: Cruise lines aren't profitable based solely on their cruise fares. Of all "onboard purchases," including casino sales, shore excursions, specialty restaurants and gift shops, alcohol sales are the key to keeping the tax-free foreign flagged cruise ships profitable.  Pushing alcohol sales are a key part of Carnival's fun ships. Carnival collects literally Carnival Cruise Brawlhundreds of millions of tax-free dollars a year selling booze on the Carnival Cruise Line fleet. Bartenders, who make a earning solely on gratuties and tips, are often prone to over-serve guests. 

Ill trained and and insufficient number of security guards: A common complaint we hear from passengers is that ship security does not intervene at an early stage to stop potentially violent situations from escalting and getting out of hand. Carnival responded to the recent brawl between ship staff and cruise guests by praising its "highly trained security staff." But images of its security personnel and ship officers kicking and beating passengers last week (and trying to stop passengers from filing the out of control violence) speaks volumes about Carnival's shipboard security and the cruise line's so-called "zero tolerance" of such violence. In the videos below, the Carnival security personnel are often seen observing the fights or trying to stop people from taking videos of the melees.

Eight years ago, I asked how Carnival will handle the "wider audience" flocking onto its larger cruise ships. If cruise ships are like cities and "stuff happens," as Carnival's Arison righfully suggests, what steps are cruise lines taking to protect U.S. families? I asked then and will ask now whether Carnival and other cruise lines will ever hire a full complement of well trained and experienced security guards? Or will they continue to try and save money with only a few inexperienced "guards" trying to protect their guests from the inevitable violence when thousands of people squeeze into the huge ships and far too much booze is added to the mess? 

The answer to these questions is contained in the videos below, which I have ranked in order of out-of-control violence. There are far too many videos to include them all here, including the recent brawl aboard the Carnival Legend.  

If you have a video to nominate, send me a link and we can add it to a ten ten list. 

Carnival Dream (2010): 

 Carnival Splendor (2010): 

 Carnival Ship (2011): 

Carnival Glory (2016):

 Carnival Breeze (2015):

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Carnival Security Tries to Cover-Up Ship Brawl

Carnival Legend BrawlA video of a brawl on the Carnival Legend shows Carnival security officers and other security personnel kicking passengers while they are on the floor. Carnival officers are also shown trying to prevent other passengers from videotaping the violence.  

The video, which was taken by a passenger and aired by Australia's 3AW693 Talk Radio, is circulating on social media. It shows as many as six officers and a equal number of personnel wearing dark colored shirts with "SECURITY" on the back fighting with unruly passengers on the Carnival Legend

The news article also states that passengers reported that ship security staff attempted to "censor the situation." A father who received a telephone call from his son on the ship said that "the security came in and took his phone, and deleted a lot of images from his phone.”

We have reported on many such ship brawls, which have primarily occurred on the Carnival brand of ships over the years. 

This latest incident occurs just a few days after a violent brawl on the P&O Pacific Explorer

We first wrote about the problem of violence on cruise ships back in 2009 in Cruise Ship Brawls - A Problem that Will Get Bigger with Bigger Ships, where we covered a "mini-rampage" on the P&O cruise ship Ventura and a brawl involving Carnival passengers who punched, scratched and bit it out with police in Antigua. The following year, we covered another violent brawl on another Carnival ship in More Carnival Legend BrawlCruise Ship Violence - A Drunken Brawl On Carnival's Dream. We also wrote about this problem in Another Brawl Breaks Out on a Carnival Fun Ship. YouTube is filled with videotapes of violence on Carnival ships.

The problem arises when the "wider audience" (a term coined by Carnival chairmen Micky Arison) finds their way onto cruise ships attracted by low prices. Add too much alcohol, and too few well-trained security guards on these budget ships, and this is what happens.

Carnival quickly sent out a press statement which states:

"Safety is the number one priority for Carnival Cruise Line, we take a zero tolerance approach to excessive behaviour that affects other guests and we have acted accordingly on Carnival Legend. The ship’s highly trained security staff have taken strong action in relation to a small group of disruptive guests who have been involved in altercations on board. The ship’s security team is applying our zero tolerance policy in the interests of the safety and comfort of other guests."

Many people posted comments on our Facebook page about the outrageous conduct of the Carnival security personnel kicking the passengers and trying to prevent the videotaping of the brawl. 

February 17, 2018 Update: The Washington Post has an interesting article about this incident - A Carnival cruise in the South Pacific descended into violent anarchy.

Photo and video credit: 3AW693  

U.S. State Department Issues Another Critical Crime Warning for the Bahamas

NassauThe United States Department of State has again listed the crime threat in the Bahamas as "critical" and warned U.S. tourists to take safety measures while visiting the country.

The warning was issued by the U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) which just published the the Bahamas 2018 Crime & Safety Report

Like other U.S. warnings about the Bahamas, this latest warning primarily involves Nassau (New Providence), not the "outer islands" not frequented by cruise ships. The OSAC estimates that there are approximately 370,000 people living in the Bahamas, with around 70% (around 250,000-260,000) of the population residing in crime-filled New Providence. Another another 15% (55,000) live on Grand Bahama. The rest of the population is dispersed over numerous islands (commonly referred to as the “Family Islands”), where crime is substantially less than in Nassau.

We reported on three prior warnings in the last thirty days by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Nassau as well as by Canada.   

The per capita murder and rape rates for the Bahamas as a whole are drastically higher than any port city in the United States. 

The Nassau Guardian covered the latest U.S. warning. 

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Photo credit: NASA - Public Domain, commons / wikimedia.

U.S. Embassy in Nassau, Bahamas Issues New Crime Warning

The U.S. Embassy in Nassau, Bahamas issued a new crime warning for the city following the assault of a U.S. citizen during the early evening hours of February 6, 2018, while jogging on West Bay Street just west of Goodman’s Bay Park.

This is an area around two miles west of the cruise port and downtown and east of the popular Cable Beach. 

The Embassy urged that caution should be used in all areas of New Providence while traveling by foot Nassau Bahamas Crime Warningafter dark. 

The Bahamas Tribune covered the new crime warning today.  

The United States State Department issued its last crime warning for the Bahamas on January 10, 2018, which states, in part:

"Exercise increased caution in The Bahamas due to crime.

Violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assault is common, even during daylight hours and in tourist areas. U.S. government personnel are not permitted to visit the Sand Trap area in Nassau due to crime. Jet-ski operators are known to commit sexual assaults against tourists, including minors. As a result, U.S. government personnel are not permitted to use jet-ski rentals on New Providence and Paradise Islands." 

The U.S. government has issued more crime warnings for the Bahamas than for all locations in the Caribbean. 

The common response from the Bahamian tourism officials to these warning is to suggest that Nassau is safe compared to major American cities like Chicago or New York.

But the per capita murder rate in the country of the Bahamas is much higher than the per capita rate in Chicago and many, many times higher than the per capita rate in New York City. In the U.S., the per capita murder rate is a little over 4 per 100,000; in the Bahamas, the rate is around 40 per 100,000. 

Most cruise tourists don't understand that the murder, rape and crime rates per capita are much higher in the Bahamas, particularly in Nassau, than anywhere the tourists are from.   

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Killer of Royal Caribbean Crew Member Adriana Morales de Florencia Sentenced to Prison

Adriana Morales de FlorencioThe killer of Royal Caribbean crew member Adriana Morales de Florencia was sentenced to prison for her murder. There is a conflict in the reporting whether the sentence was for 22 years or 17 years. 

In April of 2017, Ms. Morales was reported missing on the island of Bonaire after disembarking for Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas, as we reported last year.  She was from Mexico and had worked for Royal Caribbean for less than two contracts. She did not return to the cruise ship after going ashore in the port of Kralendijk last year. Her body was found buried and it was established that she died by stab wounds. A suspect was later identified by a surveillance film. 

Newspaper accounts in Bonaire identified a man who met Ms. Morales shortly after she left the cruise ship. He has been identified only through an acronym; some accounts refer to him as "Raysley S." According to newspapers in Bonaire, the prosecutor presented aggravating circumstances during the sentencing. The computer data  showed that in the days before and after the killing, he looked at extremely violent pornographic films and photographs.

Another article posted this week indicated that the judge sentenced the defendant to just 17 years in jail.

Photo credit: De Telegraaf

Lawsuit: Two Adult Cruise Passengers Assault Minor on Independence of the Seas

Sexual Assault Royal CaribbeanSurveillance video on Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas shows an attack on a 13 year old boy by two adult passengers.

The men, identified by local Miami news station NBC 4 as Martinez and Lawson, corner the teenager in the ship's library, before pinning him against the bookcase. The boy had apparently made an inappropriate comment earlier during the cruise to to Lawson's daughter (Martinez's niece).

In retaliation, the men confronted the minor, with Martinez taking off his shirt and sexually assaulting the minor, according to the article titled Teen’s Assault on Cruise Ship Caught on Surveillance Camera.

The minor's mother reportedly said about the attack on her son: "He physically punched him, choked him, smothered his face in the pillow, pulled his clothes off, was on top of my son."

The Sun Sentinel covered the disturbing story shortly after it occurred back in January of 2016. 

The family of the boy is represented by another maritime lawyer here in Miami. 

Royal Caribbean said "the ship’s crew has no duty to monitor the cameras . . . "

A criminal judge sentenced Martinez to three years in prison for lewd and lascivious behavior with a child under 16, and sentenced Lawson to two years in prison sentence for child abuse.

The article mentions that in 2016-2017, 69 percent of crimes committed on board cruise ships were sexual assaults. The chairman of the International Cruise Victims Association (ICV), Ken Carver, told NBC 4 that "a third of all the rapes on cruise ships are on minors, if you can believe that." You can read the 2013 Congressional cruise crime report with this alarming statistic here

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Photo credit: Broward Country Sheriff's Office via Sun Sentinel; video credit: NBC 4. 

Recent USPH Sanitations: Allure and Grandeur Nearly Fail Inspections

Carnival Cruise Lines has been in the news lately with four of its cruise ships failing sanitation inspections in the last two months and a total of five ships failing USPH inspections in the last year. 

The Carnival Vista (79), Carnival Breeze (77), Carnival Triumph (78), and the Carnival Liberty (80) all recently failed USPH inspections, The Carnival Paradise (83) also failed the VSP inspection last year. Last year also saw the Carnival Conquest (89), Carnival Dream (87), Carnival Fantasy (88) and Carnival Imagination (89) receiving very low sanitation scores. This year, the Carnival Vista received a low score of only 88 during its re-inspection (although the CDC has still not officially posted the score on its data base yet), following its disastrous score of 79 in December 2017 where USPH inspectors caught Carnival hiding food and galley equipment in crew member cabins.

You can see all of the most recently published USPH sanitation scores in the CDC's Vessel Sanitation Programs' (VSP) "Green Sheet" (warning the CDC often delays the publishing of sanitation scores online). 

Grandeur of the SeasBut Carnival is not the only cruise line suffering from failing or low sanitation scores. 

In the last month, two Royal Caribbean cruise ships have received scores barely above the failing score of 85. The Grandeur of the Seas received a score of 87 in an inspection which took place on January 5, 2018 which was only recently published. There were deductions for various unsanitary conditions as well as heavily corroded and difficult-to-clean steel counters in the galleys of the ship which you can read here

Several major newspaper reported that several dozens of passengers were sickened with gastrointestinal sicknesses on the Grandeur earlier last month. 

Some people may point out that the Grandeur (photo right) is an older ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet, having come into service well over 20 years ago and showing obvious signs of external rust and lack of maintenance. But the Allure is obviously a newer and arguably better maintained ship.  

But the recent USPH report involving the Allure of the Seas shows that it received a barely-passing score of only 86. The acute gastroenteritis (AGE) logs indicated that a Royal Caribbean food handler who was symptomatic with acute gastroenteritis symptoms returned to work before the completion of the mandatory 48 hour isolation period. A second crew member exhibited acute gastroenteritis symptoms continued to eat meals in the crew mess and did not report to the ship infirmary until over two days later. Another crew member who was symptomatic with AGE symptoms proceeded to eat in crew mess and attend a work meeting, and reported to the ship's medical department only later.

Even more disturbing is that the USPH inspectors found the following:

"Seat cushions had storage under them in the Windjammer and decks 3, 4, and 5 of the main dining room. These storage areas were heavily soiled with debris, had raw wood, and were located above carpet and/or concrete decks. In these areas, the inspection team found: two closed gallon bottles of Allure of the Seasdrinking water, several bags of neatly folded and bagged linen napkins, a bucket full of silverware, a box of gloves and wiping cloths, wrapped salad stands, several bottles of kitchen degreaser, chlorine bleach, biogel, wet plastic containers, and a large bag with dozens of serving utensils. These were also found along with brooms, dust pans, vacuum cleaners, and other nonfood equipment."

This sounds like a crew member or crew members tried to hide cleaning materials along with napkins, eating and serving utensils in obviously improper locations which were described as heavily soiled area in the Windjammer Cafe and main dining room. It is difficult to believe that the USPH did not fail the ship for this intentional type of unsanitary conduct. The purpose of USPH cruise ship inspections is to prevent the spread of shipboard disease outbreaks.

Perhaps coincidentally (or not), in December of 2017, Royal Caribbean notified its oncoming passengers that "some guests onboard experienced gastrointestinal illness. In an abundance of caution, we are conducting enhanced sanitizing onboard the ship and within the cruise terminal to help prevent any illness from affecting your cruise."  

The questions arises why so many cruise ships operated by both Carnival and Royal Caribbean are receiving low and sometimes failing sanitation scores. Crew members hiding food or eating utensils  and working while ill are hardly new. Are USPH inspectors more vigorously inspecting the ships? Or this the result of too much work and too few crew members who are responsible for cleaning the ship, as some people say?

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

In 2015, I publsihed an article about the "hide and seek" games played on the Liberty fo the Seas in Did Royal Caribbean Dupe USPH Inspectors? On our Facebook page, I asked: Do cruise lines hide pots & pans, galley equipment and food from USPH Inspectors? A. Yes. B. No.  The overwhelming response was yes. 

Photo credit: Grandeur of the Seas (in Miami) and Allure of the Seas (in Jamaica) - Jim Walker. 

Coast Guard Medevacs Two Passengers on Two Occasions From Carnival Pride

Carnival Pride MedevacsThe U.S. Coast Guard  medevaced two passengers on separate occasions from a Carnival cruise ship on Tuesday, January 30, 2018 according to a Coast Guard website.

The first medevac from the Carnival Pride ship involved a 46 year-old passenger who the shipboard medical team suspected had suffered a stroke on Monday night. Bad weather conditions apparently delayed the woman from being medevaced from the cruise ship until the following morning when the cruise ship was approximately from the cruise ship was 15 miles east of Charleston. The Coast Guard station in Charleston had received notification at around 6:27 p.m. Monday and launched a  MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter from Savannah at 7 a.m. due to low visibility from heavy fog Monday night. The woman and a nurse were hoisted and taken to Roper St. Francis Hospital at 8:13 a.m. 

Approximately four hours later, the Carnival ship contacted the Coast Guard and requested a second medevac involving a 64 year-old woman who was reportedly suffering from severe stomach pains. The Pride was 35 miles east of Savannahat this time.

The Carnival cruise ship contacted the Coast Guard station in Charleston for the need for a second passenger rescue at around 11:30 a.m. and the Coast Guard launched a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Savannah around 11:45 a.m. The woman and a nurse were hoisted and taken to Memorial University Medical Center at around 1:49 p.m.

The Coast Guard noted that both woman are reportedly in stable condition. 

Medevacs by the U.S. Coast Guard are paid for U.S. taxpayers; there are no expenses directly to the cruise line or cruise passenger or, in cases involving crew members, to the cruise ship employees if they require emergency evacuation from the ship. 

Video credit: Defense Imagery Video Distribution System (DVIDS): Top and bottom - by Petty Officer 1st Class Luke Clayton U.S. Coast Guard District 7.

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Dredging for "Mega Liners" While the Bay Waters Swamp the Roads to Falmouth?

In Falmouth, Jamaica, the Port Authority of Jamaica is continuing to pursue dredging projects in order to permit the gigantic "mega liners," including Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class (sometimes called "Genesis-class") cruise ships to squeeze into the port, which was rebuilt in 2011. During the construction of the two new two piers, the port was originally dredged.    

Jamaica has a goal of boosting the numbers of cruise visitors, seemingly irrespective of the damage which dredging will cause to the environment around the port. At the urging of Miami-based cruise lines, the government of Jamaica intends to dredge the southern berth of the port at Falmouth this year. This will cause significant further destruction of the reefs around the port in order to allow two Oasis-class vessels to dock at the same time.

This is part of the plan recently touted by the Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness which Falmouth Jamaica Portfeatures further dredging the port of Falmouth, referred to alternatively in the Jamaican Gleaner as the "jewel of the Caribbean" or "the region's number one destination" for cruise shipping.

Prime Minister Holness stated to the Jamiacan newspaper that the Falmouth pier '"was built in anticipation for not only the growing demands of the cruise industry, but also the fact that cruise ships were "getting bigger by the day." He was quoted as saying "it wasn't that long ago when we had ships with a carrying capacity of say 2,000 being touted as the largest cruise ships in the world. Since then, we have seen a number of vessels earning that title. We have had Freedom of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and now, we have Harmony of the Seas, with its 2,747 staterooms, and 8,550 guests and staff on 16 decks."

The Prime Minister noted that it was an "excellent idea to have constructed this port. We can now host the mega liners and all the Oasis Class vessels."

Six years ago, in my article titled Royal Caribbean's New Port in Falmouth, Jamaica - At What Cost to the Environment?, I cited the article of Can the Cruise Industry Clean Up Its Act? by Michael Behar, who wrote that in Falmouth, Royal Caribbean oversaw the smashing of "a quarter-mile-wide opening in an offshore barrier reef. They dredged coral, both living and dead, as well as the rock substrate, and trucked it inland to a two-square-mile dump site -- a clear-cut area on the outskirts of town that was once a thriving red mangrove swamp. Now all that’s left is 35 million cubic feet of pulverized coral and rubble. When I visit the site with Roland Haye, a Jamaican environmental activist, he tells me, 'As a boy, I used to play Tarzan here and see crocodile. It was a winter home for great heron and swan.' He points out broken conch shells, dismembered starfish, bits of sea sponge, and severed lobes of brain coral." 

In that article, I wrote that the removal of the natural reef exposes the shore to pounding of the waves from the adjacent bay.  "When I visited (back in 2012) , I observed that the road . . .  to Falmouth, previously protected from the pounding of the by the reef, was literally covered with water from the encroaching waves. The road was already eroding . . ."

Yesterday, a friend of mine in Montego Bay filmed a short video from his cell phone as he drove into Falmouth. The video shows the bay's waters from the now destroyed reef system lapping over the deteriorating roadway into the port of Falmouth.   

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Photo credit: Falmouth Port (above) - Jim Walker

Carnival Vista (Barely) Passes USPH Sanitation Re-Inspection

After miserably failing the December 2, 2017 sanitation inspection by the United States Public Health (USPH) last month, the USPH re-inspected the Carnival Vista today at the port of Miami. The Carnival cruise ship passed the re-inspection with a score of only 88, three points above the failing score of 85.

The December 2nd sanitation inspection found that Carnival Vista crew members were caught hiding perishable food and galley equipment in crew quarters. The report stated that "an organized effort was made to physically move several containers and trolleys of food equipment, utensils, spices, potentially hazardous food items, raw produce, and decorations to a crew cabin hallway and a crew cabin in order to avoid inspection by VSP staff."

Last month, the USPH sanitation inspection resulted in a failing score of only 79.

The USPH concluded that crew members moved trolleys filled with lexan boxes of perishable food and galley equipment in order to hide the items from the inspectors. Included on the trolleys were lexan boxes filled with butter, buttermilk, whipping cream, raw salmon, raw lamb and other meats. Inspectors discovered a skillet of lasagna near a crew member bed. Mixed with this food in the lexan boxes were galley machine equipment and batteries, among other items. Flies were found in some food containers.

In addition, the inspectors found incomplete and/or inaccurate acute gastrointeritis logs, soiled lexan boxes and galley equipment, incorrect time control labels, and raw meat and fish contaminating salad items. 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) delayed from December 2, 2017 until January 16, 2018 - a period of six weeks - before publishing the failed score and disclosing the intentional misconduct by Carnival to the public.   

The re-inspection score of only 88 is one of the lowest scores, without failing, of a ship operated by a major cruise line in the past year. Unfortunately, the CDC does not have the leadership to punish Carnival for its deliberate wrongdoing, such as ordering the Vista cruise ship not to sail.

The re-inspection today found more unsanitary conditions, to be officially disclosed by the CDC to the public at some time in the future. 

The Vista is one of four Carnival cruise ships to have failed the inspection by the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) in the last four months, including the Carnival Breeze (77), Carnival Triumph (78), and the Carnival Liberty (80). The Carnival Paradise (83) also failed the VSP inspection last year.

A crew member who wishes to remain anonymous sent us the draft report today.

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CDC Sanitation Draft Report Carnival Vista

 

  

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger From Disney Dream

Disney Dream MedevacA Coast Guard  MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Miami Florida medevaced a passenger from the Disney Dream cruise ship yesterday.

The Ill passenger was reportedly suffering from unspecified medical complications when the Disney ship was reportedly 78 miles southeast of West Palm Beach, Thursday, January 25, 2018.

The Coast Guard helicopter arrived on scene, hoisted the passenger and flew him to Saint Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach for medical care.

Photo credit: U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Air Station Miami / U.S. Coast Guard District 7 / Defense Video Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS)

Medvac Disney Dream

Royal Caribbean, on Soaring 4th Quarter Revenues & Profits, to Pay Employees 5% Bonuses

Royal Caribbean announced its fourth quarter financial results with CEO Richard Fain stating that the cruise company received revenues of $2,000,000,000 with net profits of $288,040,000. Royal Caribbean's fourth-quarter profits and revenues reportedly exceeded Wall Street estimates,

Mr. Fain told CNBC that the company met its lofty three-year goals of "double earnings" and a "double-digit" return on invested capital. In response the Royal Caribbean executive stated yesterday that Royal Caribbean employees will each receive a bonuses in the amount of 5% of their annual salary. 

Investor Place reports that the cruise line will be distributing the bonus to its 66,000 employees. This Roya; Caribean CEO Richard Fainwill include shore-side and shipboard employees. This bonuses will be in the form of "equity grants" which will vest over three years. RCL reports that total spending on the bonuses will be $80 million.

Crew members state that their annual minimum guaranteed salaries range from $500 to $600 a month for a pot-washer to around $800 to $1,300 for a waiter, cabin attendant or bar tender. These Royal Caribbean ship  employees typically work contracts of around 6 to 8 months straight which turns out to working approximately 9 months a year. So a 5% bonus turns out to be around $225 to $270 for a pot-washer to around $350 to $550 for waiters, cabin attendants and bartenders, to be paid over the course of three years.

Meanwhile, CEO Fain reportedly sold 20,000 shares of Royal Caribbean Cruises stock in a transaction on January 16th. The stock was sold at an average price of $128.10, for a total transaction of $2,562,000.00. Following the sale, the chief executive officer now directly owns 807,741 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $103,471,622.10, according to SEC records. Ms. Fain indirectly owns another 216,206 shares which, at a price of $128.10 each, have a value of $27,695,988.60. Mr. Fain's' direct and indirect holdings of RCL stock are valued at $131,167,610.70, at the price of $128.10 a share. 

RCL shares are now worth around $132 a share, up approximately $4 more a share since last week, so Mr. Fain's RCL total RCL shares are now worth around $4,000,000 more than they were at the time of the sale last week. 

The point is, that although it's to be commended in theory that crew members will be rewarded for their hard work with bonuses, the amounts to be paid to the crew in question are rather minuscule, especially because they are to be paid over the course of the next three years rather than in a single check now. The bulk of the $80 million to be paid in bonuses will primarily go to the higher paid shore-side workers. So be sure to tip the crew members with cash when you cruise.

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Photo credit: CNBC 

Canada Join U.S. in Warning of Crime in the Bahamas

Canada recently issued a new crime advisory for the Bahamas, warning its citizens to exercise a high degree of caution when traveling there due to high rates of crime, including a reported increase of sexual assaults against tourists. 

Canada's website advisory was updated last week to state that sexual assaults occur regularly, primarily in New Providence (Nassau) and on Grand Bahama (Freeport):  

"Crime, including violent crime, occurs mainly on the islands of New Providence and Grand Bahama. There has been an increase in muggings, armed robberies, home invasions and sexual assault targeting tourists in the cities of Nassau and Freeport. Incidents of robbery take place in cruise ship Nassau Bahamas Cruise Terminalterminals and in and around popular resort areas, even in daylight hours. If you are threatened by robbers, stay calm and do not resist. Avoid non-tourist neighbourhoods in downtown Nassau, especially at night, where the crime accounts for much of Bahamas’ high murder rate. 

Sexual assault occurs frequently, particularly near hotels, in hotel rooms, in casinos, on cruise ships and on the beach. Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol, do not consume any drugs and don't accept rides from strangers or from unlicensed taxi drivers. Due to incidents of sexual assault, it is recommended to be wary when embarking on jet-ski rides with licensed or unlicensed operators."

Two weeks ago, we wrote about the U.S. warning to its citizens to exercise a high degree of caution while traveling to the Bahamas. 

The Nassau Guardian covered the new advisory for Canadian tourists. The nation's Tourism Minister downplayed the crime advisory during an interview with the Tribune newspaper, saying that "when I go to London, when I go to Paris, when I go to New York, I probably have just the same likelihood of being a victim of crime."  As I have said before, this is a common although misleading argument. The per capita murder and rape rates in the Bahamas is substantially higher than the per capita rate in the majority of U.S. and European cities. In the U.S., the per capita murder rate is a little over 4 per 100,000; in the Bahamas, the rate is around 40 per 100,000.

Canada has issued critical crime report for the Bahamas several times in the last several years,

We have also written about Canadians residents and citizens becoming victims of horrific violent crimes in the Bahamas. You can read a few of our articles here and here

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

Photo credit: Jerrye and Roy Klotz MD CC 3.0 commons / wikipedia.  

Joel Taylor Dies on Harmony of the Seas - Latest Drug-Related Death on a Royal Caribbean/Atlantis Cruise?

Storm Chasers' star Joel Taylor died of a suspected overdose on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship which had been chartered by Atlantis Events, according to TMZ and other websites.

Mr. Taylor was reportedly on Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas. These tabloids report that passengers on the Royal Caribbean ship stated that "drugs on the party boat were plentiful."  

Law enforcement allegedly told TMZ that "it appears the death could be an overdose and Joel Taylor was consuming controlled substances."

"Joel had consumed enough GHB on the dance floor Tuesday that he was rendered unconscious andAtlantis Cruises - Haromy of the Seas taken off the dance floor by 2 people and back to his room."

According to the New York Daily News, "passengers aboard the Harmony of the Seas added that they witnessed Taylor taking drugs, including ecstasy and cocaine."

This is not the first time that a passenger died allegedly due to drugs aboard a cruise ship chartered by Atlantis Events, which advertises its "unbelievable parties" on cruises with Royal Caribbean. 

In 2009, a passenger died after he reportedly took drugs during a cruise aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship which had been chartered for the use of Atlantis Events.

In 2010, I wrote the article Another Death on a Royal Caribbean - Atlantis Cruise after a passenger died while aboard the Liberty of the Seas which had been chartered to Atlantis Events. There was widespread discussion regarding the use of drugs during Atlantis sponsored events.

In 2011, a passenger was arrested for selling large quantities of ecstasy pills, methamphetamine, ketamine and other drugs aboard Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas which had been chartered by Atlantis Events. There were reportedly a half-dozen drug overdoses during the cruise. 

A week before that Royal Caribbean/Atlantis cruise, I wrote Is Royal Caribbean Ready for Medical Emergencies During the World's Largest Gay Cruise?  I questioned why Royal Caribbean tolerated the widespread use of drugs during Atlantis Events. I also stated that cruise ships are not the place to have a medical emergency, whether you are gay, lesbian, transgendered, or straight. Cruise ships are often characterized by the questionable experience and training of the shipboard doctors and staff and the limited nature of the cruise ship's medical facilities.

The Harmony of the Seas was on a seven day cruise which left Fort Lauderdale on January 20th, sailing to Labadee (Haiti), San Juan (Puerto Rico), and St. Maarten, and then returning to Fort Lauderdale on January 27th. Law enforcement reportedly boarded the cruise ship when it docked in San Juan yesterday.

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

February 8, 2018 Update: Quartz A Reality Star's Death Has Exposed a Dangerous Drug Culture on Party Cruises. 

Photo credit: Atlantis Events via Mike Sington twitter page

Overboard Carnival Cruise Passenger Identified

Yesterday, a local newspaper in Louisiana, KLFY, interviewed the mother of missing cruise passenger Juwanna Brooks who disappeared from the Carnival Triumph on January 21st, as the cruise ship was sailing toward Cozumel after departing from New Orleans the previous day.  

The cruise to Mexico, a Christmas present from her husband, was Ms. Brook's first cruise.  

It is a painful interview to watch as the mother states that she hoped that her daughter, who she describes as a wonderful daughter, mother and grandmother, would be located and returned to her, "one way or the other."

She also described that social media accounts of her daughter's disappearance was "downright cruel."

She is absolutely right about that. There are so many outrageously mean and nasty people on Facebook that the popular page on Facebook of Carnival cruise fans, called Carnival Cruisers...Past, Present, Future (CCPPF), states that it prohibits any "rude, hateful, snarky, ugly comments" about man overboard situations and removes such comments. Its posting about this latest overboard case welcomes "thoughts, prayers, and comfort for the family" and says:

"Sadly, there has been a man overboard ("man overboard" is a general term and not gender specific. In this case, the victim is a woman) on Carnival Triumph. When something like this happens , it tends to bring out the worst in some of our members and it is always shocking to me some of the mean cruel things people can say regarding such a tragedy regarding another human being."

I had to implement a similar policy on our Facebook page over the years after people who read this blog's articles felt compelled to immediately insult the people who disappear during cruises as "stupid.*" 

People should not disappear from a cruise ship. We attended all of the hearings leading up to the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) and listened to members of Congress being educated by the grieving families of cruise passengers who were lost at sea, as well as the cruise industry trying to downplay the issue. The cruise line representatives accurately stated that many of the passengers intentionally went overboard and/or engaged in reckless conduct (i.e., intoxication) which often resulted in them going overboard. But at the end of the day, Congress passed legislation requiring cruise lines to install man overboard (MOB) technology, whenever feasible, to automatically detect whenever someone goes over the rails. MOB systems need to be installed whether the person goes overboard due to carelessness or even suicide. 

After all, the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as the coast guards of foreign countries, none of which are reimbursed by the cruise lines for any sevices provided to the public, spend millions of dollars responding to the dozens of over-boards which occur each year. Even if the person going overboard cannot be rescued, the recovery of their bodies is obviously important to their loved ones as part of the grieving process. Implementing MOB technology saves lifes, saves unnecessary search and rescue costs and is the right thing to do. 

Unfortunately, Carnival is one cruise line which refuses to install any of the available automatic man overboard systems which are available on the market. Maritime Executive has featured several articles from a highly reputable captain and maritime expert explaining that the MOB technology is successful and feasible.

Carnival has a reputation as providing affordable "fun ships" for the masses. But, in truth, it is a recalcitrant cruise line that has a history of non-compliance with the few U.S. laws which apply to the foreign-flagged cruise industry. In the last year, it was been fined $40,000,000 for lying to the U.S. Coast Guard regarding the widespread oil pollution from its fleet of cruise ships. More recently, Carnival was  caught engaging in deceitful conduct of trying to hide food and galley equipment from federal sanitation inspectors from the USPH. It's the one cruise line which refuses to hire lifeguards, when other lines (Disney, Royal Caribbean and NCL) have finally done so. So perhaps it's no surprise, when it come to the issue of its guests going overboard, that Carnival refuses to implement automatic man overboard technology ever since the 2010 CVSSA went into effect. 

It's long overdue for Carnival to install available MOB technology on its fleet of cruise ships.

How long will the parents of missing passengers at sea have to hope that their loved ones will return from cruises "one way or the other?" 

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

*/  Our Facebook page states: "We welcome a difference of opinion. However, we do not tolerate hateful speech, ad hominen attacks, crude language, or personal insults. We do not permit the denigrating or mocking of people who disappear at sea or die in cruise swimming pool accidents."

 

State of Emergency Declared in Jamaica - U.S. Warns: Exercise Extreme Caution In Travel to Montego Bay

Jamaica State Of EmergencyThe U.S. State Deparment issued a travel warning effective January 18, 2018 that U.S. citizens use exteme caution in traveling to certain locations in Jamaica, following a State of Emergency for St. James Parish, Jamaica which was declared by the government of Jamaica to counter the out-of-control criminal activity.

St. James Parish covers the popular travel destination of Montego Bay, which has a cruise port and is a short drive away from the cruise ports in Falmouth and Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Numerous cruise excursions take cruise passengers to and through Montego Bay and surrounding areas.

The travel warning also applies to Kingston and Spanish Town in Jamaica

The State of Emergency permits Jamaican security forces within the borders of St. James Parish to "arbitrarily detain and deport suspicious persons, enter premises, and seize property without warrant." The U.S. Embassy in Jamaica states that U.S. visitors to Jamaica should "expect to encounter increased police and military presence, checkpoints, and searches of persons and vehicles within the borders of St. James Parish."

According to an article in Newsweek, the U.S. State Department warns that "violent crime, such as home invasions, armed robberies, and homicide, is common. Sexual assaults occur frequently, even at all-inclusive resorts. Local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents."

The U.K.'s  Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has warned Britons that a “major military operation” is taking place and that they should stay in their hotels. “You should follow local advice, including restrictions in selected areas. You should limit your movements outside of resorts in the area at this time, and exercise particular care if travelling at night. Travel to and from the airport or for excursions should be undertaken with organised tour operators, and transport should be arranged or provided by the resort hotels.”

Canada also warns its citizens that they need to "exercise a high degree of caution in Jamaica due to the high level of violent crime and the state of emergency in St James Parish."

Videos posted in several U.K. newspaper show military troops and extra police officers deployed in the Montego Bay area, engaged in traffic stops. The "major military operation" is underway as British tourists have been told to stay in their resorts due to the escalating crime wave. Warning residents and tourists of the deadly attacks, Prime minister Andrew Holness said "the level of criminal activity is of such a nature and so extensive in scale as to endanger public safety," according to the International Business Times.

Time writes that crimes in St. James Parish has reached a critical point, and crime in general in Jamica is a "persistent problem."

"In 2016, for example, the country of 2.9 million people saw 1,350 murders, 1,216 shootings, 449 aggravated assaults and 480 rapes, according to the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security. The country is also notorious for “entrenched and widespread” corruption." The per capita murder rate in Jamaica is around 50 per 100,000, whereas the per capita rate in the U.S. is only around 4.5 per 100,000. Canada's per capita murder rate is less than 2 per 100,000. 

In Jamaica's resorts, beaches mask staggering bloodshed, the Toronto Sun explains that Jamaica has recently seen "unprecedented bloodshed" which has seen tourists murdered.  

Despite the upsurge in violence and the state of emergency, Jamaica's tourism minister states that it is allegedly still safe to visit the country. Cruise lines are continuing to unload hundred of thousands of cruise passengers a month in the ports in Montego Bay, Falmouth and Ocho Rios, generating tens of millions of dollars a month in excursion fares for the U.S.-based cruise lines, as military vehicles rumble through the streets of Montego Bay (see video below).

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January 23, 2018 Update: Jamaica earns spot on the Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World.

Photo credit: loopjamaica

Passenger Reported Overboard From Carnival Triumph

Carnival TriumphA search is underway for a passenger who reportedly went overboard from the Carnival Triumph last night, according to passengers onboard the Carnival cruise ship.

Several passengers on the ship notified me that a woman went overboard from the Triumph, which was announced to the passengers around 8:30-9:00 last night. It is less than clear when the guest actually went into the water. The ship stopped and initiated a search and rescue and then began circling to search for the passenger. Crew members launched rescue boats in the water and scanned the waters for the passenger. The master of the ship also made regular announcements of the search and crew members have been showing passengers a photograph of the missing guest. 

The Triumph is on a cruise to Mexico and was heading to Cozumel, at the time of the disappearance, where it was scheduled to arrive today, after leaving New Orleans on Saturday, January 20, 2018.

In March of 2015, a 54 year old passenger went overboard from the Triumph during a cruise to Mexico. 

Over the past three years, five passengers went overboard from the Carnival LibertyCarnival VictoryCarnival Elation, Carnival Ecstasyand the Carnival Liberty (yes, two passengers from this Carnival ship in last two years).  A crew member disappared from the Carnival Inspiration two months ago. 

To my knowledge, Carnival has not equipped its fleet of cruise ships with automatic man-overboard systems with cameras which would send a signal to the bridge whenever someone goes overboard. Modern systems today can record the person going over the rails and track them in the water via motion detection, infrared and radar technology. (MSC recently announced that it has begun implementing this technology on its fleet of ships; read MSC Cruises Implements New Man Overboard System Amidst Industry Delays).

According to cruise expert Ross Klein, there have been 303 people who have gone overboard from cruise ships since 2000. 

Last Friday, a woman died after falling from the balcony of her cabin on the 14th deck down to the 11th deck on the Carnival Elation cruise ship. Her traveling partner was arrested and taken to jail in Freeport, Bahamas.

I contacted Carnival for information but have not receive a statement at this time.  

Have information regarding this latest overboard? Please join the discussion on our Facebook page.  

Photo credit: Scott Lucht - Own work, GFDL, commons / wikimedia.

Here is a statement received from Carnival: 

"Earlier this evening, a 44-year-old female guest was seen going overboard from the Carnival Triumph in the Gulf of Mexico while the ship was on the second day of a five-day cruise from New Orleans.
Search and rescue operations are underway and all appropriate authorities have been notified. Carnival’s CARE Team is providing support and assistance to the guest’s family.
Carnival Triumph operates four- and five-day cruises from New Orleans."

Update: The search has been assumed by the Mexican navy and coast guard as of this morning (January 22nd); the Carnival Triumph is now proceeding to Cozumel.

Carnival Glory Scores 99 in Yesterday's USPH Sanitation Inspection

Carnival GloryYesterday, the Carnival Glory received a score of 99 by the United States Public Health sanitation inspectors at the port of Miami. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has not officially published the score on its Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) database yet.  A draft report, sent from a crew member who wishes to remain anonymous, is below.

The passing score is good news for Carnival which has recently seen three of its cruise ships receive failing scores from USPH sanitation inspectors (the Carnival Triumph, Carnival Breeze and Carnival Vista). The USPH caught Carnival intentionally trying to conceal food and galley equipment from sanitation inspectors by placing the food and galley items in crew member cabins and hallways during an inspection of the Vista in December. 

A number of newspapers, including the Miami Herald, covered the stories of the failed Carnival sanitation and health scores. This was particularly embarrassing for Carnival as the Triumph, which infamously earned the nickname as the "poop cruise" for unsanitary conditions following an engine room fire which disabled the ship several years ago, received a score of only 77 out of 100. 

There was a considerable delay by the CDC in posting the failed scores of the Carnival cruise ships on its VSP database. In the case of the Vista, the CDC did not post the failed sanitation score until over six weeks after the failed sanitation inspection. Carnival claimed that it immediately addressed the problems, but it had still not filed a corrected actions report, indicating that the cruise ship corrected the sanitation deficiencies, when the report was finally posted the following month.

The cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), and several travel publications which cater to the cruise lines, have recently tried to counter the bad publicity caused by the three failed scores for the Carnival ships, by issuing press statements or articles pointing out that 33 cruise ships earned perfect 100 scores in the past year. 

The last USPH inspection of the Glory occurred last April and resulted in a score of 97.

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

Photo credit: Carnival Glory -  Sunnya343 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.; USPH report - anonymous. 

Carnival Glory CDC USPH Score

Passenger Falls to Death on Carnival Elation

Carnival Elation DeathEarlier this afternoon, a guest traveling aboard a Carnival ship died after falling from the balcony of her cabin, according to a passenger aboard the cruise ship.

The woman reportedly died after she fell from her balcony on the 14th deck down to the 11th deck on the Carnival Elation cruise ship.

The death was confirmed by Carnival who said that "a guest fell from her balcony to several decks below," according to New4Jax.

The Carnival Elation departed yesterday from Jacksonville on a four-day cruise to the Bahamas.

A passenger sent me photographs which he took on the cruise ship, including of an area on deck 11 which had been roped off. The passenger commented that the woman was apparently celebrating her birthday. Another passenger reportedly was seen handcuffed after the incident. Police from Freeport, Bahamas reportedly boarded the ship after the fatality. 

You can see additional photos from the cruise ship here.

In October of last year, a 8 year-old girl died after falling from a deck in an interior atrium to a lower deck on the Carnival Glory.

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January 22, 2018 Update: The Daily Mail referenced this article. 

Cocaine Bust in Falmouth, Jamaica - Norwegian Escape

Nowegian EsccapeYesterday, the Jamaican police reportedly seized a pound of cocaine and arrested a man at the cruise port in Falmouth, Jamaica, according to the Jamaican Observer newspaper

The Observer reported that around 4:30 on Monday, January 15, 2018, "security checks were being conducted on passengers and crew returning to a cruise ship that was docked at the pier when the man was searched and illicit drugs allegedly found in his possession." The newspaper did not mention the man's name nor specify whether he is a cruise passenger or a crew member. It identified him only as a a "St Lucian."

Falmouth is one of the ports in the Caribbean where several passengers and crew members have been caught trying to smuggle cocaine into Florida on cruise ships which called on Falmouth and oth ports Jamaica. In the last several years, drugs busts occurred involving crew members on the Allure of the Seas and passengers from the Freedom of the Seas.  In several incidents the newspaper in Jamaica did not identify the cruise ship or disclose whether the person arrested for smuggling was a cruise passenger or crew member. 

The Observer also did not identify the name of the cruise line or cruise ship. According to several sources, the only cruise ship in port in Falmouth on Monday was NCL's Norwegian Escape. Last summer, three NCL crew members on the Escape were arrested in Belize for smuggling cocaine.

A number of NCL crew members have been arrested for smuggling cocaine on cruise ships which have returned to ports in Florida from the Caribbean.  In just the last three years, over twenty NCL crew members have been arrested on charges of drug smuggling, including NCL crew members involved in a Roatan, Honduras to Florida cocaine smuggling ring.   

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Photo credit: Arno Redenius - CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia. 

Carnival Vista Caught Hiding Food and Galley Equipment in Crew Quarters, Flunks USPH Sanitation Inspection Along with Carnival Breeze

Hidden Foor and Galley Equipment Cruise ShipsToday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finally issued a report regarding the United States Public Health Inspection (USPH) inspection of the Carnival Vista which took place six weeks ago, on December 2, 2017.  The USPH sanitation inspection resulted in a failing score of only 79.  Any score of 85 or lower is a failing score according to the U.S. Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP).

Most significantly, the sanitation inspectors found that the Carnival crew members were caught hiding perishable food and galley equipment in crew quarters. The report stated that "an organized effort was made to physically move several containers and trolleys of food equipment, utensils, spices, potentially hazardous food items, raw produce, and decorations to a crew cabin hallway and a crew cabin in order to avoid inspection by VSP staff."

The USPH concluded that crew members moved trolleys filled with lexan boxes of perishable food and galley equipment in order to hide the items from the inspectors. Included on the trolleys were lexan boxes filled with butter, buttermilk, whipping cream, raw salmon, raw lamb and other meats. Inspectors discovered a skillet of lasagna near a crew member bed. Mixed with this food in the lexan boxes were galley machine equipment and batteries, among other items. Flies were found in some food containers.  

In addition, the inspectors found incomplete and/or inaccurate acute gastrointeritis logs, soiled lexan boxes and galley equipment, incorrect time control labels, and raw meat and fish contaminating salad Hidden Foor and Galley Equipment Cruise Shipsitems.  

This is not the first time that crew members were caught hiding food and galley equipment. In 2013, crew members on the Silver Shadow hid food, dirty pots & pans and cooking equipment from U.S. health inspectors. The Silversea cruise ship eventually received a failing score of 82. CNN aired a special on the story. Photographs of this practice are to the left, above left and lower left. 

Over the years, we have heard from thousands of crew members from around the world about the tremendous amount of effort they spend trying to get the cruise ships ready for USPH Inspections. USPH inspections in theory are suppose to be unannounced, but in reality they are rarely a surprise, crew members tell us. Cruise lines routinely hire people in a supervisory position from federal agencies like the USPH, FBI and Coast Guard. In turn, the cruise lines sometimes receive a head's up from their friends in the federal government when the ship will be met by a team of USPH inspectors.

When a USPH inspection is about to happen, the food and beverage workers will literally work 18 to 24 hours on the days right before the cruise ship arrives in the port where the inspection will take place. There are certain types of baking pans and sheets used everyday for frying greasy food which are extremely difficult to get clean and probably won't pass inspection. There are hundreds of these pots and pans which the crew try and clean in the pot wash room but it's difficult to get them all spotless. So what happens is that the galley cleaners are sometimes instructed to rack the pans and sheets in large trolleys and then hide the trolleys down in the crew quarters.

When the USPH inspection is truly a surprise, crew members tell us that there is often a mad scramble to dump everything dirty into lexan boxes and cartons and then stash the stuff in crew members Hidden Foor and Galley Equipment Cruise Shipscabins and corridors on the crew-only areas on the lower decks. 

A bad USPH score is a kiss of death for a cruise ship F&B department head and his supervisors. Ships cut corners to pass inspections.

Over the years, many crew members send us photos of the food and equipment which they are ordered to hide in the crew quarters (photo right from the MSC Poesia).  

What I can only conclude from the report regarding the Carnival Vista is that the USPH inspection was in fact a surprise inspection that caught Carnival doing what it and other cruise lines regularly do - hiding food and galley equipment from sanitation inspectors. 

You can see additional photographs of this practice from the from the Silver Shadow here.    

In addition to the Carnival Vista, the Carnival Breeze also officially flunked its USPH inspection which took place five weeks ago. Last month, we were tipped off of the failed inspection score of only 77 by crew members and we published the news on December 11, 2017.  The official CDC report was finally published today and the Vista did in fact receive a failing score of only 77.

There was a long list of unsanitary conditions found by the inspectors on the Carnival Breeze. Inspectors documented 25 red garbage bins which were "full and overflowing with food waste in the provision corridor on top of wooden pallets and directly outside a lift labeled for food."  Most troubling was evidence that crew members on the Carnival Breeze were working even though the medical records indicate that they were suffering from signs of acute gastroenteritis (this was also the situation with the Vista). Meanwhile, food handlers aboard the Vista who did not work while ill with gastrointestinal symptoms were disciplined on several occasions for not working. 

As I stated in Are Failed USPH Cruise Ship Sanitation Inspections Really Rare?, approximately 20 cruise ships have  Hidden Foor and Galley Equipment Cruise Shipsfailed USPH inspections in the last four years. 

Neither the Vista nor the Breeze submitted corrective action reports, indicating that they have corrected the deficiencies noted by the USPH inspectors last month. 

It's discouraging that the USPH does not promptly publish reports when a cruise ship fails an inspection. As I previously stated, It seems disconcerting that if the CDC is really concerned about preventing disease on cruise ships, that it would sit on reports of potential public health hazards on several cruise ships for well over a month.

Photo credits: Anonymous crew members aboard the Silver Shadow and MSC Poesia.

The Miami Herald covered the story earlier this afternoon - Inspectors caught Carnival crew hiding dirty conditions. It’s their third ship to fail.

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U.S. State Department Issues New Crime Warning for the Bahamas

The United Stated State Department issued a new crime warning for the Bahamas. You can read the new warning issued on January 10, 2018 here.

The crime warning states, in part:

Exercise increased caution in The Bahamas due to crime.

Violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assault is common, even during daylight hours and in tourist areas. U.S. government personnel are not permitted to visit the Sand Trap area in Nassau due to crime. Jet-ski operators are known to commit sexual assaults Nassau Port Cruiseagainst tourists, including minors. As a result, U.S. government personnel are not permitted to use jet-ski rentals on New Providence and Paradise Islands.

The warning refers to the U.S. State Department's Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) whose 2017 Report for the Bahamas characterizes crime in that country as "critical.

The OSAC report states that the majority of reported violent crimes were against local Bahamians and mostly occurred in areas of saturated criminality not typically visited by tourists; however, New Providence (Nassau), where around 250,000 Bahamians live, has witnessed "violent crimes in locations more commonly frequented by U.S. citizen tourists. In some instances, these incidents resulted in fatalities. Criminality and violent crime has increased on Grand Bahama island, notably crimes involving the use of machetes."

"Many criminals carry firearms, machetes, or knives, and these weapons are commonly brandished . . . there were reports of firearms used in the commission of armed robberies, where the assailant assaulted the victim after the victim resisted. Many of these armed robberies were snatch-and-grabs involving purses, jewelry, cell phones, and cash. Should you be confronted by someone demanding money/valuables, you should comply with their demands and make the encounter as brief as possible. If confronted, try to remain calm, clearly display your hands and do not make any sudden moves that could be interpreted as resistance.

Armed robberies, property crimes, purse snatchings, theft, fraud, and sexual assaults remain the most common crimes perpetrated against tourists."

The OSAC report further documents that "in 2016, numerous incidents were reported that either involved tourists or occurred in well-known tourist locations. Crimes occurred near popular tourist areas adjacent to the cruise ship port (Prince George Wharf) and the Cable Beach resort areas as well as the popular downtown area. Several armed robberies of U.S. citizens have occurred in daylight hours in heavily frequented tourist areas."

We have reported on over a dozen U.S. warnings about the high level of crime in the Bahamas, primarily in the capital city of Nassau. 

In 2014, we selected Nassau as the most dangerous port of call in our list of the Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World, and later stated that Nassau was "one gunshot away" from the cruise lines exiting that port. 

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

The Nassau Guardian published an article about the new crime warning. 

In response to the warning which mentions the fish fry businesses at Arawak Cay in Nassau, Bahamian Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar criticized the crime advisory to the Tribune newspaper in Nassau, suggesting that Nassau was safe compared to major American cities like "Chicago or New York.”

This is a common although misleading argument.  The per capita murder rate in the country of the Bahamas is higher than the per capita rate in Chicago and many, many times higher than the per capita rate in New York City. In the U.S., the per capita murder rate is a little over 4 per 100,000; in the Bahamas, the rate is around 40 per 100,000

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Photo credit: TampAGS, for AGS Media - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Passengers Terrorized: Norwegian Breakaway Sails through "Bomb Cyclone"

Norwegian Breakaway This week, a number of passengers contacted our office after returning from the harrowing end of their ill fated cruise aboard NCL's Norwegian Breakaway

News accounts indicate that on January 2, 2018, the Breakaway stopped at its private island, Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. Videos available online show the weather, initially calm and pleasant, turning rough as the passengers used tenders to return to the cruise ship. This was a foreshadowing of things to come. 

By this date, and as early as December 31, 2017, weather forecasters were unanimously predicting that a huge storm would form off the U.S.'s southeast coast and head north later in the week.

But Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) stuck with its itinerary and subjected the passengers to several days of extreme winds and waves as the hurricane-strength storm pounded the cruise ship on January 3rd and 4th. Water leaked into the ship as passengers complained on social media of panic and seasickness with several dozens of frightended passengers sleeping in the ship's atrium. CBS quoted one passenger as saying that "there were people crying, everyone was throwing up. It was a nightmare. It was so tilted I was shaking."

Many passengers complained about a lack of communication from the captain.  

NCL downplayed the incident which infuriated many of the traumatized passengers.

In one of several statements released by NCL after the Breakaway returned to port in New York, NCL claimed that the cruise ship "encountered stronger than forecasted weather conditions."  

The cruise line's conduct and lack of transparency are similar to the conduct of Royal Caribbean after the Anthem of the Seas cruised into a major storm which, like the Grayson "bomb cyclone," was well forecast in advance. The captain of the Anthem claimed that the storm was not accurately forecast, which led Al Roker, the popular television weatherman on the Today Show, to state "Royal Caribbean's claim that this was not predicted is bullfeathers."

Cruise lines ordinarily have a duty of only "reasonable care" under the circumstances. But in instances of rough weather, cruise lines have a much higher duty of care to the passengers. Some characterize this duty as the "highest duty of care" of the passengers when the ship is expected to encounter rough weather.

Our firm previously represented traumatized passengers on the Anthem of the Seas which Royal Caribbean recklessly sailed through a violent storm in 2016. You can see a video of my interview with a New Jersey television station here.  

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

January 10, 2018 Update: Passengers Consider Lawsuit After Norwegian Cruise Line Sails Through Winter Storm Grayson (Video).  

Image credit: CBS News 

NCL Norwegian Breakaway Storm

FEMA Agreed to Pay Carnival $74,700,000 for Charter of Carnival Fascination

Last year, following a series of hurricanes which struck the Caribbean, FEMA decided to charter the Carnival Fascination to house relief workers in St. Croix. The news was widely reported last October. Carnival cancelled its sailings of the Fascination from October 2017 through January 2018 with the cruise line planning to return the cruise ship to its regular itinerary from San Juan in February 2018.

Carnival touted the deal as demonstrating its humanitarian commitment to the Caribbean relief efforts. 

Carnival told the Miami Herald last year that its "history is deeply linked to the Caribbean and our ships have been sailing within the region for more than 45 years. We are pleased to be partnering with Carnival FascinationFEMA on this charter in support of the ongoing relief efforts in the Caribbean.”

I wondered at the time, what type of sharp deal had Carnival obtained at the expense of the U.S. government? This is, after all, a corporation which was incorporated in Panama and registered its fleet of cruise ships in that country to avoid paying U.S. taxes, as well as U.S. safety and labor laws and regulations. So I made a request pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act  (FOIA) to FEMA, which recently responded with a copy of the Carnival-FEMA charter agreement for the Fascination (which you can see below). 

The relevant terms are that FEMA agreed to pay Carnival $74,700,000 over the course of 4 months.

The charter agreement includes $39,700,000 (million) plus "costs" of $35,000,000 (million) for a total of $74,000,000 (million).

This is a whopping amount, even compared to the CCL-FEMA deal made back in 2005 when FEMA paid $192,000,000 to charter the Carnival Sensation, Carnival Ecstasy and Carnival's Holiday for 6 months, plus $44,000,000 for fuel and other expenses, following hurricane Katrina. 

FEMA was criticized for paying a total of $236,000,000 for the three Carnival ship over the course of six months, an amount which the Washington Post called an "exhorbitant price." The Post commented that if the ships were at capacity for six months, the price per evacuee would total over twice what an average passenger would pay which "would include entertainment and the cost of actually making the ship move."

In the current CCL-FEMA charter, FEMA agreed to pay what turns out to be $18,675,000 a month for the Fascination; whereas in 2005, it paid an average of only $13,111,111 a month for each Carnival ship.

That's over $5,500,000 a month more than what FEMA paid back in 2005 for each of the other three Carnival ships, even though the Ecstasy and the Sensation are essentially identical to the Fascination. All are Fantasy class ships with the same number of lower berths (2,056). The Holiday, which is no longer in Carnival's fleet, had a lower capacity of lower berths (1452).   

Most states in the U.S. have anti-gouging laws following hurricanes when a state of emergency has been declared. But post-hurricane gouging appears to be business as usual for Carnival.

In 2005, following hurricane Katrina, the cruise trade organization, CLIA, requested that the U.S. Treasury Department exempt Carnival from paying income tax on the cruise ships it chartered to FEMA, even though the ships were moored in U.S. waters during the entire charter, making them clearly subject to U.S. taxes. In this case with the Fascination, the cruise ship is moored in St. Croix, which is a U.S. territory where citizens are expected to pay U.S. taxes. The monies paid to Carnival for the current charter of the Fascination also should be subject to U.S. taxes. Carnival undoubtedly will seek a similar exemption from the taxes which are owing. 

After the charter, the Fascination will undergo a two-week dry dock from February 4 to 17, 2018, in Freeport, Bahamas, prior to resuming its regular seven-day cruises from San Juan, Puerto Rico, beginning February 18, 2018. Carnival plans to install a Guy's Burger Joint, Blue Iguana Cantina, Red Frog Rum Bar, Blue Iguana Tequila Bar, Cherry On Top, Bonsai Sushi Express, and the Alchemy Bar during the extensive and expensive renovation. 

If you decide to sail on the Fascination next month, be sure to thank the U.S. government when you enjoy a beer and burger in the new bars and restuarants on the ship which will essentially be paid for from the excessive price of the no-bid contract with the federal government, which probably will not charge Carnival any U.S. taxes either. 

I reached out to Carnival for a comment but have heard nothing to date.

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Photo credit: Verybigfish86 (talk) - Public Domain, commons / wikimedia.

Carnival -FEMA Contract by jim walker on Scribd

Royal Caribbean Reschedules Cruise to Repair Grandeur of the Seas

Royal Caribbean is rescheduling the current cruise of the Grandeur of the Seas, in order to begin repairs to the cruise ship for what the cruise line refers to as a "technical issue which limits the operation of one of the two rudders used to steer the ship."

Royal Caribbean notified its guests, at the last minute today, who were planning to board the Grandeur on Thursday, January 11, 2018 that the cruise had been rescheduled to Saturday, January 13th.

Grandeur of the SeasThis news was first reported on by the popular Royal Caribbean Blog

Guests will receive an onboard credit in the amount of a 50% refund of their cruise fare, excluding taxes and fees.The cruise line will reimburse guests for change fees up to $200 per person for domestic flights and up to $300 per person for international flights.  Those passengers who wish to cancel their cruise will receive a refund. 

The Grandeur is one of the oldest ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet, which first went into service in 1996.

Last year, a lifeboat fell off its davits from the Grandeur of the Seas due to an apparent lack of maintenance. 

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Excursion Boat for Royal Caribbean & Celebrity Passengers Sinks in Mexico

News sources in Mexico are reporting that an excursion boat with cruise passengers aboard sank last week. 

Riviera Maya News reports that the cruise excursion incident took place on Wednesday January 3rd, approximately 15 minutes after the boat sailed from Cozumel with ten cruise guests aboard it. The boat's crew instructed the cruise passengers to head to the bow; however, the boat took on water quickly and the guests had to jump into the water. The cruise passengers reportedly were from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship and a Celebrity ship (the Celebrity Equinox). 

The cruise passengers were reportedly rescued from the water by other boats in the area, 

Local news sources state that none of the cruise passengers were physically injured.

The YouTube video at the bottom shows the bow of the sunken tourist boat bobbing in the water with some of the passengers being rescued. 

There have been several other similar incidents during cruise excursions near Cozumel, Mexico. Just six weeks ago, 95 German cruise poassengers from the Mein Schiff 6 cruise ship were rescued after a catamaran boat began to sink during an excursion, acording to the Baja Post (photo below).  

This mishap occurs just over two weeks after a deadly bus excursion accident near Costa Maya, Mexico when a bus with 11 cruise passengers from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship and a Celebrity Cruises ship was heading towards a Mayan ruins tourist attraction in Chacchoben, in Quintana Roo state, Mexico. 

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Video credit (below): 5to Poder Periodismo ConSentido YouTube page. Image credit (bottom) of November 16, 2017 sinking -  Noticaribe via Baja Post.

 Mexico Excursion Accident

 

P&O Arcadia Lifeboat Accident in Azores

M/S ArcadiaA passenger aboard the P&O Arcadia reports today via the P&O Cruises' Facebook page that a lifeboat has broken from its cabling and has fallen from its davits into the sea while the cruise ship was in Ponta Delgada, Azores.

The passenger (who wishes to remain anonymous) states that "the back appears to have been ripped off and is still hanging from its cradle......" 

He posted two photographs on his Facebook comments to the private page (which he gave permission to post them here). One photograph (bottom) shows the lifeboat being removed from the water and the other photo shows the lifeboat lying damaged on the quayside at the port (middle0. 

There reportedly were five crew members in the lifeboat at the time of the accident. One crew member's injuries are apparently serious enough for the ship employee to be hospitalized.

There have been a number of serious accident involving lifeboats drills during cruises over the years. Virtually all of the accidents involved crew members who were in the lifeboats when they were being lowered or raised during drills.

Last year a lifeboat broke free from the Grandeur of the Seas was in the the port of Charleston, South Carolina. No one was in the lifeboat when it fell into the water.

In September of 2016, two crew members were killed and other crew members were critically injured after a lifeboat fell from the Harmony of the Seas, which was docked in Marseilles, France. Five members of the ship's navigation crew were on board during a drill when the lifeboat became detached and fell ten meters into the water.

Several years ago, the trade organization Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) announced that Arcadia Lifeboat Accidentcruise lines were prohibited by the MLO from raising or lowering lifeboats with crew members aboard. Many cruise lines have ignored this safety rule.

Eight crew members were in a lifeboat during a drill in 2013 on the Thomson Majesty cruise ship when the lifeboat plunged 60 feet into the water. The lifeboat landed upside down. 5 of the crew were killed and 3 were injured.

In July of 2016, a rescue boat drill resulted in the boat falling into the water with four crew members from the Norwegian Breakaway while the cruise ship was in Bermuda. Two crew members were killed and two other seriously injured.

Between these two events, there have been several other lifeboat mishaps. In January of 2016, a cruise ship tender boat on the Balmoral operated by Fred Olsen Lines malfunctioned, during a scheduled boat training drill while the cruise ship was docked in Funchal, Madeira. Fortunately, no one was injured. In August 2015, an excursion boat from the Costa Mediterranea apparently broke a cable while it was being lowered in Montenegro. Photographs sent to me shows what appears to be a lifeboat dangling on the side of the Costa cruise ship. In October 2014, a rescue boat on the Coral Princess was being raised on davits with two crew members aboard when a cable snapped and a crew member was killed.

Word from the passengers on the Arcadia reportedly is that the ship has already left port to continue on with its planned itinerary. 

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January 12, 2018 Update: UK’s National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) demands urgent action over lifeboat safety.

Photo credit: Top - M/S Arcadia -  Politikaner - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia; middle and bottom - anonymous.

Arcadia Lifeboat Accident

Are Failed USPH Cruise Ship Sanitation Inspections Really Rare?

Today, the Miami Herald covered the delayed story of the Carnival Triumph flunking a November 2017 USPH inspection when it received a score of only 78.

The reason why I called the story "delayed" is because Carnival crew members on the Carnival Triumph  talked about the failed USPH score about six weeks before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published its official report. The news first broke about the Triumph flunking the inspection when the crew members tipped off the popular Crew Center web site which first reported USPH Cruise Inspectionsthe story in mid-November of 2017. 

We have also received tips of failed USPH inspections, such as when the Carnival Breeze failed a USPH inspection (receiving a 77) and when the crew members aboard the Silver Shadow his food and galley equipment in crew quarters. 

The Herald characterizes the failed USPH score as "rare," but that seems entirely debatable. The article quotes cruise fanatic Stewart Chiron saying that “as far as a large ship, I couldn’t tell you the last time this happened. That’s how rare this is.”

But the cruise fans forgot about over ten USPH failed inspections in the last few years, starting with the Carnival Breeze just last month (which Carnival has not even acknowledged to date). Then there was also the Carnival Paradise scored just a 83 in June 2017, which the article briefly mentioned.

In addition, the following cruise ships failed USPH inspections in the last four-five years: RCCL's Empress of the Seas- 80 (2016), P&O Oceana - 80 (2016), Carnival Fascination - 84 (2016), Balearia Bahamas Express Bahama Mama cruise ferry - 69 (2015), Silver Shadow - 82 (2015). Norwegian Star - 82 (2014) as well as Celebrity Century - 77 (2013), Celebrity Summit - 81 (2013), and the Silver Shadow - 84 (2013)(yes, it failed twice in two years), Carnival Fascination - 84 (2013, yes it failed twice in three years) and the Golden Princess - 81 (2013), Sea Dream Yacht Club's Sea Dream II - 81 (2013), and the Caribbean Fantasy - 81 (2013). In addition, as the Miami Herald reported, Ponant’s Le Boreal - 84, Peace Boat’s Ocean Dream - 82, Victory Cruise Line’s Victory I - 78, and the Caribbean ferry, Kydon, - 58 all received failing scores in 2017.

20 cruise ships flunked surprise USPH sanitation inspections in five years. That does not seem particularly "rare" to me.

Also, remember that that Carnival crew members stated that the Triumph failed the USPH inspection about six weeks before the agency finally produced the official report. The same thing happened with the Carnival Breeze where crew members have talked about the failed inspection last month to the crew-center website but the CDC has not even published its report yet. 

It seems disconcerting, to me at least, that if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is really concerned about controlling and preventing disease on cruise ships, that it would sit on reports of potential public health hazards on several cruise ships for over a month.

January 5, 2018 Update: A reader left a comment below that the Regent's Seven Seas Navigator received a failing score of 79 (2013) raising the total number of cruise lines which flunked USPH inspection to 21 in the last five years.

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Photo credit: Jim Walker via Ship Life - The Pot Wash Blues

Carnival Triumph Officially Fails USPH Sanitation Inspection

Carnival TriumphThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finally published the report of its sanitation inspection for the Carnival Triumph.  As you can read in the official report posted on the CDC website, the Carnival cruise ship received a failing score of 78. During its November 11, 2017 inspection, USPH inspectors numerous "heavily soiled" food preparation and storage surfaces among other shortcomings in the ship's food service areas. 

A score of 85 or lower is considered a failure. 

Over six weeks ago, the popular Crew Center reported that the "Carnival Triumph failed to pass the recent USPH Inspection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Inspectors boarded the vessel on November 11, at the port of New Orleans, Louisiana, and found multiple violations.  (The) CDC has not yet released an official report on their website, however, several crew members have reported that the final USPH score was 78."

The Triumph has still not filed a corrective actions report with the CDC. 

Earlier this month, we received a similar tip from Carnival crew members after on the Carnival Breeze, failed a USPH inspection in Galveston. According to these crew members, the USPH gave the ship a failing score of only 77. However, as was the case with the Triumph, the CDC did not disclose that the Breeze received a failed score nor did it publish the inspection report.  

We have received similar tips over the years from cruise ship employees, including from crew members on the Silver Shadow where crew members were instructed to hide food, dirty pots & pans and cooking equipment from U.S. health inspectors. The Silversea cruise ship eventually received a failing score of 82. CNN aired a special on the story.

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Photo credit: Whiskey5jda  CC BY-SA 4.0

Royal Caribbean Hikes Gratuities, Again

Shortly after the new year, Royal Caribbean will again increase the automatic gratuities which it charges its passengers. Royal Caribbean will hike the automatic gratuities which it adds onto its guests' accounts (by more than 7%) to $14.50 per person, per day. Passengers who stay in suites will pay even more, $17.50 per person, per day.

USA Today explains that a family of four will now pay more than $400 in automatic gratuities on a 7 night cruise which is one of the highest gratuities in the cruise business. 

The increase is the third in three years at the line. In early 2015, the Royal Caribbean's gratuity fee Royal Caribbean Automatic Gratutieswas $12.

Like rival cruise lines, Royal Caribbean has been drastically increasing its automatic gratuities. USA Today says that Royal Caribbean's gratuity charge has now jumped by nearly 21% since May 2015 (more than five times the rate of inflation). 

Cruise lines suggest that the extra gratuities go to the hard working crew members, but that's hardly true. Crew members used to receive substantially more when passengers used to directly hand them money as tips. Cabin attendants and waiters have stated that the auto gratuities go to the cruise lines which take a cut and distribute some of the money to non-tip earning crew members. 

The Swiss TravelNews site rightly contends that "the passengers indirectly pay a massive wage component of these employees."

Royal Caribbean says that passengers can lower or remove the automatic gratuities by by visiting the Guest Services desk. Expect this to happen, as many passengers don't like to pay gratuities when the service is average or to pay what the cruise lines should already be paying in wages. The same thing happened when Carnival hiked its auto gratuities. Carnival Hikes Pre-Paid Gratuities But Will Passengers Secretly Remove Tips?

We reported on a prior automatic gratuity increase in 2015 in Loyal to Royal? Expect to Pay Higher Gratuities! (And the Money's Not for the Crew). Not coincidentally, CEO Richard Fain has RCL stock now worth over $110,000,000. 

Matt Hochberg's Royal Caribbean Blog as the first to announce the gratuity increase. 

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Scylla's Swiss Crystal Hits a Bridge

Swiss CrystalThe M/S Swiss Crystal river cruise ship collided with a highway bridge on the Rhine river near Duisburg, Germany last night.

The river cruise ship is operated by the Swiss shipping company, SCYLLA AG, which operates several dozen ships on the waterways of Europe.

Press Online reported that nearly 30 people were injured in the accident. The injury tally was reduced to 25 people injured as of this morning, with five sustaining serious injuries. Most of the passengers were reportedly Dutch. 

The 129 people were aboard the vessel, called a "hotel ship," which was traveling towards the Netherlands at the time of the incident. There were 103 guests and 26 crew members on the ship at Swiss Crystalthe time of the accident. There is no indication regarding the break down of those injured. 

About a hour later, another Scylla passenger ship reportedly came to the aid of the Swiss Crystal and took the crew members 103 passengers on board.  The passengers had the opportunity to continue the cruise or stay in hotels reportedly provided by the cruise company. 

European river cruises obviously do not have the same capacity as the larger oceangoing cruise ships, but they are not immune from hitting bridges, noro virus outbreaksfires, and more fires

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Photo credit M/S Swiss Crystal - Scylla (bottom); Press Online (top); Getty Imges BBC News.

Swiss Crystal

Royal Caribbean Cruises Excursion Bus Crash in Mexico - Five Questions

What happened? On December 19, 2017, an excursion bus (identified as tourist bus number 1012, Mercedes Benz, license plates 82 RA7V), operated by a Mexican transportation company on behalf of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., carrying passengers from the Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas and from the Celebrity Equinox (also owned by Royal Caribbean) ran off the road while dirivng to a Mayan ruins tourist attraction in Chacchoben, in Quintana Roo state, Mexico. The accident resulted in the bus flipping over, shattering windows and ejecting some of the passengers onto the road and the shoulder of the road. The two cruise ships sailed from ports in South Florida, with the Equinox leaving from PortMiami and the Serenade leaving from Port Everglades, with both ships arriving at the port of Costa Maya (Mahahual). Royal Caribbean stated via Royal Caribbean Celebrity Cruises Bus Excursion AccidentTwitter that there were 27 passengers aboard the excursion bus (in addition to the bus guide and the bus driver), although the federal police in Mexico stated that there were 31 people on the bus.  

How many guests were killed? Eleven passengers and a Mexican guide were killed in the accident.  

The Swedish and Canadian governments confirmed the deaths of cruise passengers from those countries. There were two passengers from Sweden and one from Canada (from Quebec) who were killed. The U.S. embassy in Mexico City confirmed that there were eight American deaths. There are news accounts of multiple injuries to U.S. passengers as well as Royal Caribbean guests from Canada.

How many guests were injured? The Quintana Roo state prosecutor's office had reported that seven injured tourists had returned to the cruise ships while 13 remained hospitalized, six of them in Tulum and seven in the city of Chetumal, near the Belize border. Of the thirteen people seriously injured, there are three Americans, four Brazilians, three Canadians, and two Swedes (who reportedly have already been flown to the U.S. for medical treatment), as well as the Mexican bus driver. 

How did the accident occur? The cause of the accident remains under investigation. Initial information is that a passenger on another bus which passed the crash site observed skid marks on the dry pavement. According to NBC News, Quintana Roo state prosecutor Miguel Angel Pech Cen Royal Caribbean Bus Excursion Accidentsaid at a news conference that a preliminary investigation indicates that the bus driver's negligence led him to lose control, and when he tried to return back to the narrow highway, the bus flipped, struck a tree and landed in vegetation along the roadside. "Due to a lack of care the driver lost control of the bus' steering to the right, leaving the asphalt," Pech Cen said. He said signs found at the scene indicate the driver was going too fast.

The Associated Press reported via NBC News that Mexican authorities said "driver negligence and excessive speed caused the crash."

Reuters is reporting that the front tire of the bus may have exploded, according to the local police chief in Mexico. 

There is conflicting information regarding the whereabouts of the driver of the excursion bus. Some sources say that the driver has been arrested and will be prosecuted for criminal negligence. Others reports indicate that the driver's whereabouts are not known to Mexican prosecutors. 

At least one passenger (photo left) was quoted as saying that "the seat belts were tied below the seats, no one told us to put them on . . ." This may explain why some of the bus passengers were apparently not restrianed in their seats and were ejected from the bus.

Is Royal Caribbean Responsible? Cruise lines have a legal duty to conduct a through background check into the reputation, qualifications and safety record of the tour operators which they involve in their excursions for their guests. They are legally required under U.S. maritime law to vet the individuals and companies who/which drive their customers in ports of call. Cruise lines also have a legal duty to warn passengers of dangers in foreign ports of call. If other passengers complained that the tour drivers were speeding or driving recklessly or there were no functioning seatbelts available for use by the guests on the buses, then the cruise line had a duty to intervene and correct these dangerous conditions or warn of these dangers. Cruise lines can be held liable in the U.S. court system for accidents which occur in foreign ports of call for the negligent operation of excursion buses operated by the local agents, particularly when the cruise lines misrepresent that the Cruise Bus Excursion Accident - Mexicoexcursions are carefully vetted and safe.

Royal Caribbean operates many thousands of excursions around the world. It would require the cruise line to vet and inspect ten to fifteen foreign cruise excursion and transportation companies around the world each and every day of the year if it were inclined to perform a background check on each tour operator at least once a year. The cruise line does not devote the resources necessary to properly vet and oversee the safe operation of excursions aroud the world, despite the hundreds of millions of tax-free dollars it collects from its passengers who take such cruise excursions. 

There are reports on social media that other cruise customers have experienced unsafe conditions on this excursion before this accident. Posters leaving comments on the popular Cruise Critic site have stated: "We went on probably this same exursion which is down a dirt road at top speeds for 45 minutes. We feared our life and would never do it again . . . " Another poster stated: "This is the exact cruise port and the exact bus tour and the exact road we were on, a week and a half ago . . Speed and driving and safety rules are not the same in other countries. On the way back from the tour, the bus was going extremely fast. I commented that we better hope nothing unexpectedly comes out of bush. It is a lery long, 45 minute straight stretch of road."

A newspaper in Mexico writes regarding the local tour company " . . . is not the first time that (it) is involved in an accident due to the lack of caution of its operators that drive exceeding the speed limits . . ."

What is Royal Caribbean's Excursion Safety Record? There have been at least six bus excursions throughout the Caribbean in the last ten years where Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises passengers have been killed or seriously injured. You can read more about prior cruise excursion accidents here.

Cruise lines collect hundreds of millions of dollars promoting and selling shore excursions in foreign ports of call, and are not even subject to U.S. taxes on this highly profitable business.  Yet, they claim that their local agents are "independent contractors" who are not subject to jurisdiction here in the U.S. when their cruise guests are injured or killed during these excursions.  

Read: Fort Lauderdale's Sun Sentinel: Can cruise lines ensure shore excursions they offer are safe? 

Read: NBC News:  Mexico tourist bus crash: Survivors heading home, 2 victims ID’d.

Image credit:  Celebrity Equinox (top) - CBS News; cruise passenger (middle) - Time magazine; scene of accident (bottom) - CBS News; video below - CBS News; Facebook loading page of Serenade of the Seas by Sunnya343 CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.  

Bus Accident in Mexico Kills 12 Cruise Passengers from Celebrity Equinox and Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas

Multiple news sources are reporting that at least twelve people died when a bus carrying anywhere from twenty-seven to thirty-one cruise passengers on an excursion to Mayan ruins in eastern Mexico flipped over on a highway earlier today. Additional cruise passengers, with some sources suggesting up to eighteen people, were also injured in the accident.  

The excursion bus was heading from Costa Maya to the ruins at Chacchoben, about 110 miles south of Tulum in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. The majority of the passengers were reportedly from the Serenade of the Seas

The photos and videos of the incident show many passengers lying in the road or beside the overturned bus, indicating that many people in the bus may not have been furnished with working seatbelts and they were ejected when the bus overturned. Unfortunately, we have seen this situation in other cruise line excursion bus cases, including those operated on behalf of Royal Caribbean/Celebrity Cruises. 

There have been a large number of excursion bus accidents involving Royal Caribbean and its sister Mexico Excursion Bus Crashcruise line, Celebrity Cruises.

In 2015, Celebrity passengers from the Celebrity Summit were killed and injured in an excursion bus accident in Tortola.

In 2012, there were two cruise excursion bus crashes in Caribbean islands, both involving Royal Caribbean passengers. Royal Caribbean cruise passengers from the Serenade of the Seas were injured during an excursion in St. Thomas. A Royal Caribbean sponsored excursion tour bus crashed in St. Martin and injured passengers from the Freedom of the Seas.

In 2009, a dozen passengers from Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity 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."

Cruise lines face legal liability when passengers are injured or killed during sponsored excursions. Cruise lines have a duty to vet the excursions companies and warn of dangers in the road conditions and driving in foreign ports of call. Cruise lines can also be held responsible for negligent hiring and retention of the transportation companies and for vicarious liability based on theories of agency. 

You can search this blog for other discussions of numerous cruise ship excursion bus accidents

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The Miami Herald quotes our firm in 12 reported dead as tourist bus crashes in Mexico.

December 20, 2017 Update:  A local newspaper in Mexico writes that the local tour company  " . . .  is not the first time that (it) is involved in an accident due to the lack of caution of its operators that drive exceeding the speed limits . . ."  ABC Radio reported the acccount of a passenger who travelled to the same excursion site, saying ... "one of the sides of the bus was 'smashed' after it fell on its side and that the 'whole windshield was gone . . . “The seat belts were tied below the seats, so no one told us to put the seat belts on . . . '”  

A Mexican newspaper quoted the national police that the death toll has increased: "there were 15 deaths, 14 tourists and 1 Mexican guide, 11 died on the spot and 4 on the way to the hospital."

The Washington Post reoports that a Mexican state prosecutor alleges that the deadly bus crash was caused by the driver’s negligence and excessive speed of the bus. 

Photo credit: TV AZTECA (top); Video image -  7 cty youtube (middle); video - AP via Miami Herald (bottom). 

Mexico Royal Caribbean & Celerity Cruises Bus Excusion Accident

 

 

Passenger Medevaced From Carnival Spirit

A Westpac rescue helicopter medevaced a passenger from a Carnival cruise ship off the coast of New South Wales (NSW), Australia yesterday .

The 40-year-old passenger was reportedly suffering a stroke on the Carnival Spirit cruise ship about 50 miles from Port Macquarie on NSW's mid-north coast. The rescue helicopter winched the passenger from the Spirit and airlifted her to Newcastle's John Hunter Hospital for further treatment.

There have been a number of medevacs from the Carnival Spirit cruising around Australia in this past year. 

A Westpac helicopter flown by the NSW Ambulance and Australian Maritime Safety Authority reportedly medevaced a 32-year-old male passenger from the Carnival Spirit a week ago.

Photo credit: Carnival Spirit - coffscoastadvocate.

Carnival Spirit

 

Medevac from AIDAblu in Rough Weather

The Portuguese Air Force medevaced a passenger from the AIDAblu cruise ship which was 257 kilometers from Montijo, Portugal. The rescue took place under adverse weather conditions, described as strong winds of approximately knots, and waves of eight meters. 

The medevac involved a  a 47-year-old man in need of urgent medical care iof an undisclosed nature.

AIDAblu is operated by the German cruise line, AIDA Cruises.

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NTSB Blames Master of Celebrity Infinity for Crash into Ketchikan Dock

NTSB Report Ketchikan Accident Celebrity InfinityThe National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the probable cause of the Celebrity Infinity’s allision with a dock last year in Ketchkan, Alaska was the master’s failure to plan, monitor, and execute a safe docking maneuver.

You can read the NTSB report here. A photo from the NTSB report is to the left.

Last year, we reported on the allision in Alaska. As you can see in the video below, posted on YouTube by Maria Harvey, the cruise ship smashed into a dock at berth 3 in Ketchikan.

The NTSB concluded that bad weather played a factor in the mishap. The wind was gusts were as high as 50 mph. The master also admitted that he did not know that tug boats were available for assistance in the docking.

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Spy Camera and Transmitter in Carnival Fantasy Cabin U 160 - Video Voyeurism?

Spy Cam Carnival FantasyIn October of this year, a couple from Northern Florida went on a three-day cruise on the Carnival Fantasy out of Mobile. On the last evening of the cruise, to their shock and horror, they discovered a small video camera hidden in the bundled cables, behind the television in their cabin, which pointed toward their bed.

A photo of a cabin similar to cabin U 160 on the Fantasy (middle, right), shows the television in the corner of the cabin.      

The camera was wired to a transmitter and both devices were powered from the television power cable.  They became concerned that video images of them undressed had been transmitted, recorded and viewed by others and possibly uploaded to the internet. They were especially fearful that images of their 10 year-old child dressing and undressing in the cabin were also transmitted, recorded and viewed by others.

The couple reported the presence of the camera and transmitter in their cabin to the cruise ship’s security department. One of Carnival’s security personnel arrived in their cabin. He disconnected and removed the camera and transmitter with no gloves on and did not attempt to secure the room. In the video below, you can hear the passenger asking the officer why he was not wearing gloves.

The passenger thereafter communicated with the security staff to obtain an update. According to the passengers, the Carnival security personnel confirmed that the camera and transmitter: (1) were operational; (2) were typically the type of devices used on video drones: and (3) the transmitter was a long range device.

To the passenger's knowledge, Carnival did not promptly report the incident to the Federal Bureau of Carnival Fantasy Cabin U 160 Investigation (FBI). The passenger learned that Carnival notified the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), although the CBP told the concerned passenger that it had no jurisdiction over the matter and it took no action.

The passengers have heard absolutely nothing from Carnival about these troubling circumstances since returning from the cruise two months ago. They contacted my office and I sent a letter to Carnival asking for an explanation, which Carnival has ignored for the past month.

The passengers did not seek any type of compensation but were concerned that the Carnival security team did not properly investigate the incident, did not properly preserve the cabin and the video and transmitter therein and, in fact, spoliated this evidence, and failed to timely report the circumstances described above to the FBI as required by law. They remain concerned that they were not the only victims of this secret recording and transmitting equipment, placed in their cabin on the Carnival cruise ship, and that other Carnival guests had their privacy invaded.

18 U.S. Code § 1801 (“Video Voyeurism”) states that it is a crime to have “the intent to capture an image of a private area of an individual without their consent . . .” (and the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy). The term “capture” is defined as “to videotape, photograph, film, record by any means, or broadcast” and the term “broadcast” means to "electronically transmit a visual image with the intent that it be viewed by a person or persons."

In a statement to the Miami New Times, which covered the disturbing incident, a Carnival PR representative recently claimed that the recording and transmiting equipment were alledgedly "not operational."  That's not what the passenger recalls hearing on the ship. It begs the question why Carnival didn't communicate with the family after they returned home from the cruise and why the cruise line ignored Carnival Fantasy Cabin U 160 Spy Cam & Transmitterour request for an explanation. Of course, the presence of the recording and transmitting equipment shows an intent to record and transmit, which is clearly a crime.    

Carnival disassembled the devices without permitting the FBI or the local police conduct an investigation. In addition to the federal statute, Alabama has a state statute similar to 18 U.S. Code § 1801. The state statute would apply to any intent to secretely record and transmitt images within the state territorial waters of Alabama.   

I have heard of video spy cameras in hotels, spas and bathrooms before, but admittedly not in cruise cabins before this case. The Miami New Times article accurately quotes me - " The more I was thinking about it, it got me thinking: How often does this happen? . . . How many other passengers are being secretly recorded?"

Indeed, how long had the spy equipment been installed in cabin U 160 on the Carnival Fantasy, how many other passengers in this cabin have been videotaped in the past, and how many passengers have been videotaped on other cruise ships?  

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December 18, 2017 Update: Carnival, the "Poop Cruise," Becomes the "Pervert Cruise?"

Photo credit: Carnival Fantasy cabin (similar to cabin U 160) - cruiseline.com 

Crew Member Missing From Vision of the Seas

Vision of the SeasToday, several passengers contacted me to ask for information regarding a Royal Caribbean crew member who apparently disappeared from the Vision of the Seas last week.

On Friday, December 9, 2017, the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, which had left from Galveston, Texas earlier in the week, made announcements that a crew member could not be accounted for on the ship as of the early evening. The crew member has apparently checked into his job in the early morning hours but had disappeared sometime thereafter. A ship-wide search was conducted without success. 

There was speculation that high winds and rough seas may have played a part in the crew member going overboard. 

There is no indication that the ship stopped or turned around to conduct a search in the water. Unfortunately, the scenario fits a typical pattern when a crew member goes over the rails unwitnessed late at night or in the early hours of the morning on a Royal Caribbean ship.  Royal Caribbean has not invested in the available automatic man-overboard technology (using heat sensors or infrared or motion detection and radar technology) which can send a signal to the bridge, capture the image of the person going overboard, and track the person by radar in the water.  Instead, the ship will conduct a cabin search for the missing person, review closed-circuit television images and often do not perform a search at sea. 

As I recently explained in an article about MSC Cruises recently implementing this technology, MSC Cruises Implements New Man Overboard System Amidst Industry Delays, over 22 people on average disappear each year from cruise ships, and only 13.8% are saved. Unfortunately, the cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Organization (CLIA), has chosen to minimize cruise disappearances by misleading PR releases rather than devoting financial resources toward improving safety. Most cruise lines do not invest in MOB systems which do not return a direct financial profit to the penny-pinching cruise industry.

Ironically, the Miami Herald today wrote an article styled Technology is About to Change the Future of Cruising which omitted any discussion about using existing technology to comply with the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act which required the implementation of such life-saving technology.

Royal Caribbean is one of the cruise lines which will never respond to requests for information from us about disappearances of crew or passengers or other mishaps at sea.

Should you have any information about this disappearance, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page

December 12, 2017 Update: Galveston Daily News Crew member missing from Vision of the Seas. A news station in Galveston reported that the missing crew member was a pool attendant from Mauritius (video below).

Photo Credit: Pjotr Mahhonin - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia. 

Former NCL Cruise Executives Square Off in Trial in Miami-Dade Courthouse: But What About the Dead Filipino Crew Members?

Former Norwegian Cruise Line ("NCL") CEO Colin Veitch's trial against his successor, Kevin  Sheehan, and their old cruise line, NCL, for defamation and breach of contract has been underway in the Miami-Dade County courthouse, here in Miami, Florida this past week.

Veitch worked at the helm of NCL from 2000 to 2008. According to Travel Weekly, Veitch was the architect of "Freestyle Cruising" and undertook an ambitious fleet renewal program, purchasing nine new cruise ships. By some accounts, but  not all, Veitch was an innovative cruise executive who was successful in beginning the transformation of under-performing old cruise ships into a larger and far more profitable fleet. 

Veitch turned the revitalized cruise line over to Sheehan in 2008. Things turned sour between the two NCL Colin Veitchrich cruise executives after a travel periodical, Travel Weekly, wrote a glowing article in December of 2014 about Veitch and his success at NCL. Sheehan then sent an email to Travel Weekly mocking the article and criticizing Veitch. The Miami Herald reported at the time, quoting the lawsuit allegations, that Sheehan sent a “vindictive, false and defamatory” email to Travel Weekly which eventually published. A few days later, Travel Weekly retracted the complimentary article about Veitch.

Veitch then sued Sheehan and NCL alleging defamation, as well as breach of contract, claiming that his former cruise line and its new CEO allegedly cheated him out of revenue sharing. 

The overblown 187-page lawsuit which you can review here is, in my opinion, a rather fascinating insight into the hurt-feelings and out-of-control personalities of two multi-millionaire former NCL cruise executives.

The lawsuit which Veitch filed against Sheehan included allegations which have been characterized by the Skift travel publication as "incendiary" accusations that Mr. Sheehan engaged in “a long pattern of personal and professional misconduct and recklessness, stunning in its scope and hubris, corrosive and detrimental in its impact on the company, and deeply undermining of the workplace culture . . . ” 

In response, Mr. Sheehan and NCL asked the court to strike what they characterized as "immaterial, impertinent and scandalous" allegations. 

The bitter personal allegations between these two former cruise executives arise from a nasty dispute between two very wealthy former cruise executives.  When Mr. Veitch resigned from NCL's parent company, Star Cruises, he reportedly received $10,000,000 as part of a severance package. He also settled a $300,000,000 lawsuit which he filed against Sir Richard Branson and the Virgin Group after he alleged that the British billionaire and his company stole his ideas for a new cruise project. The precise amount of money that Veitch pocketed is confidential. 

Kevin SheehanSheehan also received a severance package from NCL in 2015 after it terminated his employment, totaling $13,400,000.

The many articles written by trade publications and major newspapers in Miami. like the Miami Herald and the Miami New Times, have covered the Veitch-Sheehan squabbles at length, but they are ignoring the biter irony of the litigation. Veitch was the NCL CEO in 2003 when a decrepit, poorly maintained steam boiler on NCL's 40+ year-old SS Norway exploded at the port of Miami. The explosion killed eight crew members and seriously burned another nineteen NCL crew members.

The National Transportation Safety Board ("NTBS") concluded that the deadly boiler explosion was caused by NCL's "improper operation, maintenance and inspection" of the old cruise ship's steam chamber. The old boiler had "extensive fatigue cracking" and deteriorated materials that weakened the metal and caused it to rupture under pressure. The NTSB reported that NCL was aware of the dangerous condition but failed to take action to fix the problem. 

CEO Veitch tried to deflect blame but NCL was forced to plead guilty to a criminal charge of gross negligence regarding the explosion. The Norway was subsequently sold for scrap.

When the families of the eight dead crew members who were scalded to death filed suit in Miami to obtain compensation for the loss of their fathers and husbands, Veitch's lawyers argued that the crew members were not entitled to file suit before a judge and jury in Miami. Instead, NCL argued, because the crew members were Filipinos, their loved ones had to pursue the extremely limited death benefits pursuant to the arbitration process in the Philippines. 

Kicking "foreign" (i.e., non-U.S.) crew members out of the American legal system was unprecedented.  Foreign crew members injured or killed due to the negligence of U.S. based shipping companies have long been permitted to have their cases resolved through jury trials under the Jones Act here in the U.S. In addition to the Jones Act, crew members have also been entitled to obtain medical treatment and daily living expenses when they are injured aboard U.S. based cruise ships Norway Boiler Explosionunder the "maintenance and cure" doctrine, one of the oldest legal American legal doctrines dating back to the early 1800's. 

But NCL, which faced substantial liability and damages for the deaths of eight crew members and nearly twenty other ship employees burned in the explosion, sought to dismiss the cases, arguing that their only remedy was the limited benefits under the Filipino law. NCL argued that Miami was not the proper location to resolve the dispute even though it is based in Miami and the deaths occurred at the port of Miami.  In Batista v. Star Cruises, our federal court agreed with NCL and sent the cases to Manila, where Filipino law limited the widows to just $50,000 and the children to just $7,500 for the loss of their dead husbands/fathers.

Like "freestlye cruising," NCL's unprecedented legal posturing has also been copied by NCL's competitors Carnival, Royal Caribbean and all other cruise lines, which quickly inserted one-sided arbitration clauses into their crew member employment agreements to escape or limit their liability when things go wrong on the high seas. 

Except for Disney Cruises, all other cruise lines prohibit injured crew members from having their cases heard by juries in the U.S. legal system. Filipino seafarers are especially susceptible to being screwed by the Miami-based cruise lines, thanks to NCL's efforts which started under Veitch's tenure. 

During the trial last week at the Miami-Dade courthouse, where NCL crew members are barred from filing suit, Veitch's lawyer reportedly asked the jury to consider awarding $95,000,000 in damages, according to Court View Network (CVN). That may be a proper amount to finally compensate the families of the eight Filipino crew members who were burned to death on the SS Norway back in 2003, but it seems to be an awful lot for a healthy, millionaire former cruise executive with hurt feelings. 

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

December 11, 2017 UpdateAs reported by the Miami Business Review today, Norwegian Cruise Line Defeats $90M Lawsuit From Former CEO.

Photo credits:

Colin Veitch: Associated Press via the Honolulu Star-Bulletin

Kevin Sheehan: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid.

SS Norway: News7 Miami via CBS News video.

P&O Cancels Oriana Cruise in January 2018

Oriana P&O Cruises Senior Vice President Paul Ludlowon posted a comment on the P&O Facebook page announcing the cancellation of a cruise aboard the Oriana (voyage X801). P&O says that the Oriana will "undergo three week technical maintenance from January 6 2018."

Mr. Ludlowon writes that "as a result we will be canceling this cruise . . .  and we are extremely sorry for the late notice and disruption."

215 comments about the cancellation of the 50-night itinerary were posted on the P&O website as of this morning. P&O intended to visit 13 different countries during the "Caribbean & Amazon Adventure" cruise.

P&O offered just a 5% future cruise credit. Many disappointed customers complained about P&O's meager compensation offer. One person wrote that the offer "is hardly generous given the inconvenience this is causing passengers like us." P&O response to this comment was typical to P&O's non-negotiable response to the problem - "We are sorry you are disappointed by this however this will be our only offer in terms of compensation."

P&O did not offer any explanation of the details of the so-called "technical maintenance." Many cruise lines use this euphemism to refer to engine, propeller or other propulsion-related problems. P&O referred to a "technical issue" in a statement when the Oriana's arrival in Southampton was delayed seven weeks ago due to a boiler problem. 

The Oriana underwent a cosmetic refit one year ago. 

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Photo credit: Antonio from Trieste, Italy, CC BY 2.0, commons / wikimedia.

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger From the Norwegian Dawn

The U.S. Coast Guard medevaced an ill passenger a NCL cruise ship about 55 miles off the North Carolina coast today.

The Norwegian Dawn contacted the Coast Guard around 6:15 a.m., requesting a medevac for a 56-year-old male passenger who was experiencing stroke-like symptoms, according to the Carteret County News-Times

"This was our second medevac from this cruise ship in the past two weeks," Chief Petty Officer Shannon Brugh said to the newspaper.

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, which was launched from Air Station Elizabeth City, hoisted the man and flew him to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia.

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Video credit: U.S. Coast Guard video by Air Station Elizabeth City.

Passenger Overboard from the Silja Serenade

I received information from multiple sources that a male passenger reportedly went overboard from the Silja Serenade late at night (around 2:00 A.M.) this past Monday, allegedly after a disagreement with other guests on the ship. 

Newspapers in Finland have reported on the incident. One newspaper indicates that a Coast Guard rescue center in Turku received an emergency call from the ship that a person went overboard. Three other passenger ships were reportedly alerted to search for the missing passenger.  A helicopter from Sweden and Navy patrol boats from Kökar and Mariehamn were also called to participate. The search was canceled at around 5:45 A.M. without success. 

Another newspaper reported that the incident occurred in the northern Baltic Sea. The passenger went overboard from the ship's twelfth deck, and fell approximately 30 meters. The water temperature was reportedly around 10 degrees. The man had just left one of the ship's discos just before the incident.  

A passenger last went overboard from a cruise / ferry operated by the Tallink Silja group two years ago. 

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

November 22, 2017 Update: Seems that the disappearance from the Silja Serenade last week involved a 21 year old Portuguese student?

Photo credit: Wladyslaw Sojka commons / wikimedia.

Silja Serenade
 

 

RCCL Chairman Richard Fain Cashed Stock Worth Around $2,500,000

Richard Fain Royal Caribbean Royal Caribbean top executive Richard Fain reportedly sold 20,000 shares of Royal Caribbean (RCL) stock this week for a total amount of approximately $2,500,000.

In a transaction this past Monday, November 13th, he sold his shares at an an average price of $123.76, for a total value of $2,475,200.00. CEO Fain officer reportedly now owns 895,416 shares of his cruise company’s stock, valued at around $110,816,684.16. 

In August 2017, Mr. Fain sold over $24,000,000 of Royal Caribbean stock. 

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

Interested in this issue? Read Cruise Executive Richard Fain Hits the Jackpot Again.

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean Press Center

Is Cruising to the Middle East Safe?

Bloomberg published an article today titled Why the Cruise Industry Is Booming in the Middle East.

The lighthearted article casually mentions that passengers on the "fancy, all-inclusive Seabourn Encore were enjoying martinis and opera around the pool" off the coast of Somalia "where pirates occasionally hijack cargo ships" when an alarm sounded indicating that a small motorboat approached their cruise ship. "Onto the cruise ship climbed several burly security guards with cases of 'conventional weapons,' which would provide, as the captain explained, an added layer of protection for a potentially tricky passage."

The article states  that a week later, near Abu Dhabi, another alarm sounded, signaling the arrival ofMiddle East Cruise another boat. The small boat was stocked with tins of caviar and champagne for the cruise ship guests to enjoy "in the warm surf of a private beach."

The rest of the article didn't mention the risk of encountering pirates, and there was no mention of the danger of terrorism. Instead, the article was filled with stories of wonderful exotic getaways into Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Muscat where, the articles says, luxury travelers from an Azamara cruise ship on an excursion ashore spent "a night in Louis Vuitton tents set up in a Bedouin community in the desert."  The publication also talks about visiting "opulent mosques and labyrinthine souks" and enjoying camel rides in the desert as part of the cultural immersion and authentic experiences of the Middle East.   

The article characterized the Middle East as a "goldmine" in the eyes of the cruise lines, given the lucrative excursions and the cruise lines' ability to move their European fleets to the Middle East in winter.  

But the article misses the mark by ignoring the risk of cruise ship passengers being victims of terrorism.   

Several dozens of cruise passengers from cruise ships operated by MSC and Costa were slaughtered by terrorists visiting a museum in Tunis two years ago.   

In the last year, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen rebels attacked a naval ship from the United Arab Emirates and a frigate from U.S.-backed Saudi Arabia off the western coast of Yemen. Videos of the attacks show large explosions which were believed to be the result of a missile strike Cruise Red Sea Missle Attack Houhti Yemenand/or a suicide mission by another vessel.

The attacks occurred in the southern part of the Red Sea, north of the Bah Al-Mandab straits which is a pinch-point between the Red Sea, flanked by Saudi Arabia on the east and Egypt to the west, and the Gulf of Aden to the south. Cruise ships sailing to and from the Mediterranean and to or from the Indian Sea pass through these straits.

In the last few days, Shia rebels in Yemen have launched long range missile attacks on Saudi Arabia, illustrating the continuing dangers in that area of the world.  

Security guards with a few conventional weapons may be able to fend off pirates attempting to board a cruise ship trying to run the Bah Al-Mandab straits, but they will be useless if the Houthi rebels intentionally target a cruise ship sailing in the Red Sea, or mistakenly believe that a cruise ship is a U.S.-backed Saudi or UAE naval ship.

Considering the dangers, the intrigue of visiting the Middle East does not seem to be worth the risk.  

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

Photo credits: Top - Bloomberg via Seaborn; bottom - Yemen's pro-Houthi Al Masirah television station shows launch by Houthi forces of a ballistic missile aimed at Saudi Arabia's King Khaled Airport. - Houthi Military Media Unit via Reuters and CBC.

Noro on the Anthem?

A local news station in Philadelphia reports on a recent gastrointestinal outbreak on the Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas.

ABC-6 reports that a family from Philadelphia returned from a 7-night cruise aboar the Anthem which departed Cape Liberty, New Jersey on Saturday, November 4th. The news stations reports that on the second day of the seven day cruise, "rumors of the virus started circulating . . . and started to spread fast. Workers could be seen spraying the narrow hallways, but it was apparently spreading like wildfire." 

A newlywed woman and her husband and several of her family members became ill with symptoms of a gastrointestinal virus. 

The family complained to the news stations that "some hand sanitizing stations ... didn't have any Royal Caribbean Norovirussanitizer available to us, there were out of soap at certain sinks, there were no sanitizing stations at the elevators . . the ship's managers (didn't take) enough measures to stop the spread of the virus, which is not airborne but rather comes from personal touch with others or germs left on surfaces."

Royal Caribbeaan confirmed that "were a total of 98 reported cases of gastro-intestinal illness symptoms, which represents 1.9 percent of the 4,905 guests and crew onboard." 

The CDC's Vessel Sanitation Plan requires cruise ships to send a separate notification when the GI illness count exceeds 2% of the total number of passengers or crew onboard. Cruise ship outbreak updates are posted on the CDC website only when 3% or more of the passengers and crew report symptoms to the ship informary during the cruise.

Because there were less than than 2% of the passengers and crew members reported ill during the cruise, the CDC will not list the outbreak on its official cruise ship Outbreak Updates page.

A couple of take-aways from this article. First, how many passengers did not dislose their symptoms to the ship doctor?

Secondly, there is no indication that the outbreak is related to norovirus, which cannot be confirmed until there is scientific analysis of the infected passengers' stool samples, which will not be done because the CDC is not involved.

Thirdly, the local news station is wrong that GI virus outbreaks can't occur through airborne transmission. Two years ago, in an article titled Norovirus Spreads by Air on Cruise Ships, I discussed that researchers have concluded that norovirus can spread by air, according to a publication in the highly respected Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Finally, don't call us if you get sick on a cruise. Establising where the virus came from, or that the cruise line was negligent, is virtually impossible to prove, especially since the CDC conducts no epidemiological analysis and sometimes can't even figure out the source of the outbreak

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

Read: Gastrointestinal Outbreak on the Crown Princess, Again.

Gastrointestinal Outbreak on the Crown Princess, Again

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that there was a gastrointestinal outbreak on the Crown Princess during its recent cruise, from October 25th to November 8, 2017. The Princess cruise ship departed Quebec, Canada on October 25th for a two-week cruise to Canadian and U.S. ports. The cruise ship arrived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on November 8th and will begin its Caribbean season.

According to the CDC report, 184 passengers and 12 crew members became ill with gastro-like symptoms which included diarrhea.  

During the period from 2010 to the current date, Princess Cruises experienced the most outbreaks on iCrown Princess Princess Cruises Norovirusts cruise ships calling on U.S. ports, according to the CDC. Princess reported twenty-one (21) cases to the CDC during this time period.

The Crown Princess alone has suffered through six (6) norovirus outbreaks since 2010 to the present. Before the current GI outbreak, the last norovirus outbreak on the Crown Princess was from January 3 - 18, 2016 and, before that, from October 18 to November 16, 2014. Earlier, there was a norovirus and e-coli outbreak from February 5 to 12, 2014. It also experienced back-to-back norovirus outbreaks from January 29 to February 4, 2012 and February 4 to February 9, 2012 (photo right).

The cruise line with the second most outbreaks is Holland America Line with 18 cases of GI sicknesses reported to the CDC since 2010. HAL suffered norovirus outbreaks on the Nieuw Amsterdam, and two outbreaks each on the Volendam and the Noordam this year.  

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? Are guests of HAL the second most unhygienic cruisers? Do they wash their hands the least of any cruisers? This seems like absurd arguments 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? 

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. The CDC has not even determined the type of virus involved in the most recent outbreak on the Crown Princess.  

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.

Whoever is to blame, the crew members, of course, always pay the price, by having to wipe and scrub and spray everything in sight for long 16+ hour days to try to disinfect a ship longer than three football fields.

Irrespective of the blame-game, don't call us if you get sick on a cruise. Proving where the virus came from, or that the cruise line was negligent, is virtually impossible to prove, especially since the CDC conducts no epidemiological analysis and sometimes can't even figure out whether the outbreak is due to norovirus, e-coli or something as exotic as shigella sonnei or cyclospora cayetanensis

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

Read: Why Do the Cruise Lines Always Blame the Passengers When Norovirus Breaks Out?

Oceania Crew Members Pay the Price When Norovirus Hits.

Photo credit: WPTV (2012 noro outbreak); Royal Caribbean crew members (anonymous crew member).

Sick Passenger Medevaced from Grandeur of the Seas

Medevac CruiseAccording to Florida Today, aircrews from Patrick Air Force Base medevaced an ill passenger from the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas yesterday.

The Grandeur was en route to to Baltimore, Maryland when the air force base was requested to assist in evacuating a passenger reportedly suffering from appendicitis on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship. The cruise ship was approximately 690 miles off of Cape Canaveral, according to the article. (Although the video information suggests that the ship was about 500 miles from Brevard County). 

The long-range rescue "involved HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and 2 HC-130 aerial refueling aircraft" to reach the cruise ship vessel, according to representatives of the 920th Rescue group.

The U.S. Coast Guard was not involved in the operation, according to Coast Guard officials.

According to the article, the passenger was accompanied by his spouse aboard the rescue helicopter, and flown to Holmes Regional Medical Center, in Melbourne Florida, where he reportedly is recovering,

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November 10, 2017 Update: How the Air Force Carried Out a Daring Rescue of an Ailing Cruise Ship Passenger

 

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Lindsey Maurice via Florida Today.     

 

Cruise Lines Continue to Support the Bloody Faroe Islands, Despite Whale Slaughter

The tourist board of the Faroe Islands blocked me from accessing its Twitter page "Visit Faroe Islands" (@VisitFaroe) a couple of years ago after I pointed out that the cruise industry still sails its ships there despite the cruel tradition of slaughtering hundreds of pilot whales a year. I'm still blocked today by the Faroes tourism people and the sadistic and bloodthirsty practice still continues. Cruise lines still take their largely clueless guests to the Faroes and promote tours ashore.

The Faroes tourism website features a large photo (below) of a cruise ship and encourages visitors to visit by cruise or ferry.

I say don't @VisitFaroe . . . 

Beware, the images below (after the cruise ship), taken by the Sea Shepard volunteers, are gruesome.

Faroe Islands Cruise Travel      As I explained in Cruise Line Support Mass Murder of Whales in Faroe Islands, the local residents of the Faroe Islands massacre around 1,000 pilot whales a year. But these are not far-out-at-sea murders by huge Japanese ships away from civilization. These are well attended sporting events where the residents of the Faroes chase pods of the whales in motorized boats into a harbor and the locals hack at the whales with knives while their family members cheer them on. The whales suffer fear as they are separated from their families and die an agonizing death.  The locals call it the "Grindadráp" or the "Grind."' I call it the killing of families of defenseless mammals for fun by sick sociopaths. Here's what one person described:

"The whales are dragged to the shallow water, where participants in the kill then wade in the sea to around waist height. There they are slaughtered with traditional knives whose blades are usually 16 to 19 cm (6.3 to 7.5 in) long. Usually two deep cuts are made on either side of the animal’s neck, just Faroe Islands Cruise Travelbehind the blow hole, causing the head to drop forward; a third cut is then made through the middle of the neck down to the carotid arteries and spinal cord, which are severed. After a period of violent thrashing the animal is paralyzed and loses consciousness, dying of blood loss in most cases. With this the sea turns bright red with blood."

Mother whales are gutted and their baby whales ripped out.

Yesterday Fox News covered the horrific slaughter, showing images (video below), taken by Sea Sheperd volunteers, of the gruesome killing of these highly social mammals. It was the first time, to my knowledge, that a major U.S. television network focused on the gruesome slaughter. Many other newspapers in Europe are also carrying the disturbing images, like the Independent, Daily Mail, and the Metro

All of the major cruise lines still cruise to ports in the Faroes and profit by selling sell shore excursions to their guests. The local tour operators receive substantial income from the cruise line passengers.

The Bad Guys:

NCL promotes excursions to Torshavn, described as the "colorful capital city" of the Faroe Islands featuring es a "panoply of Nordic landscapes, with fjords, straits, deep green valleys, and a wonderful harbor dotted with colorful boats."  But no mention, of course, of the horrific whale slaughters.

Princess Cruises encourages it guests to buy tours to the Faroes with its "rough-hewn coastlines, towering sea cliffs, emerald-green valleys, and quaint grass-roofed villages," saying that the "air is Faroe Islands Cruise Travelsome of the cleanest in the world and the abundant sea birds chatter from every cliff and cove." But the cruise line obviously doesn't mention that the quaint "red-haired, freckle-faced Faroese people" murder hundreds of whales a year.  

Oceania Cruises joins parent company NCL in selling cruises to the Faroe Islands, characterizing the port of Torshavn as a "picturesque fishing town." 

Cunard makes money by convincing its guests to buy outings to the "colourfully painted wooden houses of the old town (of Torshavn) with turfed roofs." The captain of the  Queen Victoria is a native of the Faroe Islands and there was great fanfare when he sailed the Cunard cruise liner into the port of Klaksvik in the Faroes.

Other cruise lines which are on the Bloody-Faroes-Wall-of-Shame: Royal CaribbeanHolland America LineP&O Cruises, Regent Seven SeasViking Ocean Cruises, Seabourn, Windstar, Silversea, Royal Caribbean owned TUI CruisesNoble Caledonia, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Polar Cruises, and Smyril Line.  

The Good Guys:

A few cruise lines have discontinued supporting cruises to the deadly Faroes Islands in protest of the annual slaughter of pilot whales, namely two German lines, Hapag-Lloyd and AIDA. Disney Cruises also decided not to cruise to the Faroes after it learned of the ground swell of opposition to such a barbaric practice. So kudos to Hapag-Lloyd, AIDA and Disney which all decided to end their business Faroe Islands Cruise Travelrelationship with the Faroes. 

The public awareness of the barbaric, grisly practice is due to the tireless hard work of volunteers at the Sea Shepard organization.   

The residents of the Faroes defend their deadly practice of killing whales by pointing to their "heritage and tradition" of eating whale meat. (Read: Faroe Islands ‘cherish’ their bloody whale-hunting tradition).

But the Faroe Islands has a high standard of living today, and the whale meat is high in toxins and dangerous to eat anyway.

Cruelty for a long time is hardly a tradition.   

Most cruise passengers seem not to be aware of this cruelty. The violence inflicted on these sentient mammals is cruel and unconscionable. I say don't patronize cruises to this group of bloody islands or support cruise lines which do.

Follow Sea Shepherd Global - Operation Bloody Fjords Eyewitness Account.

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Photo credit: Top - Faroe Islands Tourism; others - Sea Shepherd Global; video - Sea Shepherd Global via FOX News.    

 

 

Despite Tighter Travel Restrictions, Cruise Lines Continue to Cruise to Cuba

Today, the Trump administration announced new regulations restricting travel to Cuba. 

According to the Miami Herald, U.S. citizens will be banned from engaging in business with entities tied to the Cuban military, intelligence and security services, including hotels, stores, marinas, tourist agencies, and industries tied to the Cuban government. 

The regulations, however, do not restrict cruise lines operating to Cuba as they are currently doing.

Cruise CubaThe Herald writes that President Trump’s new travel restrictions were drafted with input from Miami anti-Castro Republicans, Representative Mario Diaz-Balart and Senator Marco Rubio, who previously opposed cruise ships going to Cuba.

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Photo credit: ALEXANDRE MENEGHINI / REUTERS via NY Daily News.

Venice Finally Restricts Cruise Ships

Venice and Cruise ShipsItalian Transport Minister Graziano Delrio announced that cruise ships of certain tonnage will be stopped from cruising through the city's Giudecca Canal around the historic St Mark's Square. In "three or four years," large cruise ships of certain displacement will have to go to the north to the industrial port city of Marghera. Some newspapers report that the restriction will apply to ships of over 55,000 tons  whereas other newspapers state that the limitation will apply to ships over 100,000 tons

This comes after complaints from environmental groups, protests from local residents, and warnings from UNESCO which has labeled the fragile city of Venice as at risk from deterioration by large ships as well as the millions of tourists which swarm into the popular city. 

My family visited Venice during a trip to Italy last year (photo below).  I was last in Venice in the summer of 1978 (photo above left) when I was a college student. (Read my thoughts in Are Cruise Ships Ruining Venice Or Just Memories From My Youth?)  As our family watched tour groups of 20-30 cruise passengers pour through the tight street and congregate in the plazas, my oldest son commented that he thought the city seemed "infested with tourists."

Venice has banned monster cruise ships in the past (over 96,000 tons) only to see the industry cruise around the restrictions. 

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

November 10, 2017 Update:  It seems that the issue is more complicated than it appears. : What is Happening to Venice?  Venice’s cruise ship ban is hiding its tourism problem, not fixing it.

Photo credits: Jim Walker

Venice Cruise Ship

 

Do Cruise Lines Permit Registered Sexual Offenders to Cruise?

There are around 750,000 (some say the number is over 850,000) sexual offenders registered in the United States. Many thousands of these sexual offenders go on cruises each year. Some cruise lines do not permit registered offenders to cruise, but many if not most cruise lines do. 

Another lawyer here in Miami recently wrote an interesting article for the Huffington Post about this important issue, titled Should Cruise Ships Allow Sexual Offenders to Sail? 

The article points out, believe it or not, that there is a travel-related resource which caters to registered sexual offenders called Resources for RSO Travels, which published a blog post Can Registered Sex Offenders Go on a Cruise? The article answers its own question, writing "the answer is YES!" but further explains that there are some cruise line which block sexual offenders from cruising:

" . . . here are the two cruise lines that are notoriously known for denying registered sex offenders: Royal Caribbean and Carnival. Here are the cruise lines that allow registered sex offenders to board the ship: Norwegian, MSC, Holland America."

When I read the article, I find it disturbing that the registered offenders' blog characterized Royal Caribbean and Carnival as "notorious" for prohibiting sexual offenders from cruising and not characterizing NCL, MSC and HAL as "notorious" for permitting sexual predators to board their cruise ships. I suppose that's part of the problem with many sexual offenders. Even after being criminally convicted of their sexual crimes and placed on the National Sex Offender Public Website, they think Sexual Offender Cruise Shipthat they really didn't do anything wrong and they should be entitled to the same privileges as people who didn't commit sexual crimes. 

I have represented far too many people sexually assaulted on cruise ships, including dozens of children sexually abused during cruises, to have any tolerance for sexual offenders protesting that they were not permitted to cruise. 

Some men go on cruises for the primary purpose of abusing children. A couple of years ago, I wrote about a 71 year old man from Pennsylvania (photo left) who cruised on the Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas and went went into the cruise ship's water zone and fondled a 6-year-old boy. He attempted to fondle a second child in an adjoining Jacuzzi. At a hearing before a Federal Magistrate in Pennsylvania, an FBI agent testified that the pedophile admitted that he went on the cruise to "have a sexual encounter with a young boy." (There was no indication that the man was on a sexual offender database at the time of the cruise; shortly after this incident Royal Caribbean starting performing background checks of passengers).  The man was convicted, served jail time and when released from jail he attempted to molest other children

But don't expect the U.S. government or port authorities (at either the state or national levels) to perform background checks and prevent sexual offenders from cruising.  Homeland Security and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection may arrest sexual predators who have an outstanding warrants but they usually do so only after the cruise ship returns to port. 

For example, a 28 year-old man (photo right) was arrested while disembarking the Carnival Inspiration at the Port of Tampa a few years ago. His name was flagged by a sweep of the manifest of Sexual Assault Outstanding Warrantpassengers 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 the passenger 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.

If you take a cruise, you may be cruising with at least one felon aboard. U.S. Customs and Border Protection arrested five passengers on outstanding warrants only after the Carnival Magic returned to port in Galveston several years ago. 

Cruise lines should do everything possible to keep pedophiles, sexual predators and sexual offenders  off of cruise ships. Yes, I realize that all sexual offenders are not pedophiles or technically "sexual predators" (who by definition must have been convicted of a first degree sexual crime or multiple lesser sexual crimes). But it is a step in the right direction for cruise lines to perform background checks on passengers to screen out such people convicted of sexual crimes.

Over the years, I have received many questions from people wanting to go on a cruise asking whether registered sexual offenders are allowed to cruise.  Usually, their inquires are anonymous. They claim that a "friend" is thinking of going on a cruise. They explain that their "friend" is a "really nice guy" who made a mistake a "long time ago" and is now "no threat to anyone" and other similar gobbledygook. 

A particularly annoying occurrence is when a registered sexual offender complains to me that they booked a cruise and received an email at the last minute that they are prohibited from going on the cruise. I have received many of these type of inquiries over the last several months from men convicted of sexual crimes and listed as registered offenders wanting to cruise with Carnival.  Although the cruise line always refunds their fares, several people have complained that they have been "inconvenienced" and want to see if they a lawsuit for being a victim of "discrimination."

I do not respond to such inquires, which have involved to date only people who had booked cruises with Carnival and Royal Caribbean and were notified by these cruise lines that they had been identified on a sexual offender database. The registered offenders who contact my law office remind me that most families who cruise have no idea who they are cruising with.  So kudos to Carnival and Royal Caribbean for keeping known sexual offenders off their ships and trying to keep their guests safe. Shame on the other cruise lines who don't perform such background checks.  

The bottom line is that there is no law to my knowledge prohibiting sexual offenders from cruising. Even if there were such a law, our federal government does a poor job vetting passenger manifests and probably would not find out until after the cruise ship leaves port. Its up to the cruise lines to screen their passengers and most cruise lines don't. It seems like only Carnival and Royal Caribbean do. 

Keep in mind that most of the sexual assaults of passengers are committed by crew members.  Few countries other than the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia have sexual offender databases, and very few countries have any online databases permitting any cruise line or hiring agents from knowing whether job applicants from the countries where crew members are hired (India, Indonesia, and the Caribbean islands) have been arrested or convicted of sexual or violent crimes. (And of course passengers from non U.S. countires without sexual offender databases cannot be screened). 

Don't forget that most sexual offenses historically have not been committed by people listed on the sexual offender websites.  I have handled over 100 cases and not a single one was committed by a known sexual predator, to my knowledge.  So perhaps Carnival and Royal Caribbean, at least, are doing the right thing in performing background checks of passengers, but that does not guarantee that your kids are safe at sea.  Don't let your guard down when you cruise. The majority of recent sexual assaults (particularly of children) have been committed either by passengers who were not previously identified as a sexual offender, or by pedophile crew members (such as a room attendant or waiter), from countries without databases, who groomed the child during the cruise and usually committed the assault near the end of the cruise. 

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November 4, 2017 Update: A reader on our Facebook page commented that Carnival is already partnering with INTERPOL for enhanced security screening using INTERPOL'S I-Checkit global security system . . . Read the link here.

Photo credit:

Top -  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Bottom - U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Girl Dies After Falling on Carnival Glory

Carnival GloryA 8 year-old girl died Saturday morning after falling from a deck in an interior atrium to a lower deck on the Carnival Glory

A representative of Miami Fire-Rescue Department said the child fell "about two stories" inside the Carnival cruise ship around 8:15 a.m. after the ship had returned from a cruise in the Caribbean and Mexico and had docked at the port of Miami. Photos taken after the accident posted online show the atrium lobby with railings and glass panels around the interior decks. 

The child apparently went over the rails while the family was in the process of using the atrium elevator to disembark from the ship. 

A passenger (a retired emergency medical technician) reportedly performed CPR on the girl, until the ship doctor arrived.  Fire-Rescue paramedics then transported her to Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center in "extremely critical condition." 

A Miami-Dade police detective later reported the child had died. Police indicated that they would work with the cruise line "to determine the details surrounding this incident," according to Local News 10 in Miami. 

This is not the first time that a child was fallen from an upper deck on a cruise ship. Six weeks ago, a 3-year-old girl fell from the balcony of the Carnival Breeze which was heading back to Galveston, Texas. The child survived the fall.  Several years ago, a one-year-old child crawled through an 12th floor railing and fell to the pool deck below on the Royal Caribbean Monarch of the Seas

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October 17, 2017 Update: 

Miami Herald: Girl, 8, got on ‘tippy toes’ to peer over cruise ship railing, then fell to her death.

Photo credit: Mark Dennis CC BY-SA 2.0, commons / wikimedia.; video credit: Local News 10 Miami. 

 

 

Port Authority of Jamaica to Dredge Port of Falmouth, Again

Falmouth Jamaica PortThe Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) intends to again dredge the port of Falmouth in order to extend the Falmouth cruise ship pier, according to the Jamaica Gleaner.

A PAJ representative stated that the new project will permit the Jamaican port to allow two of the Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class (originally known as the Genesis Class) cruise ships (Oasis, Allure, Harmony and Symphony of the Seas) to dock simultaneously in Falmouth. 

The PAJ has tried to avoid discussing the controversial project although a number of local Jamaican leaders have voiced opposition to the dredging.

As we reported earlier this summer, the Gleaner reported on calls for the local citizens in Jamaica to resist the dredging. A pastor in Trelawny, the Reverend Devere Nugent of the William Knibb Baptist Church, was "calling on the people and churches in the parish to resist the plan to do further dredging of the sea, which is a proposal to bring more cruise ships to the resort town."

Reverend Nugent said "I am calling on the churches and people to establish baskets of resistance. We must resist the further dredging of the sea. Let us no longer sit back and be exploited.The people who are planning to do further dredging are doing so for their own profit, none of which stays in Falmouth. Falmouth Jamaica Dredging They don't live here, they don't shop here, and they don't join any church or civic organization here. It is broad-based exploitation."

We have reported on Royal Caribbean exploitation of Falmouth and the destruction of the local habitat there before. The coral reefs were pulverized and dumped on fields of mangroves when the port pier was build for Royal Caribbean nine years ago.    

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Photo credit: top - Jim Walker

Interested in this issue? We suggest reading: Can the Cruise Industry Clean Up Its Act?  

MSC Cruises Implements New Man Overboard System Amidst Industry Delays

MSC Cruises announced that it installed a state-of-the-art man overboard system on the MSC Meraviglia and is planning to deploy similar systems across its fleet of cruise ships. 

According to Seatrade Cruise News, MSC Cruises developed an "intelligent video capturing and analysis system" in collaboration with security technology experts, Bosch and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The Swiss-based cruise line announced that it has tested the new man overboard system on the company’s newest ship which debuted in June. MSC reported that "through over 25,000 hours of video analysis, extensive software testing and continuous algorithmic updates, the system has now reached a confirmed accuracy level of 97%."

Seatrade also explained that the data and images are analysed by two separate and independent image processing systems which significantly lower false alerts. Once the alarm is activated in case of an overboard, an acoustic signal and light will notify the ship’s security officer, in a central security room, who can immediately retrieve and review the images and data and immediately notify the bridge to begin rescue efforts.

We have criticized MSC in the past because crew members and passengers have disappeared from ships without this type of technology.  Brazilian crew member Simone Scheuer Sousa disappeared from the MSC Musica earlier this summer. MSC's untimely response to an overboard passenger from the MSC Divina, the first person reported overboard this year, illustrated the need for an automatic Security Today MOB man overboard system.   

Seatrade Cruise News has recently focused on man overboard systems. In September, it interviewed Captain Reidulf Maalen of Global Maritime Services about a system called the "Multi-Sensor Offshore Safety System (SOS)." The SOS is advertised as "an automatic alert system that employs advanced integrated sensor technology to instantaneously detect anyone falling overboard in real time and immediately alert the bridge."

Earlier this month, Security Today featured an article titled Man Overboard! which explained the need for an automatic man overboard system, stating that "man overboard events continue to be a common occurrence within the cruise industry." The article discussed a system designed by PureTech Systems which uses thermal video technology which captures images of people going overboard. 

The PureTech website explains that "man overboard events continue to be a common occurrence within the cruise industry." Since 2005, 268 people have gone overboard from cruise ships; on average, 22 people fall off a cruise ship every year; and 86% of those victims do not survive or are never found.

These systems are in addition to several other systems which we have written about over the years, including the MOBtronic system designed by MARSS. 

An article by Captain Abdelkhalik Kamal Eldin Soliman Selmy in the Maritime Executive titled Boost to Man Overboard Detecting Regulations Needed explains that the number of man overboard situations "is increasing as cruise passenger numbers increase," yet cruise ships monitor their decks and sides only with surveillance cameras. Most cruise lines do not actively monitor their CCTV surveillance cameras and there is considerable delay between a report of a missing friend or loved one and the ship finally taking action to initiate a search.  But equipping cruise ships with advanced detection and alert systems (such as those discussed above) will dramatically decrease the potential for crew or passengers to be lost at sea.

Unfortunately, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) does not mandate the use of such technology. Trade organizations, like the Cruise Line International Organizations (CLIA), unreasonably resist the move toward this life-saving technology, citing a myriad of excuses (alleging the cost and unreliability of the technology) which are belied by the success of the systems which are available on the market today.  

In response to Captain Selmy's article, CLIA wrote an editorial which the Maritime Executive published titled Man Overboard Incidents Are Uncommon On Cruise Ships containing the usual self-serving opinions by the cruise industry trade organization that "cruise ships remain one of the safest ways to travel." 

The fact of the matter is that over 22 people disappear each year from cruise ships (and only 13.8% are saved). Unfortunately, CLIA has chosen to minimize cruise passengers and crew members disappearances at sea in misleading PR releases rather than devote resources toward improving safety. Most cruise line do not see the need to invest in MOB systems which do not return a direct financial profit to the penny pinching cruise industry. Companies like MSC Cruises, unfortunately, seem to be the exception rather than the rule in implementing the life-saving technology. 

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Image credit: Security Today

Video credit: PureTech Systems

 

Cruises to Cuba Continue Despite U.S. Warnings

The U.S. State Department issued a new safety warning last Friday regarding travel to Cuba.

The U.S. government warned Americans not to travel to Cuba because of recent sonic attacks on U.S. citizens who were working for the U.S. Embassy in Havana. The attacks caused the U.S. employees to experience hearing loss, ear-ringing, dizziness, difficulty sleeping, headaches and cognitive problems, among other symptoms.  

But the Miami-based cruise lines are ignoring the warning.

Carnival Cruise CEO Arnold DonaldCarnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean are continuing their cruises to Cuba. 

Carnival issued a statement that “while members and relatives of the U.S. diplomatic corps have suffered illnesses apparently triggered by occurrences at the diplomatic offices or possibly their homes, none of the more than 475,000 other Americans visiting Cuba this year have reported similar health issues related to their visits. We are, of course, closely monitoring and are in touch with U.S., as well as Cuban authorities, and will act accordingly if anything warrants a change in our plans . . .  Please be advised that your visa for travel to Cuba is valid, and there are no issues with your return to the U.S. The State Department advisory does not prohibit Americans from traveling to Cuba.”

Newsweek and the New York Times report that the U.S. has already expelled two Cuban diplomats over the attacks, and is considering further retaliatory steps. The attacks have reportedly occurred at hotels as well as U.S. citizen's homes.  "Because some of the attacks occurred in hotels where U.S. State Department employees were temporarily staying, officials said they worried that tourists and others U.S. visitors could be affected."

Most recently, the U.S. expelled 15 of Cuba's diplomats today to protest Cuba's attacks on American embassy employees in Havana. Last week, the U.S. announced it was withdrawing 60 percent of the U.S. diplomats from Cuba because they might be harmed if they stay.

The U.S. State Department said: "Because our personnel's safety is at risk and we are unable to identify the source of the attacks, we believe U.S. citizens may also be at risk and warn them not to travel to Cuba."

With most of the eastern Caribbean islands largely destroyed by hurricanes Irma and Maria, the cruise lines in Miami are hesitant to further disrupt their businesses by suspending cruises to Cuba. Carnival CEO Arnold Donald (photo, above right with Fathom president Tara Russell) has always banked on cruising to Cuba. 

Many travel companies suggest that the U.S. warning is overstated. The cruise lines point to the fact that only U.S. diplomats and embassy employees have been victims, so far. 

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Photo credit: CNBC

Adventure of the Seas Brings 3,800 Hurricane Maria Evacuees to South Florida

Adventure of the SeasA local news station in Miami reports that Royal Caribbean used the Adventure of the Seas to take around 3,800 evacuees from St. Thomas, St. Croix and Puerto Rico back to South Florida, following the destruction and chaos caused by Hurricane Maria.

7 News in Miami aired a brief segment on its television program today, showing the Adventure of the Seas returning to Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale. 

Royal Caribbean and other Miami-based cruise lines have enjoyed good press due to their hurricane relief efforts, which we commented on in Cruise Lines Aid Hurricane-Stricken Caribbean Islands.

But it has not always been smooth sailing for Royal Caribbean in dealing with recent hurricanes. 

The cruise line was recently named in a a proposed class action lawsuit that alleges that Royal Caribbean forced its customers to fly to Texas when it was in a state of emergency due to Hurricane Harvey rather than cancel or modify its August 27th cruise on the Liberty of the Seas which was scheduled to depart from the Port of Galveston. The cruise line refused to cancel the cruise until its passengers had already flown to Texas, unlike other cruise lines which prudently canceled and provided full credits to its customers. 

Royal Caribbean repeatedly told passengers that if they canceled, they would lose the entire cost of the purchased cruise. The passengers and their families then faced catastrophic flooding caused as the Category 4 hurricane flooded south Texas. Read the class action complaint here.   

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Photo credit above: AP Photo / Gerald Herbert via Boston Herald.

 

Sexual Assault Reported on Baltic Princess

Baltic PrincessAn international maritime newspaper reports that the police department in Sweden arrested a passenger aboard the Baltic Princess on September 30th for raping a younger woman aboard a ferry. The arrest took place when the ship arrived in Värtahamnen, a port in Stockholm, Sweden.  The man was apprehended by security guards on the ferry and then turned over to the police. The woman has been transported to the hospital for examination. Both the woman and the suspected offender were reportedly Finnish citizens.

The Baltic Princess is a cruise ship / ferry owned by the Estonia-based ferry operator Tallink and operated under the Silja Line brand.

Photo credit:  Kalle Id, CC by 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Disney Dream Strikes Pier In Nassau

Disney Dream Strike Dock in NassauAccording to reports on social media, the Disney Dream violently struck the dock in Nassau, Bahamas while trying to enter a berth on Saturday, September 30th. Photographs posted on line show damage to the cruise ship' stern above the waterline.

The PortNassauWebcam operated by the popular @PTZtv captured images of the damage to the Disney cruise ship.

The Disney Blog seems to be one of the first sites to report on the incident. Scott Sanders' Disney Cruise Line Blog also contain a number of photographs of the damage as well as repairs to the vessel's hull.

A video of the accident was posted on Scott Lewitt's YouTube page

Photo credit: @PTZtv

 

Cruise Lines Aid Hurricane-Stricken Caribbean Islands

Today, my youngest son sent me a text which linked to one of the many articles about cruise lines coming to the aid of the devastated Caribbean islands following hurricanes Irma and Maria, saying "Dad, write a nice blog for the cruise lines!" 

Praising cruise lines admittedly does not come naturally for me, but there is no question that the Miami-based cruise lines (primarily Carnival and Royal Caribbean) have made a point of coming to the aid of places like St. Maarten, Antigua & Barbuda, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The major cruise lines in Miami have enjoyed and deserved good press, finding themselves featured in newspapers and television about their relief efforts (while President Trump has seemed more Hurricane Irma - Cruise Linesinterested in tweeting about the NFL). 

Royal Caribbean announced this week that it is canceling the September 30th cruise of the Adventure of the Seas so it can deploy the cruise ship to help victims of Hurricane Maria in San Juan as well as St. Croix and St. Thomas. Royal Caribbean is donating donating water and medical supplies and evacuating people from places like St. Maarten and St. Thomas USVI who wish to leave those islands because of the destruction and loss of power there.   

Carnival has deployed nearly a dozen cruise ships to ferry bring supplies to Antigua and St. Kitts in the Caribbean as well as deliver supplies to Barbuda and St. Maarten during regular cruise trips.

Carnival's Micky Arison and the Miami Heat have pledged up to $10 million for the Caribbean following Hurricane Irma.

Carnival released a statement that: 

"As our largest cruising region, the Caribbean is extremely important to us. Carnival Cruise Line is providing extensive and wide-ranging relief throughout the Caribbean and is delivering critical supplies and the most immediate necessities, including food, water, clothing, diapers, and generators, among other items, to destinations that need our assistance.

We have a working team dedicated to this priority and are in active conversations with many entities in the Caribbean to understand the most urgent needs and how we can best help. These relief efforts will continue long-term as necessary to help our neighbors throughout the storm affected region. We have already arranged for supplies to be delivered to residents in Barbuda, St. Maarten and Dominica with many more to come in the weeks ahead.

As rebuilding efforts begin in the affected islands, Carnival Corporation, Miami HEAT Charitable Fund and the foundation of Carnival Corporation Chairman Micky Arison and his wife Madeleine (the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation) have pledged up to $10 million in funding and in-kind support in Florida and throughout the Caribbean following Hurricane Irma. An immediate donation by the Micky and Madeleine Arison Foundation of $2.5 million will benefit Direct Relief, UNICEF and the United Way to support the most timely and urgent relief needs. Direct Relief and UNICEF are heavily Carnival Cruise Hurricane Mariaengaged in Puerto Rico. When comedian Chris Tucker performed two sold-out shows on board Carnival Liberty and Carnival Breeze as part of the Carnival LIVE concert series recently, Carnival donated 100 percent of the proceeds from ticket sales to assist islands affected by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

In addition, for Hurricane Harvey, Carnival Cruise Line, Carnival Corporation and the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation have already donated $2 million to support the relief and rebuilding efforts. Monies have been directed to Save the Children, Houston Food Bank, Direct Relief, Operation Homefront and United Way of Greater Houston. These organizations are providing food, water, medicine, shelter and other basic necessities to residents in the most impacted areas."

You can read more about Carnival's relief efforts on its website here

NCL says that it is teaming up with a non-profit organization to assist in helping the rebuilding of schools and other buildings in Puerto Rico. It also announced that deployed the Norwegian Sky to St. Thomas, USVI, to deliver supplies and evacuate residents and visitors. 

It's exciting to see the billion dollar cruise industry, which pays no U.S. taxes because of its foreign flagged cruise ships, making a difference like this.  

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

Read:

Miami Herald Irma Was the ‘Most Trying Storm’ Ever for Cruise Lines. How Well Did They Respond?

Conde Nast Traveler How Cruises Have Handled All These Hurricanes

Fox Business Carnival, Royal Caribbean Ships to Help Puerto Rico Aid Efforts.

The Hill Royal Caribbean Cancels Cruise, Sends Ship on Rescue Mission to Puerto Rico

Video (below) credit: USA TODAY; photo credit: above - Hurricane Irma as of September 6, 2017 at 6:00 P.M. - Mike's Weather Page; bottom  - Carnival relief efforts - Carnival Corporation. 

 

 

Sisters Demand Justice From Luxury River Cruise Operator

Christy and Larry HammerFollowing the death of Christy and Larry Hammer who perished in 2016 aboard the La Estrella Amazonica (subsequently renamed as the Amazon Star) operated on the Peruvian Amazon by International Expeditions, the Hammers' daughters have steadfastly sought answers and justice.

The sisters have found some of the former but not much of the latter. They told the Kansas City Star that they  "will do whatever we have to do to hold these guys accountable."

The Hammers were asleep in their cabin on the luxury cruise boat on the Amazon river, when a fire broke out in their cabin. International Expeditions, the owner / operator of the river cruise vessel, ignored basic safety regulations and procedures, according to an investigation conducted by the Peruvian Navy. The investigation reportedly revealed that that the deadly fire was caused by a short circuit in a power strip which International Expeditions provided to the Hammers to be used in their cabins.

Jill Malott and Kelly Lankford have stated that International Expeditions "systematically tried to road block us trying to find out answers."

Surveillance video from the boat posted by the sisters shows smoke billowing from their parents' cabin as ill trained crew members walk up and down the hallway, delaying entry into the cabin. The boat was reportedly not equipped with a functioning alarm or fire suppression system. 

The sisters have teamed up with the grass roots cruise victims' group International Cruise Victims (ICV) to adddress deficiences in the way that U.S. based cruise companies operate. 

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

Read: How International Expeditions Tragically Failed My Family by Jill Hammer Malott.

Photo credit: Photo of Larry and Christy Hammer - Jill Hammer Malott and Kelly Hammer Lankford via ICV website. 

 

U.S. Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger From Carnival Pride

The U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a passenger from a Carnival cruise ship off the North Carolina coast yesterday. 

The Coast Guard reports that yesterday, around noon, the Carnival Pride cruise ship contacted the Coast Guard command center in Wilmington reporting that a 71-year-old man was suffering a heart attack while the ship was approximately 40 miles east of Morehead City, North Carolina.

The Coast Guard's station in Elizabeth City dispatched a MH-80 helicopter which flew to the cruise ship and hoisted the passenger and a nurse and transported them to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. There is no reported information regarding the man's condition. 

Image credit: United States Coast Guard District 5; Defense Video Imagery Distribution System (copyright information).

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Ship Officers Accused of Robbing Guests of Casino Winnings

Two cruise ship officers are accused of robbing guests who reportedly won over a million dollars from the ship's casino. The incident reportedly occurred several weeks ago on an unnamed cruise ship while it was docked in Piraeus, Greece.

Cruise CasinoA newspaper in Greece reports that over the course of two nights, two Bulgarian passengers gambled in the ship's casino and won over $1,000,000 dollars. After their big night of winning, the guests cashed in their winnings ($1,030,000) and returned to their staterooms. The newspaper explains that an hour later, one of the guests alleges that he was attacked and robbed by two ship officers (reportedly a Canadian and an Israeli officer), who stole $430,000 in cash from the guest's cabin safe. The guest reported the incident to the ship and the port authority. 

Local police boarded the ship and arrested the two officers who reportedly had $430,000 in cash with them. However, the officers claim that the guests, who were not arrested, were cheating and the officers were simply obtaining the illegal proceeds back from the guests. 

Hat tip to the popular Crew Center for first reporting the bizarre story to the cruise community. 

The newspaper in Greece did not disclose the name of the cruise line or cruise ship where the incident occurred.

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Engine Room Fire Breaks Out on the Aurora

AuroraA fire reportedly broke out in the engine room of the Aurora this morning, causing the P&O cruise ship to lose its electricity and its propulsion. 

The fire was extinguished after approximately an hour, following which emergency generators were eventually started.

At the time of the fire, the Aurora was in the mid-Atlantic sailing for the Azores. 

There has been no official statement from the cruise line; the details of the fire are admittedly sketchy. There are a few comments about the fire on the Cruise Critic message board

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

September 21, 2017 Update: P&O Cruises released a statement: 

"Aurora suffered a temporary power failure yesterday which is being investigated. All guests and crew are safe and the ship immediately ran on back up generators. All services are running as normal on board.

Aurora is on a 30 night North America & Canada which departed Southampton on August 27, 2017 and is currently en route to the Azores. The ship is due to return to Southampton on September 26, 2017. The onward itinerary is unaffected."

Photo credit: MacdonaldAndy - CC BY 4.0; commons / wikimedia.

Cat-5 Hurricane Irma Threatening South Florida, Scattering Cruise Ships

Hurricane Irwin Cruise ShipHurricane Irma, which continues to strengthen as it heads west toward the Leeward Islands and Virgin Islands, is now a Category 5 storm with winds of over 175 mph (with gusts up to 215 mph) as of this morning's advisories. The huge storm is predicted to continue west across the Caribbean, north of Dominican Republic/Haiti and Cuba, and then turn to the north, likely hitting the Florida Keys and South Florida by late Saturday / early Sunday morning.

Irma will continue as a category 5 storm for the next few days, although its intensity will decrease to a category 4 with winds of 150 mph. 

The most reliable computer models (the U.S. and European models) show Irma continuing to head west before making a sharp turn to the north towards South Florida, although there are no guarantees exactly where or when that northward turn will occur. 

"Spaghetti models" via Mike's Weather Page (image below) is my favorite page to follow the progress of the hurricane. You can see the probable path of this dangerous storm heading into the Florida Keys and South Florida here.  

Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas was the first cruise ship to alter its itinerary from its original Eastern Caribbean schedule to the Western Caribbean. The Allure's itinerary was changed to Cozumel, Labadee, and Falmouth. It appears likely that Royal Caribbean's private destination in Labadee (Haiti) will be directly impacted by Irma later this week; cruises to that destination seem likely to be rescheduled. 

Royal Caribbean's changes to its itineraries are listed on its Facebook page. The cruise line cancelled the September 8th cruises to the Bahamas by the Enchantment of the Seas and the Majesty of the Seas. Royal Caribbean is saying that the cruise fare and fees for these cruises will be 100% refunded to the original form of payment, and we are also offering a 25% future cruise credit, based on the cruise fare, if a new cruise is booked in the next 30 days.

Regarding the Allure of the Seas (September 10 Western Caribbean), Anthem of the Seas (September 9 Bermuda), Empress of the Seas (September 9 Cuba) and Harmony of the Seas (September 9 Eastern Caribbean), guests are asked to check on updates at the cruise line's Facebook page.

Royal Caribbean's Chief Meteorologist, James Van Fleet, who the cruise line hired after the debacle when the Anthem of the Seas sailed into a well-forecasted storm last year, will be on the hot seat responding to questions posed to him on line. Mr. Van Fleet is already fielding inquiries via his Twitter account. The last question posted was "I'm currently on harmony and someone thinks Irma is going to Hurricane Irma Cruise Shipcause us to reenact titanic. Can you confirm?"  (A PR video produced by Royal Caribbean is below.)  It remains to be seen whether Mr. Fleet was hired for public relations purposes or to provide meaningful information and insight to the Royal Caribbean ships at sea.

Carnival will also be changing its fleet's cruise ship itineraries. The Carnival Glory, scheduled for an Eastern Caribbean itinerary, will switch to a Western Caribbean cruise, which will include Grand Cayman, Roatan, Belize City and Cozumel. Carnival's changes to the itineraries of the Carnival Magic, Carnival Splendor and Carnival Pride are explained below. 

NCL canceled the three-day cruise to the Bahamas from the port of Miami on the Norwegian Sky scheduled for September 8th, as well as a seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the Norwegian Escape scheduled for September 9th. NCL will offer full refunds and 50 percent future cruise credits.

The itineraries of the cruise ships of other lines are certain to change as Irma heads toward Florida. Additional days at sea and more ports of call in places like Roatan and Belize seem likely.

A large number of air carriers are permitting flyers to cancel their scheduled flights to the Caribbean islands, with some adding flights from the islands to Miami to accommodate people wanting to escape the storm. Cruise lines typically do not permit such cancellations and have policies which permit the ships to change itineraries at their sole  discretion. Unless the passengers have purchased insurance applying to this situation, there is little that families themselves can do to cancel their cruises without incurring penalties or forfeiting their fares.

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Photo credit: Top - NOAA via AP; middle - Mike Weather Page. 

HURRICANE IRMA ITINERARY CHANGES (courtesy of Carnival)
September 3, 2017

CARNIVAL GLORY (SEVEN-DAY CRUISE FROM MIAMI)
Revised Itinerary Original Itinerary
Sept. 2 – Miami Sept. 2 – Miami
Sept. 3 – At Sea Sept. 3 – Half Moon Cay
Sept. 4 – Grand Cayman Sept. 4 – At Sea
Sept. 5 – Mahogany Bay (Roatan) Sept. 5 – St. Thomas
Sept. 6 – Belize Sept. 6 – San Juan
Sept. 7 – Cozumel Sept. 7- Grand Turk
Sept. 8 – At Sea Sept. 8 – At Sea
Sept. 9 – Miami Sept. 9 – Miami

CARNIVAL MAGIC (SIX-DAY CRUISE FROM PORT CANAVERAL)
Revised Itinerary Original Itinerary
Sept. 3 – Port Canaveral Sept. 3 – Port Canaveral
Sept. 4 – At Sea Sept. 4 – Nassau
Sept. 5 – Cozumel Sept. 5 – At Sea
Sept. 6 – Belize Sept. 6 – Amber Cove (Dominican Republic)
Sept. 7 – Costa Maya Sept. 7- Grand Turk
Sept. 8 – At Sea Sept. 8 – At Sea
Sept. 9 – Port Canaveral Sept. 9 – Port Canaveral


CARNIVAL SPLENDOR (SIX-DAY CRUISE FROM PORT FORT LAUDERDALE )
Revised Itinerary Original Itinerary
Sept. 3 – Port Everglades Sept. 3 – Port Everglades
Sept. 4 – At Sea Sept. 4 – Nassau
Sept. 5 – Cozumel Sept. 5 – Half Moon Cay
Sept. 6 – Mahogany Bay (Roatan) Belize Sept. 6 – Grand Turk
Sept. 7 – Belize Sept. 7- Amber Cove (Dominican Republic)
Sept. 8 – At Sea Sept. 8 – At Sea
Sept. 9 – Port Everglades Sept. 9 – Port Everglades

CARNIVAL PRIDE (SEVEN-DAY CRUISE FROM BALTIMORE)
Revised Itinerary Original Itinerary
Sept. 3 – Baltimore Sept. 3 – Baltimore
Sept. 4 – At Sea Sept. 4 – At Sea
Sept. 5 – Charleston Sept. 5 – At Sea
Sept. 6 – Freeport Sept. 6 – Grand Turk
Sept. 7 – Nassau Sept. 7- Half Moon Cay
Sept. 8 – At Sea Sept. 8 – At Sea
Sept. 9 – At Sea Sept. 9 – At Sea
Sept. 10 - Baltimore Sept. 10 – Baltimore 

 

Carnival Passenger Missing in St. Thomas Located; Was She Kidnapped?

Carnival Passenger Regina Gilliam Located The cruise passenger reported missing last week after she disembarked from the Carnival Splendor in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, has been located. We wrote about the incident - Passenger From Carnival Splendor Missing in St. Thomas, USVI.

A family friend left a message on this blog, stating that " . . . she was kidnapped and managed to escape. She ran to the local authorities and now help is on the way . . . "  A post on an article in a Virgin Islands newspaper (which has not been verified) explained that "she was allegedly "kidnapped by gun point somewhere close to where it docked."

This account, if true, has not been confirmed by the local police in St. Thomas. 

This morning, a local newspaper in St. Thomas, published an article reporting that yesterday (Sunday):

". . . at around 11:05 a.m., Regina Gilliam approached a Virgin Islands Port Authority (V.I.P.A.) officer at the Cyril E. King Airport and identified herself as the missing person from the Carnival Splendor cruise ship. The V.I.P.A. officer was able to verify that she was indeed Ms. Gilliam, and notified 911 immediately . . . "

The article continued:

"Ms. Gilliam was subsequently interviewed by the V.I.P.D.’s Investigations Bureau as part of the force’s standard procedures for missing persons. An investigation was launched to locate Ms. Gilliam on Thursday, when she did not reboard the ship before it was scheduled to depart St. Thomas at 4 p.m.

Mr. Dratte (the V.I.P.D. Public Information Officer) said the force was working with all relevant authorities to ensure Ms. Gilliam’s health and wellbeing, and to protect the integrity of the investigation . . . "

The official account, or course, raises more questions than provides answers.  Was Ms. Gilliam really abducted? And if so, when and by whom?  Carnival reported her missing when the Splendor left port on Thursday afternoon and she was located on Sunday morning, three days later. Some people are questioning whether she was really kidnapped. At the same time, the Virgin Islands has motivation to downplay the incident; the islands obviously do not want the bad publicity of cruise passengers being abducted playing out in the international press.

Women going ashore from cruise have been victims of foul play in the past, such as in Mexico and in Bonaire, where Royal Caribbean crew members were murdered after going ashore in ports of call. If Ms. Gilliam was in fact kidnapped, this is obviously is a serious matter that should be acknowledged by the police in St. Thomas; those responsible for the crime should be arrested and help responsible, and the USVI tourism people and the cruise lines have a duty to warn the public.

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Photo credit: vifreepress.com

Passenger From Carnival Splendor Missing in St. Thomas, USVI

Newspapers in the United States Virgin Islands are reporting that a Carnival cruise line passenger has gone missing in St. Thomas after disembarking from the Carnival cruise ship on Thursday, August 31, 2017. 

The missing passenger has been identified as 26-year-old Regina Gilliam, who is reportedly 5 ft 4 inches in height.

Photographs released by the Virgin Islands Police Department and available online at the Virgin Island Free Press are below.

Ms. Gilliam left the Splendor, after it reached St. Thomas, at 8:19 A.M. last Thursday, but did not to the cruise ship by the time it left port on Thursday afternoon. 

Comments posted on the Virgin Islands Consortium are expressing hope that Ms. Gilliam has not been met with foul play, with one person commenting that " . . . we don't need the cruise ship industry to have yet another reason to pull out."

Carnival pulled out of St. Thomas after one of its guests was shot and killed during a shore excursion there in 2010. We represented the young girl's family. The case resulted in one of the leading decisions explaining the cruise line's legal obligation to warn of dangers ashore in the ports of call where it frequents - Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals: Cruise Lines Have Duty to Warn of Danger of Crime in Ports of Call.

There have been a few cases where cruise ships have left ports of calls without their female crew members who have met with foul pay like this case and this one as well. 

Fortunately, most passengers who "disappear" at ports of call in the Caribbean (it seems like most such cases occur in Jamaica like these three, and this one, and these two, and these two as well) eventually turn up safe and sound.  

Let's hope for the best with Ms. Giliam. 

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September 3, 2017 Update: According to the comment below, a friend of Ms. Gilliam reports: " . . . she has been found and is awaiting a ride to get back home. She was kidnapped and managed to escape. She ran to the local authorities and now help is on the way . . . " There has  been no formal announcement from the Virgin Islands Police Department. 

September 4, 2017 Update: The St. Thomas Consortium in an article today states that:

"... on Sunday at around 11:05 a.m., Regina Gilliam approached a Virgin Islands Port Authority (V.I.P.A.) officer at the Cyril E. King Airport and identified herself as the missing person from the Carnival Splendor cruise ship. The V.I.P.A. officer was able to verify that she was indeed Ms. Gilliam, and notified 911 immediately, Mr. Dratte (Public Information Officer)said.

Ms. Gilliam was subsequently interviewed by the V.I.P.D.’s Investigations Bureau as part of the force’s standard procedures for missing persons. An investigation was launched to locate Ms. Gilliam on Thursday, when she did not reboard the ship before it was scheduled to depart St. Thomas at 4 p.m.

Mr. Dratte said the force was working with all relevant authorities to ensure Ms. Gilliam’s health and wellbeing, and to protect the integrity of the investigation."

Of course, this account, which does not explain why she went missing, raises more questions than provides answers. 

Photo credit: vifreepress.com

Regina Gilliam Carnival Passenger St Thomas Virgin Islands

 

 

Passenger Charged with Raping Boy on NCL Cruise Ship

Adam ChristopherOn August 30, 2017, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts filed criminal charges against a man reportedly from Bay Springs, Mississippi for allegedly raping a 15-year-old boy on a NCL cruise ship during a seven-day cruise from Boston to Bermuda. The sexual assault reportedly occurred on August 14, 2017 while the cruise ship was docked in Bermuda, according to the U.S. Attorney's office in Boston.* 

The incident was first reported by the newspapers in Bermuda, including Bernews and the Royal Gazette, which did not mention of name of the assailant or the cruise ship where the incident occurred. The newspapers in Bermuda, which typically do a poor job of reporting about crimes on cruise ships, did not provide any details regarding the alleged shipboard crime.  

The federal court filing in federal court in Boston (see below) indicates that the United States charged Adam Christopher Boyd, age 30, with one count of sexual abuse of a minor. Mr. Boyd was arrested in Bermuda and faces extradition back to the United States. The court filing indicates that the cruise ship where the rape occurred is the Norwegian Dawn. According to an affidavit from a FBI agent in support of the criminal charges and arrest warrant, the Dawn arrived at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Bermuda on August 13, 2017 where it was scheduled to spend three days before returning to Boston.

The FBI affidavit states that before the rape, the 15-year-old boy was drinking alcohol on deck 13 of the ship with other passengers who he met during the cruise.  Mr. Boyd met the child and informed him that he was an hairdresser and offered to braid the child's hair. Mr. Boyd reportedly asked the child his age and the boy said he was 15-years-old. The FBI reportedly later interviewed another passenger who stated that Mr. Boyd asked him if the boy was really just 15-years-old, and the passenger confirmed that the minor was, in fact, 15-years-old and not 18 as Mr. Boyd later claimed.  

According to the court filing, Mr. Boyd volunteered to escort the boy back to his cabin and offered the boy to stay in Mr. Boyd's cabin which the child declined. The ship's surveillance footage reportedly showed Mr. Boyd and the boy leaving deck 13 early in the morning of August 14th; another passenger verified that the boy appeared to be intoxicated at the time. When they reached a secluded area of deck 14, Mr. Boyd kissed the child and put his hands down the minor's pants and felt his genitals, following which he anally raped the child, according to the affidavit.  After the incident, the boy told a group of other teenagers who he previously met during the cruise, that he had been sexually assaulted. He also he told the police in Bermuda, who later came onto the ship to investigate the incident, that he had been "raped."

The court filing further indicates that other passengers stated that later that morning they saw the boy sitting by himself on deck 13, appearing upset and crying.  The child eventually returned to his cabin and reported the sexual assault to his family who alerted the ship's security personnel who, in turn, notified the police in Bermuda. The local police took the child to a hospital where a rape kit was administered. The police arrested Mr. Boyd who denied that penetrated the child.

The FBI agent, who prepared the affidavit, stated that she believed that there was probable cause that Mr. Boyd violated Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 2243(a) which defines sexual abuse as knowingly engaging or attempting to engage in a sexual act with a minor who has not attained the age of 16 and is four years or more younger than the assailant. The sexual abuse of a minor carries a jail sentence of five to fifteen years and a fine of up to $250,000. 

Sexual assaults of minors on cruise ships is an issue which I write about often; last month NBC News aired an investigation into the sexual assault of minors on cruise ships - NBC News: Hidden Dangers for Children on Cruise Ships. We have written about boys as well as girls being victimized during cruises, not only by crew members but by other adult passengers. Cruise lines are in the business of selling carefree, dream vacations to idyllic destinations; the cruise industry will never warn passengers of the dangers of their children encountering predator crew members or pedophile passengers. 

The U.S. government has jurisdiction to prosecute cases of rape on cruise ships when a U.S. citizen is involved, as either the victim or the assailant.  The criminal charge in federal court in a case of rape of a child is characterized as the "sexual abuse" of a minor; there are no criminal federal statutes for "rape" or "sexual assault."  

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Photo credit: Rap Sheets - of Adam Boyd for arrest on charges of driving under the influence in Mississippi in August 2015. 

*Note: The Department of Justice writes: "The details contained in the charging document are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law."  

September 26, 2017 Update: Passenger from Mississippi finally about to be extradicted back to the U.S. to face criminal charges.

 

 

Tainted Alcohol & Crime: Mexico Struggles With Image As Cruise Destination

A couple who went on an excursion during a cruise to Cozumel had "no idea how they made it back to their cruise ship cabin" after they "had a few drinks" ashore, according to the Journal Sentinel newspaper.  In an article titled As Dozens More Report Blackouts at Mexico Resorts, Country Says It Will Act on Tainted Alcohol, the Journal Sentinel explained that a couple from North Carolina who cruised to Cozumel went drinking after a snorkeling excursion. "The last thing they remember is vomiting . . . They woke up hours later and felt lucky to be alive. One had a large bruise on her thigh. Both her knees were scraped and bloody."

The story is one of several dozen incidents in Mexico investigated by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that surfaced in the wake of the death of college student Abbey Conner who visited a resort in Playa del Carmen earlier this year. In an article titled A Mexican Vacation, a Mysterious Death, and Now Mexico Travel CruiseEndless Questions for Wisconsin Family, the paper reports that 20 year old Abbey was vacationing with her parents and her 22 year old brother, Austin Conner. Abbey and Austin went to the swim-up bar at the resort where they "toasted the completion of final exams with a couple shots of tequila." 

But a short time later, the hotel staff found them both unconscious, face down in the pool. The parents were later notified that their children were taken to a local hotel; the Mexican doctors diagnosed Austin with a severe concussion with a "golf-ball sized lump on his forehead."

Abbey was reportedly unresponsive and in a coma, on a ventilator, with no reflexes to light, touch or pain. Her collarbone was broken, according to an account in the newspaper. 

Abbey's parents flew her to a hospital in Cancun and then on to a hospital in Ft. Lauderdale, where doctors concluded that she was brain-dead.

Another recent story (video bottom) involved a tourist from Texas who enjoyed a few rum and cokes over the course of several hours at a swim up bar at a Mexican resort, only to be later found floating unconscious in the swimming pool. He incurred $57,000 in medical bills from the local hospital. 

Travel Weekly was just one of many travel journals reporting on what it characterized as "deeply disturbing" incidents in Mexico where "American visitors believe they may have been drugged, incapacitated and possibly abused." Travel Weekly went on to opine on the apparent "indifference to the victim's plight from resort personnel and police, reports of an avaricious medical system eager to exploit foreign patients and the seeming impossibility of justice" which "could have a chilling effect even on repeat visitors who love the country." 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of State just issued an updated travel advisory for Mexico, and expanded its warnings about crime and violence in several regions which are home to Mexico's most popular tourist destinations. The U.S. cautioned U.S. citizens that homicide rates are on the rise in areas such as the states of Quintana Roo, which includes Cozumel, and Baja California Sur, which is home to Los Cabos, where Cabo San Lucas is located.

The State Department stated that "resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the level of drug-related violence and crime that are reported in the border region or in areas along major trafficking routes." Nonetheless, while most of the homicides are targeted criminal organization assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens. Shootings, in which innocent bystanders have been injured or killed, have occurred.

Many fans of vacationing in Mexico may say that the violence is limited to the drug trade but the Department of State warns that innocent tourists are at risk of becoming victims.

The Travel Weekly article warns that tourism to Mexico is at risk if Mexico does not implement training to resort staff and tourist police, as well as place pressure on local medical facilities to stop exploiting tourists. But it seems highly unlikely that these proposed changes will take place anytime soon. 

Many people contact our office asking whether it's safe to cruise to Mexico. My thought is that 95% of the visitors who get off a cruise there will have an uneventful experience, if not an enjoyable time, assuming travel to Mexico is your thing. (I wouldn't recommend cruising to Acapulco because of the problem with violence there, as I have stated before.)

But between the Department of State warnings and the reports of tainted alcohol deaths coming from Mexico, if I were considering a vacation cruise, I might think that sailing out of Seattle or Vancouver through Canada and Alaska might seem a little more appealing.     

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

Photo credit: Mexico - Miami Seatrade Convention Miami - Jim Walker   

 

Cruise Lines Return to Acapulco Amidst Violence

Acapulco Travel CruiseYesterday, two articles about Acapulco caught my attention due to the widely different headlines and photographs of the former popular tourist destination.

The Los Angeles Times featured a beautiful photo in its article titled International Cruise Lines are Putting Acapulco in Their Itineraries Again. The Times wrote that tourism representatives announced that the number of cruise ship calls to Acapulco increased to 32 this year from 18 in 2016. The visits to Acapulco are from a variety of U.S. and European based cruise lines, including NCL, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea, Oceania, Crystal, Global, Saga and Hapag Lloyd Cruises. 

But the BBC published an article styled Acapulco: Four Killed in Popular Mexico Resort, with a graphic photo showing a grieving Mexican woman with the caption "More than 400 people were murdered in Acapulco in the first six months of 2017."

But the violence in Mexico is not limited to Acapulco. 

Three days ago, the New York Post published an article titled Drug Cartel Violence Hits Tourist Hotspots Cancun, Los Cabos. The Post vividly pointed to Acapulco as a top spot for out of control crime due to the drug trade: "Drug war violence has already turned one of the country’s preeminent tourist hotspots, Acapulco, into one of the country’s most dangerous cities with dead Acapulco Travel Cruisebodies being hung from bridges, human heads being left in coolers outside city hall and shootouts occurring at posh hotels."

Due to the U.S. demand for heroin fueled by the opioid crisis, Mexican cartels collect between $19 and $29 billion annually according to this newspaper. The extradition of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán to the U.S. reportedly created a power struggle within the drug cartels which is playing out in Mexico.  

Tourism officials, concerned with the violence affecting travel to Mexico, have worked with the cruise lines to promote cruises to the Mexican ports. They say that the violence is limited to “criminal groups settling scores among themselves” and that Mexican authorities are taking action against the criminals. Also, "the majority of the violence has occurred far from the all-inclusive resorts frequented by tourists."

I've written about cruising to cruising to Acapulco and Mexico before - Mexican Violence: Does Anyone Cruise to Acapulco Anymore?

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

Photo credit: Top - Acapulco - LA Times; bottom Getty Images via BBC.  

Carnival Dream Limps Back to New Orleans Following Engine Problems

Caarnival DreamNumerous passengers have informed us that the Carnival Dream has incurred power problems which have necessitated the Carnival cruise ship to skip the port of Cozumel.  

The ship is now heading back to the home port of New Orleans at a reduced speed (although I am also receiving comments from passengers that the Dream has either lost all propulsion or stopped several times to conduct tests).

The popular Cruise Hive website was the first blog to write about this issue.

Last year, there were 19 cruise ships which experienced partial or complete loss of propulsion due to engine problems, including problems with the Carnival Elation, Carnival Legend, Carnival Liberty and Carnival Vista as well as the Carnival owned Adonia, Caribbean Princess, Emerald Princess, and Costa neoRiviera

This year has seen a number of Carnival cruise ships experience engine problems, such as the Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Paradise, and Carnival Splendor.  

Carnival has not yet responded to a request for a comment.

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

Photo credit: Longbowe at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Update August 11. 2017 @ 5:00 P.M.: Statement from Carnival:

"Carnival Dream is presently experiencing a technical issue which is affecting its maximum cruising speed. All other systems are functioning normally. As a result, Carnival Dream was unable to call in Cozumel today and will be returning to New Orleans for arrival on Sunday as per its normal schedule.

Guests sailing on this voyage were provided with a $50 per person onboard credit. The ship did make its scheduled calls in Montego Bay, Jamaica and Grand Cayman earlier in the voyage.

We sincerely apologize for this disruption to our guests' vacation plans and for any disappointment this has caused."

Update August 12. 2017 @ 9:45 A.M.: Statement from Carnival:

"The problem on the Carnival Dream has been fixed and the ship is heading to New Orleans where it will arrive on Sunday as scheduled." 

COO Goldstein Sells Over $14,000,000 in Royal Caribbean Stock

Richard Fain Adam Goldstein Royal Caribbean CruisesRoyal Caribbean President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Adam Goldstein (photo, to the right) sold 120,000 shares of his company's cruise stock on August 2 and 3, 2017.  The stock was sold at an average price of $118.21 for a total sale of $14,185,200.00, according to the SEC.  

This follows the sale of RCL stock by CEO Richard Fain earlier in the week, where he collected $24,406,075.98. Cruise executives Goldstein and Fain, who often sell big blocks of company stock in tandem like this, together sold over $38,500,000 in RCL stock last week. 

Following the sale, COO Goldstein still owns 191,252 shares of RCL stock, valued at $22,607,898.92. The sale was disclosed in a document filed with the SEC

After the sales last week, Mr. Goldstein and Mr. Fain now own over $134,000,000 of RCL stock.

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

Photo credit: Royal Caribbean press center.

CEO Fain Rakes In Over $24,000,000 In Sale Of RCCL Stock

Royal Caribbean Richard FainRoyal Caribbean chief executive officer Richard D. Fain sold 210,706 shares of his cruise line stock in a transaction on Wednesday, August 2, 2017 at an average price of $115.83, for a total value of $24,406,075.98.

Mr. Fain was last in the news in April when a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission reflected that his total compensation last year was in the amount of $10,400,000.

Maritime Executive recently reported that Royal Caribbean's income for the second quarter reached $370 million, the highest second quarter earnings in company history. The cruise line's financial performance, the maritime journal wrote, "vindicates Fain's prediction that 2017 would shape up to be a 'sensational year.'"

Following the stock sale, CEO Fain reportedly now owns 967,741 shares of his company’s stock, valued at $112,093,440.03. 

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

Interested in this issue? Read Cruise Executive Richard Fain Hits the Jackpot Again.

Photo Credit: CNBC

Will NCL Ignore Captain Kirk?

Captain Kirk William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk in the 1960 classic science fiction television series Star Trek, reportedly recently urged Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) to stop offering "swim with dolphins" excursions on its upcoming Star Trek themed cruise.

According to the Hollywood Reporter (THR), Mr. Shatner is hosting the "Star Trek: The Cruise" voyage aboard the Norwegian Jade this coming January. He and the animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), asked NCL to end the swim-with-the-dolphins outings supported by the cruise line. He wrote a letter to NCL's CEO Frank Del Rio, saying: 

"Aboard the USS Enterprise, it was Captain Kirk's duty 'to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations' in order to advance and diversify our own. The exploitation of any species for profit and entertainment would have violated the Prime Directive. 

THR writes: "Shatner argued he's 'happy' his fans can sail on the themed-Norwegian Jade voyage, but insisted condemning captive animals to a 'lifetime of suffering' for entertainment cannot be justified. Surely, Star Trek fans would appreciate the decision to allow dolphins to remain in the wild — and prosper." 

NCL, of course, could not be reached for comment, according to the article.

NCL was last in the news for its exploitation of rare macaws in its development in Belize at Harvest Caye. The cruise line reportedly obtained numerous birds (toucans and other macaws) and animals and reptiles from the Belize government from the wild and/or rescue and rehabilitation centers for NCL Frank Del Rio display in cages for the benefit of cruise visitors. 

The prospect of CEO Del Rio responding to the commander of starship Enterprise? Between slim and none, in my opinion. Del Rio, who collected over $30,000,000 as CEO for NCL in 2015 alone, has a well deserved reputation for looking for every possible way to put money in the cruise line's coffers. 

NCL is just one of many cruise lines which sell exploitative swim-with-the-dolphins excursions to its guests.

Del Rio is probably the least likely cruise executive "to boldly go where no other cruise CEO has gone before."

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Credits: Captain Kirk - Star Trek.com; Frank Del Rio - Mark Elias/Bloomberg via Getty Images and Storify.

Royal Seas Cruises Refuses Refund After Customer's Wife Dies

A man from Tennessee was "stunned" when a company calling itself "Royal Seas Cruises" initially refused to refund his cruise to the Bahamas after his wife unexpectedly died. 

A news station in Knoxville reports that Bob Mackay and his wife Bonnie had paid for a cruise but his wife died shortly before they could go on the trip. 

As WATE explains, Bob was devasted when Bonnie died on June 26th. He called Royal Seas a few days after the funeral, asking for a refund of their cruise.  

“They told me that they would not cancel it. That I could sell it. Or if I found another girlfriend, I could use it and take her,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it when I heard it. I really don’t want to go on a cruise without my wife . . . ”

Bob requested to speak to the service representative’s supervisor who reportedly "had no interest in giving me a refund whatsoever,” notwithstanding Royal Seas' claim that its "customer service is second to none."

But after an "on your side" reporter contacted Royal Seas, the cruise line quickly agreed to issue a full refund.

Free Cruise Scam?

Royal Sea Cruises is actually not a cruise line but a vacation marketing company which sells cruises on the Grand Celebration which many passengers have complained is part of a "free cruise" scam.

The Better Business Bureau rates Royal Seas Cruise a "D-." It writes that its files contain "a pattern of complaints from consumers that allege they were contacted by Royal Seas Cruises informing them they won a 'free' cruise; however when they tried to redeem the free cruise they were informed of undisclosed fees and the requirement of attending a time share presentation. Consumers informed BBB they cancelled the cruise and requested a refund but they did not receive a refund from Royal Seas Cruises. Some consumers allege receiving unwanted phone calls from Royal Seas Cruises and requested to be removed from the company's call list but they still continue to receive calls." 

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FBI Investigates "Domestic Disturbance" Death Aboard the Emerald Princess

According to multiple news sources, the FBI is investigating the death of a 39-year-old woman from Utah aboard the Emerald Princess operated by Princess Cruises in Alaska.

The woman reportedly died aboard he Princess cruise ship after a "domestic dispute" leading to her "suspicious" death.

The cruise ship was diverted to Juneau, Alaska because of the criminal investigation, according to ABC News.

The FBI has special maritine jurisdiction to investigate crime at sea whenever a U.S. citizen is a victim or the assailant. 

July 27, 2017 Update: TIME magazine reports that the the U.S. attorney's office will hold a news conference later today with representatives of the FBI and Coast Guard in Anchorage to announce the filing of federal criminal charges against the suspect arrested yesterday by the FBI.

Jully 29, 2017 Update: CBS News Couple in Alaska cruise ship murder seemed like "perfect American family."

 Credits: photo KTVA. 

  

Nightmare Continues for Daughters of Couple Killed During Amazon River Cruise

Amazon River CruiseA local news station reports on the continued efforts of the children of Christy and Larry Hammer to find out why their parents died in a fire aboard a luxury river cruise ship operated by Alabama-based International Expeditions. The article is entitled Sisters who lost parents in cruise ship tragedy say company is blocking them from getting answers.

The Hammers were asleep in their cabin on La Estrella Amazonica, on the Peruvian Amazon, when a fire broke out in their cabin. (After the deadly fire, International Expeditions re-named the cruise ship the Amazon Star.)

The Peruvian Navy investigated the fire and concluded that the owner of the river cruise ship ignored basic safety regulations. The Peruvian Navy concluded that the fire was caused by a short circuit in a power strip which International Expeditions provided to the Hammers to be used in their cabins. 

But this does not provide answers to why the Hammers were trapped and died in their cabin, and why they were not timely rescued as smoke billowed from their cabin.

The news station reports that a passenger on that same cruise said that the cabin doors locked from the inside and required a key to open – and even with a key were difficult to unlock.

Meanwhile, International Expeditions is continuing to keep the sisters in the dark. The news station reports that one of the daughters, Kelly Lankford, said that "They have systematically tried to road block us trying to find out answers.”

Peru fined the river boat $19,000. International Expeditions is appealing the fine.

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Read our other articles on this case for more information:

Cruise Operators Continue to Hide Behind the Death on the High Seas Act.

Deadly Amazon River Fire Update: International Expeditions' La Estrella Amazonica.

Fire, Bandits Plague Amazon River Cruises in Peru.

Photo credit: People  

  

 

Fire on Danube River Cruise Ship

A-Roda Cruise Ship FireA fire broke out on a Danube River cruise ship today. Around 190 passengers and crew members were evacuated, including eight people who were treated for smoke inhalation.

The fire reportedly broke out in the sauna area of the A-Rosa Riva cruise ship when the ship was west of Vienna, Austria, according to an Austrian newspaper.

150 passengers and 39 crew members were reportedly transferred to another river ship that dropped anchor nearby on the Danube. 

Helicopters reportedly flew the two most seriously injured crew members to hospitals. All of the injured are crew members who tried to extinguish the fire. 

The vessel is registered in Germany and is operated by the A-Rosa Cruises company. 

Photo Credit: nachrichten.at

Controlling the Images: How Royal Caribbean Handles PR During Cruise Ship Fires

Royal Caribbean Cruise PRPR News recently published an interesting article about how Royal Caribbean Cruises successfully handled its public relations image during the 2013 fire aboard the Grandeur of the Seas. Titled How Royal Caribbean Controls the Message During a Crisis, the article explains how the cruise line effectively controlled the narrative when the Grandeur caught on fire while cruising to Nassau.

PR Success: Immediately after the fire, Royal Caribbean quickly flew its president and a professional photographer to the port and tweeted photos of the cruise CEO interacting with guests "so that journalists would use those photos instead of a guest’s."

I mentioned this effective PR move in an article which I posted shortly after the fire titled Where Are Photo & Video Images of the Fire on the Grandeur of the Seas?  I commented on Royal Caribbean's new and improved PR efforts, but pointed out that the cruise line released more photos of the cruise CEO having tea with passengers after the fire than of the damage to the ship. 

A video report by ABC News helped to explain why there were no videos or photographs because the cruise ship's crew stopped passengers from taking images of the fire and chaos. Passenger Carrie royal Caribbean Cruise PRMcTigue told ABC News that "even when people put their cameras up to photograph the sunrise, they were told, 'no photos.'"

PR Disasters: But Royal Caribbean has not always been able to control the images shown to the public when its cruise ships catch on fire. In July 2015, the Freedom of the Seas caught on fire. When we learned that the Freedom was on fire while heading to port in Falmouth, Jamaica, we asked a former client who lives near the port to video the fire. He videotaped the ship coming into port, billowing a huge amount of smoke. We immediately posted the video, on our Facebook page, which was viewed by over a million people within two days. We also posted the video on this blog with other images of the fire and the passengers mustering to prepare to abandon the fire-stricken ship.

So when Royal Caribbean tried to spin the story, with a misleading statement by its CEO that the fire was allegedly "small and quickly extinguished," the public could make their own assessment regarding the size and ferocity of the fire. All of the major networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) carried the video on their news programs and the international media included the video on their multi-media presentations.

The public was left with the impression that the cruise line was either completely out-of-touch with the danger posed to its guests or that it deliberately fabricated a falsehood to masquerade as the truth, which I suggested in the Royal Caribbean "Small Fire" Hoax.

Royal Caribbean also caused a public uproar after it sailed the Anthem of the Seas into a well publicized storm last year. Royal Caribbean's PR people tried to say that the storm was "unforeseeable" but weather professionals didn't buy it. They ripped the cruise line for routing the cruise ship directly into the storm. Read the Washington Post's 4,000-passenger cruise ship inexplicably sails into Atlantic mega-storm. Weather experts accurately predicted the Atlantic seas out of New Jersey to be over 30 feet high with winds of hurricane strength, but the Anthem nonetheless recklessly sailed into theRoyal Caribbean Cruise PR storm, terrorizing thousands of passengers and burning out the clutches of its azipods in the process. The Anthem returned to port in New Jersey with only one propulsion unit operating.

Royal Caribbean initially denied any damage or injury to the ship or the passengers and then falsely claimed that the only damage to the ship was "cosmetic." 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 chimed in with "Meteorologists: Royal Caribbean blew it on sailing into storm."

Practice Makes Perfect?  The director of the cruise line's corporate communications, Cynthia Martinez, was quoted in the PR article as saying that that the company often "practices roundtable discussions of how to handle an issue, and sometimes they practice writing tweets and press releases for specific situations." So the next time that a Royal Caribbean ship catches on fire or sails into a storm, remember that what you may be seeing from this cruise line is what it wants you to believe rather than the reality of what actually occurred or - as Al Roker said - "bullfeathers."

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NBC News: Hidden Dangers for Children on Cruise Ships

Jim Walker Cruise Law Sexual AssaultLast night, NBC Nightly News aired part 2 of its investigation into sexual assaults on cruise ships.

NBC interviewed me during the investigation. We have handled over 100 cases of sexual assault; approximately one third of the victims have been children. This is essentially the assault rate of minors that experts testified to during prior Congressional hearings.  

The common comment we hear is that parents need to supervise their children while on cruises. This may be true, but sexual assaults can take place even when the most attentive parents are involved. Children have been assaulted during cruises in shipboard childcare facilities as well as in their cabins by cabin attendants who meet the children and their family members during the cruise.

Another common scenario is older passengers who have access to alcohol and target underage girls during the cruise.

When an assault occurs, the FBI routinely does not follow up with their initial investigation and interview of the victim. Prosecutions of shipboard predators by the U.S. Department of Justice are rare.   

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Photo credit: NBC Nightly News  

Princess Cruises Causes Uproar with Balloon Release

Princess Cruises Balloon ReleaseOn June 30th, Princess Cruises celebrated the Majestic Princess's maiden cruise to Taiwan by releasing hundreds of red, blue, yellow, and pink balloons from the ship, which it photographed and posted on its Facebook page

The reaction to this environmentally-harmful publicity stunt was immediate. At the time of publishing this article, there were over 900 comments posted on Facebook with the vast majority criticizing the cruise line's conduct:

Disgraceful and irresponsible behavior from Princess Cruises with this mass balloon release  . . . These balloons will end up choking wildlife in the marine environment . . . 

Stop littering the precious ocean with plastic from your marketing stunts . . . 

Shame on you, Princess cruises for releasing HUNDREDS of balloons from your ship. You should know that this causes death to wildlife in the oceans . . . 

This makes me really sad. Those balloons will eventually come down into our oceans. Marine species mistake them as food and consume them. It kills them, and adds to the microplastic crisis and contaminates our seafood. Seriously who was the idiot who decided a balloon release was a good idea? And further, who approved it?

Princess Cruises auto-responded to the hundreds of comments protesting the balloon release by falsely claiming that the balloons were allegedly "biodegradable:"

Hi, we value and respect the environment. Only eco-friendly biodegradable balloons were used in this event.

Of course, vinyl balloons are not remotely biodegradable, as many knowledgeable cruisers explained on the Princess Facebook page. Studies posted by concerned readers conclude that it takes as long as five years before the balloon actually begins to fall apart. But then the smaller parts are consumed by fish, turtles and mammals, as one commentator pointed out: 

Princess Cruises, do you really understand what you said? Balloons don't disintegrate when Princess Cruises Balloon Releasethey hit water or land. Sea life and wildlife ingest them as food. The only biodegradable thing about them is when they rot in the stomach of dead animals. Please educate yourselves. I am shocked to see an enterprise that depends on the oceans for their revenue destroy it like this. Deplorable really!

Many of the hundreds of negative comments were left by people offended that Princess would try and defend the harmful publicity stunt.

This is a cruise line which has earned a reputation over the years as an enemy of the environment. Last December, the U.S. Department of Justice fined Princess $40,000,000 for wide-spread dumping of oil from a number of its cruise ships, by-passing the bilge-water oil separators, falsification of its logs, and lying to the Coast Guard. After it was caught for its long standing environmental crimes, Princess president Jan Swartz issued a public apology, saying that the cruise line was supposedly "committed to environmental practices that protect the marine environment."

Unfortunately, Princess Cruises' statement that it released so-called "eco-friendly" balloons suggests that Princess still hasn't learned much about protecting the marine environment.

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Photo credit:

Top - Princess Cruises Facebook page.

Bottom - BalloonsBlow.org

NBC News Looks at Problem of Sexual Assault on Cruise Ships

On Sunday, July 2, 2017, NBC Nightly News aired the first part of an investigative report into the issue of sexual assaults on cruise ships

Over the course of three months, NBC News spoke with 10 victims of sexual assaults, or members of their families, and found that cruise ships pose hidden dangers.

"Of the 92 alleged on-board crimes reported by cruise lines in 2016, 62 were sexual assaults. When sexual assaults occur at sea, it may be hard for victims to get justice on land. Some assaults were barely investigated, according to the victims and families who spoke to NBC. Most were never NBC News Cruise Ship Sexual Assaultprosecuted.

And perhaps most troubling, many of the sexual assaults on-board cruise ships involved minors. A congressional report in 2013 found that minors were victims in a third of the assaults."

NBC interviewed me, as well as another maritime lawyer in Miami Michael Winkleman, during their investigation. You can see a portion of the interview in the video below. 

The program highlights the fact that the FBI usually does not conduct a full investigation when women and children are victimized on foreign flagged cruise shhips. Prosecutions by the Department of Justice are even rarer. As a result, the cycle of sexual violence remains a problem on cruises.

The second part of the investigation airs this evening on NBC News. 

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Sexual Assaullt Victims on Cruise Ships are often Children and Teenagers

Ths week NBC News published an article titled Sex Assault Victims on Cruise Ships Are Often Under 18. Over three months, NBC News spoke with ten victims of sexual assaults and/or members of their families. The news organization found that a significant number of victims of rape and molestation on cruise ships are under 18 years of age.

NBC reported:

"Of the 92 alleged on-board crimes reported by cruise lines in 2016, 62 were sexual assaults. When sexual assaults occur at sea, it may be hard for victims to get justice on land. Some assaults were barely investigated, according to the victims and families who spoke to NBC. Most were never prosecuted.

And perhaps most troubling, many of the sexual assaults on-board cruise ships involved minors. A congressional report in 2013 found that minors were victims in a third of the assaults."

NBC interviewed me during its investigation.  We have represented 100 women and children, including families of  boys, who were sexually assaulted on cruise ships; around 35 vcitims were teenages and children with many victims under the age of ten with some as young as three years old. 

You can read more about sexual assault of children on cruise ships here

Interested in this issue? Read the recent article Sexual assault victims on cruise ships are often minors.

NBC will be airing its special on TV this weekend on the NBC Nightly News. Below is a portion of the special. 

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Fire Breaks Out on MS Nordnorge

A fire reportedly erupted in the engine room of the cruise ship MS Nordnorge yesterday (June 29th) when the vessel was docked at Trondheim, Norway, according to the Maritime Bulletin.

Crew members and city firefighters extinguished the fire. Three crew members were reportedly treated for smoke inhalation. The Nordnorge is a "ro-ro" ship (roll on - roll off type of cruise-ferry). The vessel reportedly did not sustain serious damages and departed from the port at Trondheim yesterday afternoon.

The Nordnorge was built in 1997, flies the flag of Norway, and is operated by Hurtigruten AS.

Credit: Clemensfranz - CC BY 2.5, commons / wikimedia.Nordnorge by Clemensfranz - CC BY 2.5, commons / wikimedia.

Police in Belize Arrest Three NCL Crew Members for Smuggling Cocaine

Norwegian Escape7 News Belize reports that three NCL crew members were arrested in Belize for possession of two kilos of cocaine which was picked up in Roatan and taken on an unidentified NCL cruise ship to the private destination of Harvest Caye, apparently with the intention of being smuggled into the U.S.  The news stations says that:

The police have not released any official information, but 7News has learned that 3 employees of Norwegian Cruise Lines were charged with drug trafficking for allegedly being in possession of two kilos of cocaine on a cruise ship. Our information is that the 3 men are now arrested and charged, and they are at the Belize Central Prison.

Reports are that the men, 2 nationals of St. Lucia and 1 from St. Vincent, arrived on last Tuesday, on an NCL ship which made a port of call at the Harvest Caye Island getaway. The men worked on the Ship. Reports say that the two kilos may have been picked up in Roatan.

The men were arrested, and charged, and they were arraigned in Magistrate's Court. They are now at the Belize Central Prison.

Smuggling cocaine is big business on the high seas. Two years ago, 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 drugs. The Tampa Bay Times reported that they worked for NCL as utility workers in the Norwegian Sun's galley.

A few months later, a NCL crew member employed aboard the Norwegian Dawn cruise ship was arrested when he attempted to smuggle cocaine aboard the ship when it was docked in Roatan.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has busted a cocaine smuggling operation where NCL crew members smuggled cocaine from Honduras to New Orleans aboard NCL's Norwegian Dawn cruise ship.

The article did not identify the NCL cruise ship involved in this latest smuggling caper, although it is believed to be the Norwegian Escape.

Costa and Princess crew members were recently arrested in cocaine smuggling schemes using cruise ships.

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June 21, 2017 Update: The newspaper in Belize identified the NCL crew members: Derson Frank, from St. Vincent; Renaldo Roberts, also from St. Vincent; and Jamal Celise of St. Lucia.

Photo credit: Arno Redenius - CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.

Cruise Industry: A Menace to Wildlife?

Big Red - Harvest Caye - NCLThis weekend, a reader of this blog sent me an article from the San Pedro Sun regarding NCL's exploitation of rare macaws in its development in Belize at Harvest Caye.

Scarlet Macaws

NCL reportedly obtained numerous birds (toucans and other macaws) and animals and reptiles from the Belize government from the wild and/or rescue and rehabilitation centers for display in cages for the benefit of cruise visitors. 

The article addressed the plight of a scarlet macaw, which is one of the most poached birds in Belize, which was rescued by the Belize Bird Rescue (BBR), a non-profit organization in Belize. The male bird, which was named "Big Red," was rescued and underwent rehabilitation for wild release; however, several weeks ago the bird reportedly was given to Harvest Caye to entertain cruise tourists, much to the outrage of local Belizeans. Critics of NCL's boondoggle in Belize point out that NCL did not even mention a captive animal facility in the cruise line environmental impact assessment or obtain permission to possess rare birds in its environmental clearance process.  NCL apparently created its own so-called "conservation NGO" but it is not working with any of the existing NGO's in Belize.

The article about NCL's conduct, although outrageous, is just one of many examples of the abuse of birds and animals at cruise line private resorts and excursions throughout the world.

Swim-With-The-Dolphins

Dolphin rescue groups have repeatedly protested against ”swim-with-the-dolphins" excursions, like the notorious Blackbeard's Cay in the Bahamas, which have become a major feature of the cruise experience. Carnival and Royal Caribbean advertise them as “once in a lifetime experiences." The trade of dolphins in the Caribbean is big business. There are many dozens of swim-with-the-dolphins excursions sold by cruise lines in Mexico and throughout the Caribbean. The Dolphin Project writes about dolphins "confined in tiny, chlorinated tanks, where they are subject to relentless sun exposure (often resulting in sunburn), noise pollution, continuous human interaction and water toxins. Some live in polluted harbor waters, in hastily constructed holding pens, “conveniently” close to cruise ship ports for quick, tourist access." 

Cayman Island Turtle FarmCayman Islands Turtles

An animal protection group explains that in their natural ocean habitats, green sea turtles can dive to depths over 400 feet and can swim several thousands of miles a year. But held in captivity in what was originally called the Cayman Turtle Farm, subsequently re-branded as the friendlier-sounding Cayman Turtle Centre, the turtles are kept in small, crowded holding pens and are removed only for entertainment purposes to be mishandled by tourists and used for props in selfie-photos. You can also eat the turtles which are bred at the tourist facility. More than 200,000 people visit the tourist-turtle farm each year; approximately three quarters are cruise passengers.

Surrey Horses in Mexico, the Bahamas and the Caribbean

Horse tours are a popular tourist attraction for cruise visitors. Cruise lines sell dozens of excursions to tour the various port towns via horse drawn carriages. In many destinations, the horses are poorly fed Carriage Horses - Bahamasand abused. They suffer from heat exhaustion, dehydration, malnutrition, traffic fumes, noise pollution, stress, and injuries. The situation in Nassau is particularly bad; a malnourished horse dropped dead on Bay Street in downtown Nassau only to be tied by the legs and dragged down the street by a pickup truck. Exploiting horses is a dreadful way to spend a vacation cruise.

The cruise industry supports hundreds of local ports and has great influence over activities by the local communities. For example, if the cruise line would stop doing business with the tour operators who abuse horses and do business only with reputable bus and van operators, the abuse would stop virtually overnight.

Similarly, if the cruise industry would stop calling at port countries like the Faroe Islands which slaughter pilot whales, there would be considerable pressure to end the barbaric sport of killing sentient mammals, as we have urged for years.  

There are literally literally thousands of cruise excursions offered by each of the major cruise lines Faroe Islands Slaughter Whaleswhich take the majority of the revenue from the excursion. There's little consideration given by the cruise lines to anything except how much money the cruise lines can collect. I tend to view the problem as starting at the top, with the greedy cruise executives looking to collect every nickle and dime possible; but thoughtless cruise passengers are part of the problem too. One person commenting on NCL's exploitation of macaws in Belize posted this comment:

"Par for the course for people who encourage thousands of passengers to swim with captive dolphins, ride tortured elephants, camels and the like. However the passengers are equally to blame."     

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This petition to end the exploitation of Belize's wildlife on NCL's Harvest Caye has reached 20,000 signatures. Read here.

Photo credits: 

Big Red - San Pedro Sun

Dolphin - Delfines En Libertad, Report on captive dolphins in Mexico.

Turtles -  World Animal Protection.

Horses - Stop Brutal Abuse and Suffering of Surrey Horses in the Bahamas.

Pilot Whales - Green Travel Life.

Jet Ski Operator Sexually Assaults Canadian Tourist in Nassau, Bahamas

 A jet ski operator in Nassau, Bahamas sexually assaulted a Canadian woman near Paradise Island yesterday afternoon, according to the Nassau Tribune.

The crime reportedly occurred after 1.30 P.M. on a cay near Cabbage Beach. The newspaper indicates that a jet ski operator took the young woman (in her twenties) on a ride from Cabbage Beach to a cay off Paradise Island where he sexually assaulted her.

An employee of the Atlantis resort told the newspaper that he observed the woman, shortly after the incident, crying and shaking on the beach. She indicated that the jet ski operator took her to a nearby cay Cruise Port Nassau Bahamaswhere he raped her. The news account says that the other jet ski operators"... don’t like him because he has a bad reputation. He has been accused before of groping a woman on the beach."

Over a half-dozen women have reported being assaulted by jet ski operators on Cabbage Beach in Nassau, Bahamas. The U.S. Embassy has warned of this specific danger several times. A year ago we wrote that, according to the U.S. Embassy, jet ski operators sexually assaulted five tourists in just 18 months

Bahamian officials previously discussed using police and Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers to patrol the beaches on Paradise Island to address the crime problem, but such plans never materialized.

Many passengers cruise to Nassau under the illusion that it is a tropical paradise. But the truth is that Nassau has been the subject of more critical crime warning that any other cruise destination in the world. The Bahamas has a far higher rate of rape and murder than any U.S. port where passengers embarked for a cruise. The cruise lines don't issue warnings before selling cruises to Nassau but typically warn their guests of the high crime rate there only during the cruise.

The Nassau Tribune has written about the rape of tourists by jet ski operators before.

The National Task Force for Gender Based Violence, Bahamas had the worst record for rapes in the Caribbean. The report stated that "while the worldwide average for rape is 15 per 100,000, The Bahamas has an average of 133 (per 100,000)." The rate in the U.S. Is somewhere around 28.6 per 100,000. There are almost 5 times as many rapes in the Bahamas as in the U.S. per capita rate.

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June 15, 2017 Update: It seems that history is repeating itself

Photo credit: TampAGS, for AGS Media - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia. 

Former Royal Caribbean Crew Member Convicted of Murdering Family Who He Met During Cruise

Shakti RamsurrunNewspapers are reporting that a jury in Canada convicted a former Royal Caribbean waiter, from Mauritius, of murdering a young woman and her family who he met during a cruise in 2009. 

In December of 2009, two weeks before Christmas, 24 year-old Shakti Ramsurrun, from the country of Mauritius (off of the southeastern coast of Africa) met 19 year-old cruise passenger Anne-Katherine Powers and her parents on a cruise aboard the Explorer of the Seas. Mr. Ramsurrun had been employed as a waiter by Royal Caribbean Cruises for only two months.

The following day, when the Explorer reached Coco Cay, Mr. Ramsurrun accompanied the young Canadian woman ashore, although he knew that that he was violating the company's anti-fraternization policy. 

Over the next few months, the friendship between the two continued and they became engaged. 

In April 2010, four months after the first cruise, the family returned for a second cruise aboard the Explorer to celebrate the 25th marriage anniversary of Ms. Powers' parents. Mr. Ramsurrun reportedly "asked the captain for special permission to spend time with my fiancee." Ms. Powers reportedly Shakti Ramsurrunended up staying in Mr. Ramsurrun's cabin during the cruise, if Mr. Ramsurrun's trial testimony is accurate. 

They later became married in Maurtius and, after staying there for a short time, they moved to Canada where they lived in Ms. Powers' parent's house with their newborn son. 

Ms. Powers wanted to separate from her husband, after their relationship deteriorated, but the couple still lived together. Mr. Ramsurrun moved to the basement of the family home. Ms. Powers' parents wanted him to leave their house, but Mr. Ramsurrun remained. In 2012, Mr, Ramsurrun killed Ms. Powers and her parents and left the house with the estranged couple's child. The police apprehended him with his child in a van, and he was charged with the triple slaying. 

Mr. Ramsurrun has remained in jail for the past 5 years. Late last week, a jury convicted him of murdering the family. According to the Ottawa Citizen, the court sentenced him to life imprisonment with no chance for parole for 25 years. 

The last Royal Caribbean crew member from  Mauritius who was in the news was Karan Seechurn who worked on the Quantum of the Seas as a mini-bar attendant. He was arrested and pleaded guilty of abusive sexual contact in 2015 after he used a master key to enter a woman's cabin and molest her while she was sleeping. 

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Hat tip to Crew Center who covered the story: Fairy tale turned into a nightmare - Ex Crew Member charged with triple murder.

Photo credit: Top - Radio Canada ICI Ottawa-Gatineau; bottom - Gatineau Police Department via Ottawa Citizen

Drug Mules Used Costa Cruise Ships to Smuggle Cocaine

For a two year period from 2012 to 2014, as many as thirty-four people who posed as cruise ship passengers on Costa ships participated in a smuggling network that transported hashish from Morocco to Brazil and cocaine from South America to Europe, according to the The Local newspaper in France.

The French newspaper reported that the "innovative and audacious" international drug smuggling ring consisted of nearly three dozen "low-level 'mules' who came from the same working class area of the city of Nice" and strapped the drugs to their bodies and carried the hash and cocaine on and off Costa cruise ships.

The drug carriers are on trial in France for smuggling the drugs between several continents. The Costa Cruise Shipsarticle says that the cruise staff on the cruise ships wondered what these young people were doing on cruises "if they were not accompanying their grandparents.”  

The article also mentioned that the the ill-fated Costa Concordia was reportedly carrying a huge shipment of Mafia-owned cocaine when she sank in January 2012.

We previously reported that several people were arrested with over 16 kilos of cocaine while disembarking the Costa Pacifica in Malaga following a Transatlantic cruise from South America several years ago.

The use of cruise ships to smuggle cocaine is a subject which we have reported on many times over the last couple of years. A few examples: 

There was a major drug bust (15 kilos) aboard the Splendor of the Seas in Buenos Aires in 2015. The Royal Caribbean cruise ship was heading to Brazil and then Europe.

In the same year, five men were caught trying to smuggle 26 kilos aboard the MSC Magnifica in São Paulo.

Three passengers were busted on a Princess cruise ship, the Sea Princess, last August of 2016, for smuggling over 209 pounds of cocaine.   

Just two weeks ago, three Princess crew members on the Island Princess were nabbed in Vancouver for smuggling five kilos of cocaine into Canada.

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Photo credit: Abxbay CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Cocaine-Smuggling Princess Crew Members Escape Jail Time

Osland Princess Crew MembersCanadian news stations have identified the three crew members from the Island Princess who were arrested last week for smuggling drugs into Vancouver, as we mentioned in a prior article

CTV News Vancouver identified three Nicaraguan crew members, Willard Murray Brooks (age 28), Emil Hebbert Garth (age 26) and Jason West Carter, (age 32) who were recruited by a Colombian drug cartel to smuggle 10 kilograms of cocaine onto the Island Princess when it docked in Cartagena. The Princess cruise ship later called on Vancouver on May 11th after sailing to Panama and, later, to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Once the  ship docked in Vancouver, CTV reports that the three crew members smuggled five kilograms of cocaine to a shore-side food court where an unidentified man met them and later paid US$30,000 for the drugs. The men reportedly tucked the cash into their underwear before heading back to the cruise ship. Canadian Border Services found the undeclared cash when the drug mules went through screening. A Vancouver police canine unit and the Canadian Border Services then searched the men's cabins where they reportedly located an additional amount of cocaine.

The men did not dispute the charges. CTV reports the dcrew members "also said they did not fear a return to their home country of Nicaragua, where they are expected to be flown within seven days. CBSA will hold Princess Cruise Lines responsible for the travel costs."

No explanation was provided by CTV why the drug smugglers did not face jail time in Canada. It is doubtful that the three crew members will face any charges once they have been returned home.  

A one-way ticket home to Nicargua for the crew members to be paid by Princess Cruises is hardly a deterrent to international drug smuggling.

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Video and photo credit: CTV Canada Vancouver

 

A Race to the Bottom? Cruise Lines Seek Reduction of Harbor Pilot's Compensation

Biscayne Bay PlotsThe safe operation of a cruise ship to and from the port of Miami depends in large part on someone who few cruise passengers will ever meet - a pilot from the Biscayne Bay Pilots.

Cruise ships, tankers and cargo ships are all piloted in and out of the narrow channel of Miami's Government Cut by a highly trained and experienced "harbor pilot." Before the ship enters the port, a harbor pilot will board the ship by climbing up a ladder from the pilot boat onto the ship. The officer in charge of the ship's navigation will then turn the command of the ship over to the pilot, who will use his familiarity with the unique characteristics of the port to safely bring the ship into (and later, out of) the port.

There is overwhelming pressure on the ship captains employed by the cruise lines to depart from and arrive at ports on time. The cruise lines pay bonuses to these captains for keeping their schedules. There are recent instances where the captains have been forced to imprudently take their cruise ships into dangerous sea conditions; a good example was reported by the Washington Post last year regarding Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas in an article titled 4,000-Passenger Cruise Ship Inexplicably Sails Into Atlantic Mega-Storm.  

The harbor pilots, whose rates are determined by state law and are not under the thumb of the cruise lines, are at the front line of keeping safety paramount over economic pressure.

The Miami-based cruise lines, through their trade association, the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association ("FCCA"), is nonetheless seeking to reduce the compensation to be paid to the Biscayne Bay Pilots Association for its services. 

The Florida Pilotage Rate Commission is holding a hearing this week on the FCCA's petition to lower the rates paid to the pilot's association. No other maritime ship owners or operators, like the bulk carriers or cargo ship owners, have objected to the pilot's rates.

There appears to be no legitimate reason for the cruise lines to try and reduce the compensation paid to the local pilots.

There has been no rate increase for the pilots since 2002; the rates have remained flat or have trended downward over the last 15 years. In contrast, the billions of dollars in revenues collected by the cruise lines, like Carnival and Royal Caribbean, have increased substantially during this time period. Cruise lines enjoy a virtual tax-free status by incorporating their business in countries like Panama or Bermuda and flying foreign-flags of convenience. The compensation earned by each of the local pilots, in contrast, has decreased by $100,000 in the last 15 years. The pilot rates have not been adjusted to keep up with the consumer price index ("CPI"). Taking into account inflation, each local pilot has lost another $90,000 in real dollars, while the cruise lines have all substantially increased their profitability by billions of dollars.

Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President of Marine Operations William Baumgartner, testified on behalf of the FCCA. Admiral Baumgartner initially praised the pilots but quickly criticized everything about their services. He characterized the port of Miami as a "simple, safe and easy to access" port, particularly compared to other ports like New Orleans, Tampa, Bayonne or New York City, implying that the pilots' jobs were easy. This argument was effectively rebutted by Stuart Lilly, Biscayne Bay pilot and past president of the Florida Harbor Pilots Association, who explained the difficulty of piloting Biscayne Bay Pilotsthe increasingly wide and deeper post-Panamax ships in and out of the narrow port of Miami channel which has not been widened since 1968. The channel into the busy port of Miami, with heavy traffic by pleasure boats, sail boats, work boats, fishing boats, ferries and oil tankers, is only around 500 feet wide, with tight turning basins, sometime called "malfunction junctions," (watch video here) in contrast to the channel in Bayonne, New Jersey with a width of around 2,000 feet.

The greatest risk is a cruise ship striking the hard rock side of the narrow channel at the port, similar to the Norwegian Dawn which ran aground near Bermuda in 2015 or the Costa Concordia which struck rocks near Giglio in 2012. A long, salvage effort similar to that involved in the Costa Concordia catastrophe would cause financial ruin to the port of Miami and the cruise industry.

The cruise lines also criticized the business model of the pilot association. The FCCA's accounting expert criticized the fact that the pilots pay for "full insurance" for their employees as "unreasonable" and also labeled the retirement plan as "rich" and also called it "unreasonable." This was an ironic argument given that the cruise lines have all terminated the retirement plans of their crew members or have agreed to pay only a small pittance (a token amount of $5,000 to be paid after 10 years of 8-10 month contracts which few crew members will ever reach). Meeting the insurance and retirement needs of employees are honorable steps to take, and are actually grounds to increase the pilotage rates. There is also irony in the fact that the cruise executives of the of the larger lines, like Carnival and Royal Caribbean, make around $10,000,000 a year each.       

A review of the schedule of ships which will be piloted into and out of the port of Miami tomorrow by the Biscayne Bay Pilots provides an insight into the vital services provided to the shipping commerce at the port. The pilots will be in command of three cruise ships into the port of Miami early tomorrow morning, the Norwegian Sky, Carnival Victory and Enchantment of the Seas between 5:00 A.M. and 6:00 A.M. The pilots will then take these cruise ships out of the port late tomorrow afternoon between 4:00 P.M. and 5:00 P.M.

In addition to the cruise ships, the pilots will provide in-bound services to container ships MSC Antonella, Hansa Augsburg, Arsos, and Seaboard Patriot, the general cargo ships Tango III and Sara Regina, and the pallet carrier Betty K VII, as well as pilot the ro-ro ship San Gwann and the container ship Arian to and from the port.     

Due to economies of scale, the average pilotage rates per cruise passenger are minimal. The handling rate for the Norwegian Sky, for example, is only $1.16 per passenger.

The rate reduction which the FCCA is seeking for the cruise lines amounts to only $0.25 per passenger, which is a $1,800,000 discount to be spread amongst all of the cruise lines.       

The effect of this proposed reduction on the pilots will be disastrous. It will reduce the compensation to each pilot by $100,000, even though the pilot compensation has already decreased over the years and has not been adjusted for inflation for a decade and a half.  It will be well below the national compensation paid to pilots of equal experience and training (not the meager salaries of the foreign-flagged cruise ship captains) and will undercut the efforts of the pilots to attract skilled pilots to Miami who are needed to handle the increasingly complex ships calling here at the cruise ship capital of the world.     

My view: The cruise industry likes to demand control of everything, whether it is the taxes imposed by the state of Alaska for environmental protection and infrastructure, or the minimal head taxes of the poor Caribbean ports. It steals the tips intended from its powerless foreign crew members. And it nickels and dimes all of its passengers to collect every penny it can. When the industry acts badly, like Princess Cruises did leading to a $40,000,000 environmental fine last December, it just passes the fines on to its customers via higher fares. But when it comes to reasonably paying a group of highly skilled local pilots who are vital to the safe transit of cruise ships into and out of Miami, it shows its true penny-pinching colors.

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Photo credits:  Biscayne Bay Pilots Facebook page. 

Carnival Cruise Line Picked as Most Trusted Cruise Line?

Reader's Digest Poll Most Trusted Brand Reader's Digest has again selected Carnival Cruise Line as the "most trusted cruise line" in the world. 

As the popular cruise blog Cruise Fever writes: "The Reader’s Digest Trusted Brand Survey is an independent, online survey conducted in partnership with Ipsos Connect. This year’s survey polled 5,500 Americans nationwide who were asked to rate products they trust across 40 different categories in areas such as quality, value and reliability."

This is the third consecutive year that Carnival Cruise Line has been voted as the most trusted cruise line.

The cruise brand has come a long way since the Carnival "Poop Cruise" debacle.

The Reader's Digest poll also named McDonald's as the most trusted fast food and Walmart as the most trusted mass merchandiser.  

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

Photo credit: Reader's Digest

Regent Seven Seas Kicks Elderly Couple Off Explorer Cruise Ship

A reader of Cruise Law News sent me a article appearing today in the British newspaper, Daily Mail, titled Grandmother, 83, is kicked off her 6-star cruise for having a panic attack: Dementia sufferer and her veteran husband claim they were thrown out of their £8,000 suite after she fell ill.

84 year-old grandmother Marguerite Hayward was traveling with her husband, war veteran Fred Hayward, on board the Regent Seven Seas Cruises Explorer when she awoke late one night suffering from a panic attack linked to her dementia. The ship doctor and nurse responded to the incident along with the chief of security who appeared in the couple's luxury suite, reporting yelling at Mrs. Hayward to "keep quite," according to the tabloid. The medical team injected Mrs. Hayward with a sedative and she Regent Seven Seas Cruises Explorerquickly fell asleep "with her husband cuddling her." 

The following morning, Ms. Hayward appeared "calm and relaxed," remembering nothing about the preceding night's events. The couple was about to go to breakfast when the ship's officers summoned them to a meeting. The officers informed them that the ship had reported the incident to the home office in Miami which ordered the couple to immediately leave the ship. 

The Haywards were handed a medical bill from the ship infirmary of over $1,300 and then, after quickly packing, ordered into a tender to be taken ashore to the Italian port of Sorrento. The ship doctor reportedly informed the Italian doctors that he suspected that Ms. Hayward was suffering from "paranoid schizophrenia," a diagnosis which Mr. Hayward denied applied to his wife. 

The Italian doctors put Mrs. Hayward on a drip and placed her on oxygen, and she quickly became unconscious, according to her husband. The Hayward' son learned of his parent's plight and traveled to the hospital in Sorrento where he found his mother "sedated, on a drip and wearing a t-shirt covered in blood." Her son arranged for Mrs. Haywards to be flown via air ambulance back to the U.K, where she was hospitalized for stress and trauma, with severe bed sores and extensive bruising. 

The Haywards' sons have written to CEO Frank Del Rio, a cruise executive who has earned a reputation of penny-pinching and being indifferent to bad press, who reportedly did not reply.

This is not the first time that a cruise line booted an elderly passenger with dementia and her husband off of a ship.

Several years ago, Celebrity sent a woman with dementia and her husband, involuntarily from the Millennium cruise ship. Like this case, the cruise line made no effort to communicate with the passengers' family or emergency contacts, or to transport the couple back home. The cruise line essentially abandoned the couple ashore.

Carnival handled a similar situation better after the Carnival Legend disembarked a guest ashore in Cozumel after he had a "minor Alzheimer's episode, leaving his stateroom alone at 4 a.m. for a cup of coffee."

Carnival claimed that they found the husband disoriented and the ship doctor declared him to be a danger to himself, so the ship disembarked the couple off the ship at the next port. But when a news station contacted Carnival, the cruise line "quickly admitted that the situation was mishandled" and reimbursed the cost of the cruise and the airfare home.

The passenger tickets drafted by the cruise line's lawyers state that the cruise lines can disembark passengers for any reason. However, from a public relations point of view, I would think that the couple should have been treated more sensitively and respectfully. The cruise line should have provided its guests, at a minimum, with transportation back home and a full refund of their costly fares.

Photo credits: Daily Mail

Vancouver Police Arrest Three Crew Members From Island Princess For Drugs

Island PrincessA Canadian newspaper reports that the police in Vancouver arrested three Princess Cruises crew member from the Island Princess on drug charges.

CTV  that the Island Princess was scheduled to leave Vancouver for Alaska when members of the Canada Border Services Agency and the Vancouver Police Department's Canine Unit boarded the cruise ship to search for drugs on the ship. 

Princess Cruises confirmed that three ship employees were arrested but refused to identify the type or quantity of the narcotics. 

Princess Cruises was last in the news after the DOJ last December fined it $40,000,000 for wide spread dumping of oil throughout the world's oceans for nearly a decade.

In September of 2016, the police in Australia arrested three passengers in possession of over 209 pounds of cocaine aboard the Sea Princess.

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Photo Credit: CC0 wikipedia.  

Passenger Reported Overboard From Golden Princess

Golden PrincessAustralian newspapers are reporting that a passenger has disappeared from the Golden Princess operated by Princess Crises.

A 61 year old U.S. citizen apparently went overboard from the cruise ship on Wednesday, according to these newspapers. The Golden Princess later docked in Sydney, on Thursday. The cruise line searched for the man on the ship after the crew became concerned that he might have gone overboard. 

A reader commented (below) that the man was "reported missing by his cabin steward at around 9pm on Wednesday night 3rd May. However the Captain announced to all passengers onboard that he was last sighted on Monday 1st May. Monday was the first of 3 sea days back to Sydney from Latouka Fiji." 

The ship is now sailing en route to Brisbane and Papua New Guinea.

Cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein has tallied 296 people overboard in the last 17 years.

Photo credit: Jean-Philippe Boulet, commons / wikimedia.

Man Reported Overboard from Disney Dream, Rescued

Disney Dream Overboard, RescueA man from the Disney Dream was reported going overboard this evening. The article did not indicate whether the man was a passenger or a crew member. The person was reportedly rescued.

The information comes from a Disney fan page called Chip & Company, which reported:

We are following a developing story of an adult male who reportedly went overboard the Disney Dream cruise ship this evening. Sources are saying that multiple cruise passengers reported that the Disney Dream began slowing down and circling. They then saw a coast guard airplane fly overhead. It was stated that the recovery took less than an hour and the man survived and is currently in the ship’s medical center. Compliments were given to the Disney Dream crew members for their efficiency and competency during the emergency.  

AIS tracking systems show the Disney Dream apparently conducting a search west of Freeport, Bahamas. 

Compared to other cruise lines, there are relatively few man-overboards from Disney cruise ships. Disney appears to have an automatic man overboard system which automatically alerts the bridge when a person goes overboard. Two years ago, the Disney Magic rescued a passenger from the Oasis of the Seas who went overboard after a night of heavy drinking.

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Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger from Carnival Elation

Yesterday, the United States Coast Guard medevaced a 39-year-old passenger from a Carnival cruise ship.

The Coast Guard station in Clearwater, Florida deployed a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter on Sunday, April 30, 2017 to the Carnival Elation cruise ship which was approximately 40 miles east of Port Canaveral, Florida. The Coast Guard helicopter hoisted the woman from the cruise ship and transferred her to a hospital. There is no information available regarding the nature of the woman's medical condition or her status as a patient. 

Video credit: Video by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Dickinson, U.S. Coast Guard District 7 PADET Jacksonville via Defense Video Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS)

Congress Introduces Legislation to Amend DOSHA

Congress introduced legislation on Wednesday which will strengthen the rights of cruise passengers to seek compensation when cruise lines negligently cause the death of their loved ones on the high seas.

As matters now stand, the statute which governs deaths in international waters, the Death on the High Seas Act ("DOSHA"), bars the recovery of emotional damages, such as pain and suffering and mental anguish, when a passenger dies outside of state territorial waters. This means that when a non-wage earner, such as a retiree or a child, dies due to a cruise line's negligence, their surviving family members can recover only very limited compensation, usually only burial and funeral expenses.

Proposed improvements to the Cruise Passenger Protection Act, if enacted, would permit the families of Miami Cruise Linespassengers who die on ships in international waters as a result of the negligence of a cruise line to seek "non-pecuniary" compensation, as permitted by most states, such as damages for grief and bereavement. 

Congresswoman Doris Matsui, Congressman Ted Poe and Congressman Jim Himes sponsored the legislation in the House of Representatives, while Senator Richard Blumenthal and Senator Edward Markey sponsored similar legislation in the Senate. You can read a press statement by Congresswoman Matsui here and the statement of  Mr. Blumenthal and Mr. Himes here.

Congress originally enacted DOSHA back in 1920 when few state wrongful deaths statutes permitted family members to recover damages for the emotional suffering experienced by family members who lose a loved one. Since then, the majority os states have substantially improved their statutes to permit the full recovery of emotional damages. In 2000, Congress amended DOHSA to permit damages in commercial aviation accidents which occur in international waters. DOSHA used to bar emotional damages in such cases.

At the moment, DOHSA remains the same in maritime cases as when it was enacted 97 years ago. The proposed amendments to DOSHA will ensure that families of victims at sea are provided with the same rights as airline passengers.and are finally able to pursue fair compensation. 

Kelly Hammer Lankford and Jill Hammer Malott, the daughters of Larry and Christy Hammer, who perished during a deadly river cruise fire last year, are part of the efforts to amend DOSHA. Their parents died aboard the Estrella Amazonica, operated by International Expeditions of Alabama, on the Amazon River in Peru. International Expeditions is trying to dodge accountability by using DOSHA as a liability shield. (International Expeditions subsequently renamed the ill-fated La Estrella Amazonica as the Amazon Star). The daughters commented on the proposed legislation, saying:

“We are thrilled that our legislators are trying to do what the cruise companies have not: Protect passengers. Through legislative reform, American travelers would finally be able to hold cruise companies accountable when tragedy strikes, stopping these companies from hiding behind an antiquated law to avoid responsibility for their actions.”

The cruise industry, which has lobbied heavily against efforts to reform the antiquated maritime statute, is expected to resist the proposed legislation.

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Photo Credit: Jim Walker

April 28, 2017 Update: The Miami New Times covered the story in Congress Introduces New Cruise Ship Safety Regulations.

Carnival Shakes Down U.S. Military Serviceman

Carniival Cruise - U.S. ArmyA couple of years ago, I wrote a number of articles asking the rhetorical question why cruise lines have an image problem.

I discussed a number of rather outrageous cases where the cruise lines refuse to refund or credit cruise fares when their customers face a personal catastrophe, like the unexpected death of a loved one, or a customer needing emergency cancer surgery, or a father having to bury his police-officer son who had been shot and killed, or having their home destroyed by a natural disaster, or even when the cruise is to an area affected by a nuclear power plant leaking radiation and subject to a travel warning by the State Department. 

There is no shortage of ways that the cruise lines have tarnished their reputations.

Today, a reader of this blog sent me another example of a cruise line clearly doing the wrong thing.

It seems like a young man, identified as Stephen Madden, was booked to take a Carnival cruise with his wife when he received orders from the U.S. Army deploying him back to active military duty. He had the foresight to pay extra for the protection plan (titled "Carnival Fee Waiver Program"). But the insurance company (AON) sent him a letter denying his claim for a refund, saying that military deployment is not a reason stated in the insurance program. You can read about his situation on Facebook

I have never served in the Army or any other branch of the U.S. military services (although my Dad served in the U.S. Army). But I was taught to give great respect to members of the the U.S. Armed Forces, whether it be as simple as permitting active service men and women preferred boarding when I fly in airports.

I have taken a peek at Mr. Madden's facebook photos which show him in uniform, (I believe that he is a Sergeant), with the America flag on his shoulder. He is clearly a patriot. I have posted one photo above.  

Carnival professes that it takes care of our military, but it has done this several times before.

I would hope that by the time that this article is published, the Carnival claims representative have woken up and will do the right thing by reimbursing this army soldier his cruise fare.

Carnival has enough problems after the Costa Concordia deadly-debacle, or the embarrassing Triumph poop-cruise, or the recent DOJ fines of  $40,000,000 for the dumping of oil into the waters around the world for nearly a decade by its subsidiary Princess Cruises. Giving an U.S. army member a hard time like this is unconscionable. 

People may say that soldier Madden should have read the legal mumbo-jumbo in the fine print of the insurance policy more carefully. I say rubbish to that. Our servicemen and women deserve special treatment irrespective of the legal gobbledygook that the cruise giants and insurance companies place in front of their customers in order to to fatten their financial bottom lines.  

Please join the discussion on our Facebook page.

April 26, 2017 Update: Carnival sent the following statement today:  "This guest was given a full refund yesterday and it is our practice to refund service members who are called to active duty and need to cancel their cruise."

Photo credit: Stephen Madden

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Missing from Liberty of the Seas

Liberty of the Seas A number of newspapers in Galveston are reporting that the U.S. Coast Guard is searching for a Royal Caribbean crew member who apparently went overboard from the Liberty of the Seas this morning.  

ABC-13 News in Galveston is reporting that a 39-year-old Filipino crew member was reported missing from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship around 4:30 a.m. this morning.

Images of the unidentified crew member were reportedly captured by a closed circuit television (CCTV) on the Liberty of the Seas at about 1:30 a.m. Monday. He was later reported missing at 4:30 a.m. after he failed to report to his job station.  

The Coast Guard search involved an airplane dispatched from the Coast guard station in Corpus Christi and a patrol boat from Galveston. The crew member is believed to have disappeared approximately 170 miles southeast of Galveston. 

The three hour delay between the last images of the crew member on CCTV and the reporting of the missing crew member probably means that the cruise ship was not equipped with an automatic man overboard system which would have immediately notified the bridge that a person has gone over the rails of the ship and into the water.  

AIS tracking systems reveal that the Liberty of the Seas apparently did not conduct searches for the crew member in the Gulf of Mexico.

This is an issue we have written about regularly. 

Modern man overboard technology includes motion detection systems which can immediately signal the bridge and simultaneously capture an image of the person going overboard thus verifying that is not a false alarm. The technology can actually track the person in the water, even at night, with radar and infrared technology. 

Where most overboards involving cruise passengers seem to be the result of the sale of excessive alcohol, overboards involving crew members seems to involve employees jumping overboard (there is no evidence that this occurred in this specific case). In 2012, I chronicled a dozen crew members who went overboard from Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise ships during a period of three years. I cited the difficult working conditions and low pay which crew members face which are almost unimaginable by U.S. standards: 12 plus hour days, 7 days a week, 30 days a month with no days off over the course of 6 to 10 month contacts, for as little as $550 a month for non-tip earning ship employees. I asked Is Royal Caribbean Working Its Crew Members to Death?

This problem is not limited solely to the Royal Caribbean brands.  We have written about crew members from Carnival, MSC, NCL and Princess who have apparently intentionally gone overboard. 

In our experience, the medical treatment for physical injuries involving crew members is spotty at best. Ibuprofen is often the only "treatment." Medical care for crew members suffering from depression and other emotional issues is virtually non-existent.

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Photo credit: Hassocks5489 at English Wikipedia - Public Domain, commons / wikimedia.

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Missing in Bonnaire

Adriana Morales de Florencio - Royal Caribbean Crew Member Missing in BonnaireNewspapers in Bonaire are reporting that the police in that country are looking for a crew member employed by Royal Caribbean on the Navigator of the Seas who did not return to the cruise ship after going ashore in the port of Kralendijk two days ago.

Mexican national Adriana Morales de Florencio, reportedly left the Royal Caribbean cruise ship on Thursday, April 20th, around noon. But she did not return before the cruise ship left the harbor of Kralendijk, according to the BES Reporter

The Notisia ING Facebook page has several photographs posted of the missing young woman. 

According to police information, Ms. Morales was born in 1993; she was was wearing a black sleeveless blouse, short cut-off jeans and black shoes.

The young woman reportedly was in the middle of her second contract; she worked both contracts on the Navigator.

The majority of people missing under these type of circumstances are passengers who eventually turn up.  It is unusual for a crew member not to return to their job on a cruise ship. It is less than clear what, if anything, the cruise line is doing to search for her. 

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

April 30, 2017 Update: Terrible news; a newspaper reports that Adriana's body was found in Bonaire.

Photo credit: Notisia ING Royaal Caribbean Crew Member Adriana Morales de Florencio Missing in Bonnaire

Coast Guard Medevacs Passengers from Carnival Magic, Carnival Ecstasy, Celebrity Reflection and Norwegian Breakaway

Cruise Ship MedevacThe U.S. Coast Guard was busy on Thursday and Friday with four medevacs of ill cruise ship passengers off of the coast of Florida, North Carolina and Puerto Rico. 

The Coast Guard first provided an emergency airlift on Thursday morning to a 47-year-old male passenger from the Celebrity Reflection, to a hospital in San Juan Puerto Rico.

The Celebrity cruise ship was about 35 miles north of Puerto Rico, en route from St. Kitts to Miami, when the crew requested Coast Guard assistance in transporting the man who was described as being in "medical distress" to a local hospital.

On Friday, the Coast Guard reportedly medevaced a 53-year-old woman from the Carnival Ecstasy which was approximately 150 miles east of Port Canaveral. The crew of the Ecstasy contacted the Coast Guard at around 10:43 a.m., stating that a passenger was experiencing chest pain.

The Coast Guard station in Clearwater dispatched a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter to the Carnival cruise ship. The helicopter arrived at the Ecstasy aroung at 2:30 p.m., hoisted the cruise passenger and a ship nurse, and transported them to Halifax Memorial Hospital in Daytona at around 4:45 p.m. A video of the rescue is below at the middle.

Also on Friday, the Coast Guard station in Miami deployed a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter which hoisted a 41-year-old passenger man from the Carnival Magic which was about 100 miles southwest of Key West.

The man was experiencing chest pains and was flown to the Miami-based air station, where EMS personnel drove him to Jackson Memorial Hospital. A video of the medevac is at the bottom.

A family member left a message on the Defense Video and Imagery Services (DVIDS) webpage stating:

So thankful for your service . My son-in-law is going to be fine. They put a stint in and we should be able to bring him home to North Carolina soon. God is Good !! Our prayers were answered. May God bless each of you for your service and for getting him where he needed to be to get help. Our family is grateful for all you did.

A third medevac also took place on Friday afternoon. The Coast Guard medevaced a 60 year-old man from a cruise ship off the coast of North Carolina after the crew reported that he was experiencing kidney failure.

The Coast Guard station in Elizabeth City launched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and a C-130 Super Hercules aircraft which arrived at the Norwegian Breakaway, around 120 miles southeast of Wilmington. The helicopter crew hoisted the man to the helicopter and transported him to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington for treatment. 

There is no reported inforrmation regarding the status of this NCL passenger or the other passengers who were medevaed for emergency medical treatment ashore from the Carnival Ecstasy or the Celebrity Reflection.  

The costs involved in U.S. Coast Guard medevacs are paid by the U.S. government. 

Another cruise ship medevac took place on Friday after a 66 year old woman fell and broke both of her legs on the P&O Pacific Jewel off the north-east coast of Australia (Queensland).

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

Video credit: 

Top - 7News Australia.

Middle - Carnival Magic - U.S. Coast Guard District 7 via DVIDS.

Bottom - Carnival Ecstasy - Petty Officer 1st Class Luke Clayton, U.S. Coast Guard District 7 PADET Jacksonville via DVIDS. 

 

  

  

CEO Compensation: The Rich Get Richer

Richard Fain  RCL Royal Caribbean CEO Richard D. Fain's reportedly collected total compensation last year in the amount of $10,400,000 (million) compared to his total compensation in 2015 of $9,400,000 (million), according to a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

CEO Fain recently sold 20,000 shares of  Royal Caribbean stock.  The RCL stock was sold at an average price of $94.92, for a total transaction of $1,898,400.00. Following the transaction, Mr. Fain now owns 1,027,741 shares in the company, valued at approximately $97,553,175.72. He also indirectly owns another 426,912 shares of RCL stock, for  the benefit of certain family members, worth over $40,230,479.

Interested in this issue?  Read Cruise Executive Richard Fain Hits the Jackpot Again.

Bus Driver Shot & Killed in Tourist-Filled Downtown Nassau

Nassau Bahamas Shooting DeathThis morning, a driver of a minibus, reportedly operated by Stuart Cove Dive shop, was shot and killed in downtown Nassau, Bahamas. The Facebook page of Nassau resident Tellis Virgil‎'s Speak Up Bahamas discussed the incident and includes a photograph of the crime scene. 

Stuart Cove's Dive Bahamas is described as "Nassau's leading full service dive resort."

Five cruise ships are in the port of Nassau today: Carnival Pride, Carnival Elation, Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas, Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Breakaway. 

The Tribune newspaper in Nassau reports that police "were called to the scene of the shooting at East Street North, near Prince George Wharf around 7am where they discovered the body of an adult male by a Stuart Cove's minibus parked near The Crew Pub and entrance to the cruise port." 

It is currently unknown exactly when the five cruise ships arrived at the port and disembarked passengers ashore. Several of the ships disembarked their passengers after 7:00 a.m., if this is in fact when the shooting occurred. But many people commented that tourists were waiting to board the minibus when the shooting took place.

One of the comments to the Tribune article expressed concern that the "man was murdered on the doorstep of our cruise ship industry in broad daylight." Other people voiced their concerns on the Speak Up Bahamas Facebook page of the impact of this crime on Nassau. Several people commented that there are already two police officers from the Royal Bahamian Police Force on virtually every street corner in downtown Nassau to try and deter crimes which may affect tourists.  

Cruise Law News has repeatedly reported on the high crime rate in this port city.  The murder rate in Nassau is around 8 to 10 times higher than the U.S. murder rate per 100,000. The murder rate in the U.S. is around 4.5 per 100,000; the murder rate of the Bahamas is over 30 per 100,000.  Considering that the vast majority of murders in the Bahamas occur in New Providence where Nassau is located, the murder rate is probably over 40 per 100,000 for Nassau.     

I have been quoted as saying that Nassau is one gunshot away from cruise lines pulling out of Nassau. Nassau is viewed by the Miami-based cruise lines as a convenient deep water port with cheap dockage fares and low passenger head-taxes. But Nassau has been the subject of at least a dozen critical crime warnings by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. embassy in Nassau over the last several years. Cruise lines will probably still continue to call on Nassau because it is a close, money-making port (although it will lose cruise tourists to Cuba over the years to come). But things will drastically change should a cruise passenger become a murder victim in Nassau. 

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

Photo credit: Tellis Virgil‎'s Speak Up Bahamas

Carnival Fantasy Suffers Propulsion Problems

Carnival Fantasy A number of news sources are reporting that the Carnival Fantasy is experiencing a mechanical "technical problem" affecting its propulsion system, which limits the ship's maximum. Carnival said that because of this problem, the Fantasy will not call on its scheduled port stop, Cozumel, Mexico, and will remain at sea for the duration of the cruise.

Instead, Carnival will take the ship on a three-night "Cruise to Nowhere." 

Carnival offered its booked guests the option to cancel and receive a full refund, or stay on board and sailing on the "cruise to nowhere." Passengers who decided to stay on the cruise reportedly will receive a 50 percent refund of their cruise fare, a $50 onboard credit and a 50 percent toward a future cruise.

The Fantasy is 27 years old. 

"Cruises to nowhere" are illegal under the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) of 1886 unless the cruise line obtains a special waiver.

Recently, several cruises on Carnival and other lines have been affected by what the companies characterize as "technical issues" with the ships' engines.

The Carnival Paradise and the Carnival Splendor faces similar problems in the last six weeks.  Celebrity Cruises canceled or shortened cruises at the last minute on the Celebrity Summit two weeks ago. 

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Photo credit: Ron Cogswell - CC BY 2.0, commons / wikimedia. 

Ken Carver Honored for Cruise Safety

Merrian CarverKen Carver, Chairman of the International Cruise Victims Association (ICV), received the Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award from the U.S. Department of Justice during the annual National Crime Victims’ Service Awards ceremony on Friday in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Carver founded the ICV after his daughter disappeared from a Celebrity cruise ship during an Alaskan cruise in 2004. In 2006, he formed the ICV which is a grass roots, victim organization of families who have lost loved ones on the high seas or have been victims of sexual assaults and other crimes at sea.  

I remember when I first heard of Mr Carver. In 2005, the Arizona Central newspaper published an article titled Daughter Vanishes While on Alaskan Cruise by Robert Anglen about the disappearance of Mr. Carver's daughter, Merrian Carver, from the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship.

The facts described in the article were bad enough: a Celebrity cabin attendant noticed that Mirrian was missing early in the cruise but when he alerted his supervisors, they told him not to worry about her. In the process, Merrian's clothes and personal effects were quickly disposed of at the end of the cruise.  But the cover-up of the disappearance was even worse: neither the FBI nor local law enforcement officials were notified when there was no sighting of Merrian at the end of the cruise. Celebrity Cruises lied to Mr. Carver about its policies which required it to keep CCTV tapes for at least 30 days; when Mr. Carver asked for tapes within that period, Celebrity falsely told him that none existed. 

The cruise line gave Mr. Carver about as much attention and respect as someone complaining about losing a piece of luggage during a cruise. He told the Arizona Central: "We've learned that if something Ken Carver - International Cruise Victimshappens on a cruise, you are on your own," he says, choking back sobs. "No other parents should ever have to go through the crap we've been through. We don't know if Merrian is alive or dead. We don't know if there was an accident or murder or suicide or something else. . . . It is a very sad story."

After reading the blockbuster article about the terribly sad story, I felt compelled to read first-hand the facts alleged in a lawsuit which Mr. Carver was forced to file to try in Miami-Dade County to try and find out what happened to his daughter. I was also curious which law firm Celebrity Cruises retained to represent it in the lawsuit. 

The clerk requires anyone asking for a copy of a court pleading to fill out paperwork identifying the name and address of the person requesting the file. When I looked at the clerk's forms, I could see the names of the defense lawyers who had previously requested the file and would be involved in the case.

Coincidentally, later in the week, I bumped into these lawyers on the sixth floor of the courthouse while attending a hearing in another case. I mentioned to them: so you guys will be defending the tragic case of the father whose daughter disappeared during the cruise to Alaska?" The lawyers first denied knowing anything about the case, but when I told them that  the clerk information confirmed their involvement, one of the lawyers remarked: that's a bullshit case; we're going to have it dismissed

I'll remember this rude conversation and the defense lawyers' smug attitude for the rest of my life. I recall thinking at the time that this was not going to end well for this cruise line or their heartless defense lawyers. 

Later, during one of many television specials about Merrian's disappearance, one of the defense lawyers said to Chris Cuomo, who was working for ABC News at the time, Merrian probably committed suicide. Of course, there was absolutely no evidence of this, but this didn't stop the defense lawyer from saying it. The smear tactic was clearly the result of the nasty attitude of the cruise line lawyers and their client. But it raised the obvious question that if it was somehow true that Merrian ended her own life, why wouldn't the cruise line simply tell law enforcement and Mr. Carver and timely provide evidence supporting this conclusion? 

I'll also never forget when I first met Mr. Carver. He attended the first Congressional hearing in Washington D.C. before the U.S. Senate on December 13, 2005, following the disappearance of George Smith III from the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas. I was representing Mr Smith's wife at the hearing and was seeking information from an equally recalcitrant cruise line. Mr. Carver introduced himself at the hearing, smiled and asked me do you want to help me pass a cruise crime law? 

Quite frankly I didn't know exactly what Mr Carver was talking about. I thought to myself that any kind of law requiring the cruise line to report crimes, an issue the cruise industry always sought to suppress, was unprecedented. 

But a month later Ms. Carver created the ICV. And with the assistance of hundreds of crime victims who joined the ICV, and the convening of several more Congressional hearings addressing crimes and disappearance on cruise ships, Mr. Carver was successful in having Congress enact the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010. His proposed legislation, requiring the disclosure of missing Ken Carver ICVpassengers, the reporting of crime on cruise ships, and the requirement for ships to be equipped with rape kits and anti-retorviral medications to automatic man overboard systems, passed the Senate and House on a nearly unanimous basis. 

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

Over the past dozen years, I've seen dozens of cruise executives and cruise line defense lawyers come and go - as well as PR crisis managers and lobbyists in the cruise industry trade organization. Many have left the industry. But Mr. Carver is still standing. Cruising is safer today because of him.

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Cruise Excursion Passengers Watch Fishermen Slaughter Orcas

Orcas - Slaughter St. VincentIn a bizarrely cruel story, Caribbean 360 just covered the slaughter witnessed by cruise passengers from what has been described as the Thomson (TUI) Discovery cruise ship of two orca whales in the waters of St. Vincent. 

Whale watching tours conducted by the St. Vincent Fantasea excursion company involving passengers from the TUI cruise ship initially delighted the cruise guests when they were directed to the sight of a pod of four orcas (commonly known as "killer whales"). But the cruise excursion turned into a "bloody tragedy" as fishermen slaughtered two of the whales off of the coast of St. Vincent. 

The article says that cruise guests were "visibly shaken and many were crying" after fishermen on a boat, equipped with a shotgun-harpoon device mounted on its the bow, blasted the orcas while they swam in the waters before cruise passengers enjoying their excursion.   

Commentators say that while whaling remains a legal practice in St. Vincent, there is nothing traditional about people in speedboats using guns to kill whales.

Whale Killing - St. VincentThe orcas were them chopped up, fried and sold to locals on the beach

The horrific spectacle reminds me of the disgusting whale slaughter In the Faroe Islands which I have written about extensively. 

St. Vincent has a despicable history of killing humpback whales and marketing the meat as "Caribbean beef." St. Vincent  receives aid from Japan and votes with Japan at the International Whaling Commission to continue whaling.

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Photo credit: Caribbean 360 - top; Adam Gravel via Daily Mail - bottom. 

Cruise Operators Continue to Hide Behind the Death on the High Seas Act

Amazon River Cruise BoatOne of the very first articles I wrote when I started this blog almost eight years ago was about the Death on the High Seas Act. "DOHSA," as it is commonly called, is one of the cruelest and most unfair, if not completely callous, laws imaginable. When an adult child loses a parent on the high seas (defined as outside of U.S. state territorial waters, including the rivers and waters of foreign countries), the law permits, at best, the recovery of only "pecuniary" (financial) losses, such as lost wages (assuming the person is employed). If the person is a retiree, the only damages permitted are the expenses of burying their loved one. Emotional damages such as grief, bereavement, mental anguish, sadness and suffering are prohibited. 

The article was titled The Death on the High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years. It explains how families are not compensated because DOHSA prohibits non-pecuniary damages when their loved ones die on international waters. The cruise lines love DOSHA. Cruise lines have lobbied heavily over the years to keep the ancient maritime law on the books. DOSHA punishes families when they lose a parent, or child, on the high seas, notwithstanding the negligence of a cruise line. 

Today, Jill and Kelly Hammer, the daughters of Larry and Cristy Hammer, were reminded of the cruelty of DOSHA when several newspapers covered the latest development regarding their deceased parents, namely that the operator of the La Estrella Amazonica was reportedly grossly negligent and caused the fire which killed the Hammers while they slept in their cabin on La Estrella Amazonica, a river cruise boat on the Peruvian Amazon. It's a sad story which we wrote about earlier last year - Deadly Amazon River Fire Update: International Expeditions' La Estrella Amazonica (photos and video).

La Estrella Amazonica has now been renamed by International Expeditions as the Amazon Star.  

The Wall Street Journal's article today, When People Die at Sea, Cruise Operators Often Get a Pass, is "subscription only" although the title suggests that cruise operators are literally getting away with, if not murder, deadly criminal negligence.  Another article, published by the World-Herald Bureau, titled Report on Gretna Couple's Death in Cruise Ship Fire Finds Fault with Ship's Safety Features, Crew's Training, reaches the same conclusion.  

You can read these articles and make your own mind up about the reportedly unsafe conditions aboard La Estrella Amazonica, the lack of training and qualifications of its crew, and the shifty conduct of the owner and operator of the river cruise boat, International Expeditions, and its president, Van Perry, whose underwriters demanded that Jill and Kelley agree to a gag order (which they rejected) before the cruise operator would meet with them and talk about the circumstances surrounding their parent's death. 

The point to come away with after reading about this terrible ordeal is that this is the exactly the result that the cruise lines want after cruise passengers have been killed. Christina Perez, PR person for the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying that if DOHSA was amended to permit fair damages "droves of foreign litigants would "burden an already crowded U.S. judicial system." She also resorted to other scare tactics, saying that "insurance rates for cruise ships would skyrocket, increasing prices and potentially jeopardizing thousands of jobs created by the industry." 

This is hardly true. The cruise industry is a rich, billion-dollar business, where it's CEO's regularly collect tens of millions of dollars a year, and which registers its cruise ships in foreign countries like the Bahamas and Panama, in order to avoid the taxes, labor laws and safety regulations of the U.S.  

Ms. Perez later contradicted herself by claiming that the U.S. Congress did not amend DOHSA to permit additional damages (like it did in aviation cases) because the "maritime industry has a superior safety record."*  

CLIA has poured around $30,000,000 into the pockets of Congress in the last decade, according to the Wall Street Journal, to keep the DOHSA legislation which it loves. 

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

April 13, 2017 Update: Fox News Travel, today, published Cruise ship responsible for couple's death, report finds which covered the story and discusses the harsh limitations of DOSHA.  

April 14, 2017 Update: The U.K.'s Daily Mail, the world largest online newspaper, published Cruise company is finally found responsible for fire that engulfed Amazon tour boat and killed retired Nebraska couple.

May 8, 2017 Update: Fortune: The Cruise Industry's Priority Is Clear: Profits Over Passenger Safety.

Photo credit: Wall Street Journal 

*/The cruise industry, in fact, has experienced far more deaths on its ships than the U.S. commercial aviation fleet in the last decade, although commercial airlines transport over 30 times as many passengers a year. Read our article from several years ago: Cruise Ships: The Deadliest Form of Public Transportation

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USA TODAY Takes A Look At Cruise Ship Gratuities

 USA TODAY published an article today titled USA TODAY's Guide to Cruise Ship Gratuity Charges

This is a topic which we write about quite often, as the cruise lines try to maintain their high profits while building bigger and bigger cruise ships which are getting more expensive to operate.  

Any discussion involving cruise ship gratuities really involves three issues, in my view: (1) cruise lines are dictating that everyone pay a gratuity of a certain amount, regardless of the level of the services, (2) cruise line are diverting monies paid in gratuities to fund the salaries of crew members "behind the scenes" (like cooks, cleaners, etc.) who typically do not receive gratuities, and/or (3) cruise lines are Carnival Cruise Gratuitiesdiverting the income paid in gratuities into the cruise lines' profits?

The article addresses the first issue head-on and points to the general belief of the public that "tipping is a personal matter that should be left to passengers." Many critics of mandatory/automatic gratuities say that a gratuity must be earned; if the guest receives excellent service, they will tip well (sometimes more than the recommended amount), but if the guest believes the service is bad, they will pay a lower amount or perhaps nothing at all. 

But many crew members such as waiters or cabin attendants do not receive any salary at all. They earn 100% of their income from passenger gratuities. For the longest time, Royal Caribbean paid its waiters and cabin attendants received a salary of only $50 a month, although hard working waiters and motivated cabin attendant could collect several thousands of dollars a month from tips and gratuities. But the tips are tighter now and, with the auto-gratuities, less likely to end up with the waiters and cabin attendants. It is unfair for them to work for a pittance. 

Many cruise lines permit the guests to adjust or remove the gratuities while they are on-board the ship. NCL requires its guests to go through a onerous process of filling out forms after the cruise before a gratuity can be lowered or removed. 

Many crew members complain that many passengers wait until the last day of a cruise to remove all of the gratuities from their bills. 

Last year, Carnival crew members published a Facebook post (since taken down) showing the names (subsequently redacted) and cabin numbers of Carnival passengers who removed their automatic tips. Some of these people may have removed the pre-paid gratuities and paid cash but many may have stiffed the crew.

The real problem as I see it is that cruise lines are not being transparent with who exactly receives the automatic gratuities. The USA TODAY article writes that cruise lines say that the increased gratuities "will be passed on to crew members in recognition of their service." But many guests do not want to tip crew members who they never see (such as a galley worker). Many also believe that the cruise lines should pay their crew members decent wages and not require the passengers to be responsible for the crew's salary.

The USA TODAY article touches upon this issue, writing that "some see the charges as a thinly disguised method for cruise lines to push the responsibility for paying crew members to their customers." Disguising the real purpose of a gratuity is a type of fraud, in my opinion, where a cruise guest may believe that he or she is paying the extra gratuity to their wonderful waiter or cabin attendant who went above and beyond for their family for a week, but the reality is that their gratuities are spread throughout the housekeeping and dining room departments to pay salaries as well as for "alternative services," according to Carnival. (See Carnival's explanation of where the tips go here; and Royal Caribbean's explanation here; NCL does not disclose any details as far as I can tell). The USA TODAY article says that "as much as 95% of pay for some cruise ship workers now comes from automatic gratuities, according to CruiseCritic."

And does anyone really trust that the cruise lines are not pocketing the gratuities as part of onboard revenue? The USA TODAY article does not touch this topic. Over 25 million people will sail on cruise ships this year. Whereas the luxury lines like Azamara, Crystal, Seabourn, Regent and SeaDream do not charge automatic gratuities, the mass lines like Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean do. If 15 million passengers are charged at a rate of several hundreds of dollars a week in auto-gratuities, there are many hundreds of millions of dollars at play over the course of a year. (Carnival charges an average of over $360 a week for a family of four staying in a standard stateroom). 

NCL's CEO Frank Del Rio said during an earnings conference in 2015 that for every dollar collected in an increased gratuity, NCL earns an extra $15,000,000. Does anyone really think that the crew members are enjoying this extra income?

Between the greedy cruise executives and the miserly passengers who remove gratuities, the hard-working crew members seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place.

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

April 3, 2017 Update: A crew member wrote today, to me saying: Yes cruise lines are diverting tips to pay salaries of . . . even managers . . they use the tips to pay the bar manager, asst bar manager, housekeeper chief, asst housekeepers manager and food and beverage manager - they all get a slice of the tips."

Shameless Cruise Industry Touts It's Environmental Practices

The cruise industry is touting a report titled Evaluation of Cruise Industry, Global Environmental Practices and Performance.

It's a non-critical summary paid for by the industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"). The report is largely a PR stunt which omits the relevant, recent history of the practice committed over the course of at least a decade of routinely dumping oil from cruise ships owned by the largest cruise line in the world.

It has been less than four months since the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) fined Princess Cruises and its parent company, Carnival Corporation, $40,000,000 for polluting the seas and trying to cover it Cruise Pollutionup. Carnival and Princess pleaded guilty to seven felony charges of illegally dumping oil-contaminated waste from the Caribbean Princess cruise ship which sailed to numerous U.S. states (Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia) and two territories (U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico).

The DOJ says that "in addition to the use of a magic pipe to circumvent the oily water separator and oil content monitor required pollution prevention equipment, the U.S. investigation uncovered two other illegal practices which were found to have taken place on the Caribbean Princess as well as four other Princess ships – Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess. One practice was to open a salt water valve when bilge waste was being processed by the oily water separator and oil content monitor. The purpose was to prevent the oil content monitor from otherwise alarming and stopping the overboard discharge. The second practice involved discharges of oily bilge water originating from the overflow of graywater tanks into the machinery space bilges. This waste was pumped back into the graywater system rather than being processed as oily bilge waste. Neither of these practices were truthfully recorded in the oil record book as required.

But you won't read any reference to magic pipes and falsified log books in the PR release by the cruise industry's trade organization, Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"). 

Cruise line cheerleaders, like Travel Pulse, published over-the-top self-laudatory articles like The Cruise Industry Is Winning at Environmental Performance

Conspicuously absent from CLIA PR efforts is any mention of environmental problems caused by the cruise lines. Consider the following articles within the last year:

The world's largest cruise ship and its supersized pollution problem (Guardian).

Cruise Industry Gets “F” for Transparency, Cutting Emissions (World Maritime News).

Carnival Corp ship caught in pollution scheme. Now they’re paying $40 million for it (Miami Herald).

Cruise industry ‘failing’ environment and public health, report claims (Telegraph).

Princess Cruises Pollution Cover-Up: Are the Greedy Cruise Executives Untouchable? (Cruise Law News).

This CLIA-paid-for-report is part of the cruise industry's reputation rehabilitation. Last January, Princess Cruises issued a press statement via PR Newswire that it had been voted the "Best Ocean Cruise Line" in the USA TODAY and 10Best Readers Choice cruise travel awards, despite the DOJ's record environmental fine just a month earlier. 

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Photo crdit: NABU via Telegraph

Bomb Scare on the Caribbean Princess in Grand Bahamas Shipyard

Bomb Scare Caribbean PrincessThis morning, a person aboard the Caribbean Princess notified me that there is a bomb scare aboard the cruise ship, which is at the Grand Bahama shipyard. The worker stated:

"I am currently on board the Caribbean Princess in the Grand Bahama Shipyard where today a bomb threat was called in to the shipyard. The ship performed a complete check and at 10 am the captain gave the abandon ship order. The ship has been evacuated and all contractors and crew were mustered outside the shipyard. We are awaiting further instructions.

Have a good day because my day and thousands others are having a bad day.

We were mustered away from the shipyard and were told no pictures."

The Caribbean Princess is in dry dock for general maintenance. Many thousands of contractors and crew members are now re-locating to Port Lucaya.  

The worker also stated:

"Of course the Bahamian taxis are making a fortune off off this event. It's funny to see crew members in uniform strolling around . . .

I can report that very few police were present and one ambulance. No bomb squad or dogs were visible.

A lot of work has now been delayed due to this and a lot of frustration is in the air . . . "

The Carnival Pride and Carnival Ecstasy are in port in Freeport today, as well as the Anna Maersk which is at the container port across from the shipyard.  There is no indication whether these ships were the subject of this bomb threat.

The question which immediately comes to my mind is whether the Bahamian police are competent to handle the response to a major security threat like this?

There have been bomb threats against cruise ships in the past, and they are usually determined to be pranks. A drunken Carnival passenger who made a bomb threat on the Carnival Sensation was arrested several years ago after a cruise to the Bahamas which was later determined to be a hoax. The Discovery cruise ship received a bogus bomb threat as the ship was en route to Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale after sailing to the Bahamas. A bomb was reportedly planted on the Liberty of the Seas several years ago as well, although nothing was found by law enforcement officers. A bomb scare forced the evacuation of the cruise terminal at the port of Miami.  Passengers and crew members had to flee a ferry in Marseilles, France last year after a bomb scare.

April 1, 2017 Update: The popular Crew-Center website has additional information and photographs and video of crew members and contrators leaving the ship, congregating at the shipyard and leaving the shipyard. 

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Image credit: Marine Traffic

Crew Member Overboard from Costa Deliziosa?

Yesterday, a crew member apparently went overboard from the Costa Deliziosa, according to the website of cruise expert, Dr. Ross Klein

The Deliziosa was at the end of its transatlantic crossing heading to the Canary Islands.

The information was conveyed to Dr. Klein from a person on the Costa cruise ship who wishes to remain anonymous.

There was no information available regarding the circumstances surrounding the disappearance.

AIS tracking sites show the cruise ship making what appears to be maneuvers to retrace its route in the Atlantic to search for the man. 

There have been 290 people who have gone overboard since 2000, according to Dr. Klein's website.

Costa has not made an official statement regarding the incident to date.

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Update: A reader brought to my attention that this incident was published yesterday on a Dutch website (with photos). The website says that the crew member went overboard around 6:00 A.M. The ship apparently sailed ahead and then had to turn around and sail for three-and-one-half hours back to the location where the crew member went overboard. The delayed search was not successful. A Portuguese aircraft assisted in the search, according to the article.  

Update: Costa sent us the following statement:

"Statement Regarding Costa Deliziosa Crewmember

GENOA (March 30, 2017) — At approximately 10 a.m. local time on March 29, 2017, while Costa Deliziosa was on a transatlantic repositioning cruise to Europe from the United States, a crewmember was reported missing. Following standard procedure, ship command notified Costa Crociere headquarters and implemented a full-ship search. When the crewmember was not located onboard, the ship turned around and began search and rescue operations and notified the nearest Maritime Rescue Recovery Center, which dispatched a search plane to the area.

Late on the night of March 29, MRCC released Costa Deliziosa from the search and the ship continued on to its next call at Santa Cruz, Tenerife. Guests were informed throughout the day. Costa is in contact with all relevant authorities and its Care Team is assisting the crewmember's family.

The 2,260-passenger Costa Deliziosa is on a 24-day transatlantic cruise from Port Everglades, Florida, to Venice, Italy." 
 

Image credit: Marine Traffic.

Costa Deliziosa Overboard 

 

Medevac From Grandeur of the Seas

The U.S. Coast Guard reportedly medevaced a passenger from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship off the North Carolina coast yesterday.

A 70-year-old man, experiencing abdominal pains while aboard the Grandeur of the Seas, as the ship was sailing south, was rescued. 

A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew and a C-130 Hercules aircraft crew was launched from ain Guard station in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The helicopter arrived at the cruise ship when it was about 150 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

The passenger was hoisted from the ship and onto the helicopter, and then taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, NC.

Video: 13 New Now  

 

 

 

FBI Releases New Video Regarding Amy Lynn Bradley Who Disappeared From Rhapsody of the Seas

Amy Bradley Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the SeasThe mysterious case of cruise passenger Amy Lynn Bradley is again in the news.

Amy was traveling with her brother and parents when she disappeared 19 years ago while aboard the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Rhapsody of the Seas. The ship had left Oranjestad, Aruba, and was sailing to Curaçao, in the Netherlands Antilles. On March 24, 1998, at age 23, Amy vanished.

The Bradley family was highly critical of Royal Caribbean who they faulted for the delay in responding to the incident and for what they felt was insensitivity toward their plight. Like most disappearances at sea, the cruise line's "investigation" seemed designed to protect the cruise line's image and legal interests. The FBI investigation, as usual, went no where.

Amy's disappearance in 1998 occurred six to seven years before the highly publicized cases of Merrian Carver in 2004 and George Smith IV in 2005, before the formation of the International Cruise Victims organization, and before five Congressional hearings which led to the passage of the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2010. The Bradleys were fighting the cruise line largely alone.

The International Cruise Victims organization contains a story about Amy's disappearance.

The Bradley family's website is here.  

The FBI page contains this description of the case: "Amy Lynn Bradley, while on a family cruise to the Caribbean, went missing from the Royal Caribbean International Cruise Line’s ship Rhapsody of the Seas. On Saturday, March 21, 1998, the vessel departed San Juan, Puerto Rico, and traveled to its first port of call, the island of Aruba. On Monday, March 23, 1998, Rhapsody of the Seas departed Aruba and was traveling in international waters to its next island port of Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. During the early morning hours of Tuesday, March 24, 1998, Amy Lynn Bradley went missing. The vessel later departed Curacao and continued on to the island of St. Martin (Sint Maarten) and further traveled to St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands, before returning to San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Saturday, March 28, 1998."

The FBI is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to the recovery of Amy Lynn Bradley and information that leads to the identification, arrest, and conviction of the person(s) responsible for her disappearance.

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Photo credit: Bradley family

 

 

Celebrity Cancels Cruises Aboard Summit

Celebrity Cruises SummitCelebrity Cruises announced that it is canceling the April 8, 2017 cruise aboard the Celebrity Summit and is shortening the April 17, 2017 cruise from seven to only four days, passengers are reporting. Celebrity is offering a 25% cruise credit and $200 per person to go toward re-booking airfare. We received this message advising of the changes this past weekend:  

" . . . there are about 4000+ passengers who have just had their spring holiday ruined. Seems Celebrity Summit is having a problem achieving full cruising speed and is canceling cruises just two weeks out, with a horrible offer of compensation. The ship has had reduced ports & port times for a few weeks because it is hobbling along, all while Celebrity says "don't worry folks, no safety issues here." So now they have completely canceled the 7 days out of San Juan on 4/8/17 and reduced the 4/15/17 cruise for 7 days going out of San Juan to only 4 days. She looks to be going into dry dock for 10 days.

Imagine flying to San Juan for a 4 day cruise? The only air fare compensation is $200 per person which is ridiculous. You would think they would be working with each passenger to get them booked on another cruise for that week, but the passengers say that is not the case. They got an email saying you are canceled. Either completely or you are now on a mini cruise and we will refund you via on-board credit the prorated daily rate for your nice 7 day that is now a mini 4 day. Am not on this cruise personally but Cruise Critic has threads and each roll call does as well and it is apparent there are a lot of mad people. So if each person keeps their airfare and goes on this 4 day mini cruise they have to then get a hotel for 3 nights in San Juan for Easter week which is obscenely expensive. All these passengers are asking what to do....most do not seem to realize they have little to no rights..."

The Summit is apparently suffering from a reduction in its propulsion which has affected some of its prior cruises.

Passengers booked on these cruises are now expressing their natural frustration of having to try and find an alternative vacation at the last minute at high season when the hotel and airfare expenses are appreciably higher. Many people have asked us for advice whether this is "legal."  Unfortunately, the legislation which the cruise passenger's advocacy group was successful in passing is quite limited in scope and provides no legal recourse under these circumstances. There is, of course, nothing that benefits anyone other than the cruise line in the ticket issued to the passengers. 

As a practical matter, affected passengers probably will lose at least a minimum of $1,000 each in higher airfare and hotels expenses. Considering that there are several thousands of passengers affected, these new and unexpected expenses will probably total well over several millions of dollars.

It's fanciful to expect that the cruise industry, which is bent on maximizing profits, notwithstanding the tremendous profits that they are collecting, will offer more than the nominal cruise credit and the minimal $200-a-person airfare amount. 

The cruise lines will remind passengers that they should always consider purchasing insurance which applies to this type of occurrence.

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

March 29, 2017 Update: Several readers brought to my attention that this is not the first time that the Summit has had to alter its itinerary because of propulsion problems. A seven day cruise to Alaska was canceled back in September of 2004 when Celebrity put the ship in dry-dock for repairs. Passengers booked on the canceled cruise received a full refund and a free future cruise. More recently, Celebrity delayed the start of its March 27th cruise on the Summit from San Juan due to problems with the ship's propulsion system, which forced the Summit to sail at reduced speeds. The ship had already been docked 3 days in Cozumel earlier in the month while repair efforts were attempted. 

Propulsion problems are relatively common in the cruise industry. Last year, nineteen cruise ships experienced propulsion issues which interrupted and delayed cruises. 

Today, the RCL Blog reported that the Anthem of the Seas is sailing at a reduced speed due to propulsion issues.

Photo credit: Wknight94 - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

U.S. State Department Publishes 2017 Bahamas Crime & Safety Report

BahamasThe U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) recently published its 2017 Crime & Safety Report regarding the Bahamas.

The council, which was established under authority of the U.S. Secretary of State, reached the following findings and conclusions:

Findings:

  • The Bahamas is a major Caribbean tourist destination with major cruise ship ports of calls in Nassau and Freeport. 
  • Over six million U.S. citizens visit the Bahamas each year.
  • Approximately 80% of tourists to the Bahamas are U.S. citizens.
  • The Bahamas consists of more than 700 islands and cays.
  • The Bahamas has a population of approximately 370,000.
  • 70% of Bahamians (around 260,000) reside on the island of New Providence, where Nassau is situated.
  • Another 15% (around 60,000) live on Grand Bahama, where Freeport is located.
  • The rest of the population is dispersed over several dozen outer islands (commonly referred to as the “Family Islands”).

Conclusions - Crime Threats:

  • Crime in Nassau is critical.
  • Violent crime reportedly dropped from 2015 to 2016 by double digit percentages in every category, although some observers have questioned the legitimacy of this claim.
  • Murders were down 24% from a record high in 2015 (111 in 2016 vs. 146 in 2015).
  • Despite the publicized numbers, crime continues to represent the primary security threat in the Bahamas.
  • The preponderance of reported violent crimes were perpetrated against local Bahamians and mostly occurred in areas of saturated criminality not typically visited by tourists.
  • However, New Providence has witnessed violent crimes in locations more commonly frequented by U.S. citizen tourists. In some instances, these incidents resulted in fatalities.
  • Criminality and violent crime has increased on Grand Bahama island, notably crimes involving the use of machetes.
  • Many criminals carry firearms, machetes, or knives, and these weapons are commonly brandished.
  • There were reports of firearms used in the commission of armed robberies, where the assailant assaulted the victim after the victim resisted.
  • Many armed robberies involved snatch-and-grabs involving purses, jewelry, cell phones, and cash.
  • Armed robberies, property crimes, purse snatchings, theft, fraud, and sexual assaults remain the most common crimes perpetrated against tourists.
  • In 2016, numerous incidents were reported that either involved tourists or occurred in well-known tourist locations.
  • Crimes occurred near popular tourist areas adjacent to the cruise ship port (Prince George Wharf) and the Cable Beach resort areas as well as the popular downtown area.
  • Several armed robberies of U.S. citizens have occurred in daylight hours in heavily frequented tourist areas.
  • The water sports rental industry is only loosely regulated, and in 2015, there were reported sexual assaults of U.S. citizens, including minors, by jet-ski operators.
  • The majority of these sexual assaults were reported to have occurred on relatively “safe” beaches within the confines of Paradise Island, which is heavily frequented by tourists . . .

We recommend to anyone traveling to the Bahamas (particularly Nassau) to also read the news accounts and editorials in the local newspapers in the Bahamas, the Tribune and the Nassau Guardian

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Photo credit: Bahamas government - Public Domain, commons / wikimedia.

Passenger Overboard from Carnival Victory

Carnival Victory OverboardMultiple news sources are reporting this morning that a Carnival cruise passenger went overboard last night / early this morning around 33 miles west / northwest of Cuba as the cruise ship was heading toward Cozumel.

A guest aboard the Carnival cruise ship told a newspaper in Texas that the ship’s PA system announced “man overboard” around 3 a.m. today. The young man reportedly went overboard from deck eight. 

"The ship made a 180 degree turn and a life jacket was thrown in the vicinity of where the man was thought to be. The life jacket was found floating several hours later . . .  The witness said the ship has been somber and quiet since the announcement."

The cruise ship reportedly departed from Miami on Monday.

There have been 289 people overboard since 2000, according to cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein.

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Drowning on the Anthem of the Seas?

Anthem of the SeasToday, I received emails from passengers, who disembarked from the Anthem of the Seas, that there had been a drowning on the Royal Caribbean ship yesterday.  One guest stated:

"We departed Anthem of the Seas this morning wondering whether there was a death in the main outdoor pool this week. While there were multiple medical emergencies onboard during this cruise, the pool incident was the most talked about amongst guests. This was the first week RCCL had lifeguards onboard. My husband was walking through the pool area when he heard clapping as if someone was doing a stunt in the pool. Then he said the medical response team was called and rushed to the scene and used a defibrillator. The main pool was closed for the rest of the day while security did their investigation. Some passengers said it was a drowning. We also noticed on the itinerary channel that the ships course changed to head directly to the coast as if it were meeting a helicopter. Perhaps that was for any earlier emergency." 

Another guest stated: "A lady drown this week aboard the Anthem."

An eight year old child drowned on the Anthem nine months ago.  That incident was one of four drownings or near-drownings involving children which occurred on Royal Caribbean ships (Liberty of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas and  Independence of the Seas) in the last two years. An adult woman also reportedly drowned on the Anthem last August.  

Ironically, Royal Caribbean just announced that it would begin to employ lifeguards on its ships. The Anthem of the Seas was one of the first ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet to be staffed with lifeguards this month.

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Update: I received the following message from a guest: "My family was on this same cruise on Anthem of the Seas this past week and can confirm that an older woman in her 60's or 70's did die in the outdoor pool on Friday. My wife and I were in the medical clinic with the nurse when her deceased body was wheeled in. During my follow-up appointment with the doctor on Saturday I asked the doctor about this woman and he confirmed to me that she died by drowning in the pool but it was not yet determined if there was an underlying medical cause, such as a heart attack, etc."

March 20, 2017 Update: This from another guest on the ship: "I was at the pool 2 feet away, from where she entered. I think she was much older than 70's maybe even 90. She got in to swim, she swam a slow crawl across the pool. She knew how to swim and went the diagonal length, the guard was watching her. When I looked back She was motionless in the water near where she got in. The guard and I saw at the same time. He prodded her with his life float, no response. Then again , no response. He went In and got her out fairly fast. I would have gone in after the first prod, but it was only a couple seconds. She knew how to swim, had to be underlying event."

 

Photo credit: GlynLowe.com, Hamburg, Germany - Anthem of the Seas - Cruise Ship in Hamburg, CC BY 2.0, commons / wikimedia.

Is Too Much Ever Enough? NCL to Gouge Customers Again

Travel Weekly and Cruise Critic are reporting that Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is raising gratuities on April 1st from $13.50 per person, per day, to $13.99, on all ships except the Norwegian Sky. Daily gratuities for standard cabins on the Norwegian Sky will increase to $18.99 (an increase over 40%). 

Travel Weekly says that NCL will increase daily gratuities for suites from $15.50 to $16.99 on all of its ships except for the Sky where it will charge $21.99. 

It seems that there is no limit to the greed of cruise executives. NCL CEO Frank Del Rio just spoke at Seatrade Global about how the stock market was at all time high and fewer regulations and President Trump's pro-business tax cuts were good for his business. Del Rio collected nearly $32 million in Miami Cruise Ship Capital of the World2015

Del Rio's NCL has gouged its customers before, with extra charges, including increased room services charges, automatic gratuities and restaurant cover charges. He made this statement at an earning conference in 2015: "... we have looked across the fleet to identify areas where marginal changes ... can be implemented to improve performance. A few examples include a 6.7% average increase in beverage prices, the introduction of a nominal room service fee and lower costs from renegotiated shore excursion agreements. To put into perspective how these small changes can add up quickly, every dollar increase in yield translates to approximately $15 million to the bottom line."

Of course, all the major cruise lines nickel-and-dime their customers. Royal Caribbean just began charging for room service and, in the past, increased its gratuities while attempting to create the appearance that the increases were for its hard-working crew members (Read: Loyal to Royal? Expect to Pay Higher Gratuities! And the Money's Not for the Crew). Carnival Corp. did exactly the same thing while it also pocketed the increased gratuities (Read: Carnival Hikes Pre-Paid Gratuities But Will Passengers Secretly Remove Tips?)

Today, I read an article by David Grace Author titled When Greed Is Thought To Be A Virtue - When More Is Never Enough. He discusses what he calls the "more-more-more-until-it-all-blows-up" business phenomenon. The cruise executives, Del Rio in particular, put on quite a demonstration of unbridled greed at the Seatrade Cruise conference last week. The CEO's have an unhealthy, unchecked pursuit of profits in an industry which has always overreached into the American public's pockets.  The cruise industry pays virtually no taxes, exploits their workers from around the world, and still nickle-and-dimes their tax-paying customers whenever they have a chance. 

When is enough, enough? 

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Photo credit: Marc Averette - CC BY-SA 1.0, commons / wikimedia.

Jail Time for Captain of Reef-Destroying Caledonian Sky?

There's still considerable talk about the ecological damage caused by the Caledonian Sky cruise ship which smashed a wide area of coral reef in Raja Ampat, Indonesia two weeks ago.

The local Minister for Maritime Affairs was quoted as saying that the damage to the ancient coral reefs was "devastating and irreparable," according to an article in Rappler titled Indonesia says captain of cruise ship that destroyed coral reefs may face imprisonment.

The Bahamian-flagged cruise ship ran aground at low tide, although it was equipped with radar and GPS monitoring instruments.

The ship was reportedly carrying 102 passengers and 79 crew members on a 16-day trip from Papua New Guinea to the Philippines.

The ship's operator, Noble Caledonia, was operating the vessel under a long term charter from Salen Ship Management. Noble Caledonian offered a token apology but concentrated on defending itself and its master who grounded the vessel on the reef, saying: "We are one of the leading expedition cruise companies which specializes in expedition tours to remote locations such as this, in addition to which we take protection of the environment very seriously indeed. The Master on duty at the time is one of the world’s leading expedition Captains."

The master, Keith Michael Taylor, on paper at least, seems to be an experienced mariner, according to Captain Taylor Caledonia Sky his resume on Linked-In. Before working for Salen Ship Management for the past two years as the captain of the Calendonian Sky, he served as a captain with Orion Expedition Cruises from 2008 to 2014 and, before that, for Windstar Cruises for one year.  He also served as a captain for Clipper Cruise Line for eight years and for Spice Island Fleet, Great White Fleet and Windjammer Barefoot Cruises dating back to the early 1990's.

Newspaper accounts, however, are highly critical of the captain. Some suggest that he did not wait for a report of the damage to his vessel or the reef. Tugs pulled the cruise ship across the reef, further damaging the coral. One newspaper says that Captain Taylor attempted to break free from the reef and made the damage even worse even though he was ordered to stop. He then sailed the ship out of the jurisdiction. One newspaper said that the captain "seems to be content by leaving the matter to the insurance company." 

Approximately 17,200 square feet of coral were destroyed in the mishap, although a more recent estimate placed the extent of the damage much higher.  Estimates of the damages are in the range of a little over $1 million to over $18 million.  But the destruction cannot be easily fixed and the reefs may take over 100 years to regenerate.  

One newspaper reported that the local ministry said “the destruction of the Radja Ampat coral reefs, which were developed by nature over hundreds of years, occurred in less than one day. It is simply impossible to restore that part of Radja Ampat. Fish that were normally seen in that particular area are all gone.”

Photographs posted (bottom) after the grounding show rubber dinghies deployed bearing the name of the Swedish management company, Salen Ship (salenship.com).

Captain Taylor committed an environmental crime under Indonesian law; he is subject to imprisonment for recklessly destroying the country's natural coral resources. But whether he spends even a day in jail seems unlikely. As explained in my recent article The "Trump Effect" - Cruise Industry Reinforces Its Image as an Enemy of the Environment, there are few travel industries which can wreak havoc on rare, bio-diverse marine habitats as effectively as the cruise lines. And there are no cruise lines willing to see their captains face criminal responsibility when they run aground on or drop or drag an anchor over an ancient coral reef.

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 Photo credit: Top - Linked-In; Middle - Indonesian Ministry of Maritime Affairs; Bottom - Indonesia Expats 

Caledonia Sky Reef Damage

 Salen Ship Management - Caledonia Sky

Ponant Diverts L'Austral to Manilla for Safety Inspection

Ponant L'AustralCruise Critic reports that Ponant has diverted its cruise ship, L'Austral, because of safety concerns due to two separate accidents earlier this year when the French luxury cruise ship struck objects while sailing. 

In January, the cruise ship struck a floating object in the Sub Antarctic Islands. In February, L’Austral struck an undersea rock while sailing in New Zealand, causing damage to its hull.

Ponant chose to avoid the ship sailing into the Sulu Sea. L'Austral was forced to skip its port visit to Borneo.

The vessel's certification society reportedly requested Ponant to undergo an inspection in a port near Manila, from March 16 to 29, 2017, in order to check the ship's hull for damage. 

L'Austral has been in the news several times in the last two years. In August 2016, an excursion vessel carrying two dozen passengers from L’Austral began taking on water and eventually sank in waters near Greenland. The cruise passengers were rescued at the last minute.

In November 2015, L'Austral rescued several hundred passengers from another luxury cruise ship operated by Ponant, Le Boréal, which caught on fire when the ship was sailing north of the Falkland Islands. The fire and evacuation efforts were far more complicated than initially reported.

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Photo credit: Orlovic - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

The "Trump Effect" - Cruise Industry Reinforces Its Image as an Enemy of the Environment

Falmouth, Jamaica Dredge and FillYesterday, I attended the annual Seatrade Global conference in Fort Lauderdale. In the morning, the "state of the industry'' featured the usual cruise tycoons extolling on the billion dollar cruise industry. Carnival Corporation's CEO Arnold Donald, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio, MSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago, and Royal Caribbean Cruises CEO Richard Fain all spoke glowingly to an audience of enthusiastic cruise attendees that the cruise lines were enjoying a booming business.

The most talked about statistic was that over 25 million passengers around the world will be welcomed on board cruise ships this year.

But there was a troubling undercurrent at the convention. 

“NCL's cruise executive, Frank Del Rio, who received nearly $32 million in compensation in 2015, said that the industry was benefiting because of what he called the "Trump Effect." 

CNBC reporter and moderator, Susan Li, encouraged Del Rio to explain the "Trump Effect" to the attentive audience.  

Del Rio said that because of President Trump, the stock market was at all time high and fewer regulations and pro-business tax cuts were good for his business.

Del Rio also said that he "loved" the NCL cruise destinations, including cruises to his native Cuba, "because they make us money."   

Del Rio's comments about the "love" of more money and "fewer regulations" seem to be the essence of the "Trump Effect." President Trump is aggressively taking steps to gut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as evidenced by his appointment of Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to head that federal agency. Pruitt has a record of trying to destroy the environmental protections that the EPA is responsible for enforcing. He has built his political career by trying to undermine the EPA’s environmental protections and has even disputed the effects of climate change. 

Cruise Ship Smashes Reef in Raja Ampat, IndonesiaThe cruise industry has always struggled with its environmental image.

Just two days ago, a British cruise ship smashed into a pristine and beautiful reef on Raja Ampat in Indonesia and then caused further damage when the captain insisted that tugs drag the cruise ship off the ancient reef.

There are few travel industries which can wreak havoc on rare, biodiverse marine habitats as effectively as the cruise lines. 

Damaging reefs is not an usual event in the world of cruising, as the cruise lines have recently demonstrated time after time. But the damage is not just due to the reckless operation of cruise ships but is often the intentional acts of dredging old reefs and filling native mangroves with the pulverized coral to make way for deeper ports in the Caribbean to accommodate the larger and large cruise ships which are dominating the cruise industry today.

Of course, the cruise industry just witnessed the spectacle of the Department of Justice fining Princess Cruises a record $40,000,000 fine after its investigation uncovered wide-spread illegal practices involving dumping oil at sea around the world by the Caribbean Princess, Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess over the course of nearly a decade. Meanwhile, the cruise executives at the helm of the Princess organization at the time of the dumping have continued to be promoted to lucrative positions in the Carnival corporation

"Magic pipes" and shady environmental shipboard practices have long been part of the history of the cruise industry.

The fine seemed to be déjà vu of the early 2000's when the major Miami-based cruise lines, NCL, Carnival and Royal Caribbean, paid tens of millions of dollars in fines and pled guilty to multiple felonies for dumping oil into the oceans, falsifying ship logs and lying to the U.S. Coast Guard about the environmental crimes.

Reef Damage in Cayman IslandsSo, in an industry with a history like this, it's troubling to see a CEO of a major cruise line excited about the benefits of fewer environmental regulations under the Trump presidency. Yes, the cruise executives will earn lots of more millions of dollars, but the reefs and waters around the world will pay a heavy price for such short-sightedness.

Interested in more articles about the "Trump Effect?" Read:

Skift (by Hannah Sampson) - Cruise Executives at Odds Over the Trump Effect.

Seattade (by Anne Kalosh) -  Strong demand, record orderbook, China, 'Trump effect' boost cruising, top leaders say.

Miami Herald (by Chabeli Herrera) - Cruising is booming, thanks in part to the ‘Trump Effect,’ but there’s a catch.

Take a moment and read: Donald Trump is preparing to make massive policy changes at the EPA and Trump to environment: This is war.

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

Photo credits:

Top - Dredge and fill in Falmouth - Jamaca Gleaner

Middle - Reef in Raja Ampat, Indoneasia - AFP via the newspaper

Bottom - Anchor damage in Cayman Islands - Don Foster's Dive Cayman via Cayman Compass

Cruise Mystery Involving the Carnival Magic in Roatan?

Roatan Honduras Carnival CruiseI received the following four messages from passengers on the Carnival Magic who all reported that several people apparently did not return to the Carnival ship in Roatan at the end of last week. The Magic reportedly used its spot lights to shine into the beach and surrounding areas for the passengers who went ashore.     

  • "Were just back from Carnival Magic. Our ship was docked in front of Carnival Breeze. In Roatan we (both ships) didn't leave port until 10:00 p.m. We were supposed to leave at 6:00 p.m. Our ship had their ships spot light in Mahogany Bay waters looking for someone or something. Flash lights all over the beach area and island area in the port by people looking for something or someone. We asked several security people and crew on board afterwards, and no one would tell us what happened and said they either didn't know or can't talk about it. That night the Captain indicated they were waiting for clearance from the Honduran officials. We've never had to wait for clearance on the 7 other times we've been there, especially too because they own the port area."
  • "Hello. I recently returned from a cruise on Carnival Magic. On the 8th we were delayed nearly six hours in Roatan. None of the employees would tell us why. Also we were blocking the Carnival Breeze so they too were delayed. Around the time we were suppose to debark they announced the names of four people who had yet to board. Everyone on both cruises are dying to know what the cause of this massive delay was." 
  • "Aboard Carnival Magic, and four passengers did not return to ship last night in Roatan. We watched searchers combing through the port area, boats with spotlights, and the ship using the big searchlight. Magic and Breeze were delayed by about five hours in their departures. Never saw anyone brought back aboard. Everyone was very tight lipped. Breeze was berthed behind us so they could not leave till we did. They called the names repeatedly onboard, and we watched them methodically searching the whole port area and surrounding waters. I hope they were just laid up drunk somewhere, but someone suggested that maybe it was an intentional disappearance." 
  • I would like to know where I can find out what really happened in Honduras March 8th when the Carnival Magic was at port until 10:30 p.m. looking for 4 missing passengers.

There is no indication that the passengers met with foul play of any kind, although it appears unusual for this to occur.

In the past several years, there have been several reports of passengers "disappearing" in cruise ports from time to time, primarily in Jamaica, although these instances have been intentional in nature.  The passengers inevitably were "found" and had apparently taken an extended vacation.  

Does anyone have reliable information regarding what, if anything, happened in Roatan last week? 

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

Photo credit: Roatan booth at Seatrade Miami 2014 - Jim Walker 

Safety at Sea: Cruise Ships & Terrorism

CBS New York aired a short special last night titled Elite NYPD Team Protects City From Dirty Bombs, Waterborne Threats.

The video focused on the efforts of a special unit of the NYPD’s Counter-Terrorism Division which concentrates on protecting the hundreds of cruise ships and other maritime vessels which enter and leave the ports of New York and New Jersey each year.

The special begins with the Norwegian Gem returning in the predawn hours to New York after ten days at sea. Unbeknownst to the passengers, the NCL cruise ship was being swept for a dirty bomb before it entered the port. 

The New York anti-terrorism team reportedly uses radiation detection devices and sonar to scan the ships and docks for explosive devices.

The special briefly discusses the deadly attack on the U.S.S. Cole in 2000 and the last month's suicide attack on a Saudi Arabian frigate, both occurring in the Red Sea near Yemen, which we have mentioned several times in other articles. 

The CBS crew interviewed the CEO, Dan Richards, of a security company called Global Rescue, which CBS says provides crisis response and evacuation options to travelers. Mr.Richards mentions that that "ISIS and other terrorist organizations are planning these kinds of operations.” This is a sentiment expressed by several U.S. naval commanders in the recent past. Read: Terrorists on the Ocean: Sea Monsters in the 21st Century by Captain Robert N. Hein, U.S. Navy.

Many travelers may be comforted by these security measures in New York and other major seaports like Miami and elsewhere. But, at the same time, the special underscores the lack of security in ports of call outside of the U.S., in places like the Caribbean and North Africa, where the port countries lack the resources to implement sophisticated anti-terrorism plans.

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NTSB Cites Human Error in Carnival Pride - Pier Crash in Baltimore

Carnival Pride AllisionThe National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its report yesterday regarding the allision* between the Carnival Pride and the pier and passenger walkway in Baltimore last year. 

On May 8, 2016, the Carnival Pride was attempting to dock at the cruise terminal in Baltimore, Maryland, when the ship's bow struck the pier and an elevated passenger walkway on shore, causing over $2,000,000 in damages.

The Carnival cruise ship was returning from a cruise to the Bahamas. It had previously taken on a pilot while it was in U.S. inland waters. 

The staff captain later took the helm and was navigating the Pride to the terminal. As the ship approached the pier, the angle of approach was too steep and the speed was too fast.

The captain took control of the ship from the staff captain and applied full thrust away from the berth to slow the ship but not before the bow struck the pier support columns.

The NTSB concluded that the probable cause of the crash was the staff captain’s errors during the docking maneuver (approaching the pier with excessive speed and at too steep of an angle) and the captain’s insufficient oversight. 

You can see photos of the extensive damage here.  

Read the full report here

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Photos credit: Top - CBS Baltimore; bottom - NTSB report via gCaptain.

* Definition of "allision:" the action of dashing against or striking upon; example - by a vessel against an object ashore, in contrast to a "collision" between two vessels.  

Carnival Pride Allision Baltimore

Coast Guard Medevacs 89-year-old Passenger From Seven Seas Explorer

The Defense Video Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) reported yesterday that the U.S. Coast Guard rescued an ill passenger from a luxury Regent cruise ship.

According to DVIDS, a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter medevaced an 89-year-old passenger man from the Seven Seas Explorer cruise ship on March 7, 2017. The Regent cruise ship was sailing around 25 miles southeast of Islamorada, Florida. The passenger was transferred to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami for medical care.  

Celebrity Equinox Drifts Close to House in Port Everglades

Celebrity EquinoxOn Friday March 3rd, the Celebrity Equinox drifted dangerously close to the shore in Port Everglades as the cruise ship was attempting to leave the port.

As shown in a video filed by Fort Lauderdale homeowner Yasmine Todhunter, her husband, Bill, (with the family dogs), is shown as the Celebrity ship drifts dangerously close to their waterfront house.

The Celebrity Equinox is later shown struggling to use its bow thrusters to back back away away from the couple's house.

Facebook readers pointed out that cruise ships in the wide Port Everglades channel usually are being piloted by a local maritime pilot. It is unknown whether the cruise ship experienced a temporary power loss or whether the pilot could not adjust to the high winds that day. 

The homeowners who filmed the ship posted the video on the Celebrity Cruises Facebook page after the cruise line ignored emails asking for an explanation. Celebrity has still not offered an explanation for what happened. The video of the incident was removed from the Celebrity Facebook page. 

A reader on Facebook who watched the video humorously remarked: "New shore excursion ... Bill's house."

Last summer, the Celebrity Infinity slammed into a dock in Ketchikan, Alaska after the ship could not manage the high winds. 

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March 7, 2017 Update: A reader brought to my attention that an oil tanker overturned on Thursday night near the port, spilling 9,000 gallons of fuel, some of which spilled into the intracoastal waters according to media reports. News7 reported that cleanup efforts were still underway on Friday and ""due to the spill, the Celebrity Equinox cruise ship was not able to come into the port. However, the ship was able to dock at terminal 25, which was accessed through the Interstate 595 entrance to the port." Perhaps this is why the Equinox was redirected? 

Apparently the oil spill was on the other side of the intracoastal and would not explain why the Celebrity ship came so close to the house.

March 8, 2017 Update: News outlets in South Florida are covering the story - Sun Sentinel: Cruise ship has close encounter with home near Port Everglades;  CBS Miami: Couple Recalls Close Encounter With Cruise Ship: ‘This Boat Is Coming To The House!’; Daily Mail Homeowner films her husband waving desperately as massive cruise ship comes terrifyingly close to their $2.3 MILLION waterfront home; Miami New Times Here's Video of a Giant Cruise Ship Nearly Hitting a House at Port Everglades.

A spokesperson for the Port Everglades Pilots & the Florida Harbor Pilots Association said this gobbledygook: "The local Port Everglades harbor pilot maintained navigational control of the vessel throughout this maneuver, skillfully keeping it within the channel, then proceeded to safely guide the vessel out to sea. As stated by the cruise line, the vessel did not touch bottom."

A Celebrity Cruises spokesperson used similarly misleading language to describe the reckless maneuver of the cruise ship:  "As Equinox departed on Friday, March 3, she was in her assigned channel at all times under the guidance of specialized local port pilots. The ship operated safely and did not put guests or crew at risk. We can also confirm the ship did not touch bottom.”

Video Credit: Bill and Yasmine Todhunter 

 

Another Crime Warning for Travelers to Nassau, Bahamas

Bay Street Nassau Bahamas Crime WarningYesterday, the U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) issued a security message for U.S. Citizens traveling to Nassau, Bahamas), titled Staying Safe during Spring Break in the Bahamas.

It starts with: "avoid being alone with strangers, jet ski, taxi, or scooter operators. Be particularly cautious on secluded beaches; criminals target such isolated areas. When traveling, use only clearly marked buses or taxis, as unlicensed taxi drivers have been linked to a variety of violent crimes."

The warning ""strongly" recommends that travelers "avoid patronizing jet ski rental operations" who "continue to commit sexual assaults and other crimes against tourists."

It warns not to "allow yourself to be driven off alone with a scooter operator. Unlicensed scooter operators and rental services have been linked to assaults, including sexual assaults."

OSAC cautions against excessive drinking ashore - "Visitors found alone or incapacitated have been victims of sexual assault, robbery, and physical assault. Watch your drink at all times. Intoxicated young women may be targeted for drugging and sexual assault."

OSAC refers to the U.S. State Department's warning that "the criminal threat level for New Providence Island (includes Nassau and Paradise Island) is rated as critical." The critical crime warning reads:

"Armed robbery and sexual assault are major criminal threats facing U.S. citizens in New Providence. The U.S. Embassy has received multiple reports indicating tourists have been robbed at gunpoint or Nassau Bahamas Cruise Travel Warningknifepoint in tourist locations in the downtown areas of Nassau; several of these incidents occurred during daylight hours. The U.S. Embassy has received reports of sexual assaults in tourist areas as well. The Bahamas has one of the highest incidences of sexual assault in the Caribbean . . "

If you are a parent of a teenager or a college student cruising to Nassau this month on Spring Break, I suggest discussing these issues. 

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March 6, 2107 Update: The U.S Embassy in Nassau issues another crime warning, based on the OSAC report.

Photo credit: Jpatokal at wts wikivoyage - GFDL, commons / wikimedia (top photo of Bay Street in Nassau); TampAGS, for AGS Media - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia (bottom photo of cruise wharf in Nassau).

Carnival Splendor Suffers Power Loss?

Today a cruise passenger reported that the Carnival Splendor lost power as it was sailing to St. Thomas, United States Virgin Island (USVI). 

Carnival responded to the passenger by saying that that the Carnival cruise ship "has not lost engine power. It's only a technical issue affecting the ship's maximum cruising speed."

Automatic information systems (AIS) show the ship's current speed at 13 - 14 knots, although it was sailing at one to two knots earlier today. 

We have requested an explanation from Carnivval but have not yet received a response. 

The Carnival Splendor was disabled after an engine room fire in November 2010 in a highly reported case.

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Update: We received the following statement from Carnival:  

CARNIVAL SPLENDOR STATEMENT
March 2, 2017 - 11 a.m.

"Carnival Splendor is currently experiencing a technical issue that is affecting the vessel's maximum cruising speed. The ship's technical team is currently working on assessing the repairs.

Due to current speed limitations, the remaining calls at St. Thomas and Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic have been cancelled so that the ship can return to its homeport of Miami on Sunday on schedule.

All guests on the current voyage will receive a $100 per person shipboard credit and a 25 percent credit toward a future Carnival cruise.

Carnival Splendor is on fourth day of a seven-day cruise that departed Miami on Sunday and returns this Sunday."

March 3, 2017 Update: Shortly after 6:00 P.M. today, Carnival modofied its offer of compensation to its guests: "50 percent refund, 50 percent future cruise discount, and a $100 shipboard credit."

Royal Caribbean & Celebrity Pay Alaska's Environmental Fines

Royal Caribbean Alaska Air Pollution Violations Seatrade Cruise News reports that Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises recently settled all claims related to alleged violations of the Alaska Marine Visible Emissions Standards that occurred over an earlier five-year period on certain ships.

Last year, we reported that the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation issued notices of violation to a number of cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, for a pollution violations over the past five years. In addition to Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises, NCL, Carnival, Holland America, Princess, and Silversea violated the Alaskan emission standards.

In its most recent annual report, Royal Caribbean stated that the cruise line had settled the claims pursuant to a compliance order by consent this month for an undisclosed amount. and performing certain remedial actions.

As we mentioned in our article last April, Alaska issued 18 notices of violation involving 48 instances of excessive air emissions against a host of cruise lines since 2010,. Each violation of law carries a fine of approximately $37,500.

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Is a Cruise Ship the Perfect Place to Commit a Crime?

MIndy Jordon Disappearance - NCLEarlier today, I mentioned the recent disappearance of a young Chinese woman from the MSC Magnifica.

It appears that she may have been a murder victim, according to the police in Italy who are investigating the case.  

If this is true, this is hardly the first time that a cruise passenger has been killed at sea. 

Cruise passenger Karen Roston was thrown overboard by her husband during an Admiral Cruises vacation. He was later convicted of the crime. 

Mindy Jordon went overboard from a NCL cruise ship when she went on a vacation with a husband reportedly with an abusive and violent background. 

The case of George Smith, of course, is perhaps the clearest example of a crime at sea, after he was reportedly thrown overboard by a man, who was also sailing on the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas as a passenger, who reportedly gave Mr. Smith a "paragliding lesson without a parachute." 

Micki Kanesaki DisappearanceA Chinese cruise passenger murdered his wife by pitching her overboard during a cruise aboard the Macau Success. He falsely claimed that his wife committed suicide.

A drunken passenger killed his wife during a cruise on the Carnival Elation to Mexico. 

A lawyer was arrested for allegedly strangling & throwing his wife, Micki Kanesaki off an Italian cruise ship several years ago. 

A woman from Vancouver, Canada, Fariba Amani, who was cruising aboard the Bahamas Celebration cruise ship operated by the Celebration Cruise Lines, disappeared under mysterious circumstances during a cruise with her boyfriend.

Farabi Amani DisappearanceThere are many others who met with foul play on cruise ships. 

A Brazilian crew member, Camilla Peixoto Bandeira, working aboard the MSC Musica was strangled to death by her boyfriend. 

23 year old  Amy Lynn Bradley disappeared from Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas under highly suspicious circumstances where it appears that she was abducted.

Carnival passenger Annette Mizener appeared to have been thrown overboard from a Carnival ship cruising to Mexico.  

A Holland America Line (HAL) crew member sexually assaulted, violently beat, and tried to throw a woman from her balcony on HAL's Nieuw Amsterdam. The crew member was arrested and sentenced Jennifer Ellis-Seitz Balconyto jail, although in most such cases there are no arrests or prosecutions.  

Other young, healthy and seemingly happy individuals have disappeared from cruise ships, with the cruise line wildly speculating that they probably committed suicide, like Denisa Markoska, and Angelo Faliva.

A murder investigation was opened after after a 53 year old woman went overboard from the Costa Fortuna

A young woman, Jennifer Ellis-Seitz, disappeared over the rails of her cabin's balcony resulting in the FBI investigating the conduct of her husband when other passengers commented on what they considered his highly strange behavior. The FBI eventually declined the case after finding no evidence of foul play. There was, of course, no automatic man overboard system in place.

It was the mysterious disappearance of Merrian Carver from the Celebrity Mercury back in 2004, and the resulting cover-up by the cruise line, which motivated her father, Ken Carver to create the International Cruise Victims organization.   

Several lawmakers have asked whether a cruise ship is the perfect place to commit a crime, largely Camilla Peixoto Bandeira - MSC Disappearancebecause of jurisdictional nightmares like this

The cruise industry is quick to label disappearances at sea as "suicides" even when the facts suggest otherwise. Read: "Suicide" - One of the Cruise Lines' Favorite Excuses When a Passenger Disappears at Sea.

Mike Driscoll, editor of Cruiseweek, a cruise publication, was recently quoted as saying "Most over-boards to date have been suicides."  He offered no statistical evidence to support this inaccurate claim. In fact, the majority of disappearances involve highly intoxicated individuals who go over the rails. Whether you view this phenomenon as the result of reckless conduct by the drunken passenger or the irresponsibility of the cruise line in over-serving their guests to make profits from the vast amount of alcohol sold during a cruise, there is no question that alcohol is involved in most disappearances from cruise ships.  You can track the last 288 case of overboards maintained by cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein and easily Annetter Mizener Disappearancesee that alcohol plays a significant role in most overboard cases.   

Unfortunately, it also appears that a cruise is a perfect location for a murder, particularly when there are few automatic man overboard cameras installed on ships which would document and, possibly, deter criminal activity.  

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

March 3, 2017 Update: Cops believe missing Dublin-based mum was murdered on cruise ship and thrown overboard in suitcase.

Photo credits:

Mindy Jordon - International Cruise Victims 

Denisa Markosa DisappearanceMicki Kanesaki - Orange County Register

Fariba Amani - Global News Canada

Jennifer Ellis-Seitz balcony - TODAY

Camilla Peixoto Bandeira - A Tribuna newspaper

Annette Mizener - ABC News

Denisa Markosa - Fokus newspaper (Macedonia)

Fire on the Costa Magica?

Costa Magica FireToday we received a message from a passenger is sailing on the Costa Magica with family. The passenger indicated that a fire broke out on the Costa cruise ship yesterday, February 24th, while the cruise ship was heading toward Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe which is in the eastern Caribbean between St. Kitts and Antigua & Barbuda to the north and Dominica to the south. 

The passenger, who wishes to remain anonymous, indicated that the fire started early in the morning/ late at night (around 1:30 A.M.), apparently in the engine room. 

The passenger stated that the passengers were timely informed that a fire broke out but there was confusing announcements regarding the location of the fire.

There was first an announcement regarding an emergency on deck A. Later, there was an announcement regarding an emergency in the luggage area on deck 0. Finally, there was an announcement of an emergency in the engine room, according to the passenger.  

We are trying to obtain further details regarding this reported incident, regarding the cause of the fire and the length of the time before the fire was extinguished. There is no indication that the ship was disabled nor any information suggesting that there were any injuries to passenger or crew members. 

If you are working or sailing on the Magica and have information to share, we would like to hear from you.

Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.  If you wish to remain anonymous, please contact me via email at jim@cruiselaw.com. 

Update: After publishing this article, a reader brought to my attention that a report of a fire on this ship was posted (in German) via Facebook: "Just got the information of a fire onboard Costa Magica - are you sure Costa has everything under control??" (translated). Costa was asked to respond and said via Facebook: "it should be on board, so is the safety of our guests and the crew at the top. You can be assured that costa all action, if it is necessary. If you have any further questions, please send us a pm. Thank you very much and greetings, your costa team."  (translated) The person posting the comment then asked Costa: "So does this mean that it is untrue that it yesterday (in the engine room? ) has burned?" (translated). Costa has not responded to this inquiry. 

February 26, 2017 Update:  "Additional information from the reporting passenger: "it lasted at least 90 minutes. No smoke could be seen from our point of view. Fire doors near the cabins weren't closed, ventilation wasn't stop either. The ship seemed to have slowed down during the intervention.

 . . .  the ship bilingual staff made statements in different language. The Capt could only speaks italian on the PR system.

The crew were not close to us to inform us. From my cabin I could see a few crew members stand-by at a lifeboat.

Quickly after the annoncement that the fire was exthinguished, a medical team was required at muster station E. We had no news afterward on what happen there."

February 27, 2017 Update: Costa confirmed today that a fire broke out on the Magica, but claims that it was "small" and "quickly extinguished." No explanation was provided regarding the cause of the fire or the specific steps taken by the fire crew to extinguish it . . .

March 1, 2017 UpdateCosta Magica Fire: Did Costa Cruises Learn Anything from the Costa Concordia?

Photo credit: Abxbay - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Finally! Royal Caribbean Hires Lifeguards

Two months ago, I wrote that Royal Caribbean Cruises was advertising that it was going to hire lifeguards on its cruise ships. In our December 22, 2016 article titled Royal Caribbean Cruises to Hire Lifeguards, I noted that Royal Caribbean had reconsidered its policy of only posting “swim at your own risk” signs and providing life jackets for children.

Like other cruise lines (with the exception of Disney), Royal Caribbean did not previously employ lifeguards even though a number of children have drowned or nearly drowned in pools on its cruise ships. Children have been found motionless under the water in lifeguard-less pools on the Anthem of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas and the Independence of the Seas in just the last three years. The children were 4, 6, 8 and 8 years old.

Other cruise lines experienced similar tragedies in their swimming pools. In the last 2 to 3 years, a dozen passengers drowned or nearly drowned in cruise ship swimming pools without lifeguards. The cases primarily involved children. In addition to the Royal Caribbean cases, Royal Caribbean Pool Lifeguardother cruise lines experienced deaths or near-drownings on their ships: Princess (4, 3 adults and one 8 year-old child), NCL (3)(ages 4, 6 and 10), Carnival (1)(age 6), and Disney (1)(age 4)(before Disney hired lifeguards). The near-drownings involved situations where other passengers rescued the children. 

Last month, we learned that Royal Caribbean entered into an agreement with IAM Star Guard Elite. "IAM" is the acronym for Innovative Attraction Management, LLC. IAM agreed to provide lifeguards as well as management, consulting, and risk prevention services to the cruise line IAM also also provide litigation support as part of its swimming pool related risk management services. IAM also scheduled an aquatics conference aboard Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas at Atlantis, Paradise Island when the Royal Caribbean ship called on the port of Nassau at the end of last month. 

Yesterday, with much fanfare, Royal Caribbean announced that it will staff all of its ships with lifeguards. The lifeguards will be dressed in bright red and white uniforms, and stationed at every pool, including the Solarium, during opening hours.

The new water safety program will include new signage and will be rolled out across all Royal Caribbean cruise ships over the next four months, starting with Oasis of the Seas.

Parents, of course, will still be expected to supervise their children. I have long advocated assigning a lifeguard to 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 Express newspaper in London covered the story and posted the results of a poll which indicated that the majority of its readers favored Royal Caribbean's new policy. 70% of the readers who participated in the poll said "Yes, it's a great idea" to the question "Should all cruise lines introduce lifeguards on board their ships?," with 30% responding "I don't think it would make a difference."

But there has never been a public consensus regarding this issue. The majority of people responding to articles about children drowning in cruise ship swimming pools quickly attack the parents and even suggest that the parents should be arrested. Other readers selfishly voice petty concerns that the cruise line may begin to pass the costs of hiring lifeguards on to its customers and they do not want to pay higher cruise fares.

The hard-core cruise fan site Cruise Critic asked its readers "Do you think cruise ships should have lifeguards?" Only a little over 30% said "Yes, you can’t be too careful," with around 20% saying that lifeguards should be employed only "on ships aimed at families." 40% of the Cruise Critic readers said "No, it’s not their responsibility," which seems heartless considering how many children have died on cruise ships without lifeguards. 

Congratulations to Royal Caribbean for joining Disney as the only cruise lines with a demonstrated commitment to keeping children safe around pools at sea. Hopefully, other cruise lines like industry giant Carnival will quickly follow suit.

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

Photo credit: Lifeguard uniforms - Royal Caribbean PR via Express newspaper.

Celebrity Cruises Excursion Bus Accident in New Zealand

Two cruise passengers are reportedy fighting for their lives and others are seriously injured after an excursion bus collided with a car during a cruise sponsored trip to South Island, according to the Sun newspaper.  

The cruise passengers, who were guests from the Celebrity Cruises' Solstice cruise ship, were on an excursion near the South Island town of Akaroa. 

The excursion bus reportedly slammed into a car on a "twisting stretch of road winding through the Celebrity Cruises Bus Excursion Accidentmountain range" near Akaroa, sending the bus careering a hundred feet down a steep embankment.

The bus trip through the mountains to Akaroa from Christchurch includes "perilous hairpin bends where there is barely enough room for two cars to pass each other."

The bus was carrying more than two dozen passengers from the Celebrity cruise ship.

The Celebrity ship is currently cruising around New Zealand and Australia.

There have been numerous bus excursions in the past several years where guests from Celebrity Cruises and its parent company, Royal Caribbean Cruises, have been seriously injured or killed. In addition to many cruise sponsored excursion accident in the Caribbean, twelve U.S. cruise passengers from a Celebrity cruise ship died in Chile during an independent excursion bus tour from the Celebrity Millennium.

According to CBS News, a bus of cruise passengers was returning to the Celebrity cruise ship from an excursion to Lauca National Park when the bus plunged off the rugged highway near the city of Arica, 1,250 miles north of Santiagos. The deadly accident occurred in 2006. The excursion bus werved to avoid an approaching truck and tumbled more than 100 yards down a mountainside.

Photo credit: NZ Herald via Sun 

Overboard Passenger from Sun Princess Rescued

A passenger who went overboard into the Pacific Ocean from the Sun Princess cruise ship as it sailed between Brisbane and New Caledonia was rescued today. 

Shortly after 4 P.M. local time today, the "man overboard" announcement came over the bridge.

A newspaper in Australia reported that it took about 15 minutes for the ship to completely turn around and make it back to the same area.

The cruise ship deployed a zodiac rescue boat to conduct a search.

The woman was in the water for about 45 minutes. An entertainer on the cruise ship videotaped the woman's rescue.

The article does not explain how the passenger went overboard.
 

Passenger Overboard From Carnival Elation

News4Jax reports that a passenger went overboard yesterday morning from the Carnival Elation approximately 15 miles southwest of Abaco, Bahamas.

The Carnival Elation sailed from Jacksonville on Monday with its first port of call in Nassau, Bahamas.

The Coast Guard is searching for the 24-year old man whose identity has not been revealed.

The news account states that at around 8:30 A.M. yesterday, the passenger's wife told the ship that her husband was missing and had apparently disappeared at an undisclosed time.  She reportedly says that her husband was last seen about 2:30 a.m. She reported him missing after the ship docked in Nassau. Carnival later Man Overboard Systemdetermined that its closed-circuit television (CCTV) system revealed that the man was recorded going overboard from the 11th deck. 

This sounds like the usual scenario when a cruise ship is not equipped with an automatic man overboard system which would immediately alert the bridge when someone goes over a railing on the ship. Without such equipment, and without an eye witness account of someone going overboard, the ship is left to tediously look over hours of CCTV images to try and spot the passenger and see what happened. 

The cruise industry has resisted installing the technology. There are many companies which have excellent heat and/or motion detection alarms with radar tracking systems on the market. Here is an example (photo left). Here is another.

According to cruise expert Professor Ross Klein, this is the 286th person to go overboard from a cruise ship since 2000. 

Update: The Coast Guard was not notified until about 11 a.m. by the Carnival officers on the ship, or approximately two and one-half hours after the cruise ship docked in Nassau. The CCTV images which Carnival reviewed showed the passenger going overboard at approximately 2:45 a.m., according to new accounts.

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Coast Guard Grounds Majesty of the Seas for Life Vest Violation

Majesty of the Seas Life VestThe U.S. Coast Guard ordered Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas to remain at Port Canaveral after a safety inspection yesterday revealed problems with the ship's life vests.

Upset passengers quickly went to social media to voice their displeasure:

As reported by local ABC affiliate WFTV- 9:

@eric_thebruce tweeted:  "How many life jackets aren't up to code @RoyalCaribbean? This didn't sneak up on you. Thanks for checking @uscoastguard" 

@Jktaylor1 tweetded "@RoyalCaribbean come on man. 1st the Captain makes an announcement we are leaving early morning. Now we are delayed until 1400. #Unsatisfied"

@vballrach1 tweetded "@RoyalCaribbean we are spending the night in port due to safety violations reported by the Coast Guard. never had this happen before"

The Majesty of the Seas is a Sovereign-class cruise ship built in 1992.  The nearly 25-year old ship apparently had old life vests aboard the ship which were in a state of disrepair. The Coast Guard stated that its inspection revealed "some technical issues, including some outdoor lifejackets showing their age."

A month ago, a lifeboat fell off from another one of the older Royal Caribbean cruise ships, the 20-year old Grandeur of the Seas, while the ship was at port in Charleston.    

The Majesty is expected to replace the life vests today and sail later this afternoon. 

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Photo Credit: Coast Guard Statement - @MarkLehman

 

Filipino Crew Member Killed on Emerald Princess

A number of newspapers are reporting that an explosion on board the Emerald Princess cruise ship claimed the life of a Princess crew member at a port in New Zealand earlier this week.

The incident occurred when crew members were reportedly using a cannister of nitrogen, for deploying a lifeboat, on one of the decks near the stern of the cruise ship.

A passenger on the ship was quoted in an Australian newspaper saying that “There was an explosion, it was pretty loud ... all I saw then was the gas bottle spinning on the (wharf).”

Filipino Crew Member Killed Emerald PrincessA photograph (right) posted on Twitter shows a large cylinder, which killed the crew member, lying on the wharf near the Princess cruise ship. 

What has not been widely reported is that the deceased crew member was a young Filipino man, married with two young children. 

The Filipino's death comes just a couple of days after Lizzie Presser's insightful article about the plight of crew members from the Philippines working on cruise ships was published. Titled Below Deck - Filipinos make up nearly a third of all cruise ship workers. It’s a good job. Until it isn’t, the article explains how young men from the Philippines who go to sea on cruise ships to seek better lives for their families, face 12 hour work days for up to 10 months at a time and are prohibited from filing lawsuits in the U.S. They are subject to a draconian scheme of minimal compensation if injured on the job. If they are killed though the negligence of the U.S. based cruise line, their families receive a maximum pay-out of only $50,000 and only $7,500 per child.

The article quoted Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut as saying "if cruise lines know their workers are kept from holding them accountable in court, they’ll have little incentive to provide them with a safe work environment.”

I was alerted of the death when a concerned passenger on the Princess cruise ship first alerted me to the tragedy:

"I'm currently on board the Emerald Princess at Dunedin. I was on board at the time the explosion happened that killed the crew member. He was a Filipino 33 yr old father of two small kids. I've been absolutely appalled to learn from crew (over 80% on this current cruise are Filipino) about their employment conditions. This entire industry seems to profit from the exploitation of workers from developing countries. And here we are with someone killed while doing their job on board."

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

Photo credit: Twitter via Express newspaper.

Filipinos on Cruise Ships: Lost at Sea?

Yesterday, investigative journalist Lizzie Presser's article about the plight of crew members from the Philippines working on cruise ships was published. Titled Below Deck - Filipinos make up nearly a third of all cruise ship workers. It’s a good job. Until it isn’t, the article follows the lives of several young Filipino men who went to sea for Miami-based cruise lines in order to provide a better life for their families. But when they were injured after working unreasonably long hours (12 hours a day for as long as 10 months without a break), the crew members found that they had no real legal rights to hold their employers responsible. 

Carnival Imagination - Filipino Crew Members This is an issue which I have written about regularly over the years, explaining the legal problems Filipinos face while working on cruise ships owned by companies like Carnival and Royal Caribbean:

Filipino Labor Board Punishes Burned Crew Member.

Screwing Filipinos & Imprisoning Lawyers: Seafarers "Protection Act" Protects Cruise Line Employers.

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

Photo credit: Kevin Kunishi via https://story.californiasunday.com

Terrorism at Sea: Danger in the Red Sea

Houthi rebels attacked a Saudi frigate off the western coast of Yemen earlier this week. Video of the attack shows a large explosion near the stern of the ship, which was originally believed to be the result of a missile strike. It was later determined to be a suicide attack involving several small vessels.

The attack occurred in the southern part of the Red Sea, north of the Bah Al-Mandab straits which is a pinch-point between the Red Sea, flanked by Saudi Arabia on the east and Egypt to the west, and the Gulf of Aden to the south. Cruise ships sailing to and from the Mediterranean and to or from the Indian Sea pass through these straits.

In the video below  a voice narrating the attack shouts in Arabic, "Allah Akbar" followed by “Death to America, Death to Israel, Death to the Jews.”

According to one U.S. network, U.S. defense analysts believe that the attack was intended for an U.S. naval vessel or that this was a “dress rehearsal” similar to the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, which was being refueled in the Yemeni port of Aden in 2000 when a suicide boat loaded with explosives attacked the U.S. ship and blew up. The terrorist attack killed 17 U.S. sailors and injured 39 more. 

Four months ago, the Houthi rebels launched a similar missile attack against an United Arab Emirates (UAE} ship in the waters of Yemen near the straits of Bah Al-Mandab.

On October 1, 2016, Houthi rebels destroyed an Emirati vessel near the the Red Sea port city of Mokha.The Houthi rebels reportedly used a sophisticated Chinese anti-ship missile. The naval ship which was attacked was a high speed vessel ("HSV"), named the HSV 2 Swift. The ship was formerly operated by the U.S. Navy and recently had been leased to the UAE. There is a dispute whether the vessel was a civilian craft carrying humanitarian aid or an UAE navy vessel.

The Houthi (Shia) rebel group has been in armed conflict with the more moderate and Saudi Arabian backed Sunni government in Yemen. The U.S backs the Saudi Arabian-led coalition in their conflict against Yemen.

These attacks demonstrate the considerable danger posed to shipping in the Middle East by Shia militant groups, apparently supplied by Iran with sophisticated weapons. ISIS and al-Qu'ida operate in Yemen. 

Cruise ships routinely transit through the straits of Bah Al-Mandab. Many cruise ships transit through these straits at night without lights to avoid detection. 

Several U.S. naval experts and commanders as well as senior NATO officers have recently expressed their surprise that ISIS has not attacked cruise ships in the Middle East.

You can see photographs of the dramatic damage to the NSV 2 here.

The video showing the attack on the HSV 2 Swift is below.

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

Interested in this issue? Consider reading: With a threat from terrorists and pirates ever-present, are there choppy waters ahead for cruise ship security

Trump's Executive Order Causes Chaos at Fort Lauderdale Cruise Terminal

The Allure of the Seas returned this morning to Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale after a week long cruise. When the Allure docked, some of the passengers were in for a shock.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protective (CBP) reportedly requested the captain of the cruise ship to first disembark green card holders from the seven Muslim-based countries subject to President Trump's executive order, which bans citizens from entering the U.S. for at least the next 90 days

I was contacted this morning about the situation at the cruise terminal in Fort Lauderdale. A passenger said that there are several guests who sailed on the cruise who are from Iraq and Iran who hold green Trump Ban Green Card Cruisecards (which makes them legal permanent U.S. residents). It currently is unknown how many passengers have been detained, or whether crew members have also been affected.

The executive order, signed by President Trump on Friday night, has thrown confusion into the handling of many people trying to enter the U.S. this weekend. 

Yesterday, a Department of Homeland Security official said people holding green cards are included in President Trump's executive action temporarily barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

There is uncertainty whether the green card holders will be barred from re-entering the U.S. or whether they will have to undergo additional screening.

"It will bar green card holders," Gillian Christensen, acting Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman, told Reuters yesterday. But other representatives at Homeland Security have been quoted as saying that green card holders will be permitted to enter but will have to be subject to "extreme vetting." 

The affected passengers were returning on a gay cruise chartered by Atlantis. Many returning cruisers not directly affected by the ban have remained at the cruise terminal to show solidarity with the detained passengers.

It is likely that others passengers at other U.S. ports will be detained, and either banned from entering the U.S. or subject to added vetting.

President Trump has claimed that the purpose behind the executive order is to "keep America safe." But it's hard to imagine how banning legal residents from returning from a holiday cruise will accomplish that goal.

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

Update: The Miami Herald is covering the story - I’ve Been Detained at Broward Port, Cuise Passenger With a Green Card Says.

January 30, 2017 Update: It seems that there were cruise passengers detained at other ports yesterday.

Florida Today writes that seven people, including a woman of Syrian origin and her three U.S. born children, were retained by CPB for over 6 hours in Port Canaveral yesterday.  

The Global Nation writes today about an Iraqi-born woman of Swedish citizenship, married to an U.S. citizen who arrived in an unidentified port in Florida. Even though she is a legal permanent resident holding a green card, she was separated from her husband when the cruise ship returned to port. "... she felt confused and afraid while being bombarded with questions. Her husband had to wait outside. . .  They asked me where I was born, when did I leave Iraq, how did I come to America, who sponsored me, what does my husband do, and what countries have I lived in.” After three hours of questioning, she was finally let go. “I was the in same room as someone being accused of child pornography,” she says. “That’s how low they made me feel, just because I was in Iraq 27 years ago.” 

March 24, 2017 Update: Palestinian UF student detained after Spring Break cruise.  

NCL's Norwegian Star Suffers Engine Failure Again

Last month, I wrote about an azipod failure on the Norwegian Star which resulted in the NCL ship limping around on an altered Asian itinerary, much to the frustration of cruise vacationers.  It seems that instead of sending the ship to dry dock, NCL arranged to send the azipod contractors aboard to repair the ship while it was sailing. They apparently fixed the problem but the other azipod has now apparently failed:

According to a message which from a crew member on the Norwegian Star today:

"I'm writing to you again from the unlucky Norwegian Star! I wrote to you sometime in December when we broke down in Singapore at the beginning of our Asian season . . .  yesterday 25th of January, while at sea we experienced problems again, this timer with other engine, "the old one!" So now thatNCL Norwegian Star one is offline... Today, 26th, in Bali, Indonesia, captain made announcement that we are changing the itinerary AGAIN this cruise, skipping 3 ports and adding sea days in order to reach Sydney in time. At the beginning of the cruise (before 23rd, Singapore) we already skipped places and for that everybody received 200$ for onboard account, today, that was changed to 500$. But of course, guests are NOT happy and poor guys at the reception and the security are getting pounded heavily by raging crowd . . . I feel sorry for them because it is not their fault or any other crew member for a broken engine and Miami office made a decision about refunds and amounts, not onboard management . . . So the stricken Norwegian Star is going AGAIN through some very hard times . . ."

I also received this message from a passenger's family:

"I have been contacted by relatives on Norwegian Cruiseline NCL Star. They left Singapore earlier this week and are on the way to Australia. Azipod failure again and they have been told their day in Brisbane is canceled, and their trip to the barrier reef is off. This was the reason my relative took the cruise in the first place, so he is very annoyed - it was his 70th birthday present and he has waited over a year to take this cruise. This cruise already can celled part of the itinerary before leaving due to the delays on the previous cruise. So far, they have been offered no refund of this cruise - have been bunged some on-ship credit to spend and 50% off the next cruise. They are not happy bunnies!! There is nothing on the internet about this yet, so please can you inform everyone. I don't see how NCL keep getting away with NCL Norwegian Starthis - there is an obvious issue with this ship and they just keep taking people's money and canceling the planned trips."

January 27, 2017 Update:

I received photographs (right and below) of what is happening on the Norwegian Star and comments from a passenger which say in part: 

"This is what is happening here on the Norwegian Star at noon on Friday 27th January 2017!

We are on board NCL Star and it is desperate to say the least. To say that things have virtually descended to mob rule would not be an understatement.

As I write this there are more than 500 people demonstrating in the main atrium, shouting in unison ‘Shame on Norwegian’, ‘Where’s the Captain?’, ‘Boo, Boo, Boo’!

This has been going on for over two hours today and the same yesterday evening. I attach three photographs that I have taken within the last hour.

The ship has engine propulsion problems again and the itinerary has been changed once again with another three ports having been cancelled meaning that we are now only stopping at half of the planned ports on this three week cruise.

The main thing that seems to be causing mass unrest is not the fact that the ship has engine problems but the fact that this is the same fault as the ship has had many times previously and that people have been miss sold this long cruise when Norwegian Cruise Line clearly knew there were ongoing problems with the ship.

Documents have been circulated by some guests showing that this problem has been ongoing for months, and a ships log that has been produced on board which shows that the same propulsion faults also occurred on 17 October 2015 and again on 11 December 2016, there are other dates for similar issues in the report also.

During the peak of the demonstrations no officers were to be seen, the Captain has not been seen for the whole cruise and the reception desk are merely handing out comments cards to whose who want to complain. People are absolutely furious about how we are being treated here - ­there is just no leadership! We have been told by staff that there is nothing that staff on board can do because they need to wait to hear from Miami ­- but we have been waiting for nearly two days now! This lack of action seems to be infuriating people more and more . . . ."

January 28. 2017 Update:

". . . There were more demos today and captain eventually made an appearance after more chanting 'where's the captain'. NCL flying some execs in from Miami to speak to us at sometime tomorrow . . ."  

January 30, 2017 Update: NCL offers passengers aboard the Norwegian Star 100% of cruise fare towards a future cruise in addition to onboard credit of $500 per first and second guest ($1,000 per stateroom).  See letter here.

February 9, 2017 Update: The Star is dead in the water.  I received dozens of emails today from passengers on the NCL cruise ship saying that the remaining azapood failed shortly after leaving Melbourne, Australia (although A/C, electricity and water remain on). Here's one: "We are on the Norwegian Star and our complete propulsion system has failed. We are unable to maneuver and wait for help. Thank goodness before the coast of Australia and not in the middle of the Tasmanian Sea! The plan is to return to Melbourne for repair. For all friends and relatives: we are not in danger! Everything except the drive works and help is on the move. All stops in New Zealand are canceled...."

Another comment: "100% refund on this cruise and 50% on future cruise good for 5 years.. Also not the commotion of last cruise and no protests. Very orderly. Tugs are on way, should be here by 5pm and then we should be back in Melbourne by early evening on Saturday. Also giving 300 for airline changes or 350 if you decide to fly to Auckland."

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Photo credit: above - Top - Pjotr Mahhonin - CC BY-SA 3.0; commons / wikimedia; middle and bottom - anonymous.

NCL Norwegian Star

Recent Lewd and Lascivious Conduct on HAL Cruise Line Show Shortcomings of CVSSA Crime Reporting

Last fall, the Arizona Republic reported that cruise travelers for the first time can see what crimes are being reported aboard cruise ships operating in U.S. ports.

The newspaper commented on improvements once the Department of Transportation replaced the Coast Guard as the agency responsible for reporting crimes on cruise ships leaving US. ports. Consumers previously needed to check the websites of each cruise line to try and find out what crimes occur on which cruise line. Carnival Corporation bundled the crimes of its brands (Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, and Princess Cruises)  together under one name, HAl Veendamso that it was impossible for consumers to identify on which cruise line the reported crimes occurred.

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act ("CVSSA") of 2010  was supposed to provide the public with reports of certain crimes aboard cruise ships, such as deaths, sexual assaults, thefts and missing-person reports.

But the cruise-friendly agencies responsible for disclosing the crime statistics requested changes to the wording in the CVSSA which rendered crime-reporting provisions useless.

Language added before its passage altered the CVSSA bill so that only crimes "no longer under investigation by the FBI" were reported on the website. An Arizona Republic investigation in 2012 revealed the language was altered at the request of the FBI and the Coast Guard, apparently with pressure from the cruise industry

The problem is that the FBI often refused to open files when crime occurred on cruise ships or, when it did, the FBI often kept its files open long after it has decided not to investigate the case. So any crime that the FBI didn't investigate - or when it technically kept its investigation files open - was not included in the Coast Guard database.

The language of the statute was changed which resulted in far more crimes, particularly sexual assaults, being disclosed to to the public by the DOT. In the first six months of 2016 far more sexual assaults were disclosed (39) than during the same period in 2015 (6) when the reporting was disclosed on the Coast guard portal.  

You can see the DOT's portal here.

But a major problem remains.  The cruise lines are the one which determine whether an incident constitutes "sexual assault." Many cases of sexual molestation of minors are mis-classified as "groping" or as "inappropriate touching," neither of which is a crime under the CVSSA .

The same is true regarding the sexual offense which the HAL waiter was arrested for on the Holland America Line Veendam last week. The CVSSA does not include "lewd and lascivious" conduct with a child as a reportable offense. 

Cruise expert Professor Dr. Ross Klein, who has testified regarding the issue of crime on cruise ships Gede Sukrantara, HAL Veendambefore the U.S. House of Representative and the U.S. Senate, pointed this problem out on his website last October. Dr. Klein has reviewed hundreds of incident reports submitted by cruise lines and has observed a tendency for cruise lines to report incidents of sexual assault as either "sexual contact" (which is not reportable under the CVSSA) or as "molestation" or as "groping" or "inappropriate touching" or "lewd and lascivious conduct" (none of which are reportable pursuant to the specific language of the statute). 

The cruise victim's group, the International Cruise Victims, has tried to introduce legislation requiring the cruise industry to disclose when children are victims of crime.  Several years ago, Dr. Klein determined that between 17.5 and 30 percent of the sexual assault victims on cruise ships are minors. The cruise industry vigorously opposed the legislation and refuses to disclose when children are sexually assaulted on their ships.

The crime that occurred on the Veendam when a 26 year old Indonesian HAL waiter (photo right) locked himself in a bathroom on the cruise ship and engaged in oral sex with a fifteen year old girl is exactly the type of sexual misconduct that families need to understand happens all too often on family cruise vacations, no matter how hard the cruise industry tries to parse words to keep it secret.

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Photo credit: Top: Fletcher6 - CC BY 3.0, commons / wikimedia. ; bottom: Gede Sukrantara Facebook page.

Polluting Princess Cruises Named "Best Ocean Cruise Line?"

Yesterday, Princess Cruises isued a press statement via PR Newswire that it had been voted the "Best Ocean Cruise Line" in the USA TODAY and 10Best Readers Choice cruise travel awards. 

The press release highlighted comments made by Princess Cruises president, Jan Swartz: "We're incredibly proud to be named 'Best Ocean Cruise Line' by the experts and readers of USA TODAY as it's our goal to provide our guests memorable and inspiring cruise vacation experiences."

A panel of cruise experts (cruise bloggers, travel agents, & industry friends) picked the initial nominees; the top 10 winners were then determined by popular vote.

The judges who nominated Princess are notable people in the world of cruising (I'm friendly with some of them) who author high quality articles and operate popular sites about the cruise industry: Carrie Finley Princess Cruises Pollution Bajak - Cruise Buzz; Fran Golden - USA TODAY; Sherry Laskin Kennedy - Cruise Maven; Jason Leppert - Popular Cruising; Chris Owen - Chris Cruises; Doug Parker - Cruise Radio; and Aaron Saunders - From The Deck Chair.  But, quite frankly, I am embarrassed for them.

Last month, the Department of Justice leveled a fine of $40,000,000 against Carnival Corporation for Princess Cruises' deliberate discharge of oil via "magic pipes," alteration of oil logs regarding at least five of its cruise ships, and lying to the Coast Guard over the course of nearly a decade. Ms. Swartz was featured in a video trying her best to appear apologetic as part of Princess' multi-media response to the revelations.

Its an embarrassing indictment of the cruise industry for a corporate felon to be voted the "best ocean cruise line" after it polluted the oceans and lied about it for so many years.  A better approach would have been for the judges to have disqualified any company which is on probation for environmental crimes or for the cruise executive to have politely declined the award, saying that the cruise line promises to do much better in the future.  

I posted Princess' patting-itself-on-its-back PR statement on our firm's Facebook page; we received these comments:

  • Should have been disqualified . . . 
  • Wow, I would have assumed "best ship", included due diligence on (environmental) issues but I guess not?
  • What a crock of s**t!
  • I agree they should be banned from these polls or disqualified.
  • . . . It's all a farce.

MSC Cruises DUMPINGThe other cruise lines voted in the list of "top 10 ocean cruise lines" have all been fined for polluting the oceans. Carnival was voted no. 3, even though it owns the polluting cruise ships operated by its Princess brand. Even MSC Cruises, which was voted no. 10, has a notorious reputation after a series of videos were released showing MSC crew members throwing garbage bags into a marine sanctuary at night. 

Yes, the award is a farce. The award should be embarrassing to the cruise industry, the cruise line "winner," the judges, and the cruise fans who voted for a corporate felon which intentionally polluted the oceans for years. 

Photo credit: Top - Department of Justice via CURT ANDERSON/AP via US News; bottom - anonymous via Cruise Law News.

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Waiter on HAL's Veendam Arrested on Charges of Lewd and Lascivious Conduct with Minor

HAL Waiter Yesterday, the Broward County Sheriff's office arrested a Holland America Line (HAL) cruise ship waiter for engaging in lewd and lascivious conduct involving a minor, according to Local 10-ABC.  

The case arises out of an incident on the M/S Veendam last Sunday when the HAL waiter, identified as Gede Sukrantara, age 26, convinced a 15-year-old girl to go into a bathroom on the 12th deck of the ship. He locked the door of the bathroom and the child is alleged to have then engaged in oral sex. She later reported the incident to the cruise ship staff. 

According to the news station, Broward County Sheriff detectives interviewed Sukrantara, who is from Indonesia, yesterday after the child's father said that he wanted to prosecute the cruise employee. 

The detectives arrested Sukrantara on a charge of committing a lewd and lascivious act involving a minor where the victim is between 12 and 16 years of age. He is current imprisoned in the maximum security jail facility adjacent to the Broward County Courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

Photo credit: Broward Sheriff's Office   

Arrested in the Bahamas: Cruise Passenger in Jail for Statutory Rape of 15 Year-Old Boy

Two weeks ago, the Royal Bahamian Police Force arrested a French-Canadian woman from Quebec who was on an unidentified cruise ship (cruise schedules indicate it was the Norwegian Sky) in Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas for engaging in sex with a 15-year-old boy, who cannot legally give consent to have sexual intercourse under the law of the Bahamas. 

The case involved a rather bizarre situation where the 23 year old woman met an American, 15 year old boy in what a newspaper describes as a "casino and bar area" on the cruise ship. The boy reportedly told the woman, (falsely so) that he was 18 years old. He also reportedly is over 6 feet tall and he was wearing a beard, apparently giving her the impression that he was an adult.   

The two then allegedly engaged in sex in a bathroom on the ship. The boy's mother learned of the alleged tryst and, over the protestations of her son, reported the alleged incident to the police in the Bahamas.

Section 11(1)(a) of the Bahamas' Sexual Offences Act, Chapter 99 reads: “Any person who has unlawful sexual intercourse with any person being of or above 14 years of age and under 16 years of age, whether with or without the consent of the person with whom he had unlawful sexual intercourse Bahamas Sexual assaultis guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for life.”

In the U.S., this is called "statutory rape;" it is irrelevant that the defendant was unaware that the child is underage. In Quebec, where the woman is from, 15 year olds can legally consent to sex.

The newspapers in the Bahamas have reported repeatedly on the arrest of the woman. They have published numerous photographs of the young woman in the custody of Bahamian police officers being led from the jail where she is imprisoned to the courthouse where she has attended several hearings in her criminal case. The photographs depict a obviously haggard woman, who has been kept in the harsh conditions of Her Majesty's Prison, being escorting to court by smiling police officers. 

The woman, who reportedly has three children aged 3, 4 and 5, had been given the cruise by her employer for her exemplary work performance. 

Grand Stirrup Cay is a private island in the Bahamas owned by Norwegian Cruise Line. 

The case, to me, appears to be, among other things, an indictment of the cruise line for allowing a unsupervised teenager into an area of the cruise ship limited to adults and apparently permitting him to drink alcohol. The Canadian woman's Bahamian defense lawyer was quoted in the Tribune newspaper as saying that "this defendant has a very strong defence as it may be negligence on the part of the cruiseline for allowing the virtual complainant to have access to activities reserved for adults."

I don't practice criminal law, but it seems highly relevant that the alleged victim apparently lied to the woman that he was an adult. It also seems relevant that due to the boy's height and facial hair, the woman may have reasonably believed that he was an adult, as he claimed before having sex with her. 

The Bahamas, which has the highest number of reported rapes in the Caribbean, seems to have a double standard in dealing with the issue of sexual assault. I have represented several women, both passengers and crew members, who have been sexually assaulted by crew members on Bahamian-flagged cruise ships in Bahamian waters where the police showed little interest in arresting the perpetrators or where the Bahamian prosecutors quickly dropped the charges.  

The Bahamas also has a deplorable case of prosecuting cases where children are sexually assaulted by crew members on Bahamian-Flagged ships, such as this case where a Disney crew member sexually assaulted a young girl on the Disney Dream. The police in Nassau dropped the case and permitted the cruise line pedophile to leave the jurisdiction. 

The Bahamas' interest in pursuing the case may also be, in part, political pay-back for Canada's prior warnings against travel to the Bahamas' due to its high violent crime rate.  

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January 20, 2017 Update: The family of the arrested woman, who is raising money for her legal defense via a Go-Fund-Me type of page, is denying that she ever left the casino/bar alone or that she engaged in sexual relations with the boy. 

February 3, 2017 UpdateBahamian police escorted Ms. Gagné back to Court again today where she learned that she will remain in jail. The French-Canadian newspaper Le Nouvelliste says (interpreted) that the defendant should learn later this month whether she will be released on bond and permitted to return to Canada pending the prosecution of the case pending against her.

March 23, 2017 Update: The Bahamas reportedly will abandon pursuing the charges of sexual assault against Ms. Gagné, according to a newspaper in Canada.

Photo credit:  Tribune

Royal Caribbean Continues to Advertise for Lifeguards

Two weeks ago, we reported that Royal Caribbean was posting a job description for a lifeguard on an onboard crew TV channel on one of its cruise ship (Ovation of the Seas). 

We viewed this as good news after at least five passengers, mostly children, have drowned or nearly drowned in the numerous pools on the Royal Caribbean ships. Its refusal to previously acknowledge that its we-don't-use-lifeguards policy was literally killing children was particularly frustrating to see.  

It now seems clear that the cruise line appears committed to ending its ill conceived swim-at-your-own-risk policy. This weekend several people notified me that the cruise line is publicly advertising the lifeguard and lifeguard manager jobs on several sites on the internet, such as here and here

These job postings link to a program called Star Guard Elite, which touts a "complete Royal Caribbean Lifeguardaquatic risk prevention and lifeguard training system unmatched in the industry." Last month, the Star Guard Elite website offered the job of a cruise ship lifeguard manager with Royal Caribbean. Its Facebook advertisement says: "Have you ever wanted to live on a cruise ship and see the world? We are looking for the best and brightest Aquatics Managers to join our project with Royal Caribbean."

This program is a product of IAM Star Guard Elite. "IAM" is the acronym for Innovative Attraction Management, LLC. IAM offers aquatic services including the providing of lifeguards as well as management, consulting, and risk prevention services.  It consults with a wide variety of water parks in the U.S. IAM also provides litigation support as part of its risk management services.

Not coincidentally, at the end of this month, IAM is offering an aquatics conference aboard the Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas as well as at Atlantis, Paradise Island when the Royal Caribbean ship calls on the port of Nassau.

It seems that last year IAM StarGuard Elite joined the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association where it advertised CPR, AED, and water awareness services to cruise line excursion operators.

Although the cruise line has not publicly announced its association with IAM StarGuard Elite program, it seems that Royal Caribbean is finally headed in the right direction. So kudos to them.  It reinforces my opinion that today's gigantic cruise ships with multiple swimming pools, water sides and jacuzzis are much more like a water park (which require lifeguards pursuant to state law) than a hotel (which typically doesn't). Without lifeguards, future deaths of children on the increasingly huge Royal Caribbean ships with H2O parks, swimming pools and theme-park-like water attractions, seem certain. 

So Royal Caribbean will join Disney as the only cruise lines with a demonstrated commitment to keeping children safe around pools at sea. Hopefully, other cruise lines will quickly follow suit. 

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Photo credit: Boy drowns on Royal Caribbean - Jacab Priplett via Twitter via NY Daily News.

Passenger Medevaced Nearly 600 Kilometers from P&O Aurora

We regularly report on medevacs of passengers and crew members from cruise ships. 

The majority of the medevacs occur near U.S. ports courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard. But there are medevacs which occur outside of the United States, including those performed by the Portuguese Air Force.

The latest rescue involved the P&O Aurora, on January 8th of this year, regarding the medical evacuation of an 82 year-old patient nearly 600 kilometers from the Portuguese Coast. The air force sent a fixed wing ahead to support the helicopter. 

 

 

Cruise CEO's Cash In Carnival Stock

Caribbean PrincessThree cruise CEO's sold their Carnival (CCL) stock a week ago for a combined total of nearly $9,500,000, according to Market Digest.

On December 29,2016, Stein Kruse, the CEO of Holland America Group, Alan Buckelew, the Chief Operations Officer of Carnival Corporation, and David Bernstein, the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Accounting Officer of Carnival Corporation each sold 60,664 shares of Carnival stock at $52.11 per share for a total value of $3,161,201.00.  

Mr. Bernstein has been the CFO and Senior Vice President of Carnival Corporation since July 2007 with oversight of all finance, accounting, treasury, insurance, tax and investor relations functions. Mr. Buckelew, who was recently appointed to the Chief Information Officer of Carnival Corporation, previously served as the CEO of Princess Cruises from June 2007 to November 2013 and its President from February 2004 to November 2013.

The DOJ recently fined Carnival Corporation $40,000,000 for widespread discharge of oily substances, falsification of log books and lying to the U.S. Coast Guard regarding five cruise ships operated by Princess Cruises over an eight year period from 2005 through 2013. The Carnival owned cruise ship operated by Princess Cruises which were involved in the scandal are the Caribbean Princess, Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess.

The issue arises what the cruise executives knew about the long standing "magic pipes" and financial irregularities associated with certain Princess Cruise ships having lower operating costs associated with not having used the vessels' oil-water separators and avoiding the costs associated with offloading and disposing the waste oil in shore-side facilities. Did these executives really have no idea that these Princess ships were engaged in these environmental crimes?

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Recent Divina Overboard Reveals Flaws in MSC Safety & Security

A passenger who disappeared from the MSC Divina yesterday marks the first person to disappear from a cruise ship in 2017.

As usual, there are no facts released by the cruise line which indicates exactly when, or why, or where, or how the person went overboard.

Based on information released by MSC, the U.S. Coast Guard stated that the passenger was "last seen by his wife at approximately 3 a.m. going out to the couple's room balcony to take some fresh air." The Coast Guard says that the "circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the passenger remain unknown."  Accordingly, we have only the cruise line's version of when the wife allegedly last MSC Divinasaw her husband, but there is no indication when the passenger actually went overboard, or when the ship first learned that the passenger went overboard, or whether the ship promptly deployed a rescue craft or other watercraft to conduct a timely search and rescue, or when the ship notified the U.S. Coast Guard to begin search and rescue efforts.  

Yesterday I wrote that it sounds like MSC was not initially aware that the passenger went overboard, which is the typical situation. The vessel's online automatic information system did not reveal that the vessel slowed down, stopped or turned around to initiate a search for the missing man. MSC told the Coast Guard that, at some undisclosed time, it searched the ship and made call-outs through the public announcement system without success. This sounds like many other cruise lines which are told long after the fact that a person's loved one or friend cannot be found on the ship. This leads to ship personnel conducting a search or making announcements or reviewing closed-circuit television images to see if it they can figure out what happened to the passenger - an unduly time consuming process considering that the passenger may be struggling in the water as the cruise ship sails away.

Six years ago, President Obama signed the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act ("CVSSA") which requires cruise line calling on U.S. ports to implement automatic man overboard systems. Before the  CVSSA was passed into law, there was considerable testimony before Congress regarding Man Overboard Systemwhy people go overboard - suicides, accidents, excessive serving and consumption of alcohol, and foul play were all discussed. But whatever the reason for the person going overboard, our Congress determined that cruise lines needed to implement state-of-the-art systems to signal when passengers or crew members went over the rails and into the water.

Since the CVSSA went into effect, cruise lines have resisted implementing the technology. There are many companies which have good systems on the market.  Here is an example (photo left). Here is another. The best systems immediately alert the bridge when someone goes overboard and can track the person in the water via radar and thermal imaging so that the person can be located even when someone falls into the water at night. Many systems record the person going overboard so that there is no possibility of a false alarm.  

Man overboard systems also have an important feature of detecting when someone comes over the rails onto the ship. This is an obvious and vital security precaution in this age of terrorism. If someone can go overboard without the cruise line knowing it, then it is just as likely that someone can come onto the ship without detection. 

After my article yesterday, a PR representative from MSC sent me a barrage of emails demanding that I write that the "USCG was alerted by MSC Cruises as soon as the ship became aware of the potentially missing passenger; the ship, as per procedure, started search operations immediately as soon as she became aware of the potentially missing passenger; and the USCG launched its SAR shortly thereafter."  But the PR person refused to state basic facts such as when the passenger went overboard, or when MSC realized it, or whether it delayed notifying the Coast Guard until after it first searched the ship, or whether it conducted any type of timely search itself.  

Disturbing factual questions remain - did MSC even turn the ship around to search for the overboard passenger? Did it just conduct a search on the ship after-the-fact and finally alert the Coast Guard only when its onboard efforts were futile? Does MSC even have any type of man overboard systems in place?  MSC refuses to say.  

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein's research indicates that an average of over 20 people go overboard each year on cruise ships. Over 140 people have gone over the rails from cruise ships since 2010. When will cruise lines like MSC focus on implementing state-of-the-art technology rather than on PR efforts to create the illusion that passengers are safe at sea?

January 4, 2017 Update: The Coast Guard suspended its search last night at 9:55 p.m. The Coast Guard is quoted as saying that it "searched for more than 35 hours." If this information is accurate, this means that the Coast Guard initiated its search and rescue around 11:55 a.m. (i.e., 35 hours before 10:55 p.m. the next day), or a bit earlier, on the day the passenger went overboard.  This further means that notice to the Coast Guard was delayed at least 5 hours after the missing man's wife woke up several hours after last seeing him (around 3:00 a.m.) and realized he was missing from their cabin. The cruise line says that it searched the ship and made announcements for the man, apparently before notifying the Coast Guard.

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Photo credit: MSC Divina - Karl Borg - Albireo2006 - flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, commons / wikimedia; man overboard video - PureTech Systems.

Passenger Overboard From MSC Divina<