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. 

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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. 

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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.  

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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

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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

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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. 

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

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. 

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

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.   

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

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.

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

 

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. 

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

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.     

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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."     

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

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.  

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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.

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

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.

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

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. 

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

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.

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

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.

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

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

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

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.

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

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? 

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

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.

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

 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. 

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

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. 

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

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.

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."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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

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?

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

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.

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

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

The U.S. Coast Guard reports that it is searching for a passenger, from the MSC Divina cruise ship, who is suspected of going overboard early this morning in waters north of Puerto Rico.

According to the Coast Guard, a French citizen, Jeon Pierre Knorr, age 74, reportedly 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."

Based on the Coast Guard statement, it does not sound like the cruise ship was initially aware of the passenger going overboard. Online AIS's do not show the Divina taking part in any type of search. MSC DivinaThe Coast Guard states that MSC Divina officials notified the Coast Guard that, at some undisclosed time, they searched the ship and made call-outs through the public announcement system without success. 

The Coast Guard indicates that it deployed aircraft, helicopters and a fast-response cutter to look for the man.

2017 begins with the same problem with overboards that has plagued the industry for many years. The Divina obviously was not equipped with an automatic man overboard which could be triggered with a signal to the bridge when a person crosses the rail. Such systems are now sophisticated with thermal imaging properties and radar capacities to track the person in the water at night so that the ship can initiate an immediate search and rescue operation. You can see an example here. President Obama signed automatic man overboard requirements into law in the 2012 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Law. Most cruise lines have ignored this law.   

Cruise lines say that such technology is not reliable or feasible, but the technology is readily available and highly efficient.

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

January 3, 2017 Update:  Recent Divina Overboard Reveals Flaws in MSC Safety & Security

Photo credit: My Ken, GFDL, commons / wikimedia.

Passenger's Body Found in Cruise Ship's Ventilation Shaft

The body of a 74 year-old passenger who disappeared from the M/V Sharden, which can carry up to 2,908 passengers, has been located in the ship's ventilation shaft, according to AOL Travel's article Pensioner's Body Found in Cruise Ship Ventilation Shaft After Two Months.  

The woman sailed on holiday with her husband on the Tirrenia Sharden, which is technically a ferry (Ro-Ro) which carries cars in addition to passengers. The couple were from Munich, Germany and had vacationed in Sardinia, Italy. At the end of October, the couple took the ferry from Porto Torres in Sardinia back to Genoa on the Italian mainland.

The husband stated that "we rested in sleeping-chairs. When I woke up later, my wife had Sharden Ferry disappeared." The captain ordered the entire ship searched but the passengers could not be located, leading to speculation that she might have gone overboard or been the victim of a crime. The husband admitted that his wife sometimes became disorientated and could have wandered into the engine room and toppled into the ventilation shaft, but he criticized the crew for not carrying out a proper search of the ship.

There is no explanation regarding the extent of the crew's search of the ship.

An admittedly bizarre occurrence, this is not the first time this has happened. Four years ago, a 47-year-old Indonesian mechanic on the Costa Serena died after falling into a ventilation duct of one of the ship's engines, apparently while working on the maintenance of fan grids.

Photo credit: Cen via Mail Online

Seven Most Outrageous Cruise Stories of 2016

Al Roker BullfeathersAs the last few days of 2016 count down, it's time to pick the most outrageous stories of the year. 

Number 7 - The Year of Cruise Ship Power Failures? This year saw the usual number of power failures and propulsion issues which have plagued the industry for years. Cruise lines often use the euphemism "technical problems," if they say anything at all, about the problem.  

In May, Carnival's ill-fated "voluntourism" Fathom brand saw its sole cruise ship, the Adonia, experience a complete black-out loss in Government Cut. The U.S. Coast Guard ordered the cruise ship to return to the port of Miami.

Later that night, the Carnival Elation drifted for an hour in the dark as the ship was heading back to port in Jacksonville. The following month, the little-known Artic expedition cruise ship, Ortelius, experienced an engine failure near a place called Hinlopenstretet and had to be towed back to another place called Norwegian StarLongyearbyen. In the same month, Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas experienced problems with one of its engines in the Caribbean. 

In July, the Thomson Celebration suffered an engine failure as the cruise ship was leaving Valletta, Malta. In August, the Caribbean Princess lost power approximately 25 nautical miles southeast of Dublin in the Irish Sea. A week later, the Viking Sea lost power, for the first time, in Malta. The next week saw the Paul Gauguin cruise ship experience propulsion problems in Bora Bora. In September, the auto-pilot malfunctioned on the Carnival Legend causing it to violently list as the ship headed to Victoria. Shortly thereafter the Legend suffered a brief power loss. 

In October, the Thomson Majesty lost power following an engine room fire. Later, the Grand Princess lost power off of the coast of California. The Emerald Princess experienced propulsion problems the following day as it sailed to Thailand. November began with the Carnival Liberty suffering a power loss affecting its cruises to Mexico. The new Carnival Vista struggled through a series of propulsion issues in November as well. NCL's Norwegian Star experienced power problems and is now limping through Princess Drug Cocaine Bustits itinerary in Southeast Asia, much to the displeasure of cruisers who have waited for a year to cruise on the Star.  The Costa neoRiviera recently suffered a loss of all electricity during a port call in Abu Dhabi, and the Lindblad Expeditions' National Geographic Orion suffered a catastrophic power failure while leaving Antarctica. The year ends with the Viking Sea losing power (for the second time this year); the Viking ship finds itself stuck in Barcelona.

Number 6 - Year of Cruise Ship Drugs busts? 2016 saw drug busts involving literally hundreds and hundreds of pounds of cocaine smuggled on cruise ship by crew members and passengers alike. In January, the Department of Homeland Security busted four NCL crew members involved in smuggling cocaine from Roatan, Honduras to New Orleans aboard the Norwegian Dawn.  In March, the police in Ocho Rios arrested three MSC crew members from St. Vincent trying to board the MSC Divina Princess Cruise Drugs Smugglingcruise ship docked at the Ocho Rios Pier with a large quantity of cocaine hidden under their clothes. A month later, two Royal Caribbean crew members were arrested for smuggling cocaine aboard the Freedom of the Seas into Port Canaveral.

The Freedom of the Seas was again in the news in June when four female passengers were arrested for smuggling over 13 pounds of cocaine from Jamaica into Port Canaveral. In July, a Jamaican man was arrested at the cruise port in Falmouth, Jamaica when he attempted to board the Carnival Splendor with two packages, containing five pounds of cocaine.  In August, the Australian Federal Police hit the mother-load and arrested three cruise ship passengers, including a young woman formerly in the porn business, involved in smuggling 95 kilos (over 209 lbs.) of cocaine into the port in Sydney, Australia on the Sea Princess after they chronicled their 66-day world cruise on Instagram.  The record drug bust revealed serious shortcomings in Princess Cruises' shipboard security

While crew members and passengers used NCL, Carnival, Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise ships to smuggle large quantities of cocaine, the tourist police at the port in Nassau routinely busted cruise passengers for a couple of joints of pot seized during warrant-less searches of their cabins when they were off of the Cruise Ship Drowningcruise ship. 

Number 5 - Drowned Children But No Lifeguards?  2016 saw the predictable results of an industry of increasingly huge ships filled with swimming pools and water parks but few if any lifeguards. Children drowned or nearly drown in lifeguard-less pools throughout the cruise industry this year. In the last 2 to 3 years, numerous guests - primarily but not exclusively children - have been found at the bottom of cruise ship swimming pools: Royal Caribbean (4)( ages 4, 6, 8 and 8), Princess (4, 3 adults and one 8 year-old child), NCL (3)(ages 4, 6 and 10), Carnival (2)(ages 2, 6), and Disney (1)(age 4)(before hiring lifeguards).

The New Times published an in-depth story on cruise ship drownings in September, explaining that an outdated maritime law protects the industry from liability in deaths at sea. The archaic law remains in effect largely because of an indifferent Congress dependent on campaign donations by the non-tax paying cruise lines. 

Many people choose to instantly blame the parents whenever a kid is pulled lifeless from a cruise ship swimming pool. Cruise employees trained to sell booze but not in CPR or advanced life-saving measures are just one of the problems.  As the New Times article explains, people who instantly blame the parents miss the point: that "poolside safety is a shared responsibility of caregivers and cruise lines."

Disney Cruises, which paid a large settlement for the lifetime medical care of a four year old child who nearly drowned on the Disney Fantasy before it began hiring lifeguards, is the only cruise line who Anthem of the Seas Stormhas invested in lifeguards to keep kids safe around pools. Other cruise lines are flirting with doing the right thing. Celebrity uses "pools rovers" (crew members who are assigned to supervise swimming pools but have no formal training as a lifeguard).  Royal Caribbean recently advertised the position of a lifeguard on a TV channel on some of its cruise ships.

Number 4 - The Anthem of the Seas Sails Into a Storm.  Earlier this year, weather experts predicted the Atlantic seas out of New Jersey to be over 30 feet high with winds of hurricane strength. The Royal Caribbean Anthem nonetheless recklessly sailed into the storm, terrorizing the 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." (photo top). USA TODAY chimed in with "Meteorologists: Royal Caribbean blew it on sailing into storm."

Number 3 - Carnival Outsources IT Jobs to India. This month, Carnival Corporation eliminated over 200 IT jobs across its brands, including Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Lines and Princess Cruises. The U.S. workers are now required to train their replacements employed by a consulting firm, Capgemini, with offices in India.  The fired cruise employees' lawyer stated that the "executives of Carnival should be ashamed and should have to face the families that they have destroyed merely days before Christmas." A Carnival PR spokesman said that the move was to improve performance and not save money. Asked if the employees were being asked to train others how to do their jobs, Carnival responded with this gobbledygook: "Not trained, but they will be involved in showcasing the processes related to the function in order for Capgemini to provide stronger and better service to Carnival Corporation and its brands.” Conservative publications protested the outsourcing, complaining to President-elect Trump and calling for a boycott of Carnival.

Number 2 - The New Carnival Vista Makes a Splash!  Carnival new mega-ship, the Carnival Vista,Carnival Vista came perilously close to small piers for recreational boats when leaving the port of Messina, Sicily. The thrust from its stern created a turmoil which turned over the piers and swamped smaller moored vessels, sinking several of the boats in the process. The destruction was so complete that you wouldn't believe it unless you saw it which is what happened when a passenger filmed the chaos from the ship. The Carnival captain made no announcements regarding what happened. According to passengers, the Vista didn't stop and sailed out of the port as if nothing happened.

Number 1 - Carnival - Enemy of the Environment?  Carnival and Princess Cruises pled guilty to multiple felonies for the operation of five Carnival owned and Princess operated cruise ships which illegally dumped oily discharge around the world for eight years. Princess used "magic pipes" which by-passed oil-water separator devices, falsified oil logs, and perpetually lied to the Coast Guard to save millions of dollars in treating and disposing of oil ashore by Princess Pollutiondumping it overboard for almost a decade. Carnival was under probation for installing magic pipes and lying to the Coast Guard when Princess began dumping oil overboard. Did the executives and senior management know? Of course. But Princess played the plausible denial game. Carnival was fined only $40,000,000 (million) but ended 2016 collecting record profits of $2,800,000,000 (billion). While the Princess cruise ships were dumping oil, the cruise line executives collected hundreds of millions of dollars in salaries, perks and bonuses.     

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

Photo credits:

Al Roker - NBC Today Show

Princess drug bust - Jonathan Ng via the Daily Telegraph

Norwegian Star - Pjotr Mahhonin, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Lindblad Expeditions' National Geographic Orion Suffers Power Failure

Lindblad Expeditions' National Geographic Orion suffered power failure as the expedition ship was leaving Antarctica. It suffered engine failure while returning to the port of Ushuaia in Argentina.

The ship has now returned via the Drake Passage to port in Ushuaia after sailing at reduced speed.

Lindblad Expeditions canceled its December 27th sailing as well as cruises in January. 

"A team of engineers has been dispatched and is on their way to Ushuaia to assess the full impact of the technical issues. Once the evaluation is completed, we will release additional information," Lindblad Expeditions told Cruise Critic.

Online AIS shows a bizarre tracking pattern as the Orion is back at port in Ushuaia.

Lindblad Expeditions was last mentioned here in March 2013 when the National Geographical Sea Lion struck a submerged rock causing damage to the hull of the vessel and a propeller. The 62 passenger vessel was departing the Las Perlas Islands, 70 miles from Panama City, when it struck a rock, causing it to undergo repairs in dry dock.National Geographical Orion Power Failure

Costa neoRiviera Loses Power in Port

Costa neoRivieraThe Costa neoRiviera suffered a loss of all electricity during a port call in Abu Dhabi earlier this week, according to the Cruise Arabia & Africa website. 

The website states that the Costa cruise ship switched to emergency power for several hours after the ship's power was lost.

"According to staff aboard the ship, who asked to remain anonymous, a fault with one of the ship’s aft generators caused the loss of power."

Photo credit: Piergiuliano Chesi, CC BY 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

December 26, 2016 Update:  A reader states (below) that the Costa neoRiviera is experiencing propulsion issues. The ship is scheduled to cruise to Sir Bani Yas (in the Persian Gulf), southwest of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

Passenger Missing from Queen Mary 2?

Queen Mary 2This morning, a crew member from the Queen Mary 2 sent this message from the ship: "Missing woman on QM2. No details yet. Ship turned around and Coast Guard alerted."

The QM2 is on a voyage out of New York heading to the Caribbean (St. Maarten). AIS programs show the ship is sailing north, retracing its path.  The crew member states that the ship turned around around 8:00 A.M. this morning.

Yesterday, a young man went overboard from the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas.  There have been 283 overboards from cruise ships since 2000.

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

Update:  BBC News is covering the story.

Sky News identifies the missing passenger as a 74 year old British woman.

Photo credit: Brian Burnell with permission was uploaded to Commons by George Hutchinson; CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Queen Mary 2 AIS

Royal Caribbean Cruises to Hire Lifeguards

Royal Caribbean is now advertising that it is hiring lifeguards on its cruise ships. The cruise line posted the availability of the lifeguard position as of December 21, 2016. 

The posting (below) indicates that the lifeguard "will need to perform rescue of Guests in danger of drowning and be vigilant to potential accidents. Will be trained to administer first aid, CPR, Oxygen & AED as required. This position will open, close, monitor and operate aquatic recreational spaces including but not limited to Swimming Pools, H2O Zones / Splashaway Bay and other designated water attractions . . . " 

This reflects a change of position with this cruise line which previously did not employ lifeguards on its cruise ships. 

Like other cruise lines, Royal Caribbean has seen several children drown or nearly drown on its cruise ships. An 8 year old child died in a June 30, 2016 incident aboard the Anthem of the Seas, after he was found unresponsive in a pool. 

The cruise line has now apparently reconsidered its policy of only posting “swim at your own risk” signs and providing life jackets for children.

Last December, another eight year old child drowned in an unattended swimming pool on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas. The child was pulled unconscious from one of the cruise ship's pools by a passenger.

In January last year, a 4 year old boy nearly drowning aboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas on January 3, 2015. The Miami Herald published Near-Drowning on Royal Caribbean Cruise Raises Concerns About Lack of Lifeguards after that incident. In May 2014, a 6 year old boy nearly drown on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas and left the child fighting for his life in a hospital.

Lifeguard are also needed for adults who have been known to drown or nearly drown while cruising with this cruise line and others.

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

Most cruise lines, with the exception of Disney Cruises, do not employ lifeguards on their ships. Many passengers believe that it is solely the obligation of parents to supervise their children. My thought is that children are best protected from drowning only through a combination of well trained lifeguards and attentive parents working together to keep kids on the ships safe.

December 24, 2016 Update:

Miami New Times Miami-Based Royal Caribbean to Add Lifeguards on Cruises.

TravelPulse Is Royal Caribbean International Adding Lifeguards to Its Ships?

Royal  Caribbean Lifeguards 

Passenger Reported Overboard From Independence of the Seas

Independece of the SeasA passenger reportedly went overboard from the Independence of the Seas last night, according to other passengers who reported the incident on Twitter. 

CruiseNiche reports that the staff of the Royal Caribbean cruise ship confirmed that a passenger apparently jumped from an upper deck of the ship. Other cruise ships, a Coast Guard vessel and helicopter are reportedly assisting in the search. 

AIS (via Marine Traffic) shows the Independence of the Seas heading back toward South Florida, making a series of slow circles. 

There have been 282 prior overboards from cruise ships since 2000.

Update: A local news station is reporting that the overboard passenger was a young man, age 22. 

Search underway for 22-year-old Royal Caribbean passenger who went overboard. Video via News7 Miami.  

Cruise Law News Picked # 4 of Top 50 Cruise Blogs and Websites

Today, Cruise Law News was picked as the number four (out of fifty) top cruise blogs and websites.

To 50 Cruise Blog Feedspot says that it made the selection based on Google search ranking, influence and popularity on Facebook & Twitter, and the quality and consistency of the posts, as well as Feedspot’s editorial review.

The sites ahead of this blog are Cruise Critic, the increasingly popular Cruise Fever and Cruise Industry News. The top four cruise sites have 770,660 Facebook fans: Cruise Critic - 269,322; Cruise Fever - 261,110; Cruise Industry News - 23, 586; and Cruise Law News - 216,642.  

Three years ago, Cruise Critic was also the most popular cruise website in the world; Cruise Fever was number 7 and Cruise Industry News was number 6. 

My favorite cruise-related site is Martin Cox's Maritime Matters, which is ranked by Feedspot as number 17 out of 50.  

Thanks to Feedspot for the recognition! 

 

 

Carnival to Outsource IT Jobs to India?

Carnival HeadquartersCBS4 Local News is reporting that Carnival Corporation is eliminating 200 positions from its IT departments across its brands, including Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Lines and Princess Cruises.  

The local news station writes that a French company which holds itself out as a “global leader in consulting, technology and outsourcing services” is offering offering new jobs - with only six months of guaranteed employment - to Carnival's IT employees. CBS4 News says that the cruise line is pressuring its IT employees to sign agreements to participate in “knowledge transfer activities.”

Carnival told CBS4 that "all impacted individuals will become employees of Capgemini.”

But what Carnival did not admit is that "Capgemini is "outsourcing the work to India because that was the only way it could provide the IT services to Carnival at the rate paid to them by the company,” according to Sara Blackwell, a labor attorney, who is giving advice to the soon-to-be-displaced Carnival employees.

You can read about Capgemini's Indian operations here.

According to CBS4, a Carnival PR spokesman said that the move was to improve performance and not save money. "Asked if the employees were being asked to train others how to do their jobs, Frizzell responded: 'Not trained, but they will be involved in showcasing the processes related to the function in order for Capgemini to provide stronger and better service to Carnival Corporation and its brands.'”

Labor lawyer Blackwell told CBS4 that Carnival was dumping its IT employees: “The Carnival executives dumped oil in the ocean with the Princess Cruise line and now they are throwing away American workers for foreign slave labor. The executives of Carnival should be ashamed and should have to face the families that they have destroyed merely days before Christmas."

Other cruise lines have outsourced jobs before to minimize costs and maximize profits. Three years ago Royal Caribbean's call center was unceremoniously moved to Guatemala where workers earned substantially less with no real benefits.

Carnival is reportedly cutting 200 IT jobs,140 of which are here in Miami.

Carnival's outsourcing is part of Arnold Donald's costs cutting steps which he initiated years ago. Money saved - yes; but at the expense of terminating loyal employees? Not to mention running the risk of demoralizing the remaining staff while offering substandard services?

I hope that Carnival's outsourced IT sales office in India works better than the service center in India which I have to call when I'm having a computer problem.

                                                                       *            *           *   

The CBS4 article was written by Jim DeFede, a former journalist for the Miami New Times who in the 1990's authored articles critical of Carnival penny-pinching ways, including Is Mickey A Greedy Corporate Pig?, which is one of my favorite articles in addition to an article written by Ted Kissell titled The Deep Blue Greed - The Arison Clan Built Carnival into a Money Machine by Cleverly Avoiding Tax Laws.

Photo credit: Coolcaesar at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedi

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

December 14, 2016 Update:  CBS4 updates its article (video below) regarding Carnival Corporation's termination of its IT employees. It turns out that the displaced Carnival employees do not have a guarantee of 6 months employment with the new foreign employer.   

Article: Carnival Cruise Line forces fired employees to train foreign replacements.

Breibart covers the Carnival outsourcing during this Christmas season . . . 

"This U.S. Company Just Laid Off Hundreds Of Employees For Reason You'll Never Believe!" via Faith Family America.  

 

NCL's Norwegian Star Stuck in Singapore

Norwegian StarI received this message from a crew member of the Norwegian Star:

"At the moment I am on NCL Star and we are in Singapore, still in Singapore!

We were scheduled to leave on 11th at 6 pm for 11 days to Hong Kong. We got delayed because it took forever for immigration to process the guests! Some guests were held for 5 hours in the terminal. So finally at 8 pm after we finished all that captain made an announcement that can't actually leave due to the engine problems. Half an hour after half an hour announcement we stayed over night.  And we are staying at the moment in Singapore until 3 pm on 13th of December. One engine is down and some electrical issues with azipods. 

This is not the first time, after a dry dock few years back ship broke down right away and the first cruise was canceled and ship returned to the dry dock for repairs. And few months ago we could not sail out of Stockholm at 4 pm to have a sea day the next day to reach Copenhagen for embarkation. We reached Copenhagen at 4pm with absolute nightmare caused to the guest booking flights on their own.

This cruise is already fully refunded to the guests and they will get 50% off the next cruise they choose."

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

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

December 12, 2016 Update: Speed to be restricted; new itinerary below (via a travel agent).

December 20, 2016 Update: NCL has notofied its travel agents and future passengers that the intinerary of the Norwegian Star starting on January 16, 2017 has changed. This is the email received:

"Norwegian Cruise Line has important information for you regarding Norwegian Star's 21-Day Southeast Asia sailing of January 16 to February 6, 2017 from Hong Kong, China. All guests booked on this sailing need to be aware of this change.

On the evening of December 10, while departing the port of Singapore, Norwegian Star experienced a technical issue with one of the ship's Azipods. As a result of this technical issue, Norwegian Star will have to sail a revised itinerary for the January 16 to February 6, 2017 sailing from Hong Kong, China.

Please review the revised itinerary information below:

As a gesture of our thanks for our guests' understanding of this unforeseen delay and change in itinerary, we will provide a $200 shipboard credit per stateroom. If you pre purchased shore excursions for Thailand, those will be refunded and posted to your onboard account."

NCL Norwegian Star

January 3, 2017 Update: A local ABC news station in Jacksobville aired a video of an unhappy NCL customer who took her first cruise on the Norwegian Star.

January 26, 2017 UpdateNCL's Norwegian Star Suffers Engine Failure Again.

Deadly Blasts Rock Istanbul; Most Cruise Lines Already Avoiding Turkey

Istanbul TurkeyTwo coordinated bombings in Istanbul, Turkey killed 38 people and wounded 155 others yesterday. News reports report that the bombings were committed by a Turkey-based Kurdish militant group, identified in the New York Times as the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, or TAK. Others said that the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the PKK, were behind the bombings. The TAK claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The first explosion was caused by a car bomb, a common terrorist method associated with other bombings in Turkey, near police special forces at the exit of a soccer stadium exit. The car was reportedly loaded with almost nine hundred pounds of explosives. Shortly thereafter, a suicide bomber triggered explosives in a nearby park.

Last week USA TODAY  announced that three Carnival Corporation brands, Cunard, Holland America Line and P&O Cruises canceled all calls to Turkey for the upcoming year (2017).

Earlier this year, ISIS suicide bombers attacked the Ataturk airport in Istanbul with powerful devices that killed over 40 people and injured several hundred others. There have been at least nine serious terror attacks in Turkey dating over a year.

This last July, President Erdogad's declared a state of emergency following a failed military coup. Many people were concerned that tourists would be frightened to travel to Turkey following the harsh steps taken by President Erdogad against dissidents.

Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises ended a number of stops in Turkey this year, primarily in Kusadasi, following the unrest in Turkey this summer. But a number of smaller lines, like Azamara, Silversea, Star Clippers, Celestyal Cruises and TUI called on some ports in Turkey. 

Many American tourists have shied away from the eastern Mediterranean this year as a cruise destination because of an influx of refugees from Syria and the threat of Islamic terrorists.  

The U.S. State Department previously ordered the departure of family members of employees in the U.S. Istanbul TurkeyConsulate General in Istanbul, Turkey. The State Department warns "U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey. U.S. citizens should avoid travel to southeast Turkey and carefully consider the risks of travel to and throughout the country."

The U.K. travel advisory cautions against travel against "to within 10 km of the border with Syria and to the city of Diyarbakir," but states that "it’s generally safe to travel to Turkey, but you should take additional safety precautions." The U.K., whose diplomatic missions in Turkey continue to operate as normal, points out that "British nationals made over 2.4 million visits to Turkey in 2015."

On Friday, in an article titled Terrorist Suspect Arrested on Cruise Ship, a Cayman Islands newspaper reported that a German-Turkish man who was arrested on a cruise ship Thursday on an Interpol warrant appeared in court facing potential extradition to Turkey for alleged terrorist offenses. The report claimed that the cruise passenger was engaged in terrorist activities relating to the PKK/ACK Kurdish separatist groups over 25 years ago. 

Photo credit: Murad Sezer / Reuters via NBC News (top); BJK Television (bottom).

December 15, 2016 Update: Why you may visit Albania, not Turkey, on some 2017 cruises.

Why No Prosecution of the Engineers on the Caribbean Princess, Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess?

According to the DOJ, engineers on the Caribbean Princess, Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess by-passed the oil-water separators (OWS) and released oily substances into the oceans. These employees of Princess used a number of techniques, including the so-called "magic pipes" and running clean water past the sensors of the OWS to prevent the system from triggering an alarm. The engineers lied and falsified oil logs on the ships. 

On the Caribbean Princess, the senior ship engineers dismantled the bypass pipe and instructed crew members to lie once a whistleblower reported the environmental violations.

These illegal practices on the Princess cruise ships took place over a nine year period of time.

Why didn't the DOJ arrest a single one of the engineers engaged in the illegal practices?  I have received many inquiries from people asking why no one, including cruise executives, will serve jail time?

Today, gCaptain reported that "two high-ranking ship engineers were sentenced to prison Thursday Star Princess after being convicted of using a so-called “magic pipe” to illegally dump oil sludge and wastewater overboard from their ship and then attempting to cover it up." The sentencing involved the chief engineer and second engineer of the Ocean Hope, a Greek operated cargo ship, who were convicted of conspiracy, violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, obstruction of justice and witness tampering by a federal jury in Greenville, North Carolina.

Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden of the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division stated: “This case shows that polluting the ocean with oily waste and sludge will land you in jail . . ."

Cruden was also involved in the Princess Cruises investigation, where the misconduct involved more ships for a far longer period of time.

So why the difference?  Princess Cruises and parent company Carnival Corporation clearly wanted to put this debacle behind them, so they apparently cut a deal which eliminated the possibility that the DOJ would be eliciting sworn testimony from any of the shipboard employees. The DOJ press release indicated that Princess engineers on the Caribbean Princess believed that the shore-side superintendent, like the chief engineer on the ship overseeing the cover-up, suffered from the “braccino corto” complex (an Italian expression for a cheap person whose arms are too short to reach his wallet).

So the engineers' testimony would have clearly implicated Princess Cruises' shore-side supervisors. And once its was proven that an audit of the vessel expenses would have revealed that there were no costs for offloading and treating the oily waste, the only issue is how many people in Princess Cruises' and Carnival's headquarters in Santa Clarita and Miami were involved in the conspiracy. The cruise executives wanted to maintain plausible deniability which would not be possible if their senior engineers were going to face prosecution and began pointing their fingers at the corporate offices. So Princess Cruises negotiated a settlement that included only a fine and a probation period, but no jail time for any of its executives or even its senior engineers.

The DOJ touted that the case involved the "the largest-ever criminal penalty involving deliberate vessel pollution." But the reality is that polluting the oceans will not land you in jail if you are an engineer on a cruise ship who can implicate the owners and executives in the lies and cover-up.  

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

Other articles about this issue:

Princess Cruises Pollution Cover-Up: Are the Greedy Cruise Executives Untouchable?

Princess Cruises Pollution Cover-Up: What Did the Executives Know?

Deliberate Dumping, Cover-Up and Lies: DOJ Fines Princess Cruises $40,000,000.

Photo credit: Star Princess - Jim Walker

Princess Cruises Pollution Cover-Up: Are the Greedy Cruise Executives Untouchable?

The DOJ has a history of not arresting cruise executives notwithstanding how widespread the dumping of oil or chemicals in the nations's waters may be. Will the most recent dumping incidents by Carnival's subsidiary, Princess Cruises, culminating in a $40,000,000 fine be any different? 

Throughout the 1990's, Royal Caribbean engaged in repeated dumping of everything from oil to chemicals, including dry-cleaning fluid, printing press solvents and photographic chemicals, into the waters from here in Miami all the way to Glacier Bay in Alaska. The Coast Guard and DOJ caught it using "magic pipes" and falsifying oil logs. The cruise line nonetheless continued to dump oil, lie to the Coast Guard and flaunt the authority of the former head of the DOJ, the late Janet Reno, until the agency leveled increasingly stiff fines of $1,000,000, $8,000,000 and $18,000,000.

Royal Caribbean fought the federal government fiercely back in the late 1990's, arguing that because it was a Liberian corporation, it was not subject to U.S. environmental laws - an argument rejected by Royal Caribbean Pollution - DOJ Most Wantedthe U.S. courts here in Miami. The cruise line's dumping was so pervasive and defiant that many joked back in those years that the executives could see Royal Caribbean cruise ships dumping oil right outside of the executives' windows at their headquarters at the port of Miami.

But the DOJ arrested no one at Royal Caribbean headquarters in Miami; instead, the DOJ focused its prosecution efforts on a Greek engineer who worked on one of the cruise line's ships. But, some say, it was a half-hearted effort by the DOJ. The engineer eventually walked out of a hotel in Miami when the FBI wasn't paying attention and flew out of the jurisdiction back to Greece. (He remains technically on the top ten most wanted list of the U.S. Environmental Protection agency).

The New York Times wrote an article Sovereign Islands: Gaps in the Sea Laws Shield Pollution By Cruise Lines. The Times wrote that each Royal Caribbean ship was spending around $380,000 per year in operating an oil water separator ("OWS") and disposing of the waste ashore. "By saving this money, a ship's officer could receive bigger year's end bonuses. The savings was the government's strongest evidence that senior management may have known of the conspiracy . . . "

If any cruise executives should have been arrested for the environmental crimes, many say that the executives at Royal Caribbean were the most likely culprits. But it didn't happen. 

Carnival Corporation also has a checkered history of widespread use of "magic pipes" and falsifying oil logs on its cruise ships. It was particularly bad in the 80's and 90's and culminated in 2002 when the DOJ announced that Carnival had pled guilty to dumping oil and lying about it.  Carnival's guilty plea revealed that the corporation used the same tricks that the engineers on Princess ships more recently used. Over 15 years ago, the DOJ concluded that on numerous occasions from 1996 through 2001, Carnival's "engineers intentionally flushed clean water past the sensors of the (OWS) meters. By doing this while discharging was in progress, the engineers tricked the meters to register the oil content in the clean water (0 ppm), instead of the oil content in the bilge waste. The control valves thereby remained in overboard positions, and oily waste was dumped into the sea without regard to the 15 ppm oil content legal limit."

This is the same methods as what the DOJ recently found on Carnival's ships operated by Princess Cruises.

Back in 2002 the DOJ stated that "overboard discharges of oily waste while clean water was being flushed past the meter sensors occurred on several ships, including the TROPICALE, Cruise Line PollutionSENSATION, FANTASY, ECSTASY, PARADISE and IMAGINATION. Carnival Corporation also admitted that this conduct, which allowed engineers to knowingly dump oil into the sea in quantities that exceeded the legal limit, was intentionally misrepresented in the oil record books of the ships."

So are we to conclude that the exact same widespread illegal practices used in the late 1990's, including the same "magic pipe" and flushing-the sensors-with-clean-water methods, which occurred as late as 2013, took place without any knowledge by the cruise executives at the helm of Carnival Corporation for almost a fifteen year period of time?

Who were the cruise executives who should have known about the wrongdoing?  Of course, Micky Arison was the CEO of Carnival from 2003 until July 2013. He collected around $75,000,000 in compensation during this period.  In 2012, Arison paid himself $90,000,000 as a bonus.  So, in total compensation and bonuses, Arison received over $165,000,000 while the illegal dumping at Princess Cruises continued. Forbes places Arison's current net worth at $7,800,000,000 (billion). 

Travel Weekly reported that as of the end of 2014, "the five mostly highly paid executives at Carnival Corp. earned a combined $32.7 million (in compensation a year), including $6.5 million for Costa Group CEO, Michael Thamm, $6.1 million for departed Carnival Cruise Lines President and CEO, Gerry Cahill, $6.1 million for Chief Operations Officer Alan Buckelew (who was the former CEO of Princess), and $5.2 million for CFO, David Bernstein."

Carnival generated $134,899,000,000 (billion) in income from 2004 through 2013, and netted $17,202,000,000 (billion), according to its annual statements.  Consider that Carnival and the other cruise lines pay virtually no international, federal, state or local taxes on their cruise ship profits.

So were the cruise executives concerned that their fabulous wealth would be touched? Hardly. This is an industry of fat-cat executives who know that they are untouchable. It is fundamentally different from other industries where racketeers are prosecuted or where the top dogs will eventually do the right thing for the shareholders when the corporation is caught doing something wrong. Consider what Wells Fargo & Co. Chief Executive John Stumpf recently did when his company was caught opening millions of checking, saving and credit card accounts for customers without their knowledge. Stumpf agreed to forfeit compensation worth about $45 million from around 910,000 shares in un-vested stock awards, and agreed to forego his bonus this year. Another executive who was in charge of the division where much of the illegal activity took place, will give up about $19 million worth of stock. Wells Fargo’s board of directors also said that other executives could lose stock awards or even other compensation already paid to them.       

But there is no way the wealthy cruise executives are going to voluntarily let loose of a single dime of their ill-gotten profits. The tax-paying public will just have to pony up a little more to cover the difference, is what they think.

The cruise executives' greed is staggering. The $40,000,000 fine, after all, is just a drop in the ocean Micky Arison Carnivalof wealth enjoyed by Carnival executives. Consider that Caribbean Cruise Line, and related marketing and timeshare development companies, agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit to the tune of up to $76,000,000. This case (involved the nuisance of millions of robocalls in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act) involved nothing comparable to discharging oil around the world. 

Yes, the latest pollution scandal earned Princess Cruises and Carnival a certain amount of bad press, but the cruise industry has always been able to navigate through criticism that it is a dirty industry at its core. The only difference that the environmental fines will make is if it deters the misconduct of those who benefited the most from the deliberate pollution. Unfortunately, a $40,000,000 fine to executives who collected many times that amount in compensation and bonuses is meaningless.

It is well past time that corporate activists demand disgorgement of executive bonuses and resignation of executives who have caused harm to corporate shareholders. Likewise, the DOJ needs to wake up. Cruise lines will continue to pollute unabated, as they have done since the1990's (or earlier), unless and until corporate executive are held personally accountable.

The DOJ and state prosecutors have levied a total of over $90,000,000 in fines against the cruise industry over the last twenty years. The fines are always accompanied with press releases discussing years of probation imposed on the companies which, in the case of Carnival, was quickly violated back in the early 2000's without any real consequence. The magic pipes, rigged OWS sensors and falsified log books from the 1990's continued until the mid-2010's. Carnival and Princess executives have again pointed their crooked fingers at shipboard employees while disavowing any knowledge of what was happening on their ships. With a collective sigh of relief that the DOJ again didn't arrest a single cruise executive for involvement in the scandal, they quickly agreed to pay the fine.  

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

Read our other articles about the Princess Cruises deliberate pollution and cover-up:

Princess Cruises Pollution Cover-Up: What Did the Executives Know?

Deliberate Dumping, Cover-Up and Lies: DOJ Fines Princess Cruises $40,000,000.

Photo Credit:  

Michael Evangelos Psomadakis, Chief Engineer Nordic Empress - Environmental Protection Agency Most Wanted Poster.

Micky Arison - Steve Mitchell - USA TODAY Sports via 7500toholte.sbnation.com/ 

Cuba Permits NCL and RCCL Cruises

CubaCuba has granted permission to Royal Caribbean Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line to sail passengers to the island.

Cuba also approved all three of Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) brands, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, which will start cruising there in March.

Oceania will first send the Marina to Cuba from Miami on March 7th. The cruise ship will call on Havana and other ports in Cuba. 

Regent's Seven Seas Mariner will sail to Cuba in April, and NCL's Norwegian Sky will start cruising to Cuba in May.

As matters now stand, the only U.S. based cruise line, Carnival's Fathom, has been sailing the Adonia on the so-called "voluntourism" cruises for the past year, although it announced that it will stop sailing as of June of 2017.

The cruises are required to be part of educational and "people-to-people" exchanges between Americans and Cubans pursuant to U.S. government procedures.

I previously announced, as an April Fools joke, that Royal Caribbean planned to rename the Empress of the Seas the Cuban Empress and was going to be home-ported in Havana.    

On a serious note, Fidel Castro's death has not dampened the feelings of many Cubans who fled Cuba in the early 1960's after Castro came into power. Many families lost everything when they fled Cuba many years ago. They see no point in doing business with a country still run by Castro's brother where the money from cruise ship passengers goes directly to the Communist government run by the military.

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

 

Princess Cruises Pollution Cover-Up: What Did the Executives Know?

The $40,000,000 fine levied against Princess Cruises last week raises the issue of what cruise executives knew about the illegal dumping of oil-contaminated waste from the Caribbean Princess cruise ship and the other illegal practices which took place on the Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess.

As the Department of Justice (DOJ) points out, this is not an isolated case involving a rogue ship employee. The criminal misconduct  took place for eight years from 2005 to 2013 (involving the Caribbean Princess) and involved several other cruise ships as well. According to the DOJ, the illegal conduct included not only the "magic pipe" to circumvent the oily water separator on the Caribbean Princess but involved other other illegal practices on the Caribbean Princess as well the Star Princess,Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess.

The DOJ suggested that the pollution crimes committed by Princess were motivated by avoiding the costs associated with properly offloading the oily waste in port. The DOJ says that subordinate engineers on the Caribbean Princess nicknamed the chief engineer (responsible for using the "magic pipe" to discharge oily waste in August of 2013) “braccino corto” (a person with short arms), which the DOJ explained is "an Italian expression for a cheap person whose arms are too short to reach his wallet."

According to the DOJ, some Princess engineers expressed the same opinion of the Princess shore-side superintendent.

Princess Cruises' reaction to the DOJ charges seems designed to isolate its shore-side managers and executives from direct responsibility. Although it admitted that its ship employees' conduct was "inexcusable," and that its oversight was "inadequate," it denied that its management in its headquarters knew anything illegal was occurring before August 2013.

Gauging from comments on social media, the public seems skeptical.  

Consider some of the comments to the Miami Herald article Carnival-Owned Ship Caught in Pollution Scheme. Now They’re Paying $40 Million for It:

"Of course management knew. Why would a lowly worker come up with this idea? He could care less because he gets paid the same whether or not they follow regulations. Corporate wanted to save time and money . . . "

"Typical cutting corners to increase profits while exploiting foreign workers who work for paupers wages."

Similar comments were posted by readers of USA TODAY's article Princess Cruises to Plead Guilty to Polluting Ocean:

"Something this significant, all top executives had to have known. It takes money and time to dispose of waste. Were there no questions when time was dramatically saved and cost of waste management decreased drastically? Come on...."

A reader of our Facebook page commented:

"Financial penalties like this are a drop in the ocean for a company the size of Carnival; but does anyone up the chain get jail time? I work in the cruise industry, and I (we) don't need arrogant (executives) who are looking for their next bonus for "cost savings" thinking that international waters are their big dumping ground."

The purpose of an illegal "magic pipe" is to save costs.  Pursuant to international requirements, oily bilge water from a cruise ship must be treated to the point that the oil content is below 15 parts per million before it is can be discharged into the ocean. The oil-water separators (OWS) are expensive to maintain and operate. The oil that is separated from the bilge water must be stored and then offloaded from the ship onto barges or pumped ashore to be incinerated at licensed facilities. But the "magical pipe" avoids the costs associated with maintaining the OWS and removing and disposing of the waste products.  

Like other cruise lines, Carnival Corporation places considerable pressure on all its brands to reduce costs. The costs associated with the operation of a ship are carefully scrutinized and analyzed from ship to ship. A significant variation in costs between a ship offloading and disposing oil compared to a ship dumping oil at sea via a "magic pipe" should be readily observed by any corporation. It is doubtful that the low waste disposal costs of the Caribbean Princess, compared to a ship with a functioning oil water separator (OWS), didn't come to the attention of the shore-side managers as well as those in the company and parent corporation who audit the costs of operating the cruise line's fleet of cruise ships. My opinion is that someone on the corporate side probably knew what was really happening on one of the company's $500 million ships, or perhaps they turned a blind eye toward the monkey business. 

The closest that the DOJ will come to holding the cruise executives responsible is saying that the illegal discharge "was the result of more than just bad actors on one ship. It reflects very poorly on Princess’s culture and management."

This slap on the wrist ignores the fact that when the Caribbean Princess started its eight years of discharging oily wastes into the oceans, Carnival was still on probation following a fine of $18,000,000. In 2002, as part of its felony plea agreement, Carnival and its "subsidiaries and operating companies" were required to undertake a five year court-supervised environmental program involving every "cruise ship and shoreline facility in the U.S. and abroad." Carnival was required to " . . . hire new personnel and managers, whose sole responsibilities . . . [were] to ensure compliance with local, state, federal and international environmental requirements . . . (and) subject their operation to an independent auditor, approved by the government." 

Princess Cruises was not yet owned by Carnival in 2002 but Carnival took ownership and control of Princess Cruises the following year. It is less than clear whether Carnival took steps to ensure that Carnival-owned ships operated by its subsidiary Princess Cruises complied with the 2002 consent agreement with the DOJ after Princess Cruises came under Carnival's control in 2003 when Carnival was beginning the DOJ probation period. Regardless, shortly after it started service, the Caribbean Princess began a course of criminal conduct until 2013 which would make the ship's engineers the poster-children of maritime environmental criminals.   

Is the public really expected to believe that the executives at Carnival or Princess didn't know anything about the cost-saving criminal conduct over the course of nearly a decade?

                                                                          #         #        #

Some people people have suggested that president Jan Swartz should resign but she was not the executive at the helm of Princess during the 2005 - 2013 time period. She worked for Princess as a vice president in sales, marketing, business development and customer service for some of the years in question before leaving the cruise line. She returned to Princess as the top CEO in December 2013, replacing President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Alan Buckelew who had been the Chief Executive Officer of Princess Cruises from June 2007 to November 2013 and its President from February 2004 to November 2013, as well as the Chief Operating Officer of Carnival since December 1, 2013.  Perhaps Swartz's return to the cruise line was part of the reshuffling that took place after the illegal "magic pipe" was reported to the U.K. Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) a few month earlier?  

Photo Credit: Caribbean Princess in the Caribbean heading for Miami - Cruiser1210 - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

You can read our first article about the DOJ fines here: Deliberate Dumping, Cover-Up and Lies: DOJ Fines Princess Cruises $40,000,000.

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

Deliberate Dumping, Cover-Up and Lies: DOJ Fines Princess Cruises $40,000,000

Multiple news sources are reporting that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) will fine Princess Cruises a record $40,000,000 for polluting the seas and trying to cover it up. Princess Cruises will plead 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).

According to the DOJ, the Caribbean Princess had been illegally discharging oil since 2005 using bypass equipment, sometimes called a "magic pipe," to circumvent pollution-prevention equipment that separates oil and monitors oil levels in the ship's water. 

We previously mentioned that the DOJ joined an investigation being conducted by the U.K. Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) which had been initiated in August 2013.

You can read the DOJ statement here: Princess Cruise Lines To Pay Largest-Ever Criminal Penalty For Caribbean PrincessDeliberate Vessel Pollution

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. This was done routinely on the Caribbean Princess in 2012 and 2013. 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. All of the bypassing took place through the graywater system which was discharged when the ship was more than four nautical miles from land. As a result, discharges within U.S. waters were likely."

U.S. investigators began to probe the ship's actions after a newly hired engineer reported an illegal dump of over 4,000 gallons of oily waste off the coast of England in August 2013 to the British MCA. The whistleblowing engineer then quit his job. Two other senior ship engineers then ordered a cover-up, called on other crew members to lie and sought to remove the "magic pipe."

According to the DOJ, following an official investigation, "the chief engineer held a sham meeting in the engine control room to pretend to look into the allegations while holding up a sign stating: “LA is listening.” The engineers present understood that anything said might be heard by those at the company’s headquarters in Los Angeles, California, because the engine control room contained a recording device intended to monitor conversations in the event of an incident."

The DOJ indicated that a perceived motive for the environmental crimes was financial – "the chief engineer that ordered the dumping off the coast of England told subordinate engineers that it cost too much to properly offload the waste in port and that the shore-side superintendent who he reported to would not want to pay the expense."

The DOJ continued: "Princess engineers on the Caribbean Princess indicated that the chief engineer responsible for the discharge on Aug. 26, 2013, was known as “braccino corto” (a person with short arms), an Italian expression for a cheap person whose arms are too short to reach his wallet. Some expressed the same opinion of the shore-side superintendent."

As part of the felony plea agreement, cruise ships from eight Carnival cruise line companies (Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line N.V., Seabourn Cruise Line Ltd. and AIDA Cruises) will be placed under a court supervised Environmental Compliance Program (ECP) for five years. An outside entity and a court appointed monitor will independently audit the ECP.

The DOJ statement also says that “the conduct being addressed today is particularly troubling because the Carnival family of companies has a documented history of environmental violations, including in the Southern District of Florida.”  The DOJ stated "the pollution in this case was the result of more than just bad actors on one ship. It reflects very poorly on Princess’s culture and management."

Although $40,000,000 is the largest-ever criminal penalty involving deliberate vessel pollution against a single cruise line, many other other cruise lines have been fined many millions of dollars and forced to plead guilty to felonies including obstruction of justice. The actions of Princess Cruises seem to be déjà vu of the widespread oily discharges and use of by-pass pipes in the late 1990's and early 2000's. 

In 2002, Carnival pled guilty to numerous felonies for discharging oily waste into the sea. Carnival reportedly routinely falsified its oil record books in order to conceal its illegal practices. The U.S. Government leveled a $18,000,000 fine and placed Carnival on probation.

In 2002, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) also pled guilty to a felony of routinely circumventing the oily water separator, dumping oily bilge directly into the ocean on a regular basis, and falsifying its record keeping. NCL admitted that it engaged in a practice of "systematically lying to the United States Coast Guard over a period of years." The DOJ issued a fine of only $1,500,000, primarily because NCL admitted its wrongdoing rather than lying and scheming like Carnival.

Starting in the In the late 1990's, the U.S. Coast Guard caught Royal Caribbean engaged in widespread dumping of oil and chemicals. The DOJ fined the cruise line $1,000,000. After Royal Caribbean was caught repeatedly illegally dumping oily discharges and chemicals and lying about it, the DOJ fined it $8,000,000 and then $18,000,000 for a total of $27,000,000

Cruise PollutionIn 1998, Holland America Line was fined $2,000,000 after it was caught discharging oily water without the use of an oil-water separator.  

Despite heavy marketing, the cruise industry has struggled with its environmental image over the years. Carnival-owned lines have battled the state of Alaska over its strict waste water laws and have been fined for exceeding the permitted level of ammonia, copper, nickel and zinc. Princess Cruises was fined, for example, when the Golden Princess dumped 66,000 gallons of chlorinated water into Glacier Bay in Alaska in early 2013. Carnival and Princess Cruises have traditionally fared poorly in environmental practices according to the environmental non-profit organization Friends of the Earth (FOE) which assigned these lines a "D" and a "C" respectively in the last FOE environmental report card (other Carnival brands, Costa Cruises and P&O Cruises, flunked the report card). Whether throwing garbage bags overboard, or dropping anchors on reefs, or belching smoke from high sulfur content bunker fuel into the air, or pulverizing and dredging reefs and filling native mangroves in the Caribbean islands to make way for increasingly gigantic cruise ships, the cruise lines have been viewed by many as enemies of the environment.     

Princess responded to the DOJ statement with a multi-media presentation which can be viewed here, and which includes a YouTube video statement by its president, Jan Swartz (which you can see below).

Interested in this issue? Read the New York Times article from 1999: Sovereign Lands: A Special Report; Gaps in Sea Laws Shield Pollution By Cruise Lines

Top: Caribbean Princess (Bar Harbor, Maine) photo credit: Yankeesman312 - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Middle: Carnival Elation - Stop Polluting Cruise Ships Blogspot

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December 1, 2016 Update: The Miami Herald picks up the news and quotes Cruise Law News: Carnival-owned ship caught in pollution scheme. Now they’re paying $40 million for it

The video of the illegal "magic pipe" which Princess Cruises used to by-pass the oil-water separator device and dump oil into the oceans is at the bottom, credit to McClatchey News Services / Miami Herald. 

December 4, 2016 Update: Princess Cruises Pollution Cover-Up: What Did the Executives Know?

 

 

Passenger Alleges Sexual Assault on Explorer of the Seas

News 7 in Australia reports today that a cruise passenger on a Royal Caribbean ship arriving in Sydney, Australia alleges that she was a victim of sexual assault by another passenger during the cruise.    

The news account states that the Explorer of the Seas arrived in Sydney after a nine day cruise to Vanuatu and was met by police. Detectives reportedly spent several hours talking to witnesses, taking statements and collecting forensic evidence from what the news account described as a crime scene. 

The news station indicates that no arrests were made.  The cruise line reportedly provided support to the alleged victim.

Passenger Disappears from SuperStar Gemini

SuperStar GeminiThe Straits Times reports that a passenger from Singapore fell overboard from a cruise ship on Sunday night. 

The newspaper identified the 60 year old passenger as Wuan Poh Fatt, who was on vacation with five other passengers on the SuperStar Gemini sailing from Singapore, where the cruise ship is home ported, to Penang.

The passenger reportedly fell overboard in waters off Tanjung Kling, Malacca, Malaysia around 11:05 P.M. on Sunday. 

The Straits Times reported that the passenger had gone missing was determined to be missing from the ship after he failed to respond to announcements shortly before the ship docked in Georgetown on Monday.

A review of CCTV film revealed a person going overboard Sunday night. 

There have been 280 persons who have gone overboard from cruise ships since 2000 according to cruise expert Professor Ross Klein

A passenger went overboard from the SuperStar Gemini in the Strait of Malacca last year in October. The company contended that the passenger jumped overboard. 

There have been two other overboard cases from Star Cruises ships in the last six years.  A 50 year old Indonesian man fell from the SuperStar Libra in May 2015 and his body was later found by fishermen in Malaysia waters.  In September 2010, a 51 year old Chinese passenger aboard the SuperStar Aquarius lost HK$5 million ($650,000) playing baccarat. He then jumped overboard from the top floor of the 13-deck cruise ship.

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Photo Credit: Rupildevlamsar - CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / .wikimedia.

Norovirus on HAL's Oosterdam Sickens Passengers and Crew

HAL's OosterdamPassengers aboard a Holland America Line (HAL) cruise ship have fallen ill with symptoms consistent with norovirus on an approximately two week trans-Atlantic cruise that departed from Civitevecchia, Italy on November 3rd and arrived today in Tampa, Florida.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the November 3 - 18 cruise aboard the Oosterdam sickened 86 of 1,843 passengers (4.67%) and 18 of 796 crew members (2.26%) who exhibited symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. 

The link to the CDC about this outbreak is here. There has been no official determination of the cause of the outbreak although norovirus is suspected.

According to the CDC and the FDA, the most common cause of norovirus is contaminated food or water. Of course, like land-based restaurants, ill food handlers often transmit the virus. Passengers can also obviously bring the disease aboard which can spread due to unhygienic conditions caused either by the passengers and/or the cruise line.

Before there can be a scientific determination as to the actual cause of the outbreak, there must first be a serious epidemiology assessment of the ship which the CDC rarely performs due to the quick turn-around of the cruise ship. Unfortunately, in this case HAL immediately argued that norovirus is allegedly "circulating throughout North America and can be easily transmitted if personal hygiene is not maintained," according to a statement that it released to the Tampa Bay Times.

The CDC says that there have been 13 GI outbreaks this year, mostly involving norovirus with two e-coli outbreaks. 

The cruise ship says that it performed enhanced cleaning and left today for the Caribbean.

Photo credit: Sebastian Wessels wikipedia / commons, CC BY 2.5.

Celebrity Cruises' "Sail Beyond Borders" Ad Irks Trump Supporters

Truthfeed Boycott Celebrity CruisesThe ultra conservative Truthfeed website is calling for a boycott of Celebrity Cruises after the cruise line aired a video ad called "Sail Beyond Borders."  

The video calls for cruisers to reject the divisive rhetoric associated with president-elect Donald Trump.

Truthfeed claims that the advertisement is "stunningly rude and inappropriate" and that "smug cruise line Celebrity snubs their snooty noses at Trump and his supporters." In an article which was published yesterday, Truthfeed calls on Trump supporters to boycott Celebrity Cruises. 

The ad states:

  • Far from the talk of building walls, 
  • Far from the threats of keeping people out,
  • Far from the rhetoric of fear, 
  • Is a world of differences,
  • Differences that expand and enrich us, 
  • Because, after all, our lives aren't made better when we close ourselves off to the world, 
  • They're made better when we open ourselves up to it.
  • Celebrity Cruises

The boycott movement was started by @MightyBusterBro on Twitter who, earlier this week, posted a mock ad he created on YouTube. The satire video (now removed from YouTube which you can see here) included text overlays stating that Trump supporters are not smart or liberal enough to enjoy Celebrity Cruises. 

As pointed out by Snopes, Celebrity Cruises President and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo denied that the ad, which was created before Trump was elected, was in response to the Trump campaign. The original ad contains no specific references to Trump or his supporters although the reference to building walls is obviously referring to him. 

Celebrity's original ad was heavily promoted on ABC and CNN during the presidential debates. Putting ideology aside, it seems risky to alienate tens of millions of potential customers by running a campaign which potentially offends half of the U.S. who supported the build-a-wall candidate. But CEO Lutoff-Perlo seems willing to have taken the risk. She told Skift in September that “I believe anybody that truly looks at this and says, ‘We’re not going to sail on Celebrity again,’ they’re probably not sailing on Celebrity. I hope I get more people than I lose."

Image credit: Truthfeed   

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Carnival Vista Suffers Propulsion Problems

CArnival VistaI just received a message from a reader of Cruise Law News that Carnival announced that the new Carnival Vista is having propulsion problems.

Carnival stated on its Facebook page that the Carnival Vista is experiencing what it calls a "technical" problem with its propulsion system which is "affecting only its maximum cruising speed."  

On November 19th, the Carnival Vista is scheduled to sail a repositioning cruise from New York to Miami, Florida. Grand Turk was originally scheduled for November 19th.  Carnival announced that it is replacing Grand Turk with the nearby port of Nassau due to the propulsion issues. 

The reader commented: 

"New ships are like new cars and they all can have mechanical issues but it is really sad to see a ship less than 6 month old having propulsion issues. I'll be interested to hear what is causing this as it seems to happen far too often. And substituting Nassau, the armpit of the Caribbean, is rather like a slap in the face to unsuspecting cruisers who thought they were going to be in the relatively safe Port area of Grand Turk."

These comments are spot on.  

Another Carnival cruise ship, the Carnival Liberty has been in the news recently for these same reasons. 

The Carnival Vista was last in the news for wiping out a small dock in Messina, Italy two months ago.. 

Carnival Vista Grand TurkHave a comment? Please leave one below or join the discussion on our Facebook page

November 19, 2016 Update: The Vista sailed to Grand Turk after all. Today the Carnival ship called on Grand Turk and was assisted into port via tugs. Some passengers say that the cruise ship needed tugs becuase of high winds while others say that the ship is experiencing propulsion issues and difficulties with its azimuth pods and/or bow thrusters.

Photo credit: Top - Antonio from Trieste, Italy - TRIESTE NAVI, CC BY 2.0, commons / wikimedia; bottom - Marine Traffic AIS.

Excursion Bus Crash in Dominica Kills Cruise Passenger

Dominica Bus CrashA Dominican newspaper reports that an excursion bus carrying ten passengers from the P&O Azura was involved in a serious accident yesterday in the country of Dominica. One passenger died and nine others were injured.

The Azura previously sailed from Southampton about two weeks ago.

The newspaper reports that the bus was coming from Antrim, where the cruise passengers were enjoying the Emerald Pool tourist attraction, when the accident took place.

P&O Cruises released a statement:  “A bus operated by a shore excursion provider was involved in a collision in Dominica on Wednesday lunchtime. The bus was carrying 12 passengers, including 10 guests from Azura. The cause of the accident is not yet known.”

Excursion accidents like this are not uncommon. Earlier this year, an excursion bus taking passengers from a MSC cruise ship to a tourist attraction crashed in Dominica, killing an infant. 

Cruise passengers from the Celebrity Summit cruise ship were seriously injured in an excursion vehicle mishap in Dominica. In 2009, a dozen passengers from the Summit were seriously injured when an open air excursion vehicle ran off the road. We represented passengers against the cruise line and the excursion company in that accident. You can read information about the Dominica excursion accident in an article "Injured Visitors to Dominica Airlifted to Miami."

A passenger from the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas was killed in an excursion bus accident near Falmouth, Jamaica and numerous other passengers were injured in January of this year.  

There have been several other excursion bus accidents in the last several years involving cruise passengers.  

Many of these incidents involved substandard and poorly maintained vehicles, reckless driving and/or buses not equipped with seat belts.

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Photo Credit: Dominica News Online

Carnival Liberty Suffers Power Loss

The Carnival Liberty cruise ship experienced unspecified "technical problems" which affected its propulsion and delayed its return to and departure from Galveston yesterday. The problem is substantially slowing the cruise ship.

The Liberty should have arrived early yesterday morning to Galveston, however Carnival stated that there was a technical problem that slowed the ship and needed to be fixed. The repairs were expected to delay the ship's departure.

Carnival is still sailing to Cozumel but has canceled the cruise to Progeso, Mexico.

Local newspapers reported that passengers will get a $50 credit on their shipboard account, a 25 percent discount on a future five-day cruise, and a $25 per person credit to help pay for meals on Monday given the late departure time.

This problems come after a weekend where two two Carnival owned cruise ship operated by Princess Cruises, the Grand Princess and the Emerald Princess, experienced temporary power outages. 

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November 1, 2016 Update:  AIS shows the Carnival Liberty still in port in Galveston.  Carnival reportedly canceled the cruise as of this morning. 

Carnival sent this statement this morning:

LIBERTY TECH ISSUE

NOVEMBER 1 – 9:40 am EDT

"The cruise ship Carnival Liberty, which is homeported in Galveston, Texas, is experiencing a technical issue which is affecting the ship’s maximum cruising speed. The issue is only affecting the ship’s speed and all other systems are operating normally. The ship arrived in Galveston yesterday and since then we have been working with outside technical experts which we brought on to help us confirm our repair plan.

Guests had boarded the vessel yesterday in anticipation of sailing, however, outside technical experts, together with the ship’s technical team, conducted a deeper inspection of one of the diesel generators overnight and uncovered an additional problem not previously known. It has now been determined that one of the alternators cannot be readily fixed. This means the ship will not be able to maintain the sufficient speed needed to operate the itinerary as planned and unfortunately we must cancel today’s cruise.

Guests scheduled to sail on this voyage will receive a full refund of their cruise, along with a 100 percent future cruise credit and $90 per person reimbursement representing a previously promised onboard credit and stipend for meals in Galveston yesterday.

While repairs are ongoing, the itinerary for the ship’s next two voyages will be modified, as well. The Nov. 5 five-day cruise will include a full day call in Cozumel, however, the call in Progreso will be cancelled. The Nov. 10 four-day cruise will include a call in Progreso instead of Cozumel. Guests sailing on these voyages will receive a $50 per person credit to their shipboard accounts and a 25 percent discount on a future Carnival cruise. Guests also have the option of cancelling and receiving a full refund. Voyages departing Nov. 14 and beyond are scheduled to operate their normal itinerary.

We sincerely apologize to our guests for this disruption in their vacation plans." 

November 5, 2016 Update: CARNIVAL CANCELS SECOND CRUISE, DEPARTING SATURDAY.

Novenber 10, 2016 Update: Carnival modifies the itineraries for the Liberty’s cruises through the month of November.

 

Emerald Princess Experiences Power Failures

This afternoon, a passenger on the Emerald Princess informed us that the cruise ship was experiencing power issues similar to the Grand Princess which suffered similar power failures en route to San Fransisco returning from a cruise to Mexico (which we mentioned yesterday).

AIS, like Marine Traffic showed the vessel speed as the cruise ship headed to the port of Laem Chabang in Thailand at around 19-21 knots hr and then down to 2 knots on several occasions yesterday evening. 

The Emerald Princess was built in Fincantieri, Italy and was launched in June, 2006.

The Emerald Princess lost power during an Eastern Caribbean sailing after leaving Fort Lauderdale in JUly 2010.

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Emerald Princess via Marine Traffic

Grand Princess Temporarily Loses Power

Grand Princess via Marine TrafficLast night, I mentioned on our Facebook page that a cruise passenger aboard the Grand Princess informed us that the Princess ship temporarily lost power. The passenger, who wishes to remain anonymous, stated:

"I am on the Grand Princess and we have a power issue and the Captain just made an announcement that they are working on it. We are not moving in the water. Yikes."

The Grand Princess was sailing off the Coast of California, heading to San Fransisco. The passenger went on to state that:

" . . . the power went out and the emergency lights went on. It was then that the ship stopped moving. They got the power back on and we began to continue but they were clearly having power problems all night. The power would flicker and change color like in a brown out. Then everything went back to normal by bed time. I think that we are arriving in SF on time . . " 

One person left a message on Facebook, stating:

"I was on this ship a month ago for 10 days (Mexican Riviera trip from SF). That was my first and LAST cruise. The ship is old and run down (Buckets collecting water in hallways, intermittent plumbing issues, etc.) so I'm not surprised this has happened . . . It's going into dry dock in December. If you ask me it should have been refurbished about 5 years ago . . ."

The Grand Princess is a relatively old ship, launched in 1998.

AIS tracking systems like Marine Traffic showed the cruise ship, which had been proceeding around 11-12 knots, losing power briefly last night. 

Power outages like this are not uncommon, even on newer ships. The last Princess Cruises ship to lose power involved the Caribbean Princess which drifted in the Irish Sea for several hours last August.

This particular ship, the Grand Princess, lost power in November of last year, after a fire in an engine room switchboard.

The ship was reportedly 20 miles off the coast of Hilo, Hawaii at the time of the incident, which forced the cruise ship to temporarily switch to emergency lighting and operate with limited air conditioning, according to USA TODAY

Between these two incidents, there have been around twenty significant power and propulsion failures involving all of the major brands as well as lesser known cruise lines in the last two years. Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Holland America Line, Costa, Thomson, Viking, Paul Gauguin, Fathom, Oceanwide Expeditions and Phoenix Reisen have all suffered instances involving power and/or propulsion failures. 

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October 30, 2016  Update: Princess Cruises released the following statements: "At 1800 local time on October 28, Grand Princess was en route to San Francisco when the ship experienced a temporary loss of propulsion. It was determined the loss of power was caused by a small water leak which entered the propulsion electrical transformers in the engine room. Repairs were made and operation of both propulsion motors was quickly established so that the ship could proceed to San Francisco as scheduled. Departure today from San Francisco for the next voyage should not be affected. Grand Princess was on day six of a seven-day voyage." 

U.S. Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger from HAL's Rotterdam

The U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a 63-year-old woman from a Holland America Line (HAL) cruise ship approximately 60 miles east of Virginia Beach yesterday morning.

The HAL Rotterdam was sailing from Boston to Fort Lauderdale, Florida when it requested the Coast Guard to medically evacuation a passenger who was reportedly suffering from stroke-like symptoms.

At about 8:30 a.m. yesterday, a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter launched from the Coast Guard station in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The aircrew arrived at the cruise ship around 9 A.M  and hoisted the ill woman and her husband to the helicopter. 

The Coast Guard flew the woman and her husband to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. 

Video credit: Defense Video Imagery Distribution System

 

Carnival CEO Arnold Donald Extends Contract, Sells Over $4,000,000 of CCL Stock

Arnold DonaldCruise Industry News reports that Carnival Corporation recently confirmed in a SEC filing that it had extended CEO Arnold Donald’s employment agreement for an additional year.  

You can see the original terms of his three year employment plan filed with the SEC in 2013 here

Mr. Donald collected $9,373,908 in 2015.

The SEC also reflects in a seperate filing that on October 20, 2016, Mr. Arnold sold 91,813 shares of Carnival stock, totaling $4,285,142, in multiple trades at prices ranging from $46.51 to $46.99 for an average price of price of $46.70. Mr. Donald reportedly currently owns 532,340 shares of CCL stock which, at today's value, is worth $24,892,218.40.

Mr. Arnold is generally considered to have done a good job guiding the cruise line after a disastrous series of groundings and engine room fires several years ago.  He has overseen Carnival while it invested attention and money toward the maintenance of its fleet of over 100 cruise ships; however, Mr. Donald remains susceptible to criticism by overworking and underpaying Carnival crew members. 

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Photo credit: CNBC

Medevac from Mein Schiff

 According to the Crew Center website, earlier this week the Greek Coast Guard medevaced a 55 year old cruise passenger from the Mein Schiff cruise ship.

On October 19, 2016, a helicopter medically evacuated the German passenger who was suffering from cardiac symptoms when the ship was sailing six miles south of the island of Ikaria. The helicopter flew the ill passenger to an airport in Samos where he was transferred by ambulance to a hospital. Samos is a Greek island in the eastern Aegean Sea.

Video credit: Αεροδιακομιδή Ασθενούς από Πλοίο from Hellenic Air Force / Vimeo.

 

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Alleged Sexual Assault of Disney Wonder Crew Member

Disney WonderA Spanish newspaper reports that a Disney crew member was arrested after he allegedly sodomized a female crew member. La Voz de Cadiz reports that the incident allegedly occurred last Thursday when a Disney ship employee from the Disney Wonder assaulted a fellow crew members on the vessel, the Rhapsody, which is being used to house crew members while the Wonder is undergoing repairs in dry dock in Cadiz Spain.  

The arrested crew member is from St. Lucia. According to the newspaper account, he and the other crew member knew one another. They spent the night together. The newspaper (translated) states that the next morning, the man man wanted to have anal sex with the woman. "The woman, a British national, was strongly opposed to this practice, but, as reported, was forced by her partner." She reported the incident to the police who appeared at the shipyard and arrested the alleged assailant. The police took him to the police station and then to the police court, where he testified before the judge, who ordered his "admission to prison awaiting trial."

The Spanish newspaper refers to other incidents allegedly involving Disney crew members who are in Cadiz as part of the dry dock / ship modifications. In late September, a crew member of Indian origin, was reportedly arrested "in the vicinity of a shopping center in the capital . . . for indecent exposure with two children." The judge reportedly released him on charges. Earlier this month, the body of a Disney crew member from Poland was reportedly found floating in the water. The article states that "the case is still under a gag order."  

I was not previously aware of the alleged indecent exposure by the crew member or the death of the crew member mentioned in the article. 

I first learned of the arrest of the Disney crew member in an article from the popular Crew-Center blog.

Photo Credit: By Shorelander Own work, CC BY 2.5.

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Pacific Princess Hits Breakwater at Port of Nice

Pacific PrincessThe Pacific Princess hit a breakwater at the port of Nice this morning, according to a French newspaper.

The Princess Cruises' ship arrived at the Port of Nice at 6:15 A.M. this morning (Friday). The newspaper states that a leak was found in compartment no. 2 of the cruise ship. Twenty firefighters and divers reportedly responded to the incident.

The Forum Bateau website explained that the incident occurred in rough seas with an east wind over 45 knots, causing the port side of the cruise ship to strike rocks at the entrance to the Nice harbor before the ship docked.

The cruise ship was scheduled this depart Nice this evening, reportedly heading to Barcelona.  

The newspaper quotes a passenger aboard the ship as saying: "We felt the ship scrape port side . . . The captain told us later that the ship had hit the rocks. . . . for now, we're stuck here and we do not know for how long. We do not know if we will be able to continue our cruise."

The newspaper also quoted a passenger in another vessel at the port further as saying "I heard a big 'boom', a thud that reverberated throughout the harbor like an explosion."

The newspaper article contains photos and video of the Pacific Princess at port in Nice.

Photo credit: By Kate Rozdabara CC BY 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

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October 14, 2016 Statement by Princess Cruises:  

"NICE, FRANCE (October 14, 2016 – 12:35PM) - Princess Cruises can confirm that during arrival at the port of Nice, under normal weather and sea conditions (at approximately 6:30 AM) Pacific Princess experienced an unexpected change in wind conditions and made contact with the breakwater wall resulting in damage to the port side of the ship under the water line. The water tight doors were already closed containing the inflow of sea water. The ship is safely alongside at the pier. There were no injuries and at no time were any guests or crew in danger. Guests are ashore enjoying excursions and site seeing. The ship has electrical power.

Divers are on scene assessing the damage to determine repair options and the amount of time required to complete. As a result of this incident we have made the decision to end the current cruise early so that necessary repairs can be made to the ship. We will be providing required transportation and lodging at our expense so that guests may proceed with their original onward travel arrangements as scheduled on Sunday, October 16. Additional details about these arrangements will be provided as soon as possible.

Pacific Princess is sailing with 669 guests and 382 crew members. The ship is on day ten of a 12 day cruise that departed Venice on October 4, and was scheduled to arrive in Barcelona on October 15, for an overnight stay before ending the cruise on October 16."

October 19, 2016 Update: At least one passenger is complaining that Princess Cruises is not honoring the promise of a "full refund" it made when it cancelled the October 16 cruise following the incident described above.

Lawsuit: Passenger Contracts Legionnaires' Disease on Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas

Majesty of the SeasA passenger from Ohio who sailed aboard the Majesty of the Seas last November and developed Legionnaires' disease has filed suit against Royal Caribbean. The passenger alleges that only after he boarded the cruise ship in Miami, and the ship had set sail, did the cruise line notify him, via a notice placed under his door, that Legionella had been discovered in the ship's water system on prior cruises.       

Legionnaires' disease is one of the most serious diseases a passenger can contract on a cruise ship. Legionnaires’ disease is a severe pneumonia caused by inhalation or possibly aspiration of warm, aerosolized water containing Legionella organisms. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), contaminated ships’ whirlpool spas and potable water supply systems are the most commonly implicated sources of shipboard Legionella outbreaks. Symptoms include a cough, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle aches and headache. Although prompt antibiotic treatment can kill the bacteria, 5% to 30% of people infected with Legionella will die from the infection.  

After the cruise ended on November 13, 2015, Royal Caribbean sent an email to the disembarking passengers, stating that they may have been exposed to Legionella during the cruise. It stated that if passengers become ill, they should seek medical attention and undergo testing for Legionella. 

Royal Caribbean stated that two passengers had been confirmed to be infected with Legionnaires' disease from the cruise ship, and that one person was possibly infected. One person was infected during a cruise in July 2015 and one other person was infected during a cruise in October 2015. The email stated that Royal Caribbean had shut down the whirlpools on the ship after it confirmed the first case of Legionnaires' disease associated with the July sailing. The cruise line claimed that it treated the ship's water supplies with extra chlorine (the email mentions "two rounds of treatment with chlorine"), but water samples taken from showers confirmed the presence of Legionella.

Royal Caribbean also sent the email to those people who had booked cruises on the Majesty on future dates, advising that the risk of illness is "low but not zero" and suggesting to future cruisers that they may want to reschedule their cruises for a later date depending on their individual risk factors.       

A few days after returning home, the passenger began experiencing symptoms consistent with Legionnaires' disease. He visited his doctor on an urgent basis and he was immediately hospitalized. His lawsuit lists kidney, heart and pulmonary failure among other complications which he suffered as a result of the disease which he contracted on the cruise ship. 

The lawsuit alleges that Royal Caribbean was on actual notice of Legionella on its ship but notified the passengers only after Majesty sailed and was at sea. In addition to alleging that the cruise line was negligent, the lawsuit states that the cruise line "acted with deliberate and wanton recklessness" in refusing to advise passengers of the Legionella prior to the cruise. Royal Caribbean, the lawsuit alleges, acted in "callous disregard" of the dangers to the passenger's health in order to promote its economic interests.

The lawsuit seeks punitive damages, in addition to compensatory damages, due to the cruise line's intentional misconduct.  

The lawsuit was filed by Miami maritime lawyer Domingo Rodriquez

There was a discussion regarding Legionnaires' disease and this particular cruise last year on the Cruise Critic boards. If the comments are accurate, some of the passengers apparently were not notified of the Legionella on the ship during the cruise but were notified only after the cruise was over. At least one person commenting said that he sailed on the cruise ending November 13, 2015 but never received an email from the cruise line. One poster mentioned that a family member who was on the cruise was allegedly admitted to the hospital with Legionnaires' Disease. She stated at the time: "we did not get the email about the ship being contaminated until the afternoon of Nov. 13, after we had just gotten off the ship . . . This was very irresponsible and unethical on Royal Caribbean's part."  

In my opinion, it is outrageous that Royal Caribbean kept sailing the Majesty if it knew that the ship's water supply was still contaminated with Legionella after multiple "extra-chlorine" treatments. It is Legionellaprobable that some of the passengers or crew members would become sick because, obviously, passengers are going to shower during cruises. Unfortunately, we have seen this cruise line take the "show-must-go-on" attitude to extremes over the years, whether it is recklessly sailing into hurricanes or repeatedly exposing its passengers to noro virus on successive cruises.

There have been a number cases of Legionnaires' disease on cruise ships over the years. The most infamous case involved the Horizon cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean's sister cruise line, Celebrity Cruises (before it was purchased by Royal Caribbean), back in 1994.

Following a deadly shipboard outbreak which caused Celebrity to cancel cruises and fly passengers back from Bermuda, passengers sued Celebrity alleging that the company defrauded them by refusing to disclose that Legionella was present on the cruise ship. An Associated Press writer wrote that: "on Saturday passengers on the cruise ship Horizon were told the risk of contracting Legionnaires' disease on board was low. On Tuesday they were hustled off the ship in Bermuda as a precaution." (Numerous passengers were nonetheless infected). The AP quoted passengers as saying at the time: "everyone is entitled to a worry-free vacation and this has been anything but that" and "the people who operate this line should be chastised" and "what they did to the passengers is unconscionable."

Celebrity subsequently sued the manufacturer of the ship's pool and whirlpool equipment, alleging that extensive press coverage of the disease outbreak stigmatized the company, thus hurting its reputation and reducing its profits. Celebrity obtained a $193 million verdict, although an appellate court subsequently reduced the verdict.

Regarding the recent outbreak, if Royal Caribbean was uncertain whether the Majesty of the Seas still had Legionella in its water system, merely warning future passengers that the risk of illness was "low" but not canceling cruises was, at a minimum, irresponsible. Not informing passengers who cruised on the ship of the disease until after they sailed is truly reprehensible conduct. 

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Photo credit: Top -  CC-BY-SA-3.0/Matt H. Wade at Wikipedia; bottom - By CDC (PHIL #1187) - CDC Public Health Image Library, Public Domain.

Legionella Royal Caribbean Email

Legionella Royal Caribbean Email

 

Accurate Cruise Crime Statistics Finally Available

Harmony of the SeasCrimes on cruise ships are finally being accurately reported pursuant to a new mandatory reporting law, as explained in a blockbuster article, published in an Arizona newspaper, titled Travelers Can Now Get 1st Comprehensive Reports of Cruise Ship Crime

Previously, cruise line crime statistics were disclosed on a website maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.  The database was roundly criticized as substantially under-reporting the crime problem on cruise ships. CNN reported as of 2013, of  959 crimes on cruise ships reported to the FBI since 2011, only 31 were disclosed on a web site maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Cruise lines are now required to report all crimes to the Department of Transportation. The number of reported sexual assaults on cruise ships jumped 550% in the first six months of 2016, going to 39 from six in 2015. Overall, reported crimes on ships jumped 408% to 61 from 12. 

The FBI also indicated that it will respond to sexual assaults on cruise ships more aggressively, whereas in the past the FBI would routinely not respond to reports of shipboard rapes and the Department of Justice working with the FBI would often systematically decline to prosecute such crimes. 

The new disclosure law is the result of efforts by the Cruise Victims Organization (ICV) and its chairman Ken Carver who organized hearings before Senator Jay Rockefeller. 

Adjusted on a per capita basis, sexual assault on cruise ships occurs with a similar regularity as you might find on land, according to an article titled How Safe is Your Cruise? Crime on Cruise Ships Compared to U.S. Cities.

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

October 21, 2016 Update: Cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein cautions that although the the International Cruise Victims Association and others (including me) have reportred on the new crime reporting law "what has not been said is that crime statistics are based on incidents classified and subsequently reported by a cruise line. The cruise line determines whether an incident constitutes "sexual assault" (many cases of molestation of minors are classified as "sexual contact: groping" or as "inappropriate touch," neither of which is a crime under the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 - CVSSA) so while the new disclosure of data is welcomed, it only gives insight into the scale of the most serious incidents, and it only applies to ships operating from US ports (and may not include incidents involving non-US citizens on these ships, and incidents against US citizens on ships operating out of non-US ports). Before jumping on the bandwagon of accolades for the new disclosures, we must look closely to see what is not being reported so we don't assume the problem is less serious than it is. My comments are based on review of incident reports submitted by cruise lines and the tendency for these reports to misrepresent as "sexual contact" incidents that the victim clearly sees as sexual assault (but, again, sexual contact is not reportable under the CVSSA)."

Photo credit: Jean-Francois Monier/AFP/Getty Images via azcentral

 

 

 

Two-Year Old Nearly Drowns on Carnival Splendor

Carivanl Splendor DrowningLocal news stations in Miami are reporting that a two year old child nearly drowned in a swimming pool on the Carnival Splendor this afternoon.  

NBC-6 says that the Miami Fire Rescue department responded to reports of a 2-year-old nearly drowning on a cruise ship, the Carnival Splendor, at the Port of Miami. The station reports that "the child was stabilized by paramedics and will be transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital's Pediatrics unit."

With this latest incident, fifteen (15) passengers drowned or nearly drowned on cruise ships without lifeguards, including twelve children, over the past three years. After every such tragedy, many cruise fans quickly cast all of the blame on the children's parents for not paying attention. But three adults drowned in cruise ship swimming pools without lifeguards in just the last two years.

Lifeguards, of course, are needed on cruise ships. Lifeguards do more than just keep kids safe in pools. A certified lifeguard, trained in life saving measures, can immediately provide immediate CPR on the scene.  

My view remains that children need a combination of trained and experienced cruise ship lifeguards and parents, closely supervising their children, to stay safe on today's gigantic water parks on the high seas.  

A child drowned on the Carnival Victory in October 2014. The Miami New Times wrote about the death of 6-year-old Qwentyn Hunter on the Carnival cruise ship with no lifeguards in Kids Drown in Cruise Ship Pools With No Lifeguards on Duty.

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

Photo credit: NBC-6

Arbitration on the High Seas

Investigative journalist Karen Foshay of KCRW published a muli-media presentation this week, chronicling the plight of seafarers who work long hours, away from their families and far from home, for a pittance.

When the crew members become injured, these "foreign" (i., e., non-U.S.) ship employees are barred from filing suit in the U.S. against their U.S.-based employers. Instead, they are forced to resort to filing arbitration claims where their disputes are resolved by arbitrators (usually paid for by the shipping company), in contrast to a judge and jury. 

The situation is particularly unfair to Filipino crew members who have to agree to a scheduled compensation scheme where they are limited to small pay outs when they are seriously injured due to the negligence of their employers.

Take a minute and read or listen to the the articles and watch the introductory video below. 

Her two-part special is entitled  Troubled Waters - a private justice system leads to secrecy and mistreatment on the high seas.

The investigation has two parts: Part one is titled the Secret World of Arbitration: 

 

Part two is titled Low Wages on the High Seas: 

 

Watch the video below:  Troubled Waters: KCRW Investigates Exploitation on the High Seas. 

 

Deadly Amazon River Fire Update: International Expeditions' La Estrella Amazonica

One of the cruise stories I have followed closely this year is the tragic story of a couple from Nebraska who perished due to a fire in their cabin aboard the La Estrella Amazonica, a luxury river cruise ship on the Peruvian Amazon.   

We first wrote about the deadly fire which took the lives of Larry and Christy Hammer in April in our article titled Fire, Bandits Plague Amazon River Cruises in Peru

The Hammer daughters, Jill and Kelly, attribute the cause of their parents' deaths to the absence of basic safety features aboard the river cruise ship, which International Expeditions of Alabama stated they designed, built and owned. But the ship, the daughters contend, lacked functioning in-Larry and Kristy Hammer, Kelly Hammer Lankford and Jill Hammer Malottcabin fire alarms, safety-rated power strips, and a crew trained in fire suppression and life-saving techniques. Moreover, the Hammer children believe that International Expeditions (IE) has demonstrated that it's more concerned with its marketing image than the circumstances that killed their parents. 

According to the daughters, they hired experts to inspect the ship after the fire, but IE refused to cooperate.

"A team of experts inspected the ship on April 27th, despite IE's attempts to block that inspection. Rather than having the ship at the agreed-upon meeting spot, IE sailed hours upriver to a location which was not accessible by road. A seaplane had to be chartered for the inspection team to get on the boat. Although IE agreed that the team could have unlimited access to the ship and unlimited time, IF allowed the team only 3 hours and 45 minutes on the ship and pernitted them to see only a few select cabins. Furthermore, IE did not allow the team to see several portions of the ship, and denied the team access to the historical records from the fire control panel and surveillance videos."

The daughters have focused their efforts on finding information about their parents' final moments and warning the public of potential dangers associated with cruising on ships registered overseas, even if owned by an American company (La Estrella Amazonica is flagged in Peru).  People Magazine covered the story is an article titled Determined Nebraska Sisters Seek Answers in the Mysterious Deaths of Their Parents Aboard Luxury Amazon Cruise which contained disturbing information that the Hammers' wedding rings were missing after the fire "and were likely stolen off their dead bodies," Jill told the magazine. 

The Omaha World-Herald explained that shipboard surveillance videotape indicates that fire alarms weren’t sounding, as smoke poured from a light fixture, and crew members appeared confused and disorganized as they tried to locate the source of the fire and wasted over 22 minutes before extracting Larry Hammer. This raises concerns whether the crew members were trained for emergencies or had the proper certificates to serve as crew.

The U.K.'s Mail Online contained similar information in an article titled Nebraska Couple Died in Amazon Cruise Inferno After 'Alarms Failed and Confused Crew Took 20 Minutes to Pull Them From Their Burning Cabin - and Then the Ship Continued its Voyage.'

I communicated with the Hammer daughters regarding the recent status of their search for information: 

"Ever since our parents were killed on International Expeditions’ (IE) Amazon boat La Estrella Amazonica, we have been desperate to figure out how this tragedy happened. IE has denied our pleas for information on multiple fronts:

  • First, we asked IE to provide us with other passengers' contact information so we could learn about our parents' last night alive. They refused, despite some passengers’ requests to IE to provide us with their contact information. Thankfully, these passengers persevered and found us despite IE’s attempts to prevent contact.
  • Second, we pleaded with IE to provide us with documentation that anyone other than IE itself cleared the boat as “safe enough” to sail 48 hours after our parents died. We also asked IE to provide us with documentation that the boat was "thoroughly inspected." They remain unable to do so.
  • Third, [IE president] Van Perry claimed in an interview before our parents were killed, “if something goes wrong, I’ll be the first to say, ‘It’s my fault. It’s not someone else’s fault.” Yet, he and his company have shown no interest in acknowledging that multiple levels of failure on IE’s boat killed our parents.

We continue in our quest forTanswers and accountability from IE and Van Perry. We remain committed to doing our best to prevent this tragedy from striking more travelers." 

October 13, 2016 Update: The Lee Summit Journal published this article with new information: After their parents’ death, sisters question safety measures on cruise ship.

October 14, 2016 Update: The Mercury News newspaper published Parents’ death in riverboat cruise sends Menlo Park daughter on quest for answers. Before the accident, International Expeditions said that it designed, built and owned the river cruise ship, but now claims that these representations were a "mistake and misunderstanding."

Photo credit: Larry and Christy Hammer with daughters, Kelly Hammer Lankford and Jill Hammer Malott - credit to: Kelly Hammer Lankford and Jill Hammer Malott via People Magazine.

Video: People Magazine. 

 

Phoenix Reisen's Albatros ist Kaputt

MS AlbatrossA number of German newspapers are reporting that the cruise ship M/S Albatros, marketed by the German travel company Phoenix Reisen, broke down this week. The ship suffered mechanical problems which delayed her departure to Dover from the Columbus Cruise Center in Bremerhaven (CCCB). 

The cruise ship was originally scheduled to cruise from Bremerhaven with 800 passengers on Tuesday evening, but problems with the the hydraulic system of the rudder delayed her departure. The problem was reportedly repaired and the Albatros departed 11 hours late on Wednesday morning.

The same problem quickly reappeared when the cruise ship was approximately 25 kilometers from the port of Bremerhaven. Two tugs towed the ship back to port for additional repairs. 

The Albatros was built in 1973 in Finland for Royal Viking Line as the Royal Viking Sea.  She has also sailed under the names Royal Odyssey, Norwegian Star, and Crown over her 43 year history.

She is the second Albatros for Phoenix Reisen as she was the replacement of the original SS Albatros.

Photo credit: By Andreas Trepte - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5.

Carnival Passenger Robbed at Port in Belize

Belize CityOn September 13, 2016, a passenger on the Carnival Magic was robbed at gunpoint at the port of Belize. We received the following information from the passenger:

"We were at the port next to the belize sign taking pictures. A vendor selling wood and jewelry was trying to sell us some of his handmade work when a male on a bicycle threw down his bike and pointed a gun at me. He then put it under his shirt when my friend turned around. My friend thought it was a joke and wasn't cooperating that's when the man pulled the gun back out racked it and pointed it at us. He told us to empty our pockets. My friend gave him 15$ all he had left and I gave him 25$ he then saw my phone and told me to give it to him. I delayed giving to him as I was thinking about my options. After a few moments I decided it wasn't worth it and gave it to him. He then started yelling at my friend to give him his wallet which he did not have. The man then asked where it was my friend replied in my room. Finally the male said don't make this a big deal and got back on his bike and rolled away. I preceded to run to the first police officer I could find and let them know what happened. The police had several officer driving around in cars and motorcycles trying to find the assailant. They told us it was the 1st time in 2 years this happened in or by the port. They could not locate him and took us to the police station where we gave statements and made reports. 2 hrs later they took us back to the port where we went back on the ship and made report to carnival. They said it never happens. Made report to guest services then wrote statement to security and told me to call corporate office when I get off ship. Called the office they did not seem to care much and I told them why do they go to unsafe ports their reply was this never happens. To future cruisers I would suggest to not get off on this port."

Carnival contacted the passenger after the cruise, stating that it is going to increase awareness with cruise guests and also increase police and security at that port.

Last March, cruise ship passengers were robbed at gunpoint while on an excursion at the Altun Ha Maya ruins site in Belize. Earlier in March, a couple in Belize from a cruise ship reported that they were victims of an attempted armed robbery near the Museum of Belize.

As we mentioned in our last article, the Minister of Tourism of Belize was quoted earlier this year saying that that violent crime has been decreasing in the country. He said that over one million people visited Belize last year and crime against tourists was "rare."

Carnival and other cruise lines which call on this port should issue warnings to their guests that these type of crimes have occurred at port, in Belize City and during excursions from the port.

Source of information: Carlos Martinez

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

September 29, 2016 Update: Several people pointed out that the Belize sign near where the robbery took place is outside of the gates to the port. So the robbery did not technically take place "at the port" to the extent that this means "in the port." 

Robbery Belize Cruise Port

Robbery Belize Cruise Port

 

Britannia Travel Advisory for Belgium: Beware of "Extremist Activity"

Bruges Brussels Belgium Today, I received a copy of an advisory which the staff of P&O's Britannia distributed to passengers aboard the cruise ship, prior to disembarking in Bruges, advising them of the existence of a possible threat associated with "extremist activity in Belgium."  

The advisory of today's date, from the master of the cruise ship, says in pertinent part:

"As your safety and security is always of prime concern to us on-board Britannia, I would like to advise you of the existence of a possible threat associated with extremist activity in Belgium.  While it is not our wish to concern you, due to recent events, it would be similarly irresponsible of us not to make you aware of localised security concerns.

We would like to remind you to remain vigilant in all public areas, avoid demonstrations and report anything suspicious to the local authorities.

If you are planning to travel to Brussels independently, we would recommend that you are particularly alert in places where there is a high concentration of people."  

The cruise line advisory mirrors the official U.K. advice for Belgium, which states:

"There is a high threat from terrorism and the Belgians assess this to be a serious and real threat (level 3). Police operations are ongoing and there have been a number of police raids and arrests, including on 17 June 2016, relating to past and potential terrorist attacks.

There have been a number of high profile terrorist attacks across Belgium. On 6 August 2016, 2 police officers were attacked with a machete in the city of Charleroi. On 22 March 2016 co-ordinated terrorist attacks killed 32 and injured hundreds more at Brussels Zavantem airport and on the metro system."  

The UK advisory is similar to the U.S. travel statement which states that another terrorist attack is "probable." 

This Britannia advisory seems like a prudent warning in this day and age.  The Britannia is now sailing back to Southampton after a day in Bruges.

Britannia Travel Warning   

 

U.S. Coast Guard Medevacs Crew Member from Ruby Princess

Medevac Ruby PrincessThe Defense Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) reports that the U.S Coast Guard medevaced a 47 year old crew member from the Ruby Princess early this morning.

The air medevac took place when the Princess Cruises cruise ship was approximately 9 miles southwest of Point Loma, San Diego. 

The Ruby Princess contacted the Coast Guard in San Diego late last night (at approximately 11:35 P.M.), reporting that a Princess crew member was experiencing symptoms of a heart attack.

The Coast Guard deployed a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter at approximately 1 A.M. The helicopter then hoisted the man onto the helicopter at approximately 2:05 A.M. The crew member was then transferred to an ambulance once the helicopter returned to its base in San Diego and taken to a local hospital. 

Video Credit: Defense Video Imagery Distribution System

 

Pullmantur Monarch Strikes a Whale

Whale Cruise Ship StrikeA passenger aboard the Pullmantur Monarch (formerly Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas) informed us that the cruise ship apparently struck a whale last week as the ship was returning to the port of Lisbon. He photographed the whale carcass (at bottom) which was lodged on the bulbous bow of the cruise ship. Here's the information which we received from the passenger:

"The Pullmantur Monarch cruise ship came into the Port of Lisbon last Monday with the carcass of a whale wrapped around the bow and resting on the bulbous nose. The whitish gray whale looked to be about 18-20 feet long, so it must have been a young whale . . .  It must have unfortunately breached directly ahead of the ship. It probably never had a chance as it collided with the 74,000 Ton ship traveling at around 16 knots."

The message was from a retired US Coast Guard Reserve officer (Lieutenant) who is accustomed to seeing / investigating these type of incidents. 

Several years ago, environmental groups filed a petition with the federal government seeking to force cruise ships and other large vessels to slow down in order to reduce the chances of whale strikes. The petition was focused on the waters between San Francisco and Los Angeles, but it signaled the importance of environmental groups concerned with marine life who share the oceans with super tankers and today's increasingly larger cruise ships. 

In one of the most graphic photographs of a cruise ship / whale strike, in 2009 the Princess Cruises' Sapphire Princess arrived in port in Vancouver, unaware that the cruise ship impaled a fin whale on the ship's bow while in Alaskan waters (photo below). The whale was a female fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus). Princess claimed that the whale was already dead when the cruise ship hit her.

Of those whale-strikes which are reported, it is quite usual for the dead whale to be noticed only when it is brought into a port on the bow of a large ship as indicated on this comprehensive report published by the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Marine Fisheries Service..

Top: Rex Features / Telegraph U.K.

Bottom: LT Rene Torres, USCGR

Dead Whale - Cruise Ship

Lawsuit: MSC Crew Member Sexually Assaults 12 Year Old Child

MSC DivinaA lawsuit filed suit last week against MSC Cruises (USA) Inc., and MSC Crociere SA, alleges that a MSC crew member, identified as Rudy Samuel Santos Hernandez, sexually assaulted and battered a 12-year-old child on the MSC cruise ship.

According to the Florida Record, which reports on filing in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, the lawsuit against MSC and its crew member alleges:

"that on Feb. 14, 2016, [plaintiff] and his 12-year-old granddaughter were aboard MSC Cruises for a seven-night Caribbean cruise. Defendant Hernandez allegedly took advantage of the situation as he observed the minor enter the empty cabin, which she shared with her grandfather, legal guardian and plaintiff."

According to the lawsuit, the crew member used his service key to "enter the room where he sexually assaulted and physically battered the minor." The incident is alleged to have occurred aboard the MSC Divina.

The family is represented by Jason Margulies and Carol Finklehoffe here in Miami.

Sexual crimes against children on cruises are hardly rare. I have written about it here many times. 

Over six years ago, I wrote:

"The number one crime we see on cruise ships is when the parents stay out late at the disco or casino, and they leave their 12 year old son or 14 year old daughter alone in the cabin. Many kids get tired after a fun day at the pool or after an excursion ashore, and they don't want to go to the second seating at dinner. There are far too many cases where the cabin attendants will use their key card to access the cabin when the parents are away."

We have recommended that the cruise lines deactivate the key cards of crew members after hours so they can't use them to get into the passenger cabins, using female cabin attendants rather than 25 year old males, or assigning supervisors to monitor the passenger cabins. Most cruise lines have ignored these recommendations.

Cruise lines like MSC Cruises typically do not perform independent background checks on their housekeeping and wait staff before they are hired. Read: Perverts, Child Predators and Cruise Ships

Photo credit: By Mllturro - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Another Brawl Breaks Out on a Carnival Fun Ship

Carnival Cruise BrawlThe popular Crew Center website reports today on a fight which broke out on a recent Carnival cruise. In a blog titled Chairs Start Flying in Brawl on Cruise Ship, Crew Center says that:

"Irie Namma captured a video (posted on YouTube and posted below) of a fight at Lido deck restaurant on cruise ship. The incident started with a group of man and women arguing next to the buffet line. From the video you can see a man throwing chair at the opposite group, hitting one lady in blue dress. Cruise ship security reacted fast and with help of other passengers managed to break up the brawl."

I first wrote about violence like this on cruise ships back in an article titled Cruise Ship Brawls - A Problem that Will Get Bigger with Bigger Ships.  As Carnival Chairman Micky Arison acknowledged years ago, “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.”

The negative, of course, is what see in the video. From year to year, we will occasionally post videos of violence on cruise ships, like this bar fight: More Cruise Ship Violence - A Drunken Brawl On Carnival's Dream.

As the Crew Center sites points out, this the third cruise ship fight in 16 days, all involving Carnival cruise ships. Carnival, however, doesn't hold a monopoly on ship violence, as this video of a fight aboard a NCL ship points out.  

Photo and Video credit: Irie Namma YouTube 

Portuguese Air Force Medevacs Passenger from Mein Schiff 1

Main Schiff 1 MedevacThe Portuguese Air Force reports that yesterday, it rescued a passenger from the Mein Schiff 1 cruise ship, about 100 kilometers northwest of Montijo. The passenger, an 80 years old German woman, needed urgent medical attention, according to the official site of the Estado Maior da Força Aérea (EMFA).

The 751 Squadron at the Montija Air Base (approximately 35 kilometers from Lisbon) was alerted at around 9:00 P.M. After the rescue, the patient was transported to the Transit Aerodrome 1 in Figo Maduro, who transferred the woman to St. Joseph's Hospital in Lisbon..

In total, the medevac lasted until 2:05 A.M. This year, the EMFA states that it has rescued 20 people on ships and conducted about 98 hours of flight time under this type of mission. 

Portugal does not have the equivalent of a Coast Guard like the U.S. Instead, the country has a special unit in its Air Force for emergency evacuation cases.

Thanks to António Costa from Portugal who brought this rescue to our attention. 

Video Credit: Força Aérea Portuguesa YouTube

 

 

Rhapsody of the Seas Damaged Again During Storm

Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas was damaged after it encountered a storm early this morning during a cruise.

A dozen large windows in the Viking Crown Lounge were reportedly broken, as you can see in a video posted to YouTube. Several panes of glass are also missing from the pool deck.

Passengers reported that the ship heavily listed during the storm.

The ship is the middle of a ten day round trip cruise from Venice. It is currently sailing a sea day and is scheduled to arrive in Santorini tomorrow, assuming its itinerary does not change.

The Rhapsody of the Seas was last damaged by a storm on April 25th of this year. A wave struck the cruise ship early in the morning, breaking the windows of five passenger cabins on deck three, injuring cruise passengers and partially flooding the cabins on deck two and three. We received photographs suggesting that the windows in the passenger cabins were poorly maintained.

Video credit: Heather Barrett YouTube 

A passenger aboard the cruise ship sent photos of the damage which you can see on our Facebook page.  A passenger also sent a video of water cascading down the main stairwell as passengers come up the stairs holding their life vests, around 5:00 A.M.

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

 

 

U.S. Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger from Carnival Dream

The Defense Video Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) reports that yesterday the Coast Guard medevaced a 71-year-old female passenger from a Carnival cruise ship near the Southwest Pass, Louisiana.

The crew of the Carnival Dream notified the Coast Guard that the female was suffering from signs of severe respiratory distress.

Video by Petty Officer 3rd Class Alexandria Preston U.S. Coast Guard District 8.

Lifeboat Accident on Harmony of the Seas Kills One and Injures Several Others

Newspapers in France are reporting that one crew member has been killed and four other crew members were injured after a lifeboat fell from the Harmony of the Seas, which was docked in Marseilles, France.

According to 20 Minutes newspaper, 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. The newspaper reports that two of the crew members injured are in critical condition. The deceased crew members is reportedly a Filipino citizen.

Several years ago, the trade organization Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) announced that Harmony of the Seascruise lines were prohibited 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 this year, 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 this year, 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.

It is currently unknown whether a cable broke or whether the lowering mechanism malfunctioned or was performed incorrectly. 

Several years ago, Cruise Critic published an article: Lifeboat Tragedy: Did Cruise Line Ignore Safety Guidelines? It quotes an expert on lifeboat drills: "Alan Graveson, Senior International Secretary of Nautilus the U.K.-based seafarers' union, said: "I issued instructions seven years ago that preferably nobody should be in the lifeboat during a safety drill, and if that's not possible then there should be a maximum of two people. We also contacted Captain Ben Lyons, who has sailed as an officer on both larger mega-ships and smaller expedition ships, to get an insider's perspective on the incident. "Lifeboat drills are almost invariably considered one of the most dangerous parts of life at sea for a cruise," he told us in an e-mail. "There is a strong sentiment amongst many seafarers that lifeboats (through drills) have killed and injured many more people than they have saved."

CLIA has removed the language of the policy from its website, but you can review a cached version here ("Under this policy, for safety considerations, the loading of lifeboats for training purposes is to be performed only while the boat is waterborne and the boat should be lowered and raised with only the lifeboat crew onboard.") 

September 15 2016 Update: Nautiluc International UNION CALLS FOR RADICAL ACTION AFTER ANOTHER LIFEBOAT ACCIDENT.

Photo Credit: By kees torn - UNION BEAR , Harmony of the Seas & EN AVANT 20.

Passenger Goes Overboard from Sapphire Princess

Sapphire PrincessThe Shanghai Daily newspaper reports today that a cruise passenger went overboard from Princess Cruises' Sapphire Princess cruise ship this weekend after the ship departed from Shanghai and was heading to Japan.

The newspaper says that the the woman last seen at 7 P.M. on Saturday.

The newspaper further states that the woman was confirmed missing at 9:15 P.M. Sunday night. A "surveillance camera (reportedly) showed she jumped into sea from the public area on the 15th deck of the Sapphire Princess on 10:28pm on Saturday, Princess Cruises China is quoted saying. This means that, in all probability, the cruise ship was not equipped with an automatic man overboard system, requiring the security team to manually reviewed the surveillance footage after-the-fact.  It took almost 24 hours after the passenger disappeared for Princess to realize that she had gone overboard from the cruise ship. 

The popular Cruise Hive website states that the woman was a "67-year-old female guest" aboard the cruise ship. 

Princess Cruises last lost a passenger overboard from one of its cruise ships in May of this year when a man disappeared fro the Coral Princess

A passenger drowned and a child nearly drowned on the Sapphire Princess in the past two years.  

Photo credit: By Spaceaero2 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Viking Freya River Cruise Ship Strikes Bridge, Kills Two Officers

Viking FreyaA number of German newspapers are reporting that the Viking Freya struck a rail bridge, last night, crushing the wheelhouse and killing two officers who were navigating the ship. The ship came to rest under the rail bridge and a pedestrian bridge which paralleled the rail bridge.

The river cruise ship had just left the town of Erlangen on its way to the Hungarian capital of Budapest, and was operating on the main Danube Canal at night when the accident occurred. The accident reportedly occurred at 1:30 A.M.

The dead officers were a 49-year-old who was at the helm of the vessel and a 33-year-old man. 

Photographs taken after the accident show that the wheelhouse was completely obliterated in the impact with the bridge.

The Blick ama Abend newspaper indicates that that the two crew members who were killed were Hungarians. The ship is operated by Viking River Cruises AG.

The wheelhouse can be lowered when the Viking Freya encounters low bridges, as seen in this YouTube video, and then raised after it goes under the bridge.

There were reportedly 181 passengers and 47 other crew members on the ship at the time. No other injuries or casualties were reported.

Photo credits: Top © Nicolas Armer/dpa via Stern; Bottom UPI via Blick am a Bend.

Viking Freya

NCL Crew Member Goes Overboard from Norwegian Pearl During Alaskan Cruise

NCL - Norwegian DawnSeveral people have informed us that a NCL crew member went overboard yesterday from the Norwegian Pearl  during a cruise returning from Alaska. 

The Norwegian Pearl is on an eight day "Glacier Bay cruise" which started on September 4, 2016 and ends on September 11th, in Seattle.  

The woman reportedly was employed for two contracts for NCL. 

This evening, the Juneau Empire published an article saying that a passenger went overboard from the Norwegian Pearl cruise ship in the Lynn Canal, according to an Alaska State Trooper spokesman. I believe this account to be in error as several NCL crew members indicate that the woman was a crew member and not a passenger. 

The Sitka Sentinel reported that the woman was reported missing from the Norwegian Pearl at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday when she was noticed to be absent from her cabin. NCL security personnel later looked at CCTV which revealed that she had gone overboard while the vessel was under-way. 

The Coast Guard in Sitka launched a helicopter and the station in Juneau launched the 45-foot Coast Guard Cutter Liberty yesterday.  These searches were reportedly suspended today. 

The woman's Facebook page this evening has many photographs and comments posted from her friends commemorating her life. Her friends describe her as a loved, cheerful and vibrant young woman. 

We are withholding publishing her name, job position and her nationality pending confirmation that her family is aware of the situation. 

Other NCL crew members have disappeared from cruise ships in the past couple of years. 

A woman went overboard several days ago from the Carnival Ecstasy as it was sailing near the Bahamas during its return cruise to Charleston, South Carolina. The U.S. Coast Guard just ended it's search today after a considerable effort for the past two days, and after considerable publicity.

This is the 277th person to go overboard from a cruise ship since 2000, according to cruise expert professor Ross Klein

September 10 2016 Update: NCL crew members says that according to the ship's security officer, they were looking for her all over the cruise ship when she couldn't be located in her cabin. NCL sent out the rescue boat to search for her.  She apparently left a note in her cabin. 

Public media KTOO reports provides this additional information: "The 25-year-old woman, identified only as a Columbian national, disappeared from the vessel about 1:40 a.m. Thursday while it was in Lynn Canal between Funter Bay and Point Retreat. It’s not clear if the woman jumped or simply fell overboard. The woman was not discovered as missing until 5 a.m. Thursday morning as the Norwegian Pearl was approaching Glacier Bay. Alaska State Troopers are investigating the incident."

Photo Credit: By Captain-tucker - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Propulsion Problem Causes Carnival Legend to Tilt

Carnival LegendLast Monday I received messages from a crew member friend on the Carnival Legend who said: "im on carnival legend / just as we are almost arriving in victoria canada 6:30 pm, local time, the ship experience a heavy swing towards the side / lots of things fell of in my cabin and for a second got scared then they made an announcement that there was a problem with an azipod on the stb side that caused that and nobody should be concerned and we will be on our way but the speed went down a lot was a bit scary but they say everything is fine  . . . / going very slow arriving late in victoria canada, all shore excursions are canceled." 

A few days later, I received an email from a passenger who described the listing incident as follows:

"I recently finished a one-week Alaska cruise out of Seattle from Tuesday, August 23 to Tuesday, August 30. All went well until the last evening. In accordance with the itinerary, the ship was headed to a final port of call evening at Victoria, BC.

At about 6:00 pm on Monday (August 29, 2016), I was sitting with a friend in a lounge when we felt the shop tilt and stay tilted. A few cups & napkins began sliding off tables. Looking out the windows near
to where we were seated, we could see only the upper sky. When I looked across the lounge to the windows on the other of the ship, all I could see was water, the sea, as though it were a wall facing us!

This tilt occurred while the ship was still traveling at speed, which made the sensation worse.

After about a moment the captain, one Captain Gazzano, addressed the passengers by the public address system. His command of English was so poor that I could only understand 2 or 3 words of what he said: propeller, engine, disengaged.

Immediately after the captain's address, the cruise director, Jaimie Dee, spoke over the public address system. She was superb, essentially re-saying in comprehensible English what the captain had tried to say.

After about 3 or 4 minutes, the ship was righted and slowed its speed.

As I was leaving the lounge to go to the second seating dinner, passengers was leaving the restaurant from the first seating. Some were chatting about the incident, saying that the plates sliding off the table was what made them frightened. I myself saw four or five cakes slide right out of the refrigerated display case in the lounge where I was seated during the incident.

After the ship was righted, the captain addressed the passengers once more as I recollect, perhaps twice. And again, immediately after the captain spoke, the cruise director spoke to re-state clearly what the captain had tried to say.

Apart from the frightening aspects of the mechanical failure, the inability of the captain to address the passengers in basic English was deplorable."

A reader sent also me a jink to a YouTube video taken by a passenger on the Carnival Legend at the time of the incident. He writes on YouTube: 

"Watch the water flow from the pools aboard the Carnival Legend. There was a failure in the ships propulsion system about an hour and a half away from Victoria, British Columbia on Sunday, August 28th, 2016 at around 6:00 pm PST. The ship started to list heavily to the port side. I just happened to be in the area when it happened. Instead if panicking, I decided to film it!"

Wikipedia, strangely enough, already has this description of the incident:

"On August 29, 2016 at approximately 6:15 pm PT while sailing to Victoria, British Columbia, the turning valve in one of the ship's four engines failed, causing the ship to make a hard starboard turn and listed 30 degrees to the port side, only 10 degrees away from capsizing the vessel. This caused hundreds of dishes to fall over and break and caused both pools to drain out and items to be thrown off the deck. Passengers were directed by crew members to all stand on the left side of the ship to even out the listing. Captain Giuseppe Gazzano had to manually control the ship towards Victoria. There were no reported serious injuries but the ship arrived at Victoria two hours behind schedule." 

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September 3 2016 Update: Ship Tilts Cause Concern - Malfunctions In Auto-pilot Cited In Some Reports (prior incidents) via Sun Sentinel in 2006.

September 4 2016 Update: Other videos of the listing were posted by passengers on YouTube; credit Randy Gibbs YouTube page and Nate Kosch YouTube pages.

We recently received a longer explanation of what happened from another passenger on the cruise ship, who said, in part: 

"Towards the end of dinner we heard a ve loud mechanical noise and the ship began to shake violently. The ship then went into a sharp turn. The ship then began to list. I had figured since the seas were so calm it was likely an evasive maneuver to avoid hitting something. I had told my wife to brace for a possible impact. However, the ship continued to turn and continued to list at a greater degree and you could see the water line come up to the window. The entire ship made a creaking sound. We were seated at the aft port side of the dining room and had a good view. Glasses and plates began to fall and shatter. Then a Carnival crew member yelled out for everyone at dinner to get to the starboard side of the ship. My wife and I had already started to do so. The direction was the correct one so no criticism there, but the alarm in the crew member's voice was disconcerting. My wife then said we had to find the kids that she did not want them to be alone. We knew that both were with their kids clubs and where they were. We, and hundreds of others, left the Truffles dining room, there was some panic and shoving but overall not too bad under the circumstances. I had advised my wife to exit bygoing through the waiters serving area on the starboard side of the dining room. I did so for two reasons, one it was as far starboard as we could go, but if the ship tipped to its side, it would give us a barrier so we wouldn't slide across the width of the ship. Right before we stabilized into a stable port side list, it did feel as
though the ship may tip over. In fact, one woman yelled out, "my god we are going to tip over." We made our way out of the dining room somewhat consistently stepping on broken dishware and food. We went
up the stairs. On the third deck, many people had already began assembling at their muster stations, one crew member was directing people to do so. However, the general alarm had not sounded and we
were not going to the muster station without our kids

We made our way to the lido deck (deck nine) where my son was. He stated that they were all advised to go to the starboard side of the ship and did so, but that his counselor had left. He said he was not scared, but hugged us so we know he was. He said he was on his way to get his sister and then the muster station. We were most concerned about her since she was playing mini golf on an open deck
with her group. It was at this time, the captain got on the PA system and announced that, "nothing has happened," to which several passengers responded with expletives.

We were able to get to deck ten and find my daughter, she was visibly very upset. My daughter's counselor was about to take the children to their muster station and had prepared them for what to
expect. We were able to speak with my daughter and her friends afterwards. She had directed all on the deck to the starboard side. She originally advised the kids it was only a sharp turn, but at some point yelled out, "oh s--t." I can't blame her for her choice of words but again it underscored that the crew was alarmed. Two of the kids had stumbled while on the way to the starboard side. One fell into the net roping off the basketball court, one slide part way down the deck. The basketball and several golf balls went over the side of the deck. Shortly thereafter, the ship had been stabilized and was now slightly listing to the starboard side, likely a slight overcompensation. We spoke to one of our daughter's friend's parents
later. They were on the first floor, their room was completely underwater. (There is at least one deck below deck one where there are crew quarters). They had put on their life vests and headed to their
muster station. I have travelled extensively by sea and air and have never seen anything like this before.

Before we got underway later that evening, we went to guest services for an explanation. By the time we were done we had gotten four different ones, that it was the stabilizers, it was the propulsion system, it was the steering system, and finally that nothing had really happened. They advised nothing like this had ever happened before, but we later found out that this has happened at least once prior on the Carnival Legend. They were unapologetic and unmoved. They denied that any crew members directed people to their muster stations. This was simply not true. We called Carnival again today. We received a similar response. The representative said they really can't do anything about it because everyone on the ship was affected. We received no explanation, no apology, and were informed we would not receive a follow-up phone call from anyone. There would simply be too many people to call. It is as though they want to cover it up. Perhaps the situation was not as bad as believed at the time. In reading, apparently this happens from time to time. However, generally it is a weather event which this was not. Rarely it is
significant mechanical failure which this appeared to be. A listing of only 14% can cause dishes and plates to fall and shatter and apparently a cruise ship can sustain up to a 40% before it capsizes. Nonetheless it was pretty scary at the time and we were shaken . . .  

. . . Only Carnival can manage to have an incident in near perfect weather and seas. It would have been more understandably if it was the weather . . ."

September 5 2018 Update: The listing incident was picked up by CHEK media in Canada: Pools drain, dishes fly in cruise ship incident near Victoria.  The Times-Colonist also published: Passengers ‘freaked out’ after cruise ship lists 30 degrees near Victoria.

Photo credit: By Robertsrules - Own work, CC BY 3.0.

Video credit: Jerry Janes YouTube 

 

 

CEO Del Rio Buys $3,000,000 Worth of NCLH Stock

The Securities and Exchange Exchange Commission reported this past week that the president & CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd ("NCLH"), Frank Del Rio, bought 83,498 shares of NCLH at an average price of $35.94 a share. (Photo below, right, during interview on CNBC).

The transaction took place on on August 31, 2016.  The total cost of cruise stock purchased was $3 million. 

The price of the stock decreased to $35.61 by the end of the week. It is at a 52 week low. 

It was widely reported earlier last month that NCL had slashed its earnings forecast for this year and announced that it would miss its profit target for next year, because of "continued weak demand" for European travel, Brexit's impact on the pound, and some U.S. consumers reconsidering Frank Del Rio NCLMediterranean cruises following ISIS-inspired violence worldwide.

Analysts say that its been a "choppy year" for the cruise industry in general, and for shares of Norwegian Cruise Line in particular. NCLH stock reportedly "retreated to levels last seen in mid-2014." Frank Del Rio's $3 million cruise stock purchase, according to Wolfe Research analyst Jared Shojaian, is "the largest open market purchase by a cruise-line executive in history."

Bloomberg says that Del Rio is attempting to demonstrate confidence in NCL to "sail through choppy waters."

It is a move similar to Royal Caribbean's Chairman Richard Fain who bought 29,190 shares of RCL stock, in a series of trades for an average of $68.5161 per share, worth nearly $2,000,000. Cruise executive Fain made the transaction shortly after his cruise line's stock price dropped substantially following the release of Royal Caribbean's second quarter earnings. But in Fain's case, unlike Del Rio's, the cruise stock quickly bounced back over 6.5 %, earning the cruise executive a one-day profit of around $140,000. 

Del Rio certainly has boatloads of money to buy stock. In 2015, he received almost $32,000,000 in total executive compensation.

The SEC states that he directly and indirectly holds 919,173 worth of his cruise line stock. The SEC forms reveal he owns 451,171 shares directly. He indirectly owns 27,875 shares through a family trust and the SEC forms state that he indirectly holds 304,373 and 135,754 shares through investment limited liability corporations.  The total shares are worth over $34,000,000 at the current depressed stock prices. The Norwegian Cruise Line stock price hit a high last year of $64.27 a share which, at that price, would be worth a total of nearly $60,000,000 to Del Rio.

It's no wonder that cruise passengers freak out when NCL nickel and dimes them with room service charges, increased gratuties and high-end restaurant cover charges.

Yes, cruise executives pocket an obscene anount of money. It's funny money, I say, at a time when crew members are working harder and longer than ever before for less and have no job security.  

Interested in "fat cat" cruise executives? Read Andy Stuart - No Wonder He's Smiling (NCL), Micky Arison Sells $433,700,000 Worth of Carnival Stock (CCL), and Cruise Executive Richard Fain Hits the Jackpot Again (RCL). 

Photo Credit: CNBC

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Drug Bust Reveals Flaws in Cruise Ship Security

Cruise Ship Drug BustThe widely reported drug bust of three passengers this week on the Sea Princess cruise ship in Australia uncovered serious shortcomings in Princess Cruises' shipboard security.  

We have written about dozens of drug busts of relatively small quantities of cocaine on cruise ships over the years.  But 95 kilos (over 209 lbs.!) of cocaine seems to be hard to believe.  Many people have expressed their opinions that this must have been an inside job (we have no proof of this), given the use of screening equipment on cruise ships.  But some people have questioned whether the drugs were loaded onto the ship along with food and provisions and then transferred to the passengers to be smuggled off the ship in their luggage.

If the shipboard security team wasn't involved, they obviously need to enforce far better protocols to carefully screen baggage and items brought onboard the ship.    

IHS Fairplay published an article today saying that the drug bust "highlights the ability for more sinister items to be smuggled onto vessels."  In an article titled Drugs Find Highlights Cruise Security Threat, Fairplay says that "cruise companies were taking, and continue to take, security seriously but that the incident had to act as a wake-up call to revisit current systems." It quoted Gerry Northwood, a principal of the international maritime security company MAST, explaining that cruise passengers don't face the Cruise Ship Drug Bustsame restrictions as air travelers.

Northwood also warns that "If a terrorist were to secrete an explosive device inside a consignment of food, it is possible that the explosion would likely happen below the water line with obvious implications for the vessel and the safety of the passengers and crew.”

Commander Mark Gaouette, the former security head of Cunard and Princess Cruises, said in an interview today that the cruise industry should be concerned with the possibility of a terrorist group masterminding a gigantic conflagration on a ship. He cites the 2004 attack by an Islamic terrorist group which planted just eight kilograms of TNT in a cardboard box aboard the Superferry 14 in the Philippines.  The resulting fire and explosion killed over a hundred passengers and sank the ferry. 

Commander Gaouette is the author of Cruising for Trouble, Cruise Ships As Soft Targets for Pirates, Terrorists and Common Criminals

Photo credit: Top - Department of Immigration and Border Protection via Sydney Morning Herald; bottom - Jonathan Ng via the Daily Telegraph.  

 

Carnival Vista Swamps Piers and Boats in Messina, Sicily

According to several passengers on the Carnival Vista, the cruise ship swamped piers and many smaller boats moored there yesterday afternoon when leaving the port of Messina, Sicily.

We were contacted and told about the mishap today. The port of Messina has a protective industrial zone in the shape of a reverse shaped "C" for large vessels and cruise ships.  At the entrance/exit of the port, there are piers (at 10:00 o'clock, in the left upper corner of the photo to the right) which provide mooring and protection for smaller boats. You can see a close up here. While the Vista was leaving port, it came perilously close to the piers and the thrust from its stern created a turmoil which turned over the piers and swamped smaller moored vessels, sinking several of the boats. 

The damage to the piers was so severe that some of the passengers thought that the Vista must have hit the piers and boats.

The passengers stated that it was a "beautiful, sunny and calm day" when the accident occurred.

I am assuming that a local pilot may have been on-board at the time, although it is less than clear who was in control of the cruise ship when it damaged the piers and boats. There were reportedly no announcements afterward from the captain regarding what happened. According to these passengers, the Vista "didn't stop and we were slightly delayed out of port."  

A number of Italian newspapers published articles today, saying that the local port authority is conducting an investigation regarding the incident. One newspaper reports that the Vista caused damage to two concrete piers and sank several boats "under the astonished gaze of several citizens." This newspaper further states that "for a moment, it was feared that the situation could escalate and that the same cruise ship might not be able to straighten the course and regain the open sea." 

You can watch dramatic video of the Vista as it swamped the piers and boats in an article by the Italian newspaper Gazzetta del Sud which we posted to our Facebook page. 

The photo below is from the Tempostretto.  The Dream Blog Cruise Magazine has posted the video below, with a credit to Gazzetta del Sul: 

Update: An Italian newspaper says that that there was reportedly 250,000 euros in damage caused by the Carnival ship due to "two piers destroyed, one beyond repair, a number of ancillary facilities (such as anchor lines of the boats) damaged, a pilot of the mooring sunk and another dozen small boats in poor condition." 

August 30 2016 Update:  Another Italian newspaper accurately characterized the waves generated by the Vista as "a small tsunami," which trampled two wharves and boats moored at Marina del Nettuno.

September 4 2016 Update: You can see another video of the incident here, from the Facebook page of Ships of Messina, showing another angle of the disaster caused by the Vista's wake.

Here's a video showing the correct way for the Carnival Vista to leave the port of Messina.

September 10 201:Update: Here's a video taken from a passenger aboard the cruise ship, showing another angle of the incident. Video credit: Loiue Old YouTube.

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

Carnival Vista

95 Kilo Cruise Ship Cocaine Bust in Sydney Harbor

Sea Princess Multiple news sources are reporting that today, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) arrested three cruise ship passengers who were smuggling 95 kilos (over 209 lbs.) of cocaine into the port in Sydney, Australia. 

SkyNews says that the AFP arrested a 63-year-old man and two women, age 23 and 28, after Australian police with sniffer dogs searched the cruise ship when it berthed in Sydney and found cocaine in their suitcases.

The newspaper reports that the US Department of Homeland Security Investigations, New Zealand Customs Service and the Canada Border Services Agency cooperated with the AFP and Australian Border Force in making the drug bust.

Although none of the newspapers identified the cruise ship on which the passengers smuggled the cocaine, the only cruise ship berthing in the Sydney Harbor today was the Sea Princess.

August 29 2016 Update: The Sydney Morning Herald confirms that the cruise ship was the Sea Princess. "The seized drugs have an estimated street value of $31 million (Australian, $23 million U.S.) and this is the largest drug bust of its type on board a cruise ship. Three passengers Andre Tamine, 63, Isabelle Lagace, 28, and Melina Roberce, 22, were charged with importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment . . . The Sea Princess docked in Sydney on Sunday morning on the final stages of a 66-day world tour. The ship began the cruise in Britain at the start of July and visited Canada, the United States, parts of South America, including Colombia and Peru, and Auckland before arriving in Sydney."

October 30 2016 Update: Okay, the record drug bust story just got weirder.  Vice's Quebec Women Charged in Massive Coke Smuggling Bust Documented Whole Trip on Instagram.

Photo Credit: Sea Princess in Sydney By Bahnfrend - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Cruise Passengers Injured in Jeep Safari Accident in Antigua

A newspaper in Antigua reports that a safari jeep excursion vehicle filled with cruise passengers flipped on its side in a road accident last week.

The newspaper reports that nine cruise passengers, consisting of six U.S. passengers and three German passengers, were riding in the back of the open air jeep. The injured were reportedly treated at the Mount St. John’s Medical Centre in Antigua. 

The newspaper says that the jeep was attempting to overtake a tractor when the driver of the safari jeep swerved to avoid oncoming traffic, causing it to flip on its side.

Antigua Safari Jeep AccidentThe passengers were reportedly from Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas

The safari jeep was reportedly operated by Tropical Adventures in Antigua.

It is currently unknown whether this was an independent excursion or whether it was sold and booked through the cruise line. 

There have been a number of excursion accidents involving passengers from Royal Caribbean and its sister company, Celebrity Cruises, over the last many years.  

Last January of this year, one passenger from the Independence of the Seas was killed and a half-dozen passengers were injured in a collision, between an excursion bus and a truck near Falmouth, Jamaica. We are representing the family of the deceased passenger and several injured passengers. 

Last December, two Celebrity passengers from the Summit were killed and 16 other passengers were injured on an excursion bus transporting cruise tourists to an excursion in Tortola, British West Indies.

In July 2012, Royal Caribbean cruise passengers from the Freedom of the Seas cruise ship were involved in a serious accident heading to an excursion in St. Martin.

In January 2012, a cruise sponsored open safari bus excursion from Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas cruise ship crashed in St. Thomas, resulting in injuries to cruise passengers.

In February 2009, a dozen passengers from Celebrity Cruises' Summit cruise ship 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. Information on the Dominica excursion accident is contained in an article "Injured Visitors to Dominica Airlifted to Miami."

Photo Credit: Antigua Observer 

Screwing Filipinos & Imprisoning Lawyers: Seafarers "Protection Act" Protects Cruise Line Employers

Filipinos are the most mistreated seafarers on the high seas. They work long hours every single day on tankers and cargo & cruise ships far away from their families for long periods of time for little money.   

When Filipino crew members are injured and disabled in accidents or due to the cumulative trauma caused by harsh long term work conditions, Filipinos are required to return home and accept the minimal payments outlined in a modest schedule of benefits published by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). The skimpy benefits pale in comparison to compensation awards in the U.S. They are an embarrassment to the labor agency and employers of any civilized country.  

As you can see, a standard POEA employment contract  limits a maimed crew members who, for example, loses his or her entire hand, by amputation between the wrist and elbow joint, in a gruesome work-related accident, to a total maximum benefit of only $29,480. Such a paltry amount hardly compensates the crew member for his past and future lost wages, pain and suffering, mental anguish and disfigurement for the rest of his life.

Under the POEA, death benefits are as little as $50,000 plus $7,000 for each minor child, not Filipino Seafarerexceeding four in total. So the surviving family members of a crew member with two children killed at sea by the gross negligence of a cruise line employer receive a total payment of $65,000 including a nominal payment of $1,000 toward the family's funeral and burial expenses.

Once a crew member or or their families receive a death or disability payment, they waive the right to file a claim against the cruise line employer and operator of the cruise line. This is in violation of the International Labor Organization (ILO).

Such low payments trivialize the worth of a Filipino life. It is an insignificant if not meaningless amount in the eyes of the billion dollar, non-tax paying U.S. based cruise industry. Compare, for example, the money collected by the far cat cruise executives here in Miami (like NCL executive Frank Del Rio who collected over $31,000,000 in 2015).  A common thought of a cruise line risk adjuster or P&I representative when a davit fails and a lifeboat from a cruise ship falls several stories into the sea is that it's cheaper to have a Filipino aboard who's killed than any other nationality.  

Further injustice occurs when crew members suffer from ill health such as high blood pressure, heart problems and other sicknesses caused by the stress of hard work and long working hours. Manning agencies and cruise line employers are increasingly refusing to acknowledge that the injuries and illness suffered by crew members are "work-related," a requirement for the payment of such benefits. Crew members must submit to an examination of a single doctor, retained by the employer, who often assign a low impediment percentage, resulting in a minimal benefit, or claim that the illness pre-existed the crew member's shipboard work, resulting in no payment.  Company doctors are known to work with an eye toward pleasing the employer and its lawyers, at the detriment of the injured seafarer.

Even when a crew member receives an award by the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), maritime employers often choose to appeal the award and seek a deduction.

Several years ago, I wrote about the plight of a Filipino seafarer Lito Asignacion who worked as a Burn Unitsenior engine fitter on board a bulk carrier who sustained serious burns of his abdomen and legs when scalding water overflowed a tank do to unsafe working conditions on the vessel. The crew member underwent extensive and painful medical treatment in the burn units of West Jefferson Medical Center and Baton Rouge General Medical Center in Louisiana, U.S.A.  Asignacion was treated and underwent skin grafting burns of 35% of his body.

Mr. Asignacion thereafter returned to the Philippines where he continued undergoing medical treatment at a number of hospitals and with a number of doctors who performed plastic surgery. He is now unemployed, disabled and scarred for life.

His employer argued that under the POEA, the burned crew member suffered a grade 14 disability which would entitle him to only 3.74% of USD $50,000. 

The Filipino Labor Board agreed and awarded Asignacion just $1,870.

The labor board made a point of stating that the shipping company had offered the disabled crew member $25,000 “out of compassion and generosity," implying that the injured crew member had foolishly rejected the "generous" offer. 

The vindictive labor board also cited language from a prior decision that compensation for serious injured Filipino seafarers is low because Filipino seafarers are perceived as crew members "who complain too much.”

This patronizing and inherently evil sentiment is alive and well in the cruise industry today. Insurance entities like protection & indemnity clubs in the U.K. who are responsible for minimizing payments by its rich shipowner members are taking steps to make it even harder for Filipino crew members to receive reasonable compensation for career-ending injuries and illnesses.

Recently, a claims director at UK P&I Club in a P&I Club publication praised the new Seafarers’ Protection Act. Ironically enough, the new law does not protect the Filipino seafarer from the greedy cruise lines, or the P&I companies and defense lawyers who do their bidding, but targets who UK P&I Clubthe P&I Club villainize as the "ambulance-chasing" lawyers who pursue "spurious claims." 

The claims representative, Tony Nicholson (photo left), argues that the new "Seafarers’ Protection Act is designed to protect Filipino seafarers and their families from the unscrupulous practices of such lawyers and came into force on 21 May 2016. Under the new law, any individual or group - whether lawyers or not - found to be soliciting directly or via agents will be imprisoned for one–two years and/or fined PHP 50,000–100,000 (approximately US$1–2,000)."

The UK P&I Club further proposes permitting maritime employers, which are ordered by arbitration panels to pay benefits to the disabled seafarers, permission not to pay the awards pending an appeal. This will encourage the wealthy employers and cruise lines to place financial pressure on the injured seafarers and force them to accept cheap settlements. 

As the sad case of Lito Asignacion demonstrates, the Filipino labor system already permits maritime employers and their insurance companies to abandon those seafarers who have sacrificed and suffered greatly for their families. Imprisoning lawyers who advocate greater rights for seafarers, and permitting maritime employers to withhold the payments of arbitration awards, make a further mockery of a system which works to protect the rich while screwing the injured and impoverished seafarer. 

August 19 2016 Update:  The Inquirer in Manilla publshed this article as an op-ed titled Seafarer ‘Protection Act’ shields ship owners, not seafarers.

Photo Credit: Top - By Maxime Felder - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia; bottom - UK P&I Club

Caribbean Fantasy Catches on Fire

Caribbean FantasyNews sources are reporting that the Caribbean Fantasy ferry has caught fire after sailing from the Dominican Republic to San Juan, forcing passengers to evacuate the vessel.

The fire reportedly broke out as the Caribbean Fantasy sailed near Puerto Rico's north coast, according to the Mirror

Photographs posted on social media show show the black smoke coming out of the ferry which is operated by the American Cruise Ferries.

Emergency slides can also be seen in the photos leading from the ferry down to the water and an inflatable life boat. It remains unclear how many of the over 500 passengers on the ferry went into lifeboats.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the ferry is reported to have run aground 800 yards off Punta Salinas.

Update: NBC News reports that "Gyno Funes said he was one of two mechanics in the control room when a hose carrying fuel burst open and caught on fire. 'We were trying to extinguish it for two hours, but couldn't,' said the other mechanic, Marlon Doblado, after the two reached shore. The extent of injuries was not immediately clear. Several dozen people who were carried in on stretchers were being treated for dehydration, high blood pressure and respiratory problems from the smoke, said fire department spokesman Juan Vega." 

August 19 2016 Update:  Caribbean Fantasy Detained in 2015 Over Fire Prevention Violation.

Puerto Rico: 105 Injured In Fire on Cruise Ship

September 14 2016 Update: Caribbean Business: Suit: Ferry that caught Fire off San Juan had numerous deficiencies.  "Between 2011 and 2015, the U.S. Coast Guard found at least 107 security deficiencies, of which 44 were related to the fire system used by Caribbean Fantasy, the ferry whose engine caught fire . . . Meanwhile, Caribbean Business received a photo from a source claiming that the vessel’s chief engineer and the oiler suffered severe burns during the accident. The photo purportedly showed the engineer with severe burns. However, the Coast Guard, through its spokesman, Ricardo Castrodad, said American Cruise Ferries did not inform them of anyone suffering burns."

Video credit: Mirror.

Photo credit:  @PRPDNoticias/twitter via Mirror.

Paul Gauguin Cruise Ship Loses Propulsion in Bora Bora

Paul GauguinThe Paul Gauguin cruise ship reportedly lost propulsion and has been stuck in Bora Bora for the last several days, according to an article in Cruise Critic.

The popular online cruise community publication says that "Paul Gauguin has been stuck in Bora Bora for the past several days because of a propulsion issue, which interrupted its Society Island itinerary but didn't affect ship services for passengers."

A technician from France is supposedly meeting the cruise ship and the ship may sail as early as today.

In the last three months, there have been as many as seven occasions, including this one, where a cruise ship lost power and/or propulsion. The Thomson Celebration, Carnival-owned Fathom's Adonia, Carnival Elation, the expedition cruise ship Ortelius, Viking Sea and Caribbean Princess all lost power and/or propulsion.

Photo credit: By DonFilipo at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain.

Crystal Serenity Cruises Into Uncharted Waters

Crystal SerenityToday, the largest cruise ship ever to try and navigate the NorthWest Passage is sailing from Seward, Alaska in an effort to reach New York via Canada and Greenland.

Much has been written about the environmental damage which will be caused by the Crystal Serenity over the nearly 1,000 mile journey.  The Telegraph published an article titled The world's most dangerous cruise? 1,070-capacity ship takes on the Northwest Passage. Much has also been written about the environmental hazards which the Crystal cruise ship will face.  

The Telegraph writes that the NorthWest Passage is "not a defined route but a labyrinth of possible waterways, just 10 per cent of which has been charted. Unknown rocks, shallows and currents will present constant challenges. So will sea ice."

The Telegraph also reminds us that "things have gone wrong in the past. In 2010 it took a Canadian icebreaker 40 hours to evacuate just 120 passengers from the 330 ft Clipper Adventurer when it ran aground on an underwater cliff." 

As a history major, I tend to look back in time to determine the likelihood of things going wrong in the future.  I wrote about the Clipper Adventurer hitting what was described as an "uncharted rock" back in 2010. One commentator remarked that "the problem is cruise ships want to go off the safe shipping lanes where there is more dramatic topography or stunning wildlife." 

Of course, cruise ships have hit rocks and run aground even in the best of weather and sea conditions. Putting the Costa Concordia showboating disaster aside, in 2007 the Sea Diamond cruise ship struck a reef and eventually sank in good weather off the coast of Santorini. The Windstar Cruises' Star Pride hit underwater rocks near Isla de Coiba, Panama, and NCL's Norwegian Dawn hit a reef near the port shortly after leaving Bermuda. The last two incidents occurred in good weather last year.   

The most infamous incident occurred back in 2007 when the Explorer (photo right) was sailing in the Explorericy waters of the Antarctic Ocean and hit an unidentified submerged object, reported to be ice, which caused a gash in the vessel's hull. The Explorer had intended to trace the route of 20th century explorer Ernest Shackleton through the Drake Passage. The Explorer sank and all 91 passengers, 9 guides and 54 crew were evacuated and drifted for 5 hours in lifeboats before they were rescued. The sinking fortunately happened in good weather, permitting a safe rescue.  

In 2010, the 100 passenger cruise ship Clelia II averted disaster after it scrapped underwater rocks and began to take on water in the Antarctica Peninsula.  

In 2013, I wrote about a series of cruise ships striking underwater rocks in the Fjords of Norway.

Just yesterday, I wrote about the recent sinking of an excursion vessel carrying 23 passengers from the small, luxury cruise ship, L’Austral (operated by Compagnie du Ponant), near Ilulissat Icefjord, Greenland which apparently struck an underwater rock or iceberg. The incident received little media attention, notwithstanding the environmental damage and the risk posed to the cruise ship passengers who faced a certain death if they had not been saved. 

The Telegraph says that the Crystal Serenity will be accompanied by the RRS Ernest Shackleton, an icebreaker, and two helicopters "to help scan for ice," so it appears that the cruise line has taken some extra precautions.  

The Arctic cruise, reportedly at a cost of over $20,000 to $120,000 per passenger, plus the cost of the excursions, is a clear money-making deal for Crystal, assuming all goes well. Let's hope that the Ernest Shackleton guides the Serenity safely through the ice and avoids the fate of the Explorer, which is sitting somewhere on the bottom of the Antarctic Ocean.  

Photo: Top - Crystal Cruises via the Telegraph; bottom - AP 

Excursion Vessel in Greenland Sinks, 23 Cruise Passengers Rescued

GreenlandThe Arctic Journal reports that police in Greenland are investigating the cause of a sinking yesterday of a vessel carrying 23 passengers from the small, luxury cruise ship, L’Austral (operated by Compagnie du Ponant).

The articles states that the cruise passengers were on board a "locally hired boat" near Ilulissat Icefjord when it began sinking and had to be rescued by another nearby vessel. The cause of the incident has not been disclosed, although it is suggested that the vessel probably struck an underwater rock or iceberg.  

Ilulissat Icefjord, on the west of Greenland, is listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Cruising the Arctic waters has been the subject of conversation recently. The Crystal Serenity will start its month long cruise on Tuesday through the Arctic. The Serenity will be accompanied by an ice–strengthened polar logistics vessel, RRS Ernest Shackleton, for safety backup, according to a recent article in the Guardian newspaper. The issue remains whether the cruise ship is prepared for what can go wrong in the Arctic.

In June, the Arctic expedition cruise ship Ortelius experienced an engine failure in Hinlopenstretet, near Vaigattøyane (to the east of Greenland) , and had to be towed' back to Longyearbyen. Mishaps when small cruise ships and expedition  vessels strike underwater rocks are not unheard of, and include the Clelia II and the Explorer, which sank in Antarctica.  

August 16 2016 Update: The Arctic Journal identifies the excursion vessel as the "Inuk II, a privately hired boat ferrying passengers from a cruise ship ifIlulissat Sunday night." The updated article contains several dramatic photos of the vessel sinking. "Inuk II, a 39-foot power boat rated to a capacity of 22 passengers, was 100 metres from the L’Austral, a French-flagged luxury expedition ship, when it began taking on water and rapidly sinking." The article also said that in addition to being overcrowded with 23 passengers aboard, the Inuk II struggled to manually release its life rafts, which by that point were submerged but had not released automatically.  "By the time the final cruise passenger left the Inuk II, the water had risen to waist level . . .  An Inuk II crewmember made a final check to make sure all passengers had been evacuated before the securing line was cut in order to prevent the Clane (a fishing vessel involved in the rescue) from being dragged down with the sinking boat."

Photo credit: By Michael Haferkamp - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.  

Chinese Woman Falls From Cruise Ship, Swims for 38 Hours, Rescued

Chinese Woman Fell From Cruise ShipThe People's Daily China, a newspaper in China, reported on the "miraculous' rescue of a thirty-two year old woman from Shanghai, who reportedly fell from a cruise ship. The newspaper tweeted that she reportedly swam for 38 hours and was then rescued by fishermen. 

Earlier today the People's Daily's twitter page @PDChina tweeted:

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