41 Dead, 239 Injured in Terrorist Attack at Airport in Istanbul

Istanbul TerrorTerrorism hit the Atataturk airport in Istanbul last night as three suicide bombers exploded powerful devices that killed and injured a large number of people. The rising number of victims is currently 42 dead and 239 injured. ISIS is suspected as inspiring or directing the attack. 

Cable news repeatedly showed frightening images of massive explosions in a transit lounge as well as a gunman, running into the airport shooting a AK-47 assault weapon, who then is shot by airport security and drops his weapon only to blow his suicide vest up as he lies on the floor.

This latest attack comes on the heels of previous terrorist attacks in Turkey (including two prior attacks in Istanbul this year, including a car bomb earlier this month and a suicide bomber earlier this year as well as deadly car bombs in Ankara this year) which doubtlessly will have the effect of frightening people from traveling or cruising to Turkey. 

A number of newspapers have recently reported that the two terrorists attacks last year in Tunisia (which killed 17 cruise passengers from Costa and MSC cruise ships at the Bardo Museum in Tunis and, later, several dozens of British tourists on holiday at beach resorts in Sousse Tunisia) is Istanbul Terrorcausing the country's tourism industry to struggle. Skift reports that Tunisian tourist revenue was down 35 percent last year, at $1.5 billion, and caused the dinar currency to historic lows against the dollar and euro this month. 

This is bad news for the future of tourism in Turkey. There have been at least eight terror attacks in Turkey dating back a year.  USA TODAY today published an article today which notes that "the string of attacks have caused a big drop in tourism, a major source of revenue for Turkey. Many cruise ships that used to make port calls in Istanbul are bypassing the city."

The U.S. State Department "warns U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey and to avoid travel to southeastern Turkey" (i.e., near Syria). The June 27, 2016 warning, issued the day before the attack, said: ""foreign and U.S. tourists have been explicitly targeted by international and indigenous terrorist organizations."

The CruiseArabia website says that "just two international cruise ships were in Turkish waters at the time of the attack Tuesday, both Wind Star and Royal Caribbean’s ‘Jewel of the Seas’ have continued with their cruise itineraries as planned.

At the time of writing Jewel of the Seas was in port in Kusudasi while Wind Star was anchored off Bodrum. Both Windstar Cruises and Royal Caribbean have refused to comment on whether any additional security has been put in place for passengers on shore excursions in the wake of the attacks."

Photo credit: Top - Fox News; Bottom AP via IndianExpress

Jet Buzzes the Norwegian Breakaway?

Jet Buzzes Norwegian Breakaway?A reader of Cruise Law News sent me a link to a YouTube video which seems to show a jet aircraft flying low and perilously close to the Norwegian Breakaway. 

The video was apparently filmed by a passenger on the cruise ship last Friday, June 24th, and was posted to the YouTube page of Richard Ogle, with this description:

"I have no idea what his intentions were, but I guarantee we all didn't like it. Whoever was the pilot of the Falcon, was either a terrorist who was spying on us, marine training, or a dumbass rich dude who's showing off his new aircraft. I don't know what the true answer is but I know that it wasn't normal and more than likely illegal for anything to be flying that close to a ship, especially 4 times in a row. Either way, nobody was hurt, but most were completely terrified, and I hope everybody is ok. The Video was taken on the Sundeck (Deck18) on the Norwegian Breakaway (NCL) on a 7 day round trip cruise from New York to Bermuda, at 4:30 PM at St. George, Bermuda June 24, 2016."

I initially though that the video was a hoax, but probably just because I have never seen this before.  I have seen some footage of Russian military jets and helicopters buzzing U.S. naval ships over the years but nothing like this involving a cruise ship. One of the few comments to the video suggests that the captain of the cruise ship may have announced that the incident involved "some type of military training operations" but there is no verification of this. 

The jet in question does not appear to be a military airplane, but otherwise this seems to be a scene right out of a Top Gun movie! (" Sorry, Goose, but it's time to buzz the tower!")

Anyone have information about this?  Thanks.

Update: A reader pointed out that Captain Kate MccCue poster a video on instagram of a jet buzzing a Celebrity cruise ship (the Summit) which you can see here.

Update # 2: Answer to the mystery?  A reader posted on our Facebook page that a Bermuda newspaper says that that two military jets have been flying low altitude circuits over Bermuda this evening [June 24] and mentioned "low flying French Air Force Falcon aircraft.” There is apparently a dispute whether the low level flights were authorized by the Department of Civil Aviation in Bermuda. 

Video / Image Credit: Richard Ogle YouTube page.
 

 

Ovation of the Seas, Christened in China - Sign of the Times?

Ovation of the SeasIt was announced on cruise related websites that Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas was christened in China over this past weekend.

The new 4,650 passenger and 1,500 crew member cruise ship arrived in Tianjin, China a few days ago.

The christening was presided over by the first Chinese godmother, Fan Bingbing, who is a Chinese actress, television producer and pop singer who first reached fame via the Chinese television series My Fair Princess and, more recently, in X-Men: Days of Future Past where she plays a mutant. 

Royal Caribbean plans to base the massive cruise ship in Sydney starting in mid-December 2016. 

Royal Caribbean Chairman Richard Fain (photo below) escorted Ms. Bingbing onto the stage for the ceremonies. 

Having a U.S. based cruise line announce such a ceremony in what was once called "communist China" reveals how much the times have changed in the world of cruising and how hard a U.S. based company is catering to the Chinese market.  

Interested in this story?  Read: China, China, China. 

Photo credit:  top kees torn - SMIT ELBE, SD SALVOR, CC BY-SA 2.0

Bottom: via Royal Caribbean International

Fan Bingbing and Richard Fain

"Vacations in No Man's Sea," By Univision & Columbia Journalism School

Today, Univision Noticias and Columbia Journalism School published the results of four months of investigation which resulted in a major multi-media presentation titled Vacations In No Man's Seas - "The billion-dollar cruise industry operates under the laws of the tax havens where it operates, making it one of the least regulated industries in the United States."  

The project is the result of the work of an alliance of journalists and students who tracked some 411 cruise ships around the world. The introduction to the project explains that "a team of reporters, graphic artists and video journalists from Univision News was in charge of analyzing and visualizing the data from Columbia University. They complemented the reporting and personal research with input Carnival Cruise Shipsfrom industry and legislative sources, as well as lawyers, cruise ship workers and passengers, all of whom tell their stories in this interactive article."

There are five chapters published in the presentation:

Chapter 1: Cruising, A Trip Far From U.S. Law (by Ronny Rojas & Maye Primera)  - "Three U.S. companies control 80 percent of the global cruising market. Their ships carry up to 18 million passengers per year around the world, under the legal jurisdiction of the tax havens where they are officially registered."  

Chapter 2: Crimes On Board: Investigation That Sink (by Patricia Clarembaux) - "Ships are cities with no police or 911 emergency hotlines. When a crime occurs, it’s the crew members who investigate and draw up the only available statistics."

Chapter 3: Sweatshops On The High Seas (by Damia S. Bonmati) - "Cruise ship employees work over 70 hours a week, with no rest days or paid vacations. If they suffer any mishaps, they are not protected under the United States justice system."

Chapter 4: Floating Cities With Less Regulations Than a Warship (by Alejandra Vargas M.) - "It’s estimated that a cruise passenger requires about 8.4 gallons of water a day, which then must be discarded because it’s contaminated by human waste."

Chapter 5: From Cruise Industry Investigation To To Executives (by Damia S. Bonmati) -c"The cruise industry has spent over $30 million in the last decade to influence lawmakers in Washington, particularly in fiscal and environmental matters. And high-ranking FBI and Coast Guard agents frequently ended up working for the industry they started out investigating."

This is a well documented presentation from a team of professionals, in a format not unlike the Panama Papers.  

Photo Credit: By Calyponte CC BY-SA 3.0 wikimedia

Seven Ways Cruise Lines Are Screwing Crew Members

Yesterday was the "Day of the Seafarer," which is sponsored by the International Maritime Organization ("IMO") on June 25th every year. It was interesting to watch the cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), promote the day on it's social media pages like Twitter and Facebook.     

Crew members on cruise ships find themselves in a precarious position in 2016. Cruise lines overwork and underpay crew members from countries like the Philippines, India and Indonesia with impunity. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Carnival pay no U.S. taxes by incorporating themselves in foreign countries like Liberia and Panama and registering their ships in third world countries like the Bahamas (the New York Times just published Tax Dodging on the High Seas). Although cruise ships are collecting record billion-dollar profits each year, they provide no job security, no meaningful union representation, or Day  of the Seafarerbasic benefits like retirement programs of any significance. Moreover, cruise lines have taken an adversarial attitude against their ship employees where they have systematically stripped crew members of the legal rights historically reserved for seamen. 

Here are at least seven ways that cruise lines are abusing crew members today:

Cruise Lines Unreasonably Overwork Crew Members - Cabin attendants, galley employees and waiters and other crew members work a minimum of ten to twelve hours a day, sometimes far more, seven days a week, for eight to ten months a year. They have no time off.  It's all legal because cruise lines don't have to comply with U.S. labor laws due to their foreign incorporation and flags of convenience.  Cruise lines are supposed to have been obligated to work their crew members a maximum number of hours with mandatory rest periods pursuant to MLC2006. But many companies flaunt the maritime labor code. Crew members are still often prohibited from logging in to work when they appear on duty to prepare their work stations or attend meetings. Department heads and supervisors often force crew members to sign out of the Kronos time system and keep working "off the clock." Compliance with the strict USPH standards leads to the managers overworking the crew. I chronicled the abuse aboard the Oceania Riviera earlier this year where crew members were forced to work 18 to 20 hours a day.

The excessive manual labor is hazardous to the crew members physical and mental health. "Cumulative trauma disorder" is a term I learned while representing crew members working for Royal Caribbean.  Sometimes the pressure causes crew members to snap, as this recent altercation between a cook and a chef demonstrates, and it may be one reason perhaps why there are so many suicides at sea.

Univision Noticias and the Columbia Journalism School just published an exhaustive research project and multi-media presentation "Vacation in No Man's Sea" with a section on the abuse of cruise ship employees - Sweatshop On The High Seas (by Damia S. Bonmati). 

Cruise Lines Under-Pay Crew Members:  Crew members working these insane hours are often paid exclusively by passenger tips. It's quite a scam where the non-tax paying cruise line require their tax-paying U.S. guests to pay the cabin attendants and waiters for the long hours they work. Cruise lines are all increasing their automatic gratuities with the implication that the extra nickel-and-dimming is for the crew members. But the reality is that the cruise lines are either diverting the tips to pay the non-tip-earning employees' salaries or they just steal the money outright. Meanwhile, many passengers refuse to pay the auto-gratuities and then refuse to pay any tips to the crew

Cruise Lines Prohibit Crew Members from Organizing or Protesting -  A number of readers suggest that crew members should organize and protest their mistreatment.  But the last time that crew members protested low wages, Carnival fired all of the waiters on one of its cruise ships and black-balled the crew members from the cruise industry.

Cruise Lines Fire Crew Members at Will - Crew members know that if they complain about the working hours, or the pay, or the stolen tips, they will find themselves on a one-way flight back to Mumbai. Cruise lines, notwithstanding the language in the employment contracts about the right to appeal, etc., can terminate the employment of a crew member for any reason, good reason, bad reason or no reason. Cruise lines often terminate the jobs of crew members who complain of work-related injuries and can do so with little legal recourse.  We receive literally dozens of emails a month from crew members back in India or in east Europe who have completed their medical treatment and are at MMI ready to return to work and have waited for months without word from the hiring partner trying to get back to work. They are being played by the cruise lines and are waiting in vain. 

Cruise Lines Provide Few If Any Benefits to Crew Members - A couple of years ago, Carnival terminated the retirement program for Filipino crew members, some of who had worked over a decade for the company. Royal Caribbean still has a nominal retirement benefit, around $5,000 if a crew member works for 10 years. If Royal Caribbean follows the Carnival model, it won't be around when RCCL crew members retire in the next few years.

Cruise Lines Force Crew Member to "Arbitrate" Their Disputes - Following NCL's decision to send the cases of Filipino families of  crew members killed in the boiler explosion on the SS Norway in 2002 to Manila for arbitration under the POEA, all U.S. based cruise lines (except Disney Cruises) inserted mandatory arbitration clauses in crew member employment contracts. By doing so, cruise lines stripped the rights of seafarers to file suit in the United States before a judge and jury. Cruise lines also inserted foreign law from countries like Panama, or Bermuda or the Bahamas into employment agreements which have few laws protecting seafarers.   

Cruise Line are Working to Strip Crew Member from the Protection of All U.S Law which Protect Seafarers at Sea - Lobbyists for CLIA have convinced certain lawmakers to insert anti-crew member legislation as add-ons to bills before Congress designed to strip the protections of seafarers from U.S. laws such as the Jones Act,  which has provided the right of seafarers to sue maritime employers who act negligently, in U.S. courts.  This has been the centerpiece of crew member maritime law for 96 years. CLIA has been at the forefront of these efforts. It panders to the sentiment of some US. lawmakers that U.S. courts should be be closed to "foreign" seamen notwithstanding the fact that the cruise industry is essentially comprised of nothing but foreign corporations (except NCL America), based here in Miami, which benefit from their free use of over 25 federal agencies like the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, USPH, and the CDC not to mention the tremendous protection of the cruise lines' vast revenues by loopholes in our U.S. tax code.

Many cruise fans selfishly feel that paying a fair wage to crew members will result in higher fares to them. Their arguments that crew members "make more than at home" or "they can quit if they don't like it," seem like flippant "let them eat cake" afterthoughts.  Meanwhile fat-cat executives like NCL'S Frank Del Rio make obscene salaries and perks (CEO Del Rio alone raked in almost $32,000,000 last year). 

Don't let CLIA's recent hollow praise to seafarers fool you. This is a cruise industry which is busy screwing crew members at every turn - at sea, in the courtroom, and in Congress. 

Passenger Overboard from Spirit of Tasmania

Spirit of TasmaniaAn Australian newspaper reports that a passenger aboard the Spirit of Tasmania ferry, traveling from Melbourne to Tasmania, went overboard last night when the ship was a little over 40 miles south-east of Victoria's Port Phillip Heads.

Passengers on the Spirit of Tasmania reportedly saw a 45-year-old man fall into water. The ferry turned around but could not locate the passenger. 

The newspaper says that an Australian Maritime Safety Authority spokeswoman indicated that the water temperature was about 12 or 13 degrees and thete were winds of 20 to 25 knots with swells of up to 2.5 metres. 

Search and rescue planes were deployed and cargo vessels and another ferry, the Spirit of Tasmania II, searched for the passenger without success.

June 25 2016 Update: Perth Now reports that "witnesses have told how the man was chatting with other passengers on the top deck just after 11.30pm on Friday when he swore and then jumped over the rail." The newspaper also says:

"A man who jumped overboard from the Spirit of Tasmania 1 a few hours into its voyage from Melbourne to Devonport was screaming for help as passengers watched helplessly on in horror.

The man — identified by police as a 45-year-old from Ballarat — could not be saved despite desperate attempts by crew members for more than an hour to pluck him from the freezing waters. The rescue mission was hindered by massive swells and darkness with the man eventually disappearing under the water.

It is understood he was last seen swimming towards the large ship, rather than the emergency craft, and was sucked under the boat. An extensive 12-hour search failed to find him, leaving authorities to presume he drowned."

Photo credit; ABC News, David Hudspeth

Video credit: Mail Online

Shake-Down Port: Nassau's Tourism Police Arrest U.S. Cruise Passenger for Pot

The Bahamas Weekly reported that two U.S. cruise passengers were arrested at the port in Nassau for possession of marijuana on Wednesday.

The Bahamian newspaper reported: 

"Two adult American females from North Carolina are in custody after they was arrested for possession of dangerous drugs on Wednesday 22nd June 2016.

According to reports, shortly after 10:00am, officers from the Tourism Policing Unit acting on intelligence went to a cruise ship moored at Prince George Wharf, where they found the suspects in possession of a quantity of marijuana. The female suspects were taken into custody and are expected Nassau Bahamasto appear in court sometime today to be formally charged." 

I suppose that there are readers saying these two women got what they deserved, but being busted for a few marijuana joints meant for your personal consumption is no different than having a few drinks of booze that the cruise lines will be pleased to sell you with a little umbrella on top.  I suppose that's the difference, that the cruise lines frown on pot consumption because they can't make any money on it.  Cruise line make literally hundreds of millions of dollars a year selling cruise booze. 

You can get hammered on the cruise ships and the cruise lines look the other way. You can come back from Senor Frog's in Nassau knee-walking-drunk and the security guards will let you on the ship with a smirk. But a tote of the evil weed on your balcony and your cruise neighbors complain will result in the security officer placing a call to their friends in the Bahamas resulting in the "tourism police" in Nassau arresting you in your cabin.  

We have written about this scam many times but the game is always he same - this crime-ridden, poverty stricken little island looks at U.S. cruise passengers as easy targets. Nassau "tourism police" will be more than pleased to haul you from the It's-better-In-the-Bahamas cruise before a Bahamian magistrate who will shake you down for a few thousand U.S. dollars or a threat of 30 days in jail.  

If you are unfortunate to get caught smoking a joint here in Miami, few cops will take the time to arrest you but, worst case scenario, you may pay a small fine or enter into a diversion program. But in Nassau, you will get harassed to buy pot or coke the second you walk down the gangway and if you have a few grams of pot back in the cruise ship's cabin safe, you are still screwed. It's all about how many U.S. dollars that the Bahamian "justice'" department, overwhelmed by violent crime, can keep in its pockets from U.S. cruise passengers foolish enough to cruise there. 

Interested in the issue? Read: The Predatory "Sweet Spot" - Bahamian Tourism Police Arrest U.S. Cruise Tourist for Pot PossessionHigh Times in Nassau Will Cost You $500 or 2 Months in Her Majesty's PrisonReefer Madness: Bahamas Magistrate Taunts & Shakes Down Royal Caribbean Potheads

Photo Credit: TampAGS, for AGS Media - CC BY-SA 3.0.  

MSC Magnifica Security Guard Inadvertently Discharges Gun in Port in Venice

MSC MagnificaAccording to the Italian newspaper Gazzettino, this past weekend there was "panic" onboard the MSC Magnifica cruise ship docked in Venice after a security guard inadvertently fired a gun while passengers were boarding the ship. 

The facts are a bit sketchy. The newspaper says that a security guard left a handgun in a pouch inside a basket which was somehow passed through a metal detector. The weapon was then found by another security guard on the Magnifica. Another Italian newspaper mentions a baby carrier that the gun may have been placed on. In any event, a security guard on the cruise ship handled the gun when it unexpectedly discharged. A bullet from the gun ricocheted off the floor and struck a wall of the ship, "wreaking havoc." No one was injured. but a nearby passenger reportedly hear the gunshot and fainted, according to the newspaper. 

Comments to the weird article suggest that the Magnifica has armed security personnel because the cruise ship allegedly encountered a recent security incident involving pirates during an African itinerary.  (To our knowledge, with the exception of Costa and MSC, most cruise lines do not carry guns). 

Hat tip:  Cruise Hive

Photo Credit:  MSC cruise ship (Orchestra shown in Venice) - Jim Walker  

Foreign-Flagged Cruise Industry Spends Millions of Dollars Lobbying U.S. Congress

The cruise lines and the cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Organization ("CLIA"), spend many millions of dollars lobbying our U.S. Congress each year.

In 2015, CLIA spent $1,380,000 lobbying Congress. Carnival Corp. spent an additional $898,710, plus $80,000 on behalf of subsidiary Carnival Cruise Line and another $80,000 for subsidiary Holland America Line. Royal Caribbean Cruises spent $464,000 in donations to the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. These figures are revealed by the OpenSecrets website

Cruise Lines Lobby CongressSince 1997, the cruise industry has spent over $52,000,000 lobbying Congress through 2014, according to cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein. Considering the $3,000,000 in 2015 and the $1,000,000 spent this year, the cruise industry has invested over $56,000,000 into the coffers of Congress. 

I familiarized myself with these donations after reading on Twitter that CLIA is publicizing its annual Congressional Cruise Caucus. This is an event sponsored by CLIA in Washington D.C. where CLIA, its partners and travel agents meet with Congressional leaders to network with Congressmen and Congresswomen and discuss policies which will advance the interests of the cruise lines.   

The cruise industry exists and thrives because of special policies which benefit no one but the billion dollar cruise lines:

  • Because of loopholes in the Federal tax code which excludes taxes income generated by foreign incorporated companies and foreign registered ships, cruise line pay virtually no federal taxes. Carnival Corp., for example, paid taxes of only 0.6 during a five year period
  • The cruise industry uses the infrastructure of U.S. ports, the resources of the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, Homeland Security, Customs & Border Protection, U.S. Public Health, Centers for Disease Control and Protection and another 20 U.S. agencies for free, although cruise lines pay virtually no U.S. taxes; 
  • The cruise industry does not comply with U.S. labor laws like minimum wage or overtime laws and works their ship employees well past a 40 hour work week because cruise line are incorporated in places like Panama (Carnival) or Liberia (Royal Caribbean). 

All of this special treatment exists because of the reluctance of our U.S. Congress to try and regulate the cruise industry.  The Congressional Cruise Caucus and the millions of dollars spent a year spent lobbying our Congressional leaders help the cruise industry grease the system. 

Photo Credit: Consumerist

Disney Earns an "A-" in FOE Environmental Report Card which Flunks Costa, Crystal, MSC and P&O Cruises

CLIA - Stewards of the Maritime Environment?On the recent #WorldOceansDay which trended on Twitter this week, the cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), and CLIA travel agents tweeted photos of pristine aqua-colored waters and a beautiful healthy reef in what appears to be an idyllic location somewhere in the Pacific.  

They posted tweets claiming to be "stewards of the environment."   

Well that is certainly open to debate. It seems to me that the cruise industry is nothing short of a menace to the ocean, air and reefs where it sails.

This is an industry which has historically treated the oceans as a dumping ground for human waste and garbage generated by its passengers. The dumping has continued to this day as MSC demonstrated two years ago when it was MSC Dumping Plastic Bagscaught dumping plastic bags into a marine sanctuary.

According to the Friends of the Earth (FOE) environmental group, "an average cruise ship with 3,000 passengers and crew produces about 21,000 gallons of sewage a day, enough to fill 10 backyard swimming pools in a week. That adds up to more than one billion gallons a year for the industry, a conservative estimate, since some new ships carry as many as 8,800 passengers and crew. In addition, each ship generates and dumps about eight times that much "graywater" from sinks, showers and baths, which can contain many of the same pollutants as sewage and significantly affects water quality."

Consider what Royal Caribbean did to the ancient reefs around the port of Falmouth. In order to squeeze its gigantic. bunker-fuel-belching Allure and Oasis of the Seas into the tiny Jamaican port, it oversaw the obliteration of millions of cubic feet of ancient living coral which it pulverized and then dumped on acres of old mangroves (photo below). A reader sent me a Google Map showing the destruction of the barrier reef and the mangroves.

A large portion of the beautiful reefs in the Caymans (often damaged by cruise ship anchors and chains, photo below) are slated for destruction as another cruise-industry-beholden leader of a tourism-dependent-Caribbean island plans to dredge and fill to build a huge, monolithic concrete cruise pier in George Town harbor to try and accommodate the increasingly over-sized Miami-based monster cruise ships.

The cruise industry's assault on the maritime environment is not limited to the powerless and poor Caribbean islands.  The cruise industry has literally targeted the far corners of the world.  In Cruise Ship Pollution: Cruise Sewage And Air Pollution A Rising Concern As Ships Sail Toward Northwest Falmouth JamaicaPassage, the International Business Times (IBT) reports that the cruise industry plans to try and send cruise ships through the Northwest Passage, a route newly opened by melting Arctic ice, even though "the colossal vessels may also bring sooty diesel emissions and swimming pools of sewage into a long-pristine environment."  

So which cruise line will be taking what the Daily Beast calls the "titanic risk" into the Arctic? It's the notoriously polluter, Crystal Cruises, which will be heading to the Arctic in August. It sold out a cruise aboard the Crystal Serenity in just three weeks. Approximately 1,000 passengers are paying about $22,000 each (excluding extras such as a $4,000 helicopter ride or a three-day, $6,000 excursion exploring a glacier) according to the Wall Street Journal.  From an environmental perspective, Crystal Cruises is considered by environmentalists as the "worst of the worse." It is one of four cruise lines to be given an "F" this year from the Friends of the Earth which issued its environmental report card yesterday. I suppose it is only fitting that such a cruise line would be the first cruise line to tear through the Arctic; if it can collect a minimum of $22,000,000 in cruise fares from one cruise into the virgin, pristine area, what else is important?  It is always about the money, right?   

Crystal Cruises will be forever known to environmentalists as the cruise line whose Crystal Harmony dumped around 35,000 gallons of grey water, sewage, and bilge water in a marine sanctuary in Monterey Bay. According to the L.A. Times, Crystal Cruises said didn't have to report the incident to authorities because it broke no laws. It is "perfectly legal" under maritime laws to discharge even untreated wastewater more than 12 miles offshore, and the ship was 14 miles offshore at the time, Carnival Cruise Line Crushes Coral Reef in Caymanssaid Crystal spokeswoman Mimi Weisband.

"We didn't break any law," Weisband said. "We did break a promise."

The city of Monterey thereafter banned all Crystal cruise ships for life.

In the 2010 Green Report Card by the environmental group Friends of the Earth, Crystal Cruises received the lowest grade, "F." Cruise spokesperson Weisband responded with hubris, saying that Crystal Cruises "deserved an A ... if not an A+."

FOE's latest environmental report card is below. The usual suspects, Crystal, Costa, MSC and P&O Cruises, have again received "F's." All of the other lines, except Disney Cruises which received an "A-," received a "C" or "D."  

CLIA reacted to the bad grades of its cruise members like it always does, by attacking FOE.  The "dirty industry," as FOE rightfully calls it, defended itself like any carbon-based industry does when scrutinized by an environmental group concerned with global warming and the obvious degradation of the environment. The cruise industry scoffs at the FOE but the truth is that the industry can do much, much better. Kudos to Disney which again has led the way in sewage treatment and water compliance while demonstrating transparency in the process.

Photo Credit:

CLIA Cruise Forward PR Photo: Cruise Line International Association

Don Foster's Dive Cayman via Cayman Compass

Friends of the Earth Report Card - Friends of the Earth 

Friends of the Earth Report Card  

Outbreak on the Silver Spirit Found to be Caused by E. Coli

A gastrointestinal sickness outbreak on the Silver Shadow in March was found by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be caused by Enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC).

The outbreak occurred during a cruise from March 3 - 21, 2016. The outbreak sickened 37 people according to the CDC report on the incident. The CDC concluded that 24 of 388 (6.19%) passengers and 13 of 366 (3.55%) crew members fell ill due to the disease.

Outbreak News Today said that "according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Silver SpiritETEC is a major bacterial cause of diarrhea among travelers and children in the developing world. ETEC is increasingly recognized as an important cause of foodborne illness in developed nations, such as the United States. Infection occurs when a person eats food, or drinks water or ice contaminated with ETEC bacteria. Human or animal wastes (e.g., feces) are the ultimate source of ETEC contamination."

Silversea Cruises was last in the news several years ago when the USPH caught crew members hiding perishable food and galley equipment in crew quarters on the Silver Shadow and flunked the cruise line. CNN covered the scandal. You can see the video here

The Silver Shadow failed another USPH inspection last year as well. 

The Silver Spirit, on the other hand, has always scored highly by the USPH (93-100) in the last 6 years, and it scored a 98 during the last inspection in January. However, in a lawsuit filed by a Silversea crew member (aboard the Silver Spirit and Silver Wind) in 2011, the crew member alleged that his employment as a bartender was terminated after he complained that he was required to fill expensive, premium top-shelf brand liquor bottles with cheaper brands and to fill empty expensive French champagne bottles with cheaper Italian sparkling wines. The case is Marin Asenov v. Silversea Cruises, Ltd., Case No. 0:11 CV 62360 WJZ. You can read the allegations in the lawsuit here.   

Photo credit: This image photographed by Brian Burnell with permission was uploaded to Commons by George Hutchinson. CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15252523

Canada Issues Another Crime Advisory for the Bahamas

Canada has issued another travel advisory, warning that travelers to the Bahamas "should exercise a high degree of caution (due to) high rates of crime, especially in Nassau."

The Canadian government said that "crime occurs mainly in Nassau and Freeport. There has been an increase in armed robberies targeting tourists in Nassau. Incidents take place in populated and isolated areas, and even in daylight hours. Do not carry large sums of cash or wear expensive jewelery. Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure Canasa Warning about Crime in the Bahamasat ail times. If you are threatened by robbers, stay calm and do not resist. Home invasions are also of concern in Nassau."

The government also warned that "sexual assaults are on the rise in Nassau." Canada specifically warned that "there have been reports of jet-ski operators assaulting their clients in New Providence and Paradise Islands".

Two months ago the Nassau Guardian reported that a Bahamian taxi cab driver was arrested on charges that he raped a US woman visiting Nassau. 

Nassau's Tribune newspaper published an article in September 2014 about the last Canadian crime warning for the Bahamas. The US government, through the State Department and the US Embassy, has issued numerous warnings about crime in Nassau affecting cruise passengers and tourists.

We have written frequently about the high incidents of murder and armed robbery in Nassau (New Providence). Last year, the country experienced a record number of murders. The murder rate in the Bahamas is far more than 30 per 100,00, compared to the U,S, per capita rate or around 4.5 per 100,000.

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

Many cruise passengers chose to decide to stay on their cruise ships while in the port of Nassau.

June 9, 2016 Update:  The Nassau Tribune covered the Canadian travel advisory.  The Bahama Journal quoted the leader of the opposition party, Dr. Hubert Minnis, saying:

"“Record high murder rates, and countless stories of the latest violent crime dominating the front page of our papers have had a chilling effect on the entire country and it continues to bleed out beyond our islands. As horrific as the crime rate has become, what’s more astounding is the lack of action from the Government.” 

Photo credit: Tribune newspaper

Expedition Cruise Ship Ortelius Suffers Engine Failure

OrteliusLast weekend, the Artic expedition cruise ship Ortelius experienced an engine failure in Hinlopenstretet, near Vaigattøyane, and had to be towed' back to Longyearbyen, according to a newspaper in Norway.

Svalbardposten.reports that the Oceanwide Expeditions ship was sailing south through Hinlopenstretet, with 39 crew members and 105 passengers aboard, when it sustained an engine failure.

Engineers from the Netherlands were helicoptered out to the Ortelius on Saturday night in order to work on the ship's engine, and reportedly were working on the engine while it was under tow to prepare the ship for the next trip scheduled this week.

According to the Maritime Executive, the ship was built in Poland in 1989 and originally named Marina Svetaeva and served as a special purpose vessel for the Russian Academy of Science.

Photo credit:  Gatorsaver911 - (taken by passenger Allen Powell of the Marina Svetaeva in Antartica. CC BY-SA 3.0,, commons / wikimedia).

Coast Guard Medevacs Two Passengers From Norwegian Breakaway

The U.S. Coast Guard medevaced two people from a NCL cruise ship this afternoon. 

The rescue was initiated when the Norwegian Breakaway, returning to New York from Bermuda, contacted the Coast Guard indicating that a 28 year old woman aboard the cruise ship was experiencing stomach pain. A 38 year old man was also reportedly complaining of stomach pains. 

A Coast Guard helicopter and aircraft were dispatched from Elizabeth City this morning and flew approximately 260 miles to the cruise ship to airlift the two passengers to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia. They reportedly are in stable condition. 

Video credit: Defense Imagery and Video Distribution Center

 

 

Celebrity Infinity Crashes Into Ketchikan Dock

Multiple news sources are reporting that the Celebrity Infinity cruise ship allided with a dock in Ketchikan, Alaska  

As you can see in the video below, posted on YouTube by Maria Harvey, the cruise ship slowly smashes into a dock at Berth 3.  The Alaska Dispatch News says that "longshoremen, port security personnel and Celebrity employees noticed something was wrong with the ship's approach and moved out of the way." 

News accounts state that there was damage to the hull of the Infinity including a hole in the ship above its waterline. The harbor director reportedly estimated the damage to the dock will cost $2-3 million to repair. 

Wind in the area was reported to be gusting to around 45 miles per hour, although the Coast Guard did not yet release a determination of the official cause of the incident. 

Mishaps between cruise ships and docks like this are infrequent but they do happen from time to time. Usually, a pilot is at the helm when the ship is docking at port.  One of the last such incidents occurred back in 2011 when a MSC cruise ship, the Opera, struck a dock in Buenos Aires. It was also caught on video which was posted on YouTube.

Fortunately. there were no reports of injury of either the crew members or passengers.  Seven years ago, the Costa Europa cruise ship smashed into a concrete pier in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. The collision ripped a hole in the hull of the cruise ship and flooded a crew cabin, resulting in the death of three crew members.

Video Credit: YouTube video Maria Harvey

Police Arrest Cook for Attempted Murder of Chef on Celebrity Constellation

Celebrity ConstellationNewspapers in Italy are reporting that the local police in Salerno, Italy arrested a 31 year-old Jamaican, man employed as a cook in the galley of the Celebrity cruise ship, the Constellation, for "attempted murder aggravated by petty reasons."

The cook, identified only as "OG," attacked a 38 year-old Indian, head chef, with what is described as a "big knife," according to the L'Unione Sarda newspaper. The cook stabbed the chef in the stomach, seriously injuring him and requiring emergency medical treatment at the the Salerno hospital where the chef was admitted in critical condition. 

The newspapers say that the cook started his shift at 5 A.M. and reportedly was already in a state of alcoholic intoxication. The cook apparently took offense to the chef's instructions.  

Pursuant to maritime law, the act of a crew member attacking another crew member with a dangerous weapon renders the ship "unseaworthy" and creates strict liability on behalf of the maritime employer for the attack.  

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

June 1 2016 Update: Maritime Executive covers the story and includes a photo of the knife(s) allegedly used in the attack.  (Photo credit: Italian Maritime Border Police via Maritime Executive)

Cook knifes chef on Celebrity Constellation

More Trouble for Fathom: Coast Guard Orders Adonia to Return to Miami after Experiencing Blackout

Late yesterday afternoon, Fathom's Adonia experienced a power loss, causing its elevators, bathrooms and air conditioners to stop working for around 30 minutes. "Following orders from the U.S. Coast Guard," the Adonia returned to Miami yesterday. 

Fathom downplayed the incident saying that it was only a "short-term electrical difficulty.”

Prior to being the flagship for Carnival's so-called "voluntourism" brand, Fathom, the Adonia was in the Micky arison Twitterfleet of the Carnival brand P&O Cruises. After drydock, it was brought to Miami but quickly failed an initial Coast Guard inspection leading to Fathom canceling its first cruise. The Coast Guard said the most serious remaining problem were with "numerous sliding fire screen doors that are inoperable."

A lawsuit was filed against Fathom and Carnival after they enforced Cuban discriminatory policies prohibiting natural born Cubans from entering Cuban, in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Once cleared to sail, the Adonia experienced a relatively small norovirus outbreak during the ship's first cruise to Cuba.

Social media, including Twitter, has not given the Adonia's latest trouble much attention. One of the few tweets about the Adonia yesterday was posted by Carnival chairman Micky Arison before the power failure, saying: "I'm preparing #Adonia to sail to Havana with Capt Sarah Breton."  It's a confusing tweet because Fathom subsequently released a statement saying that the Adonia was cruising to the Dominican Republic. 

There is some discrepancy in reports about the incident whether the cruise ship was heading to Cuba or the Dominican Republic. News 7 quoted a Fathom statements saying that the power failure occurred "on the initial leg of its journey from Miami to the Dominican Republic."  But another local news station, Local 10, quoted a second statement by Fathom: "Fathom will now arrive into Havana for the two-day call at 7:30 a.m. May 31, and will depart at 18:00 (6:00 p.m.) on June 1. Unfortunately it has been necessary to cancel the call to Cienfuegos and the ship will proceed to Santiago de Cuba as scheduled."

The news account also said that the Adonia apparently left PortMiami at 3 A.M. this morning. 

Photo credit:  Twitter/Micky Arison via News 7

 

Another Man Overboard Marks Three Year Anniversary of Disappearance of Richard Fearnside

A reader of Cruise Law News brought to my attention that a crew member disappeared at sea from a ferry operated by Irish Ferries from Rosslare, Ireland to Pembroke, Wales yesterday. A number of newspapers have reported that a a large air and sea search was just suspended after the crew member apparently went overboard into the St. Georges channel from a ferry during the cruise of less than five hours.

The crew member has not been identified but was said to be a member of the catering staff aboard overboard crew member disappearancethe ferry.

The Western Telegraph newspaper quoted the ferry company as telling the BBC "We just don't know where he is. Technically speaking it is possible that he walked off in Pembroke . . ."

This rather clueless statement reveals a problem with many ferries throughout Great Britain (Britain, Scotland, Wales and Ireland) and Europe. They have not bothered to invest in closed circuit television on their ships despite a series of overboards over the years

I have been critical of the U.S.-based cruise industry due to the failure to install automatic man overboard systems which can immediately send a signal to the bridge of the cruise ship whenever someone goes over the railing and also can track the overboard passenger or crew member in the water via thermal imaging and radar which increases the possibility of recovering the overboard person. But many U.K. and European cruise and ferry companies have not only refused to install this state-of-the-art technology, they have refused to even install old-school CCTV systems on their ships.  

A spokesperson for the Irish Ferries company, which recently won the Best Ferry Company award by a travel media public relations firm in Ireland, defended the company saying that "this is the first time in my memory for a crewman to go missing."

It seems that the ferry PR person has a poor memory. The disappearance of people from ferries, as well as from cruise ships, is well documented and includes crew members as well as passengers.

Last week (May 21st) marked the three year anniversary of the disappearance of 30 year-old Richard Fearnside from P&O Ferries' Pride of Kent ferry as it was sailing from Calais back to Dover. His girlfriend said that he was going to the top deck to smoke a cigarette. Richard never returned. 

P&O Ferries could offer no explanation to Richard's parents, Bob and Marianne, regarding what happened to their son.  Although P&O Ferries has experienced safety problems before in the past, the ferry company had not bothered to install a single CCTV camera on the decks of its fleet of P&O ships for safety and security purposes.

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

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

In 2013, I sent an open letter to Ms. Deeble about the absence of CCTV cameras on P&O ferries. There are huge cruise ships in the U.S. that have literally over 1,000 CCTV cameras installed on board. Ms. Deeble chose to ignore my letter just like she initially ignored Marianne's letter. Marianne started a petition to require P&O Ferries to install CCTV cameras on its passenger decks. The petition resonated with the public. To date, over 99,456 people have signed the petition while making insightful comments explaining why safety cameras are required. You can see the petition here.

The overboard crew member yesterday shows that little has changed with ferries in the U.K.  "We don't know where he is" is reflective of negligence, if not wanton indifference, particularly coming from a ferry called the "best ferry company."

Please take a moment, sign the petition and voice your concerns.

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

Photo credit:Bottom photo credit: Canterbury Times 

Passenger Goes Overboard from Carnival Liberty into Gulf

Passengers aboard the Carnival Liberty and a local news station in Houston are reporting that a thirty-three year old passenger went overboard early this morning. 

The missing passengers has been identified as Samantha Broberg who was initially reported missing by her traveling companions.

The Carnival cruise ship was apparently not equipped with a automatic man overboard system Missing Carnival Passenger Liberty Cruise Shipwhich should have alerted the bridge immediately when the young woman went over the rail so that immediate rescue measures could have been undertaken.

Carnival determined that she went overboard only after reviewing surveillance camera footage which "appears to show the woman going overboard around 2 A.M," according to a local ABC news channel in Houston. Previously, the crew engaged in the futile act of posting a photograph of the missing woman on the ship and conducting a search on the cruise ship. 

Carnival confirmed the overboard in a statement released to Houston station KHOU.

The Carnival cruise ship departed from Galveston on Thursday on a four-day cruise to Mexico.

Cruise lines may be unable to prevent overboards but there is reliable technology available to automatically detect and quickly respond to these type of emergencies. The cruise industry has come up with irresponsible reasons to delay the installation of the life-saving systems. One such system, the Mobtronic™ system, reportedly delivers more than 95% detection accuracy and low false alarm rates.  Such technology is required pursuant to the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act but most cruise lines refuse to install the technology due to costs. 

Professor Ross Klein's site indicates that 270 people have gone overboard since 2000.

The last passenger to go overboard disappeared from Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas earlier this month.

May 15 2016 Update: A fifteen hour delay? ABC News says that there was a delay from when the passenger went overboard, at around 2:00 A.M., until 5:00 P.M. before the search was initiated.  An automatic MOB system would have obviously immediately notified the bridge, eliminating the fifteen (15) hour delay and increasing the chances of survival and a successful rescue.

Also the PR team at the cruise line is stating "based on the video analysis, we can confirm that it appears she climbed up and sat on a deck railing and subsequently fell backwards." Such conduct is foreseeable if someone is over-served alcohol.

Several people on our Facebook page are already blaming the passenger who many claim was intoxicated.  

My thought is that cruise lines owe a duty of reasonable care to passengers pursuant to maritime law. Cruise lines face potential liability if they over-serve alcohol to a guest past the point of intoxication and the guest is injured or killed. Carnival collects $500,000,000 a year selling alcohol on its cruise ships, plus it pays virtually no U.S. taxes. Its bartenders and waiters make greater gratuities the more Carnival booze they sell. On land, bars face liability when they over-serve people to the point that they become literally falling-down drunks. The same liability on cruise ships. Intoxicated guests acting foolishly are foreseeable, especially on cruise ships. Carnival encourages the drunkenness with all-you-can-drink packages. Carnival knows that people will become highly intoxicated but does not have reasonable policies to deal with the problem. Then it does not invest in the proven technology of automatic MOB systems to immediately alert the bridge when someone goes overboard.  It is a failure driven by the cruise line's overarching priority to place profits over safety.

May 16 2016 Update: The authoritative gCaptain covers the story: Cruise Ship Passenger Safety In Focus After Woman Falls Overboard from Carnival Liberty.

May 19 2016 Update:  Photos by passengers have appeared on social media bringing into question what a half dozen Carnival officers were inspecting the day after the passenger disappeared. Carnival's PR claims that the stains on the deck were from a spilled "red drink" and later said that it was from a "strawberry daiquiri." Another passenger pointed out what appears to be a broken light fixture lying on the deck. 

The Epoch Times picks up on the lack of an automatic man overboard system.

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

Photo credit:  KVUE

NCL Cruise Ship Rescues Migrants at Sea

Cruise Refugees MediterraneanYesterday, I commented on our Facebook page on the report of a cruise passenger that the Norwegian Spirit, together with the Italian Coast Guard, were involved in assisting what were initially believed to be 300 Syrian immigrants at sea. The NCL cruise ship left Naples heading for Mikonos. A passenger said that that according to captain, the Italian Coast Guard took care of most of refugees and the NCL ship took two pregnant woman onboard who will be medevaced by helicopter for medical treatment. 

The incident was widely reported on television in Europe today.  Euronews reported today that the refugees initially believed to be from Syria, were Sudanese, Somalis and Egyptians. News accounts showed an Italian Coast Guard vessel taking hundreds of refugees aboard as well as medevacing a pregnant woman from what is reported to be the Norwegian Spirit.

Our posting of the event on Facebook sparked a number of hateful comments about refugees from the Middle East and Africa.  There is a long standing maritime tradition of providing aid to people at sea. But many people called the refugees "terrorists," although these poor people were probably fleeing from terror in their home countries.

Fear of refugees at sea is increasingly becoming a part of the debate whether U.S. travelers believe that it is safe to cruise in the Mediterranean this summer. Fox News Travel reports today that "the terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels and Turkey over the last year haven’t dissuaded Americans from visiting Europe, but they appear to be having an effect on the cruise line industry. Fewer Americans are signing up for Mediterranean cruises this year, according to executives at Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean Cruises, indicating that the attacks by Islamic State jihadists are affecting the industry."

Travel Market Report says today that "Norwegian Cruise Line released its first-quarter financial results this week, (and) it acknowledged that the attacks in Europe have impacted its bookings mainly among just one customer base: North America."

The Cruise Critic web site stated today that Carnival Cruise Line has canceled calls on the port of Izmir, Turkey, on all upcoming sailings of Carnival Vista, following a warning from the U.S. State Department. Cruise Critic says that "Izmir was specifically named in a March 29 travel advisory from the State Department, which warned against unnecessary travel to southeastern Turkey due to an increased risk of terrorist activity targeting American travelers."

If U.S. national politics are any indication, there is a significant percentage of U.S. citizens who are xenophobic and view Arab refugees as potential trouble.

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

Norovirus on Fathom Travel's First Cruise to Cuba?

The Sun Sentinel is reporting that the Fathom Travel's historical first cruise on the Adonia cruise ship to Cuba may have experienced a norovirus outbreak aboard the ship sickening passengers, according to reports from the captain. 

At around 2:45 P.M. this afternoon, there were at least 14 people on the ship complaining of diarrhea, vomiting and stomach cramps mentioned by the captain according to the Sun Sentinel. With only around 600 people aboard the cruise ship, that's over 2% of the cruise passengers which is near the threshold where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) become involved.

The photos and video from the cruise ship show crew members already rubbing and scrubbing the surfaces of the ship. Norovirus is primarily a foodborne virus although the virus can last for weeks on contaminated surfaces. It can also be spread by person to person contact. Hand shaking on the ship is apparently discouraged. Self-serve buffets have also reportedly been replaced with service by crew members wearing gloves. 

The cruise ship, of couse, quickly blamed the passengers with the ship doctor writing a letter saying "we suspect that the virus may have been inadvertently introduced on board by embarking travelers, even though the ship had not even performed tests to make such a determination.  One of those sick, a former public health social worker, said "I think it was something I ate." Read Fears of Norovirus mar last day of cruise to Cuba.

You can see a video related to the gastrointestinal virus on the Adonia here

Norovirus on the first cruise to Cuba?  There must be a Jimmy Fallon joke here somewhere. 

May 8 2016 Update:  Spin Masters? Carnival PR team tells the Sun Sentinel that there is no verification that the Adonia guests were sick due to norovirus.

 

Have a thought? Join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Fathom Travel Adonia Ship Doctor Norovirus

 

Carnival Hikes Pre-Paid Gratuities But Will Passengers Secretly Remove Tips?

Carnival Cruise Line is hiking its gratuity charge by nearly 8 percent, according to an article in Travel Agent Central today. The charge will rise to $12.95 per person, per day for passengers in most cabins, or $13.95 per person, per day for passengers staying in suites, effective September 1, 2016. There is a question posed on the comments section of the article; "does the charge actually go to the staff as a tip? or is it just a fare increase?" The question remain unanswered.    

Carnival said that passengers can lock in the current gratuity rate by pre-paying before Monday, May9, 2016.Carnival Pre-Paid Gratuity Removed

The gratuity charge, which crew members tell me does not all go to the crew members but is diverted to pay salaries or is considered revenue (profit) for the cruise line, is only a suggested amount. Carnival says that passengers can adjust it, or remove it entirely, by visiting the Guest Services desk while onboard the cruise ship.

You can read the Carnival tipping policy here.

Earlier this week, a Facebook page called "Complaining Crewship" complained that Carnival passengers were not paying tips and posted about 30 pages of photographed pages showing the names and cabin numbers of Carnival passengers (from an unidentified ship) who had their prepaid tips removed. There were hundreds and hundreds of passengers who removed their tips. Some of these people may have removed the pre-paid gratuities and paid cash but I was left with an unpleasant feeling that they were largely stiffing the crew.

I then shared the posting and photos on my Facebook page and started a discussion regarding the problem of passengers not tipping the crew members.  A firestorm of controversy then erupted. Some passengers did not like the fact that the names of passengers who removed the tips were revealed. Others expressed their feelings that it was outrageous that many people refused to pay any tips to the hardworking crew members.

Some readers seemed not to care at all about the crew and seemed concerned only with protecting the identity of those removing the tips. I guess the power of Wikileaks, Julian Assage and the Panama Papers escapes them. Several people complained to John Heald, the Carnival head cruise director and blogger at Carnival, about the release of confidential data. Others may have complained to Facebook about the "Complaining Crew ship" page, which may have been a page operated by either current or former Carnival crew members who were tired of being cheated by the guests.

The reality of the matter is that Carnival pays crew members like waiters. bartenders and stateroom attendants a small pittance by the cruise line (around $50 a month) and then requires them to work incredibly long hours, relying on tips for the majority of their compensation.  It's quite a business model. Carnival incorporated in Panama and registered its cruise ships in Panama and the Bahamas to avoid virtually all taxes and then requires U.S. taxpaying public to pay the bulk of the crew member compensation. But many passengers view a gratuity as reserved only for spectacular and far-beyond-normal service. These guests obviously don't tip at all or only occasionally and say that it's the cruise line's responsibility to pay the ship employees.        

Well, the original post by "Complaining Crewship" seem to have been taken down (as well as the entire Facebook page), voluntarily of involuntarily I can't tell, and so did the photos I shared in the process.  But I had previously copied them all and am posting a few here (with the names redacted of those who removed their tips) to show the large number of tips removed.

Cruise lines do not like their ship employees to "out" the guests or to name and shame them, although these type of people seem to be largely deadbeats in my view, or to reveal the cruise line's unfair treatment of the hard working crew members. For example, when a Royal Caribbean created a You Tube video a few years ago showing that the cruise line was in essence stealing automatic gratuities from the crew, Royal Caribbean threatened the crew members with legal action and petitioned You Tube to ban the video. Read: "Screw the Crew" Video: Banned By Royal Caribbean & YouTube!      

So the cruise line gratuity scam continues.  Carnival will create the impression that the increased gratuities are for the crew who, in reality, will never see a penny of the increase. Many passengers will remove all of the gratuities in their entirely and hide their cheapness behind their anonymity.

Carnival Pre-Paid Gratuity Removal

 

Pacific Dawn Drowning Report: Lifeguards and Risk Assessment are Required on Cruise Ship

In November of 2015, a 78 year old passenger from South Korea drowned in a swimming pool on P&O Australia's Pacific Dawn cruise ship that did not have a lifeguard.  The cruise ship was sailing from Brisbane, Australia to New Guinea.

The ship's un-monitored closed circuit television recording showed the passenger enter the adult-only lifeguard-less swimming pool around 10:37 A.M. and swim around.  At 10:51 A.M., another cruise passenger in the pool noticed that he was lying on the bottom of the pool and began to shout for help Pacific Dawn Drowning Report - MAIBone minute later. A security employee happened to see the bystander waving his arms and ran down to the pool. The drowned passenger was removed from the pool  and another security personnel called the bridge and the emergency telephone number. At 10:55 the bridge team made a tannoy announcement and summoned the medical department. Other passengers began chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.    

The ship's medical team (consisting of two doctors and three nurses) arrived promptly once summoned at 10:57 A.M. and administered treatment including the use of an external defibrillator. At 11:20 A.M., the senior doctor declared the passenger to be deceased.  

A subsequent autopsy found some signs of artery disease but concluded that the primary cause of death was drowning.  

Because the P&O ship was flagged in the U.K., the death was investigated by the U.K.'s Marine Investigation Branch (MAIB) which has done excellent work in other cruise drowning cases like the  passenger drowning case on the Princess Sapphire Princess last year. The MAIB concluded in that case that "a lack of dedicated pool attendants potentially delayed the emergency response, and that risks relating to the use of the swimming pools by unsupervised passengers had not been formally assessed and documented." The MAIB recommended to Princess Cruises that it perform a "suitable and sufficient risk assessment" regarding the cruise ships’ swimming pools.

In this case involving the Pacific Dawn, the MAIB concluded that "constant poolside supervision by lifeguards provides the best assurance of pool user safety." The cruise line also was required, but did not perform prior to the death, a risk assessment to determine whether pool supervision was necessary. 

Among other factors, the MAIB noted that "constant poolside supervision" is necessary when, among other factors:

  • the pool has water deeper than 1.5 m (the pool was deeper than this);
  • crowded conditions are expected;
  • food or alcohol will be available to pool users.

The MAIB noted that although the medical team’s response was swift once they were finally summoned, "if a dedicated pool attendant had been monitoring passengers in the pool, Mr Oh’s (the decedent's) situation could have been identified and an emergency response initiated at the earliest possible opportunity." 

The MAIB also said that the frequency of near drownings in unsupervised swimming pools should be considered when conducting risk assessments "so that an appropriate level of pool supervision is maintained in all circumstances." Consistent with other reports, the MAIB said that "constant poolside supervision" is required whenever "the pool will be used by unaccompanied children aged under 15 years."

As we have discussed many times, there have been numerous drownings and near-drownings on NCL, Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise ships in the last several years. 

It's a real shame that most Miami-based cruise lines which do not bother to hire lifeguards or conduct swimming pool risk assessments (because they usually flagged in places like the Bahamas or Panama) are not subject to criticism from reputable authorities like the MAIB.

Photo credit: MAIB gov.uk 

Hat Tip: Safety4Sea

Is There a Cruise Anywhere That Travel Writers Think is Dangerous?

I could not help noticing that USA travel writer Gene Sloan's article today entitled Afraid to cruise in Europe? Nuts! Now's a great time to go seems to be sponsored by Viking River Cruises.  The don't-worry-be-happy article starts after a 65 photo portfolio as part of an introductory summary of "Cruise ship tours: Viking River Cruises' Viking Skirnir" and then is followed by another 99 photos which were part of another article promoting Viking - "First look: Inside Viking Cruises' new Viking Sea." Just two days ago, Gene was hawking Viking cruises in another article - New Viking line plans epic, 141-day world cruise.

There's no question that cruising to Europe seems to be lagging behind cruises to other locations viking Cruiseswhich are perceived to be safer, like the Caribbean. We all know from comments by the cruise executives at Royal Caribbean following its last quarter that Americans Are Cruising Closer to U.S. Waters, due to the terrorist activities in Paris and Brussels.   

The number one location that we are asked about is Turkey.  To respond to such inquiries, we mention prior terrorist attacks there and the issue of immigrants from Syria and other countries, but the reader has to make up their own mind whether it is reasonably safe based on their own risk assessment.

But it's naive to think that cruising to the Caribbean is safer than cruising to Europe. I can readily say that cruising to the Caribbean will take you to some of the most dangerous ports of call in the world, not from terrorists mind you, but from common criminals. Some of the Caribbean ports have a lot of crime and high murder rates which make cruising to Nassau, St. Thomas and Roatan like cruising to East St. Louis, Baltimore and Detroit except most U.S. citizens don't know any better.  Europe is far safer than the Caribbean in terms of rape, murder, harassment and theft. 

Regarding the threat of terrorism, we have written many articles pointing out what the true experts are saying, like U.S. and British naval commanders who are reporting about the threats of ISIS to Europe from North Africa. Take a moment and read the recent article by Captain Robert N. Hein, a career Surface Warfare Officer - Terrorists on the Ocean: Sea Monsters in the 21st Century via the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC). Captain Hein previously commanded the USS Gettysburg (a guided-missile cruiser) and the USS Nitze (a destroyer).  I also suggest that travelers consider the warning of retired U.S. Admiral James Stavridis or the warning from the U.K. naval commander for NATO that ISIS presents a threat to shipping in the Mediterranean Sea. 

Most experts seems to say it's just a matter of when and where, not if, ISIS will attack. The highly respected gCaptain reported yesterday that Captain William Nault, Chief of Staff with the multi-national Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), told Reuters that Al Qaeda’s Yemen branch remains a powerful force and poses a growing risk to ships.  

We have seen other don't-worry-about-a-thing articles from travel writers before, like the article in the Telegraph in February - Are Cruise Holidays Safe from Terrorism? written by U.K. cruise travel specialist Jane Archer, who appeared to us to ignore history and down-play the threat of terror.

Chances are remote, of course, that you will be attacked by terrorists when you cruise in or around Europe. The chances of being a victim of crime in the Caribbean are greater. But as far as cruises in either part of the world, you certainly aren't nuts if you decide to vacation somewhere else this summer. 

Photo credit:  By Viking Cruises - Viking Cruises, CC0, commons / wikimedia.org

Gastrointestinal Outbreak on the Disney Wonder

An unsettling development occurring on the Disney Wonder cruise ship was brought to our attention this morning. There has been an outbreak of acute gastroenteritis (AGE) which exceeds the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) percentage (3%) of affected passengers and crew members.

The cruise ship still has two more days to finish its current cruise. The next cruise is the "14 Night Panama Canal: cruise which leaves from Miami headed for San Diego, California. 

There was an emergency meeting in the dining room, where crew members were informed that about 99 guests and 10 crew were ill with AGE. (The official report from the CDC estimates that there were 92 of 2679 (3.43%) passenger and 5 of 991 (0.5%) of crew members affected).

A sign was posted for the crew informing them that there is a high level of outbreaks over 3% of passengers"and crews sick on the ship. The Disney Wonder has a capacity of around 2,400 passengers and 945 crew members. This will result in the crew members working longer hours to try and sanitize the ship before the next round of families and kids embarkthe cruise ship in Miami on May 1st.

There have been 9 prior outbreaks on cruise ships calling on U.S. ports this year.  Disney is one of the few cruise lines which do not routinely suffer from gastrointestinal outbreaks. 

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

The Disney Cruiseline Blog contains a copy of an email sent to future cruisers on the upcoming cruise.

May 2 2016 Update: The Sun Sentinel, the first major newspaper to report on the outbreak, picks up the story - Nearly 100 sickened on Disney Wonder cruise ship

May 3 2016 Update:  Gobal Dispatch says that "health officials now put the total cases at 145, 131 of 2680 passengers onboard and 14 of 991 crew members" 

Norovirus Outbreak Aboard the "Cursed Cruise Ship" Balmoral

The Fred Olsen Balmoral cruise ship has docked in Norfolk amidst what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is saying is a norovirus outbreak which has inflicted diarrhea and vomiting symptoms on 153 of 917 (16.68%) passengers and 6 of 518 (1.16%) of crew members, over the course of the two week cruise according to a CDC report

It is the ninth gastrointestinal outbreak this year involving a cruise ship calling on a U.S. port according to the CDC

The Balmoral is an old (1987) cruise ship flagged in Nassau which has struggled with gastrointestinal illness outbreaks over the years. 300 passengers were stricken with symptoms when the ship experienced aFred Olsen Balmoral massive outbreak in May of 2015. The cruise line curtailed the cruise from 8 to 7 days to return to Southampton for "barrier cleaning." In early 2010, a newspaper reported that the Balmoral could have been detained after 250 passengers fell ill with norovirus. In an article entitled "Cursed Cruise Ship Balmoral to be Investigated," the newspaper reported that the sick cruise ship was heading from the Canary Islands to Dover, England. From 2009 to 2010, the number of those affected in three sickness outbreaks on the ship was "541 in under 12 months."

Norovirus is a disease which, although common on shore as well, is a public relations nightmare for the cruise lines. Unfortunately, gastrointestinal outbreaks on the high seas are handled differently than ashore. The cruise lines cast blame on the customers 100% of the time.  

Norovirus, according to the FDA and CDC, is primarily a food-borne disease caused by contaminated food or water.  It can also be caused by ill food handlers as well as by cruise passengers who come aboard the ship already ill.  Chipotle, for example, has taken great responsibility for norovirus outbreaks whenever they occur in one of their stores, by not opening the stores whenever a food handler becomes ill, improving food-handling policies and procedures and carefully scrutinizing food sources to determine whether the outbreak can be tracked down before it infects customers in the stores.

On cruise ships, on the other hand, neither the cruise lines nor the minimally funded and staffed CDC conduct any epidemiology analysis. The cruise lines resort simply to massive spraying, rubbing and scrubbing every surface in sight. But such measures don't help if the lettuce comes on the ship contaminated or if handled by a sick chef who infects 75 passengers who eat a salad. Crew members are placed under incredible stress and work long hours whenever there is a code red issued. Crew lines automatically blame the personal hygiene of the passengers time after time, ship after ship, no matter the real source of the outbreak and even though no scientific process has taken place to pinpoint the true cause of the outbreak.  

I anticipate readers who will respond to this article by posting anecdotal stories of seeing passengers not bothering to wash their hands after they use public bathrooms or not using hand sanitizers, which are largely ineffective against norovirus in the first place.  

Chipotle has funded studies to investigate how it can ensure its food quality by improving food handling techniques. It clearly has a commitment to get to the root of the cause of the illness. I know of no commitment by the cruise lines to allocate any of their massive profits to study the problem. Indeed, no cruise line has even acknowledged the studies which indicate that the virus can become airborne when vomited, which seems like a massive problem given the confined space on a cruise ship. (Read: Airborne Norovirus - What Now Cruise Lines?

So there will be more and more outbreaks, the crew members will continue to be pressed to work longer hours spraying and wiping, the cruise lines will continue to blame the dirty hands of their customers, and no one will figure out the real cause of the outbreak.   

Statement by Fred Olsen: The cruise line is already blaming its guests.  It cites its alleged compliance with, among other things, the "strict" requirements of the "flag state" (Nassau).

May 8. 2016 Update:  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 27 percent of the passengers aboard the Balmoral have gotten sick since the cruise began April 16th. WMTW-TV says that according to the CDC,  252 of the 919 passengers on the Balmoral have fallen ill, as well as eight crew members.   

May 11 2016 Update:  The CDC says the total number of passengers sickened since the beginning of the cruise has increased to 272 passengers. According to the Evening Standard, Cruise ship Balmoral was infected with vomit bug BEFORE setting sail.  

 

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Photo credit: LesMeloures CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia (photo taken 2008 before paint change)

    

Two Cruise Passengers Missing in Jamaica

The Jamaica Observer reported today that the police in Jamaica are seeking the public's assistance in locating two cruise ship passengers who went missing yesterday.

The newspaper identified U.S. citizens, 33-year-old Hayden Gerson and 32-year-old Alisha Frank. These two Americans were passengers on a unidentified cruise ship which docked in Falmouth Jamaica. (Readers have quickly told me that only the Oasis of the Seas was in port that day).

The Observer says that the passengers left the cruise ship around 9:30 in the morning and apparently intended to "make a trip to Montego Bay, St James; they have not been seen or heard from since." 

Cruise Missing in JamaicaOver the last four years, there have been many cruise ship passengers who have gone missing, and later appeared unharmed, in Jamaica.  

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo credit: Carnival scans via Jamaica Observer

April 28 2016 Update: The New York Daily News, Inquisitr and the U.K.'s Daily Mail cover the story with a more ominous tone.

NBC 7 San Diego: the "missing" cruise couple in Jamaica has checked in and is fine says mother. 

May 4 2016:  The "other side of the story" from one of the "missing passengers" - Cruise Out Of Control: Part I and Cruise Out Of Control: Part II.

Wave Damages Rhapsody of the Seas

Rhapsody of the SeasLast night / early this morning around 4:A.M - 4:30 A.M., a wave struck the Rhapsody of the Seas, breaking the windows of five passenger cabins on deck three, injuring cruise passengers and partially flooding the cabins on deck three and also on deck two. 

One passenger, Kerry Boyd, tweeted; "Woke up at 4:30 am on our cruise first night when 5 windows on our floor burst open flooding the floor with sea water. All well, but tired"  She tweeted that 60 cabins were flooded.

Another passenger, Todd Scuderi, tweeted a series of three tweets publicly about the incident. 

"I'm on Rhapsody of the Seas. Last night 4am wave hit ship and knocked out my window and 4 others on deck 3. lucky we weren't swept out.

(2) ceilings and walls collapsed. We were all bleeding and hallway was flooded. Royal Caribbean has not handled this well.

(3) ship staying in Corsica till 12am to "fix it" This was only night 1 of 9 nights."

The Rhapsody will have its broken cabin windows replaced in Corsica.

Please contact us if you are a crew member or other passengers with additional information. 

Photo Credit: Benyoch CC BY-SA 3.0 commons / wikimedia

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April 26 2016 Update: a comment left on our Facebook page: 

"Freak wave hitting Rhapsody o.t.Seas... Ron & my Cabin Windows scattered, hughe wave crushing in at 4am/25th April, while we were asleep. Cabin totally flooded, we were covered in Blood, Seawater, scattered glass, ceiling panels, insulation, metall racks and debris, which used to be cabin interior. Partition Walls caved in, Doors crushed and bent, stuck in the frame with passengers trapped inside.

So far we are ok, bruises and cuts taken care off, most luggage, clothes rescued, but missing Glasses, Medication, Mobile Phone...probably at the bottom of the ocean.
Our "well being" mentally wise is not really 'back to normal".... we are very much shaken up.
Very, very poor Handling of us Survivors by Company.... took 7 hours to get one person saying "i will take care of you"....and 15hours for the Captain to talk to us...!!!!"

From another passenger on our Facebook page:

"We were disembarked from this ship yesterday along with 50 other passengers. Some are lucky to be alive after their windows cracked, sea water poured in & they were trapped in their cabins.

The Captain made an announcement & said that the ship had been caught between 2 large swells which caused the ship to flex & popped the Windows. We have just landed at Heathrow. Came via Orly & now have to get to Gatwick to collect our car. R Carribbean v unsympathetic & some passengers were injured & very shaken."

Statement by Royal Caribbean:

The cruise line issued the following statement, which is posted on the Cruise Hive site.

"On Monday, April 25, while sailing to Ajaccio, Corsica, Rhapsody of the Seas encountered inclement weather. Five stateroom windows on the third deck were broken, resulting in water incursion. Six rooms were damaged, and carpeting in some nearby hallways and staterooms on deck three was soaked by water. No serious injuries were reported. The windows were replaced and the ship resumed her itinerary.

Because of the soaked flooring, which could not be immediately replaced without causing great inconvenience, 45 guests were relocated to other staterooms, and 44 departed the ship in Corsica. We have compensated all the affected guests with a full refund and future cruise certificate in the total amount of the cruise fare they paid for their sailing, as well as handling accommodations and travel costs for those who left the ship."

A newspaper in New Zealand is the latest to report on the fiasco.

New Orleans Jazz Fest 2016

NCL New OrleansI left New Orleans in November 1987 after attending law school at Tulane and  practicing law in the Big Easy for four years.  There were no cruise ships based in or visiting New Orleans back then. The closest thing was the Natchez riverboat which would paddle around the muddy Mississippi for a few hours.

This weekend my partner and I went back to New Orleans for the beginning of Jazz Fest 2016.  I had not been back to New Orleans for over ten years. The city looked more vibrant than I remember. Its seems to have come a long way since the devastation of Katrina back in 2005.  

We had a fantastic time, as you can see here in my photos if you are not a friend of our Facebook page.   

Yes, New Orleans is a cruise port now.  Early this morning, the Carnival Triumph arrived into port as we left the city.  It is a strange phenomenon to see a huge cruise ship sailing on the Mississippi.     

It has been a while since I wrote about my time in New Orleans.  

One of the few articles I wrote about New Orleans was Oysters, Dixie Beer & My New Orleans Saints.

Photo: Jim Walker

 New Orleans - Carnival Cruise

   

ISIS: 21st Century Sea Monster or Much Ado About Nothing?

Stephen L. Caldwell,  a member of the National Maritime Security Advisory Committee. down-played the threat of international radical Islamic terrorism on the cruise industry in an article for Maritime Executive entitled Tightening the Security Envelope - Despite all the hoopla about terrorist threats and onboard crime, cruise ships are among the safest places on earth. He suggests that talk of terrorism is "much ado" about nothing. I posted Mr.Caldwell's article on our Facebook page with the comment that "if the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security is listening to this committee on USS Cole - ISIS Terrorinternational maritime security matters, passengers are sitting ducks."

My view is that Mr. Caldwell's naive article might as well have been written by the Cruise Line International Association for PR purposes. It is dangerously irresponsible to crew members and cruise passengers alike. I have expressed my feelings here about the threat of ISIS on cruise shipping many times before, including How the Next Jihadist Terror Attack Against Cruise Passengers Will Happen

Fortunately, other knowledgeable experts have provided a more realistic view of ISIS's motivations. Captain Robert N. Hein, a career Surface Warfare Officer, wrote an article which was published today, Terrorists on the Ocean: Sea Monsters in the 21st Century via the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC). Captain Hein is hardly an arm chair quarterback; he previously commanded the USS Gettysburg (a guided-missile cruiser) and the USS Nitze (a destroyer).  

He suggests that it is not if, but when will ISIS and "other terrorist organizations bring their brand of mayhem to the oceans?" Citing the many examples of attacks ashore, Captain Hein suggests that an ISIS attack on an underway cruise ship is real. Like assaulting a "large and remote or underdefended luxury hotel," the "narrative ISIS hopes to convey from attacking a cruise ship at sea is akin to many horror movies: a captive victim with nowhere to turn for help."

He estimates that the chance that ISIS will attack "blue water objectives out of sight of land" is still remote as long as navies of the world continue to provide a credible presence on the oceans. However, coastal attacks like that committed by ISIS predecessor Al Qaeda against the USS Cole (attack diagram above) remain more probable. And he specifically cites the terrorist attacks last March at the Bardo museum in Tunis, when cruise passengers from a Costa and MSC cruise ship were killed. He also cites a shore-launched rocket attack on an Egyptian naval ship in August of last year.

Photo Credit: USS Cole diagram - Reuters; Video credit: U.K.'s Mirror

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April 24 2016:  "Special forces guard cruise terror targets: Commandos trained to take out IS suicide boats" via UK's Daily Star. 

International Cruise Victims: Advocating for Cruise Victims for 10 Years

Washingtom DC Cruise Law NewsLast week we attended a reception at the Capital buillding in Washington D.C. with over 30 congressional offices in attendance, honoring the International Cruise Victim ("ICV")  organization.

The ICV was founded in January 2006 following the Congressional hearing in December 2005 regarding the disapperances of Merrian Carver from the Celebrity Mercury and the murder of George Smith III on the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas. 

In attendance at the reception were our friend and former client Laurie Dishman and her Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) who was a co-sponsor of the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety  Act.  Also in attendance were Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Congressman Jim Hines (D-CT), from the Smith family's home state. Senator Blumenthal was an original supporter of the pending Cruise Passenger Protection Act, He stressed the need for fair, accurate and accurate information regarding crimes on cruise ships.

Appearing at the reception were Georgia and Dean Ananias who barely escaped the sinking of the Costa Concordia with their two daughters in January 2012. Their remarkable story is on the ICV website. They wrote S.O.S. Spirit of Survival: One Family's Chilling Account of the Costa Concordia Disaster. They survived physically but heard the screams and witnessed many crew members and passengers needlessly die. 

One mother talked about the sexual assault of her teenage daughter in which the FBI botched the investigation including not prosecuting the rapist and leaving the rape kit on the NCL cruise ship.  

Another family, the Ricci family, in attendance discussed the medical delay and neglience of Carnival cruise line which refused to send their daughter, Christina,  a young healthy woman,who hit her head and experienced strokes on the Victoriy, ashore to a medical trauma unit via a medevac helicopter resulting in her untimely death. 

The reception was moderated by ICV president Jamie Barnett who also lost her daughter, Ashley Barnett, aboard a Carnival cruise due to medical negligence.

ICV Chairman Ken Carver testified at a hearing regarding the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime entitled "Transportation.Maritime Transportation Safety and Stewardship Programs." Mr. Carver addressed, among other issues, the cruise industry's refusal to fully implement the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act with an effective date of January 2012 and the need to pass the Cruise Passenger Protection Act . You can read his testimony here.  

 Video credit: ABC News 7 Los Angeles via Jamie Barnett

You can see photographs of the reception here.

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Coral Princess Rescues 7 Cubans at Sea

This morning I received a message from a passenger on the Coral Princess that the Princess Cruises cruise ship picked up 7 Cuban migrants in a small make-shift boat.  

The photo sent to me showed what appeared to be at least one man in distress lying on his back near the bow of the boat. 

Here's the message which I received:

"Coral princess just rescued 7 cubans on a damaged small boat off the coast of cuba...we are on our way back to FL with 7 cubans on board."

Usually cruise ships which take Cuban migrants aboard deliver them to a Coast Guard vessel and the migrants are returned to Cuba.

Cuban Migrants

Cruise to Cuba: Lawsuit Filed Against Carnival and Fathom Travel

AdoniaYesterday. a lawsuit was filed against Carnival Corporation and Fathom Travel for discriminating against Cuban-Americans who were excluded as passengers on the the May 1st cruise to Cuba.  The lawsuit alleges that these cruise lines violated the civil rights of two Cuban-Americans by denying them reservations on the Adonia because they were born in Cuba.

The lawsuit seeks class action certification. It was filed by the law firms of Koyzan, Tropin and Throckmorton and Robert Rodriguez P.A. 

You can read the lawsuit here.

Yesterday, the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale published an article by its editorial board stating that until Cuba changes its policy of prohibiting native-born Cuban Americans from arriving by sea, "all American cruise lines, ferry operators and shipping companies should collectively call a time-out on plans to sail to Cuba."  The newspaper states:

"It is not OK for an American business to abide by policies that discriminate against Americans. It is not OK for an American business to check the birthplace on citizens' passports before letting them aboard. It is not OK for an American business to create two classifications of Americans, no matter the rhetoric of presidential candidates who would discriminate against Muslim-Americans ."

Yesterday, the Cuban American Bar Association sent a letter to Carnival chairman Micky Arison protesting Carnival's enforcement of Cuba's discriminatory policies against Cuban-Americans.

Fathom Travel was last in the news earlier this week when the U.S.Coast Guard shut down the Adonia, scheduled to cruise to the Dominican Republic, for safety violations. Travel Weekly reported that the ship had numerous fire doors which were inoperable. Inoperable fire doors on an inaugural cruise should be a major embarassement for a cruise line with a history of fires at sea.

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April 13, 2016 Update:  

An embarassing day for Carnival's so-called "social impact" cruise line. 

Newsweek asks WHY ARE CARNIVAL CRUISES DOING CASTRO’S DIRTY WORK?

Miami-Dade mayor says Carnival Cuba cruise policy violates county human-rights law.

The Miami Herald joins the Sun Sentinel and asks Carnival to stop discriminating.

John Kerry: "American citizens, Cuban Americans have a right to travel, and we should not be in a situation where the Cuban government is forcing its discrimination policy on us . . .  Carnival needs to not discriminate."

The Miami New Times article A Cuban Millennial's Take: Obama, Not Carnival Cruise Line, Is the Problem in Cuba has a slightly different view, saying that Carnival is is "merely a pawn in a much larger political game."

April 15 2015 Update: Miami Hearld Carnival cruise to Cuba leads to rare, unintended bipartisan agreement against company's plans.

April 16 2015 Update:  The Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board (CRB) and the Hispanic Affairs Advisory Board (HAAB) are urging Carnival Cruise Lines to reverse its decision to not allow Cuban-born County residents as passengers on Fathom Travel's cruise to Cuba.

April 18 2016: Former Miami U.S. attorney had asked Justice Department to investigate Carnival cruise to Cuba ("Shamelessly, Carnival tries to absolve itself from its illegal conduct by pointing its finger at the Cuban Government and blaming it for its discriminatory laws. But, it is Carnival that is playing the role of the Cuban Government police, doing its dirty work by enforcing the Cuban Government's discriminatory laws. Carnival is willing to play that role for business reasons.")

April 19 2016 UpdateMiami-Dade’s human-rights law requires Carnival to sell tickets to Cuban-born passengers, county lawyers say.

Carnival finnaly comes to its sense. Carnival cruise lines says it will allow Cuban-born passengers to book travel to Cuba, but will delay trips if the island's government does not change its policy allowing nationals to return by sea.

Photo credit: MrDerails English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0.

 

Carnival's Cruise to Cuba Discriminates Against Cuban-Americans

AdoniaI couldn't believe what I was reading in the Miami Herald article "Carnival Cruise to Cuba Discriminates Against a Class of Americans"  Carnival's new Fathom "impact" brand, scheduled to be the first U.S.- based cruise line to cruise to Cuba in over 50 years (on May 1st), is refusing to permit Cuban-born Americans on the cruise.

Written by Fabiola Santiago, the article quotes Cuban American Maria de los Angela Torres, who came to the U.S. as a Pedro Pan child in the early 1960's, after she tried to book a cruise to Cuba. Everything was proceeding smoothly in booking her cruise until the Fathom agent learned that she was born in Cuba. The agent then told her that "Current Cuban law prohibits Cuban-born individuals from entering Cuba via ship or other sea vessel, regardless of U.S. citizenship status. For that reason, at the present time, Fathom cannot accommodate Cuban-born individuals." 

The Herald analogized the discrimination to a cruise line refusing to take American Jews to Israel or African Americans to Africa. 

Two years ago, the Tunisian government prohibited Israeli passengers from disembarking from the Norwegian Jade during a stop at the Tunis (La Goulette) cruise port. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) told the Israeli citizens that they were not welcome by the Tunisian government and had to stay aboard the cruise ship.

NCL quickly decided to boycott Tunis and issued the following statement: 

“We want to send a strong message to Tunisia and ports around the world that we will not tolerate such random acts of discrimination against our guests. We are outraged by this act and the fact that we were not notified in advance of this practice. We apologize sincerely to our guests who were affected and want them to know that we have taken the appropriate action in response.”

Carnival, on the other hand, is acting in "cahoots" with Cuba, as the Herald points out. It's pathetic and disgraceful on Carnival's part. Carnival acquiesced to the discriminatory policies of the totalitarian Castro regime as a quid pro quo to be the first cruise line to do business in Cuba. When faced with an important principle, Carnival sold out for profits. 

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April 8 2016 Update: Breitbart asks whether Carnival has violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act in an article titled Cuban-Americans Banned from Carnival Cruises Trips to Cuba. Title II of the act prohibits American “places of public accommodation” from discriminating on the basis of “race, color, religion, or national origin.” Place of birth, naturally, would fall under “national origin.” In federal caselaw, the U.S. Supreme Court held that foreign flagged cruise ships were subject to federal statutes which prohibited discrimination against U.S. citizens.   

April 10 2016 Update:  A look at Carnival's "social impact" brand, Fathom Travel, which I published last summer - The "Fathom" Ruse Revealed: Carnival Really Wants to be Friends with Cuba.

April 11, 2016 Update:  The U.K.'s Telepgraph newspaper comments on the ban of Cuban-Americans on the Adonia to Cuba: Cuban Americans banned from first cruise to Cuba in decades.    

Photo credit: Fathom's Adonia

What Will the Panama Papers Reveal About the Cruise Industry?

This week we have seen the leak of 11.5 million financial documents over a period from the 1970s to December 2015 from the Mossack Fonseca law firm in Panama to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. These documents allegedly reveal the identity of individuals involved in creating shell companies, ponzi deals and tax evasions schemes.

The law firm at the center of the leak is only one of many law international firms involved in setting up off-shore accounts in places like the Bahamas, Panama and the British Virgin Islands. The offshore corporations are not criminal per se in nature but are often used by unscrupulous types to secret away money Panama Papersfor nefarious purposes. 

The leak of the proprietary, sensitive information is remarkable not only in the breadth of the information (estimated to be 1,000 times more megabytes than the Wikileaks data) but in the number of world leaders, political figures and celebrities outed for creating offshore corporations associated with money laundering and other financial mischief. 

At the moment, the major media outlets are reporting on the obvious crooks and scammers, like President Putin and his cronies who reportedly funneled 2 billions dollars through dummy corporations. The vast majority of the massive amount of data is still unreleased to the public. Journalists have said that the next wave of incriminating information and individuals of interest will be released in May.  

The information is organized in a manner like the Wikileaks information that can be searched by offshore entity and the names of the clients and officers. The names of all of the cruise lines, the dummy corporations created to be the owners of cruise ships, and the principals of the cruise-related companies need to be analyzed.

The cruise industry is, of course, essentially an offshore industry designed to avoid U.S. income tax and labor / wage / environmental laws. Corporations like Royal Caribbean, registered in Liberia, and Carnival, registered in Panama, are exactly the type of companies motivated to avail themselves of tax-avoiding mechanisms, or associate themselves with people and companies that do like the Mossack Fonseca law firm and their ilk.

Forbes said today that "the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and 100 reporting partners around the world started publishing stories on Sunday that tied 140 politicians, 29 billionaires and at least 33 blacklisted people to 214,000 offshore entities. The impact of the leak could reverberate for months."

The cruise industry already has the distinct benefit of large loopholes in the U.S. tax code which permit the major cruise lines to avoid virtually all U.S. taxes. So perhaps nothing of significance regarding the major cruise lines will come from scrutinizing the Panama Papers. But the offshore cruise catering, food and beverage, ship chandler companies and crewing agents which do business with the cruise industry need to be searched in the Panama Papers database. Of course the names of politicians and leaders of Caribbean and Central American countries, which are heavily dependent on income generated by the cruise industry, also need to be scrutinized.

The Nation reported that when asked why none of the information so far seemed to implicate many US-based individuals or businesses, the editor of Süddeutsche Zeitung said, “Just wait for what is coming next.”

People in the cruise industry and doing business with the industry are probably waiting for the other shoe to drop.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has an interesting and informative web site where you can follow the investigation and also sign up for email updates.

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Image and video credit: International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

  

U.S. Tourist Alleges Rape in Nassau

Nassau BahamasThe Nassau Tribune reports that a U.S. woman alleges that she was a victim of rape over the weekend. The Tribune article today reports that the local police in Nassau said that it has arrested a man for the "alleged rape of an American tourist early Sunday morning."

Royal Bahamian police officers were reportedly "on patrol on Charles Saint Vincent Street when they came upon a vehicle with an man and a woman visitor inside. The woman told police that the man had just sexually assaulted her."

As we reported in February, the Tribune newspaper in Nassau reports that the Bahamas leads the Caribbean in the number of recorded rapes, according to a report by the National Task Force for Gender Based Violence.

The Tribune says that "over a 10-year period, from 2003 to 2013, there were 1,109 reported rapes, according to police statistics. In addition, from 2008 to 2012, annual police reports documented 9,045 incidents where females were the victims of assault in the country. These reports also alluded to there being numerous cases of domestic violence of a non-sexual nature."

The report stated that “the Bahamas has the highest incidence of rape per capita in the Caribbean. The UN Woman narrative on gender-based violence in the Caribbean cites ‘while the worldwide average for rape was 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.

A recent report from the U.S. State Department warns U.S. tourists of the the fact that there have been sexual assaults on American tourists by jet ski operators in Nassau. The U.S. Embassy in Nassau reported that jet ski operators sexually assaulted 5 U.S. tourists in just 18 months.

The Bahamas also had a record number of murders last year, which were primarily in Nassau (New Providence). The murder rate in the Bahamas is far more than 30 per 100,00, compared to the U,S, per capita rate or around 4.5 per 100,000. 

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April 8, 2016 Update: It turns out that the Bahamian man who allegedly raped a U.S. tourist was a taxi cab drier, according to the Nassau Guardian newspaper in Nassau

Photo credit: Jpatokal at wts wikivoyage, GFDL, commons / wikimedia.

P&O Oceana Flunks CDC Sanitation Inspection

P&O OceanaA month ago, a crew member aboard the P&O Oceana notified me that the cruise ship failed a sanitation inspection by the enters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) while the ship was in port in Charleston, South Carolina.  Oceana received a score of 82; 85 or lower is considered a failure.

I have been checking the CDC's online inspection scores since then. I have been asking the CDC when it will release its report on the Oceana.

The report was finally released today. You can read the report here. The report indicated that several back-flow prevention devices, to prevent the contamination of potable water, did not have test results and appeared not to be tested. The ship's Riviera swimming pool and Crystal whirlpool did not have adequate levels of chlorinated and bromine, failed to have hair and lint strainers / filters and were not disinfected. The inspector closed the recreational water facilities on the ship.   

The report also revealed that a food handler had an onset of Acute Gastroenteritis (AGE) and exhibited symptoms at 9:00 A.M. in the morning but did did not report to the medical center until 11:20 A.M. A review of the crew member's work history indicated that this crew member worked, notwithstanding his illness, from 7:30 A.M. until 10:30 A.M.

The ship's galley appeared dirty. There were comments like "the tile grout in this area was soiled and in disrepair."  "The deck below under counter refrigerator . . . had a significant buildup of more than a week's accumulation of food debris, dirt, equipment parts, and what appeared to be insect remains." Food service equipment was broken or out of service and many operational ovens and ice-makers were overflowing their drip pans and/or leaking onto the floor.

Oceana has not prepared a "corrective action report" in response to the failed score, as required by the CDC.

In an era when cruise lines are quick to blame every single norovirus outbreak on the passengers, this CDC report provides an insight into how deficient water sanitation and disgusting food handling practices by a cruise line can jeopardize the health of the traveling public.  

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April 4, 2016 Update: The CDC vessel sanitation inspectors inspected the P&O Oriana in February.  Although the cruise ship passed with a score of 90, there were several significant sanitation problems including dirty and out of service galley equipment.  Also food handlers working while ill with gastrointeritis: "A Chef de Partie experienced onset of GI symptoms on 20 January 2016 at 6:45 am. This crew member worked from 7 am to 11 am, took lunch at the crew mess, then returned to work from 1 pm to 5 pm. The chef reported his symptoms to the medical center at 6 pm."   You can read the report here

April 5, 2016 Update:  Cruise Law News was quoted today in the Southampton's Daily  Echo and the U.K.'s Daily Mail.  

Fortune magazine also covered the story, writing that it "raises questions about the industry’s squeaky-clean image, and indeed, that there may be more unreported cases that were either ignored or dismissed by the sickened passengers or the cruise lines themselves."

April 6, 2016 Update:  FoxNews covers the story today - Health inspectors find cockroaches, 'potentially hazardous' food aboard two luxury cruise ships.  The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) interjects the blame-the-passenger-wash-your-hands excuse but ignores the fact that crew members were handling food while contagious and the ship's galley was found to be unsanitary and potentially hazardous to the guests' health. 

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

Royal Caribbean to Homeport Empress of the Seas in Havana

CubaIn breaking news, Cruise Law News has learned that Royal Caribbean will be home-porting the refurbished Empress of the Seas in Havana, Cuba.  

Effective August 14, 2016, the Empress of the Seas, originally named the Nordic Empress, will be sailing 7 day cruises from Havana to Nassau Bahamas, Labadee Haiti, Falmouth Jamaica and Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. In a starting move, the cruise line will be changing the name of the cruise ship to the Cuban Empress.

The cruise ship left the Royal Caribbean fleet in 2007 and, since then, has sailed for Royal Caribbean's Spanish subsidiary Pullmantur Cruises. Last year, Royal Caribbean announced that the cruise ship would be returning to its fleet in March of this year. The ship has been undergoing extensive renovations, first in Cadiz Spain and currently in Freeport Bahamas for the past several weeks. The ship was supposed to be sailing a Caribbean itinerary this summer but recently canceled six weeks of cruises because the cruise ship's renovations were behind schedule.  

Many travel agents have speculated that the cruise ship, because of its smaller size, is well suited to be the first ship for Royal Caribbean to enter the Cuban cruise market.  It will be the smallest cruise ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet behind the Majesty of the Seas. Many travel agents have noted that the cruise line has not booked any cruises on this ship after July as a sign that Royal Caribbean has planned all along try to get the Empress into Cuba before the end of the summer.

Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain commented that "Cuba is a great opportunity for us in the cruise business because we bring our own hotels and our own infrastructure . . . "

Earlier this month, Carnival announced that it had obtained approval from Cuba to sail from the U.S. into Cuban ports. On May 1st, Carnival's new "social impact" brand, Fathom, will be sailing passengers from Miami to several ports in Cuba, on the Adonia, a cruise ship with around 700 passengers. This will be the first time in 50 years that a cruise ship from Miami will call on a port in Cuba.  

Motivated by profits (fares on the Adonia are 2 to 3 times the average cost of a Caribbean cruise) and its competition with cross-town rival Carnival, Royal Caribbean pulled off a coup by one-upping Carnival by becoming the first U.S. cruise line which will base a cruise ship in Cuba. Royal Caribbean's Chief Operating Officer Adam Goldstein, who reportedly has spent several weeks in Havana meeting with Cuban officials, is expected to speak at a press conference later today. 

Royal Caribbean will utilize Havana's relatively modern cruise facility where two European lines, Costa Cruises and Pullmantur, used to operate. But both pulled out after Costa was acquired by Carnival Corporation in 2000 and Pullmantur by Royal Caribbean in 2006  due to the U.S. ban on travel to the communist nation. 

Royal Caribbean has made several Cuban-themed renovations to the cruise ship which executive Goldstein will be announcing shortly. The Cuban Empress will feature the "Che Guevara cigar room" Cuban Prisonwhich will feature hand-rolled Cohibas cigars. The cruise ship will also unveil the "Royal Castro Grill" where cruise passengers can enjoy fine Cuban cuisine. Late night entertainment will take place in the "Fidel & Raul's" nightclub where guests can dance the Mambo and sip Cuban "Havana Club" rum.

The cruise line will be offering excursions to Cuba's famous Combinado del Esto prison which houses thousands of dissidents and political prisoners. Also imprisoned are hundreds of Cuban families who tried to flee Cuba to the U.S. on make-shift rafts but were intercepted by U.S. based cruise ships and then forced to return to Cuba (no photos allowed).

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Photo Credits: 

Top - Mark Scott Johnson CC BY 2.0 commons / wikimedia.

Bottom - Franklin Reyes / AP Photo via Avax News

Smoke But No Fire on the Carnival Splendor?

Carnival SplendorA crew member on the Carnival Splendor informed me that on the morning of March 24th, "we had emergency alarm on pa of a fire then several more announcements saying it was not a fire just smoke coming out of an electrical locker still peoples cabins had smoke and force people to wait till going back the general emergency was not sounded as the smoke as they said was controlled and everything was ok anyway announcements went from 5 am till past six." The crew member wishes to remain anonymous.

The crew member added that the alarm included "a call for the alpha team to go to the scene. Was an electrical locker . . ."

"We also had a small fire during dry dock very small quickly contained. But that makes a small fire and a fire with smoke alert in two weeks. And the ship just came out of drydock so should be ship shape."

There has been no mention of this incident in any newspapers or magazines. The fire/smoke incident was mentioned by a cruise passenger on Twitter: "#carnival #splendor was waken up by a fire onboard our ship at 445 AM. This is the same ship that caught fire a while back. #SMH,"  

The incident was also referred to on a Facebook page ("Carnival Cruisers...Past, Present, Future") and there were around 20 comments. 

The Carnival Splendor was disabled due to fire in a highly publized incident in November 2010.  The ship had provisions flown to it from a U.S. aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan. The Carnival cruise ship had to be towed to San Diego. A month after the fire, the Coast Guard issued two Marine Safety Alerts regarding the CO2 firefighting system on the Splendor ship which failed to operate. 

Two and one-half years later, the Coast Guard released its final report on the fire. Although the Coast Guard was highly critical of the maintenance of the cruise ship engine and the cruise line's firefighting technique, the Coast Guard had conducted an annual Control Verification Exam the day before the fire and permitted the poorly maintained cruise ship to sail with passengers. 

Another interesting point is the time line of the fire in 2010. The fire was not finally and completely extinguished for over nine hours. This is a far cry from the initial reports from the cruise line which tried to reassure the passengers that the fire was not a big deal and was under control.

Marine experts say there is no such thing as a "small fire" on a ship at sea.

I have asked Carnival for an explanation and will publish what it says if it responds.  

We have heard the only-smoke-no-fire excuse before, like a fire on the Carnival Pride last year.   Carnival even tried to convince the passengers in the Splendor fire that what they smelled was just a "flameless fire." You can hear "there's-smoke-but-no-flames-or-fire" lies on this anouncement recorded on this YouTube video of the Splendor fire which disabled the ship. 

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March 27, 2016 Update:  Passengers on the cruise have contacted me saying that the toilets would not flush and the air conditioning would not work in many cabins on the cruise ship.  

Photo Credit:  Sparrowman980 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Norovirus on the Oceania Riviera Again

Oceania RivieraYesterday we received information about the current cruise of the Oceania Rivieria which is sailing through the Caribbean (Miami March 20-April 3). "The captain came on the intercom yesterday informing the passengers that a large number of passengers had come down with flu like/gastrointestinal issues and the CDC had been informed. The ship ported at their first stop Santa Marta, Colombia as scheduled today."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has now officially reported the third norovirus outbreak on the cruise ship.  

The first recent outbreak was during the November 18 – December 2, 2015 sailing and involved 74 ill passengers. The second outbreak occurred during the  February 12-22, 2016 sailing which had to be ended early and involved at least 124 sick passengers. We wrote about how the crew members had to work overtime, often off the clock and without extra pay, to try and super-clean the cruise ship. 

This latest outbreak involves at least 52 passengers who are ill with norovirus. Zero crew members were reported ill during the current cruise.

Unfortunately, the under-staffed CDC never tries to conduct a meaningful epidemiology assessment to determine whether the outbreak can be traced to a particular type of food contamination, an ill food handler, poor cleaning of the ship or an ill passenger who brought the noro aboard the ship. 

Expect the number of affected passengers to increase during the cruise notwithstanding the extra hours spraying and wiping by the crew. 

So far this year, there have been 8 gastrointestinal outbreaks reported to the CDC by cruise ships calling on U.S ports. 

Photo Credit: Kefalonitis94 CC BY-SA 4.0, creative commons / wikimedia.

RCCL on Terrorism: Most Destinations Are Absolutely Safe

Adam GoldsteinRoyal Caribbean's Adam Goldstein was on FOX Business's @MorningsMaria yesterday. The FOX analysts questioned Mr. Goldstein after the terrorists' attack on the airport and subway in Belgium yesterday.  

Mr. Goldstein, the President and Chief Operating Officer of the cruise line, explained that his company makes a lot of effort into its security. Royal Caribbean's cruise ships call on approximately 500 ports annually. Like other companies, it makes judgments based on the security information it has received prior to calling on a port. Occasionally, it will decide that it is not in the best interests of the cruise line and its guests to go to a particular port, like the recent case of Bali which its Celebrity Solstice and Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas  avoided.

Most places Royal Caribbean sails to are "absolutely safe," Mr. Goldstein claims.

He said that after the terrorist attacks last year in Paris, there was a "brief" decline in business of a week or two from Northern Europe countries. He said the effect on his cruise line business was "de Royal Caribbean Jim Cramerminimis."  He does not expect anything different after this latest attack in Brussels.

The FOX News panel also questioned Mr. Goldstein on the effect of the Zika virus on bookings. He also downplayed the effect of this serious medical problem, which is believed to cause abnormally underdeveloped heads (microcephaly) in newborn children.

Mr. Goldstein said: "We are not aware that we ever saw any sort of impact on the business and it doesn't seem to be a conversation today."

This is an interesting perspective. Yesterday, another financial show on CNBC, Jim Cramer's MAD MONEY, suggested that although cruise lines deny that the Zika virus has affected their operations to date, it will severely impact cruising in the coming months

You can hear Mr. Goldstein below.

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Norovirus? Over 300 Passengers Sickened on Golden Princess

Golden Princess9News in Australia reports that the Golden Princess cruise ship docked in Melbourne this morning "after hundreds of passengers were struck down with gastro."

The newspaper reports that "more than 300 passengers" on-board the cruise ship are believed to have been affected with a gastrointestinal illness.

Princess Cruises spokesman praised the ship's crew and medical personnel who handled what the newspapers said is believed to be norovirus.

In the last two month, Princess Cruises has experienced a number of gastrointestinal outbreaks, on the Ocean Princess, Diamond Princess, and the Crown Princess.   

Princess Cruises has experienced the most gastrointestinal outbreaks in the last decade - over 20. 

Norovirus is primarily a food-borne virus which often spreads through contaminated food or water.  It can be spread by food handlers, people who touch contaminated surfaces and from person to person transmission. 

Photo credit: Jean-Philippe Boulet, CC BY 3.0.

CDC: 137 Sick with Norovirus on Norwegian Gem

Norwegian GemEarlier this week, we reported that health officials banned the Norwegian Gem from calling on St. Maarten because a number of passengers were ill with a gastrointestinal illness. The NCL cruise ship then sailed on to Tortola where it called on the port there.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now officially reporting that 128 of 2,882 cruise passengers (4.44%) and 7 of 1,100 of crew members (0.64%) on the Gem have been ill during the cruise with norovirus. 

Although it was suggested on the cruise ship that the cause of the outbreak may be contaminated water, there has been no information released to the public confirming or excluding this possible cause. Norovirus is primarily a food-borne disease. Outbreak News Today correctly states that "norovirus is typically spread through contaminated food and water, touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then putting your hand or fingers in your mouth and close contact with someone who is vomiting or has diarrhea."

Unfortunately, the CDC has limited resources and does not attempt to conduct an epidemiology assessment regarding the source of the norovirus outbreak.    

Photo credit: Corgi5623 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0.       

Cocaine Bust: Three Crew Members Arrested in Ocho Rios, Jamaica

The Jamaica Observer reports that yesterday the police in Ocho Rios arrested three crew members aboard an unidentified cruise ship docked at the Ocho Rios Pier with a large quantity of cocaine hidden under their clothes. 

The three men were reportedly from St. Vincent. The newspaper identified the men, Lloyd Thomas (40 years old), Dasrick Moore (age 24) and Kishorn Simon (age 25). 

The newspaper says that the police stopped the three crew members when they were in the process of boarding the cruise ship. All three men reportedly had cocaine hidden in their underwear.

The combined weight of the cocaine reportedly is approximately five pounds. 

Ten days ago, a NCL crew member from St. Vincent, who worked aboard the Norwegian Sun, was sentenced to ten years in prison after he was caught smuggling cocaine from Roatan to Tampa along with five other crew members. 

We have not yet determined which cruise ships the three crew members were working on. 

The Rich Get Richer - Ex NCL CEO Collects $13,400,000 in Golden Parachute

A couple of days ago, Cruise industry News reported that, according to NCL's 2015 Annual Report, Kevin Sheehan received a severance package from NCL last year totaling $13,400,000 (million). 

Mr. Sheehan resigned unexpectedly in January last year amidst some controversy.   

The annual report in question, which you can see here, specified a "a total severance expense of $13.4 million of which $8.2 million was due to the acceleration of the equity-based awards which was Kevin Sheehanrecorded in January 2015." 

In an industry which includes cruise CEO's who make the big bucks like multi-billionaire Micky Arison and multi-millionaire Richard Fain, perhaps this is just business as usual.

But it must be hard to swallow for some crew members who work around the clock for peanuts, and without any real benefits. Crew members can be fired without cause. There is a saying that a cruise line can fire a crew member for any reason - good reason, bad reason or no reason - without legal consequence.     

NCL has suffered over the year from the perception even amongst cruise fans of being the king of "nickel and diming" its customers. But when it's time to make a deal with a CEO to move him out of the way without a fuss, NCL will not hesitate to pay millions. 

Photo credit: @CruiseNorwegian via CruiseInd 

March 17, 2016 Update: Proxy statement explaning, among other thing, what Mr. Sheehan's financial benefits he was entitled to if he was terminated with cause versus without cause. 

March 18, 2016 Update:  Many crew members seemed to like Mr. Sheehan and not the CEO who replaced him, Frank Del Rio, who many describe as an arrogant and cost-cutting boss. Here's one of many comments sent to me on Facebook:

"It doesnt matter how much Mr Sheehans got. He is such a nice and approchable person. I had the chance to meet his 3 years ago in the NCL Sun,h e came to my side stand to greet and thank us for our hard work. Unlike Mr Del Rio, who comes to NCL changing evwrything, all our benefits. The company is going down for the crew. Del Rio came to NCL PEARL when i was there, stood therw for 2 hours and put the ship up side down. So arrogant and unpolite to the crew, didnt even smile at us. Not even a "well done guys, thank you for your hard work." NOTHING. I've been with NCL for the past 3 years. I will appreciate if you keep my name private. I may lose my job if anything comes to public."

Gastrointestinal Outbreak Keeps Norwegian Gem From Calling on St. Maarten

Several passengers on the Norwegian Gem have contacted me, saying that health officials in St. Maartan have reportedly prohibited the NCL cruise ship from porting there.

The passengers are saying that there is a gastrointestinal outbreak reported on the Gem, thought to be norovirus.

I have not previously heard there was any type of outbreak on the ship. Anyone have information?

Photo credit: Corgi5623 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 

March 18, 2016 Update: We are receiving some interesting comments on our Facebook page, including one suggesting that the source of the outbreak may be contaminated port water - rather than the cruise lines' usual excuse of cruise passengers blamed for not washing their hands.

March 21, 2016 Update: The Gem next called on Tortola. Many local citizens are not happy. VI allows cruise ship to dock despite alleged Norovirus infection outbreak

 

  

Families of Children With Autism File Suit Against Royal Caribbean

The Palm Beach Post is reporting that a lawsuit was filed this week against Royal Caribbean by families of children with autism who faced the February 6th storm which terrorized many passengers aboard the Anthem of the Seas.

The article was written by the the Palm Beach Post's weather reporter, Kim Miller, in her blog called WeatherPlus.  

Ms. Miller writes that "40 families of children with autism sued the luxury cruise company saying Anthem o fthe Seas Stormofficials were negligent in their actions to sail the Anthem of the Seas into the storm despite forecasts that predicted turbulent weather."  

She cites the lawsuit filed on Monday which says that "there were 40 families with Autism Spectrum Disorder children aboard the vessel and parents and aides did their best to protect themselves and their children who were being severely battered and traumatized."

The lawsuit represents a potential public relations nightmare for the cruise line which, ironically, has collaborated with Autism on the Seas, a non-profit national organization, since 2007, in developing cruise vacation services to accommodate adults and families living with children with special needs, including "autism, asperger syndrome, down syndrome, tourette syndrome, and cerebral palsy." 

Royal Caribbean said that the lawsuit lacks merit. The cruise line again commented that the Anthem encountered "unexpectedly severe storm" but still kept "the ship safe . . ." 

This may well prove to be a difficult case to defend given the fact that weather forecasts predicted 30+ foot waves and hurricane strength winds which rocked the cruise ship and damaged at least one of the ship's azipod propulsion units in the storm. 

The court records reflect that John Ostrow of Miami and Alan Trachtman of New York City represent the families. Long time cruise line defense lawyer Curtis Mase of the Mase and Lara law firm in Miami is representing Royal Caribbean in the first two lawsuits arising out of the storm last month. 

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Photo Credit: Incredible World / ABC News / Youtube

Seatrade Global 2016: How About the Crew Members?

Later this morning, Seatrade's State of the Global Cruise Industry Conference, moderated by CBS Travel Editor Peter Greenberg, will feature four cruise executives: Frank Del Rio, President & CEO, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd, Arnold Donald, President & CEO, Carnival Corporation, Richard Fain, Chairman & CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman, MSC Cruises. 

Three additional cruise line leaders will conclude the presentation: Charles A. Robertson, Chairman & CEO, American Cruise Lines, Edie Rodriguez, President & CEO, Crystal Cruises, and Tara Russell, President, Carnival Corporation's Fathom ('impact travel"). 

Shortly, if this Seatrade is like any other, we will hear about the growth of the industry and the increasingly larger cruise ships built to accommodate the 24,000,000 people who will decide to Crew Membervacation on the high seas this year. There is no doubt that the cruise industry, a rich and powerful industry, continues to grow at a record pace.  

But there will be little mention of the hard work by the tens of thousands of crew members from around the world who are the backbone of the industry. Seatrade Global (and its predecessor Cruise Shipping Miami) measures itself in terms of the number of the passengers and giant ships and the money which these cruise customers and cruise ships generate for the ports and the industry as a whole. The cruise executives will tell us about a Florida port, Port Everglades, just setting a new record for the most cruise ship passengers in a single day, 54,700 passengers last Sunday. 

But the cruise executives will not mention an incident this weekend in Port Everglades, the day before the port set a new record for passengers, when a Royal Caribbean crew member threatened to jump off the Oasis of the Seas. Are cruise lines pushing their crew members too hard for too little?

Crew members are working harder and longer than anytime in the history of the cruise industry. MLC2006 was suppose to result in the protection of the crew members, by ensuring that men and women who work on ships at sea are guaranteed a reasonable number of time resting. But, in reality, crew members hired as waiters state that they can't log their time in when they arrive in the dining hall at 6:30 A.M to prepare their stations for the rush of passengers who enter the dining rooms for a 7:00 A.M breakfast. And they are often required to sign out and continue to work "off the clock" when they exceed the maximum hours theoretically limited by MLC2006.  

Crew members also complain that they attend meetings only during their "breaks." Many crew member who accurately log their long hours into the electronic time systems have their real hours worked changed by managers to comply with the MLC2006 auditors hired by the Carnivals and Royal Caribbeans. Take a minute and read the comments left by crew members on our Facebook page commenting on the sad state of MLC2006 non-compliance by the major cruise lines today. 

I recently posted a question on Facebook which I asked several years ago whether Royal Caribbean was working its crew members to death? Crew members left insightful information and quickly added that its not just Royal Caribbean working its crew members too hard but it is an industry wide problem. When a galley worker newly hired on a Princess cruise ship, the Island Princess, ended his life last week, another round of criticism followed. Are cruises bosses uninterested in crew welfare as they seek record profits on their gigantic ships?

Crew members like waiters, cabin attendants, galley workers and cleaners work regular 12+ hour days, seven days a week, for months at a time. They work even harder and longer when their cruise ships call on U.S. ports and their department heads are concerned of a surprise USPH inspection as well as when norovirus breaks out and "enhanced cleaning" is required.

The industry's trade organization, CLIA, meanwhile touts in a recent tweet that "Our work never ends. Crewmembers continually clean & sanitize cruise ships to ensure passenger & crew #health." True indeed as far as "continually cleaning" goes. Yes, this may be one of the few CLIA statements that is factually true given the seemingly endless hours worked by the crew.  But there is no overtime or extra pay when the crew members work around the clock as a recent gastrointestinal outbreak during an Oceania cruise demonstrated. Crew members reported working 18 to 20 hours a day.

The cruise executives know that such long hours result in low morale and burn-out, but they look the other way. Ironically, cruise executive Micky Arison just re-tweeted a post by @ProjectTimeOff designed to encourage potential Carnival cruise customers to take time off from work and cruise - "The truth is out: time off work reduces burnout, improves morale, and boosts creativity." @MickyArison tweeted "Absolutely the case on a #cruise." Maybe so if you're a guest.

Absolutely not if you are a crew member.

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Photo credit: Getty Images

Cruise Tourists Attacked in Belize

Vision of the SeasA couple of days ago, we posted an article about cruise passengers who were robbed while visiting the Altun Ha Maya ruins site in Belize. During this incident, two cruise passengers were reportedly robbed of a gold necklace and $450 in cash by two men, one with a machete and one with a handgun.

A local television station said that "the tourism police officers were lax in carrying out their duties. When the last tourist bus left, so did the tourism police, although the site had not been closed."    

But the Ministry of Culture later issued a press release saying "there was adequate police and security presence at the Archeological Site."

Today, we were notified by a passenger, wishing to stay anonymous, who visited Belize City on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Vision of the Seas, and told us that her husband had been physically assaulted and battered in an apparent robbery attempt on March 8th after their cruise ship docked at the Tourism Village. She indicated that after a ten minute walk from the port on Gabourel Lane, she and her husband ate luch and began to return to the ship.  A local man "came up from behind with a rifle and said he was going to kill us if he did not get my bag."  Here is her account:

"We were victims of an attempted armed robbery on Tuesday, March 8, 2016 near the Museum of Belize after lunch at Senor Coconuts while walking back to port. My husband was hit on the head with the barrel of a rifle and sustained injury to the head (requiring stitches) and bruises on the arm and hand and I also sustained scratches and bruises. Luckily, there was a women nearby who scared him off. The police never arrived until we were at the hospital. We were driven there by a couple in the area. We were treated at the hospital and driven back to port. We were on RC Vision of the Seas. It is our understanding there is little police presence because they are underfunded and undermaned. This is a very dangerous place filled with crime and cruise ship visitors are not advised of this by the ships. I was really concerned because of all the young college girls on the ship. Do not go out of Tourism Village. The city of Belize is very unsafe."

The passenger told me "I want people to know if it weren't for two kind women, I don't know what more could of happened . . . There were three cruise ships in port that day, probably over 3,000 people. The cruise ships need to warn you, but they don't. We learned the hard way."

Photo credit: ZipIt at English Wikipedia transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons

NCL Crew Member Sentenced to 10 Years in Jail for Smuggling Cocaine

On Friday, a federal court judge sentenced a former Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) crew member to ten years in prison for his involvement in smuggling drugs from Roatan, Honduras to Tampa, Florida, according to a press release issued by the Department of Justice

Desrick Gordon, age 23, from the country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine. The judge ordered him to forfeit $53,369, which is proceeds of the crime. A jury found Mr. Gordon guilty on December 16, 2015.

As we reported last April, Mr. Gordon and five other NCL crew members from the Norwegian Sun were arrested after they reportedly transported packages filled of cocaine from Roatan, Honduras to the U.S. When the cruise ship docked in Tampa, the crew members handed the drugs to local drug traffickers with ties to the Honduran source.  Federal agents seized 10 packages of cocaine with a total weight of more than 7.5 kilograms. 

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

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

 

 

Crew Death on the Island Princess

Several crew members and other people have informed me that the FBI is investigating the death of a Princess Cruises crew member on the Island Princess yesterday.  

The cruise ship was in Colon, after cruising in the Panama Canal, when a crew member was discovered dead in his cabin. Some people are saying that it is an apparent suicide but others are stressing that the FBI has not discosed an official cause of death. 

He was a young, newly hired galley employee on his first contract. We are not disclosing the crew member's name nor the alleged mechanism of his death at this time. 

The cruise ship apparently had to cancel the next port of call in Limon, Costa Rica.

Photo credit: Jean-Philippe Boulet, CC BY 3.0, creative commons / wikimedia.

March 19, 2016 @1:56 P.M. Update:  Princess released the following statement: 

Island Princess Statement
March 10, 2016

"We are saddened to confirm a crew member aboard Island Princess took his own life while the ship was in Colon, Panama yesterday. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the crew member and also with our crew members working aboard Island Princess.

Local authorities were immediately contacted and we facilitated full support in the endeavor to investigate the incident. Island Princess was required to stay in Panama overnight so that authorities could conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death. The ship has completed departure formalities and received clearance from local authorities to sail.

As a result, we have been required to cancel our scheduled call to Limon and sail directly to Grand Cayman, where the ship will arrive as scheduled at 7:00 AM on Saturday, March 12.

Island Princess departed Ft. Lauderdale on March 4 for a 10-day Panama Canal cruise, scheduled to return on March 14." 

Cruise Passengers Robbed in Belize

A newspaper in Belize reports that cruise ship passengers were robbed at gunpoint yesterday while on an excursion at the Altun Ha Maya ruins site.

The newspaper explains that a tour guide, identified as Clifford Hoare, and six cruise tourists "lost cash and other valuables to two armed and masked men."

The newspaper also says that "the transport from the cruise ship had left just minutes before, and the tourist police acting as security had left along with them."

Neither the cruise line nor the cruise ship were identified in the article.

Alta Ha BelizeLocal police detained a number of people from a nearby village as suspects.

Earlier this year, a U.S. tourist from Chicago was found murdered while on vacation in the Cayo District of western Belize. She was an executive producer of online operations at a local ABC affiliate in Chicago. 

Earlier in January, a Canadian filmmaker Matthiew Klinck was found stabbed to death in his home in Spanish Lookout. 

These and other murders in Belize led a number of publications to question whether Belize is safe for tourists?

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." But the country is impoverished and, my thoughts at least, tourists from a cruise ship stick out like a sore thumb and are often targeted while ashore in Central America and the Caribbean. Also Belize has a murder rate of 44.7 murders per 100,000 of the population, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (Only Honduras and Venezuela are worse.)

To put this into context, the U.S. has a murder rate of around 4.5 per 100,000. Detroit has a rate of 43.5 murders per 100,000. So traveling to Belize is essentially like traveling to an country with a country-wide murder rate comparable to a city with the highest murder rate in the U.S.

Robbing cruise passengers on an excursion is hardly rare.  Read Robbing Cruise Passengers in Bulk - Yes, It Happens!

March 10, 2016 Update: Channel 7 Belize reports that only two cruise passengers, along with the private tour guide, were robbed. The two men who robbed them had what appeared to be a "black 9 millimetre handgun and a machete." Here's what Channel 7 reported: 

" . . . as we later found out from the officer in command of Belize Eastern Rural, the tourism police officers were lax in carrying out their duties. When the last tourist bus left, so did the tourism police, although the site had not been closed. According to police, two tourists were then robbed of items including 1 gold necklace and about $450 US Dollars in different denominations. They were on a private tour with one Clifford Hoare Belizean Tour Guide of Hattieville Village when the men accosted the tourists and tour guide."

March 11, 2016 Update:  Channel 7 Belize reports that the pollice in Belize arrested a suspect in the robbery.  It cites the Ministry of Culture's press release saying, quote, "There was adequate police and security presence at the Archeological Site." this is in contrast with the the local police and the news organization stating yesterday that the security was "lax."

Map credit: NordNordWest - using United States National Imagery and Mapping Agency data, CC BY-SA 3.0, creative commons / wikimedia.  

Royal Caribbean Cancels Radiance's Stop in Bali Due to Terrorism Concerns

Radiance of the SeasRoyal Caribbean is canceling the March 17th port call in Bali for the Radiance of the Seas due to its concerns over terrorism. The cruise line informed passengers: 

"Hello, this is Royal Caribbean International. We would like to provide you with some important information regarding your March 12, 2016, sailing onboard Radiance of the Seas. In an abundance of caution, and based on the latest security information we have gathered, Royal Caribbean International has made a decision to cancel its call to Bali, Indonesia on Thursday, March 17, 2016. Additional ports of call have been added to your itinerary. A letter with additional details will be provided to you at boarding. We appreciate your understanding as your safety is always our foremost concern."

Last week, sister cruise line Celebrity distributed letters to the passengers and crew members on the Celebrity Solstice indicating that the cruise ship will not be calling on Bali (Benoa) due to the potential of a terrorist attack. You can read our article - Celebrity Solstice Cancels Stop in Bali Due to Concern of Terrorism.

March 10, 2016 Update:  Newspapers in Australia are reporting that the "Radiance of the Seas and the Celebrity Millenium will also leave the island off their itineraries. Celebrity Millenium was due to overnight in Bali on March 16, and Radiance of the Seas was scheduled to visit the following day."

Photo credit: Bahnfrend - CC BY-SA 4.0, creative commons / wikimedia.

Cruise Ship Passengers Beware: Don't Go to Princess Margaret Hospital in Nassau

Hospitals NassauA U.S. citizen was reportedly the victim of medical malpractice at a large public hospital (Princess Margaret) in Nassau, Bahamas and is now telling the world about his ordeal.

As explained in a local Fox News station and in a gofundme page, Jake Tyler (Beiersdorf), a young man from Minnesota, traveled to Nassau in January of this year to work at an annual poker tournament. After he experienced severe pain in his right lower flank, he was taken to Princess Margaret Hospital where he reportedly faced a medical nightmare. Here is what the online information contends happened:

Jake "waited 14 hours until they finally decided that he had a ruptured appendix and needed surgery. They opened him up down the center of his abdomen from his breastbone to the top of his groin. Following the surgery they thought it was best to leave him unstitched . . . for the next 4 (yes, FOUR) days. That Monday they finally gave him just 13 loosely sewn, superficial epidermal stitches (with several open gaps remaining and where at least 35-45 staples were required), and zero inner stitches reattaching the fascia (muscle and fat layer) within- which helps keep ones 'insides" from basically falling out."  

After this ill-conceived surgery, Jake was reportedly sent to a "(filthy) communal room" with many other patients where his friend reportedly came to see him and witnessed "unbelievable unsanitary surroundings. It was just plain gross . . ."

His friend obtained his eventual discharge but had to return him to Princess Margaret for a final checkup and determination whether he was fit to fly back to the U.S. His checkup was held in what is described as an "unsanitary storage closet with random items strewn everywhere."

Once back in the U.S., he underwent emergency surgery where it was discovered that the surgeons in the Bahamas did not stitch the muscle layer beneath his skin and did not even remove his appendix (which had not ruptured as they claimed).

If you are an ill or injured cruise passenger (like in a moped accident or taken from a cruise ship) in Nassau, you do not want anyone to take you to the Princess Margaret hospital!  We have heard complaints from many cruise passengers over the years who have ended up there. There is a saying in the Bahamas that Princess Margaret hospital is "the reason local Bahamians pray not to get sick."   

It is better to use travel insurance and get back to the U.S. As a last resort, be prepared to pull out your credit card and be admitted to a private hospital (like Doctors Hospital) in Nassau which may be inferior to U.S. standards but is a definite step above what you will experience at Princess Margaret.  

March 9, 2016 Update: The Nassau Guardian published an article today about this story, stating that the Public Hospitals Authority and the Princess Margaret Hospital will be investigating the allegations. 

March 10, 2016 Upgrade: The public hospital denied everything today, except admitting that Mr. Beiersdorf was not seen for an extraordinary period of time according to the Nassau Guardian. A well known local Bahamian surgeon not involved in the medical case claims: " . . .  very scurious allegations defame the professional integrity of an entire institution, a number of medical professionals and a country as a whole." My thoughts?  Denial and misplaced patriotism.  

 

Video: Article and video Fox9  

Map credit:  Google

Celebrity Solstice Cancels Stop in Bali Due to Concern of Terrorism

Bali TerrorismToday I received copies of letters handed out to the passengers and crew members on the Celebrity Solstice indicating that the cruise ship will not be calling on Bali (Benoa) due to the potential of a terrorist attack.

As you can see below, the letter distributed to the passengers yesterday mentions travel warnings about potential terrorist attacks in Bali issued by the Australian and U.K. governments. In addition, the letter signed by Captain Yannis Berdos, states that:

"the most recent information received in the past few days indicates that the possibility of an incident has increased. Also the Balinese New Year on March 9th, and recent past advisories has named this date as one that would be targeted by terrorists. Based on all of this information we have gathered from various sources, and in discussion with our Global Security team in Miami, we have made a decision to cancel our call to Bali." 

The letter mentions (not to nitpick) that Celebrity felt that it "could not guarantee" passenger safety in Bali due to these concerns.  Of course, cruise lines have no legal duty to "guarantee" safety but only to act reasonably and to warn passengers of dangers which the cruise companies know or should know about ashore in ports of call.

It looks like Celebrity is acting prudently in taking steps to reduce the threat of harm to its passengers and crew. I have been critical in the past of cruise lines when they cruise passenger into dangerous ports of call, like when Costa and MSC sailed into La Goulette, Tunisia and ISIS slaughtered several dozen cruise passengers.

The letter sent to the Celebrity crew members today by the Solstice's Executive Team mentions what is referred to as  "credible security concerns" that led to the decision to bypass Bali.  

Many crew members are from Indonesia and will now be unable to visit with their family and loved ones.

The 2002 Bali bombings (photo above) occurred in October of 2002 in the tourist district of Kuta on Bali. The attack killed over 200 people (including 88 Australians, 38 Indonesians, and people from more than 20 other nationalities). An additional 200 people were also injured.

Jemaah Islamiyah members, a violent Islamist group supported by al-Qaeda, were convicted of engaging in the bombings which involved the detonation of a backpack bomb by a suicide bomber and a large car bomb. Three of the terrorists were executed.  A recording from Osama Bin Laden stated that the Bali bombings were in retaliation for support of the United States' war on terror and Australia's role in the liberation of East Timor.

The Jakarta Post recently published an article stating that cruise tourism is increasing in Bali, the country’s most famous tourist destination. In 2015, 58 cruise ships arrived on the island.  

March 7, 2016 Update:

A local newspaper in Bali questions the timing of the cancellation, writing: "questions have been raised by at least one passenger via postings on Facebook on the timing of the cancellation of the visit to Bali. The last warning from the Australian Government urging extreme caution for those traveling to Indonesia was issued on February 25th – a date well in advance of the Celebrity Solstice’s departure from Australia to Bali. . . . Questions are being raised as to why the decision and announcement on Bali’s removal from the cruise itinerary not delivered to passengers prior sailing?" 

Trave Agent Central points out that Celebrity's sister cruise line Royal Caribbean, which shares the same Global Security team, is sailing the Radiance of the Seas to Bali later this month as well as in April. 

Top photo: HWT Image Library via news.com.au

Passenger letter credit: NorbertsNiece from Cruise Critic a/k/a 'Linda Lemer Ward

Crew letter credit: Anonymous

Celebrity Sollstice Terrorism Bali

Celebrity Solstice Terrorism

Overboard From Navigator of the Seas

Navigator of the SeasI have received inquiries on Facebook for information regarding a person overboard from the Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas who apparantly disappeared into the water late last night.

Passengers on the ship are stating that there was an "Oscar, Oscar, Oscar" (man overboard) announcement around 11:00 P.M. The cruise ship began a search. Lighted life preservers were thrown overboard. The Coast Guard was notified and a helicopter arrived on the scene after an hour and a half. Passengers commented that it was very dark and difficult circumstances to try and rescue anyone. 

The cruise ship has returned to port in Port Everglades without rescuing the overboard person or locating his or her body. It is currently unknown whether the person is a passenger or crew member.

Cruise lines may be unable to prevent overboards but there is technology available to automatically detect and quickly respond to these type of emergencies. Take a look at one such system which is readily available on the market. Unfortunately, cruise lines like Royal Caribbean seem to have invested only in virtual balconies, fast internet, the FlowRider and other bells and whistles designed to WOW the customers.

Photo Credit: Ahecht CC BY-SA 4.0, creatiive commons / wikimedia

March 6, 2016 Update: Royal Caribbean released the followings statement:

"On Friday, March 4, 2016, at approximately 10:55 p.m., a guest onboard Navigator of the Seas reported that they had witnessed another guest going overboard from their stateroom balcony. A review of the ship’s closed-circuit camera footage observed a 46-year-old male guest from the U.S. going overboard from deck 10. The location of the ship at the time the guest went overboard was marked on the ship’s Global Positioning System (GPS), and the ship, along with the Coast Guard, conducted a search for the missing guest. Early Saturday morning, the ship was advised by the Coast Guard that they would be assuming control of the search and the ship resumed its journey to Port Everglades, Florida. Royal Caribbean’s Care Team is providing support to the guest’s family and our thoughts and prayers are with them. Navigator of the Seas sailed a six-night itinerary that departed Port Everglades, on February 28, made a port calls to Georgetown, Grand Cayman; Falmouth, Jamaica; and Labadee, Haiti." 

Is Royal Caribbean Telling You the Truth?

When the Anthem of the Seas sailed into the forecasted storm last month, Royal Caribbean's PR department began to downplay the controversy. They claimed that they were surprised by the storm. But the truth is that the storm was accurately forecasted with waves over 30 feet and hurricane strength winds. Even NBC weatherman Al Roker mocked Royal Caribbean, pointing out the forecast and saying "Bullfeathers!" (see video) to the cruise line's claim of surprise.  

Royal Caribbean initially said that no one was injured and the cruise ship experienced no damage. This was also untrue. When passengers began posting photos and video on social media showing the destruction of the storm, the cruise line finally admitted that there were injuries but claimed that only "four injuries have been reported, none severe." This was untrue. I've spoken to far more than 4 Al Roker Bullfeatherspassengers who allege injuries, some of them quite severe. They all say that the ship infirmary was literally overwhelmed by injured passengers. Some tell me that the medical staff finally shut and locked the door to the medical facility in order to keep others injured out.

Royal Caribbean also later said that the ship only had cosmetic damage and was "seaworthy." Again, this was completely untrue. The U.S. Coast Guard revealed that when the Anthem returned to port in New Jersey, one of the two azipods was in fact damaged and had to be repaired before the cruise ship could be cleared to sail.

Several passengers contacted our office seeking to become involved in the class action lawsuit filed against Royal Caribbean because they feel that the cruise line has not been honest with them or the public and had trivialized their concerns and fears. 

Today PIX-11 in New York interviewed a Royal Caribbean passenger who feels that Royal Caribbean was not honest with the passengers on the latest Anthem cruise that was cut short short again.  The cruise line said that they were returning the Anthem early to port because of "rough weather" that was supposed to hit the ship on Tuesday and Wednesday.  But there was no such storm.  Instead there was a gastrointestinal illness outbreak that the passenger believes was the true cause of the early return.  

Listen to the interview.  She's a cruise fan but feels deceived.

 

Carnival Sunshine Joins 2016 Noro Club

Carnival SunshineThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the Carnival Sunshine is suffering through a gastrointestinal outbreak. This is the fifth GI outbreak of a U.S. based cruise line this year according to the CDC, 

The CDC says that 118 of 3,005 (3.93%) of passengers sickened with noro during the cruise in addition to 5 crew members out of 1,142 (0.43%). 

As I have mentioned in other recent articles, Carnival cruise lines has reported only three norovirus outbreaks to the CDC for U.S. based cruise since since 2006.  This is to be sharply contrasted with the norovirus outbreaks reported by Carnival owned Princess and HAL which have reported 32 GI outbreaks between them in the last decade. 

Photo Credit: Piergiuliano Chesi 3.0 creative commons / wikimedia

March 5, 2016 Update: The CDC reported that the number of passengers sickened during the cruise is 173 with 5 crew members also stricken with noro virus.   

 

Another Gastrointestinal Outbreak on Leading GI-Outbreak Cruise Line, Princess Cruises

Ocean PrincessThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that there is a gastrointestinal outbreak on the Ocean Princess cruise ship, with 43 of 603 (7.13%) of passengers ill during the cruise and 5 of 387 (1.29%) crew members sick.

The Princess cruise ship is currently sailing on a February 13 - March 7, 2016 itinerary. The cruise ship is scheduled to go into dry dock on March 7th. 

Princess has 50% of the four cruise ship norovirus that meet the CDC's criteria so far this year. This should be no surprise to anyone who follows gastrointestinal outbreaks on cruise ships.

As I pointed out in my last article about a gastrointestinal outbreak on a Princess cruise ship (the Crown Princess), during the six year period from 2010 to the current date, Princess Cruises experienced the most norovirus outbreaks on its cruise ships calling on a U.S. port, according to the CDC. Including this most recent outbreak, Princess has reported twenty (20) cases to the CDC during this time period.

In contrast, Carnival cruise lines reported just two (2) cases during the same time period.

Celebrity Cruises reported 15 cases (and Royal Caribbean reported 9). HAL also reported a high number (12) during the 2010 to 2016 time period. Cunard reported 4; NCL -3; Oceania - 3; and Crystal - 2. 

Anyone have an explanation why there have been 10 times as many CDC-reported GI outbreaks on Princess cruise ships compared to Carnival cruise line ships?

 Photo Credit: Pjotr Mahhonin - CC0, Wikipedia

"Curse of the Seas" Returns to New Jersey for Noro Cleaning

Passengers on the Anthem of the Seas are stating that as of Monday, as the cruise ship continued to head back to New Jersey for deep cleaning, the captain informed them that 109 passengers are sick with norovirus.

Other passengers also tell me that there are more than this sick, but they don't want to go to the medical facility.    

According to the CDC, cruise lines are required to provide notification to the federal agency when the gastrointestinal illness (GI) count exceeds 2% of the total number of passengers or crew onboard. The CDC-required notification is for totals for the entire voyage.

There are between 4,180 passengers (double occupancy) and 4,905 passengers (maximum occupancy) on the cruise ship so 2% turns out to be between 83 and 98 passengers. So expect Anthem of the Seas - Norovirusthe CDC to officially announce that the Anthem to be the fourth U.S. based cruise ship with an norovirus outbreak this year. 

The much ballyhooed "severe storm" that supposedly caused Royal Caribbean to cancel two days of the cruise is nowhere to be seen, as passengers report good weather and calm cruising. 

Royal Caribbean, which didn't mention the topic of norovirus until passengers went to Twitter complaining of the virus outbreak, denied on Twitter that the outbreak was the reason behind returning to port in New Jersey early. But many news sources blended norovirus into the story after an executive with the Associated Press aboard the cruise ship said that the ship’s captain and its cruise director made announcements about norovirus sickening people on the ship.

The AP executive was also quoted saying that the cruise ship "workers are scurrying around like ants, scrubbing down handrails, tables and any other surfaces that can be washed" - an apt although somewhat derogatory description. This is hardly what the cruise line wants the passengers to think about on a cruise marketed as a relaxing pleasure cruise.  

Whoever you believe, whether the Anthem of the Seas is returning to avoid the so-called storm or because of a virus outbreak, there is no doubt that the Anthem's reputation is being mauled in the court of public opinion.  New York Magazine called her the "bad luck cruise ship."  CNN calls her the seemingly perpetually "storm battered" cruise ship. Some people on Twitter are asking "Anthem of the Seas: Cursèd ship of doom, or just a run of bad luck?"  

Of course, any mention of the Anthem today is accompanied by photos and video of the raucous cruise earlier this month which reminds everyone of the fact that the ill-fated ship sailed into the violent storm.

The "cursed" cruise ship theme was blasted in the headlines of the popular U.K. tabloid newspaper the Daily Mail which asked "Is the Anthem of the Seas Cursed?" The Inquisitr, Newsmax, and the Examiner, among others, all joined the Daily Mail in labeling the Anthem "cursed" in their news Anthem of the SEas Norovirusarticles.   

So the overworked crew members continue to spray and scrub everything in sight. Photos sent to me from the ship show the crew members wiping all rails and counters (photo top) and wrapping a rack of cookies-(photo bottom) with a Saran-Wrap like film, apparently to keep the surfaces and food clean. (I have never seen this before).  

Regarding the crew members who had to deal with storm-frazzled passengers three weeks ago, and are now pressed into non-stop noro-eradication measures, I'm sure that they feel that the Anthem of the Seas may indeed be cursed.

March 1, 2016 Update 5:00 PM:  The CDC disease data-base just listed the Anthem of the Seas. It lists "unknown" rather than norovirus so we may find out that there is some other source of infection like e-coli or something more exotic. 125 passengers and 16 crew members are infected at this point. The CDC recommends sending 10 more crew members and 10 contract cleaners to the ship as well as 4 Hotel and Housekeeping Operations Managers, 3 Public Health staff, one nurse from the cruise line corporate office.   

A newspaper in New Jersey published a story that quotes a passenger on the cruise ship saying that the CDC came on the ship in Puerto Rick and tested for e-coli.  

Anthem of the Seas: Afraid of the Weather or More Bad Publicity?

Anthem of the Seas StormThis evening Royal Caribbean announced via Twitter that that it's "closely watching a large storm off the coast of Cape Hatteras. We want to be extra cautious when it comes to weather in the area." The cruise line decided that it is canceling the last two days of the current Anthem of the Seas cruise which will skip Barbados and St Kitts in order to "avoid a severe storm & provide guests with a comfortable journey back home."

Is this the same cruise line which recklessly sailed into a much larger storm three weeks ago?

The forecasted wind and wave conditions seem modest compared to the weather conditions forecast prior to the disastrous cruise on February 6th when the cruise ship sailed into waves over 30 feet and encountered hurricane strength winds.

So why the cautious approach today? Is this a cruise line that really learned its lesson?  Is this the result of new decision makers back in Miami who decide whether the Royal Caribbean ships will encounter rough weather? Remember, Royal Caribbean announced that the last storm revealed what the cruise line said were "gaps in our planning system that we are addressing."

Royal Caribbean also said that it was strengthening its storm avoidance policy, and allegedly added resources at its corporate headquarters in Miami to provide additional guidance to its captains. 

So is the decision this evening to cut the cruise short the result of more cautious meteorologists and fewer macho captains?  I doubt it. The weather reports seem pretty tame. 

It seems that the decision to cancel the remainder of the Anthem cruise is motivated more in order to avoid bad press than bad weather. Why? Passengers are reporting that over 65 people have come down with symptoms of the dreaded norovirus. A code red is underway. If there are 65 official reports, chances are that the true number is much higher. There will be what the cruise lines call "enhanced" cleaning when the ship returns to New Jersey on Wednesday in an effort to kill the noro.  Royal Caribbean's reputation can't take a massive noro outbreak on the heels of subjecting its guests to a massive storm earlier this month.

So what happens when the cruise ship returns to port 2 days early?  If this were truly just a weather related event, then the passengers, whose flights home are still scheduled two days later, should be able to stay on the ship. But if passengers are forced to leave the ship early for the anticipated super cleaning, it would seem that Royal Caribbean is more concerned with eradicating norovirus from its huge cruise ship than risking its guests encountering another round of rough weather.  

Anthem of the Seas Captain's Letter

Anthem of the Seas Lawsuits: Royal Caribbean Recklessly Sailed Into Storm

Today, Miami lawyers filed suit on behalf of a cruise passenger who sailed aboard the Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas on Sunday, February 7th. The Lipcon law firm, based here in Miami, has filed a proposed class action lawsuit against Royal Caribbean in Federal Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Anyone who has read this blog in the last two weeks knows how I feel about the cruise in question. There is little doubt that the cruise line acted recklessly by ignoring weather forecasts of hurricane strength winds and 30 foot waves of this Altantic winter storm.  The winds strengthened, as to be expected in a storm like this, to well over 100 MPH. Many passengers experienced Anthem of the Seas Storm Lawsuitterrifying experiences where some passengers were fearful of losing their lives and those of their loved ones on the cruise ship.    

The Anthem of the Seas returned to New Jersey with severe damage to its propulsion system, among other damage. 

The captain of the Anthem of the Seas said during a talk to the passengers after the storm that he expected waves of only 12 to 15 foot waves.  But weather forecasts indicate that much higher waves, to over 30 feet, were expected. This means that the cruise line did not provide accurate weather reports to the captain or he ignored them. Navigation officers are required to up load "passage plans" pursuant to the the International Safety Management (ISM) codes before they sail. This information will quickly reveal exactly what weather conditions the captain anticipated during the ill-fated cruise in question.      

ABC reports that any passenger who was on the ship can be represented in the lawsuit, which covers both passengers who suffered physical injuries and those passengers who are alleging only severe emotional, psychological and emotional stress. 

You can read the lawsuit papers here.

At least one other lawsuit was filed last week by a lawyer in Houston, Texas.

Our firm will be representing passengers who sustained physical injuries during the storm.  

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

Can it seriously be argued that Royal Caribbean exercised "high care" when it sailed 4,500 passengers, including the elderly and children, into a winter storm forecast to bash the ship with hurricane strength winds and waves over 30 feet?  

Read our last article on the Anthem of the Seas fiasco.

Oceania Crew Members Pay the Price When Norovirus Hits

Oceania Riviera The Oceania Riviera, which was scheduled to be on a cruise until tomorrowreturned to the port yesterday with passengers sickened by norovirus. 

The virus has reportedly sickened at least 119 of 1,225 passengers, which is 9.72% of the passenger population on the ship. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has verified that the passengers who are suffering are suffering from nausea and vomiting are infected with gastrointestinal illnesses caused by norovirus.

This cruise ship was last contaminated with norovirus during a cruise from November 18 – December 2, 2015 and had to return to Miami for what the cruise industry often calls "enhanced cleaning."

All crew members on cruise ships dealing with a gastrointestinal illness outbreak know that they are going to increase their work and lose sleep whenever noro is aboard the cruise ship. Crew members are pressed into spraying and wiping virtually every inch of the ship's surfaces in order to give the ship a "deep clean" whenever there is a GI outbreak,  This is now happening on the Riviera where the entire crew has been compelled to work long hours to try and eradicate the nasty virus before the next group of passengers come aboard the cruise ship tomorrow.

Several crew members, who wish to remain anonymous, have contacted us to complain that they are working from early in the morning until the very late hours / early morning hours of the next day. Some crew member report working around 18 to 20 hours a day for the past days. The crew members say that they are forced to work hours far in excess of the maximum permitted under the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC). They are told to sign out and work the extra time "off the clock."  The result is that they are not being paid and are working past the point or mental and physical exhaustion.  

Few passengers may be thinking about the welfare of the crew members, who have not only had to clean up the vomit throughout the ship on a daily basis, but now have to work an unreasonable number of hours to "super-clean" the ship and kill all of the noro left by the last round of sick passengers.

The crew is undoubtedly feeling the pressure from the top as the cruise line CEO Frank Del Rio told USA TODAY last October that "I insist on spotless ships." This attitude is definitely on the minds of the ship managers even when there is no norovirus outbreak. When noro strikes, the managers are pushing the crew past the maximum hours permitted to work.

Flagrantly violating the MLC 2006 Convention is not an unusual thing on some cruise ships. It is honored in the breach on many ships. There is tremendous pressure to work and keep the department heads happy. A super-clean ship where the crew works like a beaten dog is hardly a safe and secure workplace.

Unfortunately, there is not much a crew member can do in this situation.  Hiring a lawyer may end up with a wage claim but it will surely result in the crew member finding himself or herself on a one way flight back to their home country.  

Photo Credit: Kefalonitis94 - Creative Commons 4.0, Wikimedia

February 22 2016 Update:  The cruise industry's trade organization, Cruise Line international Association (CLIA), posted this tweet on Twitter: "Our work never ends. Crewmembers continually clean & sanitize cruise ships to ensure passenger & crew #health"  It's one tweet from CLIA that is literally true, crew members often work 18 to 20 hours a day to super-sanitize cruise ships when there is a noro outbreak.

Cruise Law News Facebook Page Reaches 200,000 "Likes"

Jim Walker Cruise Law NewsToday, the Cruise Law News Facebook page reached 200,000 "likes."

The majority of our Facebook fans are crew members who use Facebook on a regular basis to communicate with their family and friends. 

We receive a great deal of information from crew members regarding a wide range of issues, like cruise ship fires, engine failures, man-overboard situations and the tough working conditions which crew members face.

We also receive information from cruise passengers when things go wrong on the high seas. 

Thank you very much for reading our page and providing information to us!  Our Facebook page would not be possible without the support of crew members and passengers on cruise ships around the world!

The motto of our blog is "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know."

No, we are not a travel site with glossy photos of happy crew members and smiling passengers enjoying a dream vacation cruise. The fact that millions of people are reading a critical blog by a lawyer (lawyers often write boring, stuffy articles) reflects that there are a lot of things that happen on cruises which the public wants to know and the cruise lines want to keep secret.

Thanks for reading us! And a special thanks to the many people who have sent us tips, photos and videos. 

Chile Asserts Juridiction Over QM2 Following Crew Member Disappearance

Last year, crew members aboard the Cunard QM2 notified me that while the Cunard cruise ship was between Southampton and New York, a 26-year-old chef, whose name I later learned was Favio Onate, disappeared in the early hours of August 15, 2015.  I wrote a short article Cunard Crew Member Lost at Sea, which was short on details but contained many comments from his co-employees who spoke highly of the young chef who perished at sea that foggy morning.

Later it was revealed from comments from crew members that Favio had been observed drinking but had been put to bed in his cabin. However, Favio was not seen by the ship doctor nor supervised by ship security. He later left his cabin and went to an open deck where he acted erratically and allegedly went overboard. 

FavioOnate QM2 Cruise Disappearance269 people have gone overboard since 2000. A small number are rescued but the majority are not and their bodies are not recovered.

Cruise lines, I have found, do a poor job of notifying the surviving family members of the devastating news of a missing loved one. They often delay. Many times family member first learn of the loss of their loved ones from newspapers or on social media. Cruise lines don't provide basic information. They seem to think that they have the right to suppress the information that the family members desperately need in order to understand what happened and try to come to terms of what happened.

From the perspective of the families, cruise lines do an even poorer job investigating the circumstances surrounding the person's disappearance at sea. Cruise line investigations are often managed by the cruise line's legal and risk management departments which appear more interested in protecting the legal interests and image of the cruise industry.  

Cruise lines often quickly blame the overboard person, thus stopping any legitimate investigation once they have affixed a label of "suicide at sea" on the nightmare. Investigating authorities at the next port are often to quick to adopt the conclusions reached by the cruise line and rarely conduct investigations which can be called either independent or comprehensive by any stretch of the imagination.

Many people commenting on social media are quick to say that it is impossible to fall off a cruise ship. They are often quick to hurl insults attacking the intelligence of those lost at sea. But these people don't ask intelligent questions themselves inquiring into the working conditions on the ships or other factors which may have led the crew members to go over the rails or the apparent lack of medical and HR resources which could help people suffering from emotional issues on the high seas.

All of this results in the surviving families feeling cheated by the cruise lines which are often, and rightfully, accused of engaging in a cover up of the truth.  Cruise lines never permit their employees to answer questions regarding what happened or release reports from the ship and often refuse to produce the last CCTV images of the person connected with his or her disappearance.  

This is what Favio's family and cousins apparently felt after they could not obtain information regarding the details of what happened to Favio. News accounts say that Cunard claims to have been in regular contact with Favio's family. The cruise line says that it arranged for "a trip for his parents and sister to the UK to receive information about the circumstances surrounding the incident." When cruise lines communicate with family members, the information is often conclusory and without an explanation of the details of what happened on the ship. Favio's family were not satisfied and filed a legal request to inspect the QM2 when it arrived in a port in Chile and take statements from the vessel's captain and crew members. Fox News Latino reports that the judiciary in Chile, where Favio is from, issued a warrant on Tuesday for police to search the QM2, which docked on Wednesday in port of Valparaiso. 

The Fox news source say that the legal procedure will seek to "locate, individualize, and take depositions" from the captain and any witnesses among the crew who "saw or knew anything about the incident under investigation." The newspaper also said that the "police will check out the cruise ship's security cameras, make a photographic record of the scene of the incident, and carry out a . . . examination of the cabin where the chef slept and of the elevators, decks, cabins and restrooms used by the staff.

The Daily Mail added that the police seized the relevant CCTV images and forensic experts inspected the chef's cabin and deck where he went overboard.

The family held a demonstration at the port with huge banners which read: "Justice for Favio" (video) with friends handing out pamphlets in different languages in order to show the passengers that the friends and family "still have doubts and very little information about Favio's disappearance."

A number of radio and television stations covered the spectacle in Chile.

Its a sad commentary on how Cunard treated Favio's family to have to seek legal intervention for George Smith Disappearancepolice and prosecutors to board the QM2 to basic information regarding the circumstances surrounding Favio's last moments.

The highly publicized court-ordered vessel inspection reminds me of the investigation and vessel inspection of the Brilliance of the Seas which we conducted following the disappearance of George Smith III back in July of 2005. After not receiving adequate information from Royal Caribbean, we hired forensic scientist Henry Lee and boarded the cruise ship with a team of seven forensic experts, videographers and detectives when the ship ported in Miami in December 2005. 

Over ten years later, cruise lines continue to withhold information from grieving families who are forced to board the cruise ship with police officers to try and find out what happened to their missing loved ones.

Photo Credit: Reseg

Retired U.S. Navy Admiral: "I'm Surprised ISIS Has Not Gone After Cruise Ships"

Military.com reports that retired U.S. Admiral James Stavridis stated at a naval / private industry conference that the next attack by Islamic State militants may be directed to a navy ship or a cruise ship.

The military.com website quotes the distinguished retired naval commander saying: "We have an organization that has demonstrated they are highly innovative and I don't rule out a Cole-like event," referring to the 2000 event when an al-Qaida group rammed a boat filled with explosives into the U.S. destroyer U.S. S. Cole. The terrorist attack occurred when the naval ship was being refueled in the U.S. S. Cole - Cruise Ship TerrorismYemeni port of Aden. 17 American sailors were killed and 39 service men and women were injured. 

According to military.com, the commander said: "I'm surprised [Islamic State militants] have not as yet moved into the maritime world and gone after cruise ships, which I think are a logical and lucrative target for them."

He mentioned the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship by Palestinian militants who murdered Jewish-American passenger Leon Klinghoffer.

The article mentioned that Commander Stavridis said that ships were "most vulnerable when they were first getting underway and going out to sea," not when they were pier-side or out on the open ocean. "If I were an Islamic State planner, that's what I would be looking at," he said.

This is one of the scenarios which I have mentioned in articles like al Qaeda Planned to Seize Cruise Ships, Execute Passengers which I published four years ago and How the Next Jihadist Terror Attack Against Cruise Passengers Will Happen which I published last year.

Some cruise lines have temporarily dropped ports in North Africa (Tunis) and in the eastern Mediterranean (Turkey) due to concerns with terrorist attacks.  

Photo Credit: Department of Defense via military.com

Another NCL Crew Member Goes Overboard From Norwegian Sun

NCl HeadquartersThe crew center website is reporting that authorities in Chile are investigating the disappearance of a Filipino crew member who went overboard from NCL cruise ship Norwegian Sun yesterday. The NCL crew member is identified as Dominic Santiago Gubertino age 55.

The circumstances reported regarding the crew member's disappearance indicate that the Norwegian Sun was apparently not equip ed with an automatic man overboard system that would automatically notify the bridge of the crew member going over the rails of the cruise ship. 

The crew center site says that "upon the arrival in Chacabuco, Gubertino co-workers realized that he was not onboard and security officers reviewed the CCTV cameras showing that he went overboard at 06.41 am on 16.02.2016. During the afternoon the prosecutor boarded the cruise ship to investigate this tragic event. According to information provided by Norwegian Sun officers it was not until 9:45 that they realized the crew member was missing and they mobilized all crew members to find out if Gubertino was onboard."

This mean that there was a delay of over three hours after the crew member went overboard and when the cruise ships realized that a crew member had disappeared at sea. 

A representative of the Chilean Navy is quotes saying:

"At around 10:40 information was received by Norwegian Sun that a crew of Filipino nationality went overboard which was verified by checking security cameras."  

This means, of course, that the cruise ship did not report the crew member going overboard for over an hour after they verified that he disappeared.  At this point, there was already a three hours delay in determining that he went overboard.

This is not the first time that a NCL crew member disappeared at sea or that the cruise line unreasonably delayed either realizing that a crew member went overboard or reporting it.

Last July, several NCL crew members reported to me that a crew member aboard the Norwegian Sun went overboard while the Sun was proceeding to Juneau, Alaska.  The AP later reported that that the U.S. Coast Guard said  that footage from the security system of the NCL cruise ship showed the crew member jumping overboard without a life jacket at 4:16 a.m. Yet the Alaskan State Troopers said that they were not notified until 11 hours later - shortly after 5 p.m.

In this case, we do not know anything about why the crew member went overboard. The family is left in the dark with a wide range of speculation regarding what happened.  Our U.S. Congress passed the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act into effect in order for passenger and crew member overboards to be immediately detected and documented. Automatic MOB system have been feasible for a long time. There is no excuse for any cruise line not to install there systems at this late date.  

Photo credit: Coolcaesar Creative Commons / Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0.

Bahamas Has Worst Record for Rapes in Caribbean

The Tribune newspaper in Nassau reports that the Bahamas leads the Caribbean in the number of recorded rapes, according to a report by the National Task Force for Gender Based Violence.

The Tribune says that "over a 10-year period, from 2003 to 2013, there were 1,109 reported rapes, according to police statistics. In addition, from 2008 to 2012, annual police reports documented 9,045 incidents where females were the victims of assault in the country. These reports also alluded to there being numerous cases of domestic violence of a non-sexual nature."

Rapes in the Bahamas increased in 2015 when compared to 2014.

The report stated that “the Bahamas has the highest incidence of rape per capita in the Caribbean. The UN Woman narrative on gender-based violence in the Caribbean cites ‘while the worldwide average for rape was 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. 

The Bahamas also had a record number of murders last year, which were primarily in Nassau (New Providence). The murder rate in the Bahamas is far more than 30 per 100,00, compared to the U,S, per capita rate or around 4.5 per 100,000

These statistics are something to keep in mind during your next cruise to Nassau. 

Is the Anthem of Seas More Unseaworthy Than It Looks?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images credit: Weather Nation YouTube - top

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

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

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

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

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

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

Royal Caribbean sent the following statement to the media:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo/video credit: Sean Ferguson YouTube

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Storm Anthem of the Seas Cruise

 

Anthem of the Seas Cruises Into Rough Weather

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch Top Five Worst Cruise Ship Disaster Videos

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

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

Image Credit: NOAA/NASA via Forbes

Storm Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Customs and Border Patrol should begin vetting the name of passengers before the cruise starts, rather than screening passengers only at the end of the cruise. Unfortunately this is standard practice Customs and Border Protection - Cruise Ships for the CBP, which routinely permits rapists, criminals with outstanding warrants and other misfits to board cruise ships. Then there is great fanfare at the end of the cruise when the CBP finally take a look at the ship manifest. 

As we reported before, cruise passengers Steven Mark Anthony Requena (photo right), age 28, was arrested while disembarking the Carnival Inspiration at the Port of Tampa two year ago. His name was flagged by a sweep of the manifest of passengers by Homeland Security officials who determined that the passenger was wanted for sexual assault in addition to assault with a weapon and forcible confinement. The U.S. Marshals arrested Requena only after the cruise ship returned to port. Regretfully, our federal government routinely looks at the ship passenger list only after the bad guys have already boarded the cruise ship.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In response, I would point out these facts: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Daily Mail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Tancy Talks Cruising Part 2: Fake Haiti

January 26, 2016 Update:  Time magazine weighs in

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CDC Expands Zika Travel Warning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Your Cruise Ship Prepared for a Terrorist Attack?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One reader on our Facebook page remarked:

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

I tend to agree.

Photo Credit: Oggi via Telegraph

Royal Caribbean Cancels Another Cruise to Labadee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local Protesters Greet Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship

By Tom Fox, currently aboard the Freedom of the Seas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video Credit: Tom Fox

 

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

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

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

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

You can read Mr. Fox's account here

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

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

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

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

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

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

All photo credit to Tom Fox.

Video Credit Jc Roy.

 

 

MSC Fantasia Terror Alert?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Jamaica Observer / Mark Cummings

 

 

Are Cruise Lines Warning Pregnant Passengers of the Zika Virus?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CBS Pregnant women warned about Zika virus

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

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

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

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

You can read the warning from the embassy here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Bottom AFP

Bloody Ecstasy: Graphic Video Shows Aftermath of Deadly Elevator Accident

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

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

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

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

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

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

WARNING: Graphic content. 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Don't forget to read: 

Another cruise ship hit by norovirus, blames passengers.

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

HAL's Veendam Hit with GI Outbreak

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

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

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

 

Denial, Skepticism Plague Sexual Assaults Against Passengers on Cruises

Disney Cruises Sexual Asssault

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 Year Old Girl Sexually Assaulted on Disney Magic Cruise Ship

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

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

The Magic returned to the port of Miami yesterday.

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

His mug shot is to the left.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Windstar Cruise Ship Runs Aground

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 Year Old Child Drowns on Liberty of the Seas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jury Finds Cruise Cocaine Smuggler Guilty

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cruise Lines Poised to Take Legal Rights Away from Crew Members

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Passenger Overboard From Saga Sapphire

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

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

Saga issued the following statement today:

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

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

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

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

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

Small Fire, Pod Failure on QM2

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

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

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

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

QM2 Ocean Liner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Celebrity Passengers Killed, Injured in Excursion Bus Mishap in Tortola

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exposed: Fake Doctor Working Aboard Cruise Ships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 26 2016 Update: A newspaper says that the bogus doctor was charged with "63 charges of inflicting bodily injury. The man is further charged with fraud, forgery of university diplomas and unauthorized conduct of an academic degree. In total there are 81 charges."

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

Sexual Assault Alleged on Mariner of the Seas

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit:  Spaceaero2 Creative Commons 4.0 via Wikipedia

Fire on Grand Princess Near Hilo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Le Boreal Cruise Ship Fire Survivor Tells of Ordeal

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Le Boréal Fire and Evacuation More Serious than Disclosed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Pjotr Mahhonin creative Commons 3.0 via Wikipedia

Le Boreal Cruise Ship

 

Woman Overboard from Cruise Ship, Rescued

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

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

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

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

 

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

"Cruise Ship Crime: Hard to Prosecute, Convict"

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

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

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

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

Photo: Crime Watch Daily

 

 

Passenger Overboard from Oasis of the Seas

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

New Critical Crime Warning for Honduras

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

The State Department website warns that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Westbrowncanada Creative 3.0 Wikipedia

Jurisdictional Hurdles Hinder Filipino Crew Member Raped on Cruise Ship

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: D.Seeruttun Creative Commons 3.0 Wikipedia 

Cruise Executive Goldstein Sells Royal Caribbean Stock for $8.9 Million

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Costa then notified the police who arrested the crew member. 

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

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

Splendour of the Seas Catches on Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Ivan T. Creative Commons 3.0 Wikipedia 

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

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

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

Zip Line Mishap Kills Cruise Passenger in Puerto Rico

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Campo Rico Zip Lining by Ecoquest

Coast Guard Medevacs Woman from Grand Princess

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

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

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

Story and video credit: Defense Imagery and Distribution Systems.

Azipod Failure on Norwegian Star

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

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

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

Anyone have additional info?

Photo Credit:  Pjotr Mahhonin Creative Commons Via Wikipedia

Mystery Life Raft

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

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

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

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

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

Viking Cruise Executive Indicted for Corruption

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: VG News

Carnival Spirit Propulsion Problems

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Wikiwand

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Passenger Overboard From SuperStar Gemini

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

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

He was last seen around midnight on October 6th. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read additional information here.

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

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

Photo Credit:  Facebook via Telegraph of India

Passenger Overboard From P&O Ventura

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

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

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

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

This is the 264th overboard case since 2000.  

March 17, 2016 Update: Man who jumped to his death from ship during birthday cruise told mum he was 'going to heaven.'

Donkey Kills Cruise Tourist in Santorini

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Berard Gagnon via Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0

NCL Names Pittbull Godfather of the Norwegian Escape

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

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

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

I have not been invited.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

U.S. Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger From Norwegian Breakaway

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

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

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

Cunard Crew Mess Food: Good or Gross?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please leave a comment on our Facebook page.

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

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

Cruise Ship Food

 

Cruise Critic Picks Viking Star As Best New Cruise Ship?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Star Princess Sickens Dozens with Norovirus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Star Princess had a noro outbreak last May.  

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

Photo Credit - Jim Walker

Ship Life - Grub on the High Seas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the photos here on our Facebook page.

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

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

 

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

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger From Carnival Triumph

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

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

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

China, China, China.

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

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

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

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

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

All the cruise executives want to talk about is China.

China, China, China.

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

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

 

Insanity: Caymans to Build Cruise Pier

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Cayman Compass

 

Bahamian Buffoonery: Nassau Politicians Spat Over Carnival Cruise Crime Warnings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Caribbean 360

Crime in St. Lucia Worries Cruise Merchants

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

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

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

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

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

Norwegian Cruise Line Drops St. Lucia.

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

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

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

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

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger from Carnival Pride

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

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

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

Video Credit WITN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Unexpected Blog Award

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

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

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

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

Thanks Go Port Canaveral! 

Photo Credit:  Go Port Canaveral Favorite Cruise Blogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can see photographs of the dumping here

MSC later touted itself an a steward of the seas.

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Vote for Cruise Law News!

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks!

Fire Breaks Out on Carnival Pride

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carnival released the following statement: 

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

Carnival subsequently added the followng statement:

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

Cruise Passenger Seriously Injured on Carnival Victory

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

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

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

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

 

 

Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

Nassau: A Dangerous Dump?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rape on the Carnival Liberty?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Carnival Corporation

 

Islamic Terrorism: Are Cruise Executives Asleep at the Wheel?

Cruise TerrorismTwo articles caught my attention this morning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: International Business Times

Woman Overboard from Seabourn Quest

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

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

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

WHDH 7 says the women died.

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

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

Photo Credit: Christian Ferrer voa Creative Commons 3.0 Wikipedia 

 

7News Boston WHDH-TV

Nassau Spoof Video By Disney Crew Members Causes Uproar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Nassau Guardian

Fire Breaks Out on Carnival Liberty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What cruise lines don't want you to know.

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

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

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

Baby Born on Board the Independence

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit; Aztec06

 

Busy Week for Cruise Medical Emergencies

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo Credit U.S. Coast Guard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cruise Cocaine Bust in Fort Lauderdale

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit:  U.S. Customs & Border Protection

 

 

 

 

Crew Member Allegedly Rapes Passenger on Costa Diadema

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo Credit: Facebook

Vision of the Seas Rescues Migrants

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

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

The crew members wish to remain anonymous.

Congratulations to the effort by the Vision crew!

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Vision of Seas Migrant Rescue

Celebrity Cancels More Stops in Istanbul

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo Credit: rehbergundemi.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLIA, meanwhile, is clueless. It doesn't know what to say when a lifeboat breaks a cable or a passenger drowns in a pool with no lifeguard. It is a heartless and passionless group of former federal employee hacks trying to keep their jobs. 

I don't blame the CLIA 9 to 5'ers for staying home, hiding with the covers over their heads.

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo creit: Top - kolektiv; bottom - Sea Shepherd.

Princess Cruises Criticized After Passenger Drowned

A year ago, I wrote about a passenger drowning on the Princess Sapphire Princess. The passenger's death is just one of many mishaps where cruise passengers were killed or seriously injured in a lifeguard-less swimming pool on a Carnival, Disney, NCL, Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

Princess responded to our request for a comment at the time. After the obligatory "our thoughts and prayers are with our guest's family," the cruise line refused to comment except to say that "the incident is under investigation."

Well, the investigation is over.  The UK's Maritime Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) concluded that Sapphire Princessthe cruise line's use of a warning sign (stating that lifeguards are not on duty & persons using the pools do so at their own risk) was inadequate to reasonably safeguard its guests. 

The drowning occurred in the Neptune pool on deck 14 forward. The MAIB noted that the swimming pool was not supervised. The medical team, once it finally arrived, did a good job but was unreasonably delayed. Crew members who first responded were not trained in CPR. The victim was discovered by other passengers who were unfamiliar with CPR. The crew member (a Serbian) involved in calling 911 for emergency medical attention could not communicate with the crew member (an Asian) who answered the call due to a language barrier.

Princess had not performed a a risk assessment relating to hazards involved in the use of swimming pools. Princess also failed to assign designated attendants to the pool and failed to monitor the pool via CCTV.

The regulations on safety in swimming pools ashore "strongly indicates that constant poolside supervision provides the best assurance of pool users’ safety." However, it also recognizes that a risk assessment may determine circumstances where a safe swimming environment can be delivered without constant poolside supervision, which Princess did not conduct. The guidance specifically recommends constant poolside supervision with deeper polls and where food and drink are available to pool users, both of which applied to the Neptune Pool on the cruise ship.

Princess also failed to train their hotel staff in medical first-aid techniques or require such training prior to being hired.

The MAIB stated that "the lack of dedicated pool attendants potentially delayed the response to the incident in respect of raising an alarm and administering appropriate medical treatment. The monitoring of CCTV coverage of the area might have prompted an earlier response and would have given post-incident information."

The MAIB said, simply, that the "use of a ship’s swimming pools is a significant part of a holiday experience, and a passenger’s awareness of any attendant risk is likely to be lower . . . "

The report also stressed that "with no designated attendants at the vessel’s pools, it was left to other pool Cruise Shipping Poolusers and bystanders to recognize that (the victim) was in need of urgent assistance and to raise an alarm . . . had there been a dedicated pool attendant monitoring the passengers in the pool, the victim’s situation could have been identified at the earliest possible opportunity."

The MAIB concluded that 'the staffing of pool areas with personnel who are suitably trained in medical first-aid would allow a more appropriate response to medical emergencies." 

The MAIB mentioned two further swimming pool accidents involving passengers on board Princess cruise ships - a drowning on the Diamond Princess on June 23, 2015, and a near-drowning on the Sapphire Princess on  August 5, 2015 which you can read about here. We are unfamiliar with the June 23, 2015 incident (does anyone have info?)

It appears that as of this late date, despite multiple incidents, Princess has still not even conducted a risk assessment for its pools nor has it assigned lifeguards or monitors to this dangerous location.  

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Photo Credit: Top - gov.uk MAIB; bottom - Pro Publica

Man Overboard from Carnival Glory

Carnival Glory Overboard PassengerThere is a report of a "man overboard" this afternoon from the Carnival Glory cruise ship. 

A reader from Honduras listening to channel 16 heard the report and said that the Honduran Navy and locals were searching for a person overboard at certain coordinates in Honduran waters.

A person also notified me on my Facebook page.

Richard Elston has a friend on board the Glory and tells me that a passenger went overboard from the cruise ship. 

This is the third person overboard from a cruise ship in four days. A crew member from Chile went overboard from the Queen Mary 2 over the weekend.  A 23 year old passenger went overboard from the MSC Magnifica this morning. 

This is the 19th person going overboard so far this year.

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AIS Credit: Richard Elston  

A college student disappeared from the Carnival Glory last March.

Update:  I received a message from a reader who indicated that her aunt had gone overboard. She was reportedly notified by the Honduran ambassador that her aunt's body was located.

August 24, 2015 Update: Exclusive: Family Appalled By Carnival’s Response To Woman Overboard.

Nassau, Bahamas - the "Wild, Wild West"

I have written several dozen articles in the last several years about the high crime rate in Nassau.  The murder rate in the Bahamas is well over 30 per 100,000 compared to the U.S. murder rate of around 4.5 per 100,000. I have published articles about cruise passengers being raped and robbed ashore (29 cruise passengers were robbed in just two incidents). Cruise passengers on excursions have been targeted. 

The Nassau Guardian wrote an article after interviewing me a couple of years ago: U.S. Attorney Raises Concern over Crime - Bahamas "One Gunshot Away" from Cruise Line Exit. The response by the locals was mostly denial and to plaster me with hate e-mails. Since then, crime has steadily Crime Nassau Bahamasincreased. 

There is no doubt that Nassau is plagued by runaway crime (this year the number of murders will reach a record high). There are far more crime warnings issued for by the U.S. State Department for the Bahamas than any other country in the world. The unemployment rate for young men is record high and rising. Nassau is filled with guns. The police are ineffective. The legal system is broken.

Many cruise passenger stay on the cruise ships when they reach Nassau.   

Make no doubt about it. Tourists and cruise visitors to Nassau need to be warned, it's dangerous in the Bahamas.

Today, I read an article in the Tribune newspaper: American Businessman Considers Leaving The Bahamas After Business Is Robbed. Here's what the victim told the Tribune:

"This place has become the Wild, Wild West . . . It’s like having a group of people arguing over how to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. The boat’s going down with everybody on it. And unfortunately here we see a deterioration of the quality of life . . .

We have a higher per capita murder rate than New York City does, than a lot of major cities in the US do. And nobody seems to be getting it."

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Allegation: Carnival Crew Member Sexually Assaulted Boy on Valor

WFTV reports that a crew member on a Carnival cruise ship allegedly sexually assaulted a teenage boy last Friday.

The news station says that Carnival announced the incident, although it is less than clear when or how the cruise line made the statement. 

The incident allegedly occurred on board the Carnival Valor, which is based in Port Canaveral.

Yovany Sauzo-BatizThe news article reports that the cruise line notified the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI of the incident. Here's how WFTV described the case, based on the Sheriff's office.

"Yovany Sauzo-Batiz, 46, of Honduras, was working on the Carnival Valor as a stateroom steward Friday when he tried to start a conversation with a teenage passenger in a sauna. The victim then moved to a shower area to avoid the suspect when the alleged sexual conduct occurred. Immediately following the incident, the victim identified the crewmember to his father, who detained him with the assistance of other passengers until ship security arrived.”

Sauzo-Batiz was charged with sexual battery of a person under 16 years of age and lewd and lascivious molestation.

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Photo Credit:Brevard Sheriff's Office via WFTV

Child Nearly Drowns on Sapphire Princess

A newspaper in Shanghai, the Shanghaist, reports that an eight-year-old girl is in critical condition after being found unconscious in the swimming pool of a Princess cruise ship last week.

The child and her mother, both from Shanghai, reportedly sailed on the Sapphire Princess, scheduled to call on ports in Japan and South Korea's Chejudo Island.

The newspaper reports that the mother had taken her daughter to play in the "kiddy pool" and was lounging nearby when she noticed the girl was missing. Other passengers found the child unconscious Sapphire Princess Cruise Shipin a deeper pool. Surveillance film revealed that the girl had been struggling for some seven to nine minutes before she was discovered.

The child was put on a ventilator. She was eventually transferred to a hospital ashore in Shanghai, 12 hours later. 

Princess had no life guards are on duty. Princess said that there were warning signs written in Chinese posted around the pool, stating that parents were responsible for supervising their children.

Warning signs are no substitute for attentive parents and alert lifeguards.

A 29 year-old woman was found dead in a pool on the same cruise ship a year ago. 

This latest incident will spark a debate whether there should be lifeguards on cruise ships.

All of the major cruise lines without lifeguards have seen children killed or seriously injured in the cruise ship swimming pools. You can read about the incidents:

A  ten year old girl on the Norwegian Gem in May 2015.

A four year old on the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas January 2015.

A six year old on Carnival Victory October 2014.

A six year old boy on Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas May 2014.

A four year old boy drowned and his six year old brother was medevaced after nearly drowning in a pool on the Norwegian Breakaway in February 2014.

A four year old on Disney Fantasy March 2013. The child on the Disney cruise ship was permanently and seriously injured. Disney paid a multi-million dollar settlement and began employing lifeguards on its ships. No other cruise lines have followed Disney's lead. 

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Photo Credit: "Sapphire Princess02" by Yankeesman312 licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Alaska Alleges Cruise Lines Violated Air Emission Laws

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation contends that cruise lines have violated Alaska air pollution regulations for the past five years. 

Tradewinds, a shipping trade organization, and the Juneau Empire report that Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) and Royal Caribbean Cruises disclosed in recent SEC earnings reports that they violated Alaskan Marine Vessel Visible Emission Standards.

Alaska Air EmissionsKRBD reports that the v\alleged violation of the Alaskan air pollution law is widespread in the cruise industry. The community radio program interviewed a specialist at the Alaskan environmental program who identified other cruise lines who are accused of violating Alaskan law. In addition to NCL and Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Holland America, Princess, Celebrity and Silverseas violated the emission standards according to the environmental specialist. 

Alaska issued 18 notices of violation involving 48 instances of excessive air emissions since 2010, according to KRBD. Each violation of law carries a fine of approximately $37,500. 

The cruise line are contesting the violations and are in negotiation with Alaska. 

The cruise industry, which largely burns cheap filthy bunker fuel, is installing scrubbers to reduce air emissions.

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Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas cruise ship - AlaskanLibrarian's Flickr photostream

Bahama Mama Flunks CDC Sanitation Inspection

Bahamas MamaThe  Bahama Mama cruise ferry, operated by Balearia Bahamas Express, recently failed a bi-annual sanitation and health  inspection conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

I first read about the Bahama Mama flunking the CDC inspection in an article by Theresa Norton Masek in Travel Pulse titled Bahama Mama Ferry Fails CDC Inspection.

The official CDC report chronicles a disgusting list of filthy conditions (with the requisite dead flies and crawling insects) on the ship as well as disturbing failures to comply with health procedures designed to avoid food contamination. The report indicates that the ship did not even have acute gastroenteritis surveillance logs for each voyage, although there were ill crew members on the ship.

You can read the report here.

The ship has not complied with the CDC and submitted a corrective action report. 

The ship sails between Port Everglades and Freeport, Bahamas. 

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Photo credit: Vicens Gimenez / © Vicens Gimenez via Sun Sentinel

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger from Carnival Fascination

the U.S. Coast Guard medevaced an ill cruise ship passenger from the Carnival Fascination 40 miles east of the Sebastian Inlet in Florida on Sunday, according to Defense Imagery and Video Distribution Services.

The Coast Guard dispatched an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter which hoisted the 55-year-old passenger from the cruise ship and transported him to Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne. 

The passenger was reportedly suffering from severe stomach problems.

Passenger Medevaced from Grandeur of the Seas

Grandeur of the SeasA number of news stations are reporting that the Maryland State Police sent a helicopter to medevac a cruise passenger from the Grandeur of the Seas in the Chesapeake Bay.

The Maryland police officers were notified by the Coast Guard Friday evening that a passenger onboard the Royal Caribbean cruise ship needed to be taken to a hospital for cardiac care.

The helicopter crew stationed at St. Mary’s County Airport in Hollywood, Maryland, was the closest aircraft to the cruise ship which was sailing southwest of Tangier Island.

According to Southern Maryland Online, the Maryland State Police Aviation Command has served Maryland citizens since 1970, and operates a fleet of ten helicopters from seven bases throughout Maryland on a 24/7/365 basis. State Police Aviation Command crews have conducted several hoists of patients off cargo ships, but they believe this is the first hoist of a patient from a cruise ship.

The cruise ship sailed from Baltimore to the  Bahamas and Florida on a 7-night cruise.

Photo Credit:  J. Glover - Transferred from en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Grand Celebration Delayed in Port of Palm Beach Due to Electrical Blackout

The Grand Celebration suffered an electrical blackout yesterday which delayed its departure from the Port of Palm Beach to the Bahamas for over 6 hours.

WTPV-5 says that passengers complained that there was no electricity, water or air conditioning on the cruise ship and the toilets would not flush The television station interviewed one person on the ship who said:

"It's a hundred degrees on that ship. Everyone is just kind of standing there. They don't tell you anything. Then they have a little attitude because we're asking questions. But we want to know. It took us a lot of time to get from home to here." 

The cruise ship, which was supposed to leave at 6:00 PM, finally departed after midnight.  Some passengers refused to cruise on the ship and stayed in local hotels.

Photo Credit: Williamd Reynolds via WPTV

 

 

 

Sell Out? Royal Caribbean Executives Sell Stock For Over $14,000,000 After Freedom of the Seas' Fire

Royal Caribbean Cruise StockYesterday, Royal Caribbean chairman Richard Fain sold 151,032 shares of his cruise line's stock for $13,650,151 at an average price of $90.40 a share. President and Chief Operating Officer Adam Goldstein sold 4,184 shares at at $91.08 per share for a total value of $381,094.19. Royal Caribbean's General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer Bradley Stein sold 2,402 shares of the company stock for for a total value of $218,748.70.  In sum, these insider traders sold $14,249,993 of company stock.

A little over 10 days earlier Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas burst into flames as the cruise ship approached Falmouth, Jamaica. The ship burned for one and one-half hours and destroyed all of the insulation around the exhaust stack from the bottom deck to the fifteen deck. Many passengers, crew members and maritime experts believe that the fire may have started due to the installation of a scrubber system on the cruise ship and the welding process to accomplish the work. Royal Caribbean is not saying, of course. 

The cruise lines has also been criticized for downplaying the fire, saying that it was just a "small fire" which was contained in the lower mechanical spaces and it was quickly extinguished, all patently false statements as we have demonstrated in video and photographs. To make matter worse, the cruise ship sailed onto the next port without a post-fire inspection by the flag state (Bahamas) or the classification society. This ship never should have sailed on without a rigorous inspection after the fire. The photographs clearly show that the ship sustained major damage. The photographs and first hand observations by the crew confirm that the fire destroyed the insulation around the exhaust stack and this presented a grave potential danger to the ship's passengers and crew. 

My opinion is that the Royal Caribbean cruise executives effectively misled the public about the fire in order to maintain the stock's improved performance. The company shares have rallied 46.38% in the past year. On July 31, 2015, the shares had rallied to one year high of $90.88 compared to a one year low on October 15, 2014 of $52.32.

If the executives had shut the ship down in Jamaica for the mandatory SOLAS inspection, this would have resulted in tens of millions of dollars spent by the company on lodging, airfare of all passengers back to Miami and cruise refunds to over 4,000 people which would have had a material negative effect on the company's stock.  Did the executives put their financial interests ahead of passenger and Royal Caribbbean Freedom of the Seas Firecrew safety? Absolutely they did, in my opinion. 

What do these executives really think about the stock value now that the fire is out and the cruise line has dodged, so far, a publicity fall-out?  One analyst said that "Mr. Richard’s trade could mean only one (thing): that he’s a pessimist when it comes to the Company’s prospects and its stock price."

Fain & company bamboozled the public with the "small fire" hoax. I suspect that the executives thought that it was time to cash out and put some more millions in their accounts before the truth comes out. 

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Interested in this issue? Read Cruise Executive Richard Fain Hits the Jackpot Again.

Photo Credit: Bottom - Facebook

Cruise Industry Image Up But Problems Remain

Cruise Industry Financial InformationA reporter for the Marketplace interviewed me yesterday regarding the state of the cruise industry.

I explained that compared to a year or two ago, the general perception of cruise lines is up. More than 23,000,000 passengers will cruise this year. Bigger and bigger cruise ships are being constructed. Travel agents seem more energized than before and appear to have lost their funk brought about by the Costa Concordia and Triumph "poop cruise" disasters.

Industry leader Carnival Corporation, with over 100 cruise ships in its multi-brand fleet, is reaping the rewards of hiring Arnold Donald with his dynamic and charismatic style of leadership.    

Cruise fares are up, prices for excursions and alcohol are up while the cruise CEO's are driving costs down.  

On the other side of the coin, critics say that the same-old-problems remain in the industry. Last week the Freedom of the Sea erupted in flames and literally burned from bottom of the ship to deck 15. Royal Caribbean tried to down-play the fire, but YouTube videos and photos posted on Facebook and Twitter showed that the fire was indeed dangerous and that the cruise lines still suffer from a lack of transparency that has tarnished the industry for years. Our friend and former Royal Caribbean cook Kevin Chamber's video of the ship on fire has been viewed well over a million times.  

Crew members and passengers tell me that contractors aboard the Freedom of the Seas were installing a scrubber system when the fire erupted. The captain of the ship says that the cruise line will disclose why the fire broke out, which the suits at Royal Caribbean's headquarters in Miami will never do. Its been over two years since the Grandeur of the Seas ignited near the Bahamas and the cruise line still refuses to tell the public what happened. The Freedom of the Seas fire will become just another mystery where the cruise line will keep its customers in the dark.

Just a couple of days ago, the Safari Voyager also erupted in flames in Seattle, due to welding operations. Welding at sea rather than in dry-dock is one of the risks of cruising and only one of many dangers that the cruise industry won't tell you.

Today, the Professional Mariner published an article titled "U.S. Coast Guard cites loose bolts, escape-route issues in fatal fire" about a Coast Guard marine safety alert regarding the deadly fire aboard the Oceania Insignia where three crew members perished when the cruise ship ignited in port at St. Lucia last December.       

This week two crew members were seriously injured when a rescue boat was being lowered from the NCL Pride of America in Hawaii when the cables broke. 

In just the last couple of months, passengers and crew members disappeared from Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Costa, MSC, NCL and HAL cruise ships. Yet, the industry as a whole still refuses to invest in automatic man overboard technology.

Sexual assaults at sea still occur with alarming frequency. In the last month, the news mentioned a passenger and a crew member assaulting women on Celebrity cruise ships in separate incidents. A sexual predator employed by Disney Cruises was recently sentenced to  over 5 years after pleading guilty to molesting a 13 year old passenger on the Disney Dream.   

Four months ago, twenty-two cruise passengers from Costa and MSC cruise ship were murdered by terrorists in Tunis, after these cruise lines sailed them into danger without a single warning.  The specter of ISIS terror remains a dark cloud over cruise ships which risk proceeding along itineraries across North Africa.  

Cruise Ship Fire - Royal CaribbeanBut the 40 billion-dollar-a-year cruise industry is rich and powerful. As a result of incorporating its businesses in place like Liberia or Panama and registering its ships in third world countries like the Bahamas, cruise lines avoid U.S. taxes and can pay their crew members peanuts. The industry has a huge advantage over U.S. resorts and hotels. It's cheaper to sail on a Carnival cruise out of Galveston than it is to stay in a Motel 6. 

That's why Royal Caribbean's stock price was largely unaffected after the Freedom of the Seas burned last week. CNBC's Simon Hobbs reported that as long as propulsion is not lost and passengers are not stranded at sea, a cruise ship fire is "not material for investors."  Mr. Hobbs is right about that, it seems. That's probably why the cruise executives decided not to comply with the International Maritime Organization's recommended Safety of Life at Sea regulations, which require a post-fire investigation and survey, but instead chose to keep the cruise ship sailing on to the Caymans and Mexico. 

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Video of Freedom of the Seas Fire

A passenger on the Freedom of the Seas sent us a copy of the video that he took of the fire.

There are a couple of things to note.

First, as you can hear on the video, this passenger and his wife were on their balcony and had seen black smoke 15 minutes earlier. The ship is still at sea at this point, approaching the port of Falmouth Jamaica. It then took approximately 20-25 minutes for the cruise ship to finally dock at Falmouth. So the ship was burning for about 35 to 40 minutes before it reached port in Jamaica.

Many media outlets erroneously reported that the fire broke out when the ship was docked at port.  

There are no crew members seen on or around the deck in the video, although you can catch a glimpse of one crew member with a wet vacuum cleaner at the very end.

The fire has obviously spread from the engine spaces at the bottom of the ship up to the top deck above the Viking Crown lounge.

The video was taken by Michael Alden.

 

Aegean Paradise Cruise Ship Collides with Greek Coast Guard Vessel

Aegean ParadiseAccording to a Greek newspaper, a cruise ship collided with a Greek Coast Guard today. 

The Aegean Paradise and the Coast Guard vessel collided near Chios. 

No injuries were reported in the collision. 

The newspaper says that the collision was caused due to "misty conditions." The coast guard vessel, which was carrying 25 migrants, suffered damage.

The "Aegean Paradise" will remain at Chios harbor until an inspection is carried out by the appropriate maritime authorities. 

Photo Credit: Marc Ryckaert (MJJR) - Own work, licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia. 

Freedom of the Seas Fire: Is Royal Caribbean Installing a Scrubber System With Passengers Aboard?

Freedom of the Seas Fire Falmouth JamaicaA number of Royal Caribbean crew members have contacted me complaining that they don't feel safe because of ongoing construction on the Freedom of the Seas to install an advanced emission purification system (AEP), also known as a "scrubber system." 

Contractors from Harris Pye Engineering have been aboard the cruise ship retrofitting the ship with the AEP system. Royal Caribbean routinely uses cheap fuel with high-sulphur levels. Instead of using expensive low-sulphur fuel, the cruise line made a decision to install the AEP scrubber equipment in and around the engine and exhaust systems in order to try and comply with new air emission standards of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). 

This type of work is routinely done when a cruise ship is not in service, but in dry dock when passengers are not aboard for safety reasons. There is a risk of fire and attendant danger of potential injury during the AEP installation. 

One of the crew members sent me a copy of a letter that Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley sent to the employees on the ship shortly after the fire. The crew member, who wishes to stay anonymous to avoid being terminated, feels that the letter is misleading.

The cruise CEO says that the fire was allegedly contained within the ship's mechanical spaces.The crew members who I have communicated with say that is absolutely not true. The fire started down near the engine and exhaust system and spread from the mechanical spaces up to the top deck. The fire was clearly not contained. Photos confirm this and show flames actually burning through the top and erupting so that onlookers could see the exhaust superstructure on fire from ashore. 

The crew members question their safety and the safety of their guests while this work is ongoing. Receiving a letter from a Miami cruise executive, which is inconsistent with the truth as they observed it on the ship, just increases their concerns.   

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

See: Photographs of the fire damages here.

Watch: Video of the fire here.

Read: The Royal Caribbean "Small Fire" Hoax.

Photo Credit:  Raymond Bower via Facebook

Freedom of the Seas Fire Falmouth Jamaica

The Royal Caribbean "Small Fire" Hoax

Freedom of the Seas Fire Falmouth JamaicaA hoax is defined as a "deliberately fabricated falsehood made to masquerade as truth."

Royal Caribbean engaged in a hoax when it characterized the big, dangerous fire on the Freedom of the Seas which engulfed the little port of Falmouth with billowing black smoke as just a "small fire."

Cruise lines used to be able to get away with these shenanigans, before social media took over the internet and exposed the truth. Now everyone has an iPhone and can record what happens in real time for all to see.

The video of the fire which I posted on my YouTube page (taken by former Royal Caribbean crew member and Jamaican Kevin Chambers) has been viewed over 1,000,000 times on Facebook. It speaks for itself. 

Some of the world's foremost maritime experts have chimed in on Royal Caribbean's misrepresentations.  

Captain Michael Lloyd said: "There is no such thing as a 'small fire' except in the minds of the PR reps in the cruise line offices. At sea especially, every fire is serious regardless of the whereabouts and size. Any Merchant Navy officer or fire officer for that matter knows that. I suppose in cruise line jargon someone has to be killed for it to be serious."

Captain Bill Doherty of Nexus Consulting commented: "That's one major fire! Why wasn't there a proper Flag state and Class post casualty survey done prior to sailing?"

former officer at a senior level within the cruise industry remarked: "This practice is all to common. The crew may be drilled on a regular basis, when it boils down to it, safety will play second fiddle to profit and keeping the passengers onboard. Why the classification society would allow the vessel to sail without inspection I don't know - there is a genuine risk of deficiencies that may invalidate the vessels P&I coverage. How the senior officers onboard sleep when signing their names to the paperwork I don't know."

A Chief Marine Engineer said: "Judging from this image, that kind and size of smoke suggests a big and serious fire in the Engine Room. The vessel should have not been permitted to sail without a thorough investigation of the cause and the integrity of her sailing out once again have been established."

A reader of this blog sent us several photos of the internal damage to the Freedom of the Seas today. Take a look here

A "small fire?" Ha!

July 28 2015 Update:  The video below taken by Kevin Chambers has been viewed over 1,000,000 times on our facebook page.

The word is out that this was no small or quickly extinquished fire.  Falmouth cruise ship blaze was no ‘small fire’ – US Maritime Lawyer.

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Freedom of the Seas Fire Falmouth Jamaica 

Photo Credit:  Facebook 

Cruise Ship Fire Video Viewed Over 1,000,000 Times

Freedom of the Sea Fire Falmouth JamaicaThere is an ongoing social media battle between the cruise industry and the proponents of improving the industry. This blog is part of that struggle.  Our motto is "every thing the cruise lines don"t want you to know." 

Every time there is a cruise ship fire, the cruise lines rush to send out the message that the fire was "small," "quickly extinguished," and no passengers were injured. In the world of social media, It is irrelevant to the cruise lines that the fire may have been large and prolonged and that crew members were burned or killed, as was the case in the fire aboard the Oceania Insignia.

Our former client Kevin Chambers used to work for Royal Caribbean and lives in the Montego Bay area. He rushed to Falmouth when the fire on the Freedom of the Seas broke out (the smoke could be seem for miles) and videotaped the spectacle. I posted it on our Facebook page and, later, on our YouTube page. 

In less than two days, it has been viewed over 1,000,000 times on our Facebook page alone.

You can see it here: Fire on the Freedom of the Seas in Falmouth, Jamaica.

As expected, the cruise line is spinning the story. It's just another "small" fire that was "quickly extinguished," says Royal Caribbean. Hogwash. 1,000,000 people know better. They've seen the video. 

Fire on the Freedom: The Show Must Go On

Royal Caribbean started spinning the story on the Freedom of the Seas fire yesterday before the ship stopped burning, saying things like:

It was just a small fire that was quickly extinguished. All systems are operational. Passengers mustered only as a precaution. No injuries to passengers. Guests able to leave the ship to enjoy Falmouth by 1:00 P.M. The cruise will continue with its regular scheduled itinerary. Next stop is George Town, Grand Cayman, tomorrow.

Freedom of the Seas Fire Some media outlets took the bait. The New York Times published a clueless article titled "Royal Caribbean Ship Has Small Fire in Jamaica" which characterized the fire as "small" and "brief" and showed a beautiful photograph of the cruise ship without the flames and dense smoke.     

The truth of the matter is that this was a large fire that took one and one-half hours to extinguish (per the Miami Herald). When we heard of the fire yesterday, we immediately asked a former Royal Caribbean crew member to go to Falmouth from Montego Bay and photograph and video the fire. Over 900,000 people have watched his videotape on Facebook so far. Take a look yourself. It's hardly a small fire.

Captain Bill Doherty of Nexus Consulting* weighed in on the fire yesterday, stating on Facebook:

"That's one major fire! Why wasn't there a proper Flag state and Class post casualty survey done prior to sailing? That could not have been completed in the short time the ship was in that port. Also there HAD to be a large amount of expendable fire fighting assets used putting the fire out. Extinguishers, foam, CO-2, air packs and so many other expendable items. Was the ship restocked to proper level and breathing apparatus recharged in that short time or did ship sail in an unseaworthy condition for the sake of expedience?"

The U.S. Coast Guard is not going to inspect the Freedom until the ship returns to the U.S. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) can't do anything and is powerless to intervene to enforce the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) recommendations. The flag state, the Bahamas, is another feckless Caribbean flag of convenience that is too busy dealing with a run-away crime rate to bother inspecting another cruise ship that catches on fire. So the vacationing passengers will be herded like sheep on to the burnt cruise ship which will sail on to the Caymans because Royal Caribbean doesn't want to incur the expense of putting 3,600 passengers in hotels in Montego Bay, hiring twenty chartered jets to fly them back to the states, and giving refunds in the millions of dollars.

The cruise line's CEO's are in control here. Screw the IMO, SOLAS and the need for post casualty surveys. The show must go on.

July 25,2015 Update: From a passenger on the cruise ship: "Just don’t buy the PR put out to news outlets by Royal Caribbean. The fire was significant. I’ve recorded the captain’s video where he described the extent of the fire, how long it took to put out, etc. It varies greatly from RC’s description.” 

 

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Photo Credit: Raymond Bower - top;  Falmouthpo - bottom

*Captain Bill Doherty is a 1967 graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, a licensed US Coast Guard Master-Unlimited tonnage, and qualified First Class Pilot, Prince William Sound, Valdez, Alaska. Captain Doherty has served on numerous U.S. Navy warships and was the Head of Maritime Affairs for the Chief of Naval Operations during Operation Desert Storm. Over the course of his career, he has commanded tankers, container ships, research vessels, high-speed ferries, and was an instructor at his alma mater. Before retirement, his latest position was as Safety Manager for Norwegian Cruise Lines. Captain Doherty now serves as the director of maritime affairs for Nexus Consulting, and has appeared as a cruise safety expert before the United States Senate.

Freedom of the Seas

Passenger Charged with Raping Woman on Celebrity Reflection

Celebrity ReflectionThe Times of Malta reports that a 20 year old passenger from Scotland was charged today with raping a woman who he met on a cruise aboard the Celebrity Reflection.

The newspaper says that the man allegedly raped the woman on the Celebrity cruise ship a year ago today. The man also faces charges of holding the woman against her will and committing "violent indecent assault" on the woman.

The young man and woman were on the cruise with their families. The alleged rape took place after the woman had her drink spiked.

Celebrity / Royal Caribbean registered the Reflection in Malta. The police is Malta issued an "European Arrest Warrant" to bring the alleged assailant to court. This is an unusual case insofar as most flag states, like the Bahamas, never issue warrants or even try to prosecute crimes committed on cruise ships flying flags of convenience. 

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Photo Credit: Celebrity Reflection cruise ship by Moonik - own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Woman Sexually Assaulted on Celebrity Millennium

Celebrity Crew Member Eduar Klay Moran Bonilla,The Juneau Empire reports that a 40-year-old cruise ship worker from Honduras.was caught sexually assaulting a 26-year-old woman, also a crew member, from Ottawa, Canada.

On July 12th at 2:30 A.M., the woman reportedly had "left the crew bar and was walking back to her room alone when a man she didn’t know grabbed her from behind. He covered her mouth, groped her breast and behind, and attempted to force himself on her . . . "

Meanwhile, a comedian on the cruise ship stepped out of his cabin to search for Ibuprofen for an ear ache when he "heard a woman scream behind a door that led to the crew members’ stairwell. When he opened the door, he saw a man holding one hand over a woman’s mouth and his other hand across her waist."

The newspaper says that the comedian startled the assailant who was later identified as Eduar Klay Moran Bonilla.

The arrest of a foreign (i.e., non-U.S.national) attacking another foreign crew member is a relatively rare event in the U.S.  If the incident occurred in international waters, U.S. local police would not have jurisdiction. The FBI and Department of Justice would have jurisdiction only if either the assailant or the victim were a U.S. citizen. Most of the time there is no arrest in these type of incidents. The offending crew member is simply flown home and the matter is swept under the rug. Here the Alaska state troopers had jurisdiction because the ship was in state territorial waters at the time of the crime.

Over a decade ago, we obtained through a court order confidential internal documents from Royal Caribbean / Celebrity where they studied the problem of sexual assaults in their fleet. Outside experts concluded that most crew members know if they are caught, the worst that can happen is that they will be flown home.  The experts concluded that only when there is a real deterrent like being arrested and imprisoned will the cycle of sexual violence on the ships be reduced. The experts recommended improvements in ship security and human resource policies which the cruise lines ignored. 

We are currently representing a young crew member who was sexually assaulted on an Oceania cruise ship by a Honduran crew member

Have a comment? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo Credit: Michael Penn | Juneau Empire

Freedom of the Seas on Fire Near Falmouth, Jamaica

Freedom of the Seas Cruise Fire JamaicaI have received several calls this morning from friends in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios that the Freedom of the Seas is on fire as it docked at the port of Falmouth, Jamaica.

I also have friends / former Royal Caribbean crew members in Falmouth who are going to obtain photographs of the blaze on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship. 

The photo to the left was taken by a former client, Kevin Chambers, who lives in the Montego Bay area. You can see Kevin's video of the cruise ship coming into port here and at the bottom of this page.

We have been studying the issue of cruise ship fires for many years.

Have a comment?  Please leave one below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Read: Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires - Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?

Update: The passengers were ordered to their muster stations. The cruise line says that the fire erupted in a "mechanical area." The initial reports are that there are no injuries to pasengers, which is good news.  The question remains whether crew members were injured. Last December, a fire erupted on the Oceania Insignia when the cruise ship was in St.Lucia. Initial reports from the cruise line were that the passengers were not effected, but it turned out that three crew members were killed

The latest news is that one crew member was treated for burns, according to Royal Caribbean.

Incredibly, although not surprisingly, Royal Caribbean decided to continue on with the cruise, says the Miami Herald. The U.S. Coast guard is not going to inspect the cruise ship until it returns to the U.S.

 

You can see dramatic photographs of the fire here.

Freedon of Seas Cruise Ship Fire

Freedom of Seas Cruise Fire

Photo Credit: Top Kevin Chambers; middle @JuanDwptv ; bottom @MssJayne.  Video below taken by my friend and former client Kevin Chambers:

 

U.S. Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger from Carnival Breeze

Carnival Breeze MedevacDefense Imagery and Video Systems has reported that the U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a 79 year-old passenger from the Carnival Breeze yesterday.

The cruise ship was approximately 90 miles northwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico when the passenger needed emergency medical treatment.

The Coast Guard helicopter hoisted the patient and a cruise ship nurse and transported them to the Isla Grande Airport, where emergency medical services transported them to the "Centro Medico" Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Photo Credit: Defense Imagery and Video Systems 

 

 

Suicide on the Crystal Serenity?

Le Télégramme reports that a British chef was found hanging in his cabin aboard the Crystal Serenity cruise ship.

The ship left Bordeaux yesterday for Brest. The crew member was found in his cabin Saturday morning.

The investigation and the autopsy reportedly will be held in Bordeaux. 

Crystal SerenityThis is the third alleged suicide by hanging of a crew member on a cruise ship in the six weeks.

On June 2nd we reported on the apparent suicide of a safety officer on the Disney Dream.

On June 3rd we mentioned the apparent suicide of a young woman employed in the Carnival entertainment department on the Carnival Sensation.

On July 3 we mentioned a Brazilian crew member who disappeared from the Norwegian Sun in Alaskka. NCL suggests that it's a suicide.

Four crew member suicides in just 6 weeks?

Under U.S. maritime law, cruise lines are legally required to provide medical treatment to all crew members who suffer from any type of physical or emotional injury or sickness while working on the ship. The ships are required to provide psychiatric and.or psychological treatment, including ashore, if a crew member is suffering from depression or anxiety. The treatment must last, by law, until the crew member reaches his or her maximum medical improvement.

In our experience, the medical treatment for physical injuries is spotty at best. Ibuprofen is often the only "treatment." Medical care for emotional issues is virtually non-existent. 

Have a comment? Please leave one below or join the discussion on our Face book page.

Hat tip to Professor Ross Klein who first mentioned this incident on his CruiseJunkie site

 

Photo Credit: D.strutting via Wiped Creative Commons 3.0

Woman Overboard from Costa Fortuna

Costa FortunaA Norwegian television station is reporting that a woman went overboard today from what is described as an "Italian cruise ship" near Flåm, Norway.  The woman was critically injured.

TV 2 Nyhetene reports that the woman is 40 years of age and she went overboard after a violent episode with another person on the cruise ship. (Her age was subsequently updated to 52 years old). The station does not state whether she is a passenger or a crew member not does it state her nationality (She was later identified as Italian). 

The title of the article is "Kvinne kritisk skadet etter fall fra cruiseskip."  (Woman critically injured after falling from cruise ship).

The woman was quickly rescued after she was in the water for two to three minutes. She was unconscious when taken ashore to the hospital via helicopter

No one has been arrested. Police officers are investigating. 

The incident was brought to my attention by a crew member who identified the ship as the Costa Fortuna.  A person on the TV 2 Facebook page, who said she heard screaming and then a splash,  also says that the ship involved the Costa Fortuna.

Have a comment? Please leave one below or join the discussion on our Facebook page

September 4 2015 Update:  The story finally reaches a U.S. newspaper. Woman wakes from coma to deny she jumped from cruise ship; attempted murder investigation opened.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia by Ed g2s Creative Commons 3.0; below ARNE VEUM /NTB SCANPIX via TV 2 Nyhetene and Bergens & Tidende  

Costa Fortuna

Costa Fortuna

 

Terrorism: ISIS Attacks at Sea

The images posted on Twitter yesterday of ISIS blowing up an Egyptian Navy frigate are frightening. 

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. The SITE Intel Group says that the terrorists destroyed the naval ship with a guided missile. The images were widely broadcast. Time and Al Jazeera and many other newspapers and news stations published them. 

No travel or cruise magazine will publish them, for obvious reasons. 

Is it foreseeable that ISIS will attack a cruise ship?  Of course, but you would never know that if you rely ISIS Attacks at Seaon the cruise industry or your local travel agent for information and advice.

The cruise industry has a nonchalant view of terrorism. It reassures its customers that it's allegedly safe to cruise in the Mediterranean. Costa and MSC (and five other cruise lines) scheduled calls in Tunis (La Goulette) even after the Bardo Museum massacre where 22 cruise passengers were slaughtered. The second attack in Tunisia was predictable and came in June when a single radicalized Muslim with a Kalashnikov gunned down 38 more tourists at the resorts in Sousse.  

Cruise ships sailing in Mediterranean waters are sitting ducks. I have been criticized before for explaining how the terrorists will attack cruise passengers as they sail off the Coasts of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.  

Terrorists have demonstrated that they can blown up a U.S. Navy vessel (USS Cole - 16 years ago). When the jihdists want to focus the cross-hairs of their weapons on a slow moving cruise ship, they can easily do so. The only question is whether the action will be in the form of an external attack (suicidal jihadists on a small boat with explosives ram the ship or the terrorists fire RPG's into the hull), or whether the terrorists will try and board the ship and take the cruise passengers hostage and begin beheading them on video.   

Have a comment? Join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit: SITE Intel Group via Al Jazeera

Sexual Assault - Florida Court Sentences Disney Cruise Employee to 70 Months in Prison

Disney Cruise Sexual AssaultA Florida state court judge today sentenced a Disney Cruise Line crew member to 70 months in prison for sexually assaulting a thirteen year old girl on the last day of a cruise aboard the Disney Dream

The crew member admitted in open court that he engaged in lewd and lascivious conduct after he lured the child into an empty cabin. He also pled guilty to enticing the child into the vacant cabin and holding her against her will.  

The Disney employee Ahmed Sofyan, age 36, of Indonesia, was employed as a cabin attendant on the Dream. He was the cabin attendant for the girl and her family.  

On the last morning of the cruise, while the family was packing up to leave the ship, Sofyan lured the child into a nearby cabin which has been vacated by another family. This is where the sexual assault occurred. We previously wrote about this case here and here.

In our experience, the last evening or morning is often when sexual predators will strike.    

Disney Cruise Sexual AssaultThe plea hearing was took place in Viera, Florida at the Harry T. & Harriette Moore Justice Center.

Sofyan will serve at least 85% of the 70 month sentence and is entitled to credit for the 15 months of time he has already served. 

The courtroom was packed with reporters and television cameras.  One of the problems we have observed over the years is that many crew members think that the worst thing that will happen to them if they engage in a crime like this is that they will simply be fired and flown home but not go to jail. It is important that sexual offenders on foreign-flagged cruise ships serve stiff jail penalties in order to spread the word on the ships that there are real consequences if you sexually abuse children at sea.  

Have a comment? Join the discussion on our Facebook page or leave one below.

Photo Credits:  Above - Jim Walker; below - My13.com 

Update: A number of news outlets covered the story:

Ex-Disney Cruise worker sentenced to 5 years in molestation case.

Disney cruise worker charged with molesting teen takes plea deal.

Judges pushes for deportation of former Disney cruise line employee accused of molesting girl.

Disney Cruise Sexual Assault

  

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Smith Family Calls for Justice for George

WNEM reports that Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut joined the family of George Smith to plead for a federal law to protect cruise passengers.

Senator Blumenthal and Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts have introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2015. WNEM says that the new law will:

  • Require vessels to integrate technology that can be used for capturing images of passengers and detecting passengers who have fallen overboard, to the extent that such technology is available.
  • Improve medical standards aboard cruise ships.
  • Require vessels to be staffed with an appropriate number of sea marshals, who have been certified by, and are operating under the jurisdiction of, the United States Coast Guard.
  • Establish the Department of Transportation (DOT) as the lead federal agency for consumer protection for cruise ship passengers, similar to the role the Department has in aviation consumer protection.
  • Give consumers a clear upfront summary of the restrictive terms and conditions in cruise contracts. The Secretary of Transportation would develop standards for the cruise lines to provide prospective passengers with a short summary of the key terms in the contract. Consumers would be able to read a plain language summary of the key rights and limitations that passengers have during their cruise so they are fully aware of what rights they have, and don't have, before they book their tickets.
  • Establish a consumer complaints toll-free hotline telephone number, give the DOT the authority to investigate complaints, and create an Advisory Committee for Passenger Vessel Consumer Protection, which would be charged with evaluating current consumer protections and generating recommendations for improvements.
  • Require the reporting of crimes against minors to the list of currently reported crime statistics.
  • Address crimes on cruise ships by strengthening video surveillance requirements in public areas, and setting requirements for the amount of time cruises lines must retain videos.
  • Establish a victim advocate to be the primary point of contact in assisting victims, including helping the victim to understand their rights in international waters, get access to appropriate law enforcement and consulate services, and have access to necessary victim support services.

  

WNEM TV 5

 

Ship Life - The Pot Wash Blues

Cruise Ship Pot Wash Yesterday I announced that we will begin regularly featuring photos and videos from crew members of the conditions which they face working on cruise ships.

There was a spirited debate which followed on our Facebook page about the issue. 

One cruise passenger commented: " No one forces these people to work on the cruise ships. So if they have complaints, get another job!!" 

It seems that some passengers could care less about the crew members or the working conditions which they face.

Other passengers, and even a few crew members, disputed the authenticity of the photos, or thought that they were staged or exaggerated.

Here are some more photos, of what a pot wash looks like. One photo is of the mess.  Another photo of a greasy pan that needs cleaning. Its hard, hard work for very little money. Long hours are the norm.

Stay tuned for more photos and some videos. Many crew members are sending images of what "ship life" is really like.  

Join in the discussion on our Facebook page or leave a comment below.

Cruise Ship Pot Wash

 

Ship Life - What It's Really Like to Work on a Cruise Ship

Cruise Ship - "Ship Life"Over the years, crew members have sent me lots of stories about what it's really like to work on a cruise ship. Lots of time they send photos and videos of the working conditions they face. 

It's not the pretty images shown to the guests who occasionally go on behind-the-scene tours. 

"Ship life" is how the crew members describe it.

I have shared some of these photos and videos on this blog from time to time.  

Like when MSC crew members were ordered to throw black plastic garbage bags into the sea at night. Or photos of trolleys of food, hidden from USPH inspectors, in the Silversea crew quarters.

Starting this month, I will begin to regularly post photos and videos sent by crew members to us showing the actual working and living conditions of the crew. The photos and video will be a glimpse into actual "ship life," like the incredible amount of cleaning that needs to be accomplished in the galley after the second seating is over.

The identities of the crew will, of course, remain confidential.  

See the photos here on our Facebook page.

If you are a crew member, feel free to send us your photos and videos.  Please don't get caught.  The cruise lines will quickly terminate your employment.

Finally, First U.S. Female to Captain Cruise Ship

Celebrity Cruises announced with great fanfare today that it appointed Kate McCue as the master of the Celebrity Summit cruise ship. She reportedly will be the first U.S. woman to captain a large cruise ship when she joins the Summit next month.

McCue has been with sister brand Royal Caribbean for 15 years.  

Royal Caribbean first named a woman as a captain of a cruise ship in the male dominated industry in 2007 when it appointed Swedish mariner Karin Stahre-Janson as the master of the Monarch of the Captain Kate McCueSeas.

Royal Caribbean named its second female cruise ship captain, Lis Lauritzen, aboard its Vision of the Seas in 2011.   

In 2010 Inger Klein Olsen took the helm of Cunard's Queen Victoria and joined this very small group of women in the male dominated industry.

Later Sarah Breton became the first female captain in P&O Cruises’ 170 plus year history when she was appointed to sail the Artemis.

In 2012 Silversea Cruises promoted Margrith Ettlin to the position of captain aboard the Silver Explorer

Sexism has been a problem for the industry over the decades.  Having women in places of authority and control can only make the cruise lines a fairer place for crew members to work.

Kudos to all of these pioneers and best of luck to Ms., er, Master McCue!  

Mission Impossible: Evacuating Behemoths at Sea

The Miami Herald's article today (by Hannah Sampson) regarding what is described as the "behemoths at sea" raises a basic question - how can you safely evacuate 5,000 passengers and 2,000 crew members from one of these "super-size" cruise ships?

The answer is simple, you can't. 

Maritime regulations require the task to be completed in just 30 minutes. Several retired Coast Guard officials (who didn't sell out and join the cruise industry) tell me that there is no way that a cruise ship like Royal Allure of the SeasCaribbean's Oasis, Allure or the to-be-built Harmony can accomplish this feat. 

It doesn't seem like the cruise lines have much confidence that they can either. Quite frankly, they don't seem to think that they have an obligation to do so. Ms. Hannah interviewed a dozen cruise executives and managers, including Carnival chief maritime officer William Burke who said "big ships are inherently more safe than the smaller ships . . . and so as a result, there is less likelihood of ever needing a lifeboat.”

Royal Caribbean’s global chief communications officer Rob Zeiger echoed this we-really-don't-need-a-lifeboat sentiment telling Ms. Sampson: “These things are designed now on the theory that the ship is its own best safety vessel. It’s as much about designing them to remain stable and in motion as anything else.”

Of course this is same mentality that doomed a thousand souls on the deck of the sinking cruise liner Titanic over a hundred years ago.  

Two years ago, I pointed out in Titanic Redux that the Allure and the Oasis were designed not to have enough lifeboats for all of the crew and passengers. The crew, and maybe some passengers, will have to jump down a chute into a raft.  It's a dangerous procedure even if the weather is perfect and the ship is in port. But if the giant ship is engulfed in flames, experiencing storm conditions or heavy seas, or is far from port, the outcome will become a disaster.

Ms. Sampson interviewed one voice of reason in her article, Captain Bill Doherty (former safety manager for NCL), a director with Nexus Consulting Group. Captain Doherty said “You’ve got to get out there and you’ve got to physically assess your worst-case scenarios. Real time, real people, real hardware drills that clearly identify where the holes are."

The reality is that the cruise lines, which are in competition to build bigger and bigger ships, are not conducting such real life, worst-case-scenario drills. It's disturbing to hear Carnival and Royal Caribbean cavalierly tell Ms. Hannah that lifeboats may not really be needed after all.

I hate to think what the guests and crew will be thinking when they hear the captain announce "abandon ship" from one of these gigantic monsters floundering in the middle of the Atlantic.

Have a comment? Please leave one below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit:  Jim Walker

A "Creative Solution?" Crew Member Raped Aboard Oceania Marina

Our firm represents a young crew member who was raped while she was unconscious aboard the Marina cruise ship operated by Oceania Cruises. 

We usually do not write about cases we handle, but we are doing so only after the Oceania defense lawyers in Miami felt compelled to write an article about the case on their website.  

The young woman (identified as Jane Doe in order to maintain her confidentiality as a victim) was found unconscious on the floor of her cabin by her roommate. The cruise ship doctor diagnosed anal tears and other signs of rape injuries. Oceania MarinaThe ship doctor did not permit the crew member to leave the ship (which was in the South Pacific) for medical rape-crisis psychotherapy or counseling. The crew member contracted herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV), and sustained substantial physical and mental injuries, due to the rape.

After Oceania refused to cooperate, we flew the rape victim to Miami, where the cruise line and hiring agent are located, in order for the cruise line to provide medical and psychological treatment within their network of doctors. We allege that Oceania refuses to provide the rape victim with ongoing and uninterrupted medical and therapy, as well as the "maintenance and cure" to which she is entitled as a crew member. 

The defense attorneys explained on their web page that the case "stemmed from the crew member's allegations that she was sexually assaulted by a fellow crew member. She filed suit against the defendants in Florida state court alleging Jones Act negligence, unseaworthiness, failure to provide medical treatment, failure to provide maintenance and cure, and failure to pay seaman wages. In addition to those claims, the crew member brought common law tort claims arising from the cruise line’s alleged conduct for false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, spoliation of evidence, invasion of privacy, and fraudulent misrepresentation."

The federal judge ruled that all of the causes of action were subject to international arbitration and, as such, the case cannot be pursued in state court in Florida. The cruise line defense firm rejoiced in the decision, stating that "we invite you to contact us to discuss the ruling, its effect, or for other creative solutions to your legal issues."

Of course, this case is not remotely "solved." 

Next week we will proceed in the court-ordered arbitration process and will seek to bring this disturbing case to a hearing as soon as possible. 

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo Credit: Jordandkatz licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Terror in Tunis: Did the Cruise Lines Get the Memo?

MSC and Costa sailed their guests into danger in March when terrorists slaughtered cruise tourists as they exited into the Tunis museum excursion site from cruise buses transporting them from the port. The cruise lines neither provided nor arranged security for their customers or, for that matter, announced even a single warning of the risks of danger. 

Terrorists have attacked tourist spots in Tunisia before and would so again. 

The cruise lines ignored the considerable risks posed by the ISIS and Al Queda terrorists growing in La Goulette Cruise Terminalneighboring Libya and already festering in Tunisia. After the bloodshed, the cruise industry quickly launched a PR campaign stating that cruising to Tunis was safe

Soon, MSC and Costa began rescheduling calls to Tunis, notwithstanding the loss of life.

Princess, Croisieres De France (CDF), Holland America Line, Viking Ocean Cruises and Star Clippers also scheduled cruise ship to head to Tunis, as reported by the Cruise Arabia website

But then terrorists targeted a resort in Tunisia frequented by tourists.  On June 26th, 38 tourists were killed. Terrible, gruesome deaths. These were not cruise vacationers, but mostly British and European families on holiday, so the story was not portrayed as an attack on the cruise industry.  

Today, the prime minister of Tunisia says that additional plots, aimed at "massive deaths," are in the works. He earlier declared a state of emergency.

60 tourists to Tunisia were killed in the two deadly attack in Tunisia in the past three months. I suppose it doesn't really matter what the PR departments of the crui