Controlling the Images: How Royal Caribbean Handles PR During Cruise Ship Fires

Royal Caribbean Cruise PRPR News recently published an interesting article about how Royal Caribbean Cruises successfully handled its public relations image during the 2013 fire aboard the Grandeur of the Seas. Titled How Royal Caribbean Controls the Message During a Crisis, the article explains how the cruise line effectively controlled the narrative when the Grandeur caught on fire while cruising to Nassau.

PR Success: Immediately after the fire, Royal Caribbean quickly flew its president and a professional photographer to the port and tweeted photos of the cruise CEO interacting with guests "so that journalists would use those photos instead of a guest’s."

I mentioned this effective PR move in an article which I posted shortly after the fire titled Where Are Photo & Video Images of the Fire on the Grandeur of the Seas?  I commented on Royal Caribbean's new and improved PR efforts, but pointed out that the cruise line released more photos of the cruise CEO having tea with passengers after the fire than of the damage to the ship. 

A video report by ABC News helped to explain why there were no videos or photographs because the cruise ship's crew stopped passengers from taking images of the fire and chaos. Passenger Carrie royal Caribbean Cruise PRMcTigue told ABC News that "even when people put their cameras up to photograph the sunrise, they were told, 'no photos.'"

PR Disasters: But Royal Caribbean has not always been able to control the images shown to the public when its cruise ships catch on fire. In July 2015, the Freedom of the Seas caught on fire. When we learned that the Freedom was on fire while heading to port in Falmouth, Jamaica, we asked a former client who lives near the port to video the fire. He videotaped the ship coming into port, billowing a huge amount of smoke. We immediately posted the video, on our Facebook page, which was viewed by over a million people within two days. We also posted the video on this blog with other images of the fire and the passengers mustering to prepare to abandon the fire-stricken ship.

So when Royal Caribbean tried to spin the story, with a misleading statement by its CEO that the fire was allegedly "small and quickly extinguished," the public could make their own assessment regarding the size and ferocity of the fire. All of the major networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) carried the video on their news programs and the international media included the video on their multi-media presentations.

The public was left with the impression that the cruise line was either completely out-of-touch with the danger posed to its guests or that it deliberately fabricated a falsehood to masquerade as the truth, which I suggested in the Royal Caribbean "Small Fire" Hoax.

Royal Caribbean also caused a public uproar after it sailed the Anthem of the Seas into a well publicized storm last year. Royal Caribbean's PR people tried to say that the storm was "unforeseeable" but weather professionals didn't buy it. They ripped the cruise line for routing the cruise ship directly into the storm. Read the Washington Post's 4,000-passenger cruise ship inexplicably sails into Atlantic mega-storm. Weather experts accurately predicted the Atlantic seas out of New Jersey to be over 30 feet high with winds of hurricane strength, but the Anthem nonetheless recklessly sailed into theRoyal Caribbean Cruise PR storm, terrorizing thousands of passengers and burning out the clutches of its azipods in the process. The Anthem returned to port in New Jersey with only one propulsion unit operating.

Royal Caribbean initially denied any damage or injury to the ship or the passengers and then falsely claimed that the only damage to the ship was "cosmetic." Al Roker, the popular television weatherman on the Today Show, best summed up Royal Caribbean's claim that the storm was not predicted: "Royal Caribbean's claim that this was not predicted is bullfeathers."  USA TODAY chimed in with "Meteorologists: Royal Caribbean blew it on sailing into storm."

Practice Makes Perfect?  The director of the cruise line's corporate communications, Cynthia Martinez, was quoted in the PR article as saying that that the company often "practices roundtable discussions of how to handle an issue, and sometimes they practice writing tweets and press releases for specific situations." So the next time that a Royal Caribbean ship catches on fire or sails into a storm, remember that what you may be seeing from this cruise line is what it wants you to believe rather than the reality of what actually occurred or - as Al Roker said - "bullfeathers."

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NBC News: Hidden Dangers for Children on Cruise Ships

Jim Walker Cruise Law Sexual AssaultLast night, NBC Nightly News aired part 2 of its investigation into sexual assaults on cruise ships.

NBC interviewed me during the investigation. We have handled over 100 cases of sexual assault; approximately one third of the victims have been children. This is essentially the assault rate of minors that experts testified to during prior Congressional hearings.  

The common comment we hear is that parents need to supervise their children while on cruises. This may be true, but sexual assaults can take place even when the most attentive parents are involved. Children have been assaulted during cruises in shipboard childcare facilities as well as in their cabins by cabin attendants who meet the children and their family members during the cruise.

Another common scenario is older passengers who have access to alcohol and target underage girls during the cruise.

When an assault occurs, the FBI routinely does not follow up with their initial investigation and interview of the victim. Prosecutions of shipboard predators by the U.S. Department of Justice are rare.   

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Photo credit: NBC Nightly News  

Princess Cruises Causes Uproar with Balloon Release

Princess Cruises Balloon ReleaseOn June 30th, Princess Cruises celebrated the Majestic Princess's maiden cruise to Taiwan by releasing hundreds of red, blue, yellow, and pink balloons from the ship, which it photographed and posted on its Facebook page

The reaction to this environmentally-harmful publicity stunt was immediate. At the time of publishing this article, there were over 900 comments posted on Facebook with the vast majority criticizing the cruise line's conduct:

Disgraceful and irresponsible behavior from Princess Cruises with this mass balloon release  . . . These balloons will end up choking wildlife in the marine environment . . . 

Stop littering the precious ocean with plastic from your marketing stunts . . . 

Shame on you, Princess cruises for releasing HUNDREDS of balloons from your ship. You should know that this causes death to wildlife in the oceans . . . 

This makes me really sad. Those balloons will eventually come down into our oceans. Marine species mistake them as food and consume them. It kills them, and adds to the microplastic crisis and contaminates our seafood. Seriously who was the idiot who decided a balloon release was a good idea? And further, who approved it?

Princess Cruises auto-responded to the hundreds of comments protesting the balloon release by falsely claiming that the balloons were allegedly "biodegradable:"

Hi, we value and respect the environment. Only eco-friendly biodegradable balloons were used in this event.

Of course, vinyl balloons are not remotely biodegradable, as many knowledgeable cruisers explained on the Princess Facebook page. Studies posted by concerned readers conclude that it takes as long as five years before the balloon actually begins to fall apart. But then the smaller parts are consumed by fish, turtles and mammals, as one commentator pointed out: 

Princess Cruises, do you really understand what you said? Balloons don't disintegrate when Princess Cruises Balloon Releasethey hit water or land. Sea life and wildlife ingest them as food. The only biodegradable thing about them is when they rot in the stomach of dead animals. Please educate yourselves. I am shocked to see an enterprise that depends on the oceans for their revenue destroy it like this. Deplorable really!

Many of the hundreds of negative comments were left by people offended that Princess would try and defend the harmful publicity stunt.

This is a cruise line which has earned a reputation over the years as an enemy of the environment. Last December, the U.S. Department of Justice fined Princess $40,000,000 for wide-spread dumping of oil from a number of its cruise ships, by-passing the bilge-water oil separators, falsification of its logs, and lying to the Coast Guard. After it was caught for its long standing environmental crimes, Princess president Jan Swartz issued a public apology, saying that the cruise line was supposedly "committed to environmental practices that protect the marine environment."

Unfortunately, Princess Cruises' statement that it released so-called "eco-friendly" balloons suggests that Princess still hasn't learned much about protecting the marine environment.

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Photo credit:

Top - Princess Cruises Facebook page.

Bottom - BalloonsBlow.org

NBC News Looks at Problem of Sexual Assault on Cruise Ships

On Sunday, July 2, 2017, NBC Nightly News aired the first part of an investigative report into the issue of sexual assaults on cruise ships

Over the course of three months, NBC News spoke with 10 victims of sexual assaults, or members of their families, and found that cruise ships pose hidden dangers.

"Of the 92 alleged on-board crimes reported by cruise lines in 2016, 62 were sexual assaults. When sexual assaults occur at sea, it may be hard for victims to get justice on land. Some assaults were barely investigated, according to the victims and families who spoke to NBC. Most were never NBC News Cruise Ship Sexual Assaultprosecuted.

And perhaps most troubling, many of the sexual assaults on-board cruise ships involved minors. A congressional report in 2013 found that minors were victims in a third of the assaults."

NBC interviewed me, as well as another maritime lawyer in Miami Michael Winkleman, during their investigation. You can see a portion of the interview in the video below. 

The program highlights the fact that the FBI usually does not conduct a full investigation when women and children are victimized on foreign flagged cruise shhips. Prosecutions by the Department of Justice are even rarer. As a result, the cycle of sexual violence remains a problem on cruises.

The second part of the investigation airs this evening on NBC News. 

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Sexual Assaullt Victims on Cruise Ships are often Children and Teenagers

Ths week NBC News published an article titled Sex Assault Victims on Cruise Ships Are Often Under 18. Over three months, NBC News spoke with ten victims of sexual assaults and/or members of their families. The news organization found that a significant number of victims of rape and molestation on cruise ships are under 18 years of age.

NBC reported:

"Of the 92 alleged on-board crimes reported by cruise lines in 2016, 62 were sexual assaults. When sexual assaults occur at sea, it may be hard for victims to get justice on land. Some assaults were barely investigated, according to the victims and families who spoke to NBC. Most were never prosecuted.

And perhaps most troubling, many of the sexual assaults on-board cruise ships involved minors. A congressional report in 2013 found that minors were victims in a third of the assaults."

NBC interviewed me during its investigation.  We have represented 100 women and children, including families of  boys, who were sexually assaulted on cruise ships; around 35 vcitims were teenages and children with many victims under the age of ten with some as young as three years old. 

You can read more about sexual assault of children on cruise ships here

Interested in this issue? Read the recent article Sexual assault victims on cruise ships are often minors.

NBC will be airing its special on TV this weekend on the NBC Nightly News. Below is a portion of the special. 

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Fire Breaks Out on MS Nordnorge

A fire reportedly erupted in the engine room of the cruise ship MS Nordnorge yesterday (June 29th) when the vessel was docked at Trondheim, Norway, according to the Maritime Bulletin.

Crew members and city firefighters extinguished the fire. Three crew members were reportedly treated for smoke inhalation. The Nordnorge is a "ro-ro" ship (roll on - roll off type of cruise-ferry). The vessel reportedly did not sustain serious damages and departed from the port at Trondheim yesterday afternoon.

The Nordnorge was built in 1997, flies the flag of Norway, and is operated by Hurtigruten AS.

Credit: Clemensfranz - CC BY 2.5, commons / wikimedia.Nordnorge by Clemensfranz - CC BY 2.5, commons / wikimedia.

Police in Belize Arrest Three NCL Crew Members for Smuggling Cocaine

Norwegian Escape7 News Belize reports that three NCL crew members were arrested in Belize for possession of two kilos of cocaine which was picked up in Roatan and taken on an unidentified NCL cruise ship to the private destination of Harvest Caye, apparently with the intention of being smuggled into the U.S.  The news stations says that:

The police have not released any official information, but 7News has learned that 3 employees of Norwegian Cruise Lines were charged with drug trafficking for allegedly being in possession of two kilos of cocaine on a cruise ship. Our information is that the 3 men are now arrested and charged, and they are at the Belize Central Prison.

Reports are that the men, 2 nationals of St. Lucia and 1 from St. Vincent, arrived on last Tuesday, on an NCL ship which made a port of call at the Harvest Caye Island getaway. The men worked on the Ship. Reports say that the two kilos may have been picked up in Roatan.

The men were arrested, and charged, and they were arraigned in Magistrate's Court. They are now at the Belize Central Prison.

Smuggling cocaine is big business on the high seas. Two years ago, five NCL crew members on the Norwegian Sun were arrested in Tampa when the cruise ship returned from Roatan where the crew members picked up the drugs. The Tampa Bay Times reported that they worked for NCL as utility workers in the Norwegian Sun's galley.

A few months later, a NCL crew member employed aboard the Norwegian Dawn cruise ship was arrested when he attempted to smuggle cocaine aboard the ship when it was docked in Roatan.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has busted a cocaine smuggling operation where NCL crew members smuggled cocaine from Honduras to New Orleans aboard NCL's Norwegian Dawn cruise ship.

The article did not identify the NCL cruise ship involved in this latest smuggling caper, although it is believed to be the Norwegian Escape.

Costa and Princess crew members were recently arrested in cocaine smuggling schemes using cruise ships.

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June 21, 2017 Update: The newspaper in Belize identified the NCL crew members: Derson Frank, from St. Vincent; Renaldo Roberts, also from St. Vincent; and Jamal Celise of St. Lucia.

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

Cruise Industry: A Menace to Wildlife?

Big Red - Harvest Caye - NCLThis weekend, a reader of this blog sent me an article from the San Pedro Sun regarding NCL's exploitation of rare macaws in its development in Belize at Harvest Caye.

Scarlet Macaws

NCL reportedly obtained numerous birds (toucans and other macaws) and animals and reptiles from the Belize government from the wild and/or rescue and rehabilitation centers for display in cages for the benefit of cruise visitors. 

The article addressed the plight of a scarlet macaw, which is one of the most poached birds in Belize, which was rescued by the Belize Bird Rescue (BBR), a non-profit organization in Belize. The male bird, which was named "Big Red," was rescued and underwent rehabilitation for wild release; however, several weeks ago the bird reportedly was given to Harvest Caye to entertain cruise tourists, much to the outrage of local Belizeans. Critics of NCL's boondoggle in Belize point out that NCL did not even mention a captive animal facility in the cruise line environmental impact assessment or obtain permission to possess rare birds in its environmental clearance process.  NCL apparently created its own so-called "conservation NGO" but it is not working with any of the existing NGO's in Belize.

The article about NCL's conduct, although outrageous, is just one of many examples of the abuse of birds and animals at cruise line private resorts and excursions throughout the world.

Swim-With-The-Dolphins

Dolphin rescue groups have repeatedly protested against ”swim-with-the-dolphins" excursions, like the notorious Blackbeard's Cay in the Bahamas, which have become a major feature of the cruise experience. Carnival and Royal Caribbean advertise them as “once in a lifetime experiences." The trade of dolphins in the Caribbean is big business. There are many dozens of swim-with-the-dolphins excursions sold by cruise lines in Mexico and throughout the Caribbean. The Dolphin Project writes about dolphins "confined in tiny, chlorinated tanks, where they are subject to relentless sun exposure (often resulting in sunburn), noise pollution, continuous human interaction and water toxins. Some live in polluted harbor waters, in hastily constructed holding pens, “conveniently” close to cruise ship ports for quick, tourist access." 

Cayman Island Turtle FarmCayman Islands Turtles

An animal protection group explains that in their natural ocean habitats, green sea turtles can dive to depths over 400 feet and can swim several thousands of miles a year. But held in captivity in what was originally called the Cayman Turtle Farm, subsequently re-branded as the friendlier-sounding Cayman Turtle Centre, the turtles are kept in small, crowded holding pens and are removed only for entertainment purposes to be mishandled by tourists and used for props in selfie-photos. You can also eat the turtles which are bred at the tourist facility. More than 200,000 people visit the tourist-turtle farm each year; approximately three quarters are cruise passengers.

Surrey Horses in Mexico, the Bahamas and the Caribbean

Horse tours are a popular tourist attraction for cruise visitors. Cruise lines sell dozens of excursions to tour the various port towns via horse drawn carriages. In many destinations, the horses are poorly fed Carriage Horses - Bahamasand abused. They suffer from heat exhaustion, dehydration, malnutrition, traffic fumes, noise pollution, stress, and injuries. The situation in Nassau is particularly bad; a malnourished horse dropped dead on Bay Street in downtown Nassau only to be tied by the legs and dragged down the street by a pickup truck. Exploiting horses is a dreadful way to spend a vacation cruise.

The cruise industry supports hundreds of local ports and has great influence over activities by the local communities. For example, if the cruise line would stop doing business with the tour operators who abuse horses and do business only with reputable bus and van operators, the abuse would stop virtually overnight.

Similarly, if the cruise industry would stop calling at port countries like the Faroe Islands which slaughter pilot whales, there would be considerable pressure to end the barbaric sport of killing sentient mammals, as we have urged for years.  

There are literally literally thousands of cruise excursions offered by each of the major cruise lines Faroe Islands Slaughter Whaleswhich take the majority of the revenue from the excursion. There's little consideration given by the cruise lines to anything except how much money the cruise lines can collect. I tend to view the problem as starting at the top, with the greedy cruise executives looking to collect every nickle and dime possible; but thoughtless cruise passengers are part of the problem too. One person commenting on NCL's exploitation of macaws in Belize posted this comment:

"Par for the course for people who encourage thousands of passengers to swim with captive dolphins, ride tortured elephants, camels and the like. However the passengers are equally to blame."     

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Photo credits: 

Big Red - San Pedro Sun

Dolphin - Delfines En Libertad, Report on captive dolphins in Mexico.

Turtles -  World Animal Protection.

Horses - Stop Brutal Abuse and Suffering of Surrey Horses in the Bahamas.

Pilot Whales - Green Travel Life.

Jet Ski Operator Sexually Assaults Canadian Tourist in Nassau, Bahamas

 A jet ski operator in Nassau, Bahamas sexually assaulted a Canadian woman near Paradise Island yesterday afternoon, according to the Nassau Tribune.

The crime reportedly occurred after 1.30 P.M. on a cay near Cabbage Beach. The newspaper indicates that a jet ski operator took the young woman (in her twenties) on a ride from Cabbage Beach to a cay off Paradise Island where he sexually assaulted her.

An employee of the Atlantis resort told the newspaper that he observed the woman, shortly after the incident, crying and shaking on the beach. She indicated that the jet ski operator took her to a nearby cay Cruise Port Nassau Bahamaswhere he raped her. The news account says that the other jet ski operators"... don’t like him because he has a bad reputation. He has been accused before of groping a woman on the beach."

Over a half-dozen women have reported being assaulted by jet ski operators on Cabbage Beach in Nassau, Bahamas. The U.S. Embassy has warned of this specific danger several times. A year ago we wrote that, according to the U.S. Embassy, jet ski operators sexually assaulted five tourists in just 18 months

Bahamian officials previously discussed using police and Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers to patrol the beaches on Paradise Island to address the crime problem, but such plans never materialized.

Many passengers cruise to Nassau under the illusion that it is a tropical paradise. But the truth is that Nassau has been the subject of more critical crime warning that any other cruise destination in the world. The Bahamas has a far higher rate of rape and murder than any U.S. port where passenger embarked for a cruise. The cruise lines don't issue warnings before selling cruises to Nassau but typically warn their guests of the high crime rate there only during the cruise.

The Nassau Tribune has written about the rape of tourists by jet ski operators before.

The National Task Force for Gender Based Violence, Bahamas had the worst record for rapes in the Caribbean. The report stated that "while the worldwide average for rape is 15 per 100,000, The Bahamas has an average of 133 (per 100,000)." The rate in the U.S. Is somewhere around 28.6 per 100,000. There are almost 5 times as many rapes in the Bahamas as in the U.S. per capita rate.

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June 15, 2017 Update: It seems that history is repeating itself

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

Former Royal Caribbean Crew Member Convicted of Murdering Family Who He Met During Cruise

Shakti RamsurrunNewspapers are reporting that a jury in Canada convicted a former Royal Caribbean waiter, from Mauritius, of murdering a young woman and her family who he met during a cruise in 2009. 

In December of 2009, two weeks before Christmas, 24 year-old Shakti Ramsurrun, from the country of Mauritius (off of the southeastern coast of Africa) met 19 year-old cruise passenger Anne-Katherine Powers and her parents on a cruise aboard the Explorer of the Seas. Mr. Ramsurrun had been employed as a waiter by Royal Caribbean Cruises for only two months.

The following day, when the Explorer reached Coco Cay, Mr. Ramsurrun accompanied the young Canadian woman ashore, although he knew that that he was violating the company's anti-fraternization policy. 

Over the next few months, the friendship between the two continued and they became engaged. 

In April 2010, four months after the first cruise, the family returned for a second cruise aboard the Explorer to celebrate the 25th marriage anniversary of Ms. Powers' parents. Mr. Ramsurrun reportedly "asked the captain for special permission to spend time with my fiancee." Ms. Powers reportedly Shakti Ramsurrunended up staying in Mr. Ramsurrun's cabin during the cruise, if Mr. Ramsurrun's trial testimony is accurate. 

They later became married in Maurtius and, after staying there for a short time, they moved to Canada where they lived in Ms. Powers' parent's house with their newborn son. 

Ms. Powers wanted to separate from her husband, after their relationship deteriorated, but the couple still lived together. Mr. Ramsurrun moved to the basement of the family home. Ms. Powers' parents wanted him to leave their house, but Mr. Ramsurrun remained. In 2012, Mr, Ramsurrun killed Ms. Powers and her parents and left the house with the estranged couple's child. The police apprehended him with his child in a van, and he was charged with the triple slaying. 

Mr. Ramsurrun has remained in jail for the past 5 years. Late last week, a jury convicted him of murdering the family. According to the Ottawa Citizen, the court sentenced him to life imprisonment with no chance for parole for 25 years. 

The last Royal Caribbean crew member from  Mauritius who was in the news was Karan Seechurn who worked on the Quantum of the Seas as a mini-bar attendant. He was arrested and pleaded guilty of abusive sexual contact in 2015 after he used a master key to enter a woman's cabin and molest her while she was sleeping. 

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Hat tip to Crew Center who covered the story: Fairy tale turned into a nightmare - Ex Crew Member charged with triple murder.

Photo credit: Top - Radio Canada ICI Ottawa-Gatineau; bottom - Gatineau Police Department via Ottawa Citizen

Drug Mules Used Costa Cruise Ships to Smuggle Cocaine

For a two year period from 2012 to 2014, as many as thirty-four people who posed as cruise ship passengers on Costa ships participated in a smuggling network that transported hashish from Morocco to Brazil and cocaine from South America to Europe, according to the The Local newspaper in France.

The French newspaper reported that the "innovative and audacious" international drug smuggling ring consisted of nearly three dozen "low-level 'mules' who came from the same working class area of the city of Nice" and strapped the drugs to their bodies and carried the hash and cocaine on and off Costa cruise ships.

The drug carriers are on trial in France for smuggling the drugs between several continents. The Costa Cruise Shipsarticle says that the cruise staff on the cruise ships wondered what these young people were doing on cruises "if they were not accompanying their grandparents.”  

The article also mentioned that the the ill-fated Costa Concordia was reportedly carrying a huge shipment of Mafia-owned cocaine when she sank in January 2012.

We previously reported that several people were arrested with over 16 kilos of cocaine while disembarking the Costa Pacifica in Malaga following a Transatlantic cruise from South America several years ago.

The use of cruise ships to smuggle cocaine is a subject which we have reported on many times over the last couple of years. A few examples: 

There was a major drug bust (15 kilos) aboard the Splendor of the Seas in Buenos Aires in 2015. The Royal Caribbean cruise ship was heading to Brazil and then Europe.

In the same year, five men were caught trying to smuggle 26 kilos aboard the MSC Magnifica in São Paulo.

Three passengers were busted on a Princess cruise ship, the Sea Princess, last August of 2016, for smuggling over 209 pounds of cocaine.   

Just two weeks ago, three Princess crew members on the Island Princess were nabbed in Vancouver for smuggling five kilos of cocaine into Canada.

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

Cocaine-Smuggling Princess Crew Members Escape Jail Time

Osland Princess Crew MembersCanadian news stations have identified the three crew members from the Island Princess who were arrested last week for smuggling drugs into Vancouver, as we mentioned in a prior article

CTV News Vancouver identified three Nicaraguan crew members, Willard Murray Brooks (age 28), Emil Hebbert Garth (age 26) and Jason West Carter, (age 32) who were recruited by a Colombian drug cartel to smuggle 10 kilograms of cocaine onto the Island Princess when it docked in Cartagena. The Princess cruise ship later called on Vancouver on May 11th after sailing to Panama and, later, to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Once the  ship docked in Vancouver, CTV reports that the three crew members smuggled five kilograms of cocaine to a shore-side food court where an unidentified man met them and later paid US$30,000 for the drugs. The men reportedly tucked the cash into their underwear before heading back to the cruise ship. Canadian Border Services found the undeclared cash when the drug mules went through screening. A Vancouver police canine unit and the Canadian Border Services then searched the men's cabins where they reportedly located an additional amount of cocaine.

The men did not dispute the charges. CTV reports the dcrew members "also said they did not fear a return to their home country of Nicaragua, where they are expected to be flown within seven days. CBSA will hold Princess Cruise Lines responsible for the travel costs."

No explanation was provided by CTV why the drug smugglers did not face jail time in Canada. It is doubtful that the three crew members will face any charges once they have been returned home.  

A one-way ticket home to Nicargua for the crew members to be paid by Princess Cruises is hardly a deterrent to international drug smuggling.

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Video and photo credit: CTV Canada Vancouver

 

A Race to the Bottom? Cruise Lines Seek Reduction of Harbor Pilot's Compensation

Biscayne Bay PlotsThe safe operation of a cruise ship to and from the port of Miami depends in large part on someone who few cruise passengers will ever meet - a pilot from the Biscayne Bay Pilots.

Cruise ships, tankers and cargo ships are all piloted in and out of the narrow channel of Miami's Government Cut by a highly trained and experienced "harbor pilot." Before the ship enters the port, a harbor pilot will board the ship by climbing up a ladder from the pilot boat onto the ship. The officer in charge of the ship's navigation will then turn the command of the ship over to the pilot, who will use his familiarity with the unique characteristics of the port to safely bring the ship into (and later, out of) the port.

There is overwhelming pressure on the ship captains employed by the cruise lines to depart from and arrive at ports on time. The cruise lines pay bonuses to these captains for keeping their schedules. There are recent instances where the captains have been forced to imprudently take their cruise ships into dangerous sea conditions; a good example was reported by the Washington Post last year regarding Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas in an article titled 4,000-Passenger Cruise Ship Inexplicably Sails Into Atlantic Mega-Storm.  

The harbor pilots, whose rates are determined by state law and are not under the thumb of the cruise lines, are at the front line of keeping safety paramount over economic pressure.

The Miami-based cruise lines, through their trade association, the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association ("FCCA"), is nonetheless seeking to reduce the compensation to be paid to the Biscayne Bay Pilots Association for its services. 

The Florida Pilotage Rate Commission is holding a hearing this week on the FCCA's petition to lower the rates paid to the pilot's association. No other maritime ship owners or operators, like the bulk carriers or cargo ship owners, have objected to the pilot's rates.

There appears to be no legitimate reason for the cruise lines to try and reduce the compensation paid to the local pilots.

There has been no rate increase for the pilots since 2002; the rates have remained flat or have trended downward over the last 15 years. In contrast, the billions of dollars in revenues collected by the cruise lines, like Carnival and Royal Caribbean, have increased substantially during this time period. Cruise lines enjoy a virtual tax-free status by incorporating their business in countries like Panama or Bermuda and flying foreign-flags of convenience. The compensation earned by each of the local pilots, in contrast, has decreased by $100,000 in the last 15 years. The pilot rates have not been adjusted to keep up with the consumer price index ("CPI"). Taking into account inflation, each local pilot has lost another $90,000 in real dollars, while the cruise lines have all substantially increased their profitability by billions of dollars.

Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President of Marine Operations William Baumgartner, testified on behalf of the FCCA. Admiral Baumgartner initially praised the pilots but quickly criticized everything about their services. He characterized the port of Miami as a "simple, safe and easy to access" port, particularly compared to other ports like New Orleans, Tampa, Bayonne or New York City, implying that the pilots' jobs were easy. This argument was effectively rebutted by Stuart Lilly, Biscayne Bay pilot and past president of the Florida Harbor Pilots Association, who explained the difficulty of piloting Biscayne Bay Pilotsthe increasingly wide and deeper post-Panamax ships in and out of the narrow port of Miami channel which has not been widened since 1968. The channel into the busy port of Miami, with heavy traffic by pleasure boats, sail boats, work boats, fishing boats, ferries and oil tankers, is only around 500 feet wide, with tight turning basins, sometime called "malfunction junctions," (watch video here) in contrast to the channel in Bayonne, New Jersey with a width of around 2,000 feet.

The greatest risk is a cruise ship striking the hard rock side of the narrow channel at the port, similar to the Norwegian Dawn which ran aground near Bermuda in 2015 or the Costa Concordia which struck rocks near Giglio in 2012. A long, salvage effort similar to that involved in the Costa Concordia catastrophe would cause financial ruin to the port of Miami and the cruise industry.

The cruise lines also criticized the business model of the pilot association. The FCCA's accounting expert criticized the fact that the pilots pay for "full insurance" for their employees as "unreasonable" and also labeled the retirement plan as "rich" and also called it "unreasonable." This was an ironic argument given that the cruise lines have all terminated the retirement plans of their crew members or have agreed to pay only a small pittance (a token amount of $5,000 to be paid after 10 years of 8-10 month contracts which few crew members will ever reach). Meeting the insurance and retirement needs of employees are honorable steps to take, and are actually grounds to increase the pilotage rates. There is also irony in the fact that the cruise executives of the of the larger lines, like Carnival and Royal Caribbean, make around $10,000,000 a year each.       

A review of the schedule of ships which will be piloted into and out of the port of Miami tomorrow by the Biscayne Bay Pilots provides an insight into the vital services provided to the shipping commerce at the port. The pilots will be in command of three cruise ships into the port of Miami early tomorrow morning, the Norwegian Sky, Carnival Victory and Enchantment of the Seas between 5:00 A.M. and 6:00 A.M. The pilots will then take these cruise ships out of the port late tomorrow afternoon between 4:00 P.M. and 5:00 P.M.

In addition to the cruise ships, the pilots will provide in-bound services to container ships MSC Antonella, Hansa Augsburg, Arsos, and Seaboard Patriot, the general cargo ships Tango III and Sara Regina, and the pallet carrier Betty K VII, as well as pilot the ro-ro ship San Gwann and the container ship Arian to and from the port.     

Due to economies of scale, the average pilotage rates per cruise passenger are minimal. The handling rate for the Norwegian Sky, for example, is only $1.16 per passenger.

The rate reduction which the FCCA is seeking for the cruise lines amounts to only $0.25 per passenger, which is a $1,800,000 discount to be spread amongst all of the cruise lines.       

The effect of this proposed reduction on the pilots will be disastrous. It will reduce the compensation to each pilot by $100,000, even though the pilot compensation has already decreased over the years and has not been adjusted for inflation for a decade and a half.  It will be well below the national compensation paid to pilots of equal experience and training (not the meager salaries of the foreign-flagged cruise ship captains) and will undercut the efforts of the pilots to attract skilled pilots to Miami who are needed to handle the increasingly complex ships calling here at the cruise ship capital of the world.     

My view: The cruise industry likes to demand control of everything, whether it is the taxes imposed by the state of Alaska for environmental protection and infrastructure, or the minimal head taxes of the poor Caribbean ports. It steals the tips intended from its powerless foreign crew members. And it nickels and dimes all of its passengers to collect every penny it can. When the industry acts badly, like Princess Cruises did leading to a $40,000,000 environmental fine last December, it just passes the fines on to its customers via higher fares. But when it comes to reasonably paying a group of highly skilled local pilots who are vital to the safe transit of cruise ships into and out of Miami, it shows its true penny-pinching colors.

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Photo credits:  Biscayne Bay Pilots Facebook page. 

Carnival Cruise Line Picked as Most Trusted Cruise Line?

Reader's Digest Poll Most Trusted Brand Reader's Digest has again selected Carnival Cruise Line as the "most trusted cruise line" in the world. 

As the popular cruise blog Cruise Fever writes: "The Reader’s Digest Trusted Brand Survey is an independent, online survey conducted in partnership with Ipsos Connect. This year’s survey polled 5,500 Americans nationwide who were asked to rate products they trust across 40 different categories in areas such as quality, value and reliability."

This is the third consecutive year that Carnival Cruise Line has been voted as the most trusted cruise line.

The cruise brand has come a long way since the Carnival "Poop Cruise" debacle.

The Reader's Digest poll also named McDonald's as the most trusted fast food and Walmart as the most trusted mass merchandiser.  

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

Photo credit: Reader's Digest

Regent Seven Seas Kicks Elderly Couple Off Explorer Cruise Ship

A reader of Cruise Law News sent me a article appearing today in the British newspaper, Daily Mail, titled Grandmother, 83, is kicked off her 6-star cruise for having a panic attack: Dementia sufferer and her veteran husband claim they were thrown out of their £8,000 suite after she fell ill.

84 year-old grandmother Marguerite Hayward was traveling with her husband, war veteran Fred Hayward, on board the Regent Seven Seas Cruises Explorer when she awoke late one night suffering from a panic attack linked to her dementia. The ship doctor and nurse responded to the incident along with the chief of security who appeared in the couple's luxury suite, reporting yelling at Mrs. Hayward to "keep quite," according to the tabloid. The medical team injected Mrs. Hayward with a sedative and she Regent Seven Seas Cruises Explorerquickly fell asleep "with her husband cuddling her." 

The following morning, Ms. Hayward appeared "calm and relaxed," remembering nothing about the preceding night's events. The couple was about to go to breakfast when the ship's officers summoned them to a meeting. The officers informed them that the ship had reported the incident to the home office in Miami which ordered the couple to immediately leave the ship. 

The Haywards were handed a medical bill from the ship infirmary of over $1,300 and then, after quickly packing, ordered into a tender to be taken ashore to the Italian port of Sorrento. The ship doctor reportedly informed the Italian doctors that he suspected that Ms. Hayward was suffering from "paranoid schizophrenia," a diagnosis which Mr. Hayward denied applied to his wife. 

The Italian doctors put Mrs. Hayward on a drip and placed her on oxygen, and she quickly became unconscious, according to her husband. The Hayward' son learned of his parent's plight and traveled to the hospital in Sorrento where he found his mother "sedated, on a drip and wearing a t-shirt covered in blood." Her son arranged for Mrs. Haywards to be flown via air ambulance back to the U.K, where she was hospitalized for stress and trauma, with severe bed sores and extensive bruising. 

The Haywards' sons have written to CEO Frank Del Rio, a cruise executive who has earned a reputation of penny-pinching and being indifferent to bad press, who reportedly did not reply.

This is not the first time that a cruise line booted an elderly passenger with dementia and her husband off of a ship.

Several years ago, Celebrity sent a woman with dementia and her husband, involuntarily from the Millennium cruise ship. Like this case, the cruise line made no effort to communicate with the passengers' family or emergency contacts, or to transport the couple back home. The cruise line essentially abandoned the couple ashore.

Carnival handled a similar situation better after the Carnival Legend disembarked a guest ashore in Cozumel after he had a "minor Alzheimer's episode, leaving his stateroom alone at 4 a.m. for a cup of coffee."

Carnival claimed that they found the husband disoriented and the ship doctor declared him to be a danger to himself, so the ship disembarked the couple off the ship at the next port. But when a news station contacted Carnival, the cruise line "quickly admitted that the situation was mishandled" and reimbursed the cost of the cruise and the airfare home.

The passenger tickets drafted by the cruise line's lawyers state that the cruise lines can disembark passengers for any reason. However, from a public relations point of view, I would think that the couple should have been treated more sensitively and respectfully. The cruise line should have provided its guests, at a minimum, with transportation back home and a full refund of their costly fares.

Photo credits: Daily Mail

Vancouver Police Arrest Three Crew Members From Island Princess For Drugs

Island PrincessA Canadian newspaper reports that the police in Vancouver arrested three Princess Cruises crew member from the Island Princess on drug charges.

CTV  that the Island Princess was scheduled to leave Vancouver for Alaska when members of the Canada Border Services Agency and the Vancouver Police Department's Canine Unit boarded the cruise ship to search for drugs on the ship. 

Princess Cruises confirmed that three ship employees were arrested but refused to identify the type or quantity of the narcotics. 

Princess Cruises was last in the news after the DOJ last December fined it $40,000,000 for wide spread dumping of oil throughout the world's oceans for nearly a decade.

In September of 2016, the police in Australia arrested three passengers in possession of over 209 pounds of cocaine aboard the Sea Princess.

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

Photo Credit: CC0 wikipedia.  

Passenger Reported Overboard From Golden Princess

Golden PrincessAustralian newspapers are reporting that a passenger has disappeared from the Golden Princess operated by Princess Crises.

A 61 year old U.S. citizen apparently went overboard from the cruise ship on Wednesday, according to these newspapers. The Golden Princess later docked in Sydney, on Thursday. The cruise line searched for the man on the ship after the crew became concerned that he might have gone overboard. 

A reader commented (below) that the man was "reported missing by his cabin steward at around 9pm on Wednesday night 3rd May. However the Captain announced to all passengers onboard that he was last sighted on Monday 1st May. Monday was the first of 3 sea days back to Sydney from Latouka Fiji." 

The ship is now sailing en route to Brisbane and Papua New Guinea.

Cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein has tallied 296 people overboard in the last 17 years.

Photo credit: Jean-Philippe Boulet, commons / wikimedia.

Man Reported Overboard from Disney Dream, Rescued

Disney Dream Overboard, RescueA man from the Disney Dream was reported going overboard this evening. The article did not indicate whether the man was a passenger or a crew member. The person was reportedly rescued.

The information comes from a Disney fan page called Chip & Company, which reported:

We are following a developing story of an adult male who reportedly went overboard the Disney Dream cruise ship this evening. Sources are saying that multiple cruise passengers reported that the Disney Dream began slowing down and circling. They then saw a coast guard airplane fly overhead. It was stated that the recovery took less than an hour and the man survived and is currently in the ship’s medical center. Compliments were given to the Disney Dream crew members for their efficiency and competency during the emergency.  

AIS tracking systems show the Disney Dream apparently conducting a search west of Freeport, Bahamas. 

Compared to other cruise lines, there are relatively few man-overboards from Disney cruise ships. Disney appears to have an automatic man overboard system which automatically alerts the bridge when a person goes overboard. Two years ago, the Disney Magic rescued a passenger from the Oasis of the Seas who went overboard after a night of heavy drinking.

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Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger from Carnival Elation

Yesterday, the United States Coast Guard medevaced a 39-year-old passenger from a Carnival cruise ship.

The Coast Guard station in Clearwater, Florida deployed a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter on Sunday, April 30, 2017 to the Carnival Elation cruise ship which was approximately 40 miles east of Port Canaveral, Florida. The Coast Guard helicopter hoisted the woman from the cruise ship and transferred her to a hospital. There is no information available regarding the nature of the woman's medical condition or her status as a patient. 

Video credit: Video by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Dickinson, U.S. Coast Guard District 7 PADET Jacksonville via Defense Video Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS)

Congress Introduces Legislation to Amend DOSHA

Congress introduced legislation on Wednesday which will strengthen the rights of cruise passengers to seek compensation when cruise lines negligently cause the death of their loved ones on the high seas.

As matters now stand, the statute which governs deaths in international waters, the Death on the High Seas Act ("DOSHA"), bars the recovery of emotional damages, such as pain and suffering and mental anguish, when a passenger dies outside of state territorial waters. This means that when a non-wage earner, such as a retiree or a child, dies due to a cruise line's negligence, their surviving family members can recover only very limited compensation, usually only burial and funeral expenses.

Proposed improvements to the Cruise Passenger Protection Act, if enacted, would permit the families of Miami Cruise Linespassengers who die on ships in international waters as a result of the negligence of a cruise line to seek "non-pecuniary" compensation, as permitted by most states, such as damages for grief and bereavement. 

Congresswoman Doris Matsui, Congressman Ted Poe and Congressman Jim Himes sponsored the legislation in the House of Representatives, while Senator Richard Blumenthal and Senator Edward Markey sponsored similar legislation in the Senate. You can read a press statement by Congresswoman Matsui here and the statement of  Mr. Blumenthal and Mr. Himes here.

Congress originally enacted DOSHA back in 1920 when few state wrongful deaths statutes permitted family members to recover damages for the emotional suffering experienced by family members who lose a loved one. Since then, the majority os states have substantially improved their statutes to permit the full recovery of emotional damages. In 2000, Congress amended DOHSA to permit damages in commercial aviation accidents which occur in international waters. DOSHA used to bar emotional damages in such cases.

At the moment, DOHSA remains the same in maritime cases as when it was enacted 97 years ago. The proposed amendments to DOSHA will ensure that families of victims at sea are provided with the same rights as airline passengers.and are finally able to pursue fair compensation. 

Kelly Hammer Lankford and Jill Hammer Malott, the daughters of Larry and Christy Hammer, who perished during a deadly river cruise fire last year, are part of the efforts to amend DOSHA. Their parents died aboard the Estrella Amazonica, operated by International Expeditions of Alabama, on the Amazon River in Peru. International Expeditions is trying to dodge accountability by using DOSHA as a liability shield. (International Expeditions subsequently renamed the ill-fated La Estrella Amazonica as the Amazon Star). The daughters commented on the proposed legislation, saying:

“We are thrilled that our legislators are trying to do what the cruise companies have not: Protect passengers. Through legislative reform, American travelers would finally be able to hold cruise companies accountable when tragedy strikes, stopping these companies from hiding behind an antiquated law to avoid responsibility for their actions.”

The cruise industry, which has lobbied heavily against efforts to reform the antiquated maritime statute, is expected to resist the proposed legislation.

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

Photo Credit: Jim Walker

April 28, 2017 Update: The Miami New Times covered the story in Congress Introduces New Cruise Ship Safety Regulations.

Carnival Shakes Down U.S. Military Serviceman

Carniival Cruise - U.S. ArmyA couple of years ago, I wrote a number of articles asking the rhetorical question why cruise lines have an image problem.

I discussed a number of rather outrageous cases where the cruise lines refuse to refund or credit cruise fares when their customers face a personal catastrophe, like the unexpected death of a loved one, or a customer needing emergency cancer surgery, or a father having to bury his police-officer son who had been shot and killed, or having their home destroyed by a natural disaster, or even when the cruise is to an area affected by a nuclear power plant leaking radiation and subject to a travel warning by the State Department. 

There is no shortage of ways that the cruise lines have tarnished their reputations.

Today, a reader of this blog sent me another example of a cruise line clearly doing the wrong thing.

It seems like a young man, identified as Stephen Madden, was booked to take a Carnival cruise with his wife when he received orders from the U.S. Army deploying him back to active military duty. He had the foresight to pay extra for the protection plan (titled "Carnival Fee Waiver Program"). But the insurance company (AON) sent him a letter denying his claim for a refund, saying that military deployment is not a reason stated in the insurance program. You can read about his situation on Facebook

I have never served in the Army or any other branch of the U.S. military services (although my Dad served in the U.S. Army). But I was taught to give great respect to members of the the U.S. Armed Forces, whether it be as simple as permitting active service men and women preferred boarding when I fly in airports.

I have taken a peek at Mr. Madden's facebook photos which show him in uniform, (I believe that he is a Sergeant), with the America flag on his shoulder. He is clearly a patriot. I have posted one photo above.  

Carnival professes that it takes care of our military, but it has done this several times before.

I would hope that by the time that this article is published, the Carnival claims representative have woken up and will do the right thing by reimbursing this army soldier his cruise fare.

Carnival has enough problems after the Costa Concordia deadly-debacle, or the embarrassing Triumph poop-cruise, or the recent DOJ fines of  $40,000,000 for the dumping of oil into the waters around the world for nearly a decade by its subsidiary Princess Cruises. Giving an U.S. army member a hard time like this is unconscionable. 

People may say that soldier Madden should have read the legal mumbo-jumbo in the fine print of the insurance policy more carefully. I say rubbish to that. Our servicemen and women deserve special treatment irrespective of the legal gobbledygook that the cruise giants and insurance companies place in front of their customers in order to to fatten their financial bottom lines.  

Please join the discussion on our Facebook page.

April 26, 2017 Update: Carnival sent the following statement today:  "This guest was given a full refund yesterday and it is our practice to refund service members who are called to active duty and need to cancel their cruise."

Photo credit: Stephen Madden

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Missing from Liberty of the Seas

Liberty of the Seas A number of newspapers in Galveston are reporting that the U.S. Coast Guard is searching for a Royal Caribbean crew member who apparently went overboard from the Liberty of the Seas this morning.  

ABC-13 News in Galveston is reporting that a 39-year-old Filipino crew member was reported missing from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship around 4:30 a.m. this morning.

Images of the unidentified crew member were reportedly captured by a closed circuit television (CCTV) on the Liberty of the Seas at about 1:30 a.m. Monday. He was later reported missing at 4:30 a.m. after he failed to report to his job station.  

The Coast Guard search involved an airplane dispatched from the Coast guard station in Corpus Christi and a patrol boat from Galveston. The crew member is believed to have disappeared approximately 170 miles southeast of Galveston. 

The three hour delay between the last images of the crew member on CCTV and the reporting of the missing crew member probably means that the cruise ship was not equipped with an automatic man overboard system which would have immediately notified the bridge that a person has gone over the rails of the ship and into the water.  

AIS tracking systems reveal that the Liberty of the Seas apparently did not conduct searches for the crew member in the Gulf of Mexico.

This is an issue we have written about regularly. 

Modern man overboard technology includes motion detection systems which can immediately signal the bridge and simultaneously capture an image of the person going overboard thus verifying that is not a false alarm. The technology can actually track the person in the water, even at night, with radar and infrared technology. 

Where most overboards involving cruise passengers seem to be the result of the sale of excessive alcohol, overboards involving crew members seems to involve employees jumping overboard (there is no evidence that this occurred in this specific case). In 2012, I chronicled a dozen crew members who went overboard from Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise ships during a period of three years. I cited the difficult working conditions and low pay which crew members face which are almost unimaginable by U.S. standards: 12 plus hour days, 7 days a week, 30 days a month with no days off over the course of 6 to 10 month contacts, for as little as $550 a month for non-tip earning ship employees. I asked Is Royal Caribbean Working Its Crew Members to Death?

This problem is not limited solely to the Royal Caribbean brands.  We have written about crew members from Carnival, MSC, NCL and Princess who have apparently intentionally gone overboard. 

In our experience, the medical treatment for physical injuries involving crew members is spotty at best. Ibuprofen is often the only "treatment." Medical care for crew members suffering from depression and other emotional issues is virtually non-existent.

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

Photo credit: Hassocks5489 at English Wikipedia - Public Domain, commons / wikimedia.

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Missing in Bonnaire

Adriana Morales de Florencio - Royal Caribbean Crew Member Missing in BonnaireNewspapers in Bonaire are reporting that the police in that country are looking for a crew member employed by Royal Caribbean on the Navigator of the Seas who did not return to the cruise ship after going ashore in the port of Kralendijk two days ago.

Mexican national Adriana Morales de Florencio, reportedly left the Royal Caribbean cruise ship on Thursday, April 20th, around noon. But she did not return before the cruise ship left the harbor of Kralendijk, according to the BES Reporter

The Notisia ING Facebook page has several photographs posted of the missing young woman. 

According to police information, Ms. Morales was born in 1993; she was was wearing a black sleeveless blouse, short cut-off jeans and black shoes.

The young woman reportedly was in the middle of her second contract; she worked both contracts on the Navigator.

The majority of people missing under these type of circumstances are passengers who eventually turn up.  It is unusual for a crew member not to return to their job on a cruise ship. It is less than clear what, if anything, the cruise line is doing to search for her. 

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

April 30, 2017 Update: Terrible news; a newspaper reports that Adriana's body was found in Bonaire.

Photo credit: Notisia ING Royaal Caribbean Crew Member Adriana Morales de Florencio Missing in Bonnaire

Coast Guard Medevacs Passengers from Carnival Magic, Carnival Ecstasy, Celebrity Reflection and Norwegian Breakaway

Cruise Ship MedevacThe U.S. Coast Guard was busy on Thursday and Friday with four medevacs of ill cruise ship passengers off of the coast of Florida, North Carolina and Puerto Rico. 

The Coast Guard first provided an emergency airlift on Thursday morning to a 47-year-old male passenger from the Celebrity Reflection, to a hospital in San Juan Puerto Rico.

The Celebrity cruise ship was about 35 miles north of Puerto Rico, en route from St. Kitts to Miami, when the crew requested Coast Guard assistance in transporting the man who was described as being in "medical distress" to a local hospital.

On Friday, the Coast Guard reportedly medevaced a 53-year-old woman from the Carnival Ecstasy which was approximately 150 miles east of Port Canaveral. The crew of the Ecstasy contacted the Coast Guard at around 10:43 a.m., stating that a passenger was experiencing chest pain.

The Coast Guard station in Clearwater dispatched a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter to the Carnival cruise ship. The helicopter arrived at the Ecstasy aroung at 2:30 p.m., hoisted the cruise passenger and a ship nurse, and transported them to Halifax Memorial Hospital in Daytona at around 4:45 p.m. A video of the rescue is below at the middle.

Also on Friday, the Coast Guard station in Miami deployed a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter which hoisted a 41-year-old passenger man from the Carnival Magic which was about 100 miles southwest of Key West.

The man was experiencing chest pains and was flown to the Miami-based air station, where EMS personnel drove him to Jackson Memorial Hospital. A video of the medevac is at the bottom.

A family member left a message on the Defense Video and Imagery Services (DVIDS) webpage stating:

So thankful for your service . My son-in-law is going to be fine. They put a stint in and we should be able to bring him home to North Carolina soon. God is Good !! Our prayers were answered. May God bless each of you for your service and for getting him where he needed to be to get help. Our family is grateful for all you did.

A third medevac also took place on Friday afternoon. The Coast Guard medevaced a 60 year-old man from a cruise ship off the coast of North Carolina after the crew reported that he was experiencing kidney failure.

The Coast Guard station in Elizabeth City launched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and a C-130 Super Hercules aircraft which arrived at the Norwegian Breakaway, around 120 miles southeast of Wilmington. The helicopter crew hoisted the man to the helicopter and transported him to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington for treatment. 

There is no reported inforrmation regarding the status of this NCL passenger or the other passengers who were medevaed for emergency medical treatment ashore from the Carnival Ecstasy or the Celebrity Reflection.  

The costs involved in U.S. Coast Guard medevacs are paid by the U.S. government. 

Another cruise ship medevac took place on Friday after a 66 year old woman fell and broke both of her legs on the P&O Pacific Jewel off the north-east coast of Australia (Queensland).

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

Video credit: 

Top - 7News Australia.

Middle - Carnival Magic - U.S. Coast Guard District 7 via DVIDS.

Bottom - Carnival Ecstasy - Petty Officer 1st Class Luke Clayton, U.S. Coast Guard District 7 PADET Jacksonville via DVIDS. 

 

  

  

CEO Compensation: The Rich Get Richer

Richard Fain  RCL Royal Caribbean CEO Richard D. Fain's reportedly collected total compensation last year in the amount of $10,400,000 (million) compared to his total compensation in 2015 of $9,400,000 (million), according to a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

CEO Fain recently sold 20,000 shares of  Royal Caribbean stock.  The RCL stock was sold at an average price of $94.92, for a total transaction of $1,898,400.00. Following the transaction, Mr. Fain now owns 1,027,741 shares in the company, valued at approximately $97,553,175.72. He also indirectly owns another 426,912 shares of RCL stock, for  the benefit of certain family members, worth over $40,230,479.

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

Bus Driver Shot & Killed in Tourist-Filled Downtown Nassau

Nassau Bahamas Shooting DeathThis morning, a driver of a minibus, reportedly operated by Stuart Cove Dive shop, was shot and killed in downtown Nassau, Bahamas. The Facebook page of Nassau resident Tellis Virgil‎'s Speak Up Bahamas discussed the incident and includes a photograph of the crime scene. 

Stuart Cove's Dive Bahamas is described as "Nassau's leading full service dive resort."

Five cruise ships are in the port of Nassau today: Carnival Pride, Carnival Elation, Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas, Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Breakaway. 

The Tribune newspaper in Nassau reports that police "were called to the scene of the shooting at East Street North, near Prince George Wharf around 7am where they discovered the body of an adult male by a Stuart Cove's minibus parked near The Crew Pub and entrance to the cruise port." 

It is currently unknown exactly when the five cruise ships arrived at the port and disembarked passengers ashore. Several of the ships disembarked their passengers after 7:00 a.m., if this is in fact when the shooting occurred. But many people commented that tourists were waiting to board the minibus when the shooting took place.

One of the comments to the Tribune article expressed concern that the "man was murdered on the doorstep of our cruise ship industry in broad daylight." Other people voiced their concerns on the Speak Up Bahamas Facebook page of the impact of this crime on Nassau. Several people commented that there are already two police officers from the Royal Bahamian Police Force on virtually every street corner in downtown Nassau to try and deter crimes which may affect tourists.  

Cruise Law News has repeatedly reported on the high crime rate in this port city.  The murder rate in Nassau is around 8 to 10 times higher than the U.S. murder rate per 100,000. The murder rate in the U.S. is around 4.5 per 100,000; the murder rate of the Bahamas is over 30 per 100,000.  Considering that the vast majority of murders in the Bahamas occur in New Providence where Nassau is located, the murder rate is probably over 40 per 100,000 for Nassau.     

I have been quoted as saying that Nassau is one gunshot away from cruise lines pulling out of Nassau. Nassau is viewed by the Miami-based cruise lines as a convenient deep water port with cheap dockage fares and low passenger head-taxes. But Nassau has been the subject of at least a dozen critical crime warnings by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. embassy in Nassau over the last several years. Cruise lines will probably still continue to call on Nassau because it is a close, money-making port (although it will lose cruise tourists to Cuba over the years to come). But things will drastically change should a cruise passenger become a murder victim in Nassau. 

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

Photo credit: Tellis Virgil‎'s Speak Up Bahamas

Carnival Fantasy Suffers Propulsion Problems

Carnival Fantasy A number of news sources are reporting that the Carnival Fantasy is experiencing a mechanical "technical problem" affecting its propulsion system, which limits the ship's maximum. Carnival said that because of this problem, the Fantasy will not call on its scheduled port stop, Cozumel, Mexico, and will remain at sea for the duration of the cruise.

Instead, Carnival will take the ship on a three-night "Cruise to Nowhere." 

Carnival offered its booked guests the option to cancel and receive a full refund, or stay on board and sailing on the "cruise to nowhere." Passengers who decided to stay on the cruise reportedly will receive a 50 percent refund of their cruise fare, a $50 onboard credit and a 50 percent toward a future cruise.

The Fantasy is 27 years old. 

"Cruises to nowhere" are illegal under the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) of 1886 unless the cruise line obtains a special waiver.

Recently, several cruises on Carnival and other lines have been affected by what the companies characterize as "technical issues" with the ships' engines.

The Carnival Paradise and the Carnival Splendor faces similar problems in the last six weeks.  Celebrity Cruises canceled or shortened cruises at the last minute on the Celebrity Summit two weeks ago. 

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

Photo credit: Ron Cogswell - CC BY 2.0, commons / wikimedia. 

Ken Carver Honored for Cruise Safety

Merrian CarverKen Carver, Chairman of the International Cruise Victims Association (ICV), received the Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award from the U.S. Department of Justice during the annual National Crime Victims’ Service Awards ceremony on Friday in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Carver founded the ICV after his daughter disappeared from a Celebrity cruise ship during an Alaskan cruise in 2004. In 2006, he formed the ICV which is a grass roots, victim organization of families who have lost loved ones on the high seas or have been victims of sexual assaults and other crimes at sea.  

I remember when I first heard of Mr Carver. In 2005, the Arizona Central newspaper published an article titled Daughter Vanishes While on Alaskan Cruise by Robert Anglen about the disappearance of Mr. Carver's daughter, Merrian Carver, from the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship.

The facts described in the article were bad enough: a Celebrity cabin attendant noticed that Mirrian was missing early in the cruise but when he alerted his supervisors, they told him not to worry about her. In the process, Merrian's clothes and personal effects were quickly disposed of at the end of the cruise.  But the cover-up of the disappearance was even worse: neither the FBI nor local law enforcement officials were notified when there was no sighting of Merrian at the end of the cruise. Celebrity Cruises lied to Mr. Carver about its policies which required it to keep CCTV tapes for at least 30 days; when Mr. Carver asked for tapes within that period, Celebrity falsely told him that none existed. 

The cruise line gave Mr. Carver about as much attention and respect as someone complaining about losing a piece of luggage during a cruise. He told the Arizona Central: "We've learned that if something Ken Carver - International Cruise Victimshappens on a cruise, you are on your own," he says, choking back sobs. "No other parents should ever have to go through the crap we've been through. We don't know if Merrian is alive or dead. We don't know if there was an accident or murder or suicide or something else. . . . It is a very sad story."

After reading the blockbuster article about the terribly sad story, I felt compelled to read first-hand the facts alleged in a lawsuit which Mr. Carver was forced to file to try in Miami-Dade County to try and find out what happened to his daughter. I was also curious which law firm Celebrity Cruises retained to represent it in the lawsuit. 

The clerk requires anyone asking for a copy of a court pleading to fill out paperwork identifying the name and address of the person requesting the file. When I looked at the clerk's forms, I could see the names of the defense lawyers who had previously requested the file and would be involved in the case.

Coincidentally, later in the week, I bumped into these lawyers on the sixth floor of the courthouse while attending a hearing in another case. I mentioned to them: so you guys will be defending the tragic case of the father whose daughter disappeared during the cruise to Alaska?" The lawyers first denied knowing anything about the case, but when I told them that  the clerk information confirmed their involvement, one of the lawyers remarked: that's a bullshit case; we're going to have it dismissed

I'll remember this rude conversation and the defense lawyers' smug attitude for the rest of my life. I recall thinking at the time that this was not going to end well for this cruise line or their heartless defense lawyers. 

Later, during one of many television specials about Merrian's disappearance, one of the defense lawyers said to Chris Cuomo, who was working for ABC News at the time, Merrian probably committed suicide. Of course, there was absolutely no evidence of this, but this didn't stop the defense lawyer from saying it. The smear tactic was clearly the result of the nasty attitude of the cruise line lawyers and their client. But it raised the obvious question that if it was somehow true that Merrian ended her own life, why wouldn't the cruise line simply tell law enforcement and Mr. Carver and timely provide evidence supporting this conclusion? 

I'll also never forget when I first met Mr. Carver. He attended the first Congressional hearing in Washington D.C. before the U.S. Senate on December 13, 2005, following the disappearance of George Smith III from the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas. I was representing Mr Smith's wife at the hearing and was seeking information from an equally recalcitrant cruise line. Mr. Carver introduced himself at the hearing, smiled and asked me do you want to help me pass a cruise crime law? 

Quite frankly I didn't know exactly what Mr Carver was talking about. I thought to myself that any kind of law requiring the cruise line to report crimes, an issue the cruise industry always sought to suppress, was unprecedented. 

But a month later Ms. Carver created the ICV. And with the assistance of hundreds of crime victims who joined the ICV, and the convening of several more Congressional hearings addressing crimes and disappearance on cruise ships, Mr. Carver was successful in having Congress enact the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010. His proposed legislation, requiring the disclosure of missing Ken Carver ICVpassengers, the reporting of crime on cruise ships, and the requirement for ships to be equipped with rape kits and anti-retorviral medications to automatic man overboard systems, passed the Senate and House on a nearly unanimous basis. 

Mr. Carver's goals were to create transparency in crime and missing passenger reporting and install man overboard systems on cruise ships. The cruise lines fought back vigorously. The cruise industry treated Mr. Carver like a villain and essentially painted a bulls-eye on his back. The cruise lines spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying Congress to oppose Mr. Carver's proposed legislation. But ultimately Mr. Carver prevailed.

Over the past dozen years, I've seen dozens of cruise executives and cruise line defense lawyers come and go - as well as PR crisis managers and lobbyists in the cruise industry trade organization. Many have left the industry. But Mr. Carver is still standing. Cruising is safer today because of him.

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Cruise Excursion Passengers Watch Fishermen Slaughter Orcas

Orcas - Slaughter St. VincentIn a bizarrely cruel story, Caribbean 360 just covered the slaughter witnessed by cruise passengers from what has been described as the Thomson (TUI) Discovery cruise ship of two orca whales in the waters of St. Vincent. 

Whale watching tours conducted by the St. Vincent Fantasea excursion company involving passengers from the TUI cruise ship initially delighted the cruise guests when they were directed to the sight of a pod of four orcas (commonly known as "killer whales"). But the cruise excursion turned into a "bloody tragedy" as fishermen slaughtered two of the whales off of the coast of St. Vincent. 

The article says that cruise guests were "visibly shaken and many were crying" after fishermen on a boat, equipped with a shotgun-harpoon device mounted on its the bow, blasted the orcas while they swam in the waters before cruise passengers enjoying their excursion.   

Commentators say that while whaling remains a legal practice in St. Vincent, there is nothing traditional about people in speedboats using guns to kill whales.

Whale Killing - St. VincentThe orcas were them chopped up, fried and sold to locals on the beach

The horrific spectacle reminds me of the disgusting whale slaughter In the Faroe Islands which I have written about extensively. 

St. Vincent has a despicable history of killing humpback whales and marketing the meat as "Caribbean beef." St. Vincent  receives aid from Japan and votes with Japan at the International Whaling Commission to continue whaling.

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

Photo credit: Caribbean 360 - top; Adam Gravel via Daily Mail - bottom. 

Cruise Operators Continue to Hide Behind the Death on the High Seas Act

Amazon River Cruise BoatOne of the very first articles I wrote when I started this blog almost eight years ago was about the Death on the High Seas Act. "DOHSA," as it is commonly called, is one of the cruelest and most unfair, if not completely callous, laws imaginable. When an adult child loses a parent on the high seas (defined as outside of U.S. state territorial waters, including the rivers and waters of foreign countries), the law permits, at best, the recovery of only "pecuniary" (financial) losses, such as lost wages (assuming the person is employed). If the person is a retiree, the only damages permitted are the expenses of burying their loved one. Emotional damages such as grief, bereavement, mental anguish, sadness and suffering are prohibited. 

The article was titled The Death on the High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years. It explains how families are not compensated because DOHSA prohibits non-pecuniary damages when their loved ones die on international waters. The cruise lines love DOSHA. Cruise lines have lobbied heavily over the years to keep the ancient maritime law on the books. DOSHA punishes families when they lose a parent, or child, on the high seas, notwithstanding the negligence of a cruise line. 

Today, Jill and Kelly Hammer, the daughters of Larry and Cristy Hammer, were reminded of the cruelty of DOSHA when several newspapers covered the latest development regarding their deceased parents, namely that the operator of the La Estrella Amazonica was reportedly grossly negligent and caused the fire which killed the Hammers while they slept in their cabin on La Estrella Amazonica, a river cruise boat on the Peruvian Amazon. It's a sad story which we wrote about earlier last year - Deadly Amazon River Fire Update: International Expeditions' La Estrella Amazonica (photos and video).

La Estrella Amazonica has now been renamed by International Expeditions as the Amazon Star.  

The Wall Street Journal's article today, When People Die at Sea, Cruise Operators Often Get a Pass, is "subscription only" although the title suggests that cruise operators are literally getting away with, if not murder, deadly criminal negligence.  Another article, published by the World-Herald Bureau, titled Report on Gretna Couple's Death in Cruise Ship Fire Finds Fault with Ship's Safety Features, Crew's Training, reaches the same conclusion.  

You can read these articles and make your own mind up about the reportedly unsafe conditions aboard La Estrella Amazonica, the lack of training and qualifications of its crew, and the shifty conduct of the owner and operator of the river cruise boat, International Expeditions, and its president, Van Perry, whose underwriters demanded that Jill and Kelley agree to a gag order (which they rejected) before the cruise operator would meet with them and talk about the circumstances surrounding their parent's death. 

The point to come away with after reading about this terrible ordeal is that this is the exactly the result that the cruise lines want after cruise passengers have been killed. Christina Perez, PR person for the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying that if DOHSA was amended to permit fair damages "droves of foreign litigants would "burden an already crowded U.S. judicial system." She also resorted to other scare tactics, saying that "insurance rates for cruise ships would skyrocket, increasing prices and potentially jeopardizing thousands of jobs created by the industry." 

This is hardly true. The cruise industry is a rich, billion-dollar business, where it's CEO's regularly collect tens of millions of dollars a year, and which registers its cruise ships in foreign countries like the Bahamas and Panama, in order to avoid the taxes, labor laws and safety regulations of the U.S.  

Ms. Perez later contradicted herself by claiming that the U.S. Congress did not amend DOHSA to permit additional damages (like it did in aviation cases) because the "maritime industry has a superior safety record."*  

CLIA has poured around $30,000,000 into the pockets of Congress in the last decade, according to the Wall Street Journal, to keep the DOHSA legislation which it loves. 

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

April 13, 2017 Update: Fox News Travel, today, published Cruise ship responsible for couple's death, report finds which covered the story and discusses the harsh limitations of DOSHA.  

April 14, 2017 Update: The U.K.'s Daily Mail, the world largest online newspaper, published Cruise company is finally found responsible for fire that engulfed Amazon tour boat and killed retired Nebraska couple.

May 8, 2017 Update: Fortune: The Cruise Industry's Priority Is Clear: Profits Over Passenger Safety.

Photo credit: Wall Street Journal 

*/The cruise industry, in fact, has experienced far more deaths on its ships than the U.S. commercial aviation fleet in the last decade, although commercial airlines transport over 30 times as many passengers a year. Read our article from several years ago: Cruise Ships: The Deadliest Form of Public Transportation

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USA TODAY Takes A Look At Cruise Ship Gratuities

 USA TODAY published an article today titled USA TODAY's Guide to Cruise Ship Gratuity Charges

This is a topic which we write about quite often, as the cruise lines try to maintain their high profits while building bigger and bigger cruise ships which are getting more expensive to operate.  

Any discussion involving cruise ship gratuities really involves three issues, in my view: (1) cruise lines are dictating that everyone pay a gratuity of a certain amount, regardless of the level of the services, (2) cruise line are diverting monies paid in gratuities to fund the salaries of crew members "behind the scenes" (like cooks, cleaners, etc.) who typically do not receive gratuities, and/or (3) cruise lines are Carnival Cruise Gratuitiesdiverting the income paid in gratuities into the cruise lines' profits?

The article addresses the first issue head-on and points to the general belief of the public that "tipping is a personal matter that should be left to passengers." Many critics of mandatory/automatic gratuities say that a gratuity must be earned; if the guest receives excellent service, they will tip well (sometimes more than the recommended amount), but if the guest believes the service is bad, they will pay a lower amount or perhaps nothing at all. 

But many crew members such as waiters or cabin attendants do not receive any salary at all. They earn 100% of their income from passenger gratuities. For the longest time, Royal Caribbean paid its waiters and cabin attendants received a salary of only $50 a month, although hard working waiters and motivated cabin attendant could collect several thousands of dollars a month from tips and gratuities. But the tips are tighter now and, with the auto-gratuities, less likely to end up with the waiters and cabin attendants. It is unfair for them to work for a pittance. 

Many cruise lines permit the guests to adjust or remove the gratuities while they are on-board the ship. NCL requires its guests to go through a onerous process of filling out forms after the cruise before a gratuity can be lowered or removed. 

Many crew members complain that many passengers wait until the last day of a cruise to remove all of the gratuities from their bills. 

Last year, Carnival crew members published a Facebook post (since taken down) showing the names (subsequently redacted) and cabin numbers of Carnival passengers who removed their automatic tips. Some of these people may have removed the pre-paid gratuities and paid cash but many may have stiffed the crew.

The real problem as I see it is that cruise lines are not being transparent with who exactly receives the automatic gratuities. The USA TODAY article writes that cruise lines say that the increased gratuities "will be passed on to crew members in recognition of their service." But many guests do not want to tip crew members who they never see (such as a galley worker). Many also believe that the cruise lines should pay their crew members decent wages and not require the passengers to be responsible for the crew's salary.

The USA TODAY article touches upon this issue, writing that "some see the charges as a thinly disguised method for cruise lines to push the responsibility for paying crew members to their customers." Disguising the real purpose of a gratuity is a type of fraud, in my opinion, where a cruise guest may believe that he or she is paying the extra gratuity to their wonderful waiter or cabin attendant who went above and beyond for their family for a week, but the reality is that their gratuities are spread throughout the housekeeping and dining room departments to pay salaries as well as for "alternative services," according to Carnival. (See Carnival's explanation of where the tips go here; and Royal Caribbean's explanation here; NCL does not disclose any details as far as I can tell). The USA TODAY article says that "as much as 95% of pay for some cruise ship workers now comes from automatic gratuities, according to CruiseCritic."

And does anyone really trust that the cruise lines are not pocketing the gratuities as part of onboard revenue? The USA TODAY article does not touch this topic. Over 25 million people will sail on cruise ships this year. Whereas the luxury lines like Azamara, Crystal, Seabourn, Regent and SeaDream do not charge automatic gratuities, the mass lines like Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean do. If 15 million passengers are charged at a rate of several hundreds of dollars a week in auto-gratuities, there are many hundreds of millions of dollars at play over the course of a year. (Carnival charges an average of over $360 a week for a family of four staying in a standard stateroom). 

NCL's CEO Frank Del Rio said during an earnings conference in 2015 that for every dollar collected in an increased gratuity, NCL earns an extra $15,000,000. Does anyone really think that the crew members are enjoying this extra income?

Between the greedy cruise executives and the miserly passengers who remove gratuities, the hard-working crew members seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place.

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

April 3, 2017 Update: A crew member wrote today, to me saying: Yes cruise lines are diverting tips to pay salaries of . . . even managers . . they use the tips to pay the bar manager, asst bar manager, housekeeper chief, asst housekeepers manager and food and beverage manager - they all get a slice of the tips."

Shameless Cruise Industry Touts It's Environmental Practices

The cruise industry is touting a report titled Evaluation of Cruise Industry, Global Environmental Practices and Performance.

It's a non-critical summary paid for by the industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"). The report is largely a PR stunt which omits the relevant, recent history of the practice committed over the course of at least a decade of routinely dumping oil from cruise ships owned by the largest cruise line in the world.

It has been less than four months since the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) fined Princess Cruises and its parent company, Carnival Corporation, $40,000,000 for polluting the seas and trying to cover it Cruise Pollutionup. Carnival and Princess pleaded guilty to seven felony charges of illegally dumping oil-contaminated waste from the Caribbean Princess cruise ship which sailed to numerous U.S. states (Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia) and two territories (U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico).

The DOJ says that "in addition to the use of a magic pipe to circumvent the oily water separator and oil content monitor required pollution prevention equipment, the U.S. investigation uncovered two other illegal practices which were found to have taken place on the Caribbean Princess as well as four other Princess ships – Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess. One practice was to open a salt water valve when bilge waste was being processed by the oily water separator and oil content monitor. The purpose was to prevent the oil content monitor from otherwise alarming and stopping the overboard discharge. The second practice involved discharges of oily bilge water originating from the overflow of graywater tanks into the machinery space bilges. This waste was pumped back into the graywater system rather than being processed as oily bilge waste. Neither of these practices were truthfully recorded in the oil record book as required.

But you won't read any reference to magic pipes and falsified log books in the PR release by the cruise industry's trade organization, Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"). 

Cruise line cheerleaders, like Travel Pulse, published over-the-top self-laudatory articles like The Cruise Industry Is Winning at Environmental Performance

Conspicuously absent from CLIA PR efforts is any mention of environmental problems caused by the cruise lines. Consider the following articles within the last year:

The world's largest cruise ship and its supersized pollution problem (Guardian).

Cruise Industry Gets “F” for Transparency, Cutting Emissions (World Maritime News).

Carnival Corp ship caught in pollution scheme. Now they’re paying $40 million for it (Miami Herald).

Cruise industry ‘failing’ environment and public health, report claims (Telegraph).

Princess Cruises Pollution Cover-Up: Are the Greedy Cruise Executives Untouchable? (Cruise Law News).

This CLIA-paid-for-report is part of the cruise industry's reputation rehabilitation. Last January, Princess Cruises issued a press statement via PR Newswire that it had been voted the "Best Ocean Cruise Line" in the USA TODAY and 10Best Readers Choice cruise travel awards, despite the DOJ's record environmental fine just a month earlier. 

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

Photo crdit: NABU via Telegraph

Bomb Scare on the Caribbean Princess in Grand Bahamas Shipyard

Bomb Scare Caribbean PrincessThis morning, a person aboard the Caribbean Princess notified me that there is a bomb scare aboard the cruise ship, which is at the Grand Bahama shipyard. The worker stated:

"I am currently on board the Caribbean Princess in the Grand Bahama Shipyard where today a bomb threat was called in to the shipyard. The ship performed a complete check and at 10 am the captain gave the abandon ship order. The ship has been evacuated and all contractors and crew were mustered outside the shipyard. We are awaiting further instructions.

Have a good day because my day and thousands others are having a bad day.

We were mustered away from the shipyard and were told no pictures."

The Caribbean Princess is in dry dock for general maintenance. Many thousands of contractors and crew members are now re-locating to Port Lucaya.  

The worker also stated:

"Of course the Bahamian taxis are making a fortune off off this event. It's funny to see crew members in uniform strolling around . . .

I can report that very few police were present and one ambulance. No bomb squad or dogs were visible.

A lot of work has now been delayed due to this and a lot of frustration is in the air . . . "

The Carnival Pride and Carnival Ecstasy are in port in Freeport today, as well as the Anna Maersk which is at the container port across from the shipyard.  There is no indication whether these ships were the subject of this bomb threat.

The question which immediately comes to my mind is whether the Bahamian police are competent to handle the response to a major security threat like this?

There have been bomb threats against cruise ships in the past, and they are usually determined to be pranks. A drunken Carnival passenger who made a bomb threat on the Carnival Sensation was arrested several years ago after a cruise to the Bahamas which was later determined to be a hoax. The Discovery cruise ship received a bogus bomb threat as the ship was en route to Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale after sailing to the Bahamas. A bomb was reportedly planted on the Liberty of the Seas several years ago as well, although nothing was found by law enforcement officers. A bomb scare forced the evacuation of the cruise terminal at the port of Miami.  Passengers and crew members had to flee a ferry in Marseilles, France last year after a bomb scare.

April 1, 2017 Update: The popular Crew-Center website has additional information and photographs and video of crew members and contrators leaving the ship, congregating at the shipyard and leaving the shipyard. 

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Image credit: Marine Traffic

Crew Member Overboard from Costa Deliziosa?

Yesterday, a crew member apparently went overboard from the Costa Deliziosa, according to the website of cruise expert, Dr. Ross Klein

The Deliziosa was at the end of its transatlantic crossing heading to the Canary Islands.

The information was conveyed to Dr. Klein from a person on the Costa cruise ship who wishes to remain anonymous.

There was no information available regarding the circumstances surrounding the disappearance.

AIS tracking sites show the cruise ship making what appears to be maneuvers to retrace its route in the Atlantic to search for the man. 

There have been 290 people who have gone overboard since 2000, according to Dr. Klein's website.

Costa has not made an official statement regarding the incident to date.

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

Update: A reader brought to my attention that this incident was published yesterday on a Dutch website (with photos). The website says that the crew member went overboard around 6:00 A.M. The ship apparently sailed ahead and then had to turn around and sail for three-and-one-half hours back to the location where the crew member went overboard. The delayed search was not successful. A Portuguese aircraft assisted in the search, according to the article.  

Update: Costa sent us the following statement:

"Statement Regarding Costa Deliziosa Crewmember

GENOA (March 30, 2017) — At approximately 10 a.m. local time on March 29, 2017, while Costa Deliziosa was on a transatlantic repositioning cruise to Europe from the United States, a crewmember was reported missing. Following standard procedure, ship command notified Costa Crociere headquarters and implemented a full-ship search. When the crewmember was not located onboard, the ship turned around and began search and rescue operations and notified the nearest Maritime Rescue Recovery Center, which dispatched a search plane to the area.

Late on the night of March 29, MRCC released Costa Deliziosa from the search and the ship continued on to its next call at Santa Cruz, Tenerife. Guests were informed throughout the day. Costa is in contact with all relevant authorities and its Care Team is assisting the crewmember's family.

The 2,260-passenger Costa Deliziosa is on a 24-day transatlantic cruise from Port Everglades, Florida, to Venice, Italy." 
 

Image credit: Marine Traffic.

Costa Deliziosa Overboard 

 

Medevac From Grandeur of the Seas

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

A 70-year-old man, experiencing abdominal pains while aboard the Grandeur of the Seas, as the ship was sailing south, was rescued. 

A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew and a C-130 Hercules aircraft crew was launched from ain Guard station in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The helicopter arrived at the cruise ship when it was about 150 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

The passenger was hoisted from the ship and onto the helicopter, and then taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, NC.

Video: 13 New Now  

 

 

 

FBI Releases New Video Regarding Amy Lynn Bradley Who Disappeared From Rhapsody of the Seas

Amy Bradley Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the SeasThe mysterious case of cruise passenger Amy Lynn Bradley is again in the news.

Amy was traveling with her brother and parents when she disappeared 19 years ago while aboard the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Rhapsody of the Seas. The ship had left Oranjestad, Aruba, and was sailing to Curaçao, in the Netherlands Antilles. On March 24, 1998, at age 23, Amy vanished.

The Bradley family was highly critical of Royal Caribbean who they faulted for the delay in responding to the incident and for what they felt was insensitivity toward their plight. Like most disappearances at sea, the cruise line's "investigation" seemed designed to protect the cruise line's image and legal interests. The FBI investigation, as usual, went no where.

Amy's disappearance in 1998 occurred six to seven years before the highly publicized cases of Merrian Carver in 2004 and George Smith IV in 2005, before the formation of the International Cruise Victims organization, and before five Congressional hearings which led to the passage of the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2010. The Bradleys were fighting the cruise line largely alone.

The International Cruise Victims organization contains a story about Amy's disappearance.

The Bradley family's website is here.  

The FBI page contains this description of the case: "Amy Lynn Bradley, while on a family cruise to the Caribbean, went missing from the Royal Caribbean International Cruise Line’s ship Rhapsody of the Seas. On Saturday, March 21, 1998, the vessel departed San Juan, Puerto Rico, and traveled to its first port of call, the island of Aruba. On Monday, March 23, 1998, Rhapsody of the Seas departed Aruba and was traveling in international waters to its next island port of Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. During the early morning hours of Tuesday, March 24, 1998, Amy Lynn Bradley went missing. The vessel later departed Curacao and continued on to the island of St. Martin (Sint Maarten) and further traveled to St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands, before returning to San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Saturday, March 28, 1998."

The FBI is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to the recovery of Amy Lynn Bradley and information that leads to the identification, arrest, and conviction of the person(s) responsible for her disappearance.

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

Photo credit: Bradley family

 

 

Celebrity Cancels Cruises Aboard Summit

Celebrity Cruises SummitCelebrity Cruises announced that it is canceling the April 8, 2017 cruise aboard the Celebrity Summit and is shortening the April 17, 2017 cruise from seven to only four days, passengers are reporting. Celebrity is offering a 25% cruise credit and $200 per person to go toward re-booking airfare. We received this message advising of the changes this past weekend:  

" . . . there are about 4000+ passengers who have just had their spring holiday ruined. Seems Celebrity Summit is having a problem achieving full cruising speed and is canceling cruises just two weeks out, with a horrible offer of compensation. The ship has had reduced ports & port times for a few weeks because it is hobbling along, all while Celebrity says "don't worry folks, no safety issues here." So now they have completely canceled the 7 days out of San Juan on 4/8/17 and reduced the 4/15/17 cruise for 7 days going out of San Juan to only 4 days. She looks to be going into dry dock for 10 days.

Imagine flying to San Juan for a 4 day cruise? The only air fare compensation is $200 per person which is ridiculous. You would think they would be working with each passenger to get them booked on another cruise for that week, but the passengers say that is not the case. They got an email saying you are canceled. Either completely or you are now on a mini cruise and we will refund you via on-board credit the prorated daily rate for your nice 7 day that is now a mini 4 day. Am not on this cruise personally but Cruise Critic has threads and each roll call does as well and it is apparent there are a lot of mad people. So if each person keeps their airfare and goes on this 4 day mini cruise they have to then get a hotel for 3 nights in San Juan for Easter week which is obscenely expensive. All these passengers are asking what to do....most do not seem to realize they have little to no rights..."

The Summit is apparently suffering from a reduction in its propulsion which has affected some of its prior cruises.

Passengers booked on these cruises are now expressing their natural frustration of having to try and find an alternative vacation at the last minute at high season when the hotel and airfare expenses are appreciably higher. Many people have asked us for advice whether this is "legal."  Unfortunately, the legislation which the cruise passenger's advocacy group was successful in passing is quite limited in scope and provides no legal recourse under these circumstances. There is, of course, nothing that benefits anyone other than the cruise line in the ticket issued to the passengers. 

As a practical matter, affected passengers probably will lose at least a minimum of $1,000 each in higher airfare and hotels expenses. Considering that there are several thousands of passengers affected, these new and unexpected expenses will probably total well over several millions of dollars.

It's fanciful to expect that the cruise industry, which is bent on maximizing profits, notwithstanding the tremendous profits that they are collecting, will offer more than the nominal cruise credit and the minimal $200-a-person airfare amount. 

The cruise lines will remind passengers that they should always consider purchasing insurance which applies to this type of occurrence.

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

March 29, 2017 Update: Several readers brought to my attention that this is not the first time that the Summit has had to alter its itinerary because of propulsion problems. A seven day cruise to Alaska was canceled back in September of 2004 when Celebrity put the ship in dry-dock for repairs. Passengers booked on the canceled cruise received a full refund and a free future cruise. More recently, Celebrity delayed the start of its March 27th cruise on the Summit from San Juan due to problems with the ship's propulsion system, which forced the Summit to sail at reduced speeds. The ship had already been docked 3 days in Cozumel earlier in the month while repair efforts were attempted. 

Propulsion problems are relatively common in the cruise industry. Last year, nineteen cruise ships experienced propulsion issues which interrupted and delayed cruises. 

Today, the RCL Blog reported that the Anthem of the Seas is sailing at a reduced speed due to propulsion issues.

Photo credit: Wknight94 - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

U.S. State Department Publishes 2017 Bahamas Crime & Safety Report

BahamasThe U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) recently published its 2017 Crime & Safety Report regarding the Bahamas.

The council, which was established under authority of the U.S. Secretary of State, reached the following findings and conclusions:

Findings:

  • The Bahamas is a major Caribbean tourist destination with major cruise ship ports of calls in Nassau and Freeport. 
  • Over six million U.S. citizens visit the Bahamas each year.
  • Approximately 80% of tourists to the Bahamas are U.S. citizens.
  • The Bahamas consists of more than 700 islands and cays.
  • The Bahamas has a population of approximately 370,000.
  • 70% of Bahamians (around 260,000) reside on the island of New Providence, where Nassau is situated.
  • Another 15% (around 60,000) live on Grand Bahama, where Freeport is located.
  • The rest of the population is dispersed over several dozen outer islands (commonly referred to as the “Family Islands”).

Conclusions - Crime Threats:

  • Crime in Nassau is critical.
  • Violent crime reportedly dropped from 2015 to 2016 by double digit percentages in every category, although some observers have questioned the legitimacy of this claim.
  • Murders were down 24% from a record high in 2015 (111 in 2016 vs. 146 in 2015).
  • Despite the publicized numbers, crime continues to represent the primary security threat in the Bahamas.
  • The preponderance of reported violent crimes were perpetrated against local Bahamians and mostly occurred in areas of saturated criminality not typically visited by tourists.
  • However, New Providence has witnessed violent crimes in locations more commonly frequented by U.S. citizen tourists. In some instances, these incidents resulted in fatalities.
  • Criminality and violent crime has increased on Grand Bahama island, notably crimes involving the use of machetes.
  • Many criminals carry firearms, machetes, or knives, and these weapons are commonly brandished.
  • There were reports of firearms used in the commission of armed robberies, where the assailant assaulted the victim after the victim resisted.
  • Many armed robberies involved snatch-and-grabs involving purses, jewelry, cell phones, and cash.
  • Armed robberies, property crimes, purse snatchings, theft, fraud, and sexual assaults remain the most common crimes perpetrated against tourists.
  • In 2016, numerous incidents were reported that either involved tourists or occurred in well-known tourist locations.
  • Crimes occurred near popular tourist areas adjacent to the cruise ship port (Prince George Wharf) and the Cable Beach resort areas as well as the popular downtown area.
  • Several armed robberies of U.S. citizens have occurred in daylight hours in heavily frequented tourist areas.
  • The water sports rental industry is only loosely regulated, and in 2015, there were reported sexual assaults of U.S. citizens, including minors, by jet-ski operators.
  • The majority of these sexual assaults were reported to have occurred on relatively “safe” beaches within the confines of Paradise Island, which is heavily frequented by tourists . . .

We recommend to anyone traveling to the Bahamas (particularly Nassau) to also read the news accounts and editorials in the local newspapers in the Bahamas, the Tribune and the Nassau Guardian

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

Photo credit: Bahamas government - Public Domain, commons / wikimedia.

Passenger Overboard from Carnival Victory

Carnival Victory OverboardMultiple news sources are reporting this morning that a Carnival cruise passenger went overboard last night / early this morning around 33 miles west / northwest of Cuba as the cruise ship was heading toward Cozumel.

A guest aboard the Carnival cruise ship told a newspaper in Texas that the ship’s PA system announced “man overboard” around 3 a.m. today. The young man reportedly went overboard from deck eight. 

"The ship made a 180 degree turn and a life jacket was thrown in the vicinity of where the man was thought to be. The life jacket was found floating several hours later . . .  The witness said the ship has been somber and quiet since the announcement."

The cruise ship reportedly departed from Miami on Monday.

There have been 289 people overboard since 2000, according to cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein.

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Drowning on the Anthem of the Seas?

Anthem of the SeasToday, I received emails from passengers, who disembarked from the Anthem of the Seas, that there had been a drowning on the Royal Caribbean ship yesterday.  One guest stated:

"We departed Anthem of the Seas this morning wondering whether there was a death in the main outdoor pool this week. While there were multiple medical emergencies onboard during this cruise, the pool incident was the most talked about amongst guests. This was the first week RCCL had lifeguards onboard. My husband was walking through the pool area when he heard clapping as if someone was doing a stunt in the pool. Then he said the medical response team was called and rushed to the scene and used a defibrillator. The main pool was closed for the rest of the day while security did their investigation. Some passengers said it was a drowning. We also noticed on the itinerary channel that the ships course changed to head directly to the coast as if it were meeting a helicopter. Perhaps that was for any earlier emergency." 

Another guest stated: "A lady drown this week aboard the Anthem."

An eight year old child drowned on the Anthem nine months ago.  That incident was one of four drownings or near-drownings involving children which occurred on Royal Caribbean ships (Liberty of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas and  Independence of the Seas) in the last two years. An adult woman also reportedly drowned on the Anthem last August.  

Ironically, Royal Caribbean just announced that it would begin to employ lifeguards on its ships. The Anthem of the Seas was one of the first ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet to be staffed with lifeguards this month.

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Update: I received the following message from a guest: "My family was on this same cruise on Anthem of the Seas this past week and can confirm that an older woman in her 60's or 70's did die in the outdoor pool on Friday. My wife and I were in the medical clinic with the nurse when her deceased body was wheeled in. During my follow-up appointment with the doctor on Saturday I asked the doctor about this woman and he confirmed to me that she died by drowning in the pool but it was not yet determined if there was an underlying medical cause, such as a heart attack, etc."

March 20, 2017 Update: This from another guest on the ship: "I was at the pool 2 feet away, from where she entered. I think she was much older than 70's maybe even 90. She got in to swim, she swam a slow crawl across the pool. She knew how to swim and went the diagonal length, the guard was watching her. When I looked back She was motionless in the water near where she got in. The guard and I saw at the same time. He prodded her with his life float, no response. Then again , no response. He went In and got her out fairly fast. I would have gone in after the first prod, but it was only a couple seconds. She knew how to swim, had to be underlying event."

 

Photo credit: GlynLowe.com, Hamburg, Germany - Anthem of the Seas - Cruise Ship in Hamburg, CC BY 2.0, commons / wikimedia.

Is Too Much Ever Enough? NCL to Gouge Customers Again

Travel Weekly and Cruise Critic are reporting that Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is raising gratuities on April 1st from $13.50 per person, per day, to $13.99, on all ships except the Norwegian Sky. Daily gratuities for standard cabins on the Norwegian Sky will increase to $18.99 (an increase over 40%). 

Travel Weekly says that NCL will increase daily gratuities for suites from $15.50 to $16.99 on all of its ships except for the Sky where it will charge $21.99. 

It seems that there is no limit to the greed of cruise executives. NCL CEO Frank Del Rio just spoke at Seatrade Global about how the stock market was at all time high and fewer regulations and President Trump's pro-business tax cuts were good for his business. Del Rio collected nearly $32 million in Miami Cruise Ship Capital of the World2015

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

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

Today, I read an article by David Grace Author titled When Greed Is Thought To Be A Virtue - When More Is Never Enough. He discusses what he calls the "more-more-more-until-it-all-blows-up" business phenomenon. The cruise executives, Del Rio in particular, put on quite a demonstration of unbridled greed at the Seatrade Cruise conference last week. The CEO's have an unhealthy, unchecked pursuit of profits in an industry which has always overreached into the American public's pockets.  The cruise industry pays virtually no taxes, exploits their workers from around the world, and still nickle-and-dimes their tax-paying customers whenever they have a chance. 

When is enough, enough? 

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Photo credit: Marc Averette - CC BY-SA 1.0, commons / wikimedia.

Jail Time for Captain of Reef-Destroying Caledonian Sky?

There's still considerable talk about the ecological damage caused by the Caledonian Sky cruise ship which smashed a wide area of coral reef in Raja Ampat, Indonesia two weeks ago.

The local Minister for Maritime Affairs was quoted as saying that the damage to the ancient coral reefs was "devastating and irreparable," according to an article in Rappler titled Indonesia says captain of cruise ship that destroyed coral reefs may face imprisonment.

The Bahamian-flagged cruise ship ran aground at low tide, although it was equipped with radar and GPS monitoring instruments.

The ship was reportedly carrying 102 passengers and 79 crew members on a 16-day trip from Papua New Guinea to the Philippines.

The ship's operator, Noble Caledonia, was operating the vessel under a long term charter from Salen Ship Management. Noble Caledonian offered a token apology but concentrated on defending itself and its master who grounded the vessel on the reef, saying: "We are one of the leading expedition cruise companies which specializes in expedition tours to remote locations such as this, in addition to which we take protection of the environment very seriously indeed. The Master on duty at the time is one of the world’s leading expedition Captains."

The master, Keith Michael Taylor, on paper at least, seems to be an experienced mariner, according to Captain Taylor Caledonia Sky his resume on Linked-In. Before working for Salen Ship Management for the past two years as the captain of the Calendonian Sky, he served as a captain with Orion Expedition Cruises from 2008 to 2014 and, before that, for Windstar Cruises for one year.  He also served as a captain for Clipper Cruise Line for eight years and for Spice Island Fleet, Great White Fleet and Windjammer Barefoot Cruises dating back to the early 1990's.

Newspaper accounts, however, are highly critical of the captain. Some suggest that he did not wait for a report of the damage to his vessel or the reef. Tugs pulled the cruise ship across the reef, further damaging the coral. One newspaper says that Captain Taylor attempted to break free from the reef and made the damage even worse even though he was ordered to stop. He then sailed the ship out of the jurisdiction. One newspaper said that the captain "seems to be content by leaving the matter to the insurance company." 

Approximately 17,200 square feet of coral were destroyed in the mishap, although a more recent estimate placed the extent of the damage much higher.  Estimates of the damages are in the range of a little over $1 million to over $18 million.  But the destruction cannot be easily fixed and the reefs may take over 100 years to regenerate.  

One newspaper reported that the local ministry said “the destruction of the Radja Ampat coral reefs, which were developed by nature over hundreds of years, occurred in less than one day. It is simply impossible to restore that part of Radja Ampat. Fish that were normally seen in that particular area are all gone.”

Photographs posted (bottom) after the grounding show rubber dinghies deployed bearing the name of the Swedish management company, Salen Ship (salenship.com).

Captain Taylor committed an environmental crime under Indonesian law; he is subject to imprisonment for recklessly destroying the country's natural coral resources. But whether he spends even a day in jail seems unlikely. As explained in my recent article The "Trump Effect" - Cruise Industry Reinforces Its Image as an Enemy of the Environment, there are few travel industries which can wreak havoc on rare, bio-diverse marine habitats as effectively as the cruise lines. And there are no cruise lines willing to see their captains face criminal responsibility when they run aground on or drop or drag an anchor over an ancient coral reef.

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 Photo credit: Top - Linked-In; Middle - Indonesian Ministry of Maritime Affairs; Bottom - Indonesia Expats 

Caledonia Sky Reef Damage

 Salen Ship Management - Caledonia Sky

Ponant Diverts L'Austral to Manilla for Safety Inspection

Ponant L'AustralCruise Critic reports that Ponant has diverted its cruise ship, L'Austral, because of safety concerns due to two separate accidents earlier this year when the French luxury cruise ship struck objects while sailing. 

In January, the cruise ship struck a floating object in the Sub Antarctic Islands. In February, L’Austral struck an undersea rock while sailing in New Zealand, causing damage to its hull.

Ponant chose to avoid the ship sailing into the Sulu Sea. L'Austral was forced to skip its port visit to Borneo.

The vessel's certification society reportedly requested Ponant to undergo an inspection in a port near Manila, from March 16 to 29, 2017, in order to check the ship's hull for damage. 

L'Austral has been in the news several times in the last two years. In August 2016, an excursion vessel carrying two dozen passengers from L’Austral began taking on water and eventually sank in waters near Greenland. The cruise passengers were rescued at the last minute.

In November 2015, L'Austral rescued several hundred passengers from another luxury cruise ship operated by Ponant, Le Boréal, which caught on fire when the ship was sailing north of the Falkland Islands. The fire and evacuation efforts were far more complicated than initially reported.

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

The "Trump Effect" - Cruise Industry Reinforces Its Image as an Enemy of the Environment

Falmouth, Jamaica Dredge and FillYesterday, I attended the annual Seatrade Global conference in Fort Lauderdale. In the morning, the "state of the industry'' featured the usual cruise tycoons extolling on the billion dollar cruise industry. Carnival Corporation's CEO Arnold Donald, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio, MSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago, and Royal Caribbean Cruises CEO Richard Fain all spoke glowingly to an audience of enthusiastic cruise attendees that the cruise lines were enjoying a booming business.

The most talked about statistic was that over 25 million passengers around the world will be welcomed on board cruise ships this year.

But there was a troubling undercurrent at the convention. 

“NCL's cruise executive, Frank Del Rio, who received nearly $32 million in compensation in 2015, said that the industry was benefiting because of what he called the "Trump Effect." 

CNBC reporter and moderator, Susan Li, encouraged Del Rio to explain the "Trump Effect" to the attentive audience.  

Del Rio said that because of President Trump, the stock market was at all time high and fewer regulations and pro-business tax cuts were good for his business.

Del Rio also said that he "loved" the NCL cruise destinations, including cruises to his native Cuba, "because they make us money."   

Del Rio's comments about the "love" of more money and "fewer regulations" seem to be the essence of the "Trump Effect." President Trump is aggressively taking steps to gut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as evidenced by his appointment of Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to head that federal agency. Pruitt has a record of trying to destroy the environmental protections that the EPA is responsible for enforcing. He has built his political career by trying to undermine the EPA’s environmental protections and has even disputed the effects of climate change. 

Cruise Ship Smashes Reef in Raja Ampat, IndonesiaThe cruise industry has always struggled with its environmental image.

Just two days ago, a British cruise ship smashed into a pristine and beautiful reef on Raja Ampat in Indonesia and then caused further damage when the captain insisted that tugs drag the cruise ship off the ancient reef.

There are few travel industries which can wreak havoc on rare, biodiverse marine habitats as effectively as the cruise lines. 

Damaging reefs is not an usual event in the world of cruising, as the cruise lines have recently demonstrated time after time. But the damage is not just due to the reckless operation of cruise ships but is often the intentional acts of dredging old reefs and filling native mangroves with the pulverized coral to make way for deeper ports in the Caribbean to accommodate the larger and large cruise ships which are dominating the cruise industry today.

Of course, the cruise industry just witnessed the spectacle of the Department of Justice fining Princess Cruises a record $40,000,000 fine after its investigation uncovered wide-spread illegal practices involving dumping oil at sea around the world by the Caribbean Princess, Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess over the course of nearly a decade. Meanwhile, the cruise executives at the helm of the Princess organization at the time of the dumping have continued to be promoted to lucrative positions in the Carnival corporation

"Magic pipes" and shady environmental shipboard practices have long been part of the history of the cruise industry.

The fine seemed to be déjà vu of the early 2000's when the major Miami-based cruise lines, NCL, Carnival and Royal Caribbean, paid tens of millions of dollars in fines and pled guilty to multiple felonies for dumping oil into the oceans, falsifying ship logs and lying to the U.S. Coast Guard about the environmental crimes.

Reef Damage in Cayman IslandsSo, in an industry with a history like this, it's troubling to see a CEO of a major cruise line excited about the benefits of fewer environmental regulations under the Trump presidency. Yes, the cruise executives will earn lots of more millions of dollars, but the reefs and waters around the world will pay a heavy price for such short-sightedness.

Interested in more articles about the "Trump Effect?" Read:

Skift (by Hannah Sampson) - Cruise Executives at Odds Over the Trump Effect.

Seattade (by Anne Kalosh) -  Strong demand, record orderbook, China, 'Trump effect' boost cruising, top leaders say.

Miami Herald (by Chabeli Herrera) - Cruising is booming, thanks in part to the ‘Trump Effect,’ but there’s a catch.

Take a moment and read: Donald Trump is preparing to make massive policy changes at the EPA and Trump to environment: This is war.

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Photo credits:

Top - Dredge and fill in Falmouth - Jamaca Gleaner

Middle - Reef in Raja Ampat, Indoneasia - AFP via the newspaper

Bottom - Anchor damage in Cayman Islands - Don Foster's Dive Cayman via Cayman Compass

Cruise Mystery Involving the Carnival Magic in Roatan?

Roatan Honduras Carnival CruiseI received the following four messages from passengers on the Carnival Magic who all reported that several people apparently did not return to the Carnival ship in Roatan at the end of last week. The Magic reportedly used its spot lights to shine into the beach and surrounding areas for the passengers who went ashore.     

  • "Were just back from Carnival Magic. Our ship was docked in front of Carnival Breeze. In Roatan we (both ships) didn't leave port until 10:00 p.m. We were supposed to leave at 6:00 p.m. Our ship had their ships spot light in Mahogany Bay waters looking for someone or something. Flash lights all over the beach area and island area in the port by people looking for something or someone. We asked several security people and crew on board afterwards, and no one would tell us what happened and said they either didn't know or can't talk about it. That night the Captain indicated they were waiting for clearance from the Honduran officials. We've never had to wait for clearance on the 7 other times we've been there, especially too because they own the port area."
  • "Hello. I recently returned from a cruise on Carnival Magic. On the 8th we were delayed nearly six hours in Roatan. None of the employees would tell us why. Also we were blocking the Carnival Breeze so they too were delayed. Around the time we were suppose to debark they announced the names of four people who had yet to board. Everyone on both cruises are dying to know what the cause of this massive delay was." 
  • "Aboard Carnival Magic, and four passengers did not return to ship last night in Roatan. We watched searchers combing through the port area, boats with spotlights, and the ship using the big searchlight. Magic and Breeze were delayed by about five hours in their departures. Never saw anyone brought back aboard. Everyone was very tight lipped. Breeze was berthed behind us so they could not leave till we did. They called the names repeatedly onboard, and we watched them methodically searching the whole port area and surrounding waters. I hope they were just laid up drunk somewhere, but someone suggested that maybe it was an intentional disappearance." 
  • I would like to know where I can find out what really happened in Honduras March 8th when the Carnival Magic was at port until 10:30 p.m. looking for 4 missing passengers.

There is no indication that the passengers met with foul play of any kind, although it appears unusual for this to occur.

In the past several years, there have been several reports of passengers "disappearing" in cruise ports from time to time, primarily in Jamaica, although these instances have been intentional in nature.  The passengers inevitably were "found" and had apparently taken an extended vacation.  

Does anyone have reliable information regarding what, if anything, happened in Roatan last week? 

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Photo credit: Roatan booth at Seatrade Miami 2014 - Jim Walker 

Safety at Sea: Cruise Ships & Terrorism

CBS New York aired a short special last night titled Elite NYPD Team Protects City From Dirty Bombs, Waterborne Threats.

The video focused on the efforts of a special unit of the NYPD’s Counter-Terrorism Division which concentrates on protecting the hundreds of cruise ships and other maritime vessels which enter and leave the ports of New York and New Jersey each year.

The special begins with the Norwegian Gem returning in the predawn hours to New York after ten days at sea. Unbeknownst to the passengers, the NCL cruise ship was being swept for a dirty bomb before it entered the port. 

The New York anti-terrorism team reportedly uses radiation detection devices and sonar to scan the ships and docks for explosive devices.

The special briefly discusses the deadly attack on the U.S.S. Cole in 2000 and the last month's suicide attack on a Saudi Arabian frigate, both occurring in the Red Sea near Yemen, which we have mentioned several times in other articles. 

The CBS crew interviewed the CEO, Dan Richards, of a security company called Global Rescue, which CBS says provides crisis response and evacuation options to travelers. Mr.Richards mentions that that "ISIS and other terrorist organizations are planning these kinds of operations.” This is a sentiment expressed by several U.S. naval commanders in the recent past. Read: Terrorists on the Ocean: Sea Monsters in the 21st Century by Captain Robert N. Hein, U.S. Navy.

Many travelers may be comforted by these security measures in New York and other major seaports like Miami and elsewhere. But, at the same time, the special underscores the lack of security in ports of call outside of the U.S., in places like the Caribbean and North Africa, where the port countries lack the resources to implement sophisticated anti-terrorism plans.

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NTSB Cites Human Error in Carnival Pride - Pier Crash in Baltimore

Carnival Pride AllisionThe National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its report yesterday regarding the allision* between the Carnival Pride and the pier and passenger walkway in Baltimore last year. 

On May 8, 2016, the Carnival Pride was attempting to dock at the cruise terminal in Baltimore, Maryland, when the ship's bow struck the pier and an elevated passenger walkway on shore, causing over $2,000,000 in damages.

The Carnival cruise ship was returning from a cruise to the Bahamas. It had previously taken on a pilot while it was in U.S. inland waters. 

The staff captain later took the helm and was navigating the Pride to the terminal. As the ship approached the pier, the angle of approach was too steep and the speed was too fast.

The captain took control of the ship from the staff captain and applied full thrust away from the berth to slow the ship but not before the bow struck the pier support columns.

The NTSB concluded that the probable cause of the crash was the staff captain’s errors during the docking maneuver (approaching the pier with excessive speed and at too steep of an angle) and the captain’s insufficient oversight. 

You can see photos of the extensive damage here.  

Read the full report here

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Photos credit: Top - CBS Baltimore; bottom - NTSB report via gCaptain.

* Definition of "allision:" the action of dashing against or striking upon; example - by a vessel against an object ashore, in contrast to a "collision" between two vessels.  

Carnival Pride Allision Baltimore

Coast Guard Medevacs 89-year-old Passenger From Seven Seas Explorer

The Defense Video Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) reported yesterday that the U.S. Coast Guard rescued an ill passenger from a luxury Regent cruise ship.

According to DVIDS, a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter medevaced an 89-year-old passenger man from the Seven Seas Explorer cruise ship on March 7, 2017. The Regent cruise ship was sailing around 25 miles southeast of Islamorada, Florida. The passenger was transferred to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami for medical care.  

Celebrity Equinox Drifts Close to House in Port Everglades

Celebrity EquinoxOn Friday March 3rd, the Celebrity Equinox drifted dangerously close to the shore in Port Everglades as the cruise ship was attempting to leave the port.

As shown in a video filed by Fort Lauderdale homeowner Yasmine Todhunter, her husband, Bill, (with the family dogs), is shown as the Celebrity ship drifts dangerously close to their waterfront house.

The Celebrity Equinox is later shown struggling to use its bow thrusters to back back away away from the couple's house.

Facebook readers pointed out that cruise ships in the wide Port Everglades channel usually are being piloted by a local maritime pilot. It is unknown whether the cruise ship experienced a temporary power loss or whether the pilot could not adjust to the high winds that day. 

The homeowners who filmed the ship posted the video on the Celebrity Cruises Facebook page after the cruise line ignored emails asking for an explanation. Celebrity has still not offered an explanation for what happened. The video of the incident was removed from the Celebrity Facebook page. 

A reader on Facebook who watched the video humorously remarked: "New shore excursion ... Bill's house."

Last summer, the Celebrity Infinity slammed into a dock in Ketchikan, Alaska after the ship could not manage the high winds. 

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March 7, 2017 Update: A reader brought to my attention that an oil tanker overturned on Thursday night near the port, spilling 9,000 gallons of fuel, some of which spilled into the intracoastal waters according to media reports. News7 reported that cleanup efforts were still underway on Friday and ""due to the spill, the Celebrity Equinox cruise ship was not able to come into the port. However, the ship was able to dock at terminal 25, which was accessed through the Interstate 595 entrance to the port." Perhaps this is why the Equinox was redirected? 

Apparently the oil spill was on the other side of the intracoastal and would not explain why the Celebrity ship came so close to the house.

March 8, 2017 Update: News outlets in South Florida are covering the story - Sun Sentinel: Cruise ship has close encounter with home near Port Everglades;  CBS Miami: Couple Recalls Close Encounter With Cruise Ship: ‘This Boat Is Coming To The House!’; Daily Mail Homeowner films her husband waving desperately as massive cruise ship comes terrifyingly close to their $2.3 MILLION waterfront home; Miami New Times Here's Video of a Giant Cruise Ship Nearly Hitting a House at Port Everglades.

A spokesperson for the Port Everglades Pilots & the Florida Harbor Pilots Association said this gobbledygook: "The local Port Everglades harbor pilot maintained navigational control of the vessel throughout this maneuver, skillfully keeping it within the channel, then proceeded to safely guide the vessel out to sea. As stated by the cruise line, the vessel did not touch bottom."

A Celebrity Cruises spokesperson used similarly misleading language to describe the reckless maneuver of the cruise ship:  "As Equinox departed on Friday, March 3, she was in her assigned channel at all times under the guidance of specialized local port pilots. The ship operated safely and did not put guests or crew at risk. We can also confirm the ship did not touch bottom.”

Video Credit: Bill and Yasmine Todhunter 

 

Another Crime Warning for Travelers to Nassau, Bahamas

Bay Street Nassau Bahamas Crime WarningYesterday, the U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) issued a security message for U.S. Citizens traveling to Nassau, Bahamas), titled Staying Safe during Spring Break in the Bahamas.

It starts with: "avoid being alone with strangers, jet ski, taxi, or scooter operators. Be particularly cautious on secluded beaches; criminals target such isolated areas. When traveling, use only clearly marked buses or taxis, as unlicensed taxi drivers have been linked to a variety of violent crimes."

The warning ""strongly" recommends that travelers "avoid patronizing jet ski rental operations" who "continue to commit sexual assaults and other crimes against tourists."

It warns not to "allow yourself to be driven off alone with a scooter operator. Unlicensed scooter operators and rental services have been linked to assaults, including sexual assaults."

OSAC cautions against excessive drinking ashore - "Visitors found alone or incapacitated have been victims of sexual assault, robbery, and physical assault. Watch your drink at all times. Intoxicated young women may be targeted for drugging and sexual assault."

OSAC refers to the U.S. State Department's warning that "the criminal threat level for New Providence Island (includes Nassau and Paradise Island) is rated as critical." The critical crime warning reads:

"Armed robbery and sexual assault are major criminal threats facing U.S. citizens in New Providence. The U.S. Embassy has received multiple reports indicating tourists have been robbed at gunpoint or Nassau Bahamas Cruise Travel Warningknifepoint in tourist locations in the downtown areas of Nassau; several of these incidents occurred during daylight hours. The U.S. Embassy has received reports of sexual assaults in tourist areas as well. The Bahamas has one of the highest incidences of sexual assault in the Caribbean . . "

If you are a parent of a teenager or a college student cruising to Nassau this month on Spring Break, I suggest discussing these issues. 

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March 6, 2107 Update: The U.S Embassy in Nassau issues another crime warning, based on the OSAC report.

Photo credit: Jpatokal at wts wikivoyage - GFDL, commons / wikimedia (top photo of Bay Street in Nassau); TampAGS, for AGS Media - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia (bottom photo of cruise wharf in Nassau).

Carnival Splendor Suffers Power Loss?

Today a cruise passenger reported that the Carnival Splendor lost power as it was sailing to St. Thomas, United States Virgin Island (USVI). 

Carnival responded to the passenger by saying that that the Carnival cruise ship "has not lost engine power. It's only a technical issue affecting the ship's maximum cruising speed."

Automatic information systems (AIS) show the ship's current speed at 13 - 14 knots, although it was sailing at one to two knots earlier today. 

We have requested an explanation from Carnivval but have not yet received a response. 

The Carnival Splendor was disabled after an engine room fire in November 2010 in a highly reported case.

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Update: We received the following statement from Carnival:  

CARNIVAL SPLENDOR STATEMENT
March 2, 2017 - 11 a.m.

"Carnival Splendor is currently experiencing a technical issue that is affecting the vessel's maximum cruising speed. The ship's technical team is currently working on assessing the repairs.

Due to current speed limitations, the remaining calls at St. Thomas and Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic have been cancelled so that the ship can return to its homeport of Miami on Sunday on schedule.

All guests on the current voyage will receive a $100 per person shipboard credit and a 25 percent credit toward a future Carnival cruise.

Carnival Splendor is on fourth day of a seven-day cruise that departed Miami on Sunday and returns this Sunday."

March 3, 2017 Update: Shortly after 6:00 P.M. today, Carnival modofied its offer of compensation to its guests: "50 percent refund, 50 percent future cruise discount, and a $100 shipboard credit."

Royal Caribbean & Celebrity Pay Alaska's Environmental Fines

Royal Caribbean Alaska Air Pollution Violations Seatrade Cruise News reports that Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises recently settled all claims related to alleged violations of the Alaska Marine Visible Emissions Standards that occurred over an earlier five-year period on certain ships.

Last year, we reported that the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation issued notices of violation to a number of cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, for a pollution violations over the past five years. In addition to Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises, NCL, Carnival, Holland America, Princess, and Silversea violated the Alaskan emission standards.

In its most recent annual report, Royal Caribbean stated that the cruise line had settled the claims pursuant to a compliance order by consent this month for an undisclosed amount. and performing certain remedial actions.

As we mentioned in our article last April, Alaska issued 18 notices of violation involving 48 instances of excessive air emissions against a host of cruise lines since 2010,. Each violation of law carries a fine of approximately $37,500.

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Is a Cruise Ship the Perfect Place to Commit a Crime?

MIndy Jordon Disappearance - NCLEarlier today, I mentioned the recent disappearance of a young Chinese woman from the MSC Magnifica.

It appears that she may have been a murder victim, according to the police in Italy who are investigating the case.  

If this is true, this is hardly the first time that a cruise passenger has been killed at sea. 

Cruise passenger Karen Roston was thrown overboard by her husband during an Admiral Cruises vacation. He was later convicted of the crime. 

Mindy Jordon went overboard from a NCL cruise ship when she went on a vacation with a husband reportedly with an abusive and violent background. 

The case of George Smith, of course, is perhaps the clearest example of a crime at sea, after he was reportedly thrown overboard by a man, who was also sailing on the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas as a passenger, who reportedly gave Mr. Smith a "paragliding lesson without a parachute." 

Micki Kanesaki DisappearanceA Chinese cruise passenger murdered his wife by pitching her overboard during a cruise aboard the Macau Success. He falsely claimed that his wife committed suicide.

A drunken passenger killed his wife during a cruise on the Carnival Elation to Mexico. 

A lawyer was arrested for allegedly strangling & throwing his wife, Micki Kanesaki off an Italian cruise ship several years ago. 

A woman from Vancouver, Canada, Fariba Amani, who was cruising aboard the Bahamas Celebration cruise ship operated by the Celebration Cruise Lines, disappeared under mysterious circumstances during a cruise with her boyfriend.

Farabi Amani DisappearanceThere are many others who met with foul play on cruise ships. 

A Brazilian crew member, Camilla Peixoto Bandeira, working aboard the MSC Musica was strangled to death by her boyfriend. 

23 year old  Amy Lynn Bradley disappeared from Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas under highly suspicious circumstances where it appears that she was abducted.

Carnival passenger Annette Mizener appeared to have been thrown overboard from a Carnival ship cruising to Mexico.  

A Holland America Line (HAL) crew member sexually assaulted, violently beat, and tried to throw a woman from her balcony on HAL's Nieuw Amsterdam. The crew member was arrested and sentenced Jennifer Ellis-Seitz Balconyto jail, although in most such cases there are no arrests or prosecutions.  

Other young, healthy and seemingly happy individuals have disappeared from cruise ships, with the cruise line wildly speculating that they probably committed suicide, like Denisa Markoska, and Angelo Faliva.

A murder investigation was opened after after a 53 year old woman went overboard from the Costa Fortuna

A young woman, Jennifer Ellis-Seitz, disappeared over the rails of her cabin's balcony resulting in the FBI investigating the conduct of her husband when other passengers commented on what they considered his highly strange behavior. The FBI eventually declined the case after finding no evidence of foul play. There was, of course, no automatic man overboard system in place.

It was the mysterious disappearance of Merrian Carver from the Celebrity Mercury back in 2004, and the resulting cover-up by the cruise line, which motivated her father, Ken Carver to create the International Cruise Victims organization.   

Several lawmakers have asked whether a cruise ship is the perfect place to commit a crime, largely Camilla Peixoto Bandeira - MSC Disappearancebecause of jurisdictional nightmares like this

The cruise industry is quick to label disappearances at sea as "suicides" even when the facts suggest otherwise. Read: "Suicide" - One of the Cruise Lines' Favorite Excuses When a Passenger Disappears at Sea.

Mike Driscoll, editor of Cruiseweek, a cruise publication, was recently quoted as saying "Most over-boards to date have been suicides."  He offered no statistical evidence to support this inaccurate claim. In fact, the majority of disappearances involve highly intoxicated individuals who go over the rails. Whether you view this phenomenon as the result of reckless conduct by the drunken passenger or the irresponsibility of the cruise line in over-serving their guests to make profits from the vast amount of alcohol sold during a cruise, there is no question that alcohol is involved in most disappearances from cruise ships.  You can track the last 288 case of overboards maintained by cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein and easily Annetter Mizener Disappearancesee that alcohol plays a significant role in most overboard cases.   

Unfortunately, it also appears that a cruise is a perfect location for a murder, particularly when there are few automatic man overboard cameras installed on ships which would document and, possibly, deter criminal activity.  

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

March 3, 2017 Update: Cops believe missing Dublin-based mum was murdered on cruise ship and thrown overboard in suitcase.

Photo credits:

Mindy Jordon - International Cruise Victims 

Denisa Markosa DisappearanceMicki Kanesaki - Orange County Register

Fariba Amani - Global News Canada

Jennifer Ellis-Seitz balcony - TODAY

Camilla Peixoto Bandeira - A Tribuna newspaper

Annette Mizener - ABC News

Denisa Markosa - Fokus newspaper (Macedonia)

Fire on the Costa Magica?

Costa Magica FireToday we received a message from a passenger is sailing on the Costa Magica with family. The passenger indicated that a fire broke out on the Costa cruise ship yesterday, February 24th, while the cruise ship was heading toward Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe which is in the eastern Caribbean between St. Kitts and Antigua & Barbuda to the north and Dominica to the south. 

The passenger, who wishes to remain anonymous, indicated that the fire started early in the morning/ late at night (around 1:30 A.M.), apparently in the engine room. 

The passenger stated that the passengers were timely informed that a fire broke out but there was confusing announcements regarding the location of the fire.

There was first an announcement regarding an emergency on deck A. Later, there was an announcement regarding an emergency in the luggage area on deck 0. Finally, there was an announcement of an emergency in the engine room, according to the passenger.  

We are trying to obtain further details regarding this reported incident, regarding the cause of the fire and the length of the time before the fire was extinguished. There is no indication that the ship was disabled nor any information suggesting that there were any injuries to passenger or crew members. 

If you are working or sailing on the Magica and have information to share, we would like to hear from you.

Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.  If you wish to remain anonymous, please contact me via email at jim@cruiselaw.com. 

Update: After publishing this article, a reader brought to my attention that a report of a fire on this ship was posted (in German) via Facebook: "Just got the information of a fire onboard Costa Magica - are you sure Costa has everything under control??" (translated). Costa was asked to respond and said via Facebook: "it should be on board, so is the safety of our guests and the crew at the top. You can be assured that costa all action, if it is necessary. If you have any further questions, please send us a pm. Thank you very much and greetings, your costa team."  (translated) The person posting the comment then asked Costa: "So does this mean that it is untrue that it yesterday (in the engine room? ) has burned?" (translated). Costa has not responded to this inquiry. 

February 26, 2017 Update:  "Additional information from the reporting passenger: "it lasted at least 90 minutes. No smoke could be seen from our point of view. Fire doors near the cabins weren't closed, ventilation wasn't stop either. The ship seemed to have slowed down during the intervention.

 . . .  the ship bilingual staff made statements in different language. The Capt could only speaks italian on the PR system.

The crew were not close to us to inform us. From my cabin I could see a few crew members stand-by at a lifeboat.

Quickly after the annoncement that the fire was exthinguished, a medical team was required at muster station E. We had no news afterward on what happen there."

February 27, 2017 Update: Costa confirmed today that a fire broke out on the Magica, but claims that it was "small" and "quickly extinguished." No explanation was provided regarding the cause of the fire or the specific steps taken by the fire crew to extinguish it . . .

March 1, 2017 UpdateCosta Magica Fire: Did Costa Cruises Learn Anything from the Costa Concordia?

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

Finally! Royal Caribbean Hires Lifeguards

Two months ago, I wrote that Royal Caribbean Cruises was advertising that it was going to hire lifeguards on its cruise ships. In our December 22, 2016 article titled Royal Caribbean Cruises to Hire Lifeguards, I noted that Royal Caribbean had reconsidered its policy of only posting “swim at your own risk” signs and providing life jackets for children.

Like other cruise lines (with the exception of Disney), Royal Caribbean did not previously employ lifeguards even though a number of children have drowned or nearly drowned in pools on its cruise ships. Children have been found motionless under the water in lifeguard-less pools on the Anthem of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas and the Independence of the Seas in just the last three years. The children were 4, 6, 8 and 8 years old.

Other cruise lines experienced similar tragedies in their swimming pools. In the last 2 to 3 years, a dozen passengers drowned or nearly drowned in cruise ship swimming pools without lifeguards. The cases primarily involved children. In addition to the Royal Caribbean cases, Royal Caribbean Pool Lifeguardother cruise lines experienced deaths or near-drownings on their ships: Princess (4, 3 adults and one 8 year-old child), NCL (3)(ages 4, 6 and 10), Carnival (1)(age 6), and Disney (1)(age 4)(before Disney hired lifeguards). The near-drownings involved situations where other passengers rescued the children. 

Last month, we learned that Royal Caribbean entered into an agreement with IAM Star Guard Elite. "IAM" is the acronym for Innovative Attraction Management, LLC. IAM agreed to provide lifeguards as well as management, consulting, and risk prevention services to the cruise line IAM also also provide litigation support as part of its swimming pool related risk management services. IAM also scheduled an aquatics conference aboard Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas at Atlantis, Paradise Island when the Royal Caribbean ship called on the port of Nassau at the end of last month. 

Yesterday, with much fanfare, Royal Caribbean announced that it will staff all of its ships with lifeguards. The lifeguards will be dressed in bright red and white uniforms, and stationed at every pool, including the Solarium, during opening hours.

The new water safety program will include new signage and will be rolled out across all Royal Caribbean cruise ships over the next four months, starting with Oasis of the Seas.

Parents, of course, will still be expected to supervise their children. I have long advocated assigning a lifeguard to every pool on a cruise ship. Lifeguards are needed because parents are not perfect, and there is a natural tendency for parents to let their guards down when they are on vacation. Kids deserve to have their parents and the cruise line working together to keep them safe.

The Express newspaper in London covered the story and posted the results of a poll which indicated that the majority of its readers favored Royal Caribbean's new policy. 70% of the readers who participated in the poll said "Yes, it's a great idea" to the question "Should all cruise lines introduce lifeguards on board their ships?," with 30% responding "I don't think it would make a difference."

But there has never been a public consensus regarding this issue. The majority of people responding to articles about children drowning in cruise ship swimming pools quickly attack the parents and even suggest that the parents should be arrested. Other readers selfishly voice petty concerns that the cruise line may begin to pass the costs of hiring lifeguards on to its customers and they do not want to pay higher cruise fares.

The hard-core cruise fan site Cruise Critic asked its readers "Do you think cruise ships should have lifeguards?" Only a little over 30% said "Yes, you can’t be too careful," with around 20% saying that lifeguards should be employed only "on ships aimed at families." 40% of the Cruise Critic readers said "No, it’s not their responsibility," which seems heartless considering how many children have died on cruise ships without lifeguards. 

Congratulations to Royal Caribbean for joining Disney as the only cruise lines with a demonstrated commitment to keeping children safe around pools at sea. Hopefully, other cruise lines like industry giant Carnival will quickly follow suit.

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

Photo credit: Lifeguard uniforms - Royal Caribbean PR via Express newspaper.

Overboard Passenger from Sun Princess Rescued

A passenger who went overboard into the Pacific Ocean from the Sun Princess cruise ship as it sailed between Brisbane and New Caledonia was rescued today. 

Shortly after 4 P.M. local time today, the "man overboard" announcement came over the bridge.

A newspaper in Australia reported that it took about 15 minutes for the ship to completely turn around and make it back to the same area.

The cruise ship deployed a zodiac rescue boat to conduct a search.

The woman was in the water for about 45 minutes. An entertainer on the cruise ship videotaped the woman's rescue.

The article does not explain how the passenger went overboard.
 

Passenger Overboard From Carnival Elation

News4Jax reports that a passenger went overboard yesterday morning from the Carnival Elation approximately 15 miles southwest of Abaco, Bahamas.

The Carnival Elation sailed from Jacksonville on Monday with its first port of call in Nassau, Bahamas.

The Coast Guard is searching for the 24-year old man whose identity has not been revealed.

The news account states that at around 8:30 A.M. yesterday, the passenger's wife told the ship that her husband was missing and had apparently disappeared at an undisclosed time.  She reportedly says that her husband was last seen about 2:30 a.m. She reported him missing after the ship docked in Nassau. Carnival later Man Overboard Systemdetermined that its closed-circuit television (CCTV) system revealed that the man was recorded going overboard from the 11th deck. 

This sounds like the usual scenario when a cruise ship is not equipped with an automatic man overboard system which would immediately alert the bridge when someone goes over a railing on the ship. Without such equipment, and without an eye witness account of someone going overboard, the ship is left to tediously look over hours of CCTV images to try and spot the passenger and see what happened. 

The cruise industry has resisted installing the technology. There are many companies which have excellent heat and/or motion detection alarms with radar tracking systems on the market. Here is an example (photo left). Here is another.

According to cruise expert Professor Ross Klein, this is the 286th person to go overboard from a cruise ship since 2000. 

Update: The Coast Guard was not notified until about 11 a.m. by the Carnival officers on the ship, or approximately two and one-half hours after the cruise ship docked in Nassau. The CCTV images which Carnival reviewed showed the passenger going overboard at approximately 2:45 a.m., according to new accounts.

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Coast Guard Grounds Majesty of the Seas for Life Vest Violation

Majesty of the Seas Life VestThe U.S. Coast Guard ordered Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas to remain at Port Canaveral after a safety inspection yesterday revealed problems with the ship's life vests.

Upset passengers quickly went to social media to voice their displeasure:

As reported by local ABC affiliate WFTV- 9:

@eric_thebruce tweeted:  "How many life jackets aren't up to code @RoyalCaribbean? This didn't sneak up on you. Thanks for checking @uscoastguard" 

@Jktaylor1 tweetded "@RoyalCaribbean come on man. 1st the Captain makes an announcement we are leaving early morning. Now we are delayed until 1400. #Unsatisfied"

@vballrach1 tweetded "@RoyalCaribbean we are spending the night in port due to safety violations reported by the Coast Guard. never had this happen before"

The Majesty of the Seas is a Sovereign-class cruise ship built in 1992.  The nearly 25-year old ship apparently had old life vests aboard the ship which were in a state of disrepair. The Coast Guard stated that its inspection revealed "some technical issues, including some outdoor lifejackets showing their age."

A month ago, a lifeboat fell off from another one of the older Royal Caribbean cruise ships, the 20-year old Grandeur of the Seas, while the ship was at port in Charleston.    

The Majesty is expected to replace the life vests today and sail later this afternoon. 

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

Photo Credit: Coast Guard Statement - @MarkLehman

 

Filipino Crew Member Killed on Emerald Princess

A number of newspapers are reporting that an explosion on board the Emerald Princess cruise ship claimed the life of a Princess crew member at a port in New Zealand earlier this week.

The incident occurred when crew members were reportedly using a cannister of nitrogen, for deploying a lifeboat, on one of the decks near the stern of the cruise ship.

A passenger on the ship was quoted in an Australian newspaper saying that “There was an explosion, it was pretty loud ... all I saw then was the gas bottle spinning on the (wharf).”

Filipino Crew Member Killed Emerald PrincessA photograph (right) posted on Twitter shows a large cylinder, which killed the crew member, lying on the wharf near the Princess cruise ship. 

What has not been widely reported is that the deceased crew member was a young Filipino man, married with two young children. 

The Filipino's death comes just a couple of days after Lizzie Presser's insightful article about the plight of crew members from the Philippines working on cruise ships was published. Titled Below Deck - Filipinos make up nearly a third of all cruise ship workers. It’s a good job. Until it isn’t, the article explains how young men from the Philippines who go to sea on cruise ships to seek better lives for their families, face 12 hour work days for up to 10 months at a time and are prohibited from filing lawsuits in the U.S. They are subject to a draconian scheme of minimal compensation if injured on the job. If they are killed though the negligence of the U.S. based cruise line, their families receive a maximum pay-out of only $50,000 and only $7,500 per child.

The article quoted Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut as saying "if cruise lines know their workers are kept from holding them accountable in court, they’ll have little incentive to provide them with a safe work environment.”

I was alerted of the death when a concerned passenger on the Princess cruise ship first alerted me to the tragedy:

"I'm currently on board the Emerald Princess at Dunedin. I was on board at the time the explosion happened that killed the crew member. He was a Filipino 33 yr old father of two small kids. I've been absolutely appalled to learn from crew (over 80% on this current cruise are Filipino) about their employment conditions. This entire industry seems to profit from the exploitation of workers from developing countries. And here we are with someone killed while doing their job on board."

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

Photo credit: Twitter via Express newspaper.

Filipinos on Cruise Ships: Lost at Sea?

Yesterday, investigative journalist Lizzie Presser's article about the plight of crew members from the Philippines working on cruise ships was published. Titled Below Deck - Filipinos make up nearly a third of all cruise ship workers. It’s a good job. Until it isn’t, the article follows the lives of several young Filipino men who went to sea for Miami-based cruise lines in order to provide a better life for their families. But when they were injured after working unreasonably long hours (12 hours a day for as long as 10 months without a break), the crew members found that they had no real legal rights to hold their employers responsible. 

Carnival Imagination - Filipino Crew Members This is an issue which I have written about regularly over the years, explaining the legal problems Filipinos face while working on cruise ships owned by companies like Carnival and Royal Caribbean:

Filipino Labor Board Punishes Burned Crew Member.

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

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

Photo credit: Kevin Kunishi via https://story.californiasunday.com

Terrorism at Sea: Danger in the Red Sea

Houthi rebels attacked a Saudi frigate off the western coast of Yemen earlier this week. Video of the attack shows a large explosion near the stern of the ship, which was originally believed to be the result of a missile strike. It was later determined to be a suicide attack involving several small vessels.

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

In the video below  a voice narrating the attack shouts in Arabic, "Allah Akbar" followed by “Death to America, Death to Israel, Death to the Jews.”

According to one U.S. network, U.S. defense analysts believe that the attack was intended for an U.S. naval vessel or that this was a “dress rehearsal” similar to the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, which was being refueled in the Yemeni port of Aden in 2000 when a suicide boat loaded with explosives attacked the U.S. ship and blew up. The terrorist attack killed 17 U.S. sailors and injured 39 more. 

Four months ago, the Houthi rebels launched a similar missile attack against an United Arab Emirates (UAE} ship in the waters of Yemen near the straits of Bah Al-Mandab.

On October 1, 2016, Houthi rebels destroyed an Emirati vessel near the the Red Sea port city of Mokha.The Houthi rebels reportedly used a sophisticated Chinese anti-ship missile. The naval ship which was attacked was a high speed vessel ("HSV"), named the HSV 2 Swift. The ship was formerly operated by the U.S. Navy and recently had been leased to the UAE. There is a dispute whether the vessel was a civilian craft carrying humanitarian aid or an UAE navy vessel.

The Houthi (Shia) rebel group has been in armed conflict with the more moderate and Saudi Arabian backed Sunni government in Yemen. The U.S backs the Saudi Arabian-led coalition in their conflict against Yemen.

These attacks demonstrate the considerable danger posed to shipping in the Middle East by Shia militant groups, apparently supplied by Iran with sophisticated weapons. ISIS and al-Qu'ida operate in Yemen. 

Cruise ships routinely transit through the straits of Bah Al-Mandab. Many cruise ships transit through these straits at night without lights to avoid detection. 

Several U.S. naval experts and commanders as well as senior NATO officers have recently expressed their surprise that ISIS has not attacked cruise ships in the Middle East.

You can see photographs of the dramatic damage to the NSV 2 here.

The video showing the attack on the HSV 2 Swift is below.

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

Interested in this issue? Consider reading: With a threat from terrorists and pirates ever-present, are there choppy waters ahead for cruise ship security

Trump's Executive Order Causes Chaos at Fort Lauderdale Cruise Terminal

The Allure of the Seas returned this morning to Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale after a week long cruise. When the Allure docked, some of the passengers were in for a shock.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protective (CBP) reportedly requested the captain of the cruise ship to first disembark green card holders from the seven Muslim-based countries subject to President Trump's executive order, which bans citizens from entering the U.S. for at least the next 90 days

I was contacted this morning about the situation at the cruise terminal in Fort Lauderdale. A passenger said that there are several guests who sailed on the cruise who are from Iraq and Iran who hold green Trump Ban Green Card Cruisecards (which makes them legal permanent U.S. residents). It currently is unknown how many passengers have been detained, or whether crew members have also been affected.

The executive order, signed by President Trump on Friday night, has thrown confusion into the handling of many people trying to enter the U.S. this weekend. 

Yesterday, a Department of Homeland Security official said people holding green cards are included in President Trump's executive action temporarily barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

There is uncertainty whether the green card holders will be barred from re-entering the U.S. or whether they will have to undergo additional screening.

"It will bar green card holders," Gillian Christensen, acting Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman, told Reuters yesterday. But other representatives at Homeland Security have been quoted as saying that green card holders will be permitted to enter but will have to be subject to "extreme vetting." 

The affected passengers were returning on a gay cruise chartered by Atlantis. Many returning cruisers not directly affected by the ban have remained at the cruise terminal to show solidarity with the detained passengers.

It is likely that others passengers at other U.S. ports will be detained, and either banned from entering the U.S. or subject to added vetting.

President Trump has claimed that the purpose behind the executive order is to "keep America safe." But it's hard to imagine how banning legal residents from returning from a holiday cruise will accomplish that goal.

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

Update: The Miami Herald is covering the story - I’ve Been Detained at Broward Port, Cuise Passenger With a Green Card Says.

January 30, 2017 Update: It seems that there were cruise passengers detained at other ports yesterday.

Florida Today writes that seven people, including a woman of Syrian origin and her three U.S. born children, were retained by CPB for over 6 hours in Port Canaveral yesterday.  

The Global Nation writes today about an Iraqi-born woman of Swedish citizenship, married to an U.S. citizen who arrived in an unidentified port in Florida. Even though she is a legal permanent resident holding a green card, she was separated from her husband when the cruise ship returned to port. "... she felt confused and afraid while being bombarded with questions. Her husband had to wait outside. . .  They asked me where I was born, when did I leave Iraq, how did I come to America, who sponsored me, what does my husband do, and what countries have I lived in.” After three hours of questioning, she was finally let go. “I was the in same room as someone being accused of child pornography,” she says. “That’s how low they made me feel, just because I was in Iraq 27 years ago.” 

March 24, 2017 Update: Palestinian UF student detained after Spring Break cruise.  

NCL's Norwegian Star Suffers Engine Failure Again

Last month, I wrote about an azipod failure on the Norwegian Star which resulted in the NCL ship limping around on an altered Asian itinerary, much to the frustration of cruise vacationers.  It seems that instead of sending the ship to dry dock, NCL arranged to send the azipod contractors aboard to repair the ship while it was sailing. They apparently fixed the problem but the other azipod has now apparently failed:

According to a message which from a crew member on the Norwegian Star today:

"I'm writing to you again from the unlucky Norwegian Star! I wrote to you sometime in December when we broke down in Singapore at the beginning of our Asian season . . .  yesterday 25th of January, while at sea we experienced problems again, this timer with other engine, "the old one!" So now thatNCL Norwegian Star one is offline... Today, 26th, in Bali, Indonesia, captain made announcement that we are changing the itinerary AGAIN this cruise, skipping 3 ports and adding sea days in order to reach Sydney in time. At the beginning of the cruise (before 23rd, Singapore) we already skipped places and for that everybody received 200$ for onboard account, today, that was changed to 500$. But of course, guests are NOT happy and poor guys at the reception and the security are getting pounded heavily by raging crowd . . . I feel sorry for them because it is not their fault or any other crew member for a broken engine and Miami office made a decision about refunds and amounts, not onboard management . . . So the stricken Norwegian Star is going AGAIN through some very hard times . . ."

I also received this message from a passenger's family:

"I have been contacted by relatives on Norwegian Cruiseline NCL Star. They left Singapore earlier this week and are on the way to Australia. Azipod failure again and they have been told their day in Brisbane is canceled, and their trip to the barrier reef is off. This was the reason my relative took the cruise in the first place, so he is very annoyed - it was his 70th birthday present and he has waited over a year to take this cruise. This cruise already can celled part of the itinerary before leaving due to the delays on the previous cruise. So far, they have been offered no refund of this cruise - have been bunged some on-ship credit to spend and 50% off the next cruise. They are not happy bunnies!! There is nothing on the internet about this yet, so please can you inform everyone. I don't see how NCL keep getting away with NCL Norwegian Starthis - there is an obvious issue with this ship and they just keep taking people's money and canceling the planned trips."

January 27, 2017 Update:

I received photographs (right and below) of what is happening on the Norwegian Star and comments from a passenger which say in part: 

"This is what is happening here on the Norwegian Star at noon on Friday 27th January 2017!

We are on board NCL Star and it is desperate to say the least. To say that things have virtually descended to mob rule would not be an understatement.

As I write this there are more than 500 people demonstrating in the main atrium, shouting in unison ‘Shame on Norwegian’, ‘Where’s the Captain?’, ‘Boo, Boo, Boo’!

This has been going on for over two hours today and the same yesterday evening. I attach three photographs that I have taken within the last hour.

The ship has engine propulsion problems again and the itinerary has been changed once again with another three ports having been cancelled meaning that we are now only stopping at half of the planned ports on this three week cruise.

The main thing that seems to be causing mass unrest is not the fact that the ship has engine problems but the fact that this is the same fault as the ship has had many times previously and that people have been miss sold this long cruise when Norwegian Cruise Line clearly knew there were ongoing problems with the ship.

Documents have been circulated by some guests showing that this problem has been ongoing for months, and a ships log that has been produced on board which shows that the same propulsion faults also occurred on 17 October 2015 and again on 11 December 2016, there are other dates for similar issues in the report also.

During the peak of the demonstrations no officers were to be seen, the Captain has not been seen for the whole cruise and the reception desk are merely handing out comments cards to whose who want to complain. People are absolutely furious about how we are being treated here - ­there is just no leadership! We have been told by staff that there is nothing that staff on board can do because they need to wait to hear from Miami ­- but we have been waiting for nearly two days now! This lack of action seems to be infuriating people more and more . . . ."

January 28. 2017 Update:

". . . There were more demos today and captain eventually made an appearance after more chanting 'where's the captain'. NCL flying some execs in from Miami to speak to us at sometime tomorrow . . ."  

January 30, 2017 Update: NCL offers passengers aboard the Norwegian Star 100% of cruise fare towards a future cruise in addition to onboard credit of $500 per first and second guest ($1,000 per stateroom).  See letter here.

February 9, 2017 Update: The Star is dead in the water.  I received dozens of emails today from passengers on the NCL cruise ship saying that the remaining azapood failed shortly after leaving Melbourne, Australia (although A/C, electricity and water remain on). Here's one: "We are on the Norwegian Star and our complete propulsion system has failed. We are unable to maneuver and wait for help. Thank goodness before the coast of Australia and not in the middle of the Tasmanian Sea! The plan is to return to Melbourne for repair. For all friends and relatives: we are not in danger! Everything except the drive works and help is on the move. All stops in New Zealand are canceled...."

Another comment: "100% refund on this cruise and 50% on future cruise good for 5 years.. Also not the commotion of last cruise and no protests. Very orderly. Tugs are on way, should be here by 5pm and then we should be back in Melbourne by early evening on Saturday. Also giving 300 for airline changes or 350 if you decide to fly to Auckland."

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

Photo credit: above - Top - Pjotr Mahhonin - CC BY-SA 3.0; commons / wikimedia; middle and bottom - anonymous.

NCL Norwegian Star

Recent Lewd and Lascivious Conduct on HAL Cruise Line Show Shortcomings of CVSSA Crime Reporting

Last fall, the Arizona Republic reported that cruise travelers for the first time can see what crimes are being reported aboard cruise ships operating in U.S. ports.

The newspaper commented on improvements once the Department of Transportation replaced the Coast Guard as the agency responsible for reporting crimes on cruise ships leaving US. ports. Consumers previously needed to check the websites of each cruise line to try and find out what crimes occur on which cruise line. Carnival Corporation bundled the crimes of its brands (Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, and Princess Cruises)  together under one name, HAl Veendamso that it was impossible for consumers to identify on which cruise line the reported crimes occurred.

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act ("CVSSA") of 2010  was supposed to provide the public with reports of certain crimes aboard cruise ships, such as deaths, sexual assaults, thefts and missing-person reports.

But the cruise-friendly agencies responsible for disclosing the crime statistics requested changes to the wording in the CVSSA which rendered crime-reporting provisions useless.

Language added before its passage altered the CVSSA bill so that only crimes "no longer under investigation by the FBI" were reported on the website. An Arizona Republic investigation in 2012 revealed the language was altered at the request of the FBI and the Coast Guard, apparently with pressure from the cruise industry

The problem is that the FBI often refused to open files when crime occurred on cruise ships or, when it did, the FBI often kept its files open long after it has decided not to investigate the case. So any crime that the FBI didn't investigate - or when it technically kept its investigation files open - was not included in the Coast Guard database.

The language of the statute was changed which resulted in far more crimes, particularly sexual assaults, being disclosed to to the public by the DOT. In the first six months of 2016 far more sexual assaults were disclosed (39) than during the same period in 2015 (6) when the reporting was disclosed on the Coast guard portal.  

You can see the DOT's portal here.

But a major problem remains.  The cruise lines are the one which determine whether an incident constitutes "sexual assault." Many cases of sexual molestation of minors are mis-classified as "groping" or as "inappropriate touching," neither of which is a crime under the CVSSA .

The same is true regarding the sexual offense which the HAL waiter was arrested for on the Holland America Line Veendam last week. The CVSSA does not include "lewd and lascivious" conduct with a child as a reportable offense. 

Cruise expert Professor Dr. Ross Klein, who has testified regarding the issue of crime on cruise ships Gede Sukrantara, HAL Veendambefore the U.S. House of Representative and the U.S. Senate, pointed this problem out on his website last October. Dr. Klein has reviewed hundreds of incident reports submitted by cruise lines and has observed a tendency for cruise lines to report incidents of sexual assault as either "sexual contact" (which is not reportable under the CVSSA) or as "molestation" or as "groping" or "inappropriate touching" or "lewd and lascivious conduct" (none of which are reportable pursuant to the specific language of the statute). 

The cruise victim's group, the International Cruise Victims, has tried to introduce legislation requiring the cruise industry to disclose when children are victims of crime.  Several years ago, Dr. Klein determined that between 17.5 and 30 percent of the sexual assault victims on cruise ships are minors. The cruise industry vigorously opposed the legislation and refuses to disclose when children are sexually assaulted on their ships.

The crime that occurred on the Veendam when a 26 year old Indonesian HAL waiter (photo right) locked himself in a bathroom on the cruise ship and engaged in oral sex with a fifteen year old girl is exactly the type of sexual misconduct that families need to understand happens all too often on family cruise vacations, no matter how hard the cruise industry tries to parse words to keep it secret.

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Photo credit: Top: Fletcher6 - CC BY 3.0, commons / wikimedia. ; bottom: Gede Sukrantara Facebook page.

Polluting Princess Cruises Named "Best Ocean Cruise Line?"

Yesterday, Princess Cruises isued a press statement via PR Newswire that it had been voted the "Best Ocean Cruise Line" in the USA TODAY and 10Best Readers Choice cruise travel awards. 

The press release highlighted comments made by Princess Cruises president, Jan Swartz: "We're incredibly proud to be named 'Best Ocean Cruise Line' by the experts and readers of USA TODAY as it's our goal to provide our guests memorable and inspiring cruise vacation experiences."

A panel of cruise experts (cruise bloggers, travel agents, & industry friends) picked the initial nominees; the top 10 winners were then determined by popular vote.

The judges who nominated Princess are notable people in the world of cruising (I'm friendly with some of them) who author high quality articles and operate popular sites about the cruise industry: Carrie Finley Princess Cruises Pollution Bajak - Cruise Buzz; Fran Golden - USA TODAY; Sherry Laskin Kennedy - Cruise Maven; Jason Leppert - Popular Cruising; Chris Owen - Chris Cruises; Doug Parker - Cruise Radio; and Aaron Saunders - From The Deck Chair.  But, quite frankly, I am embarrassed for them.

Last month, the Department of Justice leveled a fine of $40,000,000 against Carnival Corporation for Princess Cruises' deliberate discharge of oil via "magic pipes," alteration of oil logs regarding at least five of its cruise ships, and lying to the Coast Guard over the course of nearly a decade. Ms. Swartz was featured in a video trying her best to appear apologetic as part of Princess' multi-media response to the revelations.

Its an embarrassing indictment of the cruise industry for a corporate felon to be voted the "best ocean cruise line" after it polluted the oceans and lied about it for so many years.  A better approach would have been for the judges to have disqualified any company which is on probation for environmental crimes or for the cruise executive to have politely declined the award, saying that the cruise line promises to do much better in the future.  

I posted Princess' patting-itself-on-its-back PR statement on our firm's Facebook page; we received these comments:

  • Should have been disqualified . . . 
  • Wow, I would have assumed "best ship", included due diligence on (environmental) issues but I guess not?
  • What a crock of s**t!
  • I agree they should be banned from these polls or disqualified.
  • . . . It's all a farce.

MSC Cruises DUMPINGThe other cruise lines voted in the list of "top 10 ocean cruise lines" have all been fined for polluting the oceans. Carnival was voted no. 3, even though it owns the polluting cruise ships operated by its Princess brand. Even MSC Cruises, which was voted no. 10, has a notorious reputation after a series of videos were released showing MSC crew members throwing garbage bags into a marine sanctuary at night. 

Yes, the award is a farce. The award should be embarrassing to the cruise industry, the cruise line "winner," the judges, and the cruise fans who voted for a corporate felon which intentionally polluted the oceans for years. 

Photo credit: Top - Department of Justice via CURT ANDERSON/AP via US News; bottom - anonymous via Cruise Law News.

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Waiter on HAL's Veendam Arrested on Charges of Lewd and Lascivious Conduct with Minor

HAL Waiter Yesterday, the Broward County Sheriff's office arrested a Holland America Line (HAL) cruise ship waiter for engaging in lewd and lascivious conduct involving a minor, according to Local 10-ABC.  

The case arises out of an incident on the M/S Veendam last Sunday when the HAL waiter, identified as Gede Sukrantara, age 26, convinced a 15-year-old girl to go into a bathroom on the 12th deck of the ship. He locked the door of the bathroom and the child is alleged to have then engaged in oral sex. She later reported the incident to the cruise ship staff. 

According to the news station, Broward County Sheriff detectives interviewed Sukrantara, who is from Indonesia, yesterday after the child's father said that he wanted to prosecute the cruise employee. 

The detectives arrested Sukrantara on a charge of committing a lewd and lascivious act involving a minor where the victim is between 12 and 16 years of age. He is current imprisoned in the maximum security jail facility adjacent to the Broward County Courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

Photo credit: Broward Sheriff's Office   

Arrested in the Bahamas: Cruise Passenger in Jail for Statutory Rape of 15 Year-Old Boy

Two weeks ago, the Royal Bahamian Police Force arrested a French-Canadian woman from Quebec who was on an unidentified cruise ship (cruise schedules indicate it was the Norwegian Sky) in Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas for engaging in sex with a 15-year-old boy, who cannot legally give consent to have sexual intercourse under the law of the Bahamas. 

The case involved a rather bizarre situation where the 23 year old woman met an American, 15 year old boy in what a newspaper describes as a "casino and bar area" on the cruise ship. The boy reportedly told the woman, (falsely so) that he was 18 years old. He also reportedly is over 6 feet tall and he was wearing a beard, apparently giving her the impression that he was an adult.   

The two then allegedly engaged in sex in a bathroom on the ship. The boy's mother learned of the alleged tryst and, over the protestations of her son, reported the alleged incident to the police in the Bahamas.

Section 11(1)(a) of the Bahamas' Sexual Offences Act, Chapter 99 reads: “Any person who has unlawful sexual intercourse with any person being of or above 14 years of age and under 16 years of age, whether with or without the consent of the person with whom he had unlawful sexual intercourse Bahamas Sexual assaultis guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for life.”

In the U.S., this is called "statutory rape;" it is irrelevant that the defendant was unaware that the child is underage. In Quebec, where the woman is from, 15 year olds can legally consent to sex.

The newspapers in the Bahamas have reported repeatedly on the arrest of the woman. They have published numerous photographs of the young woman in the custody of Bahamian police officers being led from the jail where she is imprisoned to the courthouse where she has attended several hearings in her criminal case. The photographs depict a obviously haggard woman, who has been kept in the harsh conditions of Her Majesty's Prison, being escorting to court by smiling police officers. 

The woman, who reportedly has three children aged 3, 4 and 5, had been given the cruise by her employer for her exemplary work performance. 

Grand Stirrup Cay is a private island in the Bahamas owned by Norwegian Cruise Line. 

The case, to me, appears to be, among other things, an indictment of the cruise line for allowing a unsupervised teenager into an area of the cruise ship limited to adults and apparently permitting him to drink alcohol. The Canadian woman's Bahamian defense lawyer was quoted in the Tribune newspaper as saying that "this defendant has a very strong defence as it may be negligence on the part of the cruiseline for allowing the virtual complainant to have access to activities reserved for adults."

I don't practice criminal law, but it seems highly relevant that the alleged victim apparently lied to the woman that he was an adult. It also seems relevant that due to the boy's height and facial hair, the woman may have reasonably believed that he was an adult, as he claimed before having sex with her. 

The Bahamas, which has the highest number of reported rapes in the Caribbean, seems to have a double standard in dealing with the issue of sexual assault. I have represented several women, both passengers and crew members, who have been sexually assaulted by crew members on Bahamian-flagged cruise ships in Bahamian waters where the police showed little interest in arresting the perpetrators or where the Bahamian prosecutors quickly dropped the charges.  

The Bahamas also has a deplorable case of prosecuting cases where children are sexually assaulted by crew members on Bahamian-Flagged ships, such as this case where a Disney crew member sexually assaulted a young girl on the Disney Dream. The police in Nassau dropped the case and permitted the cruise line pedophile to leave the jurisdiction. 

The Bahamas' interest in pursuing the case may also be, in part, political pay-back for Canada's prior warnings against travel to the Bahamas' due to its high violent crime rate.  

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January 20, 2017 Update: The family of the arrested woman, who is raising money for her legal defense via a Go-Fund-Me type of page, is denying that she ever left the casino/bar alone or that she engaged in sexual relations with the boy. 

February 3, 2017 UpdateBahamian police escorted Ms. Gagné back to Court again today where she learned that she will remain in jail. The French-Canadian newspaper Le Nouvelliste says (interpreted) that the defendant should learn later this month whether she will be released on bond and permitted to return to Canada pending the prosecution of the case pending against her.

March 23, 2017 Update: The Bahamas reportedly will abandon pursuing the charges of sexual assault against Ms. Gagné, according to a newspaper in Canada.

Photo credit:  Tribune

Royal Caribbean Continues to Advertise for Lifeguards

Two weeks ago, we reported that Royal Caribbean was posting a job description for a lifeguard on an onboard crew TV channel on one of its cruise ship (Ovation of the Seas). 

We viewed this as good news after at least five passengers, mostly children, have drowned or nearly drowned in the numerous pools on the Royal Caribbean ships. Its refusal to previously acknowledge that its we-don't-use-lifeguards policy was literally killing children was particularly frustrating to see.  

It now seems clear that the cruise line appears committed to ending its ill conceived swim-at-your-own-risk policy. This weekend several people notified me that the cruise line is publicly advertising the lifeguard and lifeguard manager jobs on several sites on the internet, such as here and here

These job postings link to a program called Star Guard Elite, which touts a "complete Royal Caribbean Lifeguardaquatic risk prevention and lifeguard training system unmatched in the industry." Last month, the Star Guard Elite website offered the job of a cruise ship lifeguard manager with Royal Caribbean. Its Facebook advertisement says: "Have you ever wanted to live on a cruise ship and see the world? We are looking for the best and brightest Aquatics Managers to join our project with Royal Caribbean."

This program is a product of IAM Star Guard Elite. "IAM" is the acronym for Innovative Attraction Management, LLC. IAM offers aquatic services including the providing of lifeguards as well as management, consulting, and risk prevention services.  It consults with a wide variety of water parks in the U.S. IAM also provides litigation support as part of its risk management services.

Not coincidentally, at the end of this month, IAM is offering an aquatics conference aboard the Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas as well as at Atlantis, Paradise Island when the Royal Caribbean ship calls on the port of Nassau.

It seems that last year IAM StarGuard Elite joined the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association where it advertised CPR, AED, and water awareness services to cruise line excursion operators.

Although the cruise line has not publicly announced its association with IAM StarGuard Elite program, it seems that Royal Caribbean is finally headed in the right direction. So kudos to them.  It reinforces my opinion that today's gigantic cruise ships with multiple swimming pools, water sides and jacuzzis are much more like a water park (which require lifeguards pursuant to state law) than a hotel (which typically doesn't). Without lifeguards, future deaths of children on the increasingly huge Royal Caribbean ships with H2O parks, swimming pools and theme-park-like water attractions, seem certain. 

So Royal Caribbean will join Disney as the only cruise lines with a demonstrated commitment to keeping children safe around pools at sea. Hopefully, other cruise lines will quickly follow suit. 

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Photo credit: Boy drowns on Royal Caribbean - Jacab Priplett via Twitter via NY Daily News.

Passenger Medevaced Nearly 600 Kilometers from P&O Aurora

We regularly report on medevacs of passengers and crew members from cruise ships. 

The majority of the medevacs occur near U.S. ports courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard. But there are medevacs which occur outside of the United States, including those performed by the Portuguese Air Force.

The latest rescue involved the P&O Aurora, on January 8th of this year, regarding the medical evacuation of an 82 year-old patient nearly 600 kilometers from the Portuguese Coast. The air force sent a fixed wing ahead to support the helicopter. 

 

 

Cruise CEO's Cash In Carnival Stock

Caribbean PrincessThree cruise CEO's sold their Carnival (CCL) stock a week ago for a combined total of nearly $9,500,000, according to Market Digest.

On December 29,2016, Stein Kruse, the CEO of Holland America Group, Alan Buckelew, the Chief Operations Officer of Carnival Corporation, and David Bernstein, the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Accounting Officer of Carnival Corporation each sold 60,664 shares of Carnival stock at $52.11 per share for a total value of $3,161,201.00.  

Mr. Bernstein has been the CFO and Senior Vice President of Carnival Corporation since July 2007 with oversight of all finance, accounting, treasury, insurance, tax and investor relations functions. Mr. Buckelew, who was recently appointed to the Chief Information Officer of Carnival Corporation, previously served as the CEO of Princess Cruises from June 2007 to November 2013 and its President from February 2004 to November 2013.

The DOJ recently fined Carnival Corporation $40,000,000 for widespread discharge of oily substances, falsification of log books and lying to the U.S. Coast Guard regarding five cruise ships operated by Princess Cruises over an eight year period from 2005 through 2013. The Carnival owned cruise ship operated by Princess Cruises which were involved in the scandal are the Caribbean Princess, Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess.

The issue arises what the cruise executives knew about the long standing "magic pipes" and financial irregularities associated with certain Princess Cruise ships having lower operating costs associated with not having used the vessels' oil-water separators and avoiding the costs associated with offloading and disposing the waste oil in shore-side facilities. Did these executives really have no idea that these Princess ships were engaged in these environmental crimes?

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Recent Divina Overboard Reveals Flaws in MSC Safety & Security

A passenger who disappeared from the MSC Divina yesterday marks the first person to disappear from a cruise ship in 2017.

As usual, there are no facts released by the cruise line which indicates exactly when, or why, or where, or how the person went overboard.

Based on information released by MSC, the U.S. Coast Guard stated that the passenger was "last seen by his wife at approximately 3 a.m. going out to the couple's room balcony to take some fresh air." The Coast Guard says that the "circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the passenger remain unknown."  Accordingly, we have only the cruise line's version of when the wife allegedly last MSC Divinasaw her husband, but there is no indication when the passenger actually went overboard, or when the ship first learned that the passenger went overboard, or whether the ship promptly deployed a rescue craft or other watercraft to conduct a timely search and rescue, or when the ship notified the U.S. Coast Guard to begin search and rescue efforts.  

Yesterday I wrote that it sounds like MSC was not initially aware that the passenger went overboard, which is the typical situation. The vessel's online automatic information system did not reveal that the vessel slowed down, stopped or turned around to initiate a search for the missing man. MSC told the Coast Guard that, at some undisclosed time, it searched the ship and made call-outs through the public announcement system without success. This sounds like many other cruise lines which are told long after the fact that a person's loved one or friend cannot be found on the ship. This leads to ship personnel conducting a search or making announcements or reviewing closed-circuit television images to see if it they can figure out what happened to the passenger - an unduly time consuming process considering that the passenger may be struggling in the water as the cruise ship sails away.

Six years ago, President Obama signed the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act ("CVSSA") which requires cruise line calling on U.S. ports to implement automatic man overboard systems. Before the  CVSSA was passed into law, there was considerable testimony before Congress regarding Man Overboard Systemwhy people go overboard - suicides, accidents, excessive serving and consumption of alcohol, and foul play were all discussed. But whatever the reason for the person going overboard, our Congress determined that cruise lines needed to implement state-of-the-art systems to signal when passengers or crew members went over the rails and into the water.

Since the CVSSA went into effect, cruise lines have resisted implementing the technology. There are many companies which have good systems on the market.  Here is an example (photo left). Here is another. The best systems immediately alert the bridge when someone goes overboard and can track the person in the water via radar and thermal imaging so that the person can be located even when someone falls into the water at night. Many systems record the person going overboard so that there is no possibility of a false alarm.  

Man overboard systems also have an important feature of detecting when someone comes over the rails onto the ship. This is an obvious and vital security precaution in this age of terrorism. If someone can go overboard without the cruise line knowing it, then it is just as likely that someone can come onto the ship without detection. 

After my article yesterday, a PR representative from MSC sent me a barrage of emails demanding that I write that the "USCG was alerted by MSC Cruises as soon as the ship became aware of the potentially missing passenger; the ship, as per procedure, started search operations immediately as soon as she became aware of the potentially missing passenger; and the USCG launched its SAR shortly thereafter."  But the PR person refused to state basic facts such as when the passenger went overboard, or when MSC realized it, or whether it delayed notifying the Coast Guard until after it first searched the ship, or whether it conducted any type of timely search itself.  

Disturbing factual questions remain - did MSC even turn the ship around to search for the overboard passenger? Did it just conduct a search on the ship after-the-fact and finally alert the Coast Guard only when its onboard efforts were futile? Does MSC even have any type of man overboard systems in place?  MSC refuses to say.  

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein's research indicates that an average of over 20 people go overboard each year on cruise ships. Over 140 people have gone over the rails from cruise ships since 2010. When will cruise lines like MSC focus on implementing state-of-the-art technology rather than on PR efforts to create the illusion that passengers are safe at sea?

January 4, 2017 Update: The Coast Guard suspended its search last night at 9:55 p.m. The Coast Guard is quoted as saying that it "searched for more than 35 hours." If this information is accurate, this means that the Coast Guard initiated its search and rescue around 11:55 a.m. (i.e., 35 hours before 10:55 p.m. the next day), or a bit earlier, on the day the passenger went overboard.  This further means that notice to the Coast Guard was delayed at least 5 hours after the missing man's wife woke up several hours after last seeing him (around 3:00 a.m.) and realized he was missing from their cabin. The cruise line says that it searched the ship and made announcements for the man, apparently before notifying the Coast Guard.

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Photo credit: MSC Divina - Karl Borg - Albireo2006 - flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, commons / wikimedia; man overboard video - PureTech Systems.

Passenger Overboard From MSC Divina

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

According to the Coast Guard, a French citizen, Jeon Pierre Knorr, age 74, reportedly was "last seen by his wife at approximately 3 a.m. going out to the couple's room balcony to take some fresh air." The Coast Guard says that the "circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the passenger remain unknown."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Cen via Mail Online

Seven Most Outrageous Cruise Stories of 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Number 4 - The Anthem of the Seas Sails Into a Storm.  Earlier this year, weather experts predicted the Atlantic seas out of New Jersey to be over 30 feet high with winds of hurricane strength. The Royal Caribbean Anthem nonetheless recklessly sailed into the storm, terrorizing the thousands of passengers and burning out the clutches of its azipods in the process. The Anthem returned to port in New Jersey with only one propulsion unit operating. Royal Caribbean initially denied any damage or injury to the ship or the passengers and then falsely claimed that the only damage to the ship was "cosmetic." Al Roker, the popular television weatherman on the Today Show, best summed up Royal Caribbean's claim that the storm was not predicted: "Royal Caribbean's claim that this was not predicted is bullfeathers." (photo top). USA TODAY chimed in with "Meteorologists: Royal Caribbean blew it on sailing into storm."

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

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

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

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

Photo credits:

Al Roker - NBC Today Show

Princess drug bust - Jonathan Ng via the Daily Telegraph

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

Lindblad Expeditions' National Geographic Orion Suffers Power Failure

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

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

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

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

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

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

Costa neoRiviera Loses Power in Port

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

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

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

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

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

Passenger Missing from Queen Mary 2?

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

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

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

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

Update:  BBC News is covering the story.

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

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

Queen Mary 2 AIS

Royal Caribbean Cruises to Hire Lifeguards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 24, 2016 Update:

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

TravelPulse Is Royal Caribbean International Adding Lifeguards to Its Ships?

Royal  Caribbean Lifeguards 

Passenger Reported Overboard From Independence of the Seas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Feedspot for the recognition! 

 

 

Carnival to Outsource IT Jobs to India?

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

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

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

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

You can read about Capgemini's Indian operations here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                       *            *           *   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

NCL's Norwegian Star Stuck in Singapore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please review the revised itinerary information below:

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

NCL Norwegian Star

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

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

Deadly Blasts Rock Istanbul; Most Cruise Lines Already Avoiding Turkey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other articles about this issue:

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

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

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

Photo credit: Star Princess - Jim Walker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit:  

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

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

Cuba Permits NCL and RCCL Cruises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A reader of our Facebook page commented:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                          #         #        #

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

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

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

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

Multiple news sources are reporting that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) will fine Princess Cruises a record $40,000,000 for polluting the seas and trying to cover it up. Princess Cruises will plead guilty to seven felony charges of illegally dumping oil-contaminated waste from the Caribbean Princess cruise ship which sailed to numerous U.S. states (Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia) and two territories (U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico).

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

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

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

The DOJ says that "in addition to the use of a magic pipe to circumvent the oily water separator and oil content monitor required pollution prevention equipment, the U.S. investigation uncovered two other illegal practices which were found to have taken place on the Caribbean Princess as well as four other Princess ships – Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess. One practice was to open a salt water valve when bilge waste was being processed by the oily water separator and oil content monitor. The purpose was to prevent the oil content monitor from otherwise alarming and stopping the overboard discharge. This was done routinely on the Caribbean Princess in 2012 and 2013. The second practice involved discharges of oily bilge water originating from the overflow of graywater tanks into the machinery space bilges. This waste was pumped back into the graywater system rather than being processed as oily bilge waste. Neither of these practices were truthfully recorded in the oil record book as required. All of the bypassing took place through the graywater system which was discharged when the ship was more than four nautical miles from land. As a result, discharges within U.S. waters were likely."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Middle: Carnival Elation - Stop Polluting Cruise Ships Blogspot

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

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

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

 

 

Passenger Alleges Sexual Assault on Explorer of the Seas

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

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

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

Passenger Disappears from SuperStar Gemini

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Norovirus on HAL's Oosterdam Sickens Passengers and Crew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ad states:

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

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

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

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

Image credit: Truthfeed   

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Carnival Vista Suffers Propulsion Problems

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

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

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

The reader commented: 

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

These comments are spot on.  

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

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

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

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

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

Excursion Bus Crash in Dominica Kills Cruise Passenger

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

The Azura previously sailed from Southampton about two weeks ago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo Credit: Dominica News Online

Carnival Liberty Suffers Power Loss

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carnival sent this statement this morning:

LIBERTY TECH ISSUE

NOVEMBER 1 – 9:40 am EDT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Emerald Princess Experiences Power Failures

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

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

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

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

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Emerald Princess via Marine Traffic

Grand Princess Temporarily Loses Power

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

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

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

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

One person left a message on Facebook, stating:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video credit: Defense Video Imagery Distribution System

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo credit: CNBC

Medevac from Mein Schiff

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

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

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

 

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Alleged Sexual Assault of Disney Wonder Crew Member

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pacific Princess Hits Breakwater at Port of Nice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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October 14, 2016 Statement by Princess Cruises:  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The lawsuit was filed by Miami maritime lawyer Domingo Rodriquez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legionella Royal Caribbean Email

Legionella Royal Caribbean Email

 

Accurate Cruise Crime Statistics Finally Available

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Two-Year Old Nearly Drowns on Carnival Splendor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: NBC-6

Arbitration on the High Seas

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Part two is titled Low Wages on the High Seas: 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video: People Magazine. 

 

Phoenix Reisen's Albatros ist Kaputt

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carnival Passenger Robbed at Port in Belize

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source of information: Carlos Martinez

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

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

Robbery Belize Cruise Port

Robbery Belize Cruise Port

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Britannia Travel Warning   

 

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

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

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

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

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

Video Credit: Defense Video Imagery Distribution System

 

Pullmantur Monarch Strikes a Whale

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top: Rex Features / Telegraph U.K.

Bottom: LT Rene Torres, USCGR

Dead Whale - Cruise Ship

Lawsuit: MSC Crew Member Sexually Assaults 12 Year Old Child

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over six years ago, I wrote:

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

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

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

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

Another Brawl Breaks Out on a Carnival Fun Ship

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

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

I first wrote about violence like this on cruise ships back in an article titled Cruise Ship Brawls - A Problem that Will Get Bigger with Bigger Ships.  As Carnival Chairman Micky Arison acknowledged years ago, “cruise ships are a microcosm of any city or any location and stuff happens . . . The negatives of discounting might be less commission for agents and less revenue for us but the positive is it opens up the product to a wider audience.”

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

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

Photo and Video credit: Irie Namma YouTube 

Portuguese Air Force Medevacs Passenger from Mein Schiff 1

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

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

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

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

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

Video Credit: Força Aérea Portuguesa YouTube

 

 

Rhapsody of the Seas Damaged Again During Storm

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

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

Passengers reported that the ship heavily listed during the storm.

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

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

Video credit: Heather Barrett YouTube 

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

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U.S. Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger from Carnival Dream

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

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

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

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

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

According to 20 Minutes newspaper, five members of the ship's navigation crew were on board during a drill when the lifeboat became detached and fell ten meters into the water. The newspaper reports that two of the crew members injured are in critical condition. The deceased crew members is reportedly a Filipino citizen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Passenger Goes Overboard from Sapphire Princess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Viking Freya River Cruise Ship Strikes Bridge, Kills Two Officers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Viking Freya

NCL Crew Member Goes Overboard from Norwegian Pearl During Alaskan Cruise

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

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

The woman reportedly was employed for two contracts for NCL. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Propulsion Problem Causes Carnival Legend to Tilt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video credit: Jerry Janes YouTube 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: CNBC

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Drug Bust Reveals Flaws in Cruise Ship Security

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Carnival Vista Swamps Piers and Boats in Messina, Sicily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carnival Vista

95 Kilo Cruise Ship Cocaine Bust in Sydney Harbor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cruise Passengers Injured in Jeep Safari Accident in Antigua

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In February 2009, a dozen passengers from Celebrity Cruises' Summit cruise ship were seriously injured when an open air excursion vehicle ran off the road in Dominica. We represented passengers against the cruise line and the excursion company in that accident. Information on the Dominica excursion accident is contained in an article "Injured Visitors to Dominica Airlifted to Miami."

Photo Credit: Antigua Observer 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caribbean Fantasy Catches on Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Puerto Rico: 105 Injured In Fire on Cruise Ship

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

Video credit: Mirror.

Photo credit:  @PRPDNoticias/twitter via Mirror.

Paul Gauguin Cruise Ship Loses Propulsion in Bora Bora

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

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

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

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

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

Crystal Serenity Cruises Into Uncharted Waters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excursion Vessel in Greenland Sinks, 23 Cruise Passengers Rescued

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

@PDChina "32-year-old Shanghai woman miraculously saved by fisherman on Fri after she fell from a cruise ship & swam for 38hrs."

The newspaper posted two photographs. The first show shows a crowd surrounding a woman leaving a ship. The second photo (left) shows a woman, whose face is digitally obscured, being questioned.

There is no information regarding the name of the cruise ship, or a description regarding how or where the woman went overboard.

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

Photo credit:@PDChina / People's Daily, China

August 14, 2016 Update: The popular Cruise Hive covers the story with interesting additional information.  In the article titled Overboard Royal Caribbean Passenger Rescued After 38 Hours Adrift At Sea, Cruise Hive sites the Chinese media and says that the woman was a passenger on board the Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas who "accidentally fell overboard on August 10 when she  . . . was leaning too far over the railings she fell overboard at around 9 PM."  The cruise ship then returned to its home port in Shanghai the next morning at around 6 A.M. on August 11. It was not until Chinese authorities boarded the ship and the CCTV footage was finally reviewed was the woman seen on video going overboard. On August 12 around 11:00 A.M., fishermen rescued her.  

This situation is another reason why cruise lines like Royal Caribbean should be compelled to comply with the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act and install automatic man overboard systems.  

August 15, 2016 Update: Major newspapers like the BBC and the Telegraph are covering the story.

Viking Sea Temporarily Loses Power in Malta

Viking SeaThis evening, I received word from a passenger on board the Viking Sea that the ship had lost power in Malta.  

The passenger stated: 

"Viking Sea broken down in Malta today August 11th. We were due to sail at 6pm but we are now waiting on a technician who will not arrive until 0200hrs. We are due to sail to Athens and fly back from there this is causing major issues already as flights to the US will be missed and we don't know when we will leave and when we are due to arrive. The problem is the Starboard propulsion sounds similar to the Star issue."

In November of last year, we reported that the Viking Star cruise ship had lost power in port in Tallinn, Estonia.

AIS sites showed the Viking Sea had left port in Valletta slightly after 2:00 A.M. local time in Malta, heading for Piraeus, Greece, approximately eigth hours late.  

The Viking Sea is a small ship built by Fincantieri and christened for Viking Ocean Cruises earlier this year, carrying around 930 passengers with a crew of around 550.

The Thomson Celebration lost power in Malta while attemtping to leave the port of Valletta two weeks ago.  

This is the sixth time a cruise ship lost power and the seventh time a cruise ship experienced engine troubles in just the last two and one-half months. In addition to the Thomson Celebration, the Carnival-owned Fathom's Adonia temporarily lost all power leaving the port of Miami two and one-half months ago. The Carnival Elation drifted for an hour in the dark after the cruise ship lost power as it was heading back to port in Jacksonville. The expedition cruise ship Ortelius lost power in June and had to be towed to port. Later in June, Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas experienced engine problems. As mentioned, the Thomson Celebration suffered engine failure in Malta while leaving the port of Valletta and had to drop anchor to avoid hitting the breakwater. Last week, the Caribbean Princess lost power off the Irish coast for 12 hours.    

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

Cruise and Maritime Voyages' Magellan Collides with Ferry on River Thames

Magellan Cruise ShipThe Magellan, a cruise ship operated by U.K. based Cruise and Maritime Voyages, collided with a ferry on River Thames on Thursday.

The collision has been described different ways at different times by different newspapers. The headline of the Clacton Gazette regarding the incident first read Giant cruise ship "nearly sinks" Tilbury passenger ferry, but was later changed to Tilbury passenger ferry "fully operational" after collision with giant cruise ship.

The Clacton Gazette initially reported that "'the gigantic CMV cruise ship Magellan ploughed into the ferry just off its landing jetty at Tilbury Docks." The ferry service was thereafter suspended until safety checks could be performed. 

A passenger who had just disembarked from the ferry, witnessed the collision.

The newspaper quoted him saying: “It was really scary . . . . The ferry should have stayed moored up. After the cruise ship hit her, I thought she was going to turn over. She doesn’t sit well on the water, I thought the wash would turn her over. I was thinking, God, if she sinks, it’s a fast-flowing river.

In another newspaper, a spokesperson for Cruise and Maritime Voyages said the cruise ship was affected by a "strong gust of wind" which caused it to come into "minor contact" with a local ferry.

In the Yellow Advertiser, a spokesman for the Port of London Authority was quoted saying “the cruise ship was alongside the ferry at what we call the Tilbury landing stage – the cruise terminal – where, of course, the Tilbury to Gravesend ferry also parks. The cruise ship was leaving to go out to sea and essentially scraped alongside the ferry, which was parked up. The cruise ship continued out to sea afterwards. The damage to the ferry was minor and she was back in service on Friday. There was no serious damage and no pollution, but obviously we are going to look at all the circumstances and find out exactly what happened.”

The Gravesend–Tilbury Ferry is a passenger ferry across the River Thames east of London. It is the last public crossing point before the Thames reaches the sea.

Photo credit: Martin Dalton via Yellow Advertiser. 

U.S. State Department Warns that Crime in Honduras Remains Critically High

The U.S. State Department yesterday updated its travel advisory to Honduras, stating that the level of kidnapping, crime, and violence in Honduras remains "critically high." (this warning supersedes the last warning in October 2015). 

The warning states that "criminal activity is a serious problem throughout the country and 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."

Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world (it's homicide rate was 60 per 100,000 in 2015; in comparison, the U.S. rate is around 4.5 per 100,000). The warning further states that the U.S. Embassy recorded 37 murders of U.S. citizens since 2011, with three recorded since January 2016.

Cruise Roatan

Many tourist-dependent businesses and U.S. and Canadian expatriates on Roatan claim that the island is generally safe. The hotels, resorts, bars and dive-shops advertise Roatan as an idyllic, tropical, get-a-way vacation paradise. The State Department warning acknowledges that the islands are generally safer than the mainland of Honduras, but the crime is still higher than what most U.S. passengers would face at home.  The warning contains specific warning about Roatan:

"Roatan & Bay Islands: Roatan and the Bay Islands experience lower crime rates than the Honduran mainland. While the national government of Honduras, Roatan authorities, and businesses took measures in 2014 to improve tourism security, thefts, break-ins, assaults, rapes, and murders do occur. You should exercise caution, especially at night. If staying at a hotel resort, book tours and sightseeing through the resort or reputable tour companies. Coxen Hole on the island of Roatan should be avoided after dark.

If you are on a shore excursion from a cruise ship, take care to book only with reputable tour companies during your stopover in Honduras. The port agencies at Mahogany Bay and Towne Center have worked to improve taxi service to and from the ports."

The warning's refers to 2014 because a NCL crew member was shot and killed near the port that year. The Filipino crew member worked on the Norwegian Pearl. Previously in 2014, a number of tourists, including a mother and her two boys from a Royal Caribbean ship, were robbed at gunpoint while taking a private trip to the beach. Earlier in 2014, a family in a rental car with their three children vacationing on a Carnival cruise ship stopping in Roatan were shot at and robbed.  

One of the problems with Honduras is it is a key player in the international drug trade. The warning explains that "transnational criminal organizations conduct narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout the country and use violence to control drug trafficking routes and carry out criminal activity."

Roatan has long been considered one of Honduras' "narco-islands."

There have been several instances where crew members from Honduras have been arrested trying to smuggle drugs on cruise ships, like this arrest in Roatan of a NCL crew member from the Norwegian Dream last year. Last year also saw five NCL galley workers from the Norwegian Sun arrested in Tampa when the cruise returned from Roatan where the crew members picked up cocaine. In 2014, police officers in Brazil arrested several Honduran crew members after finding 333 bags of cocaine weighing 100 pounds on the M/S Empress, owned by Royal Caribbean and operated at the time by the Royal Caribbean brand Pullmantur.   

Roatan has been home to a notorious list of major drug intermediaries who launder money by purchasing properties on the island. Members of the “Los Cachiros“ drug trafficking ring were arrested and numerous properties in Roatan were seized several years ago.  In 2014, a drug trafficker with connections to Colombia, Carlos Arnoldo Lobo, alias "El Negro, was arrested and millions of dollars in bank accounts and numerous of his properties in Roatan were seized.   Earlier this year, Mexican drug kingpin El Chapo's' "Honduras henchman" Franco "The Wizard" Daniel Lombardi, the financial operator of the Sinaloa Cartel in Honduras, was arrested and many of his properties in Roatan were seized.

The January 2014 New York Times article Security Concerns on a Honduran Island indicates that the U.S. State Department has warned since at least December 2013 that the “level of crime and violence in Honduras remains critically high.” 

If you travel or cruise to Roatan, the Times' article suggests visitors:

  • not to walk alone on the stretch of beach between West Bay and West End;
  • avoid unpaved roads to the beach; 
  • avoid Coxen Hole after dark; and
  • stick to the island’s main road unless you're with a group.

Photo credit: Jim Walker

CEO Richard Fain Profits From RCL Stock Buy

Richard FainYesterday, Royal Caribbean's Chairman and CEO Richard Fain bought 29,190 shares of RCL stock, in a series of trades for an average of $68.5161 per share, worth nearly $2,000,000, according the to an article in Seatrade and SEC forms.

Today, with the RCL stock up over 6.50% from yesterday's close, his $2,000,000 worth of shares purchased yesterday is now worth $2,139,627, for a nice one-day profit of around $140,000.

The SEC forms indicate that he owns 1,068,881 RCL shares directly and 426,912 indirectly which at the current price of $73.30 is worth $109,6416,269.  

Mr. Fain purchased the stock one day after his company's stock price dropped more than 6% following the release of the cruise line's second quarter earnings. 

Mr. Fain previously sold 80,516 shares of RCL stock last October at $98.80 per share for a total value of $7,955,335.00.

Mr. Fain collected $9,388,569 in total compensation last year.

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

Photo Credit: Linkedin 

Are Cruise Ships Prepared for ISIS?

Cruise Ship TerrorismAre cruise ships prepared for the threat of terrorism?

As I have contended for a long time, in my opinion no.

Cruise lines are still calling on dangerous ports. They are still sending passengers on unescorted shore excursions in buses without armed security personnel. Cruise ships can't prevent terrorists from overpowering their unarmed security guards on most cruise ships and running up the gangways. (Some European cruise lines, like Costa, have weapons).

Few lines are conducting anti-terrorist drills. The rare anti-terrorism training drill conducted by local and federal agencies are not even conducted on cruise ships.  Few lines have installed automatic man overboard alarms which have the capability to also detect when unauthorized people come over the rails onto the ship. And what can a cruise line do once terrorists gets onto the ship? Security guards are barely able to even break up bar fights.  

I received an interesting comment the other day from a reader who said that cruise ships should use muster drills to educate passengers what do to if there is a terrorist attack during a cruise. What is the protocol for a passenger if terrorists enter the ship?  Go to your cabins, hunker down and hope for the best? Try and overwhelm the attackers? Try and escape via lifeboats? Who knows?

Yesterday, a number of newspapers from the U.K. and France reported on a drill which involved a ferry from England to France where armed military personnel boarded the ferry via speedboats and a helicopter.

The Mirror explained that "fears have arisen over the threat of armed militants launching an attack on a ferry and executing passengers or detonating a suicide bomb."

These type of security drills are important. But they seem to underscore that few cruise ships are making an effort to conduct such exercises, seemingly to avoid frightening the guests.

I have reported many times about the warnings from senior military leaders in the U.S. and Europe regarding the threat against the cruise industry posed by ISIS. Just last month, the Miami-Dade County Police Department said: “We ended up concluding that now they’re targeting the cruise industry. We’re the cruise capital of the world. It’s the same possibility of having two planes crash into the World Trade Center.”

Several media sources in Europe are saying that armed sea marshals are planned for ferries, at least heading to and from France. It's time for U.S. based cruise lines to employ armed guards on their cruise ships.

Interested in this issue?  Read: How the Next Jihadist Terror Attack Against Cruise Passengers Will Happen.

Video credit: Mirror; Photo Credit: YouTube/DFMagazine via the Mirror.

 

 

Cruise Business As Usual in Turkey?

Blue MosqueThere are mixed messages about cruising to Turkey, following a spate of terrorist attacks in the last six months and the failed military coup two weeks ago.

A number of cruise lines stopped calling on Turkey following the June 29th ISIS-inspired terrorist attack at the Ataturk airport in Istanbul when three suicide bombers exploded powerful devices that killed over 40 people and injured over 230 others. This latest attack came after at least eight terror attacks in Turkey dating back a year.

On July 15th, a coup led by some military officers failed. President Erdogad responded by engaging in what the New York Times is calling a "widespread purge, jailing and suspending tens of thousands of state employees . . . " The Times further notes that "the military that has long served as a unifying force for the country is deeply divided, diminished and discredited." 

The U.S. State Department "warns U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey and to avoid travel to southeastern Turkey. In light of the July 15 coup attempt and the resulting potential for interruptions to travel and daily life, we suggest U.S. citizens reconsider travel to Turkey at this time."

The Maritime Executive published an article yesterday stating that even before the failed revolt, terrorist attacks had prompted cruise operators to reduce their stops in Turkey. But the July 15th coup attempt caused cruise lines to cut back further on scheduled port calls in Istanbul and other Turkish ports. It quoted a travel agent stating that "I would not feel comfortable sending people on holiday in the next few months. [The coup attempt] is more damaging for tourism than the terror attacks.” 

But other publications are suggesting that the cruise business in Turkey has already bounced back to what it was before the coup attempt. The Turkish Daily Sabah says that a representative of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB) reported that the failed coup attempt caused only "slight losses" in Turkey's cruise tourism sector.  According to the Daily Sabah, Cihangir Canıyılmaz, the marketing director of Royal Caribbean in Turkey, said that shortly after the coup attempt, that the cruise line canceled 46 cruise voyages to Kuşadasi and five voyages to Bodrum until the end of year. However, he claims that Royal Caribbean has resumed cruises to Turkey on July 20th, following President Erdogad's declaration of the state of emergency on July 20th, and the number of tourists in the country remains high.

Whether that is true or just wishful thinking by the tourist people in Turkey, it is concerning that the Turkish military, which has been an ally of the U.S. in fighting terrorism and in curtailing the threat of ISIS, is now diminished. The military in Turkey was also vital in "controlling the migrant tide that has overwhelmed Europe," as the Times puts it.

Turkey is a beautiful country with a spectacular history and architecture, filled with warm and friendly people. It is a wonderful place to visit. But with its recent history of ISIS terrorist attacks and migrants at sea and ashore, cruising to Turkey may cause a prudent traveler to pause and reconsider. 

Photo of Sultan Ahmed (Blue) Mosque: By Dersaadet - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.  

Photo of Istanbul credit:  By Ben Morlok - Istanbul panorama, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Opinion Piece: Don't Join Our Organization This Summer

Don’t Join Our Organization This Summer, by Kendall Carver

More than 10 million Americans will set sail on a cruise vacation in 2016. Many of these travelers will book their trips through U.S.-based travel companies—expecting not only top-notch service, but also safety and accountability in the event of an emergency.

Yet American travelers aren’t guaranteed either: The cruise industry routinely circumvents basic safety Merrian  Carver - International Cruise Victimsprocedures for expediency’s sake, prioritizing profits over people.

I know firsthand. My daughter, Merrian, disappeared from a Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska in 2004, yet cruise officials acted like nothing had happened. Merrian’s steward aboard the vessel reported her missing for five days to his supervisor, but was told to “just do your job and forget it.”

That’s right: Royal Caribbean made no attempt to contact either the authorities or Merrian’s family when she turned up missing and had not used her room. Once the cruise line was contacted about Merrian’s disappearance, it took Royal Caribbean three days to confirm that she had even been on the cruise first place. Confirming that Merriam didn’t use her room after the second night onboard took even longer. By then, the trail had gone cold. Requests for interviews by the private investigator hired by our family, were denied, as was access to the ship's video camera system. Cruise officials even limited the amount of time that he could spend on the ship.

Our persistence in the face of negligence revealed a shocking detail: My daughter had been reported missing daily for the last five days of the cruise and nothing was done to search for her. More than a decade later, I still do not know how she died.

Unfortunately, my tragic story is not uncommon. The family of Larry and Christy Hammer—two Americans who lost their lives aboard the Amazon River boat Estrella Amazonica in April—are similarly grasping for answers. Theirs is the most recent demonstration of the cruise industry’s shocking disregard for passengers.

According to reports provided to us by the family, the Hammers were killed by a fire in their cabin. There were smoke detectors but no alarms in the cabins onboard the Estrella Amazonica—a boat proudly designed, built, and co-owned by the U.S.-based travel company International Expeditions Larry and Christy Hammer - International Expeditions (IE), according to the firm’s website. With no alarm to awaken them, the Hammers were overwhelmed as they struggled through the poisonous gases flooding their room. It took the crew more than 20 minutes to extract the Hammers from their burning cabin.

Similar to my family’s quest for answers, the Hammer family has resorted to independent investigators. The likely fire source was a power strip supplied by the boat—which lacked both surge protection and safety and flammability ratings. The fire alarm system and crew’s response to the emergency is also in question.

International Expeditions continues to deny the Hammer family’s pleas for information. Immediately following the incident, Van Perry, IE’s president, rushed to Peru to monitor the ship inspection. Within three days, he declared the ship “cleared as safe for travel” and personally re-boarded passengers onto the boat. When the Hammer family asked Mr. Perry for the supporting basis of his statements, he deflected and refused to provide information. Through interviews with independent investigators, the Hammer family was shocked to later learn that local authorities denied clearing the vessel as safe or having identified the source of the fire.

American travelers who put their trust in travel companies like Royal Caribbean and International Expeditions should tread carefully. Just because they’re based in the United States doesn’t ensure Ken Carver - International Cruise Victimspassenger safety or accountability when tragedy strikes.

To confront the cruise industry’s recurring problem of neglect and indifference, victims’ families organized the International Cruise Victims Association. Members’ tragic stories, posted to the organization’s website, attest to a devastating pattern.

My parting words are “be careful”—or else our organization becomes yours.

Kendall Carver is the chairman of the International Cruise Victims Association.

You can read about the Royal Caribbean cover up of Merrian Carver's disappearance here

Photo Credit:

Merrian Carver (top) and Ken Carver - Ken Carver

Larry and Christy Hammer - Kelly Lankford & Jill Malott via KSHB
 

Horizon Runs Aground in Norway

The Horizon cruise ship ran aground today in Stavanger, Norway.  The Stavanager Aftonblad newspaper reports that the cruise ship became stuck after sailing into the sandbanks near the Norwegian port. Tugs were sent to the scene and and pushed the ship safely into the dock.

The Horizon is owned by Croisieres de France, a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean. 

Photo Credit: Anders Heskja Sandvik via Stavanger Aftenblad.

Horizon

Thomson Celebration Suffers Engine Failure in Malta

Thomson Celebration The Thomson Celebration suffered an engine failure as the cruise ship was leaving Grand Harbor in Valletta, Malta on Saturday, according to the Times of Malta.  

The Maltese newspaper states that the cruise ship "drifted for around 100 metres before the captain was forced to drop anchor in order to avoid hitting the breakwater."  This is a rather concerning scenario. I last saw the Thomson Celebration in Venice in May (photo above) while it was proceeding along the Canale della Giudecca. Without the assistance of tugs, power loss of this type could easily cause substantial damage to adjacent shore-side structures and/or the ship itself.

The Thomson Celebration reportedly blocked the Valletta harbor's entrance for about an hour, according to the newspaper (photo below). "Two tug boats helped secure the ship in order to stop it moving around with the currents." Assisted by tugs, the Thomson Celebration left the harbor once power was restored and sailed on its planned itinerary.   

The Thomson Celebration is a 32 year-old ship built by Chantiers de l'Atlantique in 1984 for Holland America Line (HAL) as the MS Noordam. The cruise ship is still owned by HAL, under long-term charter to the United Kingdom-based Thomson Cruises. 

Photo Credit: Rene Rossignaud via Times of Malta

Celebration Malta Photo: Rene Rossignaud

Coast Guard Medevacs Two Passengers From Norwegian Gem

The U.S. Coast Guard medevaced two cruise ship passengers from NCL's Norwegian Gem today. The NCL cruise ship was off the Virginia coast at the time of the rescue.

The Norwegian Gem notified the Coast Guard shortly after 2:00 a.m. that two men had experienced unspecified medical complications when the ship was approximately 75 miles northeast of Cape Henry.

A MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew and a C-130 Hercules aircraft crew launched from Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The helicopter arrived at the Norwegian Gem when the cruise ship was about 60 miles east of Wachapreague Inlet, and hoisted both men aboard shortly after 5:00 a.m.

Both men were flown to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk.

Earlier today, we reported on a Coast Guard medevac from the same Coast Guard air station yesterday when a 19 year old passenger was rescued from the Norwegian Breakaway when it was 230 miles from the coast of North Carolina.

Story Credit: Delmarva Now

Video Credit:  Defense Video Imagery Distribution System

 

Disney to Develop Egg Island in the Bahamas?

Earlier this week, I received information that Disney Cruises is apparently moving ahead with preliminary plans to build a cruise ship pier on an island in north Eleuthera in the Bahamas, called Egg Island.

Disney already has one private cay in the Bahamas where it unloads thousands of cruise tourists (photo bottom).  

A poster to the Disney Vacation Club reportedly observed and spoke to surveyors were on the Bahamian island who told him they were working for Disney. A contractor has also apparently been Egg Island Bahamasdrilling core samples around the island, presumably to evaluate the foundation for structures Disney may build (photo right).

Some of the information which I received suggests that Egg Island's natural beauty and ecology will be destroyed if Disney proceeds with its plans to develop the island. "Egg Island boasts several ecosystems including mangroves, coral reefs, (and) salt ponds . . . Egg island is known for having a sustainable grouper spawning aggregation, of which there are few left in the Bahamas. The endangered sea turtles are well known to nest on egg island beach, endangered shore birds nest there and the juvenile conch are maturing in safety."

The waste of thousands of cruise tourists can't be accomodated on the little island, as explained by a local Bahamian newspaper.

The Miami Herald recently published an article titled Disney Plan to Develop Unspoiled Bahamian Island Draws Fire which confirmed "that the government issued a temporary license for exploratory work to (the) Disney contractor."

There is an online change.org petition titled Save Egg Island (Bahamas)! Stop Disney Cruise Line! Preserve Egg Island! #saveeggisland.  

I have visited nearby Spanish Wells a number of times in the 1980's. I still remember the beautiful reefs and untouched beaches there.  It would be a shame to see another natural island in the Castaway Cay BahamasCaribbean to be dredged and filled to make way for another cruise development.

The Tribune newspaper confirmed that "preliminary talks" have taken place between Disney and local Bahamian representatives. Prime Minister Perry Christie claims that impact assessment studies must first be considered before any plans are approved.  But one needs to look no further than prior projects permitted by Bahamian politicians to be skeptical.

Bimini sustained considerable environmental damage brought about by dredge and fill operations associated with the Resorts World and Bimini SuperFast projects.  Environmental damage, dislocation of native wildlife and reef destruction brought about by cruise development is often an afterthought to the Bahamian politicians and cruise line executives if there is money to be made.   

There is a Save Egg Island Facebook page trying to raise awareness of what has been, to date, largely secret development plans by Disney regarding the pristine Egg Island.  

Photo Credit:  Save Egg Island Facebook page

Video credit: Watch video of Egg Island  - Via Tre' Russell

July 22 2016 Update:  According to the Disney Cruise Line Blog, "Egg Island appears to saved. Multiple newspaper reports from the Bahamas confirm that Disney Cruise Line will no longer consider developing Egg Island, Eleuthera into a cruise port due to the initial test results. Kim Prunty, a spokesperson for DCL confirmed to The Tribune that environmental impact assessments and geo-technical studies carried out by the company have indicated that the quitting island’s marine and environmental profile could not survive a development on that level." 

The Nassau Guardian states that Disney is not developing the island after conducting an environmental assessment, 

The Miami Herald published Disney Backs Off Cruise Port on Pristine Bahamas Island.

Empress of the Seas Flunks CDC Sanitation Inspection

Empress of the SeasAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas flunked a surprise sanitation inspection conducted in early June. The Empress of the Seas scored a failing score of only 80.  You can read the report here. A score of 85 or lower is considered a failure.

The Empress of the Seas underwent an extended period of renovations in Spain and later in Freeport, Bahamas when the ship was transferred back from Pullmantur. Royal Caribbean canceled a total of thirteen cruises scheduled for earlier this year. The first sanitation violation related to the renovation and involved a bathroom for the medical staff which could be used only for storage and was "heavily soiled." Back in April of this year, Royal Caribbean told the Miami Herald that “as work has progressed, we learned that more significant infrastructure and physical improvements across the ship’s multiple galleys and provisioning areas were needed to meet our high standards.”

I was contacted previously by crew members, during the renovation period, who complained  of unsanitary conditions on the ship. There was talk that the CDC had inspected the ship and initially had not given the ship a passing score, although there was nothing officially posted on the CDC website. Several crew members said that the ship had fallen substantially in disrepair while operated by Pullmantur and had a major problem with pests.    

It is apparent, however, that once back in the Royal Caribbean fleet, the Empress failed to meet high standards. The report regarding the June inspection details forty four CDC violations, ranging from improper procedures to monitor acute gastrointestinal illness cases to incorrect potable water and swimming pool/whirlpool testing.   

The report included numerous references to live and dead flies and cockroaches around refrigerators, buffet lines and other areas used for food storage. The ships was also in violation of the CDC's requirement to use rat guards, and was utilizing rat guards on only one out of six mooring lines while the ship was in port.

A crew member states that the Empress was reinspected earlier this month, on July 10th, and received a score of 97.  If such an inspection took place, the CDC has not posted that inspection yet.  

Royal Caribbean, including its Celebrity brand, has failed other inspections in the past.  In 2013, the Celebrity Century scored only a 78.  The same year, the Celebrity Summit scored only a 81. The Monarch of the Seas scored a 85 in 2011. 

Two years ago, Market Watch published the 5 Most Hygienic Cruise Lines and concluded that Costa and Disney and three other smaller lines had never failed a CDC inspection. Since then, the Disney Wonder experienced a gastrointestinal outbreak in April of this year.    

We last mentioned the Empress of the Seas three weeks ago when it experienced problems with one of its engines, causing Royal Caribbean to alter the cruise ship's itinerary.

Photo Credit: By Jsausley - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.

HAL's Upgraded Cabin From Hell

A couple on a cruise spent a little extra for the proverbial room-with-a-view only to find that HAL had a little surprise - it didn't tell them beforehand about a crew member using a grinding tool outside their cabin's window. 

The YouTube caption says: "Thanks for telling us when you upcharged us $600 extra for the window guys."

There are over a thousand comments to the video on Nate Zemanek's YouTube page. 

Video Credit: Nate Zemanek

Hat Tip: Nine News Australia 

July 18 2016 Upgrade:  Seems that the couple were on their honeymoon.  According to UPROXX, when they complained, HAL didn't seem to care and told them that the maintenance work on the lifeboats would continue, from 9-5 daily, for the rest of the cruise.  Later, after the issue went viral on Reddit and on YouTube, HAL refunded the $600 and gave them a free dinner.

 

Aqua Amazon Explodes & Sinks in Amazon, Four Crew Members Missing

Aqua Amazon ExplosionThe Amazon River cruise ship Aqua Amazon reportedly exploded and partially sank yesterday, according to a press statement released by the founder and CEO. Francesco Galli Zugaro, of Aqua Expeditions.

Mr. Zugaro offered no explanation regarding why the river cruise boat exploded. The press statement says that the incident occurred "during the regular Saturday supplying and turn-around hours for re-stocking of the vessel."

Mr. Zugaro also did not disclose the number of crew members who were were reportedly injured but did state that four crew members are missing. No passengers were on the ship at the time of the explosion.

Daniel Carbajal of the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio took photos of the burned river boat (left and below). He reports that the explosion occurred during a fueling operation due to a "short circuit" leading to two explosions and a fire, resulting in 13 crew members of the ship being injured. The incident occurred "in the port of Enapu, located along the Itaya River, Punchana district in Iquitos (Loreto)." The explosion reportedly blew a hole in the ship and it partially sank on its side.

The Peruvian newspaper also states that "the first police investigations reveal that aquatic ship arrived Aqua Amazon Explosionto the port to fill the gas tank without any security measures. The incident caused burns to 8 people, who had to jump into the flowing and being rescued by residents and staff Enapu who was nearby . . . It is presumed that some people were trapped inside the ship."

The news report further states that 'the search was called off at nightfall due to lack of equipment necessary for the work."

River cruises on the Amazon have been in the news lately. Armed bandits robbed passengers aboard the Amazon Discovery last week. In April, a deadly fire aboard the La Estrella Amazonica resulted in the death of two American passengers. The media downplayed this latest robbery on the Peruvian Amazon which comes after a number of recent incidents as well as similar robberies dating back of the course of many years. It was widely reported that the 8 armed bandits robbed the passengers of a total $20,000.  We have been contacted by a number of passengers one of who states that some of the passengers were physically assaulted. One passenger left a comment indicating that the "the truth is each of the 30 passengers lost about $20,000." We are told that the Amazon Discovery had no security personnel aboard the river cruise boat at the time of the attack. 

Photo Credit: Daniel Carbajal of El Comercio

Update: ENCA reports that "one cruise-ship employee reported that the explosion may have been sparked by crews doing welding work."

July 19 2016 Update:  Jill Hammer Malott, one of the daughters of Drs. Larry and Christy Hammer, writes about the troubling trend on the Peruvian Amazon River. Her comments follow the Aqua Amazon’s sinking on Saturday and the robbery aboard the Amazon Discovery one day earlier. These two incidents come on the heels of the tragedy aboard International Expeditions’ La Estrella Amazonica in early April, when her parents - Drs. Larry and Christy Hammer - died in a cabin fire (see comments in article) that started through no fault of their own.

“Between robberies and deadly fires, a string of recent tragedies on the Peruvian Amazon is a sad reminder that many cruise companies—including those based in the United States—cut corners on basic safety and security measures, routinely risking the lives of passengers and crew alike. My parents died aboard La Estrella Amazonica in April, after a fire erupted in their cabin through no fault of their own. My family has seen first-hand how the absence of things like in-room fire alarms, flammability-rated power strips, and a well-trained crew can have fatal consequences. We’ve also experienced how hard cruise companies—in our case, International Expeditions, an eco-tourism company based in Alabama—work to brush these incidents under the rug in an effort to mitigate public relations damage. It is our fervent hope that more accountability is demanded of the cruise industry operating in the Amazon in the wake of these tragedies.”

July 18 2016 Update:  

Peru This Week reports that the crew casualties are up to 7 dead and 13 seriously burned.  The article says that "although the causes of the accident are still being investigated, police officials have indications that a short circuit may have caused the explosion . . .

While the company Aqua Expeditions recognizes that the accident happened during the refueling of the ship, they’ve said that it was done properly, following all the safety guidelines.

However, police sources indicate that the vessel did not comply with all the safety measure required during fueling. The harbormaster would not comment until the completed their investigation."

International Business Times (IBT) posted a video of the aftermath of the explosion and fire (below): 

Fire, Bandits Plague Amazon River Cruises in Peru

Amazon RiverTwo articles published yesterday bring attention to the dangers of cruising in Peru.    

Bandits Attack Amazon Tourist Boat of Foreigners in Peru, published by The Hour, contains a report by the Associated Press stating that "... bandits have attacked an Amazon tourist boat and robbed more than two dozen tourists from the U.S., Australia and New Zealand . . . the attackers used a small craft to reach the Amazon Discovery tour cruise, boarded it and then robbed passengers and crew of goods worth about $20,000 early Thursday. The tourists included 21 Americans, six Australians and two from New Zealand. There were also 25 Peruvians working aboard."

The Amazon Discovery is a new luxury vessel, built in 2015, with a length of 169 feet and a capacity of 44 guests (22 suites) and 29 crew members. The river cruise ship is advertised on a number of travel websites and by marketing companies promoting Amazon River cruises from Iquitos, Peru. 

According to a Travel Weekly article last April, Peruvian company Delfin Amazon Cruises has owned and operated the vessel since it launched in October 2015, although river cruise operator Haimark Travel had previously been handling all marketing and sales efforts.

Armed bandits boarding Amazon cruises are not unheard of.  According to a 2014 New York Times article, "In 2009, the luxury Aqua Expeditions cruise ship had been boarded by armed pirates, who robbed the passengers of cameras, cash and jewelry. Ever since then, the Aqua and its sister ship, the Aria, have been accompanied by three armed guards, part of a Peruvian river protection strategy that includes a green speedboat marked Policia de Tourismo that follows the ship. So far, there have been no other incidents."

A British newspaper reported shortly after the 2009 attacks that "two police were stationed on the ship after the first raid but they were overpowered during the second attack by nine armed bandits. The raiders then reportedly bound the hands and feet of 20 tourists . . . before fleeing amid a shoot-out with police reinforcements." 

Travel Weekly reported on these two attacks - Peru Steps Up Security After Two Amazon River Ship Attacks.

Judge Thomas Dickerson mentions these dangerous incidents on the Peruvian Amazon River in his treatise Travel Law: Avoid Dangerous Vacations 2014.

Marketers of Amazon River cruises seemed to downplay the crimes at the time.  The Travel Weekly article quotes Maggie Smith, the president of International Expeditions at the time, saying "in over 30 years of operating in the Peruvian Amazon, taking about 30,000 guests there, we have never had such an incident."

One site reporting on the recent armed robbery said that "8 assailants were armed with large-caliber Amazon River Peruweapons took control of the ship, which belongs to Delfin Amazon Cruises, for about 30 minutes and took personal possessions and money worth around 20,000 U.S. dollar." The site reports that the captain of the ship suffered a head injury by being pistol-whipped. The report continued: "the Peruvian Amazon has seen such assaults periodically as pirates profit from the distance from population centers to attack cruise ships on the Amazon's riverways."

Another site, Peru This Week, says that the attack occurred at 3 a.m. near the Huaysi village (about an hour from the village of Tamshiyacu, in the Fernando Lores District of the Maynas province). According to the head of the Iquitos Port Authority, commander Oscar Garrido Lecca, river assaults are supposedly "rare;" he states that "they haven’t experienced one in four to five months." (this hardly hardly seems rare).  The site says that the "last cruise ship assault was reported back in May of 2014," but the article provides no details.

One of the travel sites, Rainforest Cruises, which markets the Amazon Discovery and other river cruises ships (there's no indication that this site sold any cruises to the victimized passengers in question) contains an  Amazon Cruise Safety Guide which states in part:

"You may also notice on your cruise through the Amazon River that some boats are occupied by armed guards. Some of these vessels may also have guards dressed in civilian clothes, such as the Aqua, Aria and Delfins and you may see  others with police protection on board, the Aqua and Aria. This is in reaction to two incidents that took place on Aqua Expeditions ships, when armed bandits stormed the ship and robbed passengers on board. As a result Aqua and many other cruise companies on the Amazon River have increased their security measures to prevent such attacks."

None of the articles which I read about the armed attack mention whether the ship had guards at the time of the attack.  It will be interesting to find out whether the operator was trying to save money by cruising without security.

A second article published today involves a different type of danger which passengers might face while cruising on the Amazon River in Peru. A Personal Warning To American Travelers, published by the Daily Caller, was written by Jill Hammer Malott and Kelly Hammer Lankford, the daughters of  Larry and Christy Hammer who died in a fire during an Amazon River cruise aboard La Estrella Amazonica, marketed and reportedly “design[ed] and “buil[t]” by the U.S.-based International Expeditions (IE).

The daughters write that in April, their parents went on "a week-long Amazon River cruise aboard International Expeditions (IE) boat, La Estrella Amazonica." Their parents chose this voyage because, as the daughters say, IE boasted that "with International Expeditions at the helm, you’ll adventure in safety and comfort aboard La Estrella Amazonica."

But "around 2 am on the first night of the cruise, they found themselves trapped inside their burning cabin Mammer Familywhile their lungs filled with poisonous smoke. Our father died before the crew even tried to get him out. Our mother held onto a heartbeat when the crew finally pulled her from the cabin, but died sometime later — we still cannot get information on when or where she passed away."

The Hammer sisters indicate that a "power strip supplied by the boat caught fire. Analysis of the same model power strip revealed that it lacks surge protection and safety ratings. The mattress and bedding provided abundant fuel for the fire. No alarm sounded in the cabin because the smoke detectors lack in-cabin alarms which could have alerted our parents before the smoke overwhelmed them."

The sisters are critical of the crew's apparent lack of training and preparedness, indicating that "the crew wasted more than 20 precious minutes between the time when smoke seeped into the hallway to when they finally extracted our parents."

The ship was flagged in Peru, which may explain why it was sailing without functioning fire alarms, or an operable fire suppression system. 

The daughters feel that IE’s president, Van Perry, stonewalled the family and reportedly refused to provide them with information. According to a travel publication, Mr. Perry quickly announced that local fire authorities and tourism authorities in Peru "cleared the vessel safe to carry guests."  Within three days of the Hammers' death, and without even determining the official cause of the deadly fire, La Estrella Amazonica continued on its cruise.  

Photo Credits:  Hammer family (bottom): Jill Hammer via Opinion; Map of Peru - BBC (middle); Amazon River near Iquitos, Peru - By M M from Switzerland - Amazonas, Iquitos - Leticia, Kolumbien, CC BY-SA 2.0

Update: According to Travel Pulse, Delfin Amazon Cruises denied knowledge of previous robberies of river ships on the Amazon in Peru in its official statement about this incident.

“The safety of guests aboard the ship is of utmost importance to Delfin Amazon Cruises, which owns and operates Amazon Discovery. This isolated incident — the first in the company’s ten years of cruising the Amazon — is not reflective of the Amazon region today, which continues to be an increasingly desirable destination for visitors.

Staff onboard the Amazon Discovery and at its Lima headquarters have further advanced measures to ensure the safety of its current and future passengers. The company is implementing a Peruvian river cruising protection strategy that includes the presence of permanent surveillance staff onboard. The vessel will also be accompanied by further security in a green speedboat marked Policia de Turismo.”

Of course, Delfin Amazon Cruises was aware of the prior attacks in 2009. Travel Weekly says in the 2009 article Peru Steps Up Security After Two Amazon River Ship Attacks: "And Delfin Amazon Cruises operates two luxury ships, the 12-passenger Delfin I and the 28-passenger Delfin II. These operators, too, are keeping a close watch on the security situation in the region."  

UpdatePeru Reports published an interesting article this evening referring to 4 prior attacks in the last year alone on river cruise ships in the Amazon in Peru, and stating in part:

"This high-profile attack has raised questions about crime and passenger security on the rivers of the Amazon jungle. Oscar Garrido, captain of the Iquitos port police, told El Comercio that he had recently Defin Amazon Discovery Pirate Attackmet with representatives from the tourist agencies which offer cruises of the Amazon, Ucayali and Marañon rivers.

“We asked them to hire armed security guards and that they activate their GPS systems,” Garrido said. “We cannot accompany all [passenger boats] along the route because we have more than 6,000 miles of jungle to take care of.”

Garrido added that the Iquitos coast guard has 27 boats to patrol more than 6,000 miles of rivers, where more than 9,000 boats circulate in the jungles of Loreto. He said that all boats should be equipped with cameras and satellite phones for the vast areas which receive no regular phone signal. The Amazon Discovery was equipped with cameras, and the video of Thursday’s assault is being analyzed by police.

Thursday’s riverboat assault is at least the fourth incident in the last year.

An armed gang dressed in military uniform and ski masks assaulted a tourist boat near the Pacaya Samiria reserve in December, stealing over $6,000 in merchandise. In October, an armed holdup of a tourist boat on the Ucayali River left four crew members injured with gunshot wounds. In April 2015, five armed men robbed 15 foreign tourists on the Nanay River."

Photo Credit:  Peru 21

Update: The Chairman of the International Cruise Victims Association, Ken Carver, comments on the deadly La Estrella Amazonica debacle.

UpDate: Crime Insight published an article - Peru River Pirates Raid Tourist Cruise on the Amazon - "highlights the potential dangers associated with adventure tours in insecure countries."

"The last major assault of this kind occurred in October 2014 on the boat Golfinoh as it traveled the same route to Iquitos. A police officer who happened to be on the boat tried to ward off the attack. The officer and one assailant were killed and seven passengers were wounded, La Prensa.Pe reported. Only minor assaults had been reported since then.

Nevertheless, incidents involving river pirates have been reported in other parts of South America. In May 2016, a ferry traveling on the Solimoes River in the State of Amazonas, Brazil, was attacked by three armed men. The assailants used a speed boat to intercept the ferry and stormed the vessel at about midnight. Again, the attackers wore masks and carried assault rifles and pistols. They stole $2,600, several mobile phones and they stripped equipment from a vehicle being transported by the ferry.

Another incident of river piracy was reported in May 2016 in the city of Barcarena, near Brazil's northern Atlantic coast. Tourists were robbed by 10 heavily armed men who stormed their vessel, but no one was injured or killed.

Although they have all been relatively small-scale events, the assaults highlight insecurity in these remote areas, which are often centers of illegal activity like informal mining and drug trafficking or production."

July 17 2016 Update: More trouble for river cruises on the Amazon.  Aqua Amazon Explodes & Sinks in Amazon, Four Crew Members Missing.

September 1 2016 Update: More troubles for the daughters - After parents died on the Amazon, two sisters are frustrated in their search for answers.

September 12 2016 Update: Determined Nebraska Sisters Seek Answers in the Mysterious Deaths of Their Parents Aboard Luxury Amazon Cruise - "Kelly and Jill's investigators concluded that the fire was caused by a faulty electrical power strip in their parents' cabin and that fire and smoke alarms weren't working. And video footage showed that it took crew members 22 minutes to pull their father from the second-story cabin, and another six minutes to rescue their mother . . . to make the sad outcome even worse, says Jill, her parents wedding rings have gone missing 'and were likely stolen off their dead bodies . . . '"

November 19. 2016 Update:  The New York Times published There's No Law on the Amazon: River Pirates Terrorize Ships By Night

Faroe Island's Bloody Fjords

Today, the German newspaper Deutsche Welle published an article Faroe Islands: Cruise Boycott Hits Tourism

The article explains that two German cruise lines, AIDA and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, "have agreed no longer to feature the Faroe Islands. The move comes in response to pressure from animal rights groups to boycott the country over the mass slaughter of whales."

The article cites the efforts of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Forum (Wal- und Delfinschutz-Forum - WDSF) which brought about the change.  The conservation forum is now concentrating Faroe Islands Whale Slaughterits efforts to stop the horrific slaughter of pilot whales by focusing on another German cruise line, TUI, which is still cruising to the Faroe Islands.

I recently wrote about this gruesome, bloody so-called tradition where locals use powerboats to chase frightened whales into a harbor where they are met by locals with knives while their family members cheer them on in what appears like a cruel and bloody sport from hell. The locals rip out baby whales from their mothers in this monstrous, brutal slaughter.

Our article last week, Cruise Lines Continue to Support Mass Murder of Whales in Faroe Islands, was viewed several hundred thousand times with over 5,800 Facebook "likes," for what that's worth, (as well as numerous hate-emails from residents of the Faroe Islands and Denmark).  

Aside from AIDA and Hapag-Lloyd, and Disney Cruises which took the Faroes off its proposed itinerary last year, most cruise lines still visit the Faroes Islands.  

TUI's Mein Shiff 4, owned by parent companies Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. & TUI AG, will call there next week.

The U.S. State Department says that the standard of living in the Faroe Islands for the total population Mein Schiff 4(about 48,000) is "high" by world standards.

The Faroese economy has revolved primarily around the fishery industry, accounting for about 95% of its exports of a little over one billions dollars a year.

The Faroes appear susceptible to a boycott.

In July 2013, the EU imposed sanctions on the Faroe Islands due to a dispute over the fishing quota of herring and mackerel. The boycott which started in August 2013 banned Faroese vessels carrying herring or mackerel from all EU ports, including Denmark, Sweden and Finland. The Faroe Islands could no longer export herring or mackerel to EU countries. The boycott was successful and ended a year later, in August of 2014

To achieve an effective boycott, we recommend taking three steps:

  1. Don't buy any fish products, such as salmon, from the Faroe Islands. Tell your local supermarket, fish store or sushi restaurant to stop buying fish from the Faroe Islands.
  2. Don't travel to the Faroe Islands; tell your travel agents to cross the Faroe Islands off your travel itinerary.
  3. Don't cruise to the Faroe Islands or support cruise lines that do; contact your favorite cruise line and tell them to stop calling on the Faroe Islands.     

TUI, a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean and TUI AG, claims that it "condemns the practice of whaling," but it will send the Mein Schiff 4 to Thorshavn, Faroe Islands and spend the day there on July 20th.

It is talking out of both sides of its mouth by still supporting the Faroes' inhumane whale slaughter.

If you are in the U.S. contact Royal Caribbean, or in Germany contact TUI, and tell them that you oppose the killing of whales and won't cruise with them until they drop the Faroe Islands from their itineraries.   

Photo Credit: Grind slaughter (2015) - Twitter #OpKillingBay; Mein Schiff 4 - By HenSti CC BY-SA 4.0.

Video Credit: Sea Shepherd 

U.S. Embassy Issues Warning About Crime in Nassau

Today, the United States embassy in Nassau issues a "Personal Security Awareness" security message about the crime problem in Nassau. The message says: 

"This message is to remind U.S. Citizens resident and visiting New Providence Island (Nassau) and Paradise Island to be mindful of their surroundings at all times and employ practical personal security awareness when in public and at home to avoid being a victim of crime.

Over the course of the past six months, the U.S. Embassy has received reports of a significant Nassau Bahamas Crimeincrease in armed robberies throughout New Providence, specifically targeting patrons of ATM machines, parking venues at various retail locations, and armed car-jackings.

For your safety, you should:

• Avoid using ATM machines located in isolated areas and consider using ATM machines located in shopping centers that have security coverage. Use the buddy system when using ATM machines.

• Keep your car doors locked and your windows rolled up as you drive. Keep valuables out of sight in your vehicles when parked (cell phones, laptops, cash, GPS or other valuables).

Armed robberies and violent crimes continue to be the primary criminal threat in The Bahamas – which in many instances have occurred in areas frequented by tourists."

There have been over a dozen crime warnings from the U.S. about Nassau, Bahamas in the last several years, from the U.S. embassy in Nassau and the U.S. State Department. The last warning was released just two months ago - Crime in Bahamas Remains Critical. In January of this year, the U.S. embassy in Nassau reported that jet ski operators sexually assaulted 5 U.S. tourists in just 18 months.

When I first started this blog in 2009, several of the first articles were about the armed robbery of cruise ship passengers in Nassau. In October 2009, the Tribune newspaper in Nassau reported that two "vicious robbers" held a group of 11 terrified cruise tourists at gunpoint and robbed them of cash and their possessions at the Queen's Staircase on a Sunday afternoon.  A month later, gunmen armed with a shotgun robbed and terrorized 18 Royal Caribbean and Disney cruise passengers on a Segway Tour. 

None of the gunmen were ever arrested. A cruise passengers said that the Bahamian police falsely told her after she was robbed that "this never happens here. Never." It seems that it has been downhill in Nassau ever since. 

Nassau has received, by far, the most critical crime warnings of any port in the Caribbean. Nassau has an ineffective police force and a broken legal system.  It is the one port which I say avoid at all costs.

July 13 2016 Update:  Is the Bahamas travel advisory a tit-for-a-tat for prior U.S. travel warnings? Is this U.S. security message retaliation for the travel advisory issued by the Bahamas?  Read:  Bahamas Wrong To Issue Travel Advisory To Black Men and U.S. Hits Back With Security Message To Citizens And Visitors In The Bahamas.

July 14 2016 Update: National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage insists that the U.S. embassy is “wrong” and the assertions made in their latest crime advisory regarding the Bahamas are “not true. Unfortunately, we have seen these type of denials by the authorities in Nassau as long as we have had this blog. Meanwhile, the Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis says Prime Minister Perry Christie and his administration have ignored the reality of crime. Dr Minnis says it is “frightening” for Bahamians to see the government continuously dismiss the crime warnings.

Photo Credit:  242 Breaking News 

Backatcha' - Bahamas Warns Travelers of Police in the U.S.

Shooting of Philando CastileIn what many believe to be a political game of backatcha', the Bahamas on Friday issued a warning to its citizens planning to travel to the United States about the danger of interacting with police officers:

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has taken a note of the recent tensions in some American cities over shootings of young black males by policemen. We wish to advise all Bahamians traveling to the US, but especially to the affected cities, to exercise appropriate caution generally. In particular young males are asked to exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interactions with the police." You can read the entire advisory here.

The travel warning from the Bahamas comes after a week of protests in the U.S after three white police officers shot two black men in separate incidents a total of 11 times and killed them.

On Tuesday, two policemen shot 37-year-old Alton Sterling (left) six times in a parking lot of a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. On Wednesday, a policeman fatally shot 32-year-old Philando Castile (right) five times after a traffic stop of a car which he was driving with his girlfriend and her four year old daughter inside. The police did not attempt to administer first aid to either of the dying men. After Mr. Philando Castile Alton SterlingCastile was shot, the police arrested his girlfriend in front of her child who also witnessed the shooting and then was separated from her mother at the police station.

The governor of Minnesota commented that he was "appalled" by the shooting of Mr. Castile and the mistreatment of his girlfriend and said that police wouldn't have shot and killed Philando Castile if he'd been white. 

President Obama put matters into perspective, that blacks are more like to be stopped, searched, arrested and imprisoned than whites. He commented: "black drivers are more likely to be pulled over for traffic stops. After being pulled over, blacks and Hispanics are three times more likely to be searched. Last year African Americans were shot by police at more than twice the rate of whites."

Here in the U.S., we have witnessed far too many black men whose lives ended prematurely by overzealous and poorly trained police officers. The images of Eric Gardner, who was choked by an officer and was then tackled by four other policemen, are impossible to watch and then are even more impossible to forget.  Mr. Gardner was restrained face down on the sidewalk gasping "I can't breath" eleven times before he became unconscious and later died. The police officers and later, the EMT's, didn't bother to perform CPR on this dying man either. 

Americans here in the U.S. are familiar with the names Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, and Sandra Brown who all died during or after confrontations with the police. Each injustice seems to blend with the next in a seemingly endless video loop that shocks the nation's conscience.    

Yes, these deaths raise disturbing questions about race relations in the U.S. To me, it seems that the vestiges of racism are alive and well in the U.S.  The nation will soon face the specter of probable acquittals if there is a decision to prosecute the three police officers involved in the most recent shootings. U.S. history tells us that often the murderers of blacks will be found innocent of criminal charges. I have written before that "history shows that instances of racial violence are usually followed by injustice in the legal system." Sadly, these tragedies may end with additional violent riots that will inevitably follow if the the officers are acquitted.

Of course, none of this heartbreak and injustice has anything to do with travelers from the Bahamas who live in their own world of crime and violence. As I have mentioned many times, the Bahamas has an extremely high murder rate.  With a total population last year of around 388,000, the country experienced 149 murders which resulted in a per capita murder rate of around 38 per 100,000 residents (compared to the national U.S. per capita murder rate of only 4.5 per 100,000).  This is the murder rate of the country. If what many consider to be generally safe locations like the Family Islands outside of New Providence are excluded, Nassau is as unsafe as the U.S.'s most dangerous cities like St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit, and New Orleans.  

The murders in the Bahamas rival the gruesome details of the U.S. shooting I mentioned above. The case of Edgar Dart, a traveler from Britain via Canada, who was bound and killed by three robbers when they broke into his mother's home armed with a gun and a machete, remains unsolved. The family was tied up with duct tape during the raid and Mr. Dart was killed after bleeding to death in front of his son, as well as in front of his brother, sister-in-law, and young nephew. 

Crimes against U.S., Canadian or British citizens in the Bahamas are rarely solved. Within the last two Garu Vanhoeckyears, the murders of American student Mason Hart, British diving instructor Gary Vanhoeck (left), and retired Canadian doctor Geoffrey Harding have not been solved. There are no arrests following assaults, robberies, thefts and muggings of Americans.

The U.S. State Department stated in one of the dozen warnings dating back over the last couple of years: "The U.S. Embassy has received multiple reports of tourists robbed at gunpoint or knifepoint in tourist locations in the downtown areas of Nassau, to include the cruise ship docks and the Cable Beach commerce areas; several of these incidents occurred during daylight hours. Burglaries, larcenies and “snatch-and-grab” crimes happen in Nassau and U.S. citizens have been victims of these crimes. The U.S. Embassy has received reports of assaults, including sexual assaults, in diverse areas such as in casinos, outside hotels, or on cruise ships."   

The Bahamas also has an incredibly high per capita rape rate. The Bahamas' rate of rape is 113 out of 100,000. In the USA it is around 28 per 100,000.  

Slate's Mike Pesca was precisely on point when he wrote today in an article The Bahamas Is Warning Its Citizens About the Dangers of the United States - The Truth is Bahamians are Safer Abroad than at Home: "Of course, the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are just the latest horrific incidents in what has become a blight on America. But the Bahamian government’s warning should not be interpreted as another data point in America’s shame so much as a statistical misinterpretation of actual danger. In fact, on average, a Bahamian who leaves his country to travel to the United States would decrease his chances of being murdered."

My thought is that Bahamians should be aware of the history of violence against blacks here in the U.S., to the extent that they are not aware of this reality with the non-stop international coverage provided by cable news.  But this warning seems designed to serve other purposes.  Many Bahamians, particular merchants concerned that repeated U.S. warnings about crime in Nassau is bad for the cruise business in Nassau, dislike the fact that the Bahamas is repeatedly the subject of U.S. State Department's "critical crime" warnings. One Bahamian reader commenting on the Bahamian warning told the Tribune newspaper in Nassau: "No I'm not saying that there's not a real danger for black Bahamians in the US, I'm saying I don't think the primary motivation for this advisory was to protect Bahamians. This was 'stick it to the US' policy."   

Other Bahamians who left comments on the Slate article singled out Bahamian Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Minister Fred Mitchel, as having "a major chip on his shoulder about race issues and is very anti-USA" and "is hoping by 'sticking it to the man', as it were, he'll take some of the pressure off his government's total failure to address the crime problem."

The purpose of a governmental warning is to educate citizens about matters that they might not know about. I doubt that any Bahamians flying to the U.S. are unaware of the protests filling the cable news broadcasts about the killing of black men (and the murder of five white policemen in Dallas by a black man with a AR-15 which the Bahamian warning does not mention). However, first time cruisers to Nassau, filled with dreams that it is "better in the Bahamas," may think they are taking their family to a safe tropical island. They might not realize that they are traveling to an island where they are eight times more likely to be murdered than in the U.S.   

Update July 11 2016: Opposing Views addresses the issue: Bahamas Travel Advisory Is Just Tit For Tat.

Update July 12 2016 Update: According to the Tribune newspaper, the U.S. Embassy in Nassau released a new travel warning message "urging its citizens and US visitors in Nassau and Paradise Island to exercise heightened personal security awareness, pointing out that armed robberies and violent crime remain primary criminal threats."

More Fall-Out or No Fall-Out, Depending Who You Ask:  Mitchell: No Fallout From The Us Over Ministry's Travel Advisory

Photo Credit:  Shooting of Philando Castile - CNN 

Alton Sterling (left) and Philando Castile (right) - Twitter via Observer.

Gary Vanhoeck - BBC

Costa Crew Member Sentenced to Jail for Attempted Rape of Girl

Italian newspapers are reporting that a 34 year-old waiter was sentenced to 10 months in jail for assaulting and attempting to rape a 17 year-old girl on the Costa Fascinosa.  The Il Gazzettino first reported the incident which occurred three years ago on October 19th during a cruise in the Adriatic Sea, between Istanbul and Dubrovnik.

La Nuova di Venezia says that the waiter, identified as Floriano Fernandes, assaulted the girl in a bathroom of the cruise ship but she successfully resisted the attempted rape. The following day, the ship called on Venice but the captain failed to report and/or delayed in accurately reporting the assault and attempted rape. In a report to the Coast Guard, the captain, identified as Ignatius Giardina, from Sicily, reportedly wrote that there Costa Fascinosawas no "extraordinary event" during the cruise. The Italian prosecutor alleged that the captain fraudulently misrepresented the fact that a crime had occurred on the ship and prosecuted him for not properly reporting it.     

Captain Giardina has worked for Costa for 36 years, first as a cadet back in1980, later as a staff captain and safety officer, and as a master for the last 16 years.   

The captain's defense lawyer argued that "extraordinary event" referred to a navigation point of view, such as a collision, and was not referring to the attempted rape. The captain was acquitted of trying to cover the crime up. 

I first read about the assault on the Crew Center web site. 

Sexual assaults on girls and women are not uncommon on cruise ships and Costa ships in particular. In October of last year, the Italian press reported on an incident where a Costa crew member allegedly sexually molested a 15 year-old girl aboard the Costa Diadema.  Two months earlier, on the same Costa cruise ship, a bartender allegedly followed an 18 year-old French woman into her cabin and raped her.

In 2013, a female Costa security guard alleged that she was sexually assaulted by her supervisor who was permitted to fly back to his home country after the crime. She subsequently won a civil case against her employer.

This is the first case, however, where I have heard that an officer (master) of a cruise ship was prosecuted for allegedly not properly reporting an allegation of sexual assault. I have seen many scenarios where the cruise line tried to cover a rape up but I have never seen any prosecutor willing to levy such allegations in a criminal court against the master of a ship.   

Photo Credit:  By René Grob CC BY-SA 4.0.   

Jamaican Arrested for Attempted Cocaine Smuggling on Cruise Ship In Falmouth

Falmouth Jamica Cruise PortThe Jamaican Observer reports that police arrested a man from Ocho Rios at the cruise port in Falmouth, Jamaica last Tuesday (June 28th) when he attempted to board an unidentified cruise ship. 

The newspaper says that the man was arrested with two packages, containing five pounds of cocaine, found in a false compartment of his laptop bag.

Police say the street value of the substance is estimated to be J$7.5 million or around US$60,0000.

The newspaper identifies the man as Dwayne Shirley of Great Pond, Ocho Rios, St Ann.

There is no indication whether the man was a cruise passenger or a crew member. 

Last week we reported that four U.S. cruise passengers were arrested in Port Canaveral after smuggling cocaine from Jamaica during a cruise on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas through this port. 

Two Royal Caribbean crew members were also arrested in April for smuggling cocaine aboard the Freedom of the Seas into Port Canaveral. 

Photo Credit: Falmouth, merchants near entrance to cruise terminal - Jim Walker

Fred Olsen's Black Watch Catches On Fire

Fred Olsen Black WatchAccording to the Cruise Capital website in the U.K., "a fire broke out aboard Fred Olsen Cruise Line’s Black Watch this morning as the ship made its way to Madeira."

The fire, which started in the auxiliary engine room reportedly damaged three engines used to generate power onboard the cruise ship.

Cruise Capital said that the fire was extinguished by the crew. The site stated that "the four main engines are undamaged by the fire, but further investigations will need to be undertaken, before an attempt to restart them later today. Repairs are expected to be made en-route to Madeira."

The Fred Olsen line issued a press statement: “Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines can confirm that there was a fire on board its cruise ship, Black Watch, this morning, in the Auxiliary Engine Room, which was extinguished by the crew. There have been no injuries to guests or crew. The Captain is keeping guests fully informed at all times."

A few hours ago, the cruise line provided an update on Twitter stating claiming that the Black Watch's "two main engines are now fully operational, and the ship is en-route to Funchal, Madeira."  

The Black Watch is an old ship, built in 1970-1971. It carries 820 passengers after it was refitted several times. It was formerly Royal Viking Line's Viking Star, Norwegian Cruise Line's Westward, and Royal Cruise Line's Star Odyssey.

Hat Tip to Cruise Hive for reporting on the fire.

July 2 2016 Update: According to Cruise Hive, cruise passengers are flying home.  "After assessing the impact, the cruise line stated 'cabling damage has prevented the other two main engines from running, and it is anticipated that the repairs will cause disruption to guests during the recabling. Therefore, we have made the decision – in the best interests of guests’ comfort and enjoyment – to fly them home from Funchal. Our intention is to charter a private aircraft for our guests back to the UK over the next few days, at Fred. Olsen’s expense.'”

July 3 2016 Update:  "A Huge Fire."  The first comments from a family on the fire-stricken cruise ship according a U.K. newspaper. Passengers on the Fred.Olsen Black Watch cruise ship were 30 minutes from using lifeboats.

July 5 2016 Update:  Fred Olsen cancels the nine-night Norwegian Fjords cruise from Tilbury on July 8, according to Cruise Critic.

An unhappy passenger says: (on our Facebook page)  "Fred Olsen public relations...telling lies.
There were no free phone calls home, we were treated like cattle...420 old and infirm passengers had to pack one small case in the dark after 4 days of no electricity, no water for 12 hours, then cold water only, camping style food etc. etc.
The journey took from 6:30 am until 11 pm via coach, 3 hour ferry, coach, 3 hours standing queuing in a tiny airport, then plane, coach...
No senior execs at airport just 2 young women who usually sell excursions doing their best,, no wheelchairs or assistance provided.
I could go on.
It was horrendous.
I tried desperately to care for a disabled husband with the help of a friend with the endless on and off transport, queuing for hours, travelling on coaches with no air conditioning, no access to water or food for 8 hours..
What else have they lied about?
Wonder if I will ever see my luggage again or receive compensation.
And how did a fuel pipe leak unnoticed for so long that a huge fire had to be tackled for 5 hours by heroic young waiters and other staff?
Never again."

Photo Credit:  By Ra Boe - selbst fotografiert DigiCam C2100UZ, CC BY-SA 2.5,

Eight Year Old Nearly Drowns on Anthem of the Seas

Multiple news sources are reporting that Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas cruise ship turned around after leaving Bayonne, New Jersey because an 8-year-old child was found unresponsive at the bottom of one of the ship's swimming pools this evening.

ABC-Channel 7 News NY says that the "8-year-old is currently on life-support."

Children drowning or nearly drowning in cruise ship swimming pools unattended by life guards is not an uncommon topic. 

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

In January last year, a 4 year old boy nearly drowning aboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas on January 3, 2015. The Miami Herald published Near-drowning on Royal Caribbean cruise raises concerns about lack of lifeguards after that incident.

In May 2014, a 6 year old boy nearly drown on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas and left the child fighting for his life in a hospital.

Last year, in an article 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.

To my knowledge, Disney is the only cruise line to employ life guards on its cruise ships. However it did so only after a 4 year old child nearly drown on the Fantasy and sustained a catastrophic brain injury requiring life-time medical care and resulting in a multi-million dollar settlement.

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 billions of 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 and to be trained and certified in life saving measures and CPR.

Read Thoughts From A Concerned Cruiser about cruise ship swimming pool safety before Disney hired life guards.

The Miami Herald covered the issue and interviewed me, reporting that there have been a dozen passengers who have drowned or nearly drowned in cruise ship swimming pools without lifeguards in the last 2-3 years involving primarily children: Royal Caribbean (4)(ages 4, 6, 8 and 8), Princess (4, 3 adults and one 8 year-old child), NCL (3)(ages 4, 6 and 10), Carnival (1)(age 6), and Disney (1)(age 4)(before hiring lifeguards).

July 11 2016 Update: The boy, identified as Prince Adepoju of Maryland, died on July 2, 2016, according to multiple media reports.

 

Photo Credit:  By GlynLowe, Hamburg, Germany https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46635956; Video Credit CBS-2 NY. 

 

 

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 a