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.  

Robbery Belize Cruise Port

Robbery Belize Cruise Port

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Britannia Travel Warning   

 

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

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

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

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

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

Video Credit: Defense Video Imagery Distribution System

 

Pullmantur Monarch Strikes a Whale

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top: Rex Features / Telegraph U.K.

Bottom: LT Rene Torres, USCGR

Dead Whale - Cruise Ship

Lawsuit: MSC Crew Member Sexually Assaults 12 Year Old Child

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over six years ago, I wrote:

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

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

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

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

Another Brawl Breaks Out on a Carnival Fun Ship

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

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

I first wrote about violence like this on cruise ships back in an article titled Cruise Ship Brawls - A Problem that Will Get Bigger with Bigger Ships.  As Carnival Chairman Micky Arison acknowledged years ago, “cruise ships are a microcosm of any city or any location and stuff happens . . . The negatives of discounting might be less commission for agents and less revenue for us but the positive is it opens up the product to a wider audience.”

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

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

Photo and Video credit: Irie Namma YouTube 

Portuguese Air Force Medevacs Passenger from Mein Schiff 1

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

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

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

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

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

Video Credit: Força Aérea Portuguesa YouTube

 

 

Rhapsody of the Seas Damaged Again During Storm

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

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

Passengers reported that the ship heavily listed during the storm.

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

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

Video credit: Heather Barrett YouTube 

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

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

 

 

U.S. Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger from Carnival Dream

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

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

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

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

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

According to 20 Minutes newspaper, five members of the ship's navigation crew were on board during a drill when the lifeboat became detached and fell ten meters into the water. The newspaper reports that two of the crew members injured are in critical condition. The deceased crew members is reportedly a Filipino citizen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Passenger Goes Overboard from Sapphire Princess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Viking Freya River Cruise Ship Strikes Bridge, Kills Two Officers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Viking Freya

NCL Crew Member Goes Overboard from Norwegian Pearl During Alaskan Cruise

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

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

The woman reportedly was employed for two contracts for NCL. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Propulsion Problem Causes Carnival Legend to Tilt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. 

While these passengers wished to remain anonymous, there is a description of what happened as well as dramatic photographs of and comments about the damage to the pier and the smaller vessels on the closed Facebook page of Carnival Vista August 26, 2016 (hopefully someone in the group will send us copies of the photographs or post their photos or video on an open Facebook page).

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 . . . '"

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 an "F" this year from the Friends of the Earth which issued its environmental report card yesterday. I suppose it is only fitting that such a cruise line would be the first cruise line to tear through the Arctic; if it can collect a minimum of $22,000,000 in cruise fares from one cruise into the virgin, pristine area, what else is important?  It is always about the money, right?   

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit:

CLIA Cruise Forward PR Photo: Cruise Line International Association

Don Foster's Dive Cayman via Cayman Compass

Friends of the Earth Report Card - Friends of the Earth 

Friends of the Earth Report Card  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada Issues Another Crime Advisory for the Bahamas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Tribune newspaper

Expedition Cruise Ship Ortelius Suffers Engine Failure

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

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

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

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

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

Coast Guard Medevacs Two Passengers From Norwegian Breakaway

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

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

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

Video credit: Defense Imagery and Video Distribution Center

 

 

Celebrity Infinity Crashes Into Ketchikan Dock

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video Credit: YouTube video Maria Harvey

Police Arrest Cook for Attempted Murder of Chef on Celebrity Constellation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cook knifes chef on Celebrity Constellation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit:  Twitter/Micky Arison via News 7

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit:Bottom photo credit: Canterbury Times 

Passenger Goes Overboard from Carnival Liberty into Gulf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit:  KVUE

NCL Cruise Ship Rescues Migrants at Sea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Norovirus on Fathom Travel's First Cruise to Cuba?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Fathom Travel Adonia Ship Doctor Norovirus

 

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

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

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

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

You can read the Carnival tipping policy here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carnival Pre-Paid Gratuity Removal

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: MAIB gov.uk 

Hat Tip: Safety4Sea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gastrointestinal Outbreak on the Disney Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Norovirus Outbreak Aboard the "Cursed Cruise Ship" Balmoral

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

    

Two Cruise Passengers Missing in Jamaica

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Carnival scans via Jamaica Observer

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

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

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

Wave Damages Rhapsody of the Seas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From another passenger on our Facebook page:

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

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

Statement by Royal Caribbean:

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

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

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

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

May 10 2016 Update:  Rusted Window Frames on the Rhapsody of the Seas? and Photos on Facebook.

New Orleans Jazz Fest 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Jim Walker

 New Orleans - Carnival Cruise

   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

International Cruise Victims: Advocating for Cruise Victims for 10 Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Video credit: ABC News 7 Los Angeles via Jamie Barnett

You can see photographs of the reception here.

Leave a comment on our Facebook page.

 

Coral Princess Rescues 7 Cubans at Sea

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

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

Here's the message which I received:

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

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

Cuban Migrants

Cruise to Cuba: Lawsuit Filed Against Carnival and Fathom Travel

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

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

You can read the lawsuit here.

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

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

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

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

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

April 13, 2016 Update:  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Carnival's Cruise to Cuba Discriminates Against Cuban-Americans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a thought? Please leave a comment on our Facebook page.

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

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

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

Photo credit: Fathom's Adonia

What Will the Panama Papers Reveal About the Cruise Industry?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image and video credit: International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

  

U.S. Tourist Alleges Rape in Nassau

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

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

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

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

The report stated that “the Bahamas has the highest incidence of rape per capita in the Caribbean. The UN Woman narrative on gender-based violence in the Caribbean cites ‘while the worldwide average for rape was 15 per 100,000, The Bahamas has an average of 133 (per 100,000)."

The rate in the U.S. Is somewhere around 28.6 per 100,000. There are almost 5 times as many rapes in the Bahamas as in the U.S. per capita.

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

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

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

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

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

P&O Oceana Flunks CDC Sanitation Inspection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Royal Caribbean to Homeport Empress of the Seas in Havana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credits: 

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

Bottom - Franklin Reyes / AP Photo via Avax News

Smoke But No Fire on the Carnival Splendor?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Norovirus on the Oceania Riviera Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RCCL on Terrorism: Most Destinations Are Absolutely Safe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can hear Mr. Goldstein below.

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

Norovirus? Over 300 Passengers Sickened on Golden Princess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CDC: 137 Sick with Norovirus on Norwegian Gem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: @CruiseNorwegian via CruiseInd 

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

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

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

Gastrointestinal Outbreak Keeps Norwegian Gem From Calling on St. Maarten

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

  

Families of Children With Autism File Suit Against Royal Caribbean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a thought? Please leave a comment on our Facebook page. 

Photo Credit: Incredible World / ABC News / Youtube

Seatrade Global 2016: How About the Crew Members?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Absolutely not if you are a crew member.

If you have a comment, please leave one on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Cruise Tourists Attacked in Belize

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Crew Death on the Island Princess

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

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

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

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

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

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

Island Princess Statement
March 10, 2016

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

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

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

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

August 2, 2016 Update: A newspaper in Mexico raises the question whether the 21 year-old crew member Eduardo Smith was murdered.

Cruise Passengers Robbed in Belize

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Minister of Tourism of Belize was quoted earlier this year saying that that violent crime has been decreasing in the country. He said that over one million people visited Belize last year and crime against tourists was "rare." But the country is impoverished and, my thoughts at least, tourists from a cruise ship stick out like a sore thumb and are often targeted while ashore in Central America and the Caribbean. Also Belize has a murder rate of 44.7 murders per 100,000 of the population, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (Only Honduras and Venezuela are worse.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Video: Article and video Fox9  

Map credit:  Google

Celebrity Solstice Cancels Stop in Bali Due to Concern of Terrorism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 7, 2016 Update:

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

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

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

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

Crew letter credit: Anonymous

Celebrity Sollstice Terrorism Bali

Celebrity Solstice Terrorism

Overboard From Navigator of the Seas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Royal Caribbean Telling You the Truth?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Carnival Sunshine Joins 2016 Noro Club

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Piergiuliano Chesi 3.0 creative commons / wikimedia

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Photo Credit: Pjotr Mahhonin - CC0, Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anthem of the Seas Captain's Letter

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read the lawsuit papers here.

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

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

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

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

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

Oceania Crew Members Pay the Price When Norovirus Hits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Kefalonitis94 - Creative Commons 4.0, Wikimedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chile Asserts Juridiction Over QM2 Following Crew Member Disappearance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Reseg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Department of Defense via military.com

Another NCL Crew Member Goes Overboard From Norwegian Sun

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

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

The crew center site says that "upon the arrival in Chacabuco, Gubertino co-workers realized that he was not onboard and security officers reviewed the CCTV cameras showing that he went overboard at 06:41 am on 16.02.2016. During the afternoon the prosecutor boarded the cruise ship to investigate this tragic:event. According to information provided by Norwegian Sun officers it was not until 9:45 that they realized the crew member was missing and they mobilized all crew members to find out if Gubertino was onboard."

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

A representative of the Chilean Navy is quotes saying:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bahamas Has Worst Record for Rapes in Caribbean

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

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

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

The report stated that “the Bahamas has the highest incidence of rape per capita in the Caribbean. The UN Woman narrative on gender-based violence in the Caribbean cites ‘while the worldwide average for rape was 15 per 100,000, The Bahamas has an average of 133 (per 100,000)."

The rate in the U.S. Is somewhere around 28.6 per 100,000. There are almost 5 times as many rapes in the Bahamas as in the U.S. per capita. 

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

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

Is the Anthem of Seas More Unseaworthy Than It Looks?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images credit: Weather Nation YouTube - top

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

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

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

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

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

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

Royal Caribbean sent the following statement to the media:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo/video credit: Sean Ferguson YouTube

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Storm Anthem of the Seas Cruise

 

Anthem of the Seas Cruises Into Rough Weather

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch Top Five Worst Cruise Ship Disaster Videos

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

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

Image Credit: NOAA/NASA via Forbes

Storm Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In response, I would point out these facts: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Daily Mail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Tancy Talks Cruising Part 2: Fake Haiti

January 26, 2016 Update:  Time magazine weighs in

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CDC Expands Zika Travel Warning

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

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

Barbados, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, St. Martin, Guyana, Cape Verde, and Samoa.

The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) states that the move to add countries where a traveler could be injected "follows the CDC's initial Jan 15 travel advisory recommending that pregnant women and those trying to become pregnant consider postponing travel to countries where Zika virus is circulating, and if they must travel to the destinations they should follow strict steps to avoid mosquito bites."

As we explained in our first article, there is a risk of to pregnant women of having a baby with a small, underdeveloped heads (microcephaly).

This latest development comes at a time when "three travellers who returned to the UK from South and Central America have been diagnosed with the Zika virus."

So far, we have heard of some cruise lines which are cruising to one of the countries subject to the CDC warning are refusing pregnant women to cancel their cruises.  We do not know whether those travel insurance companies are providing coverage when a pregnant cruiser cancels and submits a claim.

The CDC's Recommendations for Pregnant Women Considering Travel to an Area of Zika Virus Transmission

Because there is neither a vaccine nor prophylactic medications available to prevent Zika virus infection, CDC recommends that all pregnant women consider postponing travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. If a pregnant woman travels to an area with Zika virus transmission, she should be advised to strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites. Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite both indoors and outdoors, mostly during the daytime; therefore, it is important to ensure protection from mosquitoes throughout the entire day. Mosquito prevention strategies include wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA - registered insect repellents, using permethrin-treated clothing and gear, and staying and sleeping in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms. When used as directed on the product label, insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, and IR3535 are safe for pregnant women. Further guidelines for using insect repellents are available online (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/avoid-bug-bites).

January 26, 2016 Update: The CDC added  the United States Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic to the list of destinations with Zika virus disease outbreaks.

Photo Credit: "Aedes aegypti CDC-Gathany" by James Gathany - PHIL, CDC. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons Wikipedia

Is Your Cruise Ship Prepared for a Terrorist Attack?

Yahoo Travel just interviewed me for its article Is Your Cruise Ship Prepared for a Terrorist Attack?

There are nearly 500 comments to the article some of which are quite interesting to read.

The Yahoo article does not really touch upon the issue that cruise ships are largely unarmed. So regardless how you feel about the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the cruise ships by and large don't have armed security guards. Contrary to people who want to believe that the ships are armed but the cruise lines don't want to tip their hand to the terrorists, there is in fact no hidden cache of weapons ready to be deployed by the cruise ship's security forces.  

Cruise ships are flagged in foreign countries like the Bahamas or Panama. The international Maritime Organization (IMO) has no authority to regulate the use of guns on these foreign flagged ship. The IMO does not even recommend that cruise ships have guns.

We have written about the dangerous current set of affairs where some cruise ships are sailing into Somali pirate infested waters where the few security guards had to use fake wooden rifles, deck chairs and water cannons to fight off pirates armed with rocket propelled grenades. You can read about pirate attacks against cruise ships here:

Are Cruise Lines Taking Adequate Steps to Protect Passengers from Pirate Attacks?
Cruise Line Liability for Injuries to Passengers and Crew Members Caused by Pirate Attacks

Some cruise ships go as far as to install razor wire around the rails and position logs to be dropped on the pirates below if they run their skiffs up to the cruise ship. You can see a photo of this spectacle here.

As we explained in this article, the IMO issued "guidance" on the use of armed guards on ships, but stresses that it is still not recommending them. Instead it states that shipping companies should consider arming crew members or hiring private armed guards on board only after conducting a risk assessment subject to approval by the flag state. The IMO also recommends that shipping companies follow all laws and regulations imposed by that flag state regarding the use of armed guard apply to their vessels.

The only cruise ships which seems to permit weapons aboard Cruise Ships - Weapons at Seaare flagged in Italy, which seems to have a different attitude towards guns and permits cruise ships flagged there (like Costa) to have weapons aboard.

A Costa ship got itself into a bit of scandal a couple of years ago when a female crew member was photographed holding a huge automatic weapon in the bridge of the cruise ship. The Italian newspaper Oggi published photographs of the attractive Romanian blonde, Sasha Alexandra, posing in the bridge of the Costa Atlantica. She was photographed next to the captain in a tight cocktail dress holding a large machine gun.

But cruise ships from Carnival, Royal Caribbean or NCL, flying the flags of the Bahamas or Panama, have no weapons at sea.

One reader on our Facebook page remarked:

"Cruise lines can't even keep the Ranch Dressing filled at the salad bar . . You are fooling yourself if you think they would be able to fight off an armed boarding / takeover attempt."

I tend to agree.

Photo Credit: Oggi via Telegraph

Royal Caribbean Cancels Another Cruise to Labadee

Royal Caribbean announced that it is canceling another port stop, this time by the Navigator of the Seas, at it's "private destination" in Labadee, Haiti. According to the RCL Blog, Royal Caribbean said today:

"Royal Caribbean has not received any guarantees or assurances that there will not be any protests in the future. If a protest takes place while a ship is port, there would be a significant impact on our guests’ ability to enjoy Labadee, or we may have to cancel the visit completely."

As we mentioned on the 19th, a small flotilla of boats carrying Haitians protested when the Freedom of the Seas tried to call on Labadee.  Although most of the traditional media tried to down-play the Labadee Haiti Cruiseincident or suggest that it was part of the protests about the national election in Haiti, many have suggested that the protests were focused on the exploitation of Haitian people brought about by Royal Caribbean and its trademarked resort of Labadie. (Royal Caribbean's "Labadee®" is derived from the name of the 1600's French plantation baron and slave owner Marquis de La'Badie.) 

We recently published an article by a cruise passenger on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship yesterday - Local Protesters Greet Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship as well as an article which I wrote: Haitians Protest at Royal Caribbean's "Private Destination" at Labadee.  

After the Royal Caribbean ship was turned away, Prime Minister Evans Paul issued a press statement on Twitter, praising the cruise line and promising that regular tourist activities would continue in Labadee:

“The Haitian government strongly condemns with the utmost vigor the incident that occurred, this Tuesday, January 19, 2016, at the tourist port of Labadee with the inopportune arrival of a group of protesters to the dock of this port. This situation caused a regrettable tension for cruise passengers arriving at the site.

Therefore, the Government believes that some different can be resolved through dialogue and calls for calm everyone. The government has taken steps to remedy this situation caused by social order demands. Government officials will have to meet as soon as possible, residents of Labadee area and thus start a dialogue process.

On the other hand, we want to reassure and give our largest tourism partner of the cruise ship company Royal Caribbean all the guarantee that the arrangements will be made by the government to secure the area and allow the tourism activity to continue on the site of Labadee as usual.

The Government of the Republic of Haiti reaffirms the implementation of its overall policy to ensure that Haiti can become one of the main tourist destinations in the Caribbean that can accommodate visitors from around the world."

Royal Caribbean also said: "We will continue to closely monitor the situation and are in close communication with local and government officials in Haiti. At this time, we have not made any decisions regarding any additional upcoming port calls to Labadee. The next schedule call is Vision of the Seas, on Sunday, January 24."

The photo above, credit Freedom of the Seas cruise passenger Tom Fox, was taken on January 19th. 

January 22, 2016 Update:  A Haitian on-line site claims that "representatives of the Haitian Government met Thursday the residents of the community of Labadee to start the dialogue process. Meanwhile, the Minister Villedrouin will meet today Royal Caribbean with a view to guarantee a early resumption of tourism activities in Labadee."

Embarquement pour Labadee, "prison pour touristes"  Boarding for Labadee, "prison for tourists" - (use Google Chrome to automatically translate). "Six years after the earthquake that struck Haiti January 12, 2010, Caterina Clerici and Kim Wall, two independent journalists, respectively photographer and writer, visited the country the time to four geographic and thematic chapters, to understand how tourism can definitely transform the country - for better or for worse."

Local Protesters Greet Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship

By Tom Fox, currently aboard the Freedom of the Seas

Dozens of chanting protesters, banging pots and cymbals, and packed onto a half dozen small vessels, greeted Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas cruise ship as it docked this morning in Labadee, Haiti.

Labadee is a 260-acre peninsula – dubbed a “vacationer’s paradise” by the cruise line -- along Haiti's lush, mountainous and secluded north coast. A small beachfront resort with palm covered cabanas, the area is separated from the rest of the island, cut off by a 12-foot high fence and guarded by security forces.

Royal Caribbean, according to various cruise websites, has leased the land until 2050.

At first it appeared the vessels were approaching the docked ship as part of a rehearsed welcoming ceremony. However, when two coast guard ships arrived and began circling the vessels and encouraging them to leave the waters, it became clear this was a protest – though the specifics of the protesters complaints were not completely spelled out.

One sign, held by one of the protesters, read “USA Away!”

The Freedom of the Seas cruise ship states it carries 3600 passengers. Many were waiting near the gangplanks waiting to disembark shortly after breakfast. With the protests going on many on the ship watched from their balconies taking pictures and waiting for further instructions

After some thirty minutes’ delay the ship, a voice over the ship’s loudspeaker system announce there would be a short delay before passengers could leave the ship. The vessels continued to play cat and mouse with the coast guard vessels, slightly larger than the protesters’ boats, but all dwarfed by the docked cruise ship.

After more than two hours a voice once again came across the loudspeaker system explaining to passengers that local Haitian elections will take place in another week and that the protests they were watching were a local matter.

It seemed a number of passengers and crew members weren’t buying this explanation. 

Finally, the voice stated that the cruise ship would not be disembarking today “for the safety of our passengers, which we hold to be of the utmost importance.”

One veteran crewmember told me said she had been sailing into Labadee for 13 years and this was the first time she had seen such a protest.

Nestled on the northern coast of Haiti, Labadee, according to Royal Caribbean’s website, “is the ultimate private destination for cruise vacationers – and we're the only cruise line that sails there.”

According to several cruise websites, passengers are not allowed to leave Labadee to venture out to see the rest of the island. Haiti is the poorest of the nations in the Western hemisphere and suffered a devastating earthquake in 2010, although it apparently did not affect the northern part of the island where Labadee is located.

Cruise travel websites state that only a small group of Haitian merchants are given rights to sell their merchandise and establish their businesses at the Labadee resort. Most workers are employed by Royal Caribbean and come from outside nations.

Royal Caribbean proudly advertises its private Haitian resort. One advertisement reads: “Looking to unleash adrenaline? Strap on a helmet and harness, and soar down 500 feet on the Dragon's Breath Flight Line, the world's longest zip line over water. Curious to explore Haiti's unique culture and incredible landscapes? Explore Haitian life, its coastline, flora and fauna on one of our exciting shore excursions and tours. Ready to kick back, relax and sip a Labadoozie? Get the VIP treatment while unwinding beachside in our private cabanas. Take it all in on one of our eastern or western Caribbean cruises to Labadee.”

Visitors don’t spend the night at Labadee. For years blogs and message boards have been critical of the idea of tourists frolicking in the sun at Labadee when so much hunger and poverty rest only miles away.

"Royal Caribbean is performing a sickening act to me by taking tourists to Haiti," wrote one poster on CNN's Connect the World blog. "Having a beach party while people are dead, dying and suffering minutes away hardly makes me want to cruise that particular line," wrote another.

Freedom of the Seas
was back at sea by mid-morning with Captain Ron Holmes on one of the ship’s channels reassuring passengers that the protests were solely a local matter and that there would be plenty of activities on board the ship, all intended to make up for the lost fun they had suffered from being kept at sea by the protesters.

Video Credit: Tom Fox

 

Haitians Protest at Royal Caribbean's "Private Destination" at Labadee

Many news sources are reporting that thousands of Haitian protesters have rioted in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and other locations in Haiti against President Michel Martelly and the upcoming election to determine his successor, which some say is rigged in favor of his ruling party, according to Time magazine. The turmoil comes before the scheduled runoff election this coming Sunday between Jovenel Moïse, who is backed by the current government, and opposition candidate Jude Célestin. 

Protests are also taking place today in the port at Labadee, an idyllic 260 acre "private destination" operated by the Royal Caribbean cruise line on the northern coast of the country. Small boatloads of protesters have blocked cruise passengers from disembarking the Freedom of the Seas which arrived Labadee, Haiti - Royal Caribbean by Tom Foxin Labadee this morning.

The controversy has been witnessed first hand by Tom Fox, a passenger aboard the Freedom of the Seas. Ironically, Mr. Fox just retired after 35 year as the publisher of the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) two weeks ago.

You can read Mr. Fox's account here

Mr. Fox says that the cruise ship was met by a number of small vessels packed with protesters clanging pans and shouting, One or two Haitian coast guard vessels kept watch, guiding through and among the other vessels. Mr. Fox reports that the demonstration has been non violent so far. The captain of the Royal Caribbean cruise ship announced that the protests were "due to the upcoming Haitian election."

It is curious, however, that one of the signs on one of the vessels read "USA Away," according to Mr Fox. 

In 1986, Royal Caribbean shook hands with the tyrant Baby Doc Duvalier to seal a deal where it obtained exclusive control of 260 acres of sovereign waterfront land from Haiti. Royal Caribbean trademarked it's new "private island" - "Labadee®" - derived from the name of the 1600's French plantation baron and slave owner Marquis de La'Badie. It then erected a 12 foot high security fence around its "island" and hired armed security guards to keep the impoverished Haitians out.

Royal Caribbean ran into a public relations nightmare in 2010 following the earthquake which devastated Port of Prince, when it sailed its mega cruise ships into its private resort.

Mr. Fox points out that a Freedom of the Seas crew member says that the protest at Labadee has been unprecedented in her 13 years of visiting the port, although Mr. Fox tweeted that some crew members doubt that the protests are, in fact, due to the Haitian elections.

There is a video on Facebook (shown below) with people leaving comments that the protests are about a work-strike and the use of the $10 passenger head tax collected by the cruise line.  

All photo credit to Tom Fox.

Video Credit Jc Roy.

 

 

MSC Fantasia Terror Alert?

MSC Fantasia A Greek newspaper is reporting that the MSC Fantasia has been subjected to a search for explosives today after calling on Haifa. 

The MSC cruise ship arrived today in the Bay of Souda near Chania in Crete. A Greek newspaper in Athens "To Vima" reports that suspicious passengers or explosives may be on board the ship.

The MSC ship carries 3,393 passengers with a crew of 1,259 people. The ship was originally headed for the port of Heraklion. The Coast Guard and other authorities at the Souda naval base were reportedly notified. 

The newspaper says that the MSC Captain advised the authorities that the ship was changing course because of the weather and that a passenger, apparently a German citizen, had died and needed to be autopsied to determine whether the passenger died from cardiac causes as suspected. However, the newspaper reports that the ship had already changed course for security reasons.

The article said that the recent terrorist attack in Istanbul by ISIS had raised an alert regarding terrorism including attacks on cruise ships sailing in the region.

The next port for the Fantasia will be Civitavecchia in Italy.  

A German newspaper contains a quote from MSC Cruises saying that bad weather was the reason for the diversion. The cruise line said rumors of security issues are "totally unfounded."

I would be interested in hearing what crew members and passenger have to say about the weather conditions at the time.

There nonetheless appears to be a heightened security alert following the terrorist attack in Turkey. 

ABC News reported yesterday that Crystal Cruises announced that it was canceling stops for the Crystal Symphony in Istanbul and Kusadasi, Turkey "in response to ongoing security concerns."

The itineraries for Crystal voyages that set sail April 24 and May 1 will reportedly include destinations in Greece instead of Turkey.

U.S. cruise operators are being tight lipped about whether they are reasonably equipped to respond to security challenged presented by ISIS. However, German tour operators recently admitted that terrorism is their top challenge in 2016. And German tourists may be re-thinking their travel plans as tourists have become terror targets.

Photo Credit: "MSC Fantasia 2012 2" by Benjamin Nagel licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons / Wikipedia

Royal Caribbean Bus Excursion Kills One Cruise Passenger From Independence of the Seas

The Jamaican Observer reports that cruise ship passengers were injured today "when the Toyota Coaster tour bus they were travelling in was involved in a four-vehicle collision on the Carey Park main road in Trelawny."

The Jamaican newspaper says that "one of the cruise ship passengers was rushed to the Falmouth Public General Hospital."

The newspaper article identified a "grey Toyota Corolla motor car, a white Freightliner truck and a Cruise Bus Excursion Accident yellow Toyota Hiace panel van were the other motor vehicles involved in the collision."

We have learned that the tour bus was on an excursion taking cruise passengers from the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas (in Falmouth) to Dunn's River. 

Royal Caribbean released a statement, indicating that one passenger was killed and three others were injured:

"Today 21 guest from Independence of the Seas participating in an excursion were involved in a traffic accident in Falmouth, Jamaica. We are saddened to report that a guest passed away. Three other guest were injured and are being treated at the local hospital. Crew members have gone to the hospital to assist. Join us in keeping them in our thoughts and prayers."

There have been a number of bus excursion accidents in Caribbean islands involving Royal Caribbean and its sister company Celebrity Cruises over the last 6 years.

Photo Credit: Jamaica Observer / Mark Cummings

 

 

Are Cruise Lines Warning Pregnant Passengers of the Zika Virus?

ZIKA VirusThe New York Times published an article yesterday that should alarm women who are pregnant and thinking about taking a cruise calling on ports in the Caribbean or South America or Central America. CDC May Warn Pregnant Women Against Travel to Countries With Zika Virus written by science and health reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr., says that test results from the CDC seems to establish a link between the mosquito-borne virus and Brazil’s rise in babies born with abnormally underdeveloped heads (microcephaly).

According to Helen Bramswell, an infectious diseases and public health reporter from STAT News, there have been  "at least 3,530 cases of microcephaly and 46 deaths in Brazil since the increasing number of cases was recognized last October. The country saw fewer than 200 cases of microcephaly annually over the previous five years." 

The CDC is thinking about issuing a warning for pregnant travelers against travel to Brazil, as well as other Latin American and Caribbean countries where the virus has spread.  According to the Times, the virus has been located in 14 countries in the Western Hemisphere: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti , Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Paraguay, Suriname, and Venezuela.   

The Times spoke to corporate communications representatives of Carnival. Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise lines who reportedly denied knowing anything about the Zika virus and directed inquiries to their trade association, the Cruise Line International Association.  CLIA suggestions include the same general things suggested to prevent the infection with the chikungunya virus - using mosquito repellents and wearing protective clothes.

According to Caribbean 360, the Zika virus was first detected in humans about 40 years ago in Uganda. It is spread by the same Aedes aegypti mosquito as dengue and chikunguya. The disease was first identified in the South Americas less than two years ago and has spread rapidly across South and Central America.

January 15 2016 Update: It's Official. U.S. issues travel alert over Zika virus in Latin America, Caribbean.

January 16 2016 Update: CDC alert for Zika virus may curb Caribbean 'babymoon' vacations. "The CDC had been urging all travelers visiting areas of Latin America and the Caribbean to take extra precautions against mosquito bites to avoid contracting the virus. But officials upgraded the warning late Friday to a Level 2 travel notice and are now advising pregnant w.men and women trying to become pregnant to consider avoiding travel to the affected areas out of concern that Zika may cause a catastrophic birth defect called microcephaly.

"We likely will see a significant decline in trips by women who are pregnant or trying to conceive to these regions in light of the apparent link between the virus and birth defects,"

CBS Pregnant women warned about Zika virus

Photo Credit: "Aedes aegypti CDC-Gathany" by James Gathany, CDC, licensed under Public Domain via Commons / Wikipedia.

U.S. Embassy in Nassau: Jet Ski Operators Sexually Assaulted 5 Tourists in 18 Months

The AP reports that the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas yesterday has singled out operators of jet skis following the latest sexual assault of a U.S. citizen by a man on a jet ski on Cabbage Beach. We reported that the police in Nassau arrested a Bahamian on January 2nd following the rape.

According to the AP account, the embassy reported there had been five sexual assaults of U.S. citizens by jet-ski operators in Nassau since July. The actual warning refers to July of 2014.  In addition, the embassy "banned its staff from using jet-ski rental companies because of insufficient regulation. It recommended U.S. citizens not use them either."  The recommended ban applies to Cabbage Beach and Miami Cruise Ship Crime - NassauCable Beach.

You can read the warning from the embassy here.

In 2014, the New York Times published an article about the high crime rate in Nassau, in general, and watercraft operators there in particular after the embassy issued a similar crime warning last year. The Times interviewed me in the article, after jet ski operators sexually assaulted at least three American tourists. The embassy warned of "increasingly brazen" crimes sweeping the Bahamas. 

The article said that the prime minister convened a special national security meeting last year after allegedly devising "several crime-fighting strategies." The Bahamas never disclosed these so-called new strategies to the public. The long-standing problem with rogues associated with jet ski operators assaulting tourists seems to have continued until today. Many in the Bahamas are critical of Prime Minister Cristie who has repeatedly told the press throughout the year that his government would roll out new policies to counteract the rise in crime but such plans never materialized. 

The Tribune news paper in Nassau said yesterday that the Bahamian arrested for the alleged rape was was not a water sports operator but “just a man with a Jet Ski and a boat hanging on the beach."

The newspaper also said that Bahamian officials are discussing using police and Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers to assist her ministry in patrolling the beaches to address the problem. 

One person commenting on the article said: "This is just what our tourists come here to see, machine gun toting cops and marines on the beach fraternizing with the jet-ski operators. What a scene of tropical paradise."

The recent warning from the U.S. Embassy is one of over ten crime warnings from various government agencies about Nassau in a little over two years.

Many cruise ship passengers still don't know that when they get on a ship here in Miami heading for the Bahamas, they are heading to a country with a national crime rate many times higher than the U.S. rate. The cruise lines don't issue warnings before selling cruises to Nassau but typically warm their guests of the high crime rate there during the cruise.

More Per Capita Murder than Detroit: Nassau Continues with Mayhem in 2016

The Tribune newspaper in Nassau, a newspaper anyone thinking of cruising into the Bahamas with your family should read, blasts the following headline today: Four In Hospital After New Year Shootings.

The Bahamas reached a record murder rate in 2015 of 148 homicides, reported by the Tribune. Putting this murder rate into perspective, the U.S. murder rate is around 4.5 per 100,000 people. The Bahamas, with around 330,000 people, has a per capita murder rate of approximately 44.4 per 100,000, That's right, the Bahamas has a per capita rate of approximately 10 times that of the U.S. The Bahamian country's per capita murder rate places it among the most violent and dangerous cities in the U.S., a little higher than Detroit (43.5 per 100,000) and New Orleans (39.6 per 100,000).  

Now, defenders of the Bahamas will argue that the Bahamas consists of almost 700 islands; most of Nassau Bahamasthem have not experienced a single murder in a long time. They are right, most of the murders have been in New Providence (Nassau). But this actually makes the per capita murder rate significantly higher in Nassau, where the majority of cruise ship passenger are unloaded, when you calculate the Nassau per capita murder rate based on its population of around 250,000. 

When I started this blog in 2009, there were two incidents in Nassau (which you can read about here and here) where two groups of cruise passengers from Disney and Royal Caribbean ships were robbed at gunpoint. The first group were visiting a popular tourist spot on a Sunday (Queen's Stairway in downtown Nassau) and the other group were on an official cruise line "Segway excursion."  I mention these facts now because many people in Nassau will try to convince you that only drunk cruise passengers "looking for trouble" (i.e., looking for drugs or prostitutes or those who wander "over the hill") are at risk for being a victims of crime. Given the lackadaisical response by the Bahamas police to these violent crimes and the fact that cruise ships were not even warning of the crime problem back then, I have written about this issue repeatedly. 

Enough passengers have been robbed or raped in Nassau for the U.S Embassy, the U.S. State Department, the U.K. and Canadian Foreign Affairs Offices to issue 10 crime warnings in less than 2 years. 

Travel Weekly just featured an interview with Joy Jibrilu, Director General, Ministry of Tourism, of the Bahamas. I was stuck with just how out of touch she sounds with the reality of the crime around her that threatens to scare knowledgeable vacationers away from considering Nassau as a vacation place. Compare her interview with the frank talk of Adrian Gibson who wrote an opinion piece for the Tribune a couple days ago titled A Young Man's View: The Matters That Must Be Resolved In 2016. Among other issues, he points out that arrivals by cruise ship are falling and and "crime is out of control."  

Cuba will soon provide a much safer and many say a far more interesting port than downtown Nassau. However, in the cruelest of ironies, Ms Jebrilu mentions that many "Americans and Europeans will be thinking about where they’re going to take their vacations." She adds that "where they may have gone to North Africa, even to places in Europe or Turkey, I think they’re going to think twice and wonder if they should stay closer to home (because of international terrorism) . . . we have proven to be a very safe destination."

I suggest that Ms. Jibrilu walk over to the Prince George Wharf when all of the cruise ships from Miami and Fort Lauderdale are crowded into port and interview the tourists who decide to stay on the ships rather than tour Nassau. I think she will quickly find out that whereas ISIS may be the last thing on their minds, many U.S. passengers will tell her that they are keeping their families on the ships because of fear that they will have a gun pointed in their faces if they walk down the gangway.  

Photo Credit: TampAGS, for AGS Media Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Creative Commons / Wikipedia

Cruise Ship Terrorism: "The Elephant in the Room" for 2015

We are just a few hours before placing 2015 is in our rear view mirror as we start upon a fresh New Year. So what are the memories which come to mind when we think of taking a cruise in 2015?  And what are the lessons that the cruise industry learned in 2015 which will ensure that history does not repeat itself in 2016?

I started the draft of this article by listing all of the ship fires this year, as well as the cases of passenger and crew member overboards, children drowning in cruise ship swimming pools without lifeguards, and sexual assaults of children and women. But all of these incidents, no matter how tragic, don't come close to the scope of the death and mayhem associated with the murder of two dozen cruise passengers by terrorists in Tunis, Tunisia.  

The incident which kept coming back to me as I wrote this article was the massacre of twenty-two Tunis Terror Attackcruise passengers from Costa and MSC cruise ships in Tunisia. This terrifying incident involving cruise ships which were docked at the La Goulette cruise port in Tunis should have brought the reality of radical Islamic terrorism directly to the attention of cruise executives in the U.S. and Europe. We warned about incidents like this happening a month prior in ISIS Poses Terrorist Threat to Cruise Ships in Mediterranean. The passengers, however, received no warnings from the cruise operators which sent bus loads of tourists to the Bardo Museum without making any security arrangements whatsoever. 

The day before the massacre, the cruise executives presented a “state of the cruise industry” speech at the annual trade convention on Miami Beach, Cruise Shipping Miami. The CEOs of Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), and MSC Cruises discussed building bigger ships and expanding into new markets such as Cuba and China. The CEO of NCL, Frank Del Rio, remarked that “Libya, Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon could be more lucrative than Cuba.” The convention audience politely applauded and the other cruise executives smiled. I couldn’t help tweeting “have you heard of ISIS?

With the blood of twenty-two dead passengers on their hands, the cruise lines doubled down and announced that there were no indications that terrorism could strike a cruise ship or its passengers and crew in Tunis. The cruise industry not only refused to take any responsibility for the massacre but the spokesperson for the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) boasted that "cruise ships are a safe and secure place for our guests in the rare event of a shore side incident." MSC Cruises USA CEO Rick Sasso said "There was no hint of terrorism or uncertainty in Tunisia before the attack . . . There are a zillion ports around the world, and we follow all of them. . . There was nothing going on there that indicated this should've been a concern."

The truth is that Tunisian soldiers were engaged in ongoing battles against Al Qaeda when the MSC and Costa ships sailed there. There were prior suicides bombers which targeted hotels and museums filled with tourists. The U.K. had issued a prior warning of a terrorist attack on tourist sites and the U.S. repeatedly urged caution. ISIS was recruiting young men from mosques in Tunis to be trained and radicalized in Libya. The signs of trouble were all there.

The most frequent question which I have received this year is "is it safe to cruise in the Mediterranean with my family?" Yahoo asked me to write an opinion piece about the cruise industry shortly after disaster struck at the Bardo museum. In response, I penned Is Cruising Safe? A Chilling Look at an Industry Under Siege which provides my thoughts about the issue of safety and international terrorism.

The cruise industry needs to wake up. Tunis was preventable. Greater attention to Al Qaeda and ISIS is necessary to avoid a similar if not worse attack on innocent passengers. Dangerous ports need to be avoided. In the past, Princess Cruises used security teams / police to accompany tour bus excursions in Egypt. Maritime security teams are also required in foreign ports of call to address the risk of waterborne attacks. Cruise lines are overflowing with cash. The cruise industry collects around $45 billion a year, pays their crew members peanuts and doesn't pay U.S. taxes. The industry needs to start investing some of those tens of millions of dollars into substantial security to keep their guests safe. 

NCL's executive Del Rio, who salivated over record profits in Tunis and other risky Arab/Middle Eastern ports earlier this year was interviewed by Travel Weekly last week. Of course he remains bullish about cruising in 2016 but said that terrorism is always the "elephant in the room."  Well it's time that the cruise lines began talking about the elephant.

In the past couple of weeks, travel agents and travel writers have written articles about whether cruise lines are prepared for radical Islamic terrorism. A Florida travel agent wrote "A Boatload of Reasons Why You Should Feel Secure on a Cruise Ship" for Travel Pulse. Australian travel writer Michael Gebicki wrote "How Do Cruise Ships Guard Against Terrorism?" Neither article explains what cruise lines are actually doing or provide any reason why you should feel protected on a cruise ship. Both articles are just spinning the story to assure that travel in places like North Africa and the Middle East are not disrupted. These articles don't even admit that most cruise lines do not have any weapons on the ships to repel an organized attack up the gangway. Take a look at the pitiful way cruise ships responded to the threat of pirates and you can quickly realize that the industry is unarmed and not prepared to protect the passengers or crew. 

Cruise ship security teams seem to have their hands full responding to drunk passengers on their ships.  A well organized attack by ISIS will send the weapon-less security guards scurrying into the ship. The obvious will then become apparent - that cruise ships are sitting ducks.  We already know that al Qaeda has planned to seize cruise ships and execute passengers years ago. The difference today is that terrorists are no longer interested in holding hostages, but are motivated to simply kill and terrorize as many people as possible.

There will be travelers who read this and will respond that the threat of terrorism is everywhere; just ask the residents of Paris or the citizens in San Bernardino, California. Don't be afraid because the terrorists will already be winning, they will say. Perhaps so.  But my thoughts are that a family looking for a relaxing vacation who picks a cruise vacation to the Mediterranean on a huge cruise ship fiiled with thousands of other passengers is just asking for trouble. 

Photo Credit: Bottom AFP

Bloody Ecstasy: Graphic Video Shows Aftermath of Deadly Elevator Accident

FOX 4 Fort Myers aired a gruesome video last night taken by passengers on the Carnival Ecstasy of blood pouring out of the top of the elevator running down the elevator door like a sheet. The passenger said "it sounded like a rainstorm . . . "

The news account reported that the couple were heading to dinner on the 10th floor of the ship Sunday night when they saw the horrifying scene.

The video apparently shows the aftermath of an elevator accident where a crew member who was in the elevator shaft was mortally injured.

The FOX channel reported that cruise ship employees told the couple that the accident seriously injured an electrician who later died.

The Miami-Dade Police Department identified the victim as 66-year-old Jose Sandoval Opazo.

The family reportedly said that Carnival offered to pay for them to go to three counseling sessions.

WARNING: Graphic content. 

January 5 2016 update: Ms. Sandoval's daughter left a message (below) seeking relevant information, saying in part: "Does anyone know the truth, and why he was there alone. anyone who wants to help me, my contact is singa1982@hotmail.com Thanks Carolina"

 

Norovirus Nightmare: Cruise Industry Plays the "Blame-the-Passenger" Game

The accounts of the gastrointestinal outbreak on the P&O Pacific Eden portrayed in today's Daily Mail are disgusting: overflowing toilets on a dirty ship with barfing, sick kids.  Ill passengers, who paid handsomely for a family cruise vacation over Christmas, complain that not only did their complaints fall on the deaf ears of surly cruise staff members but the cruise captain blamed them for the outbreak in the first place. 

Long ago, the cruise industry elected a "blame the passenger" public relations strategy whenever a ship become infected with norovirus. When an outbreak takes place due to contaminated food, the cruise lines accuse the passengers of not washing their hands and ignoring the "washy, washy" p&o Pacific Edeninstructions of the cruise hostesses stationed at the entrance to the dining room who spray sanitizers (which are worthless against norovirus) on the passenger's hands.  

Admittedly, the cruise lines face a PR headache when norovirus breaks out on the high seas. Invariably, the cruise industry faces sensational news accounts from online newspapers that blast cruise-from-hell headlines which include references to "floating petri dishes." The cruise lines seemingly feel compelled to respond to the media with the same old, worn-out blame-the-passenger game.

Travel agents and travel publications perpetuate the cruise industry's talking points. Just today Travel Agent Central covered the recent outbreak of an gastrointestinal illness on the Holland America Line Veendam by writing this whopper: "most cases of norovirus are brought onboard by guests." There is absolutely no empirical evidence of this. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration concluded that norovirus is primarily caused by contaminated food or water.   

But the last thing that the cruise industry ever wants to admit is that there is a problem with food poisoning on their fleet of ships, or that a cook or food handler, like a waiter who works primarily on tips, worked after exhibiting signs of a gastrointestinal illness and infected the paying guests.

Determining the causative source of an outbreak is the business of an epidemiologist, but have you ever heard of the CDC ever coming to a scientific determination that the cause of a cruise ship outbreak was traced back to a salad which contained contaminated bean Cruise Ship Norovirussprouts eaten by 100 passengers?  Of course not. The CDC does not have the time or inclination to perform such an analysis during the short turn-around in port when the ships quickly re-rack with thousands of other passengers and head out to sea without a firm understanding of the scientific nature of the disease that just sickened its passengers. The lost revenue of a "sick ship," shut down for a comprehensive epidemiological analysis, far exceeds any legal claims contemplated by sick passengers.   

Can you imagine Chipotle, with its recent norovirus and e-coli outbreaks, blaming its customers like the cruise industry does? Instead, Chipotle has already recognized and admitted that it is facing a "food safety" issue. It immediately began to work on an enhanced food safety program. It retained an independent laboratory to reassess its food safety practices that included a "farm-to-fork assessment of each ingredient we use with an eye toward establishing the highest standards for safety.” It also is considering whether the outbreaks are caused by "food poisoning" or "bad employee hand washing." 

The cruise industry, on the other hand, has chosen to focus on short term PR efforts. The only enhancements it engages in are "enhanced cleanings" of its infected ships where everything is sprayed down by crew members, some not even wearing protective suits, in a couple of hours. It's an impossible task to enlist already overworked crew members to eradicate the billions and billions of noro microbes which are puked in every nook and cranny of the bathroom and into the fabrics of the carpets, couches and blankets in hundreds of cabins in just a few hours. The cruise industry has never dedicated itself to getting to the root of the noro problem which may well point to it's ships which are always on the go or its sick crew members as the primary source of the problem.

After all, this is the same industry where the exclusive Silversea Cruises brand duped USPH inspectors and hid food in crew member cabins. Butt the real surprise came when I asked crew members on Facebook: Do cruise lines hide pots & pans, galley equipment and food from USPH inspectors? Of the first 100 crew members who answered the poll (admittedly unscientific), around 90% said yes, cruise lines routinely hide galley items from inspectors. One crew member said: "There will be more equipment in the crew cabin during the inspection then in the galley that's for sure!!!"

That's not to say that sick passengers are never the cause of an outbreak. Sometimes passengers don't admit that they are ill and lie on the pre-cruise medical questionnaires. This becomes a real problem when the cruise lines refuse to permit passengers to re-book their cruises when they become ill. And some passengers refuse to report ill to the ship infirmary to avoid the exorbitant shipboard medical bills that follow their arrival. There is no doubt that that shipwide contamination can become worse and the virus can spread via passengers when they refuse to be confined to their cabins.      

So yes, passengers are not immune from blame. But every single time there is an breakout, the cruise lines blame the passengers! The blame is automatic and often leveled against the passengers even before it is possible for the CDC to even test the nature of the disease and notwithstanding the fact that the ship may have experienced outbreaks during prior cruises.

One of the books written by cruise expert Professor Ross Klein, "Cruise Ship Squeeze," addresses this issue. Professor Klein has been recognized as an expert regarding cruise line issues by both the House of Representatives and the Senate before whom he has testified several times. In chapter 8 of Dr. Klein's book, at pages 179 - 183, he discusses Princess Cruises always blaming the passengers. A dozen years ago during a 2003 cruise, passengers were stricken with a gastrointestinal illness. Princess accused their guests sick with norovirus of "bringing it with them." But the truth is that during the prior cruise, the cruise ship had experienced passengers sickened with the same sickness. No scientists arrived at this conclusion. And there was nothing remotely scientific about what Princess represented to the public.

Ever since then, Princess says the same thing over and over every time norovirus sickens its guests.

Who needs epidemiologists when the cruise line PR teams and their friends in travel publications have already figured out what to say?  

 

Photo Credit:  "Pacific Eden, Fremantle, 2015" by Bahnfrend licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons / Wikipedia. 

Don't forget to read: 

Another cruise ship hit by norovirus, blames passengers.

"Worse than a one-star motel": P&O Pacific Eden cruise sees 60 hit with gastro.

HAL's Veendam Hit with GI Outbreak

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that fifty-seven (57) of 1429 passengers (3.99%) and ten (10) of 588 crew members (1.70%) have been reported ill with gastrointestinal illness aboard the Veendam cruise ship operated by Holland American Line.

The CDC has yet to figure out what type of outbreak is involved. It is probably norovirus, as was the case in the last 11 GI cruise ship outbreaks this year. A CDC environmental health officer will board the HAL cruise ship at the end of the cruise in San Diego, California on December 27, 2015.

The Veendam had its last norovirus outbreak in 2014, in February.

 

Denial, Skepticism Plague Sexual Assaults Against Passengers on Cruises

Disney Cruises Sexual Asssault

I have found that whenever I write about a crew member sexually assaulting a passenger, a certain number of the co-employees instinctively defend the crew member, even when the victim involves a child. 

On Christmas Eve, a local Miami news station reported that a 31 year old Disney crew member was arrested for allegedly sexually molesting an 11 year old girl on the Disney Magic cruise ship which sailed from Miami.

We posted the article on our Facebook page. Cruise passengers who regularly follow our page did not express surprise (this is not the first time this has occurred on a Disney cruise). Many readers expressed their disgust with the news; however, a number of people (mostly crew members) accused the little girl and her family of perpetuating a fraud on the Disney crew member.

The fact that the Disney crew member reportedly confessed to molesting the little girl (according to the news station) did not dissuade the crew member supporters from disparaging the child and her family.

" Working with him i kno (sic) he would never do something like that. Thats a f**king lie. Poor innocent guy getting locked up for sh*t," commented a current crew member on our Facebook page." 

Other comments by people identifying themselves as current or past crew members were equally accusatory of the child and blindly supportive of the Disney employee:

"Was my room mate I don't believe this for one second . . . I've worked with him too . . . I can't believe this  . . . No chance that he would do this, he's been put in an awkward situation by a guest and now paying for it! . . . Man he was my helper sometimes, he wouldn't do this, disgusting guests! . . .   This is a Hugh (sic)  lie . . . . most of the People coming and finding the way to get money From This company and if you as a Cruise member say Hello to one kid the parents already say you are abusing their Child but they do Not Know the company wash their hands and do Not give nathing and they fix a inocent person..!!! . . . I worked with this guy, this just cannot be true. Plus after being on ships for more then 4 years, I have seen everything when it comes to guests trying to get things for free and to get money from the company. Its sick, and some people will stoop to really low levels . . ."

"I don't think the guy did it i know this guy nobody here can tell me anything I've been working with him and I still work for the company .. .  is about americans that wants money for free just saying nonsenses . . . "

One crew member who said he previously worked with the alleged assailant on the Disney Fantasy made this outlandish, misogynous attack:   'I think you need to educate your kids, cause you can not blame a man when your daughter is wearing a short showing what she's not suppose to show at her age." 

Unfortunately, every time we write an article about a crew member molesting a child, I hear these same type of groundless accusations by crew members expressing doubt of the crime and attacking the victim. These defensive and mean-spirited comments are troubling. They also reveal a fundamental lack of proper training and a lack of empathy on the Disney fleet of cruise ships. The problem is wider than just Disney Cruises. 

Costa Sexual AssaultLast October, a Honduran Costa crew member allegedly sexually molested a 15 yer old girl aboard the Costa Diadema.  When we mentioned the alleged crime on our blog, crew members made these comments: "I dont't think it's true story written here. The guy is 50 , and the girl is 15. Honduras guy is not a stupit (sic) to do something drectly. Maybe she called him to came to cabin to ask something and he misunderstand what she says . . .  That's why, never go to guest cabin, where a minor is staying, they will make up all kind of stories, just to get something out of it."

On the same Costa cruise ship, a bartender, Mark Guinucud from Manila, Philippines, allegedly followed an 18 year-old French woman into her cabin and raped her brutally. But his co-employee friends quickly came to his defense: 

"I do not believe this! I know that guy and I've been his colleague from a hotel before and he is not that kind of man to rape a woman specially a foreigner? Mark is kind and gentleman and he is a good friend of ours. He will never do anything like this. Why would he even rape a girl when he came over there just to work for him and for his family? I suspect that the French woman is making up stories. . . ." 

After Royal Caribbean Karan Seechurn from Mauritius (a mini-bar attendant) was arrested on the Quantum of the Seas after he used his master key to enter a woman's cabin at night while he was Royal Caribbean Sexual Assaultwas off-duty and molested the woman while she was sleeping, a crew member friend commented "I worked RCCL and I think . . . this is a vindictive allegation for money."  Seechurn later pleaded guilty and was sent to jail. 

Some crew members reacted cynically even when there is no denying that the attack was particularly brutal. A Holland America Line (HAL) crew member Ketut Pujayasa, age 28, from Indonesia, sexually assaulted, brutally beat and then tried to throw a woman overboard from her balcony on the Nieuw Amsterdam. Even though the crew member was later sentenced to 30 years in jail, the passenger who was savagely victimized was faced with baseless criticism from some of the crew members. One commented on our article:

"Some passenger sometime will do anything to avoid paying, including false aligation for rape, American are full of drama, they complain about everything they could from the first time they step on the cruise. Finding a way to cut cost. Some single lady's already are so lonely , and sluty they are desperate for sex on the cruise, they invite a crew member, if they are not satisfied they do something like this . . . "

In fact, the crew member beat and choked the woman so savagely (warning graphic photos) that she is lucky to be alive. Certainly no rational person would suggest that a victim faked such horrendous injuries in order to file a false claim against a crew member. 

But the cynicism against such claims brought by passengers is pervasive on the ships. This attitude flows from the management of cruise lines through the supervisors down to the crew. The "us versus them" mentality when a crew member is accused of a crime is alive and well in the cruise ships' security departments.  Yahoo Travel just published Ships Have HAL Sexual AssaultPadded Cells for Problem Passengers and Other Confessions of a Cruise Security Officer in which a security officer for Holland America Line makes the claim that some passengers specifically come on the cruise ship to "scam the ship" and allege that the "ship did something wrong to them" in order to claim money or a free cruise.  

Such a discussion makes a mockery of the reality of cruise ship crime and illustrates the built-in bias of the cruise lines when dealing with crime victims. Yet, the cruise industry seems to love the Yahoo article; the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) twitter feed re-tweeted the Yahoo article as a sign of approval. 

A victim of sexual molestation, particularly a young girl, needs unqualified love and support from the community around her, not cynical accusations of conspiracy, particularly from the crew members of the magical cruise community which promised her a dream cruise right before Christmas. 

11 Year Old Girl Sexually Assaulted on Disney Magic Cruise Ship

Juan Manuel Palma Ortega / Disney Wonder Sexual Assault MinorWSVN Channel 7 reports that a 31 year old man was arrested for allegedly molesting  an 11-year-old girl aboard a Disney cruise ship which sailed last week from the port of Miami.

The news channel says that the man is from Honduras and he allegedly fondled the little girl on board the Disney Magic, which sailed from Port Miami on December 18, 2015. The stations says that "while on the ship, the girl told her parents that a man, later identified as 31-year-old Juan Manuel Palma Ortega, fondled her three times."

The Magic returned to the port of Miami yesterday.

The station further reports that "Miami-Dade police detained Palma Ortega back at Port Miami, where he allegedly confessed to the crime. He was charged with three counts of lewd and lascivious molestation of a minor and is being held without bond."  

His mug shot is to the left.

The news article does not state whether he is a crew member or not. His Facebook page states that from Tegucigalpa, Honduras where many crew members are from. However, there is no information confirming this yet.

This latest alleged crime should serve to remind the public that sexual assault of minors do occur on cruise ships, even on those cruise ships which cater to families.

Last year, a Disney employee, age 36, of Jakarta Indonesia (photo below right), employed as a cabin attendant on the Disney Dream, molested a girl during a family cruise. He befriended the family during the cruise and assaulted the 13 year old girl on the last morning of the cruise. We are representing the family of the child.  The Port Canaveral Police department arrested the Disney cruise employee. He was Disney Pervert Cruise Shipsentenced earlier this year to 70 months in jail.  You can read about that case here.

Disney refused to timely report a similar incident when a 33 year old Disney waiter molested an 11 year old girl on the Disney Dream. Although the incident occurred while the cruise ship was in port in Port Canaveral, Disney sailed the cruise ship to the Bahamas in what appeared to be an attempt to aid the crew member in escaping justice. The Bahamas, as expected, refused to arrest the molester and Disney then flew the crew member back to his home country, India. WKMG covered the disturbing story. You can see photos of the incident here and read our account of the crime here.

Florida is the only state which gives jurisdiction to state police agencies to arrest foreign crew members or passengers who commit sexual crimes in international waters and provides jurisdiction to state prosecutors to criminally charge these perverts. Typically other states must rely on the FBI and federal prosecutors who do a terrible job investigating crimes at sea,  

Photo Credit: Top: Miami-Dade County Police via WSVN; Bottom FOX 35.

Windstar Cruise Ship Runs Aground

Seabourn Pride a/k/a Star PrideWindstar Cruises' Star Pride (photo left in Europe when it was operated by Seabourn) hit rocks near Isla de Coiba, Panama yesterday morning. 

Professor Ross Klein's website says that according to a passenger aboard the Star Breeze:

"We have just picked up 109 passenger and crew from another Windstar Cruise Liner in (what I think is) the south end of Costa Rica. The other Windstar ship hit rocks and took on water near the port where people got off. We left our port in an emergency to assist and it took 13 hours to get to them. According to people on that Windstar ship no one was injured which makes us all happy. We are going to be back tracking to get them to the closest airport. The ship we all saw is clearly damaged at it is listing."

News sources says that guests were refunded 100 percent of their voyage fare. Cruise Critic says that the cruise line offered '100 percent of cruise fare paid for future cruise credit." 

The cruise ship will be towed to the port of Balboa in Panama for repairs to the hull. Windstar is also reportedly canceling the December 26th Star Pride voyage. 

The cruise ship was renamed the Star Pride after Seabourn Cruises stopped operating the vessel last year. 

Photo Credit: Seabourn Pride by Churchill188 licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikipedia.

December 26 2015 Update: It seems that this occurred on a UNESCO World Heritage site. According Star Pride Groundingto the Facebook Sea Shepard Panama page (Photo Credit for photo right):

"A Cruise Ship Passing Through UNESCO World Heritage Site Coiba National Park, hit some slightly submerged rocks while attempting to navigate through a shallow channel.

The ship is undergoing repairs In this delicate ecosystem so it can continue on its way. Meanwhile other Cruise Ships navigate around it as they load and unload their 100's of passengers for waterskiing and other activities.

We hope that while repairs are happening on the Ship that there is no furthur negative impact to the environment.

At this stage it is unknown how much damage has-been done to the Reef and Marine life at the site of impact."

8 Year Old Child Drowns on Liberty of the Seas

Yesterday, a young child drowned on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas, according to the website of cruise expert Ross Klein. A letter (below right) handed out to passengers states that the child was pulled, apparently unconscious, from one of the cruise ship's pools by a passenger. A medical team administered CPR on the boy which was not successful.

This incident will again raise the issue of why virtually all cruise lines do not assign lifeguards to cruise ship swimming pools. The problem is widespread and well known in the cruise industry.  

As matters now stand, only Disney Cruises assigns lifeguards to cruise ship swimming pools. However it did so only after a 4 year old child nearly drown and sustained a catastrophic brain injury aboard Liberty of the Seas - Child Drownsthe Fantasy cruise ship requiring life-time medical care and resulting in a multi-million dollar settlement.

This year began with a 4 year old boy nearly drowning aboard the Oasis of the Seas on January 3, 2015. Royal Caribbean. The Miami Herald published Near-drowning on Royal Caribbean cruise raises concerns about lack of lifeguards after that incident. Royal Caribbean also experienced a near drowning of a child on the Independence of the Seas in May of last year that left a 6 year old boy fighting for his life in a hospital.

I have long advocated for having a lifeguard at every pool on a cruise ship. Lifeguards are needed because parents are not perfect, and there is a natural tendency for parents to let their guards down when they are on vacation. Kids deserve to have their parents and the cruise line working together to keep them safe. The cruise industry collects $45 billion dollars a year from passengers and pays virtually zero in U.S. taxes. It's shameful for every cruise line except Disney to refuse to hire lifeguards to keep kids safe.

In an article published earlier this year titled Cruise Ships Are Unregulated Trouble on the High Seas, the New York Times wrote that Congress has exempted these cruise ship behemoths from virtually all regulations. The Times characterized the last death of a child in a pool without a lifeguard as a problem with letting cruise lines regulate themselves.

All major cruise lines have lost children and passengers in swimming pools on their ships. Like Royal Caribbean, Carnival, NCL and Princess Cruises continue to refuse to hire lifeguards.

Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have legal responsibility to parents and children on its cruise ships. A "no lifeguard on duty" sign does not legally exonerate a cruise line, or a hotel, or an amusement park. It simply raises the issue whether the sign was legally conspicuous enough to provide an effective warning to the parents.

I understand the concept of personal and parental responsibility. But I also understand that justice demands corporate responsibility as well. It's easy to criticize a parent when a child is injured; we are all perfect parents when it's not our child, aren't we? But I find that those people who are quick to blame parents when kids are injured and who talk incessantly about "personal responsibility" are the first to defend corporate malfeasance and use the term "personal responsibility" as code words for condoning the complete absence of "corporate responsibility." 

Jury Finds Cruise Cocaine Smuggler Guilty

Norwegian SunA jury in Tampa, Florida has returned a guilty verdict against a man who was part of a group of cruise ship employees who smuggled cocaine into Tampa from Roatan, Honduras. According to the Tampa Tribune, Desrick Gordon, age 23, faces 10 years to life in prison. 

Mr. Gordon is from the country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He and five other NCL crew members from the Norwegian Sun reportedly transported packages filled of cocaine from Roatan, Honduras to the U.S. 

When the cruise ship docked in Tampa, the crew members handed the drugs to local drug traffickers with ties to the Honduran source.

The other cruise ship employees, Jason Carmichael, Teffan Delice, Johnson Cherubin, Alfred Ince, and Arkine John, previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the case and will be be sentenced in January.

We reported on the initial arrest here - NCL Crew Members Arrested for Smuggling Cocaine from Roatan to Tampa. You can see photo of the crew members here.

Photo Credit: "NCLSunAlaska" by Image licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons. 

Cruise Lines Poised to Take Legal Rights Away from Crew Members

The cruise industry is attempting to prevent its crew members from using U.S. law when they are injured or when they have been denied appropriate medical treatment.  

The cruise lines' lawyers and lobbyists have inserted language in the Coast Guard Re-Authorization Act to strip "foreign" crew members of their rights under U.S. law after they have suffered an accident or when they are a victim of bad medical care.    

The prohibition strikes at the heart of cruise lines employeess. The vast majority of crew members are "foreign" (i.e., non-U.S. citizens). 

Historically, non-U.S. crew members have been covered by U.S. law when they become injured and Crew Memberwhen they have been denied appropriate medical care on U.S. based cruise ships. The "maintenance and cure" doctrine, which has applied to seaman on U.S. based cruise lines regardless of the crew member's nationality, is one of the oldest legal doctrines in the United States. It requires the cruise lines to be responsible when their ship employees become ill or injured.  Without this doctrine, the cruise lines can simply terminate and abandon their crew members at the next port of call when they become ill.     

The irony of the proposed legislation is that none of the major cruse Ines are U.S. corporations. Carnival, for example, is a Panamanian corporation and Royal Caribbean is a Liberian (Africa) corporation. Cruise lines are incorporated in foreign countries and register their cruise ships there in order to avoid U.S. taxes and wage and labor laws. By stripping its ship employees of their legal rights, the cruise industry will create a situation where they can avoid paying their employees' medical bills. Foreign incorporated cruise lines will not take take adequate care of their ship employees workers. U.S. hospitals and clinics (and U.S. taxpayers) risk bearing the cost of providing medical care for non-U.S. workers. 

The efforts of the cruise industry to kick crew members out or the U.S. are unnecessary. Cruise lines have already been successful in forcing crew members to resort to international arbitration where many arbitrators apply non-U.S. law to crew member cases. In addition, many maritime cases are already thrown out of U.S. courts. Procedures already exist for the dismissal of cases that do not belong in U.S. courts. For example, when a foreign seaman is injured by the owner of a foreign-flagged vessel, owned and operated outside of the U.S., and the injury occurs outside the U.S., the doctrine of f"orum non conveniens" will result in the dismissal of the case. 

In Florida, we are calling the office of Florida Senator Nelson (202) 224-5274 and asking him to oppose the cruise industry's efforts.  If you care about the welfare of crew members, please contact your Senator and do the same.

Passenger Overboard From Saga Sapphire

Saga SapphireThe World of Cruising reports that a passenger from the Saga Sapphire went overboard from the cruise ship while the ship was cruising across the Atlantic Ocean.

The magazine's Facebook page says that "a passenger has gone missing from cruise ship Saga Sapphire in the middle of the Atlantic. The ship, specializing in holidays for the over 50s, has turned round and is conducting a search."

Saga issued the following statement today:

"During the morning of Sunday 13 December, whilst the Saga Sapphire was crossing the Atlantic, a passenger was reported missing by her traveling companion. Following a comprehensive search of the ship, she could not be found. Working in conjunction with maritime authorities the Saga Sapphire has turned round to conduct a search . . ."

The Saga Sapphire is currently on a 35 day cruise from Southampton to the Caribbean.  

Photo Credit: "Saga Sapphire by Pjotr Mahhonin - Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons / Wikimedia.

December 14 2015 Update:  The Mirror newspaper is now covering the story.  The woman overboard has not been identified.  She is reportedly is a 70 year woman.

December 30 2015 Update: ‘Lovely caring lady’ from Sudbury feared dead in cruise ship tragedy.

Small Fire, Pod Failure on QM2

small fire reportedly broke out in the gas turbine exhaust of the QM2 on December 12th. It was quickly extinguished although the cruise ship temporarily lost power.

One of the cruise ship pods also malfunctioned and the ship was briefly delayed in Lisbon to address this problem. 

The QM2 is headed now back to the U.K. and on Tuesday, June 15th will be headed on a trans-Atlantic voyage to New York.  

Photo Credit: "Queen Mary 2 outbound from Southampton 2 Sept 2013" photographed by Brian Burnell with permission was uploaded to Commons by George Hutchinson.Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons / Wikipedia. 

QM2 Ocean Liner

Crime Watch Daily's When Cruise Ship Passengers Disappear Without a Trace

Crime Watch Daily is a new program which focuses on stories of crime in the daily life of average Americans.  Last month, it published it's first show regarding crime on cruise ships - Cruise Ship Crime: Hard to Prosecute, Convict about the difficulties prosecuting crimes on the high seas.

The program has now published its second show about cruise ship dangers - When Cruise Ship Passengers Disappear Without A Trace.  

When 40 year old Boston resident Merrian Carver "disappeared" from the cruise ship Mercury operated by Royal Caribbean’s subsidiary brand Celebrity Cruises, the cruise line tried its best to cover the incident up. It didn’t report Merrian missing to either the FBI or the Alaskan State Troopers, Merrian Carvereven though the cabin attendant reported her missing early in the cruise. Merrian’s father, insurance executive Ken Carver, began a serious investigation. Royal Caribbean responded by lying to Mr. Carver and disposing of evidence. Mr. Carver didn’t go away and the story went public. The The Arizona Republic published an excellently researched and written story. In response, the cruise line reached into its bag of tricks and pulled out a good excuse: " . . . there is very little a cruise line, a resort or a hotel can do to prevent someone from committing suicide."

Aside of the speculation fueled by the cruise line's lawyers and PR team, there was no competent evidence whatsoever for Royal Caribbean's self serving announcement to the media. If it was a suicide, why did Royal Caribbean work so hard to cover the incident up and lie to Mr. Carver? Indeed, there is now an issue whether a crew member was involved in Merrian's death.

Other cruise lines would duplicate the shameful way that Royal Caribbean handled the case. In 2009, I wrote "Suicide" - One of the Cruise Lines' Favorite Excuses When a Passenger Disappears at Sea.

Since then, we have seen repeated mysteries where young, healthy and seemingly happy crew members and passengers disappear from cruise ships, with the cruise line wildly speculating that they probably committed suicide, like Denisa Markoska, or Angelo Faliva, or Fariba Amani, or Annette Mizener, or George Smith, where there is absolutely no evidence supporting such a conclusion.

Royal Caribbean refused to speak to Crime Watch Daily. The cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Organization, claims that automatic man overboard systems - which can easily detect a person going overboard and immediately report the incident to the bridge - are somehow just an "emerging technology."  

 

Celebrity Passengers Killed, Injured in Excursion Bus Mishap in Tortola

Celebrity SummitVirgin Islands News Online reports that at least two cruise passengers have been killed and many other passengers injuired on an excursion bus transporting cruise tourists to Cane Garden Bay beach today in Tortola, British West Indies. 

According to this news report, the excursion bus apparently lost control near "Round Hill" on the Cane Garden Bay Hill. 

The newspaper says that the roadway was steep and wet but it does not state how or why the accident occurred.

The cruise passengers were from the Celebrity Summit. Royal Caribbean has tweeted: "We are saddened to report the deaths of two Celebrity Summit guests after a local bus accident in Tortola. Several others are being treated." It earlier tweeted that "16 of 20 passengers reported injured, 2 critically."

In 2010, an excursion bus carrying Princess cruise passengers crashed in Tortola, killing one young man.  

This is not the first time that cruise passengers from Celebrity's Summit cruise ship have been seriously injured in an excursion vehicle mishap in the Caribbean islands. In 2009, a dozen passengers from Celebrity Cruises' Summit were seriously injured when an open air excursion vehicle ran off the road in Dominica. We represented passengers against the cruise line and the excursion company in that accident. You can read information on the Dominica excursion accident in an article "Injured Visitors to Dominica Airlifted to Miami."

There were two cruise excursion bus crashes in 2012 in Caribbean islands, both involving Royal Caribbean passengers.

Photo Credit: "Celebrity Summit" by Yankeesman312 Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons / Wikipedia.

Exposed: Fake Doctor Working Aboard Cruise Ships

A reader of Cruise law news has brought to our attention that newspapers in Germany are reporting that the police in Berlin arrested a cruise ship employee impersonating a cruise ship doctor.

In an article titled "Fake Doctor Treated Hundreds of Cruise Passengers," the German newspaper Aftenposten says that a 40 year old man was arrested in Germany after flying from Miami yesterday to join an AIDA cruise ship.  He had been working on cruise ships in the Caribbean, after falsifying documents in order to claim that he was a doctor. He was actually educated as a nurse but had he had worked as a ship doctor for five years the newspapers suggest.

AIDA Cruise Another German newspaper Berliner Morgenpost covered the story and says that the so-called doctor falsely claimed that he specialized in anesthesia and intensive care.  

Carnival-owned Aida Cruises offered no explanation why it hired someone with no medical school education or credentials.  The cruise line obviously did not conduct a thorough pre-employment background check.  It also potentially compromised the heath and well-being of hundreds of passengers and crew members. This also raises the issue whether adequate background checks were performed on other cruise employees.

The strange thing about the articles is that neither the supposed ship doctor nor the Aida cruise ship where the "doctor" was headed or the ships where he previously worked were identified.

Does anyone with information about the identity of the fake doctor or the cruise ships where he fraudulently treated passengers and crew members?

December 8 2015 Update: Based on reliable information I have receiced, it appears that the bogus ship doctor worked aboard the Aida Vita. 

April 26 2016 Update: A newspaper says that the bogus doctor was charged with "63 charges of inflicting bodily injury. The man is further charged with fraud, forgery of university diplomas and unauthorized conduct of an academic degree. In total there are 81 charges."

Photo Credit: "Aidasol" by Patrick Martini - www.schiffgiganten.de Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons

Sexual Assault Alleged on Mariner of the Seas

Mariner of the SeasCourt House News reports that a former Royal Caribbean crew member working on the Mariner of the Seas has alleged in a lawsuit filed in Miami that another crew member sexually assaulted her in November 2013. 

"Jane Doe" alleges that when she returned to her cabin, the crew member was having sex with her roommate in her cabin and she left the cabin. When she returned, she alleges that her roommate and the male crew member were sleeping. She claims that she then got into her bed and fell asleep. She alleges that later, she awoke when the male crew member began to sexually assault her.

After the alleged sexual assault, Jane Doe claims that "she notified the ship's chief of security, and then went to the ship's medical center to have a rape kit performed."

The complaint also alleges that Jane Doe did not receive appropriate medical treatment.   She has since left the cruise line's employment.

The crew member is represented by Michael Winkleman of the Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman law firm in Miami.  

Photo Credit:  Spaceaero2 Creative Commons 4.0 via Wikipedia

Fire on Grand Princess Near Hilo

Grand PrincessA reader of our Facebook page has reported that a fire broke out in the engine room of the Grand Princess this morning as the Princess cruise ship approached Hilo, Hawaii. The reader cites the Cruise Critic Boards as the source of her information:

"BAD news first…...about 0530 the captain came on and advised the was a small fire on deck 4 near the engine room…we were losing propulsion and had limited lighting…well that certainly wakes you up!
20 minutes later he advised fire was out but we have limited propulsion and limping onwards to Hilo Hawaii, our first port since leaving SF…

GOOD news… we are about 6 miles fro Hilo…
there isn't enough power for brewing coffee and limited lighting in horizon court ….which was a zoo with limited lighting and people acting as if they were rushing to avoid a food shortage…some folks really amaze me…."

There has been a string of engine room fires this year. 

Fairplay recently published an article about the "continuing string of cruise ship engine room fires" in the article Cruise Engine Room Fire Risk Persists. The following cruise ships have faced fires over the course of the last year: NCL's Norwegian Pearl (November) in Caribbean; Royal Caribbean’s Splendour of the Seas (October) while sailing to Greece; Carnival Liberty (September) while at dock in St Thomas; Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seasbefore it arrived in Falmouth, Jamaica; P&O’s Oriana (April) after leaving Miami, Florida; Fred Olsen’s Boudicca (January) Casablanca, Morocco; Oceania Cruises’ Insignia St. Lucia (December).

Photo Credit: Grand Princess (ship, 1998) Ivan T. - Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

November 20 2015 Update: The Star Advertiser newspaper in Honolulu reports that the Grand Princess, cruising to Hawaii from San Francisco, experienced a fire in its engine room and lost power about 100 miles from Hilo this morning. The crew extinguished the fire just before 8 a.m. and restarted its engine, resuming its voyage.According to a passenger, “the ship has only one working engine and there are two small tug boats that might get the ship into port.”

November 23, 2015 Update from Princess Cruises @ 3:05 PM EST:  Princess released the foltowing statement this afternoon:

"At approximately 5:30 am local time, the propulsion circuit breaker in the aft switchboard aboard Grand Princess suffered a significant failure, resulting in smoke. The ship was 20 miles off the coast of Hilo, Hawaii. All guests and crew are accounted for and there were no injuries.

The incident did cause a power outage resulting in the use of emergency lighting and limited air conditioning for a short time. The ship is currently operating on three diesel generators and will arrive in Hilo later today.

We are currently investigating the cause of this incident and the impact it may have on the current voyage.

Grand Princess is carrying 2,592 guests and 1,095 crew. The ship is on the fifth day of a 15-day Hawaii cruise that departed San Francisco on November 25." 

November 30, 2015 Update from Princess Cruises @ 5:53 PM EST:

"At approximately 5:30 am local time, a propulsion circuit breaker in the aft electrical switchboard aboard Grand Princess suffered a significant failure, resulting in smoke and a small fire contained within the switchboard. The ship was 20 miles off the coast of Hilo, Hawaii.   All guests and crew are accounted for and there were no injuries.

The incident was isolated but did cause a power outage resulting in the temporary use of emergency lighting and limited air conditioning for a short time. Power has been restored and all hotel and guest services are in operation.

The call to Hilo has been cancelled in order to proceed to Honolulu where shoreside engineers have been deployed to meet the ship for an on-time arrival at 0700 am local time on December 1.

Once the technical officers and engineers complete their assessment of the situation it will be determined if there will be any further impact to the itinerary."

Le Boreal Cruise Ship Fire Survivor Tells of Ordeal

A Canadian cruise ship entertainer is back home after an ordeal aboard a cruise ship which faced a fire which it could not control.

As reported by CBA, a fire broke out on the Le Boreal

"We were all concentrated on the top deck in the front, to get away from the smoke, which was coming from the back in the bottom," he said from his home in Woodstock.

The entertainer was reportedly ordered into a life raft after five hours in the darkness. 

The RAF conducted a major evacuation of a very serious cruise ship fire.

 

 

U.S. Issues Worldwide Travel Warning Due to Terror Attacks

Cruise Ship SecurityThe U.S. State Department has alerted its citizens of possible risks of travel due to increased terrorist threats. "Current information suggests that ISIL (aka Da’esh), al-Qa’ida, Boko Haram, and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions. These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics, using conventional and non-conventional weapons and targeting both official and private interests."

The warning, which technically ended on Tuesday, advises U.S. citizens to exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for a number of high-profile incidents including the October 31st bombing of a Russian airliner in Egypt, killing 224 people. on a flight from Sharm El-Sheikh to St Petersburg and the recent November 13th attacks in Paris. 

President Obama spoke this afternoon on the terror alert and stated that there is no "specific and credible" threat to the U.S. Even assuming that to be true, there have no doubt been prior terrorist incidents which have affected cruise passengers. Cruise passengers from Costa and MSC cruise ships were massacred in Tunis last earlier this year.  We have predicted how the next terrorist attack against a cruise ship will take place

But what can a cruise passenger do? Not much it seems. There is no right for a refund if there’s a terrorist incident in a country where a cruise passenger is traveling to. Passengers from Viking River Cruises, for example, traveled around Paris in Viking buses after the recent attacks waiting for their cruises because they had no right to cancel their upcoming cruises. it goes without saying that the mere threat of an attack is a not legal basis to cancel a cruise with any reasonable expectation of obtaining a refund. Read Five Myths About Travel Insurance and Terrorism.

Le Boréal Fire and Evacuation More Serious than Disclosed

Le Boreal The engine room fire which erupted aboard Ponant’s luxury cruise ship, Le LeBoréal, near the Falkland Islands on Wednesday night was far more serious than initially reported by the cruise line. 

U.K. newspapers report that the crew was unable to extinguish the major fire forcing the passengers and crew to evacuate the cruise ship into rafts as well as to be medevaced aboard helicopters. The Telegraph newspaper shows dramatic film of British helicopter crews winching people from the Le Boréal

The Telegraph says that all 347 passengers and crew were rescued from the stricken ship which had lost power and was in danger of grounding on East Falkland on Wednesday. "Two Royal Air Force Sea King helicopters and two other support helicopters winched passengers and crew members the deck of the cruise ship and from two life rafts in the water."

The Telegraph further states that the "Royal Navy patrol vessel HMS Clyde was also dispatched to the scene to ensure two further lifeboats with more than 200 evacuees were brought to safety."

The Commander of British Forces in the South Atlantic Islands characterized the emergency evacuation as "an extremely complex and hazardous rescue operation in difficult conditions."

Yesterday, the cruise operator Ponant said simply that the passengers and crew were evacuated only as a "precaution."

Photo Credit: U.K. Ministry of Defence via gCaptain

Fire on Ponant's Le Boréal, Passengers and Crew Evacuated

A number of news sources are reporting that a fire broke last night on Ponant’s luxury cruise ship, Le Boréal, as the ship was sailing north of the Falkland Islands. The vessel was heading from Grave Cove to South Georgia when the alarm sounded shortly after 2:00 A.M. last night.

347 passengers and crew were on the ship. All persons were safely evacuated. 

A number of sources are saying that 90 of the 347 passengers were air-lifted to safety from life-rafts and the rest were transferred to the L'Austral. The company said that the passenger and crew were evacuated as a "precaution" although the life saving measures seem to be far from routine.  

The rest of the cruise was canceled and the passengers will be flown home once they arrive in the capital of the Falklands.

Photo Credit: Pjotr Mahhonin creative Commons 3.0 via Wikipedia

Le Boreal Cruise Ship

 

Woman Overboard from Cruise Ship, Rescued

Star BreezeAccording to Professor Ross Klein's Cruisejunkie, the Italian newspaper Il Tirreno reports that a 43 year old U.S. woman went overboard when the Star Breeze cruise ship was between Civitivecchia and Portoferraio. She was traveling with her boyfriend and a group of friends.

The translated account says that it is unknown how the passenger went overboard. One translation suggests that she has an argument before she went into the water,  The Master of the cruise ship mentioned that the woman consumed alcohol before she went overboard. The cruise ship had just left the island of Giglio. As soon as learning that a passenger went overboard, the captain of the Star Breeze triggered the man overboard procedures and reversed course, warning the maritime authorities of what was happening.

The passenger was found in the water after approximately an hour. 

The Star Breeze previously operated as the Seabourne Spirit and entered the Windstar Cruises fleet this year. 

 

Photo Credit: David Orlovic Creative Commons 3..0 via Wikipedia 

"Cruise Ship Crime: Hard to Prosecute, Convict"

Jim Walker Cruise LawyerCrime Watch Daily is a new program which focuses on stories of crime in the daily life of average Americans. 

It just published it's first show regarding crime on cruise ships.

Today it aired Cruise Ship Crime: Hard to Prosecute, Convict about the difficulties prosecuting crimes on the high seas.

Laurie Dishman, a friend and former client, talks about being sexually assaulted during a Royal Caribbean cruise.  Former Disney Cruise security officer Dawn Taplin talks about being told by her supervisors not to call U.S. authorities when a Disney crew member molested an 11 year old girl while the Disney Dream was still docked in a Florida port. The Disney cruise ship then sailed on to the Bahamas where it flew it's crew member back home to escape prosecution.  

Photo: Crime Watch Daily

 

 

Passenger Overboard from Oasis of the Seas

A video posted by a passenger on YouTube shows a man holding on to the support bracket of a lifeboat when his hands apparently slip and he falls overboard from the Oasis of the Seas last night around 1:00 A.M.  

The video (warning, graphic content, available on Sun-Sentinel) taken by another passenger from a higher balcony cabin records a confusing set of circumstances taking place as the man tries to hold onto the side of the lifeboat, apparently loses his grip, and falls into the water. 

"He's there! He's there! Stop! Get the lifeboat! Get the life ring! Throw it over!" yells the woman videotaping the terrible ordeal after he plunges into the water.

ABC News quotes Royal Caribbean saying that the incident occurred "17 miles east of Turks and Caicos Islands (when) a 35 year old male guest from Brazil went overboard. He was spotted by Oasis of the Seas crew members intentionally going over the side of the ship.” 

 

Seattle Jury Awards $21,000,000 Verdict Against HAL

Yesterday, a jury in Seattle awarded $21,000,000 to a cruise passenger hit in the head by an automatic glass door on Holland America's MS Amsterdam in 2011.

KIRO Channel 7 reports that the passenger suffered a traumatic brain injury which included debilitating headaches, problems with his balance and fatigue.

His lawyers at the Friedman Rubin Law Firm showed the jury that sliding doors injured 30 others across Holland America's fleet of cruise ships in the three year period before the accident. 

Holland America Line said in a statement that it is "committed to the safety and security" of passengers, and that it will appeal the verdict. 

 

 

New Critical Crime Warning for Honduras

Roatan HondurasAlthough crime in the country of Honduras has declined in the past two years, the U.S. Department of State continues to warn that the level of crime and violence in Honduras remains "critically high,"

The State Department website warns that:

"Crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country. The Government of Honduras lacks sufficient resources to properly respond to, investigate, and prosecute cases. As a result, criminals operate with a high degree of impunity throughout Honduras."

The State Department says that the country's murder rate has decreased to 66 per 100,000 in 2014, down from its peak of 86.5 per 100,000 in 2011.  The murder rate so far this year is less than last year, although it is far more than the murder rate in the U.S. which is around 4.5 per 100,000. 

The warning for Roatan says that crime there and in the Bay Islands is lower than the Honduras mainland. There were efforts last year to improve tourism security.  However, "as on the mainland, thefts, break-ins, assaults, rapes, and murders do occur, and rates are still high by international standards."  

"If you are traveling on a cruise ship, you should take safety precautions, avoid unfamiliar areas, and take care to book only with reputable tour companies during your stopover in Honduras."

The State Department indicates that "the vast majority of cruise line passengers in Honduras experience no problems, but incidents of armed robbery and carjacking have been reported.

We have written many article about crime in Roatan after the murder of a NCL crew member in 2014 as well as the robbery of cruise passengers and murder of local citizens.

The last critical crime warning for Honduras was issued in May 2015.

Photo Credit: Westbrowncanada Creative 3.0 Wikipedia

Jurisdictional Hurdles Hinder Filipino Crew Member Raped on Cruise Ship

A 23 year old female Filipino crew member, who alleges that she was raped onboard a NYK cruise ship, filed a claim against the cruise line in Tokyo, Japan,

According to the Manila Bulletin, the Free Legal Assistance for Seafarers said that crew member filed a civil suit after Filipino law enforcement agencies failed to assist her file criminal charges as the alleged rape was committed on high seas.

The victim alleges that she was sexually assaulted while onboard MS Asuka II (the old Crystal Harmony), which was sailing from Saipan to Australia. The crew member alleged that four other Filipino Asuka II - Crystal Harmonyseafarers convinced her to drink with them. The newspaper says that she woke up the next morning naked with one of the men. She immediately reported that she had been assaulted but the men denied raping her.

When she disembarked in Sydney, Australia, she reported the incident to the Australian Customs and Border Protection, which forwarded her report to INTERPOL.

When the crew member returned to Manila she reported the alleged crime but was turned away, according to the Manila Bulletin.  She went to a local criminal investigation bureau which could not assist her because the alleged crime took place on the high seas. Her attorneys are now considering  filing criminal charges against the four Filipinos in Australia because the cruise ship was heading to Australia when the alleged crime occurred.

This case is one of many cases where female crew members are unable to pursue assailants at sea due to a lack of concern of the cruise lines and jurisdictional hurdles blocking prosecutions of crimes on the high seas. 

Photo Credit: D.Seeruttun Creative Commons 3.0 Wikipedia 

Cruise Executive Goldstein Sells Royal Caribbean Stock for $8.9 Million

Richard Fain Adam Goldstein Royal Caribbean Cruises President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Adam Goldstein sold 90,000 shares of the cruise line's stock today.

Mr. Goldstein sold the shares at $98.88 per share for a total value of $8,898,804.

Mr.Goldstein last sold RCL stock in July when he sold 4,184 shares at at $91.08 per share for a total value of $381,094.19.

At that time, he joined other cruise line executives dumping RCL stock. Royal Caribbean chairman Richard Fain sold 151,032 shares of his cruise line's stock for $13,650,151 at an average price of $90.40 a share. Royal Caribbean's General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer Bradley Stein sold 2,402 shares of the company stock for for a total value of $218,748.70. These insider traders sold $14,249,993 of company stock last summer.

October 27, 2015 update: Royal Caribbean Chairman & CEO Richard Fain sold 80,516 shares yesterday. The Insider Trading Report said that the insider selling transaction was disclosed on October 26, 2015 to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The shares were sold at $98.80 per share for a total value of $7,955,335.00. Together, cruise executives Fain and Goldstein sold $16, 854,139 worth of Royal Caribbean stock yesterday and over $30,000,000. since July. 

According to the DFN, "following the completion of the transaction, the chief operating officer (Mr. Goldstein) now directly owns 253,153 shares in the company, valued at $25,031,768.64."

October 29, 2015 updateRoyal Caribbean's Vice President Harri U. Kulovaara reportedly sold 8,228 shares of RCL stock on October 27th at an average price of $100.32, for a total of $825,432.96.

Italian News Station: Crew Member Sexually Molests Girl on Costa Diadema

Costa DiademaAn Italian news station reports that a Costa crew member allegedly sexually molested a 15 yer old girl aboard the Costa Diadema.

The Costa crew member is described as a 50 year-old Honduran man employed on the cruise ship as a cleaner. Italian police arrested him and criminally charged him with sexually assaulted the girl in her cabin. The assault occurred yesterday while the ship was at the La Spezia terminal.

The Primocanale news station says that girl, who was traveling with her aunt and uncle, left the dinner table to return to her cabin. The crew member apparently entered her cabin and began to touch the child's private parts and kiss her. The child broke free, escaped and told her aunt and uncle what happened.

Costa then notified the police who arrested the crew member. 

In August of this year, a Costa bar tender was arrested on charges on sexually assaulting an 18 year old passenger on the same cruise ship. 

Photo Credit: Luca Mauri licensed under CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia 

Splendour of the Seas Catches on Fire

Royal Caribbean's Splendour of the Seas caught on fire this morning as the cruise ship was sailing in the Mediterranean near the Greek islands. 

“There’s thick acrid smoke all over the cabins," reported an Irish passenger according to UTV in London.

“We can constantly smell smoke. Smoke here. Smoke everywhere. Everywhere on the ship we can smell smoke," added the passenger.  

A crew member contacted me after the engine room fire, saying that it was a "big fire" and the crew were summoned to their emergency stations for many hours. The ship is now heading toward Venice.

There were no deaths and the cruise line claims that there were no injuries. However, a passenger commented that "many elderly and disabled passengers appeared to be struggling." 

Spllendor of the SeasHe added “everything is smoke. damaged. The smell of burning plastic and burning rubber was very thick on our floor so everything in our room is contaminated.”

Royal Caribbean tweeted: "#SplendourOfTheSeas experienced a fire this morning in 1 of its engine rooms. Fire was contained & extinguished, all systems are functioning."

Royal Caribbean experienced a large fire in July when the Freedom of the Seas erupted in flames as it approached Falmouth, Jamaica.  In May 2013, the Grandeur of the Seas sustained a large fire which the crew battled for over 2 hours as the ship headed to Jamaica.

Photo Credit: Ivan T. Creative Commons 3.0 Wikipedia 

Update: The CruiseNeeds website reports that consumer expert Clark Howard, who is a passenger on the cruise ship, reported “We had a severe engine fire that lasted just under two hours . . . We were adrift at sea for a good while, and now we’re moving on less than half power.”

Royal Caribbean subsequently disclosed that "1 guest, 19 crew treated for smoke inhalation and released. 1 crew still being treated."

One passenger commented "currently running on one engine, very rocky. It's hard to walk around, very many people are sick."

Zip Line Mishap Kills Cruise Passenger in Puerto Rico

Zip Lining Excursion CruiseThe Associated Press reports that a cruise ship passenger from New Mexico died after falling from a zip line in Puerto Rico. 

Police said the 56 year old passenger fell approximately 20 feet from the zip line at the Hacienda Campo Rico outside of San Juan. "She could not move her legs and complained of chest pain after falling. She died at a hospital hours later."

The excursion company involved is Ecoquest Adventures & Tours. The cruise passenger was one of two dozen passengers taking the excursion, according to the AP.  The cruise line was not identified

The zip lining industry in Puerto Rico and other countires where cruise ships go are largely unregulated. Each year there are numerous injuries and deaths on zip lines around the world. The AP reports that "nearly 17,000 people were treated for injuries from 1997 to 2012." 

CBS News says that the deaths have "drawn attention to a regulatory safety net full of holes."

Cruise lines who send passengers on excursions should have protocols in place to ensure that third party excursions undergo safety inspections.

It is not unknown whether the line broke, or there was a problem with the harness and hardware.

The zip line company's website says that it uses "double cable(s)" for "double protection."  It identifies Carnival and Disney as cruise lines that it does business with.

Photo Credit: Campo Rico Zip Lining by Ecoquest

Coast Guard Medevacs Woman from Grand Princess

The United States Coast Guard medevaced a female passenger last night after she sustained a heart attack on the Grand Princess cruise ship. 

The woman was described as 57 years old. At the time of the medevac, the Princess Cruises' ship was approximately 80 miles southwest of Monterey, California. 

The Coast Guard flight surgeon recommended that the passenger be medically evacuated to a hospital for emergency care. A MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from San Francisco flew to the ship and hoisted the woman aboard and flew her to California. 

Story and video credit: Defense Imagery and Distribution Systems.

Azipod Failure on Norwegian Star

NCL Norwegian StarPassengers aboard NCL's Norwegian Star are telling me that the ship's azipod system has failed. The cruise ship is skipping Miami today and is heading for Tampa one day early. One passenger said that the next cruise is reportedly canceled. (The cancellation of the next cruise is not confirmed information. Please double check this information with your travel agents or the cruise line).

Another passenger said that he did not know whether the next cruise on Monday is canceled. He told me that the captain made the announcement about the azipod problems and said that "all communication with us has been absolutely clear, giving us free internet and phone calls and helping us to change hotel, and transportation bookings. Although it not an ideal situation the crew has behaved amazingly in this transatlantic and they have always provided us with transparent information."

This ship experienced propulsion problems earlier this year which were supposedly fixed while in dry dock.

Anyone have additional info?

Photo Credit:  Pjotr Mahhonin Creative Commons Via Wikipedia

Mystery Life Raft

Cruise LifeboatTwo nights ago, the Thomson Dream stopped when the crew noticed an abandoned life raft. The cruise ship was sailing from Sardinia towards Naples. 

The ship stopped for around 40 mins. The crew pulled the life raft to the shell doors and then went aboard to inspect it. The life raft was brand new and undamaged. It was too big to take onboard. It had a capacity of 100 plus. It had no IMO number or other identification markings. 

The captain decided to cut the life raft free and notified the Italian coast guard. 

Several passengers on the ship have asked me for an explanation. I would think in most cases that an abandoned life raft probably broke free from the ship. But the lack of identification on the life raft is confusing. 

Anyone else run across this life raft during a cruise? Does anyone have a reasonable explanation?

Viking Cruise Executive Indicted for Corruption

Viking Ocean Cruises CEO Torstein Hagen has been indicted in Norway on corruption charges arising out of the christening of the Viking Star cruise ship.

As we previously reported last week, the Godmother for the new cruise ship, Trude Drevland, the mayor of Bergen City in Norway, has been under police investigation due to allegations of bribery by the ship owner. Among other things, Godmother Drevland is accused of being flown in a private jet to Venice to participate in the launch of Viking Star. In addition, her stay at a luxury hotel was Viking Cruise CEOpaid by the Viking CEO. Plus Ms Drevland accepted a free cruise (which she subsequently canceled) given to her by the Viking CEO.

CEO Hagan has been accused of lobbying the mayor regarding the flagging of his cruise ship in Norway. A Norwegian newspaper says that CEO Torstein wants to change the regulations for the Norwegian International Ship Register (NIS), so that his cruise ship may call the port of Bergen and go between Norwegian ports which the NIS currently prohibits.The free flight in the CEO's jet, the complimentary luxury hotel and the free cruise have been viewed as bribery where the CEO sought special consideration from the government official for a favored economic benefit to the cruise line.

The VG News in Norway refers to emails between Torstein and Drevland where he specifically requests the "very most favorable treatment."

Viking denied that it received any benefit and says that this is business as usual in the cruise industry. 

In a statement appearing in a Norwegian newspaper, Viking says in part:

"Viking Ocean Cruises is confident that the company has done nothing unlawful in this case. The company has followed perfectly normal business practice in the cruise industry (regarding) baptism of vessels is concerned. This is a practice that has been implemented by ships for decades, and that will be practiced in the future of our line - and other shipping companies worldwide." 

Yes, it is well known that cruise lines will give godmothers and travel writers, cruise bloggers and friends in the media free or heavily discounted cruises and special favors in return for the benefits of good publicity and favorable reviews.  

But it quite a different matter that Viking gives a governmental official such benefits while lobbying her for favorable treatment in the registration of the ship.

Viking's defense that "everyone does it" may be true but its an indictment of the cruise industry. 

The irony of all of this is that the adverse publicity came about only after the Viking Star, notwithstanding its serious mechanical defects and other problems, "won" the Cruise Critic "best new cruise ship" award by Cruise Critics editors.

I wonder what special favors Viking may have given to the Cruise Critic editors for the award in the first place?

Photo Credit: VG News

Carnival Spirit Propulsion Problems

Carnival SpiritThe Carnival Spirit has developed a problem with its propulsion system, forcing it to reduce its cruising speed. As a result, the Spirit will be delayed arriving in Sydney on Wednesday, and will arrive at approximately 3:00 PM. 

According to Carnival, the cruise ship obviously needs to disembark its current passengers.So check-in for the next cruise is delayed and will not begin until 6:30 P.M. The ship will not sail until midnight.

Carnival plans to send "technicians" to meet the ship when it returns to port "to make the necessary repairs." Carnival plans to operate its current scheduled itinerary. 

Carnival is giving the boarding guests a 100.00 AUD per person credit to their Sail & Sign accounts. 

Photo Credit: Wikiwand

 

Quality of Crew Food on Queen Elizabeth? Depends Who's Coming to Dinner

In the last couple of weeks I've posted photographs of the crew mess on a number of cruise ships. Some of the photos are gross, Some of the photos don't seem too bad. One crew member said the food on the Queen Victoria was great.

Today a crew member on the Queen Elizabeth sent me these photographs, which I posted on our Facebook page.  They seem to fall into the "yuck" category. A main criticism seems to be repetitive meat dishes, tasteless vegetables and an absence of fresh fruit.   

Cruise Ship FoodThe crew member made an interesting comment when he sent the photos:

"One day we had David Dingle the CUNARD CEO at the time onboard for a visit. The ship was aware of his pending visit and his schedule well in advance. He was scheduled to eat lunch in the crew mess, you can guess what happened that day, fresh fruit and the food was guest standard. Any other day of the week, that wouldn't be the case . . . "

The problem of course is not just the spotty food, but the combination of factors: long hours working, long contracts, little time off, time away from home and family, demanding supervisors and a lack of respect from passengers. 

Have a comment? Please join the discussio on our Facebook page.

Passenger Overboard From SuperStar Gemini

Newspapers in India are reporting that a thirty year old male Indian passenger disappeared in the Strait of Malacca from the SuperStar Gemini operated by Star Cruises.

Rajkumar Agarwal, from Calcutta, India, was cruising with his extended family who boarded the SuperStar Gemini on October 4th. He is the youngest of three brothers and was involved in the family's business.  

He was last seen around midnight on October 6th. 

SuperStar GeminiHis family is complaining that the cruise line is keeping them in the dark regarding what happened. 

Mr. Agarwal's family did not know that he was missing from the ship until the next morning. 

The captain of the cruise ship allegedly said that CCTV cameras recorded someone going overboard around 12.22 A.M. but refused to show the footage to the family.

The cruise ship apparently did not have an automatic man overboard system which would have automatically signaled the bridge that a person went overboard and into the water. 

There apparently were not any type of search and rescue procedures initiated by the cruise line. 

The Malaysian police and the cruise line are apparently claiming that Mr. Agarwal committed suicide. This is a usual defense quickly raised by a cruise line. The newspaper says that the police are theorizing that Mr. Agarwal may have "lost heavily" at the casino. 

But a Calcutta newspaper says that family members describe Mr. Agarwal as "happy, cheerful" person with no history of suicide who "having a great time at the casino." 

You can read additional information here.

The disappearance was first reported on Professor Ross Klein's website.

In March of this year, a passenger went overboard from the Star Cruises SuperStar Libra. His body was later recovered.  

Photo Credit:  Facebook via Telegraph of India

Passenger Overboard From P&O Ventura

Ventura Cruise Ship Overboard PassengerLast night a reader of this blog sent me an AIS screen shot of the P&O Ventura sailing in circles south of the Isle of Wight in an apparent attempt to search for an overboard passenger.

This morning the British press is reporting that a passenger went overboard fron the Ventura around 04:30 BST as it was returning to Southampton. 

The cruise ship had left Southampton on September 27th on a cruise in the Mediterranean.

BBC reports that the P&O cruise ship retraced its route for several hours as part of an emergency search by sea and air for the unidentified passenger,

This is the 264th overboard case since 2000.  

March 17, 2016 Update: Man who jumped to his death from ship during birthday cruise told mum he was 'going to heaven.'

Donkey Kills Cruise Tourist in Santorini

SantoriniThere are lots of things that can go wrong during a shore excursion. Some are foreseeable, like injuries on a zip-line or being robbed during a stop-over on a Caribbean island. But some things are not.

The Greek Reporter covers the bewildering story of a German tourist, a 67 year old woman, who was killed yesterday during a cruise in the Aegean Sea when she and her husband went ashore on the Greek island of Santorini.

The Greek newspaper reports that "a donkey, used by tourists to navigate around the island, freed itself from its owner and ran away . . . the animal hit the 67-year-old woman and then trampled her while its owner was frantically running behind it trying to subdue the animal."

Her husband, who celebrated his wife’s birthday one day ago, was left alone and bewildered. He was helped back to the unidentified cruise ship, holding only his wife’s watch and jewelry. 

Photo Credit: Berard Gagnon via Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0

NCL Names Pittbull Godfather of the Norwegian Escape

Norwegian Cruise Line announced that Miami remix rap artist "Pitbull" (Armando Christian Pérez) will become the Godfather of the company's newest cruise ship next month at the Port of Miami.

NCL cruise executives CEO Frank Del Rio and President Andy Stuart will attend the naming ceremony of the Norwegian Escape on November 9th. 

Pitbull will perform at the christening ceremony.  He has performed on NCL ships in the past

I have not been invited.