Norovirus on Explorer of the Seas: More Sick than Reported

Explorer of the SeasCNN interviewed a family who became sick with gastrointestinal illness while sailing aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas.  

These passengers (Mom, Dad and two kids), made some interesting comments. They disputed the official statistics reported by the cruise line to the Centers for Disease control (CDC) indicating that only 20% of the passengers were infected.  

They believed that a more reasonable estimate is that 80% were infected and 20% were not infected. At some point, they say, the cruise ship's medical infirmary was over-run with sick passengers. The facility could not process and treat the hundreds of people becoming ill. 

The family also said that the cruise line medical personnel "told us to stop coming down" (to the infirmary).

Watch the video below. 

Photo Credit: Roberto Schmidt / AFP / Getty

 

Why Cruise Lines Want the Cause of Norovirus Outbreaks to Remain a Mystery

One hundred and fifty passengers reported ill on the Explorer of the Seas on Tuesday January 22, 2014, according to the cruise line's records. The following day, Wednesday, another 300 passengers reported being sick. In the first couple of days into the 10 day cruise, the Royal Caribbean cruise ship was faced with a full blown gastrointestinal epidemic. 

The numbers increased from 450 to 684 by the end of the cruise, including crew members.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that it sent one CDC sanitation inspector and one epidemiologist to the cruise ship when it arrived in St. Thomas, USVI on Sunday, Janaury 26, 2014. 

Cruise Ship NorovirusWhen I heard this news about the arrival of the CDC, I thought "just one epidemiologist?" The ship is huge - 15 stories high and longer than 3 football fields! It has over 4,200 people on board. How can one scientist possibly conclude not only the exact type of virus which was sickening the people on the enormous ship but also make an accurate determination how the virus came aboard and spread so quickly? There needs to be a team of a dozen epidemiology experts to handle such a task.

So the Explorer is back in New Jersey. Over 3,000 passengers will board tomorrow.

What type of virus sickened the ship and its passengers? The CDC has not yet concluded, assuming it will make a determination.

The CDC could not figure out the last two cruise ship GI outbreaks. The "causative agents" for the outbreaks on the NCL Star last week and the NCL Gem in November are listed as "unknown."  

The cause of the recent Explorer of the Seas outbreak may end up "unknown" as well.

If you look at the CDC data over the years, you will see that usually the CDC will at least figure out what type of pathogen is involved. It's usually norovirus, or e-coli or a combination of the two. But what you will never see is the CDC figuring out where the virus came from and how it spread.

Why? I believe that the CDC resources are so minimal and the time to conduct an investigation is so limited that it is virtually impossible to make a meaningful scientific analysis of the problem. All of the guests scatter back to their homes around the world. It's impossible to interview all of them. And the cruise line wants to re-rack the ship quickly. Ships don't make money sitting idle. The cruise lines depend on continuous rounds of customers buying booze, spending money on excursions and gift shop purchases, and gambling their money away. Investigating a cruise ship disease outbreak is completely different from an outbreak at a nursing home or child care facility where investigators can take their time, interview and test everyone and get to the truth of the matter.     

Look at the CDC data and you will learn that the CDC has not determined how norovirus comes aboard cruise ships for the last 50 outbreaks. Not one single time. They have failed miserably time after time in determining this causal issue.

The first two primary objectives of a CDC investigation are to:

  • determine the etiology of the outbreak; and
  • determine the method of transmission among the passengers.

There are a number of possible causes for a norovirus outbreaks. The CDC and FDA say that the most likely cause is often contaminated food or water.  The CDC has also flunked cruise ships during their sanitation inspections when they find evidence that galley employees kept working after they were Cruise Norovirussick. Earlier this year, a south Florida TV station aired a special about "Cruise Ship Workers Breaking Rules & Making Passengers Sick."

We also know that some galley employees hide food and cooking equipment from the CDC inspectors. Silversea Cruises was caught hiding 15 large trolleys of meat, fish, cheese and deserts down in the crew quarters. We revealed this last year and then CNN aired a special last year. Don't think that just Silversea plays hide-the-salami from the CDC sanitation inspectors. Unfortunately, the CDC inspects cruise ships which come into U.S. ports only twice a year.

Of course, passengers can be infected before they cruise and bring the virus onboard with them. They can also fail to wash their hands when they go to the buffet and make pigs of themselves at the buffet. Many passengers know that if they disclose their sickness they can be left behind. Many don't have insurance and the cruise lines never provide a refund to someone showing up ill. Some don't want to report sick to the infirmary because they are afraid of being quarantined and billed for the medical services.

The determination of exactly what caused the initial onset of the sickness and caused it to spread is a scientific / medical process. It should have nothing to do with the litigation blame game or public relations / reputation-protection issues.

But the cruise industry will always blame the passengers for bringing the virus onto the ship. They will not wait for the CDC to finish its investigation. The cruise trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), issues the same talking points after every single outbreak. The passengers need to wash their hands, CLIA will say. The 16,000 CLIA travel agents say the same thing, over and over, like trained parrots.

Today a well know travel agent tweeted: "It is the passengers!" as the only possible explanation for the outbreak on the Explorer.  Two days ago, Royal Caribbean Chairman Richard Fain was asked about the outbreak on the Explorer during a TV interview . He responded by saying that his cruise ship was "amazingly safe" and that the cause of the viral outbreak was because "they're having a lot of cold up in the north."  Of course norovirus has nothing to do with having a cold or cold weather. The cruise executive's off-the-cuff comments were just another way of delivering the "blame the passengers" message and diverting attention away from the ship and the crew. 

Passengers and crew members deserve to know why they are sick. 

Anecdotal stories, tall tales, PR statements and blame games will never solve the problem. Only scientific analysis from educated, trained and experienced epidemiologists will get to the bottom of the problem.

If I oversaw the cruise industry, which collects 35 to 40 billions dollars, tax free, every year, I would not be satisfied with the CDC never determining why a virus came aboard on my fleet of cruise ships and spread like wild fire, sickening my hard working crew and ruining the vacations of my guests. "Unknown" is not an acceptable answer. I would hire my own team of experts to get to the bottom of the matter. Then I would transparently tell my employees, customers and the public exactly what the scientists concluded, whether it was attributable to the ship food, or water, or the crew, or the Cruise Ship Noroviruspassengers.

But the cruise industry will never do that. They fear that perhaps 2 or 3 times out of 5, a group of experts may point to the cruise ship or crew rather than the dirty hands of the passengers as the cause of the outbreak.

That would be bad for the cruise industry's reputation and image. That would permit personal injury lawyers to file class action lawsuits. That would permit passengers to be fully compensated rather than having to accept 50% refunds and credits to sail on another cruise ship that they may never want to go on again.

As matters now stand, a scientific process designed to lead to the truth and the attendant medical and legal consequences gives way to a public relations effort full of speculation, untruthful talking points and finger pointing. 

And so the cause of viral outbreaks on cruise ships remains a mystery. And that's exactly what the cruise lines want. 

Will the Explorer of the Seas Be Ready to Safely Sail Tomorrow?

Explorer of the Seas Norovirus CleaningThe Explorer of the Seas arrived back in port in New Jersey yesterday.

ABC news interviewed some of the sick passengers. Its video below shows one passenger being taken away in an ambulance. ABC calls the incident a "horrific outbreak at sea." 

Incredibly, even though this is the largest gastrointestinal illness outbreaks on a cruise ship in 20 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still has not officially announced what is causing the widespread illnesses.  In addition, the CDC has not declared how the virus came on the ship. It is an impossible task for a single epidemiologist to make such a determination. Without figuring out where and how the virus started, it seems difficult to take steps to eradicate the virus and make certain that the ship is safe to sail on.

The cruise line crew members are busy spraying, wiping and scrubbing. The ship sets sail again tomorrow. I say good luck to the next round of guests. 

 


 

Chart Shows Massive GI Outbreak: Explorer of the Seas Returns to New Jersey with 684 Sick People Aboard

Explorer of the SeasThe noro-stricken Explorer of the Seas has returned to New Jersey filled with 684 ill passengers and crew members. This is reportedly the largest gastrointestinal illness outbreaks on a cruise ship in twenty years.

A gastrointestinal illness (GI) chart from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship shows that the outbreak became obvious on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 when nearly 150 passengers reported that they were sick. By the next day, Wednesday. January 22, 2014, over 300 additional passengers suffered from the onset of the illness. You can track the outbreak affecting both passengers and crew on the chart below.

The chart does not have data included from yesterday or today.

The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that there are 684 ill, with 630 passengers and 54 crew members affected. 

It will be interesting if Royal Caribbean will produce a (GI) chart showing the number of patients who suffered from GI during the prior cruise.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Explorer of the Seas Norovirus Chart 

  Photo Credit: Explorer of the Seas - Thomas Layer / AP Photo 

Norovirus on the Explorer of the Seas: Why No Compensation for Crew Members?

Crew members work hard on cruise ships. Waiters and cabin attendants earn wages from Royal Caribbean of only $50 a month. That's right. $50 a month. That's something like $1.67 a day. They depend almost exclusively on tips from the passengers to support their families back home.

Utility cleaners are not entitled to tips, and they earn around only $545 a month. That's around $18.30 a day. 

Crew members work a minimum of 12 hours a day, sometimes more.

Norovirus Explorer of the Seas - Royal CaribbeanThey work 7 days a week. Every single day of the month. For 8 months.

When a norovirus outbreak occurs, they are pressed into duty to try and sanitize the huge ship. That involves hours and hours of extra spraying and wiping and scrubbing everything in sight.

I cannot imagine the extra work required of the cabin attendants who clean as many as 18 cabins and bathrooms a day. I don't know how these men and women clean so many cabins and bathroom when there's no gastrointestinal illness outbreak. But when noro virus strikes and the puking and diarrhea starts, there are literally millions and millions of noro infected microbes floating around in an aerosolized form. The microbes can fall into the fabric of the furniture, the duvet covers on the bed, into the carpet fibers, and all the tiny nooks and crannies of the bathroom tiles.  

When the passengers leave the cruise ship at the last day of this cruise from hell, will they tip these hardworking crew members?  Many passengers are mad and feel ripped off. They didn't obtain the vacations which they paid for with their family. They want their money back from the cruise line. Are they going to track down the public bathroom cleaners responsible for sanitizing all of the public restrooms and give them a $50 tip?

Today Royal Caribbean announced "compensation" for the passengers: a 50% refund and a 50% future credit. Is that fair? Some will accept it. Others will think that they are being mistreated again. Some people were sailing on the Explorer as a replacement cruise after the Grandeur of the Seas caught on fire last year. Are they interested in testing their luck one more time? 

Whatever you think of the cruise line's offer of compensation, remember one thing. The crew is not getting a nickel extra from the cruise line. So if you are a passenger and want to bitch, whine, moan and complain, don't forget about all of those crew members you left behind. Remember that they were the ones cleaning up all of your vomit and removing your bio-hazard bags. They are not receiving any compensation at all.  They are busy trying to get the cruise ship in shape for the next 3,000 guests who will soon board.

Explorer of the Seas Norovirus

Photo Credit: Top - Getty Images

Royal Caribbean Chairman Places Blame for Norovirus: "They're Having a Lot of Cold Up in the North"

Richard Fain Royal Caribbean NorovirusWith the norovirus controversy swirling around the Explorer of the Seas, Royal Caribbean cruise line executive Richard Fain appeared on a CNBC financial program today with host Simon Hobbs. Chairman Fain was discussing the fourth quarter 2013 profits when the issue came up of the over 600 sick passengers and crew.

Mr. Fain seemed to become quite defensive. He placed blame for what the ship doctors believe is the dreadful norovirus, saying: "They're having a lot of cold up in the north."   

Of course norovirus is not a cold, and its not caused by the cold. Far from it.

Norovirus is transmitted by fecally contaminated food or water; by person-to-person contact; and via aerosolization of the virus and subsequent contamination of surfaces. It can linger around for a week or two on surfaces and fabrics and even months and years in contaminated water.

How and why norovirus appears on cruise ships is a hotly debated topic.

Unless and until the CDC epidemiologist locates how the norovirus came on the cruise ship, it will be anyone's guess where the nasty bug came from. Blaming the people from New Jersey for bring a cold aboard the Explorer of the Seas is preposterous, but that's part of the blame game that cruise lines play.

The game plan for cruise lines is to always blame the passengers for the virus and to take the focus off of the possibility that an ill galley worker spread the virus or there were contamination problems with the food or water in the first place.

Mr. Fain told CNBC "'we screen our passengers best we can." Again, blame the passengers who slipped through the screening process, rather than saying that they screen their crew, food and water. 

Mr. Fain said his ships are "amazingly safe and secure" but he "wished he didn't have to prove it so many times."

Well if you have over 600 passengers and crew sick with norovirus puking all over the place, you have some proving to do again.  Accusing the people from Hoboken of having a cold is not going to work.

 

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When Norovirus Strikes, Cruise Line Cheerleaders Run & Hide

The news of 600 passengers and crew members stricken with what appears to be norovirus is dominating the cruise news today. The story broke on Friday with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announcing that a little over 300 passenger and crew aboard the Explorer of the Seas were suffering from nausea and diarrhea. 

The number rose to over 450 by the weekend. This morning the CDC raised the number of sick people to over 600.

This story came on the heels of another Royal Caribbean norovirus case last week. The Majesty of the Seas returned to Miami the other week with passengers and crew sickened by norovirus. The story Explorer of the Seas Noroviruswas heavily reported as well.

The cruise norovirus stories seem to bring the disgusting Triumph "poop cruise" stories back to life. Hundreds of people floating around on a nasty ship jammed with people who wanted off the cruise and away from all of the vomit and diarrhea.

This morning around 4:00 AM I published my second article ("A Royal Mess") on the outbreak. I then went to the airport in Miami at 5:30 AM to meet a client. A CNN special about the Explorer's gastrointestinal illness (GI) outbreak was on a flat screen television positioned above one of the baggage carousels. Hundreds of people who had just flown into Miami watched the television as they waited for their bags. I watched them either shake their heads in disgust or laugh, perhaps nervously, as the CNN anchor interviewed a Royal Caribbean passenger who described the widespread illnesses on the sick ship.

I was familiar with this particular passenger's plight because we had exchanged tweets on Twitter about the cruise ship GI outbreak. Passengers tweeted over the weekend to anyone and everyone who would listen to stories about the ordeal. I could see that reporters from ABC, CBS and other major networks were sending messages to anyone they could find on Twitter looking for a live voice to tell the story. Reuters reported that one passenger wrote on Twitter: "I've been sick and quarantined... Everything I touch goes in a biohazard bag." A newspaper in the U.K., the Daily Mail, embedded tweets from some of the sick passengers, including a couple of tweets that I shared with one ill passenger.

The puke-fest-on-the-cruise-from-hell-story was growing and growing. It became clear that far more than 300 people were sick. The story would shortly become viral.

As usual, CNN beat their competitors in covering the story with a couple of video interviews of passengers on the stricken ship. One passenger was angry about the cruise line's disorganization. He said his last cruise with Royal Caribbean also involved widespread gastrointestinal illnesses. Another passenger complained that no one in the ship's room service would answer his calls for water, and no one told him when the quarantine was lifted.     

Where were the public relation representatives of Royal Caribbean protecting the crew's and cruise line's reputations? Where were the PR experts for the cruise industry? Royal Caribbean finally sent out a formal statement to the press but there was no one on the cruise line's twitter feed interacting contemporaneously with the sick and suffering on the cruise ship. 

The trade organization for the cruise line, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), was asleep. Indeed, a check of the CLIA Twitter feed (@CruiseFacts) shows no tweets since December 18, 2013 - over a month! That's an eternity in the fast paced world of social media.

The CEO of CLIA, Christine Duffy, was no where to be seen. She needed to present the cruise industry's side of the story. She last tweeted on Thursday, the day before the outbreak from her handle @CLIACEO. Ironically, she last tweeted about a "great column" in Travel Weekly about the "new wave of attacks on the cruise industry" which featured a travel agent's criticism of me. (You can read my response here).

This shows a problem with the cruise lines' PR. The cruise industry PR is always late and in reaction to bad press. The cruise industry seems to be always complaining about CNN and the bad press, but it doesn't bother to interact with its aggrieved customers in real time. By the time it finally responds to bad news, there are other stories bringing even worse news. The travel writers will be pleased to write a puff piece whenever CLIA wants one, but the coverage is strictly after-the-fact. It lacks spontaneity and genuineness. There are no travel writers fast and nimble enough to react immediately when trouble comes.  

When disaster strikes, whether it's a fire, a capsizing, or just the latest norovirus outbreak, the cruise lines don't know what to do. Their twitter and Facebook pages are silent. Their executives go to the Miami Heat games. The travel agents and travel publications run and hide.

A crisis management expert, Rich Klein, just wrote a blog about the predicament facing Royal Caribbean. With the headline "Honesty Remains Lonely Word," he writes that the cruise line has active Twitter and Facebook pages "but 24+ hours into their respective crises, only customers are reporting the obvious news while the companies offer little insight into what happened."

As sick passengers lamented their cruise-from-hell on Twitter and aggressive news reporters brought their stories to an international audience, Royal Caribbean and CLIA were enjoying their weekend. No one had their hands on the wheels of the PR machine. When genuine sympathy and a quick refund were in order, the cruise industry engaged in slow motion corporate talk. Royal Caribbean has still not even mentioned whether or how it intends to compensate its sick guests for the unpleasant, aborted cruise. 

 

Photo Credit: Thomas Layer / AP Photo

A Royal Mess: Sick Count Increases to Over 600, Cruise Ends Early

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that over 600 people have been sickened by the gastrointestinal illness outbreak on the Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas, CNN reports.

The Royal Caribbean cruise ship left Cape Liberty, New Jersey on January 21, 2014 for a 10 day cruise through the Caribbean. The ship missed a stop at its private stop in Labadee Haiti after the outbreak. It sailed to San Juan to be cleaned. 

The CDC initially stated that over 300 people (281 passengers and 22 crew members) were ill. (Its official report is here with the new statistics). However, over the weekend we began to hear reports from passengers that the number Royal Caribbean Cruise Explorer of the Seas Norovirusof people suffering from nausea and diarrhea had increased to to over 450 and, now, to over 600. 

CNN quotes a spokeswoman with the CDC that more than 600 people on the ship have become ill, reporting vomiting and diarrhea. The CDC spokeswoman said 564 passengers and 47 crew members reported being ill.

Royal Caribbean is ending the cruise two days early. The cruise line will "use the extra time to sanitize the ship even more thoroughly." 

We have been contacted by guests on this ill fated cruise as well passengers from the prior cruise who became ill. 

Passengers who contacted Royal Caribbean say that the cruise line is not considering refunds of any type.

We previously reported on the incident in our article: Puke Fest Aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas.

There has been no official word from the CDC whether this is in fact norovirus, although the symptoms are consistent with the virus. The cruise lines invariably blame the passengers, but the CDC has never in my experience ever pin-pointed the exact source of an outbreak like this.

NBC News raises the issue whether the outbreak on the Explorer is linked to a nasty new type of norovirus known as the GII 4 Sydney strain which caused an outbreak on the Queen Mary 2.

Join our discussion on Facebook about why norovirus outbreaks occur on cruise ships

 

Puke Fest Aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that there is an outbreak of gastrointestinal sickness of a large percentage of cruise passengers aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas cruise ship.

The CDC indicates that 281 passengers (9.21% of total passengers) are suffering from norovirus type of symptoms. The symptoms include vomiting, nausea, headaches and diarehhea. You can read the report here

The pro-cruise site Cruise Critic calls the problem a "small outbreak" but the truth is that 9% is a high percentage.  It is not unusual for passengers not to report the illness in order to avoid being Explorer of the Seasquarantined in the cabin or for crew members who rely on tips to keep working after they are ill. The total numbers are often under-reported.

In addition to sick passengers, 22 crew members are reportedly ill according to the CDC. 

The CDC website states that an environmental health officer and an epidemiologist will board the ship in St. Thomas, USVI on January 26, 2014 to conduct an epidemiologic investigation. 

It may be possible to determine whether the outbreak is in fact related to norovirus. But the CDC will not have any success is determining why and how the virus came aboard. There is not enough time for the CDC to conduct an exhaustive scientific analysis and, as usual, the ship will not sit idle waiting for the test results. The cruise ship will continue to sail whether the CDC determines if it is norovirus or exactly why it is on the ship. 

Earlier this week, cruise expert Professor Ross Klein indicated that the CDC reported 130 passengers and 12 crew members became ill with gastrointestinal illness while cruising aboard the NCL Norwegian Star

The Majesty of the Seas returned to Miami a week ago with 70 people reported ill with gastrointestinal illnesses.

Were the outbreaks on the Royal Caribbean and NCL ships caused by the passengers not washing their hands? That's always what the cruise lines say.

Or was it due to crew members who kept working after they became sick and causing the outbreak? Or was it contaminated food or water, which is a common cause?

We will never know. The cause of gastrointestinal outbreaks is usually a mystery on cruise ships.

 

Have a comment? Please leave a message below or join the discussion on our Facebook page - what's the most common cause of norovirus on cruise ships?  

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Emma Jones

Coast Guard Medevacs Sick Royal Caribbean Cruise Passenger

WSVN - TV reports that the U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a cruise passenger after she experienced symptoms of appendicitis.

The incident occurred on December 12, 2011 on the Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas cruise ship about 130 miles southwest of Key West.  A Coast Guard helicopter hoisted the 21 year old cruise passenger and transported her to the Lower Keys Medical Center. The cruise ship was sailing back to Port Everglades, Florida.

This is the second Coast Guard rescue of a sick cruise passenger yesterday.  Earlier today we reported on the Coast Guard medevacing an Ill NCL passenger off the coast of North Carolina.  

 

 

December 13, 2011 Update and Correction:  An astute reader of Cruise Law News noted that the cruise ship is not Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas but, instead, is the SAS' Explorer.  Thanks to Tom Roesser from Hawaii who you can follow on twitter at @tomsroesser

Thanks Tom!
 

 

 

Video Credit:  U.S. Coast Guard via WSVN

Crew Member Overboard from Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas

A member of Cruise Critic sailing aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas cruise ship is commenting that a crew member apparently went overboard from the cruise ship last night.  There is a suggestion by those on the cruise ship that the crew member is a waiter and may have jumped. 

We reported earlier this year on two other crew members who jumped from Royal Caribbean cruise ships.  On December 31, 2009 we posted the article " Wife of Royal Caribbean Crew Member on Monarch of the Seas Goes OverBoard" involving an apparent suicide of Royal Caribbean crew member Neha Chhikara who jumped from the Monarch of the Seas.  Her case involved allegations that her husband, Ankit Delal, also working on the cruise ship, physically and emotionally abused her.

Explorer of the Seas - OverboardIn March, another crew member jumped from Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas.  You can read about that incident here:  "Man Overboard" Reported on Radiance of the Seas.   We reported that the Master of the  cruise ship responded quickly; however, the crew member (an employee of Park West Gallery) did not survive - "Master of Radiance of the Seas Praised for Rapid Response to Crew Overboard."

It is currently unknown whether the crew member was rescued.  139 people have gone overboard from cruise ships in the last ten years, according to Professor Ross Klein's Cruise Junkie web site.

We will update the article as more information becomes available.  Were you on the cruise or have information to share?  Please leave a comment below. 

May 6, 2010 Update:

FoxNews.com is reporting that the U.S. Coast Guard is conducting a search for the 26 year old crew member 138 miles north of the coastal town of Isabela, Puerto Rico.  

Royal Caribbean's PR spokesperson Cynthia Martinez is quoted as saying that an after-the-fact review of closed circuit television tapes (CCTV) reveals the crew member lowering himself over the side of the cruise ship around 8:15 p.m. last night.  However, a passenger commenting on the Cruise Critic web sites indicates that the ship did not turn to search for the crew members until around 10:20 p.m. - around two hours later.

These types of incidents reveal security deficiencies on cruise ships.  If a crew member can lower himself over the rail and into the water without being spotted by security or detected by cameras, a terrorist can just as easily come over the rail and onto the ship without being detected. 

Does anyone on the Royal Caribbean cruise ships monitor the exterior cameras? 

We have reported on this problem on other Royal Caribbean overboards - "Asleep At the Wheel: What Does the Delayed Reporting of Neha Chhikara's Disappearance from the Monarch of the Seas Reveal About Royal Caribbean's Shipboard Security? "

May 7, 2010 Update - Search begins:

The Coast Guard News reports that Coast Guard watchstanders in San Juan received a call at approximately 9:15 p.m. Wednesday from the cruise ship Explorer of the Seas reporting the incident.

Coast Guard rescue crews then began searching for the man overboard.  The Coast Guard deployed a HU-25 Falcon jet crew from Air Station Miami, a C-130 aircraft from Air Station Clearwater, and Coast Guard Cutters Matinicus and Chincoteague (110-foot patrol boats) homeported in San Juan.

May 7, 2010 Update - Comments by family:

The brother and sister of the crew member have left comments below, seeking information and an explanation regarding what happened.  We hope that the cruise line will provide the necessary information and assistance.  Condolences to the Buddaru Family. 

May 8, 2010 Update - Search ends:

According to the Daily Sun newspaper in Puerto Rico, the Coast Guard suspended its search for the crew member yesterday morning at "about 7 a.m.”  A Coast Guard spokesperson said "regrettably we did not find him alive."  

 May 8, 2010 - Crew member identified:

A newspaper Defi Media Group is reporting that the Royal Caribbean crew member is Satianand (Satyanand) Buddaru, age 26, whose family lives on the island of Mauritius.  The newspaper suggests that he worked as a bartender on the cruise ship, although most comments indicate that he was a waiter or assistant waiter.  His sister, Anuradha, stated that she spoke to him "on the telephone Wednesday Satianand Buddaru - Satyanand Buddarumorning.  It seemed normal.  He had no personal problem."

May 9 Update - Passengers applaud Master and crew: 

Passengers aboard the cruise ship are commenting that the cruise ship responded promptly and the crew handled themselves profesionally during this difficult experience. 

A newspaper in Mauritius LexPress.mu reports that Mr. Buddaru had worked for three years for Royal Caribbean.  

May 10, 2010 Update:

Defi Media in Mauritius has an article today on Mr. Buddaru's disappearance, and incudes a photograph (above right) of the young man.

May 11, 2010 Update:

A newspaper in the cruise ship's home port in New Jersey is reporting that the FBI is investigating the incident.  The article also mentions that crew members reported Mr. Buddaru missing around 8:40 p.m.  The Coast Guard issued a statement that they were notified around 9:15 p.m.  The CCTV images apparently show the crew member going overboard at 8:13 p.m.

 

Credits

Photo of Explorer of the Seas       Luke Redmond's Fickr photostream

Photograph of Ms. Buddaru  DefiMedia Mauritius

100 MPH Wind / Listing Incident - What Happened to the Explorer of the Seas?

We have been contacted by a number of passengers from Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas about a frightening experience when the cruise ship suddenly listed around four a.m. on February 28th.  All of those individuals who contacted us simply wanted an explanation regarding what happened, and they were frustrated regarding the lack of factual information from the cruise line.

What is curious about this incident is that the Explorer has sophisticated atmospheric and oceanographic equipment aboard the vessel monitored by the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

Explorer of the Seas - ListingThe Explorer of the Seas left Port Liberty New Jersey on February 26th for the Caribbean.  What happened is less than clear given the conflicting accounts posted on line.  

Ross Klein's Cruise Junkie web site contains a description of the the incident from a passenger:

".  .  .  guest lodging on level 3 were under water, the Promenade was a titanic disaster, crew quickly left stations to report to lifeboat stations, tvs crashing, objects in cabins flying around."  

The on line Cruise Critic site also had a number of similar comments by concerned passengers.

Just returned from the 2/26 Explorer of the Seas.  NOT sure of how much danger we were in or how close we came to capsizing . . RCI is covering up and Stonewalling the release of any details. But we do know the Captain's 4am announcement that stated an unforeseen 100 mile per hour wind caused the pilot "to lose control" of the ship causing it to list, causing all the loose items in the cabin to go flying about the cabin, cause enough breakage in the liquor store to force it not to open did not instill any confidence in us.  Cruisers on the 6th deck reported their balconies almost touching the water.  We suspect the list was greater than the 10 degrees reported.  What was wrong with the meteorological and navigational equipment that the weather conditions were unknown?  We heard but could not confirm that two people were reportedly thrown from the hot tub resulting in a broken knee and a broken toe ..

Most accounts by passengers estimate the list between 10 and 15 degrees.

Perhaps the most straight forward comments about this most recent incident came from another Cruise Critic reader

"I was on the cruise on explorer 2/26 and the ship did list at 14 degrees not 10 and it took almost 4 minutes to get it back to normal. I was awake the whole time and left my cabin on deck 6 when all the books on my table fell to the ground and the mini bar door opened and slid half way out. I got up went to deck 11 and the were two people in the the hot tubs.
 
They did not get thrown out but all their clothes were blown over board by the powerful wind gusts that hit the back of the ship. The water in the tubs all emptied and some came in the ship by Portofinos an soaked the rugs there. I talked to an officer in the promenade just after the ship was righted and he was extremely concerned with what transpired. The auto pilot software should have compensated for the wind switch and the ballast tanks should also have been controlled by the auto pilot. which did not happen. They have a serious problem with the auto pilot software from where I stand. This all should have been compensated for in the software that controls the ships steering systems .  .  .  More serious than you think."
 
Explorer of the Seas - Royal Caribbean - Wind - ListingAs is usual in the Cruise Critic community, anyone with negative comments about the experience was ridiculed by the other readers and accused of exaggerating the incident.
 
But the reality is that unless consumers step forward and provide information like this, the cruise line will be more than happy for such incidents to remain unreported.  The Explorer was involved in another severe listing incident back in 2005.  Like this incident, there was little factual information released by the cruise line.  The on line discussion at Cruise Critic  unraveled with the readers mocking one another. 
 

Royal Caribbean has suffered through the past many years with a reputation of being less than transparent with environmental infractions and crimes on its fleet of cruise ships.  In instances like this, the cruise line needs to issue a detailed statement of the facts of the incident so that U.S. passengers can understand what happened.  There are detailed reports of the wind and wave conditions, and the cruising public needs to know what happened and whether there is a glitch in the automatic piloting system on the cruise ship.  This will avoid all of the speculation and may assist Royal Caribbean finally taking some much needed steps to improve its corporate image. 

This cruise line's PR spokesperson is Cynthia Martinez.  Her LinkedIn profile lists her as the "Manager of Corporate Communications (Crisis) at Royal Caribbean."  Her duties include providing  "communications guidance and counsel during crisis situations involving issues such as: environmental, litigations, health & medical, weather, marine and hotel operations, onboard accidents and alleged crimes."

Why hasn't the public heard from Ms. Martinez regarding this incident? 

Ms. Martinez does not respond to inquiries for information from our firm.  Perhaps if a passenger makes an inquiry directly, some factual information will be forthcoming - although I would not hold my breath.

Her email is CynthiaMartinez@rccl.com

We will be looking into this matter further.  If you were a passenger on this cruise ship, we would like to hear your comments about the experience and how the incident was handled by the cruise line, good or bad.

March 15 Update:

One reader who was on the cruise made the folowing assessment: "The entire incident made me question who the cruise ship reports it to, if anyone. I didn't see a thing about it in the press. The whole system seems very lax and a disaster waiting to happen. I have a background in insurance and it seems that the cruise line takes risks everywhere."

 

Credits:

Explorer of the Seas                           Wickipedia

Wind Sea & Swell Charts                    Ocean Wave Systems