California Court Dismisses Costa Concordia Lawsuit

Earlier this week, a federal district judge in California dismissed a lawsuit filed on behalf of two cruise passengers against Carnival arising out of the January 2012 Costa Concordia disaster, ruling that the case must be pursued in Italy where Costa Crociere is located.

The name of the lawsuit is Patricia Sandoval et al. v. Carnival Corporation et al., Case No. 2:12 CV 05517, filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Judge Fernando M. Olguin applied the doctrine of forum non conveniens, where the courts determine Costa Concordia the appropriate location of lawsuits.

The Court concluded that the majority of the physical evidence and witnesses are located in Italy and the passengers can obtain an appropriate remedy in Italy. The decision is not surprising at all.  

The Costa cruise line is based in Italy where the company is incorporated.  Its principal place of business is in Genoa, Italy. It registers its ships like the Concordia in Italy. Much of the crew is Italian, including the captain, and cruise the ship departed from an Italian port and sank in Italian waters.  The Italian Coast Guard responded to the disaster and of course there is an Italian criminal trial which has been ongoing for year. The passenger ticket specifies Italy as the location where litigation must be pursued. 

Our firm advised Concordia passengers long ago not to waste time and money filing suit in the U.S. because their cases would likely be dismissed.  

We advised our clients to proceed directly to Italy and retain Italian lawyers to pursue compensation. Here is one of such articles, published back in January 2010: Are Lawyers Taking Costa Cruise Survivors Into Dangerous Legal Waters?

 

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

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Jean-Philippe Boulet Creative Commons 3.0

Cruise Ships Swamp Venice

Newspapers are reporting that today the residents of Venice will protest the procession of over a dozen cruise ships which will sail through St Mark's Basin. The Guardian states that a canal-bank protest is scheduled "over an invasion of up to 13 cruise ships in the space of 24 hours which  . . . will turn St Mark's Basin into a motorway."

The protest will raise awareness of the negative effect of the cruise industry on Venice and its citizens. 

The newspaper quotes 75 year-old Italian singer, Adriano Celentano, who took out a page in the Venice Italy Cruise Ship Conjestioncountry's biggest-selling daily newspaper to proclaim: 

"Tomorrow will not be a nice day for our city, even if the sun is out . . . With the ignoble procession of 13 ships in the Venice lagoon comes the Eternal Funeral of the world's beauties." 

The newspaper also quoted Silvio Testa, spokesperson for the No Grandi Navi committee: 

"We want to say 'enough' to this situation . . . St Mark's Basin is like a motorway. Soon we'll have to put traffic lights up."

A month ago, a Carnival cruise ship, the Carnival Sunshine, was alleged to have come within 20 meters of the shore in Venice. Carnival denied the incident, claiming photographs distorted the distance between the ship and shore.  You can watch a video of the incident below. Seems congested to me . . .

You can read my article about my personal feelings about cruise ships and Venice here.  

An Italian blog listed the following cruise ships will sail into Venice today: Azamara Journey, Azamara Quest, MSC Divina, Queen Victoria, Royal Clipper, Norwegian Spirit, Norwegian Jade, Queen Elizabeth, Seabourn Odissey, Ruby Princess, Splendour of the Seas, and the Harmony G.

Follow the discussion about cruise ships and Venice on our Facebook page.  

See images of the MSC Divina leaving Venice today.

 

Photo Credit: Pazzoperilmare Blog 

U.S. Appellate Court Affirms Dismissal of Another Costa Concordia Case

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal has affirmed an order of dismissal on forum non conveniens grounds of a case filed by an Italian citizen and Italian business for damages as a result of the Costa Concordia disaster. 

In a case styled Giglio Sub, S.N.C. and Francesco Onida versus Carnival Corporation et al., the Eleventh Circuit held that the federal district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the cruise line's motion to dismiss the case. The appellate court held that the trial court did not err in holding that Italy was an adequate and available forum for lawsuits surrounding the cruise ship capsizing to be filed.

The first sentence summed up the court's finding, referring to the dispute as a lawsuit filed by an Italian citizen and Italian business seeking damages suffered in Italy as a result of an Italian cruise ship which ran aground off the coast of Italy.

I predicted long ago that although the Concordia was owned by Miami-based Carnival, this would be an issue resolved in the Italian court system.

Costa Concordia Disaster

Photo Credit: Telegraph 

  

 

Celebrity Cruise Passenger Robbed of Rolex Ashore in Naples

A British cruise passenger from the Celebrity Reflection was robbed ashore on July 28th while the ship was docked in Naples

An Italian newspaper Il Mattino reports that the robbery was committed by two brothers who targeted the British cruise ship passenger.  The unidentified passenger was wearing a Rolex watch, worth around 12,000 euros, while she was walking in the center of the city.

The two men, Mirko Candida age 36 and Luciano age 24, were on a motor scooter at the time of the Celebrity Cruises Reflection Cruise Shiorobbery.

The Italian police apprehended the brothers and the watch was returned to the tourist. The woman was injured and received medical treatment when she returned to the cruise ship. 

This is not the first time that a cruise passenger wearing a Rolex while ashore in Naples was targeted to be robbed by thieves on a scooter.

In May of 2011, an American tourist from the Celebrity Solstice died in Naples after thieves assaulted him while trying to steal his Rolex.

Oscar Antonio Mendoza, age 66, and his wife cruised to Naples on the Celebrity Solstice. After they disembarked the cruise ship to tour the city, two men approached them on a scooter, grabbed Mr. Mendoza's arm and tried to take his Rolex.

Mr. Mendoza struggled with the men and was thrown to the ground, hitting his head. He was taken to the hospital where he was operated on; however, he did not regain consciousness and died nine days later.

As we have stated before on this blog, Naples is an interesting place to visit, but it has a reputation for pick pockets, purse snatchers, and drive-by-scooter robberies..  

 

Story Credit: Crew Center

Photo Credit: Celebrity Cruises

Costa Concordia Lawsuits Remain in Florida, But What's Next?

Costa Concordia LawsuitIn an opinion released yesterday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed a ruling from a federal district court which held that two lawsuits filed after the Costa Concordia disaster, involving 104 cruise passengers, should remain in state court in Miami.

The cases are Abeid-Saba, et al., v. Carnival Corporation and Scimone, et al. v. Carnival Corporation. The cruise line removed the cases to federal court under the Class Act Fairness Act ("CAFA") which establishes federal jurisdiction of "mass actions."

The district court held that CAFA did not apply because neither case involved more than 100 individuals. The lawyers for the passengers were careful to divide the 104 passengers into two different cases which each had less than 100 individuals involved. You can read our article about the district court's ruling here: Costa Concordia Litigation: Tactical Blunder By Carnival Opens Door for Lawsuits in Miami.

Yesterday, the circuit court affirmed the lower court. The court held that CAFA permitted pleading cases in this manner and a defendant could not consolidate cases for the purpose of meeting that threshold standard of a mass action with 100 or more individuals. 

You can read the 11th Circuit's opinion here. The press release by the passengers' lawyers is here.

The federal court decision involves a technical argument and does not address the merits of the case or the issue of forum non conveniens (whether the case should be filed in Italy versus the U.S.). Carnival's next step is probably to file a motion to dismiss the cases based on the argument that the terms of the Costa passenger tickets require that the lawsuit be filed in Genoa, Italy and that Italy is a more convenient location to pursue the litigation.  

There are many hundreds of cases proceeding in Italy. I have written articles stating that the chances of keeping a Costa Concordia lawsuit here in state court in Miami are slim. I hope it turns out that I'm wrong. 

July 5 2013 Update: A reader of this blog brought to my attention that Carnival and the other defendants in these cases have already filed motions to dismiss based on the forum selection clause in the passenger tickets (specifying Italy as the location where the cases must be filed) and the doctrine of "forum non conveniens" which is a doctrine where the court determines the most convenient location to hear the lawsuit.  There have been no rulings on these motions yet.  A recent case from the Florida Supreme Court, Cortez v. Palace Resorts, reinforced the legal proposition that there is a strong presumption in favor of not disturbing the chosen forum of a U.S. litigant. Hopefully, this will assist the passengers in keeping their lawsuits here in state court in Miami.

Photo Credit: Giglio News

Cruise Ship Passenger Pleads Not Guilty of Strangling His Ex-Wife & Throwing Her Overboard

In a disturbing case we have covered over the years, U.S. lawyer, Lonnie Loren Kocontes, entered a plea today of not guilty in the strangulation death of his ex-wife, Micki Kaneski, during a cruise off of the Italian coast seven years ago.

This case seems to stand in stark contrast to the cruise industry's claim that murders don't occur on cruise ships.

Kocontes met Kanesaki in the 1990s at a Los Angeles law firm where he worked as an attorney and she worked as an administrative assistant. They later married in 1995. 

Kacontes Cruise MurderKocontes was fired from his job after he was arrested in 2000 for charges of sexual contact with a minor that were later dismissed. In 2001, they divorced to protect their assets from civil litigation. They continued to live together, but their relationship deteriorated.

In May 2006, the couple vacationed in Italy and sailed aboard the Island Escape cruise ship. On May 26, 2006, the cruise ship was sailing between Sicily and Naples, when Kanesaki went overboard. Her body washed ashore the next day in Calabria in southwest Italy. An autopsy was performed. An Italian medical doctor concluded that she had been strangled before she went overboard.

Kocontes claims that Kanesaki left the cabin around 1 a.m. to get a cup of tea. Kocontes reported her missing after he woke up and claims he couldn’t find her. Italian police boarded the ship, seized records and videotapes and took statements from the crew.

Prosecutors say that Kocontes strangled Kaneski to death on board the ship and then threw her overboard.

Kocontes later began transferring more than $1 million from Kaneski’s bank accounts into joint accounts he held with his new wife. That prompted the FBI to begin seizure efforts which were dismissed by a federal judge in California.

The Orange County Register covered the story back in 2006, and quoted Kanesaki’s mother saying that her daughter was in good spirits before the cruise. ‘‘I can’t imagine what happened to her. There’s no reason to believe it was a suicide.’’

A newspaper in Italy published an article "The Perfect Murder."

The case reminds me of the murder of Karen Roston by her husband Mark Roston aboard Admiral Cruises' Sundancer some 20 years.

Jolly Nero Container Ship Crashes in Port of Genoa, Italy

News sources in Italy are reporting tonight on the allision between a container ship under pilot and a port control tower at the busy port of Genoa. Three people are reported dead, anywhere from four to six people are seriously injured, and between six to ten others are missing.

Rescue workers dived into the dark waters at the port in a night-time search for the missing.

The ship involved is the Jolly Nero container ship operated by the Messina Line based in Genoa. The accident brings back images of the Concordia cruise ship which was operated by Genoa-based Costa Crociere.    

Unlike the aloof Costa and Carnival owners and operators of the doomed Concordia which killed 32 passengers and crew and terrorized thousands more, the Jolly Nero's owner, Stefano Messina, arrived at the port shortly after the accident crash. He reportedly choked back tears as he told journalists: "We are all utterly shocked. Nothing like this has ever happened before, we are desperate."

There is speculation whether the accident involving the Jolly Nero was caused by reckless piloting or due to mechanical failure of the ship's engines.

May 8, 2013 Update: The BBC has an article and video about the accident.

Jolly Nero Collision Genoa Italy

Photo Credit: ilcorrieredabruzzo.it

News Channel 7 Investigates "Captain of Controversy" Francesco Schettino - Coward or Scapegoat?

Miami news station WSVN - 7 aired an interesting interview with Francesco Schettino last night and asked: Is he a coward who caused 32 people to die the night his ship the Costa Concordia capsized? Or is he is a professional who did all that he could to avert disaster due to mistakes by his crew? 

An Italian judge is in the process of considering evidence whether criminal charges should be filed against him and other Costa employees. 

Schettino blames his bridge team for navigating off-course towards the island and then failing to properly conduct the course change he ordered. He calls the incident an accident and questions why the prosecutors are trying to turn the incident into a crime.

The helmsman, from Indonesia, left the jurisdiction and will not return to Italy for trial if one is ordered.

Channel 7's investigation does not address the events which followed the cruise ship striking the rocks.

WSVN-TV -

Did Costa Cover-Up A Near Concordia-Like Disaster?

A newspaper in Italy is reporting that six and one-half years before the Costa Concordia disaster, another Costa cruise ship ruptured its hull during a "sail-by" maneuver off the coast of Capri.

Libero Quotidiano reports that in June 2005, the Costa Fortuna was sailing by the island of Capri off the western side of Italy.  The Fortuna, owned by Carnival and operated by Costa Crociere (Costa), had 3,500 passengers and crew members aboard.  According to the newspaper, the ship cruised into shallow water during what is called a "sail-by" or "salute" to entertain the quests.  Just like theCosta Fortuna Cruise Ship Sail By Concordia, the Fortuna's hull was ruptured by rocks in the shallow waters and the cruise ship began to take on water.

The Italian newspaper writes that the Master and officers of the Fortuna did not report the incident to the Italian Coast Guard or any maritime or port officials. The officers then ordered the use of pumps at maximum effort to keep the water from sinking the ship. The Fortuna was able to make it to the port of Palermo in Southern Italy. Once back in port, Costa had the hole repaired and then continued the cruise the following morning with all of the passengers.

The only thing reported by Costa was that there had been an abnormal rise in the temperature of an engine. After making this false report, Costa "buried" the incident.  

The incident came to light as part of the investigation into Costa following the 2012 Costa Concordia disaster. One of the photographers who worked in 2005 on Fortuna reported the incident to the Master of Palermo. His story has been verified.  Investigators said that there is "numerous and insurmountable" evidence to support the photographer's account. The incident was a "real critical situation," and it was only favorable weather conditions that avoided a disaster. 

Another Italian newspaper, La Nazione, covered this story and has additional information.  The reference to the 2005 incident is contained in a 700 page report about the Costa Concordia which focused on prior "sail bys."  On page 619 of the report, there is a reference to the Costa Fortuna cruising 300 meters from the coast near Sorrento when it hit a shoal and began to take on water, "just before a greeting to the island of Capri." The impact caused a gash in the hull "deep and ten meters long."  Passengers were disembarked from the ship in dry dock where the ship was repaired during the night by Fincantieri workers and set off on the morning of June 15 2005. The Master, Giuseppe Russo, did not report the incident, and the ship officers falsely stated that while cruising from Naples to Palermo there had been an unexpected rise of temperature.

La Nazione explains that there was never any indication of the incident to the maritime authorities until January 18 2012, when the wave of emotion caused by the sinking of Concordia and of the 32 victims, caused one of two Costa Fortuna photographers, Roberto Cappello, to come forward. 

This story was first reported last year by the U.K. press. The Sun reported that Fortuna ship photographer Cappello was on board the ship when he felt and heard a "loud bang" during the "sail by." The ship then rolled from left to right. Cappello later photographed damage to the cruise ship’s keel and broken propeller blade. However, Costa demanded and confiscated his photographs. Costa later claimed that the ship had "struck a whale."

Does anyone have information about this incident?  Are there any former crew member who worked on the Fortuna with information to share?  Leave a message or discuss the issue on our Facebook page.

April 15 2013 Update:

Costa sent a letter to the newspaper strongly denying the incident and threatening to sue.

According to La Nazione Grosetto, Costa categorically denies that the Fortuna was Involved in a collision in shallow water near Capri on June 13, 2005 which caused a leak in the hull, as reported by a photographer on board the ship. Costa states that after departure from the port of Naples, around 7:00 PM on June 13 2005, the Fortuna experienced only a "minor technical problem" to a propeller shaft which did not compromise safety or navigation. There was a short stop in the dock in Palermo, the next port, and repairs were successfully performed between 14 and 15 June 2005. On June 15 2005, the ship was permitted to leave the dock, with certificates issued by the certifying authority competent, and the cruise ship departed Palermo at 9.00 AM on its cruise itinerary.

Costa Cruises reserves all legal action against those who continue to spread news which is defamatory to the company's image.  

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Hanseaticus

Costa Concordia Disaster Continues: Cruise Line Avoids Criminal Liability By Paying Fine of Only One Million Euros

Multiple news sources are reporting that the Italian prosecutors have agreed to drop all criminal charges against Costa Cruises arising out of the Concordia disaster in exchange for a fine of only one million Euro's.  

Just one million Euro's (around $1.31million) for killing 32 people, including children? What a pittance.

I'm sure Carnival-owned Costa is happy to write that check.  All of the big shot cruise executives and senior management officers who knew about the dangerous fly-by salutes can rest assured that they Costa Concordia - Criminal Fine - Italywill remain in their luxurious villas and not spend a second behind bars. 

The fine turns out to be less than $41,000 per dead passenger and dead crew member. Not much of a punishment. 

The deal does not release Captain Schettino of the criminal charges of manslaughter and abandoning ship. And the civil lawsuits in Italy, for what they are worth, are unaffected. 

Newspapers are saying that the the prosecution is satisfied with the fine because it was "close to the maximum allowed by law." So why wasn't it the maximum fine?  And what difference is a million Euro fine to a multi billion Euro corporation?  Isn't the ongoing publicity of a criminal trial and potential jail time against the real decision makers a better deterrent?

 

Photo Credit Giglio News. 

Chaos, Confusion & Fear Aboard Costa Concordia

Costa Concordia Cruise ShipNewspapers in Europe are reporting on the contents of the legal submissions made by the Italian prosecutors who have been collecting evidence regarding the Costa Concordia disaster.

Sky News has an interesting video which you can watch here

You can hear about 5 year old Dayana Arlotti who drown along with her father after they were denied seats on a lifeboat and then directed to the other side of the cruise ship.

Crew member Giuseppe Girolamo drowned after he gave up his place on a lifeboat for another person who survived the ordeal.

Prosecutors are seeking criminal trials against Captain Schettino (for manslaughter and abandoning ship) as well as other Costa employees. 

Costa Concordia Litigation: Tactical Blunder By Carnival Opens Door For Lawsuits in Miami

A couple of weeks ago (February 4th), Carnival won a major victory in defending the personal injury cases arising out of the Costa Concordia disaster when a federal judge in South Florida granted Carnival's motion to dismiss and ordered that the case must be filed in Italy if the passengers wish to proceed. 

In the case of Wilhelmina Warrick v. Carnival Corporation, Judge William P. Dimitrouleas held that he was "thoroughly convinced that dismissal in favor of an Italian forum is proper."  The order states that the Court carefully considered the matter and concluded that every single factor weighed in favor of dismissing the passengers' case from Florida. 

Costa ConcordiaYou can read the opinion here courtesy of another maritime law firm's website. I considered the decision to be essentially a final nail in the coffin regarding attempts to hold Carnival or Costa responsible here in U.S. courts.

But on February 15th, the same federal court judge reached an opposite result in two other cases involving 104 Costa cruise passengers claiming compensation arising out of the Concordia capsizing.  Denise Abeid-Saba et al., vs. Carnival Corporation (companion case is Scimone v. Carnival Corporation). 

These cases were filed in state court here in Miami.  Carnival removed the cases to federal court pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA)  of 2005 which permits defendants to remove cases which involve monetary relief sought by 100 or more persons.  However, there is an exclusion where there are 100 plaintiffs because the defendant seeks to consolidate the cases.  

The Court noted that the Abeid-Saba case involved 57 persona and the Simone cases involved 47 persons. Therefore, because neither case involved 100 or more person, there was no basis for removal of the cases from state court.

The Court further held that there was no foreign interest or foreign policies sufficient to create federal court jurisdiction.  Judge Dimitrouleas ordered that the cases should be remanded back to state court.

But then the judge went further. He held:

"There is no indication that the Italian government owned or ran the vessel. There is no evidence of the importance of the Costa Concordia or cruising to the Italian economy. Italy has not taken a position in this lawsuit. Put simply, there is a dearth of evidence to show that Italy has a strong foreign interest in this case. This case is about international and U.S. passengers injured on a pleasure cruise run by a private corporation and whether that corporation properly adhered to safety standards or was otherwise negligent. U.S. - Italian relationships will not be rocked if a Florida state court judge awards money damages because and Italian corporation was negligent."

The decision is surprising in so far as Judge Dimitrouleas essentially reached a completely different result in his orders just 11 days apart.  The lawyers for the 104 Concordia victims were understandably pleased with the outcome and issued a press release earlier this week.     

Judge Dimitrouleas' strongly worded opinion is hard to reconcile with his earlier opinion that he was "thoroughly convinved" that the cases should be filed in Italy.

But there are two things that all lawyers learn in law school: first, federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and in practical terms are always looking for a way to get rid of a civil personal injury case; and secondly, federal judges decide only those issues squarely before the court.   

Costa Concordia SimoneThe issue of forum non conveniens (whether the case should be filed in Italy versus the U.S.) was not before Judge Dimitrouleas. The only issue before him was whether the case belonged in federal court (as Carnival wanted) versus in state court (as the plaintiff wanted). The court did not conduct the same forum non conveniens analysis as in the earlier Warrick case. The court reached a decision solely addressing the issue whether federal jurisdiction was properly invoked.

Rather than moving to dismiss the state court cases based on the argument that the only proper location was in Italy, Carnival preferred to try and take the cases into the federal courts. This was a clever technical argument that turned out to be a bad idea. Carnival gambled with a removal argument based on CAFA. It lost and received some bad language from the federal court in the process.   

But the Concordia victims can't count their chickens yet.  Carnival will still have an opportunity to raise the forum non conveniens argument in the state court proceedings.  Carnival will argue that the language in the judge's order is just dicta, and is not binding on the state court in any event. The cruise victims will argue that the rationale in the court's latest ruling is correct and the cases should remain in Florida state court. 

I met the lead plaintiff in the Scimone case (photo above right) while attending the Congressional hearings last year. These families have experienced quite an ordeal and deserve a trial in Miami. I hope they are successful in keeping the cases here.  

Another Judge Dismisses Costa Concordia Lawsuit Filed in Florida

Costa Concordia Last September Carnival won its first battle arising out of the January 2012 Costa Concordia disaster when U.S. District Court judge Robin Rosenbaum held that the lawsuits against Carnival should be filed in Italy.

In that case, a thousand businesses on the island of Giglio where the Concordia cruise ship ran aground near the harbor tried to sue Carnival in Florida because it is the parent company for Costa which is based in Genoa, Italy.

Yesterday another District Court judge dismissed a lawsuit by cruise passengers against Carnival. Federal Judge William Dimitrouleas held that the passengers' lawsuit should be filed in Italy.  

The ruling was expected from my point of view. The case involves an Italian cruise ship, operated by a company based in Italy, flying an Italian flag, captained by an Italian officer, which crashed in Italian waters and is being investigated by the Italian authorities.  

The case was filed on behalf of Massachusetts residents Adrian, Amanda and Brian Warrick and their parents, Wilhelmina and Ceilito Warrick. 

You can read other articles about this issue here.

Meningitis Afflicts U.S. Passenger Aboard Seven Seas Voyager Cruise Ship

A newspaper in Italy is reporting that a U.S. passenger became sick with meningitis and was taken ashore for medical treatment once the ship arrived at port.

The Corriere del Mezzogiorno newspaper reports that when the Seven Seas Voyager cruise ship arrived at the port of Messina, one U.S. passenger was taken from the cruise ship to a hospital in Gaeta. However, no other passengers were allowed to disembark - apparently out of concern that they may also be sick and infect people ashore.

The newspaper account states that the passengers were given prophylactic medications but must wait at least 48 hours to avoid others from being infected. 

Meningitis is a serious disease affecting the mucous membranes surrounding the brain. It can be spread in the air, person to person and through contaminated food or water. It can be deadly.

Last month four crew members were infected with meningitis while working on the MSC Orchestra cruise. They were hospitalized in a medical facility in Italy.  One crew member died. The frightening thing about that case was that two of the crew members worked in the cruise ship's galley which increased the prospects that the passengers could be infected.

Anyone aboard the Seven Seas Voyager with information to share, please leave a comment below.

October 29, 2012 Update: The Cruise Critic message board has a comment that this was a "suspected" case of meningitis and the Italian Health Ministry indicated that the passenger tested negative for the disease. 

Who's to Blame? Costa Concordia Criminal Hearing Begins in Italy

Today the hearing begins in Grosseto, Italy to determine who should be named as defendants in the criminal trial involving the deadly Costa Concordia disaster.

The potential defendants from the cruise ship include infamous Captain Schettino who was at the helm when he maneuvered the ship into the rocks, as well as the ship’s second-in-command, three officers who were on the bridge, and a safety official who falsely told the Italian Coast Guard the cruise ship merely experienced an electrical failure.  

Executives of Costa are also being investigated for their roles in the accident.

The international press is closely covering the hearing. Maritime and scientific experts are expected to Costa Concordia Cruise Shiptestify based on their review of "black box" data and other information. The Italian judge will review the expert's' findings and opinions to determine who should stand trial. 

Hundreds of survivors and their counsel are expected to attend, 

Costa's plan has been to dump all of the blame on its captain, which is easy to do given his conduct. But there remains concerns that the cruise line supplied out of date maps and poorly trained the crew. How all of this plays out should be interesting.

The fact that hearings like this and a trial will take place are rather remarkable events. Most maritime casualties involving cruise ships do not end up with trials like this. Lots of information has already been "leaked."  If the disaster involved a cruise ship flagged in places like the Bahamas or Panama, there would be no hearings or trials whatsoever. Those countries would certainly exonerate their cruise line masters who choose to register their ships in and pay fees to third world flag states for friendly treatment.

Italy - where the Concordia was flagged and Costa is based - should be applauded for the efficiency and professionalism demonstrated by the Italian court system so far.

 

Photo credit: CNN

Did the Liberty of the Seas Buzz Cape Ampelio in Italy?

The Italian newspaper Il Secolo XIX published an interesting article L’inchino della Liberty of the Seas which raised the question whether the Liberty of the Seas cruise ship sailed too close to Cape Ampelio near the little Italian town of Bordighera.

Bordighera is a small, beautiful coastal town near Italy's border with France.  It has a small marina but certainly nothing that could accommodate a mega cruise ship like Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas.  

The Italian newspaper writes that citizens of Bordighera became alarmed when the Liberty of the Seas sailed close (apparently less than a mile) to the shore. Dozens telephoned the Italian Coast Guard in Bordighera Italy - Cruise Ship anger to demand that the cruise ship stay away from its waters. Others began a facebook page complaining about the situation and posting photographs of the Liberty of the Seas sailing nearby Cape Ampelio.

The local residents felt that the cruise ship was performing a "bow" or a "salute" to the city, not unlike the reckless maneuver performed by the infamous Captain Schettino aboard the Costa Concordia near the island of Giglio which caused 32 people to die.     

There are Italian regulations which prohibit ships over 500 tons to sail within 2 nautical miles from the outer perimeters of national parks and protected areas, marine and coastal ecosystems. In other areas, there apparently is not a specified distance where large vessels are prohibited, and it is the authority of the Italian Coast Guard or harbor masters to determine how close large cargo ships and cruise ships may sail.

The newspaper writes that the Italian Coast Guard was monitoring the passage of the Liberty of the Seas and had concluded that although the cruise ship was near the coast, it was "not excessively" close. The incident occurred two months ago.

The question remains whether this was an authorized departure from the cruise ship's planned route, or a "thought" of the ship's captain to salute the town or provide interesting viewing for the passengers.

Bordighera Italy - Liberty of the Seas Salute?

Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas Nearly Runs Over Italian Fishing Boat

The popular cruise blog Noticias de Cruceros reports that yesterday the Liberty of the Seas cruise ship almost collided with a small Italian fishing vessel, the Angelo II based in Civitavecchia, in waters near the port city of Latium on the western coast of Italy.  

According to Noticias de Cruceros, the Royal Caribbean cruise ship was on a collision course with the Angela II, which had deployed its cables and fishing nets and was trawling for fish.  The captain of the much smaller fishing boat radioed the Liberty of the Seas as it was bearing down on the boat, but the cruise ship neither responded nor altered course.  

Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas - Near Collision - Angela II Fishing BoatThe captain of the Angela II had to cut all of its cables and nets and execute an emergency maneuver to avoid being run over by the Liberty of the Seas which passed 15 meters (less than 35 feet) away. 

The captain notified the Italian Coast Guard which opened an administrative investigation, which could turn into a criminal investigation if the authorities conclude that the cruise ship ignored its radar and the cries from the fishing vessel via radio and refused to alter course.

The Angela II also alleges economic damages after its cables and nets sank.

The Noticias de Cruceros blog points out that giant cruise ships like the Liberty of the Seas are chock full of sophisticated technical equipment like radar, VHF, electronic charts, GPS, and many other systems. However the problem is that notwithstanding all of this technology, the bridge officers can make reckless decisions like intentionally sailing close to shore (a la' Costa Concordia) or ignoring cries for help (a la' Star Princess) or, in this case, not answering the radio or changing course to avoid a collision with a smaller fishing boat.

The blog concludes that while the cruise industry is considering improvements to its operating procedures, consideration must be given to re-evaluating the staffing of the bridge team and the training of the bridge officers to maintain a proper lookout. 

 

July 8, 2012 Update:  

First Update:  An article about the alleged near-collision in an Italian newspaper can be read here

I have not read any comments by passengers about the incident (like Cruisemates or Cruise Critic) and am curious whether anyone can confirm or deny the newspaper account?  If you were a passenger or crew member on the cruise and have information to share, please leave a comment below. Anyone have photographs or video to share?

Second Update:  The first comment below was sent by someone at Royal Caribbean offices in Miami. Read our article about this sneaky comment: 

Royal Caribbean Posts Bogus Comment to Article Regarding Alleged Near Collision Involving Liberty of the Seas

Third Update:  Cruise Critic reports that Royal Caribbean confirms that "Liberty of the Seas was in close proximity to a small vessel on July 4th."  However, a PR representative for Royal Caribbean told Cruise Critic "We are still working to gather all the facts, so I cannot confirm or deny the information,"

Carnival Breeze to Cross Picket Line in Venice

Venice Italy - Transport Workers StrikeTravel Agent Central published an interesting article today mentioning that a nationwide strike in Italy is scheduled for today by the Italian Public Transport Workers.

The article was written by one of the employees of Travel agent Central who is cruising on Carnival's new cruise ship, the Carnival Breeze, which sailed into Venice this morning.

Carnival's Cruise Director John Heald apparently informed the passengers over the ship’s public address system of the strike and said that the water taxis and water buses (vaporetto) in Venice will not be operating. Heald told the cruise guests not to worry, noting that Carnival was working on alternative transportation including arranging for boats to shuttle from the cruise dock over to St. Mark’s Square and back. 

I think that I'd walk from the dock to St. Marks. Yes it's a hike, but crossing a picket line is not how I would want to spend my vacation . . . 

Monster Cruise Ships Menace Venice

The UK's Mail Online newspaper has some interesting photographs today regarding the ongoing protests by environmental groups in Italy who are trying to protect the beautiful city of Venice from the effects of water pollution, air emissions and erosion of historical building by traffic from huge cruise ships.

Earlier this week we addressed this issue in our article Italian Environmentalists Urge Sofia Loren to Stop "Monster of the Sea" from Attacking Venice.  

Over the past 25 years, the number of cruise passengers cruising into Venice increased from 280,000 to 1,800,000 last year.

Over 650 gigantic cruise ships sail into Venice every year now.  Unlike the quaint gondolas historically associated with the city, cruise ships today are 1,000 feet long, weigh 140,000 tons and have drafts well over 25 feet. They pose a substantial risk to this fragile Italian city which is struggling against mass tourism and the deterioration of the city's underwater foundations. 

Here is my view of the problem last year: Are Cruise Ships Ruining Venice Or Just Memories From My Youth

Take a look at the spectacle below.  Do you trust the titans of the cruise industry with the survival of historical sites like this?  Do you trust the Micky Arisons of the world to be the curators of Venice?  

Cruise Ships - Venice - MSC Divina

Cruise Ships - Venice - MSC Divina

Photo credit: Getty Images via Mail Online 

Italian Environmentalists Urge Sofia Loren to Stop "Monster of the Sea" from Attacking Venice

Italians concerned with the negative effects of air and water pollution have appealed to actress Sophia Loren to stop a cruise ship named in her honor from visiting Venice. 

An environmental organization, the "No Big Ships Venice Committee," wrote an open letter to the star asking for her support in keeping the MCS Divina and its passengers and crew of 4,500 from entering the fragile lagoon which surround the historic city.  Ms. Loren christened the Divina last month. 

In addition to air emissions and water discharges, the environmental group is concerned that the heavy Ruby Princess Invades Venice cruise traffic is eroding and cracking the foundations of historic buildings.  The group is asking the famous movie star to renounce her role as godmother of the ship in an effort to protect Venice. 

Italia Nostra (Our Italy), the country's leading conservation group, is also involved in trying to keeping large cruise ships out of the Venice lagoon.

Since 1987, the number of cruise passengers cruising through Venice has risen from 280,000 to 1,800,000 last year.

The huge cruise ships on steroids are grossly out-of-scale when juxtaposed next to the historic buildings in Venice.  Last year I wrote a couple of articles about the spectacle of monster ships invading Venice: Will the Juggernauts of the Seas Ruin Venice? and Are Cruise Ships Ruining Venice Or Just Memories From My Youth?

 

Photo Credit:  EcoTraveller / Mostly Dans

 

June 3, 2012 Update:

A number of readers brought to my attention, ironically enough, that the Carnival Breeze is making its inaugural cruise out of Venice this weekend.  Carnival's CEO Micky Arison is even posting photos online via Twitter.  The first photo is of the Breeze arriving in Venice and the second photo posted by Arison has the caption "What a beautiful night shot of Carnival Breeze."     

I suppose that's debatable.  I for one would prefer to see the gondolas of Venice without a gigantic cruise ship plowing though the waters behind them.  And I would hate to look out my balcony window and see the freakish sight of a Miami cruise-based cruise ship lighting up the night sky of Venice while blowing emissions all over the place.

Chemical Tanker "Gelso M" Runs Aground Off Sicily - Video

Just two months after the Italian flagged Costa Concordia cruise ship struck rocks near the Italian island of Giglio, another Italian vessel has run aground off the coast of Sicily.  

The 500 foot Gelso M ran aground in high winds and rough seas this morning, near the port town of Syracuse. The captain of the tanker called for assistance from the Italian Coast Guard which safely rescued 19 crewmembers from the stricken vessel notwithstanding high winds. 

Reports are that the vessel was taking on water, although the tanker was not carrying any cargo at the time.  

There is already criticism in the international press that the captain had sailed the vessel too close to the shore given the weather conditions.  Fortunately, due to the skill of the Italian Coast Guard, this grounding has a happier ending than the Concordia disaster. 

 

 

Video credit: SiracusaNews YouTube

Passengers Panic As Costa Concordia Cruise Ship Begins to Sink

Costa Concordia Sinking - Evacuation Cruise ShipCosta Cruise Lines' Costa Concordia cruise ship has evacuated most of its passengers after a disastrous situation this evening near the island of Giglio in southern Tuscany, Italy. 

Media reports suggest that the cruise ship ran aground or struck a reef after departing from its regular course.   

The grounding ruptured the hull and water entered the vessel, leading to the forced evacuation of many of the 4,231 passengers and crew from the stricken cruise ship into lifeboats.  There are reports that passengers jumped into the water during the chaotic circumstances following the grounding. 

The official statements from the cruise line are factually vague.  There is no explanation regarding the cause of the grounding.  The cruise line proclaims that the passengers are "not at risk," but this is probably the usual misleading and false cruise propaganda.  Some media sources are reporting that there are passengers who are dead.  Media sources are reporting around 3  passegers died and up to 50 are missing. 

The Italian cruise ship carrying 3,200 passengers and approximately one thousand crewmembers.  The Costa Concordia had departed for a Mediterranean cruise includio ports in Civitavecchia, Palermo, Cagliari, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona, ​​Marseille and Savona.

News sources are quoting a passenger describing the mishap similar to the Titanic disaster, "with a scramble among the evacuees, screaming and crying."

January 14, 2012 Update:

Costa issued a statement that the cruise ship struck a "rock."   Other news sources are reporting that the captain was arrested for manslaugter and abandoning the ship.  

Canadian television CTV has an article about the grounding and cruise safety issues - Crime, Fires Compromise Cruise Ship Safety: Experts -  which you can read here.

Costa Concordia Cruise Ship Sinking

Do you have accurate information regarding this disaster?  Do you have photo or video to share? 

 Please leave a comment below.

 

Will the Juggernauts of the Seas Ruin Venice?

The Telegraph in the U.K. has an interesting article this weekend - "Cruise Ships Could Be Shut Out of Venice Over Erosion Fears."

The article points out that environmentalists and heritage groups have long complained that mammoth cruise ships plow through the shallow Venetian lagoon and damage the fragile canal banks, wooden piles and mud banks on which the city rests.

The article shows a photograph of Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas looming over the beautiful canals and bridges of Venice.

Venice Italy - Cruise Ships

 

The mayor of Venice, Giorgio Orsoni, plans to meet the head of the city's port authority, Paolo Costa, this week to discuss the problem.  He is quoted stating that "the problem of these juggernauts of the sea needs to be confronted." 

There has been a significant increase in the number of cruise ships visiting Venice, from 200 in 2000 to 510 in 2007.   The newspaper reports that last year 1,600,000 tourists arrived in Venice by cruise ship

Mayor Orsoni suggested that cruise ships could be transferred to Porto Marghera, on the mainland, in order to minimize the environmental and aesthetic impact on Venice.

This is not the first time that a major newspaper has addressed this issue.  In May, the New York Times ran across an interesting article "Venice Tourist Ships Rattle Windows and Nerves" by Elisabetta Povoledo.

I visited Venice by backpack when I was in college and commented on my impression of the effects of the cruise industry on Venice over the past 35 year in my article Are Cruise Ships Ruining Venice Or Just Memories From My Youth?  You can see a couple of photos I took when I was in college and stayed in Venice for a few days. 

The photo below is from the New York Times article.

Venice - Cruise Ships   

 

Photo credit:

Top:  Alamy via the  Telegraph

Bottom:  Manuel Silvestri/Reuters

U.S. Cruise Passenger Dies in Naples After Assault, Attempted Robbery

Reuters is reporting that an American tourist died in Naples yesterday, after thieves assaulted him while trying to steal his Rolex watch a week ago. 

The article states that Oscar Antonio Mendoza, age 66, and his wife cruised to Naples on May 18th.  After he disembarked the unidentified cruise ship to tour the city with his wife, two men approached him on a scooter, grabbed his arm and tried to take his Rolex.

Mendoza struggled with one of the men and was thrown to the ground, hitting his head. He was taken to hospital and operated on.  He did not regain consciousness and died nine days later.

Naples is an interesting place to visit, but it has a reputation for pick pockets, purse snatchers, and drive-by-scooter robberies.

Naples Cruise Passenger Assaulted  

May 29, 2011 Update:  Cruise Critic reports that the cruise passenger was from the Solstice cruise ship operated by Celebrity Cruises.

Cruise Critic writes "It should be noted that the Italian city is notorious for crime. The Cruise Critic profile on the port warns visitors to be 'careful about crime -- pickpockets, burglaries, etc.' "

Are Cruise Ships Ruining Venice Or Just Memories From My Youth?

Last week  I was reading the New York Times on line when I ran across an interesting article "Venice Tourist Ships Rattle Windows and Nerves" by Elisabetta Povoledo. 

The article raises the question of the environmental impact of massive cruise ships sailing into the passenger terminal at the end of the Giudecca Canal, to unload over one and one-half million cruise Venice - Cruise Shipspassengers into Venice a year. 

I have warm memories of the first, and only, time that I visited Venice.  It was the summer of 1977, after my freshman year at college.  I originally traveled to Europe with my freshman roommate at Duke and two buddies from prep school.  After two weeks in Belgium and Holland, where we spent more time in the beer halls than in museums, we got on each other's nerves.  We strapped on our backpacks and went our separate ways. 

I had bought a $200 "Eurail pass" that let me hop on trains all over over Europe.  It even covered a couple of cruises (where we slept on the open decks) on old tubs from Brindisi, Italy to the island of Corfu and then on to Greece and back. 

Before I headed south, I spent a week in Venice by myself. 

I loved it. 

For $8 a night, I rented a single room in an Italian's family upstairs apartment.  I spent my  time visiting St. Mark's Cathedral, walking around the narrow winding streets, and eating incredible Italian ice cream.  I stopped at all of the little bridges over the canals which criss-crossed the city and leaned over the rails to watch couples and families ride on gondolas navigating below me.   

Venice - Cruise Ships PollutionI took a few photos (above and right) which have been in an old photo album for the last three decades.

I have lasting images and feelings from my experiences in Venice.   I felt at ease in this incredibly tranquil city, especially in the evenings when I would sit in the plazas drinking wine or espresso and wonder what my future would bring.          

Now 34 years later, I am looking at the photo (below) in the New York Times' article of a massive cruise ship looming over Venice.  What  a stark contrast to my fond memories of the quiet and quaint city with the gondola drivers pushing their poles along the little canals.  

Are those monster cruise ships really sailing by the Riva dei Sette Martiri, a quay near St. Mark’s Square? 

There seems something disrespectful about arriving in Venice aboard a cruise ship taller and wider than anything that could have been imagined when the city was built 500 years ago. 

What happened to the tranquility of the beautiful, delicately scaled maze of canals and plazas where the poets, artists and travelers inter-mingled in the uniqueness of this old city?  Are the mega cruise ships and their one and one-half million cruise tourists ruining the charm of Venice?  Or has the world forever changed, leaving only the memories from my youth?      

 

Venice - Cruise Ships

 

Photos top and middle:  Jim Walker

Photo bottom:  Manuel Silvestri / Reuters