USA TODAY / 10 BEST announced the winners today in the "10Best Readers’ Choice New Media Award for Best Cruise Blogger."
An initial list of 20 cruise bloggers was selected by a panel of experts. The experts were USA TODAY Cruise Log blogger Gene Sloan, long-time Cruise Diva Linda Coffman, Doug Parker with Cruise Radio, and Stewart Chiron a/k/a The Cruise Guy. All of these expert bloggers could have been picked as top 5 cruise bloggers themselves.
After the initial list of 20 was selected, the "top 10" cruise bloggers were determined by popular vote. John Heald (photo right), the witty Cruise Director for Carnival, seems to have won in a land-slide.
Our blog came in 6th place, not a bad result considering that many people consider me the "anti-cruise" blogger. I am surprised that Cruise Law News was voted that high.
I voted for Peter Knego's blogs on Maritime Matters.
Thanks to everyone who voted for us.
Yes, it's true that our blog is often viewed as "negative." But the voting proves that there are cruise fans out there who like to hear the "con" as well as the "pro" aspects of cruising and understand that being forewarned is being forearmed!
The USA TODAY top 20 list includes many of the bloggers who I have picked in the past: Chris Cruise, Captain Greybeard, CruiseMates, Expert Cruiser, Peter Knego's Decked (Maritime Matters)(which is really outstanding), and Cruise Maven.
At the moment, Carnival Cruise Director John Heald is the top vote receiver.
I was surprised that this blog made the list. The other 19 bloggers promote the cruise industry and never criticize it. Our motto, on the other hand, is "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know."
The voting continues for the next three weeks. You can vote once everyday.
Last month, 247,433 people read 843,370 pages of Cruise Law News (per Google Analytics). That's a record month for us.
If our readership continues to grow, as it has done over the years, we are on track to having 3,000,000 people reading over 10,000,000 pages of our blog a year.
Our blog is currently the number three most popular law blog in the U.S. (via Alexa) and the number one most popular law blog in the U.S. written by a practicing lawyer (again via Alexa).
The motto of our blog is "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know." If you want idyllic images of perfect cruise ship vacations to tropical paradises, stick to the travel publications and cruise fan blogs. We offer a glimpse into the world of cruising that the cruise executives prefer you not know.
Its an interesting article which discusses who Mr. Turen views as the critics of the cruise industry.
He discusses cruise expert Ross Klein, a professor in Canada, who has testified before Congress several times about man overboard cases and crime against children on ships. Dr. Klein also operates the website CruiseJunkie which is the definitive compilation of most everything which goes wrong while cruising.
He also discusses me and rewards me as the "king of anti-cruise tirades" and the "most visible critic of the industry."
Here are a few sentences from Mr. Turen's article:
"To give you a flavor of Walker's site, let me quote some of the reasons he does not recommend cruise vacations:
'Cruise lines are a perfect place to sexually abuse children.'
'Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCL are corporate felons.'
'If you are retired or a child, the cruise line considers your life worthless.'
Jim Walker has appeared on every major news outlet and frequently testifies before Congress. So his impressive background and litigation record against cruise lines must be taken seriously. His goal is clearly stated on his website:
'If travel agents are going to hawk cruises by advertising all the reasons why you should take your family on a cruise, trust us that we will provide you with the other side of the story.'
Check back on our blog later this afternoon. I'll publish my response to Mr. Turen's article and place some of his comments in context and perspective. He has raised some interesting issues which deserve discussion and a larger audience.
This week marks the 4th year anniversary of starting my blog Cruise Law News (CLN).
I've written 1,585 articles, which averages out to be over one per day. We have received over 4,700 comments to our articles, mostly from U.S. readers. Google Analytics tell us over 1,000,000 different people have read over 3,500,000 pages of our blog in the last 12 months. The blog has come a long way since September 2009 when barely 5,000 people read CLN.
According to the AVVO ranking system, CLN is currently ranked the 10th most popular law blog in the U.S. Of the nine blogs more popular than ours, five are written by law professors and four are for-profit, monetized blogs which accept advertising which you will never see here. So you can make the argument that CLN is the most popular law blog written by one lawyer who actually practices law.
CLN reached an international audience when I started my Cruise Law News Facebook page last year and began posting the CLN articles on Facebook. The result has been fantastic. Around 70,000 fans follow us on Facebook. We are growing exponentially. We have more readers whose languages are primarily non-English than English readers.
The top countries where our CLNFacebook followers are from are India, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and then the U.S. The next five most popular countries are Turkey, Romania, Croatia, Italy and Chile.
The stories we cover here on CLN are genuine, dramatic and often disturbing. They are not fiction.
Several years ago, Kevin O'Keefe, the founder and CEO of Seattle-based LexBlog, which designed and hosts our blog, came to Miami to meet some of the Miami bloggers who are part of his network. During dinner, O'Keefe asked me why I liked to blog. Instantly I told him that a half-dozen of my clients have testified before Congressional committees in Washington D.C. about being victimized on cruise ships. Their stories, about ship fires, loved ones lost at sea, and cruise crime, are riveting. Their causes deserved a larger audience. And I wanted to tell their compelling stories and promote their causes on a national and international basis.
So why has Cruise Law News been so successful you may ask?
In Jonas Sachs' book Winning the Story Wars, the author explains that those who tell the best stories will be successful. Sachs defines "best" as those authentic stories which inspire compassion and hope and bring about positive social change.
Our stories are about the little man taking on the big corporation, such as $500-a-month cruise employees from India working over 360 hours a month standing up to the abuses of multi-national companies based here in Miami. We write about grass roots victims' groups enacting legislation over the fierce opposition and dirty tricks of huge, billion-dollar tax-avoiding cruise corporations. Many of our stories are about women, both passengers and crew, taking on the male-dominated cruise industry.
There are many social media experts who say that the key to a successful blog is to consistently and genuinely demonstrate passion about an issue. That's true. But it's not enough. Whether your blog sells a product or promotes a cause, an author needs a compelling story to tell.
That's where I have a distinct advantage over other lawyers and bloggers. I realize that the stories here on CLN are not mine. I am just a storyteller. The stories are the only reason my articles are widely read and CLN is closely followed. The stories are of our clients and friends who have endured unimaginable events while cruising, of all things. Stories like being sexually assaulted during cruise vacations, or losing a parent or a spouse or a child on the high seas. And in a time of despair and desperation, many of these nice people face corporate deceit or heartless indifference of the worst kind. These stories must be told.
Over thirty years ago, I graduated from Tulane School of Law which had, and still has, one of the best maritime law curriculum programs in the U.S.
In law school, I took courses as a second and third year law school student in Maritime Personal Injury & Death, Maritime Jurisdiction, Maritime Insurance and Carriage of Goods by Sea. One of my favorite courses was called "Offshore Operations," which was essentially an advanced course in maritime personal injury dealing with accidents and injury in the oil & gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico.
That was back in New Orleans in 1983. Now over thirty years later in Miami, my law practice is 100% maritime personal injury and death lawsuits against the Miami based cruise lines.
The cruise lines have increasingly been in the news over the last ten years. And we have been in the news as well. I have been referred to as a "Top Maritime Lawyer" by the ABA Journal; a "Top Cruise Lawyer" by USA Today; a "Prominent Private Practice Maritime Attorney" by Fox News; a "Premier Lawyer for Cruise Passengers" by Reuters; and a "Leading Miami Attorney" by Newsweek Magazine.
Stories about cruise ships are in the media every week. This year alone, I've appeared on CNN, ABC News, and NBC and quoted in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Miami Herald, to name just a few.
The cases we handle are mostly against Carnival and its subsidiary brands (Carnival Cruise Lines, Cunard, Princess Cruises, Holland America Lines), Royal Caribbean Cruises (Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises & Azamara), Norwegian Cruise Lines, and Disney Cruises.
We represent both cruise passengers and crew members against the cruise lines. We handle cases involving serious injuries to passengers and crew on the high seas. Most of the injury cases involve bad medical care following the shipboard injury. Crew members are often sent home without receiving adequate medical treatment.
A focus of our law practice involves representing victims of cruise ship crimes, especially sexual assaults against women and children.
Many cruise ship passengers do not realize that they must file suit in the location specified in the cruise ticket, usually Miami. There is also a very short limitations period to file a lawsuit, typically only one year.
Injured on a cruise ship and looking to retain an experienced maritime lawyer? Consider Miami lawyer Jim Walker.
Jim studied maritime case in law school in the early 1980's and has practiced maritime law for the past thirty years. For the last fifteen years, Jim has focused his law practice exclusively on representing passengers and crew members injured on cruise ships. He has handled many hundreds of cases against cruise lines such as Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, and Royal Caribbean Cruises.
There are lots of lawyers who advertise themselves as "cruise ship lawyers" on the internet, but who handle only a claim or two against a cruise line a year.
Jim handles only cases involving injuries on cruise ships sailing the high seas.
Jim is a well known cruise ship safety advocate. He has attended seven hearings before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives regarding issues of cruise passenger safety, sexual assault, disappearances of passengers at sea, crime, and cruise ship fires and collisions.
The major press outlets routinely ask Jim for his perspective on cruise ship mishaps. This year alone, Jim has appeared in over 75 television, cable news & radio shows, newspaper articles, special programs & documentaries regarding cruise ship accidents, crimes and controversies.
This morning Cruise Law News hit a milestone when the 50,000th person "liked" our Facebook page.
The motto of this blog is "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know." One of our main goals is to educate the public about dangers and problems on cruise ships that the cruise industry would like to keep secret. So it's exciting to see that many people become a fan of our Facebook page.
We post most of our blogs on Facebook as well as links to other sites which write about newsworthy (and sometimes not so newsworthy) events in the crazy world of cruising. Unlike our other social media pages like Twitter which has almost exclusively a U.S. audience, our Facebook Cruise-Law-News page has primarily non-U.S. readers.
Who are the top readers outside of the U.S.? In order they are from India, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Turkey, Croatia and Serbia, as well as many other countires.
Why the reference to "50,000 fans can't be wrong?" It's a take-off on the famous Elvis Presley album "50,000,000 Elvis fans can't be wrong." (OK so I'm only 49,950,000 behind Elvis).
Thanks to everyone who like our Facebook page, read our articles, and leave comments!
Today marks the 4th year Cruise Law has been on Twitter. Check out our page here. Over 10,000 tweets and over 10,000 followers later, it has been a fun four years. Tweeting is just micro-blogging in 140 characters and led me to create this blog Cruise Law News.
If you are not on Twitter you should be. It has led me to meet literally thousands of lawyers, travel agents, cruise industry people, journalists, travelers and crew members around the world. Lots of news about the cruise industry breaks on Twitter before the mainstream media knows what's going on.
Speaking of social media, we have been busy in the world of cruise law news this year. The Carnival Triumph fire and the "ensuing cruise from hell" were the latest cruise fiascos which focused the world on the unregulated foreign-flagged cruise industry.
Our firm and this blog were featured in over fifty television, cable news, & radio shows and internet, magazine and newspaper articles. Take a look here at a listing of some here of the programs and articles.
Cruise Law News (CLN), now over 3 years old, remains a top 10 law blog in terms of popularity. It is currently ranked #9 per the Alexa popularity rankings. The 8 law blogs ahead of us consist of 6 blogs which are commercial sites or are run by law professors. There's only one other law blog operated by a full time lawyer (China Law Blog) ahead of us. So we are the #2 law blog in the U.S. and Canada written by a full time lawyer.
Last month in the 28 days of February, readers visited some 415,960 pages of this blog. If we keep this pace up, we are approaching 5,000,000 page views a year!
Our Facebook page is booming, with over 45,000 likes. It is by far the most popular page by a law firm on Facebook.
Thanks for following us. If you have a question or want us to cover a particular issue or story, contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Today CNN asked me to write an opinion piece regarding the state of affairs of the cruise industry following the fire aboard the Carnival Triumph. CNN permits only the first 150 words of the article to be published so here you go:
Editor's note: James M. Walker is a maritime lawyer and cruise safety advocate involved in cruise ship law and maritime litigation with his law firm, Walker and O'Neill. He has represented crew members and passengers against cruise lines, including Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Formerly, he worked as a lawyer for the cruise industry.
(CNN) -- A Carnival cruise ship was adrift 150 miles off the coast of Mexico after an engine room fire. Cruise passengers were complaining about the lack of air conditioning, hot cabins, cold food and toilets that wouldn't flush.
As I watched the news broadcast, I thought it was a documentary about the Carnival Splendor, which suffered a disabling engine room fire in November 2010 off Mexico. But the story was about the Carnival Triumph, which caught fire early Sunday after sailing from Galveston, Texas, with more than 3,100 passengers.
The cruise industry says cruise ship fires are rare, but they are not rare. They happen with alarming frequency . . .
For the longest time, our involvement with social media involved mostly this blog and our feed on Twitter, CruiseLaw.
What I have observed this year is that our Twitter feed (with over 10,000 followers) is largely followed by cruise passengers, travel agents and cruise line employees. Most of the people on Twitter who follow us reside in the U.S. In contrast, our facebook page is mostly "liked" by many thousands of crew members from around the world. We have made friends with lots of crew members from India, Romania, Croatia, Serbia and Jamaica on facebook.
The other thing that I have noticed is that crew members and other friends from outside the U.S. are far more likely to interact with us on facebook. They leave comments on facebook. The people who read our articles and interact with us on facebook far outreach the number of people who socialize with us on twitter or contact us after subscribing to this blog.
For example, after a number of crew members went overboard from Royal Caribbean cruise ships a few months ago, I posted a couple of comments asking whether Royal Caribbean was working its crew members too hard. One of the posts was read by over 350,000 people on facebook. Another posting about the working conditions on Celebrity cruise ships was read by over 100,000 people. We also had many hundreds of comments to these articles, mostly by crew members who have first hand knowledge of what "ship life" is really like.
Crew members are the backbone of our law practice. Yes we have assisted many hundreds of cruise passengers over the years. But the majority of our clients are crew members (like the crew member above from Trinidad).
Whether they are crew members or not, the biggest supporters of this blog reside outside of the U.S. The last four people to "like" our page were "Raja" from India, "Natalija" from Croatia, "Novi" from Bosnia & Herzegovina, with "J.J." from South Africa being the 25,000th person to like our page. I have learned that the international community has a different perspective about things than Americans do. People outside the U.S. are far more sympathetic to the hard times many crew members face. Most Americans, on the other hand, just want a nice cruise vacation. Long hours and low pay are not their concerns.
Crew members often leave us messages on facebook, asking us for help or informal advice about their rights on cruise ships. Often crew members from places like India, Indonesia or the Caribbean islands have no one to turn to for information while working long contracts on the high seas far away from home. Problems with supervisors, long hours, bad medical care, prejudice & sexual harassment put crew members in a stressful situation. We are pleased to respond without any obligation. We hope that we can help you.
Our blog is read over a million times each year. Thanks for helping us spread the word on facebook. If you have information about working conditions on cruise ships and things that need fixing in the cruise industry, send us tips. We promise to maintain your confidentiality.
If you are a cruise ship employee, thanks for "liking" us on facebook and reading this blog. If it is helpful to you, recommend us to a friend. Share our articles with your past or present crew member friends. Help us get the word out about "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know."
According to AVVO which ranks the popularity of law blogs, Cruise Law News (CLN) is currently the 9th most popular law blog in the U.S. You can read the list (updated daily) here. The list does not pretend to be a compilation of the "best" blogs. It is based primarily on the number of readers and the number of pages read for each blog, if I understand correctly how AVVO works.
That makes our blog the most widely read blog about our practice areas - cruise law and maritime personal injury law - in the U.S. Around 300,000 pages of CLN are read a month. We expect at the end of this year there to be well over 3,000,000 pages of CLN read just this year alone.
Being a widely read blog is admittedly a goal of CLN. The purpose of our blog is to educate the public about "everything cruise lines don't want you to know." There are a lot of problems, like sexual assault of women, molestation of children, and abuse of crew members, that cruise lines try and keep secret.
Thanks for reading our blog, and thanks for sending us tips about things that happen on cruise ships which the Carnivals and Royal Caribbeans prefer the public not to know.
If you want to track the popularity of websites and blogs, download the Alexa toolbar. Its simple and takes less than 30 seconds.
A couple of my friends on Twitter asked me about a maritime law blog in Miami which tweets under the Twitter handle @cruiseshiplaw. They were confused whether it was my blog, because it looked strikingly just like mine and had a similar name.
I clicked on the blog and, yes, it looks pretty much just like mine. A big white cruise ship in the upper right corner and the same blue theme.
Its a blog by my main competitor for cruise line clients. Very good lawyers no doubt. But why rip off my design?
I have an approach in life and in my blog to give credit where credit is due. So when I write about maritime lawyers in Miami winning cases against the cruise lines I credit them by name.
But this blog not only copied my design but actually writes about our cases. Look to the right and you can see the article "Carnival Cruise Lines May Be Liable For Child's Death." That's a precedent setting case against Carnival where we recently prevailed in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal, which we wrote about earlier this month.
Ah another law firm sponging, mooching, free-loading and otherwise riding on our coattails.
I suppose imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Yesterday I mentioned our blog's three year anniversary. I was pleased to receive some positive comments back from our readers, particularly on our facebook page. Here is one comment that I received via email from a travel agent which I thought was nice:
"Congratulations on three very successful, provocative, educational and to say the least enlightening years. As a travel professional your articles have caused me to reconsider may things I advise my clients on when it comes not only to cruising but while taking land vacations also.
Thanks for all the good work."
One of our goals is to educate the public about some of the hidden dangers of cruising. So it's encouraging to hear from travel agents who read our blog and learn that they are mentioning some of the issues and safety points we discuss here.
But our anniversary also brought us hate e-mail as well.
When I read emails like the one below, I realize that there is no question that we live in a polarized society. Half of the public understands the need for lawyers to help weak & injured people, and to try and keep large corporations in line. The other half of the public views trial lawyers are a sign of the apocalypse:
"So why do we have to wait in line to sign the silly waivers to do anything like skate, climb or ride the flowrider? You Ambulance chasers make me ashamed to be an American! I've been on many cruises and they are working extremely hard providing an outstanding and safe product. You don't fool most of us -- we know it's all about money! Why don't you get a real job instead of feeding on the labor of others? I have had many conversations with workers on ships -- you know they think we Americans are a bunch of lazy bums looking to sue. It's true -- they laugh at our silly warning labels!
Thank you Mr Lawyer! Mr. Ambulance Chaser."
When I receive emails like this I have to stop and scratch my head. "Waivers" on cruise ships are against the law. There is absolutely no reason to ever stand in a line on a cruise ship to sign a waiver because they are null, void and unenforceable.
Why are they illegal? Because lawyers fought for injured passengers. In a case we handled, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal recently struck down a cruise line waiver which purported to strip passengers of their legal rights before they can participate in activities like zip lines, wall climbing, flowriders, rock climbing and skating.
Cruise lines hire large teams of lawyers to advance their legal interests. Any case filed against a Miami-based cruise line will be assigned to a team of lawyers and legal assistants - a partner, senior associate, junior associate and a paralegal or two.
In big cases, cruise lines hire a proverbial city of lawyers. Costa cruise line hired dense lawyers in Rome, Genoa, New York, London, Washington DC and Miami to represent it following the Costa Concordia disaster.
An average passenger or crew member does not stand a chance against a large corporation like Carnival or Royal Caribbean unless they hire a lawyer.
Yes, there are some silly warning signs on some products which are not needed. We can all agree on that and have a good laugh. But if you are a victim of a crime or serious injury during a cruise and don't hire a lawyer, it will be the cruise line who will be having a laugh at your expense.
This month marks the three year anniversary of my blog, Cruise Law News ("CLN").
I started this blog in September 2009 with the goal of writing about "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know." There has been a lot to write about.
Shipboard rapes. Molestation of children. Mistreatment of foreign crew members. Overboard passengers and crew. Cruise line cover-ups. You can read it all here.
Three years later, CLN has now published over 1,100 articles and received over 3,200 comments from our readers. The CLN Twitter feed has over 10,000 followers, plus those who subscribe to the blog via email, RSS feed, or Google reader.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about CLN lately is the explosion of our readership on our Facebook page. Over 18,500 people have "liked" CLN's Facebook and are spreading the word.
All of the drama following the Costa Concordia disaster has driven our readership up considerably. So far this year, 724,328 people have read 2,575,675 pages of Cruise Law News.
Being popular is nice, but being influential in shaping cruise news is where the real satisfaction comes from. The national and international press have carried our message to the public You can read about the over 35 major newspapers, television and documentaries which have mentioned our firm and/or cited our blog this year, below.
Just this this week Fort Lauderdale's Sun Sentinel quoted CLN in an article about the latest passenger overboard from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. While Royal Caribbean was boasting that it "immediately" notified the Coast Guard, we pointed out that in truth the cruise line waited over 2 hours to do so. A few days later we were the first in the U.S. to report on a crew member who disappeared from another Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Serenade of the Seas.
The Concordia fallout led to two Congressional hearings this year which we attended and blogged from Washington D.C. about the cruise industry's strategy to bamboozle the public about the safety of cruising. (Photo above right, with members of the International Cruise Victims' organization).
"Jim Walker’s Cruise Law News adds a sobering tone to what can be an industry that sometimes gets a bit wrapped up in itself, asking and answering tough questions about current maritime matters. First on the doorstep of cruise lines when things go wrong, Walker also does not hesitate to jump into the conversation when passengers have unreasonable demands."
This year we have been very vocal about the sad state of affairs of the cruise industry post Costa Concordia, as well as the plight of families of missing loved ones on cruise ships. Below is a video from Australia's Dateline regarding the disturbing disappearance of Disney youth counselor Rebecca Coriam from the Bahamian-flagged Disney Wonder. This is a case where, in my opinion, the Bahamian police and the Disney corporation have stonewalled the grieving family at every turn.
A heartfelt thanks to the readers of this blog. Many thanks to those I don't know but who send me anonymous tips about things that the cruise lines are trying to cover up.
Finally, thanks to everyone who helps me write about "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know."
One of the things about being a maritime lawyer in Miami is that when a cruise ship catches on fire or sinks, the networks will come calling for you to appear on TV.
The cruise lines usually run and hide until the drama is over. But the Miami based maritime lawyers will appear on all of the major networks as well as CNN, MSNBC and FOX News.
I have been on TV more times than that I can count - Larry King a couple of times, Fox News' Sean Hannity, CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper & Erin Burnett, MSNBC, CNN Money, Court TV, ABC's 20 / 20, Nancy Grace, Dateline, Greta Van Sustern, Joe Scarborough, 48 Hours, and so forth and so on. There are a couple of other maritime lawyers in Miami who also appear regularly when things go wrong on cruise ships.
I suppose it's great publicity. There you are on national television. Wow, you must be smart or famous or important or something. It looks very official. There you are with the cable news logo behind you with your face on one side of a split screen with a big time television interviewer on the other side.
But the truth is a little different. Unless you are actually on the production set across from the interviewer (like Larry King Live, which was great fun), you are usually being interviewed at a remote location where you are stuffed into a little closet of a room with a microphone under your tie and an audio piece in your ear with a big camera pointing at you and a tiny TV monitor in front of you.
Perched on a little uncomfortable seat staring at a 13 inch monitor trying to think of something intelligent to say to several million viewers is not always easy.
It can be disorienting the first time you do a remote interview. There is an audio delay of several seconds between when you or the interviewer talk and when the voices are heard on television. So you run the risk of confusing yourself if you watch the monitor. There you are talking away but the monitor shows you just sitting there. You have to understand that what you are watching is a couple of seconds behind real time.
I have to admit that I love it. It comes naturally to me. There is no shortage of cruise news and I have no shortage of opinions.
But the production is all smoke and mirrors.
So when you see me next time on TV, don't be impressed. Remember that I am sitting on a stool somewhere in a tiny room alone trying to hear the question through a crappy little plastic earpiece while looking at a tiny little TV screen.
Cruise Law News has been on line since September 2009. We have several thousand people who subscribed via e-mail, RSS or Google Reader. A little over !0,000 people have followed us on Twitter over the last three years. Most of the subscribers and Twitter followers are from the U.S. with many travel agents, cruise planners, and regular cruisers reading the blog.
But our readership has changed dramatically over the last several months. In June, I started posting information regularly on Cruise Law News' facebook page. I've added lots of stories and photos which are not in my blog.
Since June, over 13,000 people have liked us on facebook. The majority of the new readers are from Europe, South America and India. From Europe, we have seen an unprecedented number of people from Romania, Serbia and Croatia liking us. Many are crew members or former crew members. We receive more comments to our face book page than on my blog.
"There are a lot of web sites around with cruise information. The king daddy of all is probably Cruise Critic, with tens of thousands of members, ship reviews that even offers the ability to price cruises from a variety of sources, a great first step before contacting a travel agent for serious planning. USA Today brings the power of a major international publication to cruise information with Gene Sloan at the helm covering breaking news alike a blanket. But some smaller, lesser-known sites are making a big impact with unique content worth a look, if not a bookmark, free subscription and daily visit."
Chris' first pick is Phil Reimer’s Ports and Bows. Mr. Reimer is the cruise expert for newspapers in Canada. I have to check him out.
Number 2 is Doug Parker’s Cruise Radio. Doug hosts a fast paced and popular weekly Internet cruise radio broadcast with co-host Matt Basford. These guys have invited me on their show a couple of times when they want to tell their lawyer jokes.
I'm last of the three, but beggars can't be choosers. Here's Chris' write up of my blog:
"Jim Walker’s Cruise Law News adds a sobering tone to what can be an industry that sometimes gets a bit wrapped up in itself, asking and answering tough questions about current maritime matters. First on the doorstep of cruise lines when things go wrong, Walker also does not hesitate to jump into the conversation when passengers have unreasonable demands."
Thanks for the mention Chris! This is the first time in many years anyone has said that I'm sober . . .
People ask me why I practice "cruise law." My answer? It's the most exciting type of law practice possible, like being in a movie - except it's the real world with real people.
Consider the news in the world of cruising this year.
A showboating and debonair Italian captain runs a $500 million luxury cruise liner into the rocks. He puts his blond girlfriend into one of the first lifeboats to safety. His officers announce on the PA system that "the situation is under control. Go back to your cabins." He abandons ship, claiming that his slipped and fell into a life boat. Passengers as young as 5 and as old as 70 then drown.
If this were a movie, no one would believe such an outrageous script.
Click on the TV and chances are you'll see Images of cruise ships adrift on the high seas. These are not rusting freighters from third world nations. They are the cruise lines' best, biggest, safest and most technologically advanced cruise ships carrying the most precious cargo in the world - your families.
This year alone we've seen cruise line abandonment of mariners in distress, abuse of crew members, capsizing, collisions, conspiracy, cover-ups, crimes, disappearances, engine failures, fires, groundings, and union busting involving Azamara, Carnival, Costa, MSC, Norwegian, P & O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Saga Cruises and many other cruise lines.
When a passenger or crew member is injured or a victim of crime on the high seas, the cruise lines are their worst enemy. The deceit and double-dealing by the cruise lines are right out of a bad movie script.
I have written over a thousand articles about bad behavior of cruise ship over the last couple of years.
There will be no end of the stories in the future.
Our firm is on the edge of the drama, always ready to help a cruise passenger in distress or a crew member needing medical care. In an industry which cares most about it's own image and reputation rather than your family's health and safety, we are always eager to help the underdog. In the process, we will expose "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know."
The Daily Business Review released "Top Verdicts & Settlements" for last year. You can click on the digital version here.
We obtained the highest award in an admiralty / maritime case in Florida in 2011. The case involved an injured crew member from Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas who the cruise line sent back to Serbia and then denied her appropriate medical care and treatment.
We flew our client to Miami and arranged for her to see a board certified orthopedic surgeon who recommended surgery. Royal Caribbean sent her to a local "litigation doctor" who never testifies that injured crewmembers need surgery.
The three arbitrators ruled that the cruise line failed to provide our client with a safe place to work and was 100% negligent for causing her accident.
The arbitrators also found that Royal Caribbean refused to provide prompt and adequate medical treatment to its injured cruise employee, and that its failure to authorize the necessary surgery "lacked any reasonable defense."
The arbitrators awarded our client $1,250,000, the highest amount in a crewmember case last year and the most ever in a cruise arbitration matter.
There has been a lot of news lately about cruise ship disasters, like ship fires, groundings and sinkings. But the most likely danger that a passenger, woman or child, faces during a cruise is rape.
Cruise ships are essentially floating cities. Increasingly larger floating cities at that. Like any city, a cruise ship has crime. Over the past decade the most likely crime on a cruise ship we have seen is rape.
Cruise lines deny that rapes occur frequently. Just two days ago the cruise lines issued a PR release stating that cruising is "absolutely safe." This is part of the problem. The cruise lines are so motivated to portray an image of an "absolutely safe" vacationexperience that they will go to great lengths to protect that marketing image, including cleaning crime scenes and covering the crimes up.
A decade ago, we obtained a confidential internal study (pursuant to a court order) in which one cruise line concluded that sexual crimes occurred "routinely" in its fleet of cruise ships. It then embarked on a campaign of representing to the public that such crimes were "rare."
During a series of Congressional hearings several years ago, the same cruise line told Congress that it had 66 rapes over a period of 3 years, for an average of 22 rapes a year. But during a court case, a trial court in Miami ordered the cruise to to produce its internal documents which revealed the truth - the cruise line actually 273 incidents of sexual assault, harassment and "inappropriate sexual touching."
All of the major cruise lines track sexual crimes and know that there are hundreds of incidents of sexual assault and battery each year during cruises.
Walker & O'Neill maritime lawyers in Miami handle cases exclusively cases against cruise lines.
Our firm has handled many sexual assault cases and molestation cases involving against Carnival, Celebrity, Cunard, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise lines.
In the cases we have handled, the shipboard rapes were committed by a wide variety of cruise employees - staff captain, ship doctor, chief engineer, hotel director, security guard, cabin attendant, bartender, cleaner, and child supervisor. The sexual assaults occurred in various locations on the cruise ship, with the most common locations being the passenger cabin, storage room, and crew bathroom. The most likely assailant? A male cabin steward from a country outside of the U.S. where it is impossible to conduct a meaningful background check.
Don't expect the cruise lines to be your friend. They will take the side of their employees every time. And for a number of reasons, law enforcement, especially the FBI, has a terrible record of prosecuting crimes which occur on the high seas.
Jim Walker and Lisa O'Neill are both cum laude graduates from Duke University where they met 34 years ago. Jim attended Tulane Law School in New Orleans and has practiced maritime law since 1983. Lisa was a member of law review at the University of Florida Law School and has practiced law since 1985.
Jim and Lisa have represented several sexual assault cruise victims who testified before our U.S. Congress. These women were assaulted by a bartender, a part-time security guard and even a diving instructor during a cruise sponsored excursion.
Examples of settlements for cruise ship rape and molestation we obtained include: over $3,000,000, $2,500,000, $1,500,000, $1,000,000, $900,000, $650,000, $500,000, $385,000 and $250,000. (All cases are different, depending on the facts. These settlements may not be reflective of the reasonable compensation in your case).
Here are what people are saying about Jim:
"Top Maritime Lawyer" - ABA Journal.
"Top Cruise Lawyer" - USA Today.
"Prominent Private Practice Maritime Attorney" - Fox News.
"Prominent Cruise Plaintiff Attorney" - Law.com (America Law Media).
If you or your child were assaulted during a cruise, don't hire a lawyer who practices "cruise law" on a part time basis. Contact the Cruise Law attorneys in Miami and let us be your advocates.
If you have a situation to discuss, email us right away: email@example.com or call our toll free number for a free and confidential consultation: 1 800 256-1518.
Photo credits: Carnival cruise ship at Government Cut, Miami - Jim Walker
When I created Cruise Law News back in September 2009, my goal was to raise awareness of safety issues on cruise ships. I wanted my articles to be interesting and, perhaps, provocative in order to spark debate about the cruise industry with the goal of making cruising safer for both passengers and crew.
Back then I really didn't care (and still don't today) whether readers agree or disagree with me. I care only that you have an opinion about issues like cruise ship crimes, people who vanish at sea, and exploitation of foreign crewmembers. These are dramatic issues and deserve an energetic debate.
My thought process about cruise issues has changed over the years. Some of my opinions have hardened, while other opinions have softened. I especially value the dialogue that I has developed with the "enemy" - those readers of my blog "in the industry" - cruise fans, cruise employees and travel agents. Not many cruise fans agree with me, but that's not my goal.
One thing I do like tracking is the number of people who write hate mail. I know that's a weird thing to do. The most hate mail comes after I write or appear on TV about crimes on cruise ships or in ports of call. It's the one subject that freaks travel agents out.
It's easy to spot the cruise line shills because they leave their IP address when they comment. I can't tell who reads my blogs but if you leave a comment here's a secret - I can see the IP address of your server. Its funny when an "anonymous" reader from Carnival or Royal Caribbean flames me (yes it happens). I know that I am on target.
Negative emails to me outnumber positive ones by a 3 to 1 ratio. Few people write just to say "good job, have a nice day." I find that many people in life are primarily motivated by anger when their interests are being challenged. If someone is going to take the time to write me, they are usually angry about something I wrote or said about their cruise line or their business of selling cruises. They are going to let me know about it.
"I don’t always agree with Mr. Walker’s views but of course that’s not the point. Cruise Law News highlights passenger safety and reminds us of the realities of cruising."
Thanks Ship Detective. You have precisely articulated the purpose of my little blog. For that I am appreciative.
Here's the article:
"As much as I avoid listening to attorneys who advertise or promote themselves publicly, I did subscribe to the Cruise Law News feed, published by Jim Walker, a maritime attorney based in Miami. I didn’t want to like this guy, Jim Walker, and in my mind labeled him an opportunist lawyer in-search-of business.
Now I’m feeling a bit of shame for not giving Mr. Walker the benefit of the doubt, instead slapping a negative label on him as a guy who wanted to dramatize every maritime incident just to stir the pot. After a few months of reading his posts, I found Mr. Walker to be level-headed, even-tempered and he encourages cruise ship passengers to question authority. The commentary is informative, sometimes dramatic, and applicable to the culture of cruising - something we highlight considerably on our website. I don’t always agree with Mr. Walker’s views but of course that’s not the point. Cruise Law News highlights passenger safety and reminds us of the realities of cruising.
Thank you Mr. Walker for your valuable insight. Your posts keep track of all the legal goings-on in the cruise industry and helps me tremendously with my daily search for cruise news.
So readers, stay informed and check-out the Cruise Law News blog. Knowledge is power!
The Miami Herald reports today that Florida's cruise ports are booming.
A report from the Florida Ports Council shows that Florida leads the nation in cruise operations. 13.5 million passengers embarked on cruises leaving Florida in 2011. This figure accounts for 60 percent of all U.S. cruise embarkations.
The combination of the Port of Miami, Port Everglades and Port Canaveral lead the nation in cruise passengers. Cruise passengers also cruise from Tampa and Jacksonville.
The majority of these cruise are with Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean cruises lines. All of these cruise lines require that any lawsuits or sexual assaults which occur on cruise ships be filed in Miami Florida. All cruise lines have what are called "forum selection" clauses in the passenger tickets. The Miami based cruise lines like Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean list United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida as the only location where a lawsuit must be filed.
The United States Supreme Court addressed this issue and held that forum clauses in Miami are enforceable. In Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute, 499 U.S. 585, 593-96, 111 S. Ct. 1522, l527-28, 113 L. Ed. 2d 622, 631-33 (1991), a passenger from Oregon was injured during a Carnival cruise which left a port in California which sailed to Mexico. The Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of the case which the passenger filed in Oregon.
This year there have been several well publicized lawsuits filed against Carnival, Costa and Royal Caribbean filed in either Houston / Galveston or New York. All of these lawsuits will be dismissed because they were filed in the wrong courthouse. Carnival and Royal Caribbean must be filed in federal court in Miami, and Costa cases (sailing from the US) must be filed in federal court in Ft. Lauderdale.
Our firm is one of the best known firms in the world representing passengers and crew members injured or the victims of crime on cruise ships sailing from Florida or other ports around the world.
Walker & O'Neill and their cruise clients have appeared in documentaries, television and radio programs and in newspapers about cruise accidents and crimes well over 100 times. Jim Walker and Lisa O'Neill are both cum laude graduates of Duke University. Jim graduated from Tulane law school in New Orleans. Lisa is a cum laude graduate from law school at the University of Florida where she was a member of law review. They have combined experience of over 56 years.
After publishing Cruise Law News for the past two and one-half years, I decided to create a second blog: "Maritime Lawyer." It will cover maritime issues and events which don't involve cruise ships. I registered MaritimeLawyer.com long, long ago and will be using that domain for the new blog.
My friends at LexBlog are going to create and host the new blog. The LexBlog people created this blog. It has been far more successful and influential than I ever dreamed possible. Per Alexa, Cruise Law News (CLN) is ranked number 12 in the U.S. / Canada in terms of popularity of law blogs. There is only one other law blog published by a practicing lawyer (another LexBlog client, China Law Blog) ahead of CLN in terms of popularity (for what that's worth).
This year alone, CLN has been cited by a diverse group of media organizations, from tabloid bloggers like Perez Hilton to serious journalists like the reporters at the Wall Street Journal, PBS and Newsweek. CLN has led me to appearing on CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Erin Burnett, ABC's 20/20, NOVA, BBC Radio and Australia's Dateline in just the last three months. Our articles range from serious investigations into news the cruise line don't want you to know, to mundane legal issues about cruise law, to the bizarre, odd & weird things that happen on cruise ships.
My new blog will take a look into the larger world of maritime law of which cruise law is a small part. If the story involves a cruise ship, you will find it on CLN. But if a tugboat, tanker, trawler, bulk carrier, sailboat, yacht or fishing boat is involved, Maritime Lawyer will cover the story.
I will be also posting my maritime articles on a new Maritime Lawyer facebook page. This will be the first article posted on that new page. I have 6 "likes" so far on the facebook page; pretty pitiful. Drop by, "like" us, and post a comment.
Let us know what type of maritime stories you want us to cover . . . .
One of the interesting things about having a website or blog is that it is easy to see how many people are clicking on your site and reading your stuff.
Google Analytics is an easy (and free) program that lets me see how many people visit Cruise Law News, how long they stay and how many pages they look at. It interesting to see where the readers are based and what page they look at.
The analytics program has been around for years.
For the first four months of this year, 392,335 unique visitors have made 470,053 visits and looked at 1,385,586 pages. The Costa Concordia disaster brought in a number of new readers.
All types of statistics are available. One of the more interesting statistics is how many people are reading Cruise Law News blog on a regular basis as opposed to randomly appearing from search engine results and quickly leaving.
22,904 people have read the blog 9 or more times in the last four months. So I have a small town of people who are reading it over 2 times a month.
The most interesting statistic is that 2,296 people have each read Cruise Law News over 200 times since the beginning of the year. That's more than once a day for the past four month. Many leave comments or call or email me with tips for stories.
I'd like to think that Cruise Law News is providing information and a perspective that you can't anywhere else. Maybe, maybe not. Our motto is "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know . . . "
If you are a daily reader, take a moment and leave a comment about what you like (and dislike) about the blog. Are there topics about the cruise industry which I am overlooking? Are there regular readers who would like to write a guest blog?
Be sure to subscribe by entering your email address in the box at the left, or sign up for our RSS feed. Like our facebook page too.
I returned to Miami from Washington DC this afternoon after attending the cruise safety hearings convened in the House of Representatives and the Senate this week.
These hearings were the sixth and seventh Congressional hearings regarding the issue of cruise ship dangers I have attended since 2005.
I met my friends and former clients in DC from the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization: ICV CEO Ken Carver, ICV President Jamie Barnett, and ICV Board member Laurie Dishman who has traveled to DC over 30 times.
Professor Ross Klein was invited to speak at the Senate hearing and he objectively laid out the cruise industry's history of cruise ship collisions, groundings, sinkings and fires. His written submission is the most impressively thorough and complete list of cruise ship related maritime disasters I have ever seen. Professor Klein's hard work and detailed analysis of cruise ship mishaps contrasted sharply with the self-serving opinions of the cruise line advocates who talked in conclusory phrases ("cruising is incredibly safe"). I will be linking to Professor Klein's research as soon as he uploads the information to his website.
During the hearings I met a half-dozen survivors of the Costa Concordia disaster, who traveled from Florida, Georgia and Massachusetts.
The hearings left me with a realization of the polarization of our Congress, and perhaps our country.
The meeting in the Republican controlled House on Wednesday was not unlike a big cocktail party. The cruise line representatives & cruise industry lobbyists back-slapped and joked around with Republican Congressmen and Congresswomen like it was their five year college reunion. The Republicans extolled the cruise industry's great "entrepreneurs" without even a fleeting thought or concern of the cruise industry's disastrous effect on the environment, or the cruise industry's exploitation of foreign crewmembers, or the fact that the cruise industry pays virtually no U.S taxes although it relies heavily on U.S. agencies to conduct its business.
Contrast this freak show with the serious attitude of the Senate hearing on Thursday, which was presided over by a well respected Democratic Senator like Jay Rockefeller who has dedicated his life protecting the coal mine workers from his state of West Virginia and consumers across the U.S.
As long as there are responsible consumer-oriented leaders like Senator Rockefeller in Congress, the victims of cruise ship malfeasance have a fighting chance to force the cruise industry to be accountable when they injure and kill passengers and crew and destroy our environment.
Photograph above: ICV President Jamie Barnett, ICV Director Laurie Dishman, Cruise Expert Professor Ross Klein, Costa Concordia survivor, Jim Walker, ICV member Shari Cecil, and ICV CEO Ken Carver.
This weekend the cruise port in Fort Lauderdale, Florida broke a new record with the most cruise passengers entering or leaving the port. The Sun Sentinel reports that around 106,000 passengers will transit through Port Everglades on 24 cruise ships. Each day from Friday through Sunday will see 8 cruise ships return and then leave the port full of passengers.
The newspaper suggested an interesting visual perspective: If lined up bow to stern, the cruise ships sailing through Port Everglades this weekend are as tall as 22 Eiffel Towers, or as long as 72 football fields . . .
The heavy port activity is the result of New Year / Holiday cruise ships returning to South Florida.
Unfortunately not all of the cruises turned out to be safe experiences.
Multiple sexual assaults occurred on the world's largest cruise ship, the Allure of the Seas, during a cruise over the New Year. We discussed the alleged crimes in an article last Wednesday. The alleged rapists were passengers from Brazil. It is interesting to note that they were not arrested by the FBI but by the Broward Sheriff's Office. Florida is the only state where the local police or sheriff officers can arrest and the state can prosecute crimes on the high seas. In all other states, only the federal government can assert such jurisdiction.
The alleged crime was finally reported by the Miami Herald yesterday and the newspaper mentioned our previous article. It is good to see the the Miami Herald reporting on cruise ship crimes. The Herald historically ignores stories like this and does not seem to want to anger the local cruise lines here in Miami who are major advertisers with the newspaper. The Herald also included coverage on its Spanish edition, el Neuvo Herald - "Arrestado Hombre Acusado de Violación En Un Crucero."
Our firm was also mentioned in an interesting article about cruise ship norovirus and whether cruise line are taking adequate steps to sanitize their ships. E Turbo News (Global Travel Industry News) published an article "When Bugs Swim: Cruise Ships Provide Perfect Environment for Spread of Disease." I talked about my experience interviewing cruise ship cleaners who believe that the EcoLab spray disinfectants cause injury to their lungs. They admitted pouring the anti-bacterial solutions down the drain and replacing the solutions with water. So when they wipe the wet rags over the cruise ship surfaces, they are probably just spreading the nasty viruses everywhere. No wonder the cruise lines seem to have a problem with norovirus outbreaks.
The big news this weekend was the media hype surrounding DateLine NBC's update on the disappearance of cruise passenger George Smith who went overboard in July 2005. Unfortunately, there was nothing new presented in the hour long show. You can read our last article about Mr. Smith's situation here. I have always thought the case involved foul play and the four men last seen with George Smith know more than they have admitted. At least the DateLine program returned the public's attention to this unsolved case.
With the renewed interest in Mr. Smith's case the popular Cruise Radio program aired a prior interview with me which you can listen to here.
This blog started the new year out with our own record. According to Google analytics, over 20,000 visitors read over 67,000 pages for the first 8 days of 2012.
If you have a question about cruise ship law or want our perspective on a cruise related story, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Yesterday award winning cruise radio host Doug Parker (photo left) broadcast an earlier interview with me about tips about staying safe during a cruise. The text of his blog is below. Don't forget to listen to the interview at the bottom link:
"It’s not something you like to think about but just like on land, crime too happens on cruise ships, too. This week’s news has been about the George Smith case, a man who disappeared on his honeymoon cruise back in July 2005, aboard Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas. A follow-up “Overboard” will be on NBC’s Dateline this Friday night.
A lot of people let their guard down while cruising and think it’s safe to get crazy drunk or let their kids have full rein of the cruise ship because it’s a “safe-haven,” but that’s not always the case. I mean you can drink all-you-want and not have to drive anywhere, right?
Maritime attorney Jim Walker of Cruise Law News sat down with us and gave us ”Six Tips for Staying Safe at Sea.” This interview aired in January 2011 on Cruise Radio but we think this is a good time to reinforce what could be consequences of letting your guard down.
You will want to forward this article to any frequent cruisers in your life."
Listen to this short but informative interview here.
As this year comes to a close, it's time to look back at some of events of 2011.
Last year started out with a bang. Our firm represented a seriously injured crewmember in a case against Royal Caribbean. Our client sustained a debilitating back injury, underwent an unsuccessful surgery, and needed a second surgery which the cruise line refused to provide. In January, a three member arbitration panel found that Royal Caribbean's refusal to provide the surgery "lacked any reasonable defense" and awarded the crewmember $1,250,000. You can read the decision here.
The award was featured in Miami's Daily Business Review, which you can read here. It is the highest reported arbitration award for an injured crewmember to date.
In ten days, we will begin a trial against Royal Caribbean on behalf of another crewmember who suffered a severe back injury, underwent an unsuccessful surgery and needs a second operation which the cruise line refuses to authorize. Sound familiar? Check back in a couple of weeks for the results of our first trial in 2012.
Shortly after the Royal Caribbean award, we received bad news when a federal judge in Miami summarily ended one of our cases against Royal Caribbean where a young woman was severely injured while receiving private lessons on a FlowRider and underwent four surgeries. The cruise line tried to end the case based on a "liability waiver" which passengers are required to sign before participating in FlowRider activities as well as rock climbing, skating and other activities. Liability waivers are illegal in maritime cases. To our surprise the court granted the cruise line's motion, notwithstanding a federal statute clearly stating that liability waivers on the high seas are unenforceable.
The decision sent a shock wave through the Miami maritime legal community because liability waivers in maritime matters have been unenforceable for decades. The defense lawyers for the cruise lines were giddy. They spoke openly of requiring cruise passengers to sign liability waivers for everything from playing shuffleboard to exercising in the gym to swimming in the cruise ship's pool. We appealed. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal overturned the lower court's ruling and held that cruise line liability waivers are illegal and unenforceable, even if they involve ultra-hazardous or inherently dangerous activities. The decision is a great result that will protect cruise passengers for years to come.
The past year included the usual number of stories of cruise ship drug smuggling, sexual assaults, shipboard malpractice, serious injuries and passengers and crew disappearing under suspicious circumstances - everything the cruise lines don't want you to know about.
2011 was the first full year where our co-counsel Jonathan Aronson worked with us on cases. Mr. Aronson was one of the best maritime attorneys in Florida who used to defend cases for Royal Caribbean until he switched sides to representing passengers and crewmembers. The cruise line spent a small fortune trying to disqualify him and our firm from representing clients against it. It lost. We won. And most importantly, our clients benefited from having an excellent and highly experienced maritime attorney join our team.
Our blog, Cruise Law News (CLN), enjoyed another popular year, ending up the number 11 most popular law blog per the Avvo/Alexa rankings. This month over 53,000 people read over 156,000 pages of CLN. Here are some of the cruise highlights and lowlifes CLN covered:
Its been another exciting week in the world of cruising.
Over 50,000 cruise passengers arrived or departed aboard eight ships at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale yesterday, setting a new world record for most people entering/leaving a port according to the Sun Sentinel. The newspaper reports that the Oasis of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Carnival Miracle, Grand Princess, Crown Princess, Eurodam and MSC Poesia were in port.
The Oasis of the Seas also made the news with a report that 54 passengers and 10 employees reported being sick with an undisclosed illness. The cruise line said that the cruise ship will undergo a "thorough cleaning" as a precaution before it's next sailing, whatever that means.
Speaking of undisclosed cruise ship illnesses, one passenger is dead and 80 sick on the HAL Veendam when it reached Brazil. HAL immediately said the death has nothing to do with the shipboard illnesses. HAL' s PR department must be some kind of experts in epidemiology and forensic medicine to make such a finding without even conducting an autopsy.
The LA Times reports that the U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a 77 year old passenger showing signs of a stroke. She was evacuated from the Carnival Spirit cruise ship by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter dispatched from San Diego 230 miles southwest of San Diego on Saturday. You can watch the amazing video of the rescue here.
The usual number of cruise passengers were foolish enough to buy pot in the Caribbean where one island will sell you reefer and the next island will fine you several thousands of dollars which the U.S. tourists are happy to pay to avoid a year or two in jail. You can read about the fun and games here and here.
Cruise fans are still debating whether its safe to travel to Mexico, but no one in the U.S. except Cruise Law News is reporting on stories like this where 6 armed rob a jewelry store in Puerto Vallarta across from the cruise terminal when HAL cruise passengers are walking around in the shopping square. This comes couple weeks after a shoot-out in Cabo San Lucas, another story the cruise lines and travel agents won't mention.
Shhh, don't alarm the cruise tourists, its bad for business.
Turning overseas to the U.K., many British citizens are still fuming that Cunard decided to end its relationship with Britain and elected to register its cruise ships in Bermuda. Mail Online published an interesting photo today of the Queen Elizabeth no longer bearing the port of "Southampton" on its stern and about to be painted with "Hamilton," the capital of Bermuda.
Cunard claims that it did this in order for its ship captains to marry passengers at sea. Most people believe that Cunard choose a flag of convenience in order to avoid British and European wage and labor laws.
The Seattle Post reports that starting December 1st cruise ships will be prohibited from discharging wastewater into a protected marine sanctuary off the outer coast of Washington state's Olympic Peninsula. The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary covers 2,408 square nautical miles and provides a habitat to many species of fish, seabirds and marine mammals. Our family spent time kayaking up there last summer. Its great news that an environmental group is keeping the cruise ship pee and poop out of the sanctuary.
November has been a record month for Cruise Law News ("CLN"). Over 70,000 people read over 200,000 pages. Outside the U.S., the most readers of CLN are from (in order) Canada, the U.K., Australia, Mexico and India.
This year we stayed in Miami. Lots of family members and friends came over. Kids splashing in the pool is a fun backdrop to turkey day. We had a blast.
We have a lot to be thankful for, like my great aunt Anita, just 89 years old, and my in-laws Dr. O'Neill and Ms. O'Neill, who are approaching their mid-80's, and my Mom who is only 79, and is getting around pretty good now that she lives here in South Florida with us. The words lively, active, brisk, and vigorous come to mind whenever I see them.
We are thankful for our children who are healthy. My oldest son finished his second homemade skateboard and took off this afternoon with me yelling at him to buckle his helmet. My youngest son trounced me one-on-one in basketball. When I demanded a re-match, he shut me out in front of the elders who seemed to be cheering for the youngest in the family. I'm not even going to try and take my older son on. When did they get taller, faster, and can shoot better than me?
I am thankful for my wife (and law partner). I'm blessed to be with someone who's not only a heck of a lot smarter than me but who can cook for 23 without stressing out a bit. Yes, that's her, standing where she should be - in the middle.
I am thankful for my co-counsel Jonathan Aronson and his wife Ilene who have been a constant support for our firm, and me personally, day in and day out.
I am thankful for my brother and sister and their families, who couldn't be with us this year, but are in my thoughts every day.
We are thankful for our clients who live across the U.S. and all over the world. We are blessed to have clients from the U.K., Germany, Russia, Croatia, Serbia, India, Honduras, Jamaica, St. Vincent, Trinidad, Bahamas, South Africa and Mexico. (If I have forgotten someone's home country please email me and give me a hard time.)
Take a moment on this day of Thanksgiving and be thankful for your family and friends. Count your blessings.
This past month has seen a number of incredible stories about the cruise industry.
TOXIC CRUISE WATER? The Sunday Times in London published a blockbuster article about a British paint inspector, Brian Bradford, who was kicked off a NCL cruise ship after complaining about health risks which may be posed to cruise passengers and crew by a Hempel paint coating which was applied to potable water tanks on NCL and Royal Caribbean cruise ships. Whistle blower Bradford was hit with a "super injunction" to gag him from talking about the by the paint or discussing anything about his inspection of the cruise ships in question.
Its really amazing how corporations can endanger the public and then use their lawyers to cover the danger up.
The only ones to report on the story have been cruise expert Ross Klein in Canada and the British press. We are the only one talking about it here in the U.S. Most U.S. newspapers (the LA Times and NY Times being the exceptions) are in the hip pocket of the cruise lines. They accept cruise advertising revenue and publish colorful travel sections in their newspapers about the joys of cruising, but they look the other way when the cruise lines screw up. Our local newspaper, the Miami Herald, is absolutely the pits. But this story is far from over. It is only a matter of time before someone in the U.S. other than our small blog pays attention to it.
DISNEY COVER-UP? The other blockbuster article was by another British newspaper, the Guardian, which published a story about missing Disney Cruise youth counselor Rebecca Coriam. The article was featured in the newspaper's weekend edition with a photo of the Wonder cruise ship (below) on the cover. The article was written by U.K. journalist, documentary filmmaker, and best selling author Jon Ronson who sailed on the Wonder for a week to gather information. For a cruise line that supposedly caters to children and families, its disturbing to think that Disney is more concerned with its Magical Kingdom illusion than the distraught Coriam family.
ANOTHER CRUISE LINE HIDES BEHIND DOHSA: The most read article this month was from a guest blogger, a mother who wrote about the death of her three year old daughter in HAL's Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. Most cruise passengers do not understand that there is no recovery for pain, suffering, grief and bereavement when a cruise line's negligence kills a child.
JOIN THE INTERNATIONAL CRUISE VICTIMS ("ICV"): If these type of stories concern you, consider joining the ICV which is a grass roots victims' organization consisting of families of passengers and crewmembers who have been injured or lost at sea during cruises. You can read about the ICV here.
GOOD NEWS FOR CRUISE LAW NEWS ("CLN"): Our readership continues to grow. So far this month, over 44,000 unique readers clicked on our blog and read over 127,000 pages. If statistics mean anything, CLN ranks as the 12th most popular law blog according to AVVO/Alexa. I'm convinced that people flock to our blog because there simply is no place else to read stories about cruising that the cruise lines don't want you know about.
If you have a story you want us to cover, let us hear from you.
This month marks the two year anniversary of the first publication of Cruise Law News ("CLN").
My first blog was back on September 7, 2009. Since then I have written around 700 blogs about all types of disturbing and weird things that happen on cruise ships.
As I predicted two years ago, cruise lines and travel agents cringe daily at the articles. But hopefully, you have learned about issues that the cruise industry PR machine and the happy-go-lucky cruise fanatics don’t want you to know. And hopefully you are safer in the process.
In the past two years, the public has read over 1,300,000 pages of CLN. My little blog is currently ranked as the 13th most popular law blog per the AVVO / Alexa ranking system, for what that's worth. 1,630 people have taken the time to leave a comment, some negative and some pro.
I hope that you have enjoyed reading the blog as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Here are some of my favorite articles over the last two years:
Best article with the word "sex" in the title: Marketing "Sex at Sea" on Cruise Ships (includes my favorite photo of a cruise line executive, in bed with booze surrounded by women with the Royal Caribbean logo across their bikini tops??)
Cruise ship issues in Europe dominated the world of cruise news this week.
An explosion in the engine room of the Nordlys cruise ship, operated by Hurtigruten, resulted in a fire and the evacuation of the ship off of Norway. Half of the 200 or so passengers were evacuated in lifeboats and the other half got off the cruise ship when the vessel was towed to port. All passengers were safe but unfortunately two 2 crewmembers died and many were injured.
Whenever a cruise ship explodes or catches on fire, there is always a cruise / travel columnist who feels compelled to publish an article insisting that such cruise calamities are rare. This time it was Jane Archer, a cruise fan and columnist who writes for the Telegraph Travel. Her puff piece article Hurtigruten Fire: How Safe is Your Cruise? claims that "incidents like this are few and far between."
The problem with this claim is that just last year an engine room fire caused the evacuation of over 600 passengers and crew in Norwegian waters.
That incident involved the German cruise ship Deutschland. And just last November a cruise ferry, the Pearl of Scandinavia, erupted in fire off of Norway while filled with cars and passengers (photo left).
The other big development in Europe involved the parents of missing Disney Cruises youth counselor Rebecca Coriam meeting with the U.K. Shipping Minister to discuss enacting legislation to permit the U.K. to become involved in the investigation when British citizens disappear on foreign flagged cruise ship around the world. Mike and Ann Coriam of Chester England are understandably upset with the lack of information from the cruise line and the single policeman from the Bahamas who is charged with investigating the disappearance.
While the Coriam family was working to make cruising safer for the U.K. public, another cruise passenger disappeared from the Fred Olsen Balmoral cruise ship. Last year, the Balmoral was dubbed the "Cursed Cruise Ship of the High Seas" following a series of norovirus bouts which sickened hundred of passengers and crew. We reported on the unexplained disappearance of another passenger from the Balmoral last year. The Balmoral also narrowly averted disaster when it was attacked by pirates last year.
On a lighter personal note, the season finally started for my younger son's JV football team. Gulliver was trounced by rival Belen Jesuit, but my son got to play running back, split end and corner back. He ran across the field and got a big hit on Belen's running back at the one yard line to save the touchdown. Watch the play to the end!
Shon "Cruise Man 3000" Ford, recently interviewed Jim Walker, whom he refers to as The ‘Cruisetacular’ Legal Eagle, regarding his Cruise Law business. Cruise Man 3000 is not afraid to provide insight to both the good and bad of the cruise industry. Shon has a great blogspot where he posts about his travels on the high seas. He’s traveled aboard 23 different vessels composed of 5 different cruise lines.
Cruise Man 3000 is unique because he has the confidence to expose the negative side of the cruise industry in addition to his cruise industry enthusiast attitude. Cruise Man 3000 gives his honest perspective, something we appreciate here at Cruise Law.
Check out Cruise Man 3000's interview with Jim Walker here. Keep up the great work Cruise Man 3000. Safe travels!
The big news this week is the sad story of the sinking of the Bulgaria cruise ship on the Volga river. The 1955 era ship was considered a rust bucket. On the day in question, it sailed with a malfunctioning engine, listing to one side, and overloaded with passengers. When a storm turned the ship sideways, the captain could not right the vessel and it rolled and sank. Over 100 people perished, mostly women and children. The international press is calling the tragedy the Russian Titanic.
Royal Caribbean is placing pressure on the city of Key West to dredge and fill a path through the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in order to widen the shipping lane into the harbor to accommodate its Genesis class of cruise ships, according to the Key Noter newspaper. If the channel is not widened, the cruise line threatens to bypass Key West and head straight to Mexico. However, dredging will destroy coral and sea fan resources. Currently, some 800,000 cruise passengers unload into Key West every year. Some residents expressed concern that adding even more cruise tourists from mega ships like the Allure and the Oasis will degrade the overall experience of visiting Key West and turn it into an "amusement park like atmosphere," transforming Duval Street into "redneck Disney World meets Myrtle Beach."
Regarding firm news, Cruise Radio interviewed me regarding a legal case. Cruise Law News is the number 15th most popular law blog per the Alexa / Avvo rankings. AOL Travel / Gadling published an article - "Death by Cruise Ship? It Can Come in Several Ways" which mentioned our firm. The article cited our series on the disappearance of George Smith and featured a video of me on the Scarborough show. Wow, did I lose a lot of hair in the past six years.
Things are suppose to slow down in the summer, but there are no signs of that yet.
Royal Caribbean recenty tried to muzzle a Miami lawyer who issued a press release about a cruise line case scheduled for trial in November. Gagging lawyers from talking to the pubic requires introducing substantial evidence establishing that the parties will not receive a fair trial. The risk of trying to quiet a critic runs the risk of looking like a bully. Not a smart move. The attack on the lawyer and his disabled client just focused the public's attention on the cruise line's strong arm tactics.
Whenever I see Royal Caribbean try and muzzle the press, I think back to 2005 and 2006 when this cruise line embarked on a media campaign following the disappearance of George Smith during his honeymoon cruise. We represented Mr. Smith's wife, Jennifer Hagel. Royal Caribbean sent its CEO Richard Fain (photo left) and high profile media lawyer Lanny Davis (photo below right) onto the cable news shows to influence public opinion.
Why should any local Miami lawyer be muzzled when this cruise line sends its CEO and high profile lawyers from Washington D.C. onto TV programs to discuss legal controversies?
Speaking of RCCL, the Oasis of the Seas intercepted 7 Cuban rafters, who are back in Cuba after the cruise line turned them over to the U.S. Coast Guard. Very strange that a company incorporated in Liberia which flies the flag of the Bahamas is acting like a branch of the U.S. Coast Guard responsible for sending rafters back to Cuba. This is the fourth time a Royal Caribbean cruise ship "rescued" Cubans fleeing to the U.S. in the last 6 months.
Princess Cruises' Sea Princess has been in the news, too. There have been reports of norovirus on the cruise ship during the last four cruises. The cruise line has again blamed the passengers for bringing the virus aboard and then spreading it around. The Centers for Disease control state that the most likely cause of norovirus in most cases is contaminated food or water, but cruise lines like Princess always blame the passengers. Those dirty passengers, if they would only wash their hands. Since when did cruise PR representatives rather than epidemiologists determine the cause of viral outbreaks?
Speaking of dirty, Cunard's Queen Mary 2 failed a surprise sanitation inspection conducted by the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC found the luxury liner to have "extremely dirty" water and tile in a pool, human hair in an ice machine, and chemicals stored near napkins, paper cups and utensils. The CDC report used the word "filthy" five times. Oh, that filthy Mary!
The Carnival Glory, meanwhile today scored her second perfect sanitation score - a 100. This time it was issued by Canadian authorities; the week before it was by the CDC.
Its never dull in the world of cruising. This week was no exception.
Our firm remained busy with cases against the cruise lines. At any given time, we and our co-counsel represent a little under 100 cruise passengers and crewmembers. New clients retained us this week after being injured on Carnival, Celebrity, Disney and Royal Caribbean cruise ships. Our advertising efforts in the Caribbean are paying off. Three crewmembers from Royal Caribbean retained us and our co-counsel Jonathan Aronson. The majority of our crewmember clients are former employee of Royal Caribbean who received poor medical care after being injured at work.
This week saw a passenger go overboard from the NCL Spirit cruise ship. The cruise ship was sailing on the Mississippi River south of New Orleans when he ended up in the water. How and why did this happen? There is no information available in the media so far. Its not easy to fall of a cruise ship (unless alcohol is involved), so he probably jumped or perhaps was pushed, I'm not sure. Its anyone's guess at this point. The good news is that he is alive and well, which is not the usual situation in cases like this. Count your blessings my friend.
A 51 year old passenger was medevaced by the Coast Guard off of the coast of California from the Carnival Paradise. The passenger reportedly experienced convulsions ans was showing signs of a stroke, and was taken to a hospital in San Diego. Medevacs like this happen literally on a weekly basis. Its a "free" service of the U.S. Coast Guard. If you are going to have a medical emergency on a cruise ship, make sure it is within the reach of a Coast Guard cutter or helicopter which can take you to a U.S. hospital.
A passenger was assaulted in Bermuda but the police shrugged it off. This was one of the stranger stories we have blogged about. A Cruise Critic forum contained a post about a passenger from the NCL Dawn allegedly being jumped and beaten by a would be robber near the Maritime Museum. But there was no report of the crime on the official website of the Bermudian police department. The police then said that it was not an assault or robbery, it was just an injury due to a drug deal gone astray. Huh?
The incident occurred a week after two NCL crewmembers from the Dawn were assaulted early in the morning in Snorkel Park. A local newspaper published an article about the crewmember fracas entitled Warning of Tourism Fallout after Fight. Is Bermuda's approach to public relations now to dismiss a report of a violent crime as a "drug deal gone bad?"
The Queen Mary 2 failed a CDC inspection. The U.K. Daily Mail reports that sanitation inspectors branded the Queen Mary 2 "filthy" five times in a report.
The week started with my blog article about former Royal Caribbean Staff Captain Bjørn Eidissen's court case where a Miami judge permitted his lawyer to amend the lawsuit to seek punitive damages against the cruise line. The case arises out of the September 2005 leak of hydrogen sulfide on the Monarch of the Seas which killed three crewmembers and injured nineteen others. While researching the story, I ran across a report by the staff captain in which he alleges that four months later the Monarch of the Seas dumped tons of sediment and chemicals into the waters off of the shores of San Francisco as the ship was heading to a dry dock.
Staff Captain Eidissen claims that the incident was reported to the top executives at Royal Caribbean, but no one did anything. I cannot find any indication that the Coast Guard investigated the incident. If this is true, this seems like a heck of a blockbuster story. But there appeared to be little interest in the article. Perhaps the public is tired of stories about cruise ships polluting the oceans.
In an unrelated story, for the first three months of this year CLIA - the trade organization for the cruise industry - spent over $490,000 lobbying U.S. agencies including the U.S. Coast Guard.
This past week has been a busy time for our firm with many international news stories being published about the cruise industry.
Our firm is off and running with our advertising in Jamaica. We spent Sunday fielding questions from prospective clients in response to our ads in local Sunday newspapers. We are in discussions with advertisers in other Caribbean countries where injured and disabled crewmembers are abandoned by Miami-based cruise lines.
Our firm received a fair amount of press in the last week. We were quoted in the Los Angles Times (discussed below) regarding a major cruise story. The South Florida Business Journal and the U.K.'s Telegraph mentioned Cruise Law News' article about the bizarre 7 hour interrogation of British passengers by the U.S. Customs and Border police.
it seems like some over-zealous Federal agents in Los Angeles mistook the geriatric British passengers on the luxury cruise ship as al-Qaida terrorists and subjected them to a nightmarish situation where the 2,000 elderly passengers underwent detailed passport checks, extensive background interviews, and biometric checks, including fingerprints of both hands and retina scans after standing in the heat for 7 hours. You can read about the misguided way our Federal government treats tourists in my blog U.S. Customs Officials Take Revenge Against Elderly British Cruise Passengers?
Turning to more serious legal news, last Friday a Federal Court Judge in Miami rejected an attempt by Oceania Cruises to limit its potential liability at no more than $65,000 for alleged damages suffered by a 13 year old child raped on the Regatta cruise ship.
Can you imagine having your child raped during a vacation cruise and then have the cruise line try to limit its liability for damages to only $65,000? Only a cruise line could handle its PR like this. You can read about the case here.
The major event this weekend involved the Los Angeles Times' article about the sad tale and continuing mystery of missing youth counselor Rebecca Coriam from the Disney Wonder cruise ship. Written by Corina Knoll, the LA Times article is entitled "Bereft Parents' Loss is as Deep as the Ocean." It contains an iconic photograph (bottom) of Rebecca's parents, Mike and Ann Coriam, standing at the dock in San Pedro as the Wonder cruise ship sailed off for another cruise to the Mexican Riviera. The Coriam family returned to Chester England with no answers regarding what happened to their daughter. You can read our article here about the many questions which remain unanswered by this disturbing case.
It amazes me that parents on the next cruise would drop off their kids to the care of youth counselors on the Disney cruise ship, after one of the counselors "vanished" during the last cruise. How can a young woman completely "disappear" from the Magical Kingdom's cruise ship with no CCTV cameras capturing the events. Are there "blind spots" in the CCTV cameras coverage of the ship? Not a good idea on a cruise ship catering to family vacations with kids. Does Disney have a serious problem with its security cameras? Or do the cameras work just fine, but Disney is hiding information?
A disturbing issue with this latest cruise disappearance is that Disney Cruise Line is incorporated in the U.K. and Ms. Coriam is from England as well, but a single policeman from the Bahamas is involved in the "investigation" because the Disney Wonder flies a flag of convenience from that third world country. There is something wrong when a British citizen hired by a British corporation to work on a U.S. based cruise ship disappears, and no U.S. or U.K. agencies are allowed to board the cruise ship to investigate.
This suits Disney Cruise Lines just fine. They can work behind the scenes, as the policeman in the Bahamas sits in the police station in Nassau pretending to investigate what happened on a cruise ship sailing between LA and Mexico. Meanwhile, the Coriam family remains in England with no answers.
I suppose that our U.S. Federal agents in Los Angeles could do a better job investigating the case of missing British citizen Rebecca Coriam. But then again, they probably are busy harassing elderly British cruise tourists.
Today we began advertising in Jamaica, as I mentioned in an earlier blog. The ad below will begin appearing in some of the newspapers in Jamaica, and a variation will appear on some of the billboards in Jamaica.
I have been a lawyer for 28 years. I have never advertised on television, radio, newspapers or billboards. We have relied on our reputation developed over the years and recommendations from one client we have helped to the next potential client who finds himself in a similar situation.
I have always viewed "billboard lawyers" with disdain. Florida is littered with huge billboards looming over the highways advertising lawyers with 1-800 I N J U R Y telephone numbers.
I do not think I have ever seen any of these "billboard lawyers" actually in the courthouse. Probably because they don't really go to court or actually handle cases. Many of these lawyers take the calls from their 1-800 numbers and then refer the cases to other lawyers to handle. Lots of Americans point to the lawyer billboards as endemic of the so-called "litigation explosion" which many people think plagues the U.S.
Unlike the U.S., Jamaica has a culture where litigation is not encouraged. Plus there are virtually no Jamaican lawyers who advertise. Injured crewmembers are often from countries like Jamaica where few people file lawsuits, there is no legal advertising, and it is difficult to obtain basic information about your legal rights. Cruise lines often take advantage of this type of situation.
Over the next few months, Jamaicans will see our firm's name and photos on billboards, in newspapers, and on the radio throughout the country. We know first hand that there are many Jamaican men and women who dedicated their careers to cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, only to be sent a one way ticket home and forgotten when they are seriously injured and can no longer work at sea. Advertising in Jamaica will help level the playing field against the cruise lines. We are educating these crewmembers regarding their right to obtain compensation here in Miami when they are disabled from cruise ship employment.
So, it is with mixed feelings that I am about to become a "billboard lawyer." But not just any "billboard lawyer." A Jamaican billboard lawyer.
But unlike U.S. billboard lawyers, you will see the lawyers in our firm in the courthouse here in Miami fighting for the rights of our clients who the cruise lines have abandoned in Jamaica.
June 28, 2011 Update: We modified our ad, with a non descript cruise ship and a different background.
This past week has been an exciting period of time for the lawyers at Cruise Law.
Jonathan Aronson and I returned from visiting clients in Jamaica. There are a number of injured crew members who the cruise lines have dumped back in their home country after they were injured working the long hours demanded of cruise line employees. Under an ancient maritime doctrine called "maintenance and cure," maritime employers are required to provide all necessary medical treatment and pay the living expenses for the ill or injured crewmembers. All too often, the cruise lines refuse to do so, and abandon their employees back in their home countries hoping that they will not obtain legal representation.
Billboards, Newspapers and Radio:
During our trip to Jamaica, we met with representatives from billboard, newspaper and radio companies to begin advertising our legal services in Jamaica. Unlike the U.S., Jamaica has a culture where litigation is not encouraged. Plus there are virtually no Jamaican lawyers who advertise. Injured crewmembers are often from countries like Jamaica where few people file lawsuits, there is no legal advertising, and it is difficult to obtain basic information about your legal rights. (The billboard above is near the port of Falmouth, by the Mayor of Trelawny Parish).
That's about to change.
Over the next few months, Jamaicans will see our firm's name and photos on billboards, in newspapers, and on the radio throughout the country. We know first hand that there are many Jamaican men and women who dedicated their careers to cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, only to be sent a one way ticket home and forgotten when they are seriously injured and can no longer work at sea. We are educating these crewmembers regarding their right to obtain compensation here in Miami when they are disabled from cruise ship employment.
Wrongful Death Suit Filed Over Death of 14 Year Old Girl in St. Thomas:
USA Today, the Miami New Times and the Virgin Islands Daily News have reported on the case of 14 year old Liz Marie Peréz Chaparro, who was killed during a stopover in St. Thomas while on a Carnival cruise. Cruise lines have a legal duty to warn their passengers of dangers in the ports of call which they select. For our article about this terrible crime, read: More Caribbean Crime - Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas.
A copy of the lawsuit is available on line here (via courthousenews.com).
More Publicity Over $1,250,000 Arbitration Award Against Royal Caribbean:
The media continues to cover the arbitration award which our firm obtained against Royal Caribbean for an injured crew member from Serbia. The South Florida Business Journal first reported on the award in an article "Royal Caribbean to pay Injured Worker $1.25M" and referred to our blog article about the case. Miami's Daily Business Review and Law.com then ran articles about the case.
Royal Caribbean's defense lawyer Curtis Mase was quoted in a follow up article by the South Florida Business Review "Royal Caribbean Case Highlights Arbitration" that the outcome of the case "flies in the face of 200 years of maritime law." Mr. Mase was referring to his argument that the cruise line should not be liable for the bad medical care provided to the injured crewmember after the cruise line abandoned her, an argument which the arbitration panel rejected.
Maritime employers have been legally responsible for the medical care and treatment of injured crewmembers actually dating back beyond 200 years to the Medieval Sea Codes. The arbitration panel not only found this cruise line's failure to provide appropriate medical treatment to be unreasonable, but it found Royal Caribbean to have acted negligently and to be 100% at fault in causing the crew member's accident.
This arbitration award was the first crew member outcome from the team of Walker & O'Neill and former Royal Caribbean defense lawyer Jonathan Aronson. Mr. Aronson "switched sides" two years ago. In response, Royal Caribbean and Mr. Mase unsuccessfully tried to disqualify Mr. Aronson and our firm from suing the cruise line, which we reported on in articles Royal Caribbean Forces Defense Lawyer to Switch Sides and Its Not Personal . . . Its Strictly Business. After losing its first two disqualification motions, the cruise line gave up. It now has one of its best defense lawyers successfully suing it.
A Near Miss - Independence of the Seas Hauls Ass Out of Gibraltar
An explosion from a large fuel tank near Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas resulted in what the cruise line describes as "minor" injuries to a dozen passengers. Seems like many guests on the top deck may have suffered flash burns when the tank exploded. A potential disaster was averted when the captain and his officers made a quick assessment of the situation and sailed the cruise ship away from the burning tank and out to safety in the harbor. You can see dramatic video and photos in our articles here and here.
Although the story ended happily, the issue arises whether cruise ships are attractive targets for terrorists particularly when they are positioned for Mediterranean and Middle East itineraries. Parking a cruise ship next to three large fuel tanks (especially during welding operations), needs to be re-thought.
A Guest Blog Goes Viral
The summer is here again and our firm's legal intern, law student Caitlin Burke has returned to help us with our cases. She quickly volunteered for another "guest blog" which is one of the most popular articles this year. Take a moment and read "Top 10 Shocking Clauses In Your Cruise Contract" and learn how cruise lines have stacked the deck against its cruise passengers. A hell of a way to treat your customers!
If you are a cruise critic or a cruise fan and think you are up to writing a guest blog here on Cruise Law News, contact us and we will be pleased to discuss this with you.
Safe cruising . . .
Top: Trelawny Billboard - Jim walker
Middle: Port of Miami, Majesty of the Seas, Jonathan Aronson, Lisa O'Neill, Jim Walker - Jim Walker
This afternoon BBC Radio (Radio Merseyside) interviewed maritime lawyer Jim Walker in Miami regarding the disappearance of Disney youth activities worker Rebecca Coriam from the Disney Wonder cruise ship.
Rebecca was reported missing when she failed to report to work aboard the cruise ship on March 22, 2011. You can listen to the BBC Radio interview here. It runs just five minutes or so.
It has been almost a month and Rebecca's family continue to seek answers about her disappearance.
Ironically, Disney Cruise incorporated its cruise line as the Magical Cruise Company in the U.K. (for tax purposes) where Rebecca's family resides. Yet, there are no investigators from the U.K. invested with jurisdiction for investigating her disappearance. Instead, the "investigation" is being officially conducted by a policeman from the Bahamas because Disney flagged its cruise ship in that country (again primarily for tax purposes).
How is it that the Scotland Yard or someother competent agency are not involved in investigating the disappearance of a U.K. employee from a cruise ship operated by a company incorporated in the U.K.?
Ms. Coriam's family created a website which contains contact information. The site is Rebecca-Coriam.com. If you have information about Rebecca, please click on the website and e-mail the family.
You can read our other articles on this case here.
It's official. Cruise Law is the top vote receiver in the Shorty Awards contest in crowd-sourced field of law for 2011.
For those of you who follow this blog or interact with me on Twitter, you know that I am a lawyer who believes in the power of communicating via the social media of blogs, Facebook and Twitter.
Last year I tied for first place in the law category. I then did the chivalrous thing of voting for my opponent, a lawyer in England, to break the tie. Yes I believe in Karma. What goes around comes around. This year I won in a landslide.
So what is the significance of the Shorty Awards in law? The Shorty Awards people say that the award recognizes the "best people and organizations on Twitter and social media."
Our blog is just 18 months old but has been a top 10 most popular blog for going on a year now.
If you are looking for an insight into what is happening in the off-shore, multi-national, tax avoiding, and non-sustainable cruise industry - you will find it here first.
Cruise Law News (CLN)'s readership exploded last month. In February, our followers read 100,000 pages of CLN which remains the 10th most popular law blog in the U.S. Here is what people are recently saying about Jim Walker and CLN:
"Top Maritime Lawyer" - ABA Journal.
"Top Cruise Lawyer" - USA Today.
"Prominent Private Practice Maritime Attorney" - Fox News.
"Cruise Law Expert" - Slate Magazine.
"Prominent Cruise Plaintiff Attorney" - Law.com (America Law Media).
Perpetual Pain-In-The-Cruise-Lines-Neck Jim Walker - Gadling
Cruise Law News - "A Hard-Hitting Blog" - Miami's Daily Business Review.
Last month saw the revival of the "Worst Cruise Line in the World" award, won again by Royal Caribbean due to an epidemic of crew deaths and the prevalence of drugs on RCCL cruise ships, This month you will be reading a lot more about crimes associated with the Royal Caribbean cruise brand, here on the most popular maritime law website in the world.
One of the interesting things about having a blog is that there are programs which indicate how many viewers you have, how many pages they look at, and the countries where they are from.
For the first two weeks of this month alone, Cruise Law News (CLN) has been viewed over 62,000 times. We have been the tenth most popular law blog for several months now.
The number one referrer of visitors to CLN is Google (US), with other referrers via the Google search engines from the United Kingdom, Canada, Poland, Puerto Rico, Australia, India, Germany, Norway, Mexico and Brazil.
The number two referrer to CLN is Facebook, which surprises me. Rather than just being a place to socialize on line, we are finding that Facebook is increasingly becoming a place where news is disseminated and issues are discussed.
We created a Facebook page for CLN recently to help get the news out about things that happen on cruise ships. You can read about some of the high profile cases involving the cruise industry. You can see our photographs of some of our clients and cases here. We have a rather modest group of followers at this early date (around 200) which includes cruise passengers and crew members. It is slowly growing. With the new Facebook format, our followers can post their own links to articles as well as post photographs and upload videos.
We hope that you click the "like" button and follow CLN on Facebook. Please consider taking a moment and post a comment to one of our blog articles, or post your own interesting link to a cruise-related story.
Year 2011 began with a bang at Cruise Law News ("CLN").
CLN was the first publication in the U.S. to cover some of the most newsworthy stories about the cruise industry this year.
We started the year by pointing out that the new president (Christine Duffy) of the the cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), has carried on CLIA's Pinocchio-like tradition of tall tales by telling her first lie. And it was only the third day of the new year!
Royal Caribbean's reputation of having the most passengers overboards and the least transparent PR department is alive and well n 2011. Two weeks ago, we reported that a 21 year old passenger fell from Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas as it approached Belize. The local press in Belize speculated wildly (seemingly to RCCL's approval) that the passenger may have committed suicide (the cruise lines' favorite excuse). The U.S. newspapers (especially the worthless Miami Herald) ignored the story.
CLN was the the first U.S. publication to explain what really happened. In our artice - "Another Passenger Overboard From A Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship" - many passengers including the missing young man's family posted comments about the circumstances surrounding the tragedy. We caught someone criticizing the family on our blog's comment section using a computer connection which we traced back to the Royal Caribbean headquarters. Sick!
Talking about sick cruise lines, we covered the first case of "cruise ship sickness" (CLIA hates that expression) which occurred on Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas. Sixty-five passengers left comments about the experience. Yuck. The cruise line went to its PR playbook, diverted attention away from its own food and water, and blamed the passengers, as usual, for not washing their hands.
The month so far has seen CLN report on a crew member child porno addict (allegedly mind you) who worked as an audio visual manager and provided onboard guest-entertainment services on the Constellation cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean's sister line Celebrity Cruises.
Yesterday, we had well over 5,000 people read our blog. Weekends are usually slower than weekdays, so 5,000 readers a day is a lot of people clicking on CLN. So far this month, over 70,000 pages of CLN have been read. We are on track for over a million people reading CLN a year. We had more readers in one day yesterday than in our first month when the blog started in September 2009!
Last week, CLN was featured on Cruise Radio, the most popular cruise related radio show in the world, about how to stay safe on cruise ships. As the host mentioned, we "gave some brutal but honest facts. It's a great reminder" about cruise ship safety. Take a listen here.
CLN is also in first place in the Shorty Awards in law. It's admittedly a faux award, but its purpose is to recognize the "best people and organizations on Twitter and social media."
The state of the union for Cruise Law News - is strong! We are having a lot of fun too!
Cruise Radio is the most popular cruise related radio show in the world.
Yesterday we were one of the guests on the radio show and discussed tips on how to stay safe on cruise ships.
I discuss some tips to keep in mind if you cruise. About keeping your kids safe. About child predators on cruises. About cruise crime. About the consequences of too much alcohol on cruises. About violence during Caribbean excursions. Some disturbing info, no doubt.
As the host mentioned, Walker "gave some brutal but honest facts. It's a great reminder" about cruise ship safety.
CLN also became a "top cruise vacation influencer," which consists of cruise lines, travel agents, and cruise fans who dominate social media affecting the cruise industry. I'm sure having a maritime personal injury lawyer in the top 10 drives the cruise industry bonkers.
Here are some of my favorite blog posts for the past year:
Best article with the word "sex" in the title: Marketing "Sex at Sea" on Cruise Ships (includes my favorite photo of a cruise line executive, in bed with booze surrounded by women with the Royal Caribbean logo across their bikini tops??)
The month of November ended with a bang. Readers of Cruise Law News (CLN) viewed over 68,000 pages of our blog in November alone, roughly three and one-half times the total population of my home town in Arkansas. When I first started this blog a year ago, I barely had 5,000 pages readers a month. Since then, our readership has exploded. We have thousands of subscribers to our bog everyday, via RSS feed and email, and tens of thousands of regular readers.
The second milestone was being included in the Top 25 Cruise Vacation Influencers. This is a ranking of websites and blogs which are considered "influential" in the world of cruising, again based on certain objective metrics. CLN is currently no. 11, ahead of Princess Cruises, Holland America Lines and P & O Cruises. The interesting thing about this list is that it primarily consists of cruise lines like Carnival (no. 1), Royal Caribbean (no. 5) and NCL (no. 10) or travel agents like CruiseBuzz (no. 2) or BuyCruises (no. 3).
Being the only true cruise critic in the top 25 reflects that the public is interested in information other than the propaganda spoon fed by the cruise lines. We have many readers who are cruise line employees and crew members on ships who contact us regularly about problems they encounter and think should be made public. Passenger and crew member safety and shipboard working conditions are issues of particular interest to our readers.
The cruise industry may not agree with much of what we publish, but the cruise lines read CLN on a daily basis. When a passenger or crew member "disappears" or there is suspicious circumstances surrounding a death, they know that we will cover the story and provide a forum for passengers and crew to leave comments about what really happened.
If you are a regular reader of CLN or have left a comment on our blog over the past year, thanks! We need your input to be able to continue to provide a glimpse into what the cruise lines don't want the public to know.
This Thanksgiving, my family is back in my hometown of El Dorado Arkansas visiting my parents and our cousins. Thanksgiving at the family homestead in Arkansas is the perfect place to be this time of year.
My family has a lot to be thankful for this year. My Dad, age 81, made it to another Thanksgiving despite a series of heart attacks dating back to 1981 when I was in law school. My Dad is a tough nut with a heart of gold which unfortunately is failing him. I am thankful that my family can spend time with Dad and Mom, soulmates for the past 56 years.
I am thankful for my beautiful wife and healthy kids, my younger brother and his family who traveled from Texas and my older sister and her family who made the journey from Utah and California. I am thankful for my cousins here in Arkansas and my family's friends and church members who have supported my parents during this year.
I am thankful for my clients, passengers and crew members alike, who have entrusted us with their cases and causes.
I am thankful for my friend Jonathan Aronson and his wife Ilene who have helped us defeat the cruise line felons and are helping our law firm grow and prosper this year.
I am thankful for the people who are readers of Cruise Law News and who have supported me. Thanks a million for your positive (and negative) comments on this blog, on Twitter and Facebook. I appreciate your encouragement.
Take a moment on this day of Thanksgiving and be thankful for your family and friends. Count your blessings as you sit around the table eating turkey and watching the ball games this afternoon.
This has been an exciting week in the crazy world of cruising.
The Allure of the Seas Arrives in South Florida, But No One Noticed: Last Thursday Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas, the world's biggest cruise ship, arrived in its home port of Port Everglades after sailing across the Atlantic from the shipyard. The Allure joins its sister ship in the Genesis class, the Oasis of the Seas, in Fort Lauderdale. Unlike the great fanfare surrounding the Oasis' arrival last December, the Allure's debut in South Florida was largely a non-event. The little publicity surrounding the mega cruise ship's arrival was overshadowed by the spectacle taking place on the west coast of the U.S., as tugs towed the disabled Splendor to San Diego following an engine room fire which left the Carnival cruise ship dead in the water off of the coast of Mexico.
Bigger But Not Better: The arrival of the Allure juxtaposed with the wounded Splendor re-ignited the debate whether this new breed of big ships, which many call floating malls - and which the cruise lines market as supposedly incorporating the cruise industry's newest technologies - is really a big step backwards. The LA Times interviewed me and members of the International Cruise Victims in "Stranded Cruise Ship Offers Lesson in Huge Vessels' Vulnerabilities."
How could a super sized new ship like the Splendor be rendered a powerless tub by a single fire to only one of its six diesel engines? What about the redundant safety systems which have existed in cruise ships for fifty years? And aren't these beasts of a cruise ship the embodiment of everything non-sustainable about the cruise industry? The Huffington Post addressed the surreal nature of the cruise industry and its huge ships in an "age of dwindling energy reserves and burgeoning population" in an excellent article "Cruising for a Bruising."
To Sue or Not to Sue? The issue of cruise disasters and ambulance chasing lawyers reached an regional, national and international audience following the fire aboard the Splendorr. On Monday, I wrote an article criticizing lawyers who are trolling for passengers to sue Carnival for the ship fire. I pointed out three reasons why a lawsuit against the cruise line is ill advised.
Carnival v. Wartsila? Although I expect few passengers to file suit against Carnival, there is no question that Carnival will make a claim against the diesel engine manufacturer, Wartsila. The Splendor is only 2 years old. Diesel engines are not suppose to crack a crankshaft, burn the engine room, and shut down a $700 million cruise ship like this. The Splendor is expected to be out of service for two months. By my calculations, that means Carnival will lose the fare and onboard purchases of 3,000 passengers for 8 weeks or so. That sounds like a loss of tens of millions of dollars which Carnival will be expecting Wartsila to pay.
Celebrity Passengers Robbed in St. Kitts:Four banditos robbed 17 cruise passengers from the Mercury cruise ship on a bus during a cruise excursion in St. Kitts. As usual the local tourism board proclaimed that such crime is rare. But the truth is that robbery and murder of cruise passengers are regular occurrences in the Caribbean. Its unheard of sailing from Vancouver to Alaska, but its business as usual in the Caribbean islands. Its a function of poverty and drugs. A couple of cruise lines are now skipping St. Kitts. One line is now calling on Antigua where a young woman sailing on a Star Clippers cruise ship was murdered ashore in January. You can't find a Caribbean island where cruise passengers have not been a victim of a violent crime. Beautiful, but dangerous.
Cruise Law News (CLN) Moves Up: The popularity contest and my unabashed self promotion of CLN continue. CLN is the no. 12 most popular law blog per the Avvo-Alexa rankings. Expect a top 10 announcement by Thanksgiving. Many thanks to our readers and those of you who support our blog by leaving comments. We appreciate your comments, pro or con.
"Plain and simple, Jim Walker's Cruise Law News is one of the best law blogs out there, along with being one of my favorites on the LexBlog Network. Not only does Jim produce content at an incredible rate—356 posts in the 365 days after launching—but it's content that doesn't tiptoe around sensitive subjects. In Jim's words, he set out to "talk straight about issues which make the cruise industry uncomfortable." And what has this done? Just place him amongst the most popular law blogs in the United States.
On this podcast we discuss how he developed this unique approach, setting aside time to blog, finding topics to blog about and how the coverage found on his blog compares to what's put forth by the mainstream media."
This was another interesting week in the strange world of cruise law news.
The week ended with a Miami jury awarding $2,900,000 in compensation for an injured Royal Caribbean crew member whose knee was butchered by a doctor in Nicaragua, which I mentioned in yesterday's blog. The trial highlighted the cruise line's practice of keeping ill and injured crew members out of the U.S.
It was a rough week for Royal Caribbean, being recognized for bad medical treatment for the crew members and bad food and service for the passengers, not to mention the most crew member suicides this year.
We also wrote about the 25th year anniversary of cruise passenger Leon Klinghoffer killed by Palestinian terrorists on the Achille Lauro cruise ship. Have the cruise lines taken sufficient steps over the past 25 years to protect passengers from terrorism?
Cruise Law News (CLN) created a facebook page. 77 fans in the first week. Yea! Fans can post comments, photos and even videos. We hope you visit and leave a comment!
CLN continued to moved up the list of popular law blogs. On the Avvo / Alexa list, we are now the 21st most popular law blog. For U.S. readers, we are in the top five most popular blogs by lawyers who actually practice law (I'm excluding law professors who have all of the time in the world to write!)
CLN was also mentioned in Ohio lawyer Russ Bensing's popular blog "The Briefcase" in an article entitled "Fun on the High Seas. Russ writes "forget what he costs them in his lawsuits; his blog alone is a powerful disincentive to those contemplating a Caribbean cruise." Hmm . . . didn't know I was so scarry. But thanks Russ!
Today, my blog CLN is ranked as the no. 1 blog regarding maritime law and no. 1 blog regarding personal injury law pursuant to the AVVO / Alexa ranking system. Alexa ranks us as the 36th most popular law blog overall. The ranking system is far from perfect and there are far better blogs than mine which are ranled below CLN, but it is fun to see the ranking of blogs.
Today, we were retained by two Royal Caribbean crew members and a Carnival passenger in cruise line injury cases. It is clear that the cruise lines are indifferent to caring about people injured on their cruise ships. It is the reason we are in business of practicing maritime law.
Earlier this year, I first learned of Avvo's "Top Legal Blogs" while reading a solo blogger lamenting that his law blog fell out of Avvo's top 10 law blog list. I was intrigued by the rankings and began to read the top blogs to try and figure out why they were so popular.
Some of the blogs were really interesting and I began to follow them on a regular basis. Some were dreadfully boring, or at least I thought so. All of the blogs had been publishing for many years.
Unlike the individual lawyers Avvo ratings, the Avvo top legal blog list is based on the Alexa ranking system which some have criticized. It is nonetheless a good indicator of a blog or web site's traffic rankings.
The Alexa system lists a website or blog in two ways: (1) its ranking in the world, and (2) its ranking in the United States.
Cruise Law News (CLN) is ranked (at the moment) as the top 36th law blog in the world, and a top 10 law blog in the U.S. It also happens to be the number one blog in personal injury law (just nudging ahead of the well known New York Personal Injury Law Blog).
Alexa tells us which blogs have a lot of "traffic," but is it a valid system for ranking law blogs? I'd like to think so, given CLN's high ranking and its fast climb to the top rankings for a new law blog. But others say that being popular does not equate to being influential or useful.
What are the best indicators of success and recognition other than Alexa? What list is considered to be the most credible and/or coveted list of top law blogs?
If you have a thought about this, please leave a comment below . . .
On September 7, 2009, I launched my blog, Cruise Law News (CLN). My goal was to be a leading source of news and legal commentary regarding the cruise industry.
Well, here we are, September 7, 2010, one year later. What a year!
My little blog is far more successful than I ever thought. Yes, it has taken a lot of work - this is my 356th article in the last 365 days! I have written about cruise ship rapes, sexual assaults of children, arrest of peophiles, passenger disappearances, and cruise ship fires, groundings and sinkings. Everything the cruise lines like to keep secret.
From a quantitative perspective (per Alexa rankings), CLN is now ranked as the no. 1 maritime law blog in the U.S., the no. 2 law blog in Florida, the no. 2 personal injury blog in the U.S., and the 50th most popular law blog over-all in the U.S. My websitegrader score is 99 (a grade I never received in school); there are 902 indexed pages of CLN on Google; and there are 48,230 inbound links. I am averaging over 25,000 unique visitors a month, and my traffic is in the top 1.53% of all websites.
And to add some icing to the cake, Cruise Law News is several times more popular that the official blog of the President of one of the major cruise line (Royal Caribbean) who writes from the "Nation Of Why Not?" If you want transparent news, people know to come here to CLN rather than wade through the gobbledygook at the cruise line's corporate blog.
Cruise Law News has been cited in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Bahamas Journal, Italy's "Chi l'ha Visto?" television show, Germany's Wunderwelt Wisen magazine, the popular on line cruise community CruiseCritic, South Florida Business Journal, Baltimore Sun, Bahamas Tribune, Sun Sentinel, Washington Post, and MSNBC.
Our real success comes from our everyday readers - crew members, passengers, travel agents, cruise haters and cruise lovers. We have heard from people in Great Britain, France, Mauritania, India, Venezuela, Brazil, Italy, Croatia, Serbia, Canada and countries throughout the Caribbean islands. Thanks for your questions and the valuable information you provided us!
One big thank you is in order. Kevin O'Keefe and his team at LexBlog created my site a year ago. They are the best in the law blog business. Lexblog designed a nice looking, functional blog.
They provided concise recommendations to me, and encouraged me to blog. Thanks Kevin for creating LexBlog and pointing me in the right direction!
Here are some highlights of the fun we have had over the last year:
This morning the Walker - O'Neill family arrived back in Miami at 7:30 a.m. after taking the "red eye" from Seattle. We spent two weeks enjoying British Columbia for a great vacation.
My family voted before our vacation that there would be no blogging. Out voted 3-1, I didn't even take my lap top with me. So my blogging hours were replaced with sightseeing in the beautiful capital of Victoria (great totems, photo left); surfing and whale watching (photo below right) in the fishing village of Tofino (Vancouver Island) ; mountain biking in Whistler; and finally a couple of days running and biking in Stanley Park in Vancouver. A great time.
Our two boys, who are now officially taller than me, had some fun clowning around in the Tofino Botanical Gardens with Mr. Skull Head (right, bottom).
The closest I could come to cruise law blogging was to tweet a photo of Pikes Market while visiting our niece in Seattle (yes that's the NCL Pearl in the background) and a photo of the close up of the NCL Pearl while we walked along the pier.
A lot of things happened in the world of cruise law news during our short vacation:
President Obama signed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, as reported by Consumer Reports. Our client, Laurie Dishman, traveled to the White House for a photo with the President Obama in the Oval Office. We will be blogging about this and will include a photo of Laurie and President Obama. Wow! We are so proud of Laurie. We will be talking about the new cruise safety law in the next several weeks.
A newspaper in Seattle reported on the one year anniversary of the the mysterious disappearance of Amber Malkuch from Holland American Lines' Zaadam cruise ship, as reported by Seattle's KOMO News (read the comments to the story). Cruise Line News (CLN) discussed Ms. Malkuch's death a year ago. We criticized the cruise line's PR decision to label the disappearance as a "suicide" even before the Alaskan State Troopers concluded its investigation - "Suicide" - One of the Cruise Lines' Favorite Excuses When a Passenger Disappears at Sea.
Passengers and crew members continue to contact our firm after being sexually assaulted or victimized during cruises on Carnival, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean ships. Stay tuned for articles about how the cruise lines try and cover these crimes up, notwithstanding the new cruise law.
Royal Caribbean filed motions in three cases falsely accusing me of conspiring to steal secret safety information from the cruise line, in an effort to kick me off of the cases. Being recklessly accused by a corporate felon like Royal Caribbean invigorates me and validates my work as a cruise safety advocate. In the next month, we will publish articles about Royal Caribbean's outrageous conduct and will include copies of motions, deposition transcripts and court orders regarding Royal Caribbean's efforts to harm our firm and our clients.
We will win this dispute.
And we will obtain our attorney fees incurred in defending our little firm from these malicious charges by this $15 billion criminal corporation.
You can bank on that. And you will read about it first here on Cruise Line News (CLN).
Its great to come back from a nice relaxing vacation, and jump right back into the frying pan.
OK time to brag a bit. Today my blog was added to Avvo's "Top Legal Blogs." Cruise Law News is currently the 55th most popular law blog in the United States. The blog has been the highest climbing law blog this year.
For bloggers like me, that's exciting news. Blogs are vehicles for education and ultimately social and political change. The higher ranked a blog becomes, the greater the opportunity for it to be read.
Cruise Law News was launched just over 9 months ago. So in the blog world, it's still a baby. My readers and subscribers have increased every month. It is by far the the highest ranked blog, or website for that matter, which covers maritime law. I expect it to become a top 25 law blog by the end of the year.
My blog has been instrumental in educating the public about what really happens during cruises. We publish the type of information that the cruise lines don't want you to know about.
There are a number of blogs published by the cruise lines. Royal Caribbean's president, Adam Goldstein, has a pretty popular blog called Why Not? But it is 90% marketing PR. Not surprisingly, it's also less popular than Cruise Law News. Many more readers are coming to this blog to read articles about Royal Caribbean than to the cruise president's own site.
I was nominated for a "Shorty Award" in the #law peoples' choice category.
The official site of the Shorty Awards states that it honors "the best people and organizations on Twitter. These unique awards are for the Twitter community, by the Twitter community."
Online voting is public and supposedly democratic, "culminating in an awards ceremony that recognizes the winners in 26 official categories as well as those in brand new crowd sourced ones."
I was nominated a bit late. But, let's face it, i deserve it. I'm just joking, or am I?
To vote - click on the link here and vote for me for goodness sakes! You have to give a reason for voting for me:
"I vote for @CruiseLaw for a Shorty Award in #law because . . .
So say something nice, like "because he looks like George Clooney" (not true), or "because he is a nice guy" (partially true), or "because his Mom & Dad are really nice people" (totally true). It does not matter, just say anything clever. I want to win this damn thing! Don't screw this up - I am counting on you!
I did the obligatory interview for the award which is below (I hope I sound clever):
What's your best tweet?
Royal Caribbean sails to its trademarked fantasy island of Labadee® as Haiti suffers . . .
What are six things you could never do without?
Coffee, beer, & the 4 hours between the 2 . . .
How do you use Twitter in your professional life?
If it involves a cruise, you will hear it from me first.
What's your favorite Twitter app?
Twitter or Facebook?
A machine gun or a pea shooter? I choose Twitter.
What was the funniest trend you've seen?
Once it's a trend it's no longer funny.
What feature should Twitter add?
Who do you wish had a Twitter feed but doesn't?
My Dad, the master story-teller, 80 years young.
What are some words or phrases you refuse to shorten for brevity?
Corporate malfeasance, flag-of-convenience.
Is there someone you want to follow you who doesn't already? If so, who?
Have you ever unfollowed someone? Who and why?
Yes, a few of those Do NOT Pay for White Teeth people snuck into my tent.
Why should we vote for you?
I had big ears, buck teeth, and stuttered in grade school - now I just stutter.
Terms you wish would start trending on Twitter right now?
Saints Win Superbowl.
What's the most interesting connection you've made through Twitter?
Cruise passenger tweeting on the deck of a burning cruise ship.
Hashtag you created that you wish everyone used?
How do you make your tweets unique?
Cruise law, cruise law, cruise law, no one does it as timely, consistently, or insightfully (my, I am modest).
What inspires you to tweet?
Herman Melville said something in Moby Dick about the mutual joint-stock world we live in . . .
Ever get called out for tweeting too much?
Not so far, I assume people just leave the party if they don't like my rants.
140 characters of advice for a new user?
Don't type in caps it is a sign of insanity.
How long can you go without a tweet?
1/2 circulation of the earth.
What question are we not asking here that we should?
Who should win the Shorty award other than you?
Who do you admire most for his or her use of Twitter?
@CruiseVictims - check it out.
Why'd you start tweeting?
I wondered what everyone was doing with their blackberries on TV during Obama's State of the Union speech.
Has Twitter changed your life? If yes, how?
Twitter intensified love/hate: my mother-in-law thinks I lost my mind, my kids think I'm brilliant.
What do you wish people would do more of on Twitter?
Use Twitter as vehicle for donations to non - profits.
Today, LexMonitor published an interview of me by Lisa Kennelly. For those of you-not-in-the-know, LexMonitor is run by super-law-blog-expert Kevin O'Keefe of LexBlog which offers the best services in the universe for frustrated lawyers who feel the need to blog after working a-100-hour-week. The interviewer, Lisa Kennelly - a Harvard graduate! - asked me some questions about my new blog.
if I come back in another life, it will be a Harvard Graduate living in Seattle, a kick-ass city by any definition.
The Miami cruise law attorney has had a web presence since 1996, when he created his very first web site. A former defense attorney, he switched sides in 1999 and became an advocate for cruise ship passengers, years before the majority of Miami lawyers started marketing themselves as "cruise line lawyers."
And his blog, Cruise Law News? It only came into being after he had been hooked on Twitter - @CruiseLaw for several months and realized he needed a forum to write in more than 140 characters.
Each component of his online presence serves a different but equally valuable purpose.
"Most of my competitors are where I was ten years ago," Jim says, "creating ego sites that say they are fantastic without providing any useful information to the consumer and without even attempting to establish a dialog with the public. The Internet now requires an interactive exchange. So I am trying to use my blog to provide the most current and relevant information in my specialized field of law."
We caught up with Jim for this LexBlog Q&A to learn more about his online persona and how he uses his blog to beat the mainstream media to breaking news.
Lisa Kennelly: Why did you decide to start a blog?
Jim Walker: I became a blogger after becoming addicted to Twitter earlier this year.
In February, I watched President Obama’s State of the Union speech. The gallery was filled with people twittering away on their Blackberries and iPhones, sending out their own spin on the President’s speech. CNN covered the story and added their own perspective via Twitter. A few days later I registered @CruiseLaw. In March, I started “tweeting.”
I became hooked. A dozen times a day, I tweeted my perspective about crimes on cruise ships, bad shipboard medical care, mysterious disappearances of passengers, and even attacks against cruise ships by pirates! Stuff so unbelievable that I couldn’t make it up. To my surprise, a large number of people in the cruise industry began following me – mostly cruise line manager types, travel agents, and PR people who disagree with anything negative I mentioned about cruising. In the process, a dialogue developed with people on the other-side-of-the-fence so to speak. I enjoyed it.
I also found a lot of kindred spirits who share my concerns about the negative environmental impact of cruising – things like cruise ship wastewater discharges, and air emissions of cruise ships which burn bunker fuels. The carbon footprint of the cruise industry is incredible. A lot of “green travelers” like to read my tweets and I like to follow them too.
As you know, “tweeting” is just micro-blogging. My addiction grew beyond the 140 character limit of Twitter. I ran across Kevin’s blog and began following Kevin as well as LexBlog and LexMonitor on Twitter. And this led me to blogging. The LexBlog format fit my plans perfectly.
Lisa Kennelly: What has been most rewarding about blogging?
Jim Walker: I blog about breaking “cruise news.” I was the only one in the U.S. who reported on the armed robbery of 11 cruise passengers in the Bahamas in October. I explained the legal liability of cruise lines who sell shore excursions but don’t warn their guests about high crime rate in ports of call. Last month, an additional 18 cruise passengers were robbed at gunpoint in the Bahamas after the cruise lines failed to warn the passengers about the first attack. I found a YouTube video of one of the passengers who had just been robbed, and posted the video and photographs on my blog. I broke two stories before any newspaper knew what happened! Soon “Cruise Law News” was being cited in major newspapers as the source of news.
Experiences like this are exciting and rewarding. We warn the public of dangers that the cruise lines like to keep secret. I embed my perspective into the news I write about. I am not a journalist. I am an advocate. And I enjoy reporting on news events with my own unique perspective.
Lisa Kennelly: What has been most challenging?
Jim Walker: There is not enough time to blog, practice law and have a real life. I have a full trial practice with 100 injured clients at any time. I have a family, two growing boys and a spouse (who is also my law partner) plus four dogs. I started my blog a little over three months ago and I have written 100 articles. My articles are too long, too. I can’t help it – I come from a family of story tellers. I feel sometimes like I am making a closing argument and I can’t stop myself. I struggle getting to the point.
Lisa Kennelly: What has the response been to your blog from clients, other attorneys, or anyone else?
Jim Walker: It has been fantastic so far. My blog has 10 times the traffic of my website, CruiseLaw.com, which I started over ten years ago. My biggest disappointment is that few people post comments. I like people to voice their own views, particularly if they disagree with me.
Lisa Kennelly: You and your firm have had a web presence at CruiseLaw.com for an impressive 10 years now. How has the way you use the Internet changed since then.
Jim Walker: I actually created my first web site, called Walker-Law.com, in 1996. I was a defense lawyer. My site was very egocentric. I used my own name in the domain and advertised that I was great at defending cruise lines. But I found that passengers across the U.S. began e-mailing me asking me to sue one of the cruise lines here in Miami because they had been injured or raped. They found my site through the old search engines and didn’t care who I was or even that I defended cruise lines! In 1999, I switched sides and created CruiseLaw.com myself using a Windows FrontPage program. It is amateurish but effective. 100% of the cases we handle are against cruise lines and six of our clients have testified before Congress on cruise safety issues. I have not updated the CruiseLaw site for ten years (but have a much-needed new design coming out the first of next year).
Now every lawyer in Miami calls themselves a cruise line lawyer. Attorneys I have never heard of are are paying for click-throughs on Google. Most of my competitors are where I was ten years ago. Creating ego sites that say they are fantastic without providing any useful information to the consumer and without even attempting to establish a dialogue with the public. The Internet now requires an interactive exchange. So I am trying to use my blog to provide the most current and relevant information in my specialized field of law.
Lisa Kennelly: How do you use your website, your blog, and your Twitter account, both together or individually, to market yourself and your firm?
Jim Walker: My website is like an online resume. Not much real information is on it. Just a description of who we are and what we do. The real marketing now comes from my blog. I still mini-blog on Twitter. I link to the other people who are shaping the daily debate on cruise issues. When I finish my blog, I post a link on Twitter. There are usually a hundred people who will quickly read it to see what I am rambling about. I take a lot of photos of our clients and cruise ships that I sue and post them on my Flickr page.
Whenever another cruise passenger goes overboard, people know where to find me.
I first became intrigued with Twitter when I watched President Obama’s State of the Union speech in February of this year. The galley was filled with people twittering away on their Blackberries and iphones, sending out their own spin on the President’s speech. CNN covered the story and added their own perspective via @CNN.
A few days later I registered @CruiseLaw. I was hooked. In March, I started a Twitter forage that continues today.
Now a little over six months later, I can’t imagine not interacting with the people who follow me on Twitter. I have connected with more people on Twitter in the last 6 months than I have in real life in last 30 years. 6,700 followers. OK, I admit it. I don’t know them all.
But the experience has led to newspaper and radio interviews, business referrals across the U.S., a modest group of fans and an even larger group of enemies who follow my tweets religiously for no other reason than to instantly and vigorously disagree with me. I like the agitators and detractors best. It has been fun.
Lawyers USA Weekly recently ran an interesting article by Sylvia Hsieh which featured four lawyers who successfully turned their tweets into clients. Unfortunately, the article is no longer available on line without a subscription. But Bruce Carlton (@brucecarton) of Legal Blog Watch did a good job summarizing my small part in the article as follows:
"James Walker (@CruiseLaw) an attorney in South Miami, Fla., whose practice is devoted solely to suing cruise lines on behalf of injured passengers. Walker tweets about the three things he knows best: cruise ship law, cruise ship law and cruise ship law."
Its pretty funny to be pigeon-holed so accurately by a reporter in a 15 minute telephone interview.
Cruise Ship Law. Exactly. Welcome to my place in the Twitter Kingdom.
In 1999, I launched CruiseLaw.com - a legal web site focused on the cruise industry. The need for such a web site was obvious. Passengers sexually assaulted or injured on cruise ships operated by Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Norwegian, or Royal Caribbean are required to bring their claims in Miami or Fort Lauderdale. The internet provides an easy way for passengers living in California, Kansas or New York to locate a maritime lawyer in South Florida for advice.
CruiseLaw in 1999 - No Shortage of Horror Stories
Within a year, we were representing over 50 passengers who had been seriously injured on cruise ships or shore excursions. It was disturbing to see the large number of injured passengers and to hear their stories about how the cruise lines treated them after their injuries. Worse still was the large number of women and children raped or molested by crew members where the cruise line tried to cover up the incidents.
We have seen cruise ship fires, "missing" passengers and crew members, and accidents of every sort - both on the cruise ships and during shore excursions.
500 Cruise Clients Later - A Perspective to Share
Now ten years and around 500 clients later, I am launching this blog - called "CruiseLaw News." I will report on breaking cruise news every day. The blog will provide insightful legal commentary regarding cruise passengers and crew members around the world. No ghost writers here, you will hear directly from me. The cruise lines won’t be pleased. Travel agents may cringe. You will learn about issues that the cruise industry PR machine and the happy-go-lucky cruise fanatics don’t want you to know.
Post Your Comments - Pro or Con
This blog will not be a one way street. You are encouraged to post your comments. Please express your genuine feelings and opinions. No editing will take place. The only rules are to be civil. Hopefully, be original and thoughtful. And, preferably, get to the point.
Check back for my first blog, and we will get into things. In the interim, stay in touch with me on Twitter @CruiseLaw and see where I stand on the latest cruise fiasco.
The New York Times describes Jim Walker as "a maritime lawyer in Miami who has attended more than half a dozen Congressional hearings about cruise ship crime and passenger safety." Jim has been involved in maritime litigation since 1983. Based in Miami, Florida, Jim represents passengers and crew members injured or assaulted on cruise ships around the world.
As this year (2014) begins, Jim has been one of the "go to" maritime lawyers when things go wrong on the high seas.
The GO-TO CRUISE LAW ATTORNEY - FEATURED IN HUNDREDS OF TELEVISION, CABLE NEWS, RADIO, DOCUMENTARY, MAGAZINE & NEWSPAPER ARTICLES AND PROGRAMS ABOUT CRUISE SHIP ACCIDENTS, INJURIES, SEXUAL ASSAULTS AND CONTROVERSIES
In 2012, Jim appeared on ABC's 20/20 special on the Costa Concordia disaster. He appeared on Australia's Dateline program "Lost at Sea" about passengers and crew members disappearing from cruise ships. Jim was featured on PBS's documentary "Disasters at Sea: Why Ships Sink" which looked at cruise disasters from the Titanic's sinking in 1912 to the current date. He also appeared on CNN's special "Cruise to Disaster" which explored the Concordia disaster.
Jim attended Duke University and graduated cum laude in 1980. He attended Tulane University School of Law, graduating in 1983 after taking Tulane’s internationally renowned admiralty curriculum.
Jim has experience regarding issues of cruise ship crime and sexual assault. Over the past ten years, he has represented over 1,000 clients including over 75 individuals who have been victimized on cruise ships, cruise excursions and ports of call. Six of Jim’s clients have testified before the United States Congress regarding cruise ship safety. Jim has handled the following cases in the past ten years:
The case of Laurie Dishman, sexually assaulted on Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas. Her case resulted in changes to the cruise industry and the introduction of the Cruise Ship Safety and Security Act of 2010.
The “Missing Honeymooner Case” involving the disappearance of George Smith IV of Greenwich Connecticut from Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas cruise ship. Jim represented Mr. Smith’s widow, Jennifer Hagel.
Over 75 sexual assault cases against women and children on cruise ships, resulting in many million and multi-million dollars settlements.
The 2006 Star Princess fire disaster. The cruise ship fire resulted in one hundred cabins being destroyed and the death of one passenger, Richard Liffridge. Jim represented Mr. Liffridge’s family in litigation against Princess Cruises in California.
Numerous cases involving serious injury and death of passengers and crew members aboard Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise ships.
Jim is married to Lisa O’Neill who he met while they were undergraduates in college thirty years ago. Jim and Lisa are also law partners.
Lisa is also a Duke cum laude graduate, and attended the University of Florida School of Law in Gainesville, Florida. She served on Law Review as the Senior Articles Editor, won the prestigious Gertrude Brick Award, and graduated cum laude. Jim and Lisa work on all cases together.
In 1999, the firm created the web site CruiseLaw.com as an information resource for passengers and crew members worldwide. Here is what some publications are saying about Jim Walker:
"King of anti-cruise tirades . . . his impressive background and litigation record against cruise lines must be taken seriously." - Travel Weekly.
"Perpetual Pain-In-The-Cruise-Lines-Neck Jim Walker" - Gadling.
Jim is the author of Cruise Law News - described as a "Hard-Hitting Blog" by Miami's Daily Business Review.
The U.K. Metro newspaper refers to Jim as the "Devil of Cruise Reporting."
Admiralty Law Committee of the Florida Bar (former member)
American Association for Justice, Admiralty Law Section
Florida Admiralty Trial Lawyers Association
Maritime Law Association of the United States
Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum
Southeast Admiralty Law Institute
Kent School, Kent Connecticut 1976
Duke University, Durham North Carolina 1980
Tulane School of Law, New Orleans Louisiana 1983
Florida Bar Association
Louisiana Bar Association (not active)
United States District Courts, Eastern District of Louisiana and Southern District of Florida
Media, Television, Radio, Magazines and Newspapers
Jim and his clients have been featured well over a hundred times on television, cable news and radio shows, as well as in documentaries, newspapers and magazine articles.
ABC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN, FOXNews, DATELINE, 48 HOURS, 20/20, Larry King Live, A & E Investigative Reports, Hannity & Colmes, Greta Van Sustern, Nancy Grace, Inside Edition, Julie Banderas, Big Story Weekend, CourtTV, Catherine Crier, Montel Williams, Joe Scarborough, Rita Cosby, Mike & Juliet, Geraldo Rivera, Nancy Bloom, Dan Abrams, UK’s BBC-Radio 4, Heartland w/John Kasich, E! Entertainment, TruTV, Canada’s CATV-5, Good Morning America, TIME Magazine, National Law Journal, RADAR Magazine, Lawyer’s Weekly USA, Miami Herald, American Law Media, Tradewinds, Fort Lauderdale’s Sun-Sentinel, Miami Business Review, LA Times, NY Times, Salt Lake Tribune, Florida Today, Daytona Beach Journal, Sacramento Bee, Washington Post, Greenwich Times, Greenwich Citizen, Greenwich Post, San Francisco Chronicle, U.K.'s Telegraph, St. Petersburg Times, Miami’s New Times, U.K. Mirror, London’s Guardian, Edmonton Post, Chicago Sun-Times, Bahamas Journal, Italy's "Chi l'ha Visto?" television show, Germany's Wunderwelt Wisen, CruiseCritic, South Florida Business Journal, Open Secrets organization, Queerty, Baltimore Sun, Bahamas Tribune, National Public Radio (NPR), USA Today, Gadling, FOX Business, Slate Magazine, ABA Journal, Australia's The Age, Attorney at Law Magazine, Huffington Post, U.K.'s Daily Mail, BBC, Freeport (Bahamas) News, Haaretz, Trip Advisor, Wikipedia, Palm Beach Post, India Times, E Turbo News, Global Travel News, Comunidade News (Brazil), Canada's CTV, OutFront with CNN's Erin Burnett, Slate, The Daily, London's Financial Times, Newsweek Magazine, Newsweek's The Daily Beast Blog, Fund Web, Reuters, Consumer Affairs, Australia's Herald Sun, Canada's NewsTalk 1010 Radio, Houston Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), Tampa Bay Business Journal, Perez Hilton, Business Insider, Greenwich Magazine, Herald Sun, CNN Money, the Australian newspaper, Christian Science Monitor, International Business Times, Maritime Executive, Businessweek, Bloomberg, Alaska Dispatch, Minnesota Post, Virgin Islands Daily News, Arizona Republic, Trip Advisor, Daily Kos, Jamaica's Gleaner newspaper, Antigua Observer, N.Y. Daily News, U.K.'s Daily Mail, UPI, Inquisitr, Christian Post, KTIC Radio, Cordova Times, Bloomberg News, Business Insider, Times of Malta, CNN Opinion, Wall Street Journal Blog. Newsday, CBC Radio (Canada), American Public Media Market Place, WGN Radio (Chicago) Chicago Tribune, WWL Radio (Miami), CNBC Squawk on the Street, WIOD Radio (Miami) and the Associated Press have all covered Jim’s cases and his client's causes.
Watch Jim on ABC's 20/20 program in January 2012 about the Costa Concordia disaster:
Watch Jim on Australia's Dateline program "Lost at Seas" in March 2012 about cruise ship disappearances:
Maritime & admiralty lawyer & attorney James M. Walker of Walker & O'Neill Law Firm, offering services related to injuries, sexual assaults, fires, negligence, rapes & disappearances on cruise ships, pirate & terrorist attacks, missing passengers, shore excursions, wrongful death and the Jones Act, serving cruise passengers, crew members, cabin attendants, utility workers, waiters, bar tenders, ship doctors and cleaners on cruise ships worldwide.
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