Reshuffling the Deck: Royal Caribbean Elevates CPA to Oversee New Risk Management Department

Effective Monday May 5, 2014, Royal Caribbean will create a new risk management department which will be managed by a certified public accountant, Tom Burke. Mr. Burke joined the cruise line in 2003 and most recently worked as the Vice President of Audit and Advisory Services. He was previously a manager at the accounting firm KPMG in Miami.

The creation of the new risk management department will require the reshuffling of a number of in-house lawyers and employees of the cruise line's crew medical department.

Claims handling and litigation matters are currently handled by the company's legal department managed by General Counsel Bradley Stein. With that responsibility being transferred to Mr. Burke Adam Goldstein President Royal Caribbean Cruisesnext week, the Associate Vice President of Litigation, Paul Hehir, will be assigned to the newly created risk management department. He will manage five in house lawyers, six crew claims adjusters, and four passenger claims adjusters.

Members of the crew medical department will also transition to the new risk management department. Vince Warger, Penny Shifrin, Dr. Fabio Acevedo and LaShawn Knight will move to risk management, as well as eight crew medical managers and coordinators.  A new team leader will be hired to supervise the medical group and report to Mr. Burke. 

Associate Vice President of Guest and Employee Legal Services,Tony Faso, will remain under Mr. Stein.

The new risk management department is the idea of Chief Operating Officer (COO) and President of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., Adam Goldstein (photo above right), who recently replaced Richard Fain (now Chairman) at the helm of the cruise line. 

We anticipate that this restructuring will have an impact on the medical treatment of crew members and the management of the legal claims asserted against the company by passengers and crew members. 

Over the recent years, we have watched Royal Caribbean make dramatic cost-cutting steps. In 2001, Royal Caribbean fired 500 employees. In 2008, it fired around 400 employees in its headquarters (including many senior female managers in its legal department). And last year, it terminated the employment of another 100 employees in its shore-side offices.

Officers in the Royal Caribbean fleet complained last year of job and cost cuts, additional work and lower compensation, while shipboard tip earners (cabin attendants and waiters) have complained that the cashless, pre-paid gratuity was really a scheme to divert tips from the guests into the cruise lines' coffers to defray the costs to the cruise line of paying the salaried ship employees.

We have most recently witnessed a renewed effort by the cruise line's crew medical department to refuse to authorize significant medical treatment, needed by sick crew members, in order to save money. Some of the cases are heart breaking, including the abandonment of ill crew members who need surgeries and ship employees stricken with cancer who have been sent home with no arrangements for chemotherapy.

The transfer of medical managers & coordinators responsible for providing medical treatment to ship employees, as well as the re-positioning of lawyers & adjusters responsible for crew injuries and medical claims, to a new department overseen by an accountant may signal an effort to further reduce costs.  

COO Goldstein's plans for his new risk management department specifically envision cost reduction. We predict that fewer benefits to the ill and injured crew members will be the net result.    

 

Photo Credit: Merco Press

Are the Last 2 to 3 Years of Cruise Ship Mishaps An Anomaly or a Trend?

Adam Goldstein Royal CaribbeanThis weekend, the Royal Caribbean Blog (an unofficial Royal Caribbean fan website) quoted Royal Caribbean President and CEO Adam Goldstein saying that the "last two or three years" of cruise ship mishaps are just  an "anomaly."

Goldstein made his comments to CNBC's Simon Hobbs who excitedly told the television audience that there was a disconnect between what the non-cruising public thought about cruising and what cruise president Goldstein told him in an exclusive interview:

"I having been in this cruise business for over 25 years now," Goldstein says. "My frame of reference is two and a half decades of an extraordinarily safe of track record of great duration. Tremendous attention to detail and training that prepares the crew and the officers to do everything that they need to do from to delivering satisfaction to the guests to being extremely safe and environmentally responsible." 

'Extraordinary . . . tremendous . . . extremely . . . everything they need." This is classic cruise CEO gobbledygook by CEO Goldstein. Over-the-top hyperbole in response to softball questions by a cruise friendly interviewer.  

But does CEO Goldstein really want to go back to the "good old days" of cruising 20 to 25 years ago? 

I don't think so.

Was Royal Caribbean and the cruise industry "environmentally responsible" 20 years ago as Goldstein claims?

I don't think so either.

The 1990's were the decade when Royal Caribbean was the environment's absolute worst enemy. Thousands of garbage bags washed ashore on Miami Beach and tar fouled the sandy beaches of South Florida and the Bahamas, while Royal Caribbean dumped waste and emptied its oily bilges from cruise ships sailing the pristine waters here in Key Biscayne to Glacier Bay in Alaska and back.

The Coast Guard caught Royal Caribbean with its bilges open. Environmentalist-from-Miami U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno slammed the dirty cruise line. Royal Caribbean pled guilty to multiple felonies, including lying to the Coast Guard and the U.S. government. Before it was over, the U.S. Department of Justice fined the cruise line a record $27,000,000 and forced Royal Caribbean to admit that it was a corporate felon. 

Has the cruise industry make progress regarding environmental issues as Goldstein tells CNBC?

That's debatable. Just last week we reported on MSC Cruises caught throwing bags of garbage overboard into Brazilian waters. Just today MSC called itself the "Guardians of the Seas" but it won't Carnival Ecstasy Cruise Ship Firetalk about dumping garbage bags overboard.

But lets go back to 20 to 25 years ago, were there Carnival poop cruises back then?

Yes, and worse.

In 1995, the Carnival Tropicale, lost all power and families who brought their children aboard, couples honeymooning, and elderly citizens  bobbed around in the Gulf of Mexico, nauseated. The Carnival passengers endured the same disgusting circumstances as the Triumph.  Then a tropical storm, Roxanne, struck the ship. The cruise from hell turned into a ship of terror when the passenger thought that they were going to die. Carnival offered the traumatized passengers a $40 credit because the ship missed ports in Grand Caymans and Mexico.

Were there other fires and disasters back in the late 1980's and 1990's too? You bet.

Some of the most publicized incidents in the 1990's involved Carnival's Ecstasy (above right). It caught fire in 1996 and again in 1998 shortly after leaving the port of Miami. If the fire had occurred thirty minutes later there would have been no fire boats to extinguish the flames. Local news helicopters from Miami flew to the scene and filmed the burning ship.

The next year, the Carnival Tropicale, caught fire again and the ship was adrift again in the Gulf of Mexico with 1,700 passengers and crew members for two days after the fire disabled the engines. This Oceanos Sinkingincident received national attention, particularly after passengers complained that some crew members did not speak English well enough to provide safety instructions. The New York Times reported on the debacle in an article "Language Barrier Cited In Inquiry Into Ship Fire."

During the ensuing investigation, the captain of the Tropicale testified that he was concerned that the engine room would explode. He kept information about the raging fire from passengers because he worried they might panic and jump overboard, according to the St. Pete Times article "Cruise Captain Feared Panic."

The 1990's began with the captain's abandonment of the sinking Oceanos (right), which made my list as the number 1 worst cruise ship video of all time.  

The 1990's also saw the Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, Jim Hall, calling the cruise lines an "outlaw industry" which suffered from "bad actors." 

The difference between then and now is that the "good old days" of the 1990's did not have Twitter breaking embarrassing cruise news every day, or Facebook and YouTube hosting iPhone images and video of cruise ship disasters, or social media blogs, like this one, providing insight when cruise executives take you back to the past and try and pull the wool over your eyes.  

Top 10 Most Outrageous Cruise Ship Stories of 2013 & the "Worst Cruise Line in the World" Award

Carnival Poop CruiseIt's been a long year for the cruise lines. Cruise ship fires, engine failures and other mishaps have dominated the travel news in 2013. We have written several hundreds of articles this year under our motto: "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know."  

2013 has been the year of the disabled cruise ship. First, we suffered through the 24-hour-a-day CNN coverage of the infamous Carnival Triumph poop cruise. Next came the Carnival Dream, which experienced propulsion problems followed by the Carnival Legend which also experienced propulsion issues attributable to poor maintenance. Then the Carnival Elation and the Carnival-owned P&O Ventura joined the growing list of disabled/impaired cruise ships. It was only mid-March. Carnival's reputation was circling the drain!

The rest of the year saw more of the same. Problems with the Regent Seven Seas Voyager (propulsion), Carnival-owned Crown Princess (sewage), Carnival Ecstasy (propulsion), Royal Grandeur of the SeasCaribbean's Grandeur of the Seas (fire), NCL's Breakaway (loose nuts & broken welds), Royal Caribbean-owned Pullmantur's Zenith (fire causing loss of power), Bimini SuperFast (propulsion), Celebrity Millennium (propulsion), Carnival-owned Sun Princess (propulsion), Carnival-owned Royal Princess (propulsion), Carnival-owned Noordam (fire), Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas (propulsion), Carnival-owned Dawn Princess (fire), MSC Magnifica (allision), Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas (hull repair), Saga Ruby (generator break down), and Celebrity's Constellation (propulsion). 

Wow what a list, but none of the disabled ships made the top 10 list. Luckily, no one was killed or seriously injured in these mishaps.    

So what's the criteria for inclusion on the top 10 list of outrageous cruise stories you may ask? If it makes you spit on the ground, shake your head and stomp your feet in disgust, the story has a chance to make the list. I start with the least outrageous (still pretty outrageous), at number 10, and end with Rebecca Coriam - Disneythe most outrageous at number 1. 

Number 10: Disney and the Bahamas continue to refuse to cooperate with the Coriam family regarding the disappearance of their daughter Rebecca. 

In January, I wrote about a nasty tendency of the cruise industry: Stonewalling at Sea - Cruise Lines Continue to Cover Up Disappearances on the High Seas. This involved crew member Rebecca Coriam who disappeared from the Disney Wonder. Disney continues to refuse to provide meaningful information to the Coriam family about what happened to Rebecca, who was age 24 when she vanished. Although Disney's legal and security departments conducted investigations, Disney deflects questions about the mystery off to the flag state of the Bahamas. The Bahamas sent one police officer from Nassau (Officer Rolle, more about him below) to Los Angeles to conduct what everyone now agrees was a Coriam Family - DisneyMicky Mouse "investigation." The Bahamas refuses to provide information to the grieving Coriam family (photo right). Why? To avoid embarrassing Disney it seems. Watch the video

The alleged cover-up by Disney and the Bahamas is, in my view, a chilling insight into the sinister nature of the cruise industry. Disney promises a fun filled family vacation, until a crime occurs or a person goes overboard. Then the floating Magic Kingdom becomes your worst nightmare in my opinion. Undaunted, the Coriam family created an international maritime victim's website to assist other families.  

Number 9: 55 Celebrity cruise passengers robbed at gunpoint in St. Lucia.

Yes, crime and armed robbery during cruise excursions happen, although the cruise lines and travel agents hate to talk about it. Robbery at gun point of cruise passengers of their Rolexes, iPhones, cameras and cash in the Caribbean and Mexico is increasing. The cruise lines and local tourism bureaus deny it, but they're usually lying. The most dangerous port of call?  Nassau, without a doubt. St. Lucia RobberyWe've written about murder, robbery, purse snatching, and rape of tourists, in addition to the usual drug solicitations. Read a compilation of crimes against tourists here. Read this local Bahamian man's view of crime in the islands, published just today. The local police in Nassau can't even keep the teenage girls sailing from Miami safe while walking back to the ships from Senor Frogs. And this place is in charge of flag state investigations into missing persons and ship fires regarding cruise ships flying the flag of the Bahamas?      

Number 8: Royal Caribbean cuts pay, increases work, takes crew tips, and axes 100 (mostly women) employee from its corporate headquarters. 

This was a year where cruise executives' greed reached a zenith. And Royal Caribbean led the way.  It took away cash tips direct-to-the-crew, ripped off a percentage of the tips, decreased pay of officers, staff YouTube Banned Video - Royal Caribbean  & crew, increased work, and fired over a 100 (mostly women) jobs from its corporate headquarters. When a popular YouTube video "Screw the Crew" revealed the tip-snatching scam, the cruise line banned the video. No one can abuse its crew better than Royal Caribbean, except maybe Carnival (discussed below).    

Number 7: Cruise Industry ignores man overboard safety law.

In 2010, President Obama signed the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act into law. It became effective in 2012. Cruise lines are Man Overboard - Cruise Shiprequired to install state of the art technology to respond immediately to persons going overboard. The technology exists. But except for one or perhaps two cruise lines, the cruise industry refuses to comply with the law. Passengers and crew, who could be quickly rescued, die because of the cruise industry's lawlessness. The non-compliance by the non-tax paying foreign flagged cruise industry also causes the U.S. Coast Guard to spend millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars in unnecessarily-wide search and rescues which are rarely successful. Making matters worse is the cruise industry's substantial under-reporting of persons overboard. With a few million dollars spent lobbying Congress and federal agencies like the Coast Guard and the FBI, the cruise industry can do, or not do, pretty much anything it wants.   

Number 6: Breaking news - Celebrity crew member sentenced to 8 years in prison for child pornography. 

Two days ago, a Celebrity crew member was sentenced to 8 years in jail for child porn. Here's the full Celebrity Cruise Ship Crew Member - Child Pornstory. I'm tired of these perverts. In April a 15 year old boy was sexually assaulted on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas. In May, a Royal Caribbean passenger was sentenced to jail for transporting thousands of child pornography photos and videos on the Monarch of the Seas from Port Canaveral. No it's not rare. In the same month, a woman on her 17th cruise encountered a man stalking her and masterbating. She says Royal Caribbean could of cared less. Earlier this year, I wrote about Sexual Perverts & Pedophiles on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships. Some say that sexual crimes and weirdos are everywhere and such incidents are not limited to cruise ships. They're right. Don't believe the cruise lines for a second when they say their ships are super safe. Lesson to be learned: Watch your kids. 

Number 5: Cruise industry teams up with retired Coast Guard officials and uses official Coast Guard logo to sell cruises. 

What do you do when you are a Rear-Admiral and ready to retire? Go into business with the cruise industry as a consultant. Write editorials praising the cruise lines. Leave glowing comments whenever Coast Guard Consultants for Cruise IndustryCLIA CEO Christine Duffy writes an article praising the cruise lines. When cruise ships begin to ignite to the right and left of you, tell the public that cruising is the safest and most regulated form of transportation. Be sure to say that you and your family love to cruise all of the time.  Use photos of yourself still wearing your uniform and medals. Use the official logo of your former federal agency you no longer work for. No one will know the difference. But whatever you do, don't admit that you work for CLIA. Don't explain that the Splendor and the Triumph cruise ships both caught on fire the day or two after the so-called "rigorous" Coast Guard inspections.  

Don't worry that the Coast Guard will protest your unauthorized use of federal uniforms and official logos. That's because everyone at the Coast Guard will eventually end up working for the cruise lines too.   

Number 4: Carnival fleeces its crew members and insulates itself from liability.

Carnival's outrageous conduct this year has not been limited to the Triumph poop cruise. It terminated Micky Arison - Carnivalits crew members' retirement program leaving many of its crew, particularly its loyal Filipinos, feeling betrayed. Its brands dipped into the crew's tips. The crew can't protest, because they will be fired and black-balled.  Carnival has spent millions lobbying Congress for favorable legislation which insulates itself from legal and financial liability when crew members (as well as passengers) are seriously injured or killed on its cruise ships. Carnival's brands, like Princess, also over-work their crew and subject them to grueling hours. Carnival pays no U.S. taxes.

Meanwhile Carnival Chairman Micky Arison is one of the richest persons in Florida worth well over $5,000,000,000. 

Number 3: Royal Caribbean ship doctor evades jurisdiction after allegedly maiming an ill passenger. 

A ship doctor employed on Oasis of the Seas allegedly commits gross malpractice on an ill passenger leading to sepsis, Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Doctormultiple organ failure and cerebral hemorrhage. Think that the cruise line will be responsible for the doctors who are officers on the ship, wear cruise line uniforms and work in the cruise ship infirmaries? Think again. The cruise line and the doctor reportedly tell the patient that its impossible to arrange for a medevac helicopter from the Coast Guard. They neglect the poor woman and cruise on to Mexico. This case makes me sick.

November 11, 2014 Update: Breaking News! Cruise passengers are now permitted to sue the cruise lines for medical negligence. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that cruise lines are no longer permitted to assert an "immunity defense" when their ship doctors and nurses commit medical malpractice. Read: 11th Circuit Rejects Cruise Lines' Immunity Defense to Medical Malpractice Claims. Contact us for further information.

Number 2: Silver Shadow fails sanitation inspection after caught hiding trolleys of meat, fish, ham, and cheese in crew quarters.  

We always knew that cruise lines played hide-the-ball games with the USPH inspectors, but haughty Silversea Cruises was particularly good at it. Crew members complained to us about the hide-the-food-from-the-inspectors games so we wrote to Silversea for an explanation. It ignored Silversea Cruises USPH Violationus. So we wrote about it. Silversea ignored us again. So we wrote about it again and posted photographs. Then we pitched the story to CNN which broadcast the disgusting story to a national audience in a well produced video.

For a high-brow cruise line to be both reckless and arrogant is a bad combination.

Number 1: Disney sails a crime scene and sexual predator out of a U.S. port to Nassau and flys the pervert employee home to India.

A 33 year old waiter from India brazenly follows an 11 year old girl out of the dining room and into an elevator where he kisses the child and gropes her breast. The little girl tells her grandmother who immediately reports the crime to ship security. But Disney doesn't promptly report it to the local port police in Port Canaveral, or the Brevard County police or sheriff's office, or the FBI.  Disney instead sails the ship, and the assailant and the crime scene, out of U.S. waters to Nassau, Bahamas. Even though the Bahamas is the flag state for the Disney Dream and is required to investigate crimes on Bahamian-flagged ships, Disney Cruise Line - Pervert Crew Memberthe Bahamas declines to make an arrest or prosecute. Law enforcement and prosecutors back in Florida are outraged. Disney says it did nothing wrong. You can read articles, see photos and watch video about the incident here, here, here, here, and here

Who was the police officer in Nassau who let the criminal go free? No one other than Officer Rolle. Remember him? He was responsible for botching the investigation into the disappearance of Disney crew member Rebecca Coriam who we mentioned in outrageous moment number 10 (above). What a fellow. He hides his report from the grieving family about a Disney employee lost at sea and lets the Disney child pervert go free. Yes, its a small and nasty little cruise world, isn't it?

Worst Cruise Line in the Word:

If your child vanishes on the high seas or is assaulted during a cruise, the cruise lines may be your worst enemy. They may help the assailant escape justice. They certainly don't think that they have any Disney Cruise Line - Worst Cruise Line in the Worldobligation to release any information to you. Disney hides behind the foreign-flag scheme of the indifferent and incompetent Bahamas. Disney, it seems to me, is complicit in the conspiracy to deceive the public. It's a dishonest, secretive, and rotten system.

Who gets the trophy for the "Worst Cruise Line in the World" for 2013? Disney and its magical cruise ships. Carnival may have dominated the popular cruise news with its endless poop cruise, but no one comes close to the outrageous conduct demonstrated by Disney this year. 

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

 

Photo credits: Grandeur of the Seas - abcactionnews.com; Coriam family - Daiy Mail; cruise passengers robbed in St. Lucia - DBS TV St. Lucia via the Times; Carnival Chairman Micky Arison - Forbes; man overboard - CruelKev2's blog; retired Coast Guard official - Travel Weekly and Darley Consulting; Royal Caribbean ship doctor - LinkedIn; Disney - WKMG Local 6 Orlando.

Viking Line's M/S Amorella Strikes Rocks & Limps to Port

Bloomberg News reports that Viking Line's M/S Amorella passenger ferry lost power and ran aground in the Aaland archipelago southwest of Finland.

According to the ferry company's website, the ship carried 1,945 (with capacity of 2,400) but no one was injured and the passengers will remain on the vessel which will continue its voyage to Mariehamn. 

M/S Amorella was en route to Stockholm from Turku, when it hit rocks at Julgrund, outside of Foegloe, at 12:40 p.m. today.

The vessel was built 25 years ago in 1988 in Split, Croatia. 

Viking Line Amorella

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Jonas Bergsten

Globalization at Work? Royal Caribbean's U.K. Call Center Outsourced to Guatemala

Cruise line loyalty to employees seems like it's at an all-time low.

Yesterday we reported that Carnival Cruise Lines unceremoniously ended its retirement benefit program for its crew members on its 24 cruise ships, leaving them feeling shocked and betrayed.

There is always a cheaper way of doing things, isn't there?

It seems like many cruise executives spend most of their time scheming on how to increase profits by laying off employees and then looking to Cruise Line Call Center - Royal Caribbean - Guatemalathird world countries for cheaper labor.

Travel Weekly reports today that the new UK and Ireland managing director of Royal Caribbean International is trying to reassure agents about the outsourcing of its UK call center to Guatemala.

Stuart Leven told Travel Weekly that Royal Caribbean was busy training the new Guatemalan call center staff and he would soon visit the Central American center.  

Travel Mole reported earlier that Royal Caribbean planned to shrink its UK and Ireland guest and trade services center with the loss of up to 100 jobs. The center for Royal Caribbean, currently based in in Surrey, will be operated in Guatemala.

I suppose that this is an integral part of the "globalization" of the industry. Money saved yes, at the expense of terminating loyal employees. Not to mention running the risk of demoralizing the remaining staff and offering substandard services.

I hope the sales office in Guatemala works better than the service center in India I have to call when I'm having a computer problem.

 

Photo Image Credit: The Guardian

Over Past 5 Years, Carnival Paid Taxes of Only 0.6% on Billions & Billions

Last night NBC Rock Center with Brian Williams aired a special on Carnival CEO Micky Arison who has a net worth reportedly of around $5,700,000,000.

One of the secrets to Arison's wealth is that his cruise line, Carnival, according to NBC News, paid around 0.6% in taxes at the federal, state, local and international levels over the past 5 years. That's less than 1% tax on all of the billions and billions in revenues collected from U.S. tax-paying citizens. 

Plus Carnival does not pay for the services provided by the U.S. federal agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard or the U.S.Navy for responding to disasters at sea which disable Carnival cruise ships.

You can watch the video below produced by Tom Bettag and interviews by Harry Smith: 

 

 

Is Cruise Line Public Relations the Hardest Job Around?

I have always wondered how the cruise industry PR people do it.  

They face non-stop bad cruise news. The Splendor fire. The Concordia deaths. The Allegra fire.  The Triumph fire.  Plus another 10 cruise ship fires, 50 norovirus outbreaks and more shipboard rapes than you can count in just 3 years.

Yet, the cruise line public relations employees put their happy faces on and pull out their talking points. Cruise ship fires, crimes, deaths and disappearances are "rare" they say. Cruising is "absolutely" safe they promise. The safety of passenger is the cruise industry's highest priority, they proclaim. 

Cruise Lines PRBut fewer and fewer people seem to believe the cruise lines shtick. 

The usually friendly-to-the-cruise-lines reporters at the Miami Herald are even writing some articles that suggest that cruising may be suffering an image problem.

The Herald just published "Americans Think Less of Cruising after Carnival Triumph Fire, Poll Says."  A Harris Poll of 2,230 adults showed that "trust" and "perceived quality" of Carnival and other cruise lines dropped "significantly."

According to the poll, 58 percent of people who have never taken a cruise say they are less likely to try one now than they were a year ago. 

On the same day the poll was released, Forbes announced that Carnival CEO Micky Arison's fortunes increased one billion dollars last year, from $4.7 billion to $5.7 billion.

With all of Carnival's deferred maintenance of its cruise ships, exploitation of its crew members, refusal to reimburse the U.S. federal government for Coast Guard expenses in responding to disabled ships, and avoidance of U.S. corporate taxes by registering itself in Panama, how do the cruise PR representatives spin the news today of cruise tycoon Arison's enormous wealth?

 

Image Credit:  A Bruising For Cruising  (NetBase)

Royal Caribbean Reports $392,800,000 Loss for Last Quarter

The Associated Press reports that cruise giant Royal Caribbean lost $392.8 million in the fourth quarter because of losses associated with its Spanish cruise line, Pullmantur.

The AP states that Royal Caribbean wrote down $413,900,000 due to a substantial drop in bookings and prices in Spain following the Spanish government’s austerity measures. Royal Caribbean also blamed its losses on the Costa Concordia disaster a year ago.

Royal Caribbean had a profit of $36.6 million during the same quarter a year ago. 

In December we reported that Royal Caribbean's top executive Richard Fain bailed on out on a large block of cruise line stock.

In December 2012, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard Fain sold 143,140 shares of RCL stock for $4,964,095.  

Fain followed up by exercising options and selling 188,443 shares for $6,535,203, for a total of around $11,500,000.  

$11,500,000 in cash in your pocket and 6 weeks later your cruise line posts a loss of over $392,000,000. Goes to show you that cruise line executives have fun making millions hand over fist regardless of how the company performs.

Video below is of CEO Fain on one of the Royal Caribbean FlowRiders (via RCCL YouTube).

 

No Jury Trial For Seriously Injured Dancer Aboard HAL's Oosterdam

Courthouse News Service reports on a case involving a crew member from Canada who was employed aboard a Holland America Line (HAL) cruise ship.

The Canadian crew member, employed on the Oosterdam cruise ship as a dancer, suffered a serious career-ending injury, but is being denied the right to take his case before a jury.

Courthouse News states that the case involves Anthony Yuzwa who was a talented dancer. He graduated from the Canadian College of Performing Arts, worked for the Burlington School of Dance, Oosterdam Cruise Ship - Holland america Lineand appeared on Canadian television. While performing on the Oosterdam earlier this year, a stage lift collapsed and crushed Yuzwa's right foot, resulting in the amputation of two of his toes and parts of others.

He filed suit against HAL as well as a company which hired him to work aboard the cruise ship. Under the General Maritime Law of the U.S. and the Jones Act which was enacted in 1920, injured crew members - even if they are not U.S. citizens - are permitted to bring their legal disputes before U.S. juries and seek a wide range of remedies against their maritime employers and the owner and operator of the vessel. The cruise lines, however, have increasingly been inserting terms in the employment contracts requiring crew members to submit their claims to "arbitration."

Arbitration is a procedure which strips crew members of their right to trial by jury.  Cruise lines prefer arbitration because they believe that compensation awarded to injured crew members will be substantially less and the chances of defeating the crew member will be substantially greater. Arbitration also limits the ability of crew members to engage in discovery of the cruise line's wrongdoing.

The defendants in Yuzwa"s lawsuit responded by moving to dismiss his law suit, which you can read here, and compel him to arbitrate his case in Canada without a jury.  HAL subsequently stipulated that the arbitration could take place in Los Angeles with U.S. law applying but without a jury.

The U.S. federal judge agreed with HAL's argument and compelled Yuzwa to attend arbitration rather than a jury trial. You can read the judge's decision here.

Injured crew members should anticipate that most cruise lines will respond to lawsuits by arguing that the cases should be decided through arbitration.

Although the arbitration awards may generally be considered to be lower than what could be obtained during jury trials, it may be possible to obtain significant compensation for significant injuries. Our firm obtained the highest award in an arbitration case on behalf of an injured crew member.  Read: Walker & O'Neill Featured in Top Verdicts and Settlements" for $1,250,000 Verdict for Injured Crewmember Against Royal Caribbean

You can read about the issue of arbitration of crew member cases in these articles:

Arbitration of Cruise Line Crewmember Cases

Lindo v. NCL: Crewmembers Lose Rights As Harsh Cruise Arbitration Decisions Continue

 

Photo credit: Sebastian Wessels / Wikipedia

Cruise Line International Association Gobbles Up Smaller Cruise Associations

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) announced today that eight cruise line groups have agreed to be merged with CLIA in order to operate under a common organization.    

The associations are the European Cruise Council (ECC), Asia Cruise Association (ACA), Passenger Shipping Association (PSA/ACE), France's AFCC, Brazil's ABREMAR, Northwest and Canada Cruise Association (NWCCA), Alaska Cruise Association (ACA), and International Cruise Council Australasia (ICCA).

CLIA will be governed by what it is calling a "Global Executive Committee," chaired by Carnival Corporation Chief Operating Officer Howard Frank.

Christine Duffy will continue as the President and CEO of CLIA.

Cruise Line International AssociationThe new CLIA global organization will represent the cruise industry at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) based in London, and the International Labour Organization in Geneva.

The CLIA press release is silent regarding what new member lines will be joining CLIA.

In my view, the consolidation of these smaller cruise groups under the CLIA umbrella will strengthen South Florida-based CLIA's lobbying efforts world-wide and also infuse CLIA with additional money from the additional cruise line members. It may also help CLIA deal with critics of the cruise industry's environmental practices, cruise ship crime issues, and exploitation of cruise employees.

The inclusion of these various cruise organization under one roof is the natural evolution of the multi-national cruise lines increasing their control of the international cruise industry. 

Is CLIA CEO Christine Duffy Really Ready For Twitter?

Today the cruise Industry trade organization, Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), sent out a press release announcing that its CEO, Christine Duffy, now has a Twitter account: @CLIACEO 

I could not help but think, oh boy is this going to be fun.  

Ms. Duffy began her tenure at the helm of CLIA in January of last year.  She started her employment with a bang when she answered some friendly questions from a travel magazine about lobbying Congress for the cruise lines. Somehow she managed to criticize the U.S. automobile industry while trying to promote the cruise lines.  Listen to this whopper:  

CLIA CEO Christine Duffy - Cruise Line International AssociationPart of the message we delivered in D.C. is that the travel industry employs more people than the auto industry, and we didn’t get a bailout. We employ a lot more people than anybody recognized, and our impact is in all 50 states. We’re not going to offshore our jobs . . .

The fact of the matter is that all of the CLIA cruise lines are foreign corporations. Unlike Ford or Chevrolet which are U.S. corporations and employ U.S. employees, the CLIA cruise lines are 100% foreign corporations. Carnival was incorporated in Panama. Royal Caribbean was incorporated in Liberia (yes, Africa). And all of these cruise lines fly the flags of foreign countries like Panama, Liberia, Bermuda and the Bahamas.

By registering their companies and cruise ships overseas to avoid U.S. labor, wage and safety laws, the foreign cruise lines also avoid U.S. income taxes. The $35,000,000,000 (billion) cruise industry pays virtually no U.S. Federal income taxes. If the cruise lines were required to pay U.S. taxes, they would pay over $10,000,000,000 a year. The cruise industry receives a $10 billion bailout each year, year after year.

But that's not all. All of the cruise ships are manufactured and constructed in foreign shipyards, in Italy, Norway or France. And 99.9% of the officers and crew members (except some U.S. dancers, singers and an occasional assistant cruise director) are from "overseas." No U.S. workers are going to work 360 hours a month for around $545 like the incredibly hard working utility cleaners from India, Central America and the Caribbean islands.

The cruise industry is the most outsourced, non-U.S. industry in America. The industry is built on the business model of tax-paying U.S. citizens paying their hard earned wages to the foreign corporation cruise lines who pay no taxes to the U.S. 

This year, at a hearing in the U.S. Senate about cruise safety issues following the Costa Concordia disaster, Senator Rockefeller questioned Ms. Duffy's honesty when she testified about the cruise industry's failure to pay U.S. taxes.

A happy faced former travel agent, Ms. Duffy knows the importance of staying upbeat while selling cruise tickets. But the question remains whether she has the gravitas to actually discuss important issues regarding the safety of the cruising public.

Will Ms. Duffy use Twitter as just a PR platform to repeat the CLIA talking points laid out by the cruise line public relations experts and cruise lobbyists ( "cruising is safe . . . the security of our guests is CLIA's number one priority") or will she will actually engage the public and answer some tough questions about crime on cruise ships, sexual abuse of minors, and working conditions of the predominately non-U.S. crew members.

What will Ms. Duffy do when she receives a tweet from a mother whose daughter was served alcohol and taken to a crew member's cabin, or a father whose daughter disappeared overboard from a cruise ship, or a widow whose husband experienced a heart attack and was then dumped on a Caribbean island?    

My prediction?  Ms. Duffy will tweet happy gobbledygook carefully vetted by CLIA's PR consultants. She will chit chat with travel agents. But she will ignore the cries of those families who suffered death or injury.  She will avoid all spontaneous and genuine discussions of real issues. She will religiously avoid making direct comments about cruise ship fires, sinkings, deaths, disappearances, crimes and norovirus outbreaks.

And when the next disaster strikes the cruise industry, Ms. Duffy's Twitter account will go silent.    

 

Interested in other articles about CLIA?  Consider reading:

@CruiseFacts - Cruise Line Pravda

Six Lies The Cruise Lines Will Tell You After The Costa Concordia Crash

Did Cruise Line International President Christine Duffy Lie to Congress?

Profits Over People: Carnival's Exploitation of Crew Members is Standard Industry Practice

A dozen newspapers in the U.K. have reported on P&O Cruises' decision to pay its crewmembers a basic salary of 75 pence an hour (around $1.20 an hour) which turns out to be approximately $400 a month. Cash tips are being phased out with automatic gratuities being added to the passengers' bills. But rather than forwarding the passengers tips to the crew, the cruise line has threatened to withhold tips if the crewmember's rating falls below 92 percent.

In grade school, a 92 is an "A-."  So if a waiter who works a minimum of 11-12 hours a day (330-360 hours a month) receives a 91 (a "B+"?), management will pocket the tips?  

The Guardian newspaper reports that P&O Cruises justifies the move claiming that it is actually "good" for the crewmembers because many tourists don't tip.  It quotes David Dingle, CEO of Carnival UK, in charge of P&O cruise lines, saying that the crew were allegedly "much happier" and P&O's pay scale is "standard for the industry."

Some passengers reported that many of the crewmembers on a P&O cruise ship, mostly Indians, were India - Impoverished Crew - Exploitationat the point of tears upon hearing the news.

Carnival U.K. CEO Dingle tells the Guardian that "we have a manning office in Mumbai. There are queues out on to the street."  Ah, the desperate lining up, praying that Mr. Dingle will bestow them with the opportunity to work 350 hours a month for $400.

This no reason to exploit people.  But it is a revealing insight into why Carnival and P&O exploit their employees. They can and therefore they will. 

The U.N. reports that over 410,000,000 people from India are living below the poverty level.

Dingle is also right about low pay being what he calls "standard for the industry."

Carnival and Royal Caribbean in the U.S. pay cleaners from Jamaica as little as $545 a month. They expect them to grind out 12 hours days for 6 to 8 months straight.  For a 31-day-month, that's 372 hours for $545, less than $1.50 an hour.  And when the crewmembers' bodies break, the cruise lines dump them back home without medical care and treatment. 

Corporate Watch has an interesting article which characterizes the low P&O pay as shameful.  Fares for the Carnival Legend range between $2,798 and $6,458 per passenger for a 12 day cruise around northern Europe. Yet, P&O workers would need to work for 500 days straight to pay for a cruise themselves, assuming that they did not spend a single penny of their wages.

Carnival Corporation has annual revenues of $15.8 billion in 2011 and profits of $2.2 billion.  Micky Arison is Florida's richest person with a net worth of many billions.  But Arison is no Gandhi.  You will find him counting his billions on his 200' super-yacht or on the front row of the AA arena in Miami watching his hundred million dollar super-star basketball players.  Trust me, he's not worried about Indian waiters getting their tips.   

I can't imagine working 350 hours a month for $400, hoping that the guests I slaved away for would reward me a score higher than a 92.  An "A" or no tip?  You would think that a company earning billions a year (tax free to boot) wouldn't jack up a crew member for $150 in tips. But there is no satisfying this type of corporate greed.   

But who cares?  There are many young Indian men in line at the hiring agency in Mumbai hoping to be the next one to be hired to work aboard a P&O cruise ship.  

A Parent's Worst Nightmare - Disappearance Of Disney Crew Member Rebecca Coriam

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of the disappearance of youth counselor Rebecca Coriam from the Disney Wonder cruise ship.  

BBC News published an article which summed up the problems caused when a cruise line like Disney chooses to fly a flag of convenience in a country like the Bahamas.  You can read the article here

A press release with video is here.

Our last article about Rebecca's disappearance is here.

Watch a dateline video from Australia about Rebecca's disappearance below:   

   

 

If you have information about Rebecca's disappearance, please contact us and / or the Coriam family using the contact information below.  We are interested in hearing from former employees of Disney Cruise Lines, particularly youth counselors who used to work aboard the Disney Wonder

Jim Walker:

Telephone:  305 995 5300

Toll Free:  800 256 1518

Email:  jim@cruiselaw.com

Coriam family:

Telephone: 011 44 774 735 9968

Email:  help@rebecce-coriam.com 

Miami Herald Continues to Publish Puff Pieces for Its Cruise Line Friends

Let me place my biases front and center.

I am no fan of the Miami Herald.  it's beholden to the cruise industry which pays it for cruise advertising ads.  The Herald's "business" editor, Jane Wooldridge, is the former travel editor for the newspaper. Although she graduated with me from Duke in 1980, she is at the opposite of the spectrum.  She unabashedly praises the cruise lines whether they are right or wrong.  

I have written some unflattering articles about both the Miami Herald and Ms. Wooldridge which you can read here, here and here.

Micky Arison - carnival CEO - Costa Concordia and AllegraUnlike the L.A. Times, the New York Times, or other newspapers with some sense of investigative journalism and professional integrity, the Miami Herald is a journalistic mistress to the Miami-based cruise lines.

So it was no surprise to me that when Carnival CEO Micky Arison decided to give his first interview after the Costa Concordia disaster, he picked his friends at the Miami Herald.  They were happy to offer up some softball questions for Mr. Arison for him to pitch the cruise industry's talking points.

Arison and the Carnival president Howard Frank touted the wonderful safety record of its subsidiary Costa, saying such unchallenged drivel as: "we as a company do everything we can to encourage the highest safety standards."

Arison whined: “No matter what I would’ve done, I think I would’ve been criticized.” 

He touted Carnival as offering a "great vacation value, a great product, a safe product at a fantastic price.”

The assessment by Arison's next in command Howard Frank was more of the same, referring to Costa as a "great company and a great brand, with a terrific management team and with a great future."

Today, the cheer-leading by the Miami Herald continues in its article "Getting the Cruise Industry Back on Course."

The Herald touched on the recent troubles afflicting the Costa brand with the capsizing of the Costa Concordia and the fire aboard the Costa Allegra, as well as cruise over-boards and norovirus cases. However, it was careful to call upon cruise line executives and cruise lines fans to place the cruise into Carolyn Spencer Brown - Cruise Line Shill  a positive light.

The article calls upon the usual cruise line shills like Carolyn Spencer Brown, who recently wrote an article for Conde' Nast Traveler.  She falsely represented that no one died on the latest Carnival cruise ships which caught on fire - read my open letter to Ms. Spencer-Brown for the truth - and she blamed the parents of a 16 year old girl who was the fancy of a NCL pedophile child porno collector assistant cruise director in a stairwell of the cruise ship.

The Herald was careful not to include any survivors of the Concordia disaster, representatives of victim organizations or neutral experts to comment on the nasty state of affairs of the cruise industry.

Did Cruise Line International President Christine Duffy Lie to Congress?

Congressional Cruise Safety HearingThe first blog I wrote when I started Cruise Law News three years ago was about the Death On The High Seas Act ("DOHSA").  It was called "Death On The High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years."

Under this archaic law, families who have lost a loved one on the high seas due to the negligence of the shipping company are entitled to recover only the lost wages and burial expenses of the decedent.  In cases where the dead passenger is a child or a retired grandfather or grandmother, and hence no wages to be recovered, the recovery is limited to funeral expenses.  There is no entitlement to the decedent's pre-death pain and suffering or the sadness, bereavement and mental anguish of the surviving family members.  

The current status of DOHSA provides no financial incentive for the cruise lines to improve their operations to make cruising reasonably safe for the traveling public.  I have written a number of articles about DOHSA over the years, including "If a Cruise Line Drops Your Grandmother in the Ocean, Don't Expect Any Compensation." 

Cruise lines love DOHSA.  Even when a cruise line is clearly negligent or even acts recklessly, there is no accountability when that negligent or reckless conduct kills a child or elderly passenger.

The cruise lines and their trade organization, Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), have spent millions lobbying Congress to kill efforts to amend the law to include additional remedies. Two years ago, when victim groups were getting close to amending DOSHA, CLIA and its lobbyists went into overdrive and killed the amendment.

Tandy Bondi and Christine DuffyTake a moment and read: "Cruise Industry Lobbies Congress To Kill Amendment To Death On High Seas Act." 

You can read about how Alcalde & Fay lobbyists, including Tandy Bondi, met with Congressmen and Congresswomen to derail efforts to amend DOHSA back in 2010.

The issue of DOHSA came back into the news last week during the Congressional cruise safety hearings.  

Congresswoman Mazie Hirono of Hawaii raised the issue why families have virtually no legal remedies when they lose a family member during a cruise, but enjoy the full range of remedies if the accident occurs in an automobile or airplane.  She asked the cruise line panel whether they thought this was fair.

Congresswoman Hirono asked CLIA's President and CEO Christine Duffy to answer first.  Ms. Duffy was unprepared for the question and initially did not respond.  Everyone in the hearing room knew that CLIA was absolutely against amending DOHSA, and that the victims groups, like the International Cruise Victims (ICV), were absolutely for the amendment.

But instead of answering honestly before the C-Span audience, Ms. Duffy hemmed and hawed and tried to deflect the question by saying "I'm not a lawyer."  But right next to her was the CLIA lawyer Michael Crye and behind her was maritime lawyer Bradley Rose who is CLIA's outside legal counsel. These lawyers were key players for CLIA in submitting a position paper to Congress against revising DOHSA.  Lawyers Crye and Rose just watched Ms. Duffy squirm.   

Sitting close to CLIA's lawyers were the CLIA's lobbyists, including Tandy Bondi (photo above left, chatting with Ms. Duffy right before the hearing).  Ms. Bondi, you will recall, was one of the main lobbyists who helped CLIA kill the DOHSA amendments just two years ago.            

Ms. Duffy knew good and well that CLIA opposed changing DOHSA.  But instead of choosing to be transparent, she chose the gobbledygook I'm-not-a-lawyer non-response.  She had just testified at length about how international laws, flag state laws and U.S. laws supposedly regulate the cruise industry, but now she was no longer competent to give an opinion about an unfair law that screws U.S. cruise passengers.

None of the other cruise line representatives at the hearing would answer the question either.

 

Photos credits:  Jim Walker

Cruise Industry Accountability Back in the Spotlight: U.S. House and Senate to Hold Hearings on Cruise Ship Safety

Cruise Ship Safety HearingsThe U.S. House and Senate have scheduled hearings for February 29 and March 1, 2012 to address whether the cruise industry has taken adequate steps to protect cruise passengers and comply with newly enacted laws designed to make cruising safer.

A series of events prompted the Congressional hearings.  

First, and most obvious, is the Costa Concordia disaster.  There is not much debate that the cruise ship engaged in a reckless maneuver of showboating near the rocks of Giglio - apparently with the blessing of the cruise line - which endangered the lives of thousands of passengers who were further imperiled by the irresponsibility of the vessel's officers and the disorganization of its crew.  Chaos and confusion caused by a cowardly to-hell-with-the women-and-children captain who managed to place his mistress in one of the first lifeboats to safety.

17 dead and 15 missing are the result. 

Only after these deaths did the public learn that the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which is suppose to oversee the cruise lines, did not even require lifeboat drills before the departure of ships from port.  So much for the "stringent requirements" of this toothless United Nations' maritime fraternity. This is the madness which results when cruise lines are left to their own devices.

Secondly, and equally importantly, is the failure of the cruise lines, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Coast Guard to comply with the newly enacted Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.

The new cruise safety law was designed to require the cruise lines to do things as simple as bore peepholes in passenger doors, and to have at least one crewmember certified in crime scene preservation.  The Coast Guard was required to post accurate crime statistics on a web page based on crimes reported to the FBI.  The purpose of the crime statistics was for the public to finally see truthful crime statistics of the thefts, homicides, suspicious deaths, assaults and sexual assaults which occur during cruises. 

The cruise lines have failed to comply with many aspects of the new law.

This year alone I have seen a cruise line destroy evidence more thoroughly and brazenly than I have ever seen; refuse to release a rape victim's medical records to the victim as required by law; and refuse to report crimes in a timely and accurate manner.

The reporting system in place by the FBI and Coast Guard is a joke.  Over the years we have obtained (through court orders) lists of rapes on cruise ships.  We know that cruise lines historically have over 100 sexual assaults a year, in addition to thefts, disappearances suggesting foul play and physical assaults. But take a look at the FBI / Coast Guard on-line report of the last quarter of 2011 here - only 3 sexual assaults and not one single theft, physical assault, homicide or suspicious death for the entire cruise industry!  

The problem is that the FBI is disinterested in involving itself in shipboard rapes, disappearances and murders and is leaving the dirty work to the cruise line security to investigate the crimes.  But there is an inherent conflict of interest in delegating law enforcement duties to the cruise ship's security officers who have already failed the cruise passengers. One of our clients was raped by a security guard.  Do you think the cruise line security department is going to build a case against one of their own?  The bottom line is that many cruise crimes remain unreported by the cruise lines or not investigated by the FBI.

The problem is compounded by the fact that the FBI does not report crimes to the Coast Guard database whenever there is an open file.  One thing that the FBI is good at is keeping its investigations open, even if there are no investigations ongoing.  The Department of Justice rarely prosecutes cases after FBI investigations.  

The International Cruise Victims (ICV) has worked hard over the past 6 years to bring the new cruise safety law into effect.  Our firm has attended 5 Congressional hearings since 2005, 4 in the House and 1 in the Senate, before the new law came into effect.  We have seen the dedication of the ICV members over the years.  One of our clients, Laurie Dishman, has traveled to Washington over 30 times to lobby Congress for a law to protect the cruising public.  

Cruise ShipsIts a real shame that the goals of the new legislation - greater accountability and transparency of the cruise lines and greater safety of passengers in the process - are being subverted by the cozy relationship between the self-regulating cruise industry and the FBI which has little interest in investigating cruise ship rapes.

So far, the entire cruise industry has refused to commit to send one single cruise line president or CEO to attend the cruise hearings at the end of this month.  Instead the cruise industry will send Christine Duffy, the president of the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), who has been giving talking points on how to sell cruise tickets to travel agents by overcoming customer fears about cruising following the Costa Concordia debacle.

We will hear about how wonderful cruising is and how the safety of the passengers is the cruise industry's highest priority.  Ms. Duffy will make these remarks while 2 Americans and 13 other passengers from other nations remain trapped dead in the sarcophagus of the Costa Concordia.    

Hopefully the House and Senate will see through this happy talk.

The Concordia crash should be a wake up call that this is a self-regulating industry which needs a tight rein.  The cruise line / FBI / Coast Guard reporting system is a failure.  Congress needs to take a hard look at the cruise industry and the federal agencies which are making a mockery of the cruise safety law. 

Costa Concordia & Cruise Mayhem Keeps Social Media Abuzz

The Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster fueled not only significant coverage by international newspapers and cable news programs, but also spawned an unprecedented look at the cruise industry by part-time bloggers and recreational twitter & facebook users.  

I use a Twitter application called "TweetDeck" (photo below left) where I follow certain terms like "Costa Concordia" and hashtags like #Costa to stay ahead of this latest cruise disaster story.  The number of posts about the Costa crash has been phenomenal since the Friday the 13th of January disaster.  There remains a steady stream of links - particularly from Italy which remains fascinated Cruise Ship Social Media by the drama created by Captain Schettino and his spectacular destruction of the $500 million Costa cruise ship. 

The coverage of the Costa incident has spilled over into larger issues.

Professional journalists and small-time bloggers have now taken a closer, and harsher, look at the cruise industry as a whole.

Recent cruise events have given the media a lot to consider.  For an industry who likes to claim that disasters, deaths, crimes and sickness on cruise ships are "rare," a mind-boggling number of mishaps and bad press have placed cruise lines in an unfavorable light just this year alone.

Just take a moment and look at our archive of stories from last month here.  

Multiple rapes, molestation of children, suicides, over-boards, deaths, medical malpractice, a grounding of an Italian cruise ship (not the Concordia), NBC and ABC 20/20 cruise exposes which infuriated cruise fans and travel agents, tons of bad press from the New York Times to this modest blog, plus five norovirus outbreaks in the first five weeks of the year, and you have an never ending public relations disaster for the cruise line folks.

The readership of Cruise Law News has exploded in the last month. Our motto is everything the cruise lines don't want you to know.  So we know that when bad things happen on cruise ships and the industry tries to cover-everything-up, we see the most first time readers stumbling across our blog trying to find some basic facts and real insight.

The Google Analytics people tell us that over 175,000 people read over 515,000 pages of our little blog in the last 30 days.   

That's a lot more people visiting us than fans of any cruise president's blog or the cruise industry's blog by a long shot.  

Costa Concordia: "Cruising Italian Style - Unique Routes - Lifetime Memories"

Cruising Italian Style - Costa ConcordiaA long time reader of Cruise Law News just contacted me.  He suggested that I take a look at the promotional language in the website of the cruise industry's trade group, the Cruise line International Association ('CLIA") regarding Costa Cruises.  

So I took a look at CLIA website on Costa Cruises.  it refers to “Cruising Italian Style:"

Cruising Italian Style” with Costa is much more than a voyage to a new and exciting destination – it’s an experience that creates lifetime memories . . .

CLIA mentioned "5 Key Selling Points" for travel agents to keep in mind in selling Costa tickets.  The first 4 points listed are "Cruising Italian Style, Europe’s #1 cruise line, Italian-inspired ships & ambiance, and True European experience."

It was selling point # 5 that knocked my socks off: "Cruise Innovator: unique routes . . ." 

Oh boy.  I can't make this stuff up. 

I suppose that the hardest job in the world is to try and handle the PR work for a cruise line right now.   "Unique routes?"  "Cruising Italian Style?"  I hear the jokes already.  Yes, that's when the Captain dines with a blonde bimbo former crewmember as the ship sails by a quaint Italian village at 16 knots within spitting distance of the rocks.  Don't worry, enjoy your antipasti and vino, the home office in Genoa has approved the route. 

Another reader of my blog, who also wishes to remain anonymous, sent me a current banner ad (below) for another cruise line.  it seems that Silversea wants to compete with Costa for the most "unique cruise route."  

Let's hope that this advertisement is the result of some skilled photo-shop work rather than a reckless stunt by another foolish cruise line. 

Silversea Cruises - Too Close to the Rocks       

 

Royal Caribbean President's Email Blast Insults Crime Victims

Yesterday one of my clients, who I will call Jane Doe, contacted me after receiving an unsolicited email from the President of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Adam Goldstein.

The e-mail addressed her by her first name.  It seemed to be personalized to her.  It recognized her as a past customer and contained statements like:

"At Royal Caribbean International, the safety and security of our guests and crew is our highest priority. It is fundamental to our operations. Our maritime safety record over our 42-year history Royal Caribbean Cruises  - Adam Goldstein illustrates our commitment to the safety of the millions of guests and crew that sail on our ships."  

President Goldstein's email outraged Jane Doe.   You see, she had just returned home with her young daughter who had been raped on President Goldstein's cruise ship, the Allure of the Seas.  

Goldstein's unsolicited email to a rape victim's mom had nothing to do with the humiliating shipboard rape suffered by Jane Doe's daughter, one of many rapes of children on the Royal Caribbean fleet over the years.  Instead, it was part of this cruise line's media campaign to try and distance itself from the negative fall out following the deadly Costa Concordia disaster.

Royal Caribbean is the only cruise line making such public statements following the Concordia crash.  You can watch Royal Caribbean's slick video touting the safety of cruising here.  President Goldstein's blog is here.  "Safety is in our DNA."  "Cruising is the safest form of transportation."  "The safety and security of our guests is our highest priority."  Royal Caribbean covered all of the cruise industry's talking points in its video, the president's blog and its e-mail blast below.    

Of course, in truth, Goldstein's email was not a personalized message to Jane Doe.  He does not know her from the man in the moon, even though her daughter was raped on the cruise line's showpiece megaship and the biggest cruise ship in the world. 

Royal Caribbean spammed Goldstein's email to every single family who had sailed with them.  This was an intentional and reckless stunt, considering that hundreds of women and children have reportedly been sexually assaulted during Royal Caribbean cruises over the years.  Certainly, the cruise line knew that its former customers who are victims of crime, and whose names remain in its customer database, would feel salt being poured into their wounds upon reading Goldstein's email in their personal email accounts.      

Insensitive & thoughtless, if not outrageous?   Definitely.  But Goldstein is not thinking of his customer's feelings.  He is motivated by his cruise line's bottom line.  He wants to reassure his customers that it is safe to return to cruising, whether that is true or not. 

This is hardly the first time this has happened.

In 2006, one of my clients, Laurie Dishman (photo right), was brutally raped by a part time Royal Caribbean security guard with a Royal Caribbean Crime Victim Laurie Dishman prior record of sexually harassing passengers.   She retained us to represent her.  I sent a handful of letters to President Goldstein, asking for our client's medical records, her statement, and the name and address of the Royal Caribbean employee who raped Laurie.  We received nothing in response.  Goldstein ignored us.

The only things Laurie initially received from Royal Caribbean were unsolicited emails inviting Laurie to return for another "cruise of a lifetime" on a Royal Caribbean ship.  The emails continued for over a year.  Each email popping into her computer's email in-box took Laurie back to the scene of the crime and reactivated a sense of panic and stress.  It was only after a half dozen letters of protest from us, and a Congressional investigation into the crime initiated by Laurie's Congresswoman in 2007, that the cruise line scrubbed her from its marketing database.

We pleaded for Royal Caribbean to implement a system to remove a passenger's information from the company's marketing database whenever a passenger was raped, killed or lost a loved one overboard during a cruise.  Believe me, cruise vacationers don't want promotional brochures in their mail boxes after a family member has been raped or lost at sea.    

It looks like Royal Caribbean ignored that request too. 

President Goldstein's blog talks in grandiose terms about the Costa Concordia crash being a "defining moment" for the cruise industry.  He promises a renewed commitment to passenger safety.  Let's hope that's true. 

But when a cruise line president sends an e-mail blast to the mother of a child raped during a cruise, you wonder whether cruise line executives like Goldstein really get it.   

 

Photo credits:

Adam Goldstein - Royal Caribbean Flickr page

Laurie Dishman - Sacramento Bee

 

ROYAL CARIBBEAN EMAILS ADAM GOLDSTEIN'S LETTER TO MILLIONS OF CRUISE CUSTOMERS:

Dear XXX, 

All of us at Royal Caribbean International continue to extend our heartfelt sympathies to those affected by Carnival Corporation's recent tragic incident on the Costa Concordia. As a Crown & Anchor Society member and loyal Royal Caribbean guest, we know you may have some questions as the situation continues to unfold.

At Royal Caribbean International, the safety and security of our guests and crew is our highest priority. It is fundamental to our operations. Our maritime safety record over our 42-year history illustrates our commitment to the safety of the millions of guests and crew that sail on our ships. The measures we take in the interest of safety are many, often exceeding the regulatory requirements – these are all part of our ongoing commitment to innovation and continuous improvement in every aspect of our business.

To address some of your questions and concerns, here is a video that will provide an overview of safety onboard our ships; the training of our crew, officers and captains; and the many regulations that govern our practices. Click here to watch.

As a past cruiser, we know your friends and family may be asking about your own time at sea. We hope that you'll share this video along with your personal Royal Caribbean experiences with them, and reinforce that cruising continues to maintain the best safety record of any industry in travel.

Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to welcoming you aboard again soon on one of our ships sailing to 270 destinations worldwide.

Sincerely,

Adam Goldstein
President and CEO
Royal Caribbean International

Passengers Panic As Costa Concordia Cruise Ship Begins to Sink

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 14, 2012 Update:

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

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

Costa Concordia Cruise Ship Sinking

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

 Please leave a comment below.

 

The Royal Attitude

Over the years I have learned that the single most critical factor that drives clients to our office is not when a cruise passenger has been injured or inconvenienced.  Stuff happens, and most people understand that.  But when a cruise line treats passengers poorly after injuring or inconveniencing them, that's when our law firm's telephone begins to ring.

Over 75% of the cases in our office are against Royal Caribbean.  If a crew member from India or Trinidad calls us and complains that he or she were injured on a cruise ship and then dumped back home with no or poor medical care, nine times out of ten its a Royal Caribbean employee. 

Why do so many RCCL passengers and crew members sue Royal Caribbean?

The answer is what I call the Royal attitude.

Last month, the Royal attitude was on public display following the stranding of 145 passengers in San Juan when hurricane Irene was approaching. 

Unlike Carnival which contacted or at least tried to contact guests ahead of time to tell them the port authorities were requiring cruise ships to leave the port early, Royal Caribbean didn't do anything.  Carnival paid for over 300 guest's hotels and offered to fly them to the next port to meet the cruise ship.  But Royal Caribbean did not bother to have a representative at the airport or port to explain what was happening.

Its dismissive press release then added salt into the wound.

Even cruise fans were outraged.   The popular on line cruise community Cruise Critic posted hundreds of unflattering comments about Royal Caribbean's attitude.  Its editor even wrote an scathing editorial "Bad Weather Blunder: A Lesson in Cruise Crisis Control?"

The other popular cruise community Cruisemates wrote a blog criticizing Royal Caribbean entitled "Carnival 1 - Royal Caribbean 0."

Cruise blogger John Honeywell a/k/a Captain Greybeard, who writes cruise friendly pieces for the U.K.'s Mirror, added an article "How Hurricanes and Art Led to a Series of Right Royal Blunders."  Captain GreyBeard not only joined in the criticism of Royal Caribbean for stranding it guests but mocked cruise line president Adam Goldstein's decision to avoid the issue in his Nation of Why Not blog and instead write about employees delivering the "Wow factor" by finding a guest's passport on an airplane and driving it over to the port.  He also blasted Royal Caribbean for Obfuscation the delay and lack of transparency in responding to an inquiry about problems with the art vendors on the cruise ships. 

Greybeard characterized the cruise line's non-response to his inquiries as a "masterpiece of obfuscation." 

I feel your pain too Captain Greybeard.  I wrote about Royal Caribbean's skill at obfuscation last year in a blog: Royal Caribbean Press Statements And Other Gobbledygook.

Even when the cruise line changed course in response to the universal criticism and decided to offer a future cruise credit (only 30%) to the abandoned guests, it was unable to issue a clear or genuine apology - calling the incident just an out of norm fluke.   The cruise line then arranged for president Goldstein to be interviewed in the Miami Herald about his passion for running and playing ping pong.  I'm not kidding.  145 passengers stranded in a foreign port with a hurricane approaching and the cruise president is now talking about ping pong.

You can dismiss my criticisms as coming from a lawyer who sues this cruise line every week.  But when cruise fans like Cruise Critic, Cruisemates and even the affable Captain Greybeard start talkin smack about your cruise brand, Royal Caribbean may want to consider changing its attitude toward its customers.  

LA Times Features Case of Missing Disney Cruise Line Youth Counselor Rebecca Coriam

The Los Angeles Times has an interesting although very sad article about the mystery of a missing crewmember 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."

Rebecca Coriam, a 24 year old from Chester, England, joined Disney Cruise Line to work with kids as a youth counselor.  On March 22nd of this year, she failed to show up for work.  As the article explains, she was last seen speaking on the telephone early in the morning and was apparently crying.  A closed circuit television camera (CCTV) recorded these images, yet Disney claims that Rebecca Coriam - Missing Disney Crewmemberthere are somehow no CCTV images of her going overboard.

Rebecca's parents, Mike and Ann Coriam, traveled to California to meet the cruise ship when it returned to port.  They met with the police officer who flew from the Bahamas which is responsible for conducting an investigation because Disney chose to register its cruise ship in that country to avoid U.S. taxes and safety regulations.

It is hard to imagine what the Coriam family was feeling when the Disney Wonder quickly unloaded several thousands of passengers and just as quickly reloaded the ship and set sail from the port in San Pedro.

What type of investigation could a single police man conduct in such a short period of time?  When I was retained by the widow of missing passenger George Smith to search for answers about what happened to him during their honeymoon cruise, we hired world renown forensic scientist Dr. Henry Lee and we boarded the Royal Caribbean cruise ship with a team of ten forensic experts, photographers, videographers, and detectives.  How on earth could one cop from the Bahamas think he could accomplish anything in such short order?

The real irony here is that the Disney Cruise Line is actually incorporated as the Magical Cruise Company in England.  So we have the disappearance of a young English woman hired by a English corporation to sail on a cruise ship out of a U.S. port and yet not a single English or American police or forensics team were permitted on the cruise ship.  I was quoted in the LA Times article criticizing the token investigations by the cruise friendly flag states, saying that "the families are caught in no-man's-land between the cruise line and the foreign authorities."

There will be no answers from the one policeman in Nassau.  He will not write anything  embarrassing about a cruise line which flies the flag of the Bahamas. 

But someone working on this cruise ship knows more than they are saying.  How can a popular crew employee charged with the responsibility of the cruise guests' children on a Disney cruise ship just "disappear" with no explanation?

The LA Times article lists the Coriam family's website which was created to bring awareness to this cause.  If you know something about Rebecca's disappearance, please contact the family using the information below:

Website:    Rebecca-Coriam.com
Email:         help@rebecca-coriam.com
Coriam Family:         011 44 7747359968
Media Spokesman:     011 44 7932815970

Rebecca Coriam - Disappearance - Disney Cruise Lines

Photo credit:  Coriam family via Los Angeles Times. 

Deaths, Drugs, Child Porn & Noro Virus Earn Royal Caribbean the Worst Cruise Line in the World Award (Again)

Its been a while since I awarded my monthly "Worst Cruise Line in  the World" award.

But for one cruise line - Royal Caribbean - this year has been a such nightmare that it wins the first worst cruise line award for 2011 hands down.  

Last week started off with the disappearance of a 32 year old musician employed by Royal Caribbean on its newest mega cruise ship, the Allure of the Seas.  Ms. Monika Markiewicz disembarked the Allure in Cozumel but did not return to the ship last Friday.  The Allure sailed Nelson Perez Torres - Murder - Royal Caribbean Cruise without her back to South Florida.  On Saturday, her body was found floating face down in the water off of Cozumel with wounds to her head.  The police in Mexico arrested a 24 year old employee from a local bar in Cozumel, Nelson Perez Torres, (photo left), whose parents of course swear he is a fine young man and didn't do it.  

Ms. Markiewicz was not the only young woman who died in Cozumel from the Allure of the Seas.  A 24 year old passenger, later identified as Samantha Paige Thomas, died in a Mexican hospital after allegedly swallowing a broach.  It is less than clear how Ms. Thomas ended up in the Mexican hospital.  Some people have suggested that she was initially seen in the ship infirmary which either could not or refused to treat her, leaving her in the hands of the General Hospital in Mexico.

A Mexican prosecutor convened a number of press conferences about the two deaths.  He  released medical information about Ms. Thomas and gruesome postmortem photographs of both Ms. Markiewicz and Ms. Thomas.   The international press covered these stories closely, and the Mexican press published photos and videos which undoubtedly traumatized the grieving families.   The articles inevitably contained photos of the Allure of the Seas juxtaposed with images like this of the alleged murderer or victim. 

Some newspapers in Europe (like this and this) were linking to Cruise Law News.  Not exactly the type of marketing the cruise line executives like to see.  Royal Caribbean took the unusual step of issuing a statement via PR Newswire, gratuitously adding that that the alleged killer and Ms. Markiewicz were "casually acquainted for several months."  (What a nasty PR department this cruise line has).  Royal Caribbean also made a point of characterizing the crime as "isolated and Allure of the Seas - Royal Caribbean - Cruise Ship Crimeuncharacteristic" for Cozumel, attempting to salvage Mexico's already dubious reputation as a safe place for cruisers to visit, in the hopes of keeping its mega cruise ships sailing to Mexico racked and stacked with passengers. 

The Allure's sister ship, the Oasis of the Seas, had a serious accident when a valve on a cylinder failed during a fire drill.  The cylinder struck one crew member from the Philippines in the head, killing him, and breaking the leg of one of the officers.  Royal Caribbean did not release a PR statement because the incident received little attention.  But someone identifying himself as an officer and part of the fire team left a comment on our blog that the incident was a risk which is one of the "perils of the sea."  Getting hit in the head by a defective cylinder is a peril of the sea??

Adding to these three deaths was the disappearance and death of a young man from a Royal Caribbean's cruise ship.  Last Wednesday the Spanish TV station Univision aired an "exclusive" story about the disappearance of 21-year-old Jose Miguel Pietri Tello from Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas cruise ship.  The "Primer Impacto" program showed two videos which contained interviews with his surviving family members as well as closed circuit television (CCTV) images of the young man on the cruise ship right before he went overboard.  

We covered this sad story last month Another Passenger Overboard From A Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship, where you can watch the Primer Impacto video including clips from the onboard CCTV images. 

lawsuit was filed against Royal Caribbean over the death of a 56 year old passenger who was Drug Smuggling - Royal Caribbean Crew Member - Cocaine"tossed around like a ragdoll and was seriously hurt" during the violent storm which rocked the Brilliance of the Seas.  Three days later the passenger lapsed into a coma and subsequently died.  Doctors apparently diagnosed a "brain ­hemorrhage" as the cause of death.  But Royal Caribbean chose not only to refute the allegations but to release confidential medical information about its guest in an attempt to sully the waters.  Anyone at the cruise line hear of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which protects patient's medical records?   

If stories about five deaths in the last month was not enough, three Royal Caribbean crew members (cooks) who smuggled heroin and cocaine from the Dominican Republic aboard the Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas were arrested.  $100,000 worth of cocaine and heroin were later found in a crew only area on the same cruise ship which has been sailing from Baltimore to the Caribbean islands. 

Then several Royal Caribbean crew members were arrested smuggling a large quantity of cocaine into Bermuda aboard the Explorer of the Seas. The ring leader was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

But bringing drugs onto Royal Caribbean cruise ships is not limited to crew members.  A drug dealing passenger was arrested on the Allure of the Seas after it returned from the disastrous cruise to Cozumel and then departed on what is described as the "largest gay cruise in the world."  The Atlantis Events charters have brought lots of drug overdoses and two deaths to Royal Caribbean cruise ships in the past; however, the cruise line invited the gay rave Atlantis crowd back to yet another cruise, this time aboard the Allure of the Seas.  Before the cruise, we asked whether Royal Caribbean was prepared to deal with the drug overdoses associated with the Atlantis group.  Predictably, there were multiple overdoses and one of the passengers who was friendly with the Atlantis organizers was arrested for allegedly selling over $50,000 of ecstasy, "Special K" and methamphetamine.

Royal Caribbean's PR people issued a statement that it has a "strict zero tolerance" of drugs.  Yeah right.  Last year, we reported on a drug related death on a Royal Caribbean - Atlantis cruise Atlantis Events - Royal Caribbean - Drugs involving Spencer Yu, an attorney for Warner Brothers.  The truth is that the cruise line is all too happy to invite the Atlantis partiers aboard because they spend a ton of money on the cruise ships even if they are well known to suffer through a dozen drug overdoses and a death or so each cruise.

Zero tolerance of drugs?  Royal Caribbean has already made plans to charter the Allure to Atlantis in 2012.  

Isn't this enough to win the worst cruise line in the world award?  But there's more.

The FBI arrested a crew member aboard the Constellation operated by Royal Caribbean's sister company Celebrity Cruises on child-pornography charges after the cruise ship arrived at the Port of San Diego.  His computer reportedly contained 450 photographs and about 250 video files of child pornography portraying a total of 44 different victims.  He chatted on line about wanting to have sex with children in Mexico, which was on the cruise ship's itinerary.  The crew member was employed as the audiovisual manager on the cruise ship and provided onboard guest-entertainment services. 

And to cap things off, Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas was the first cruise ship to suffer a nasty noro virus outbreak this year.    

Most cruise lines have not this much bad press in a couple of years.  But for Royal Caribbean, it comes naturally.

 

Royal Caribbean has won the "Worst Cruise Line in the World" award before:

"Titanic Dreams" - Royal Caribbean Wins "Worst Cruise Line in the World" Award