It'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 Caribbean'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 the 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 Micky 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. We'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 & 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 required 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 story. 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 CLIA 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 its 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 the richest person in Florida worth 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, multiple 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.
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 us. 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, the 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 obligation 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.