Port Authority of Jamaica to Dredge Port of Falmouth, Again

Falmouth Jamaica PortThe Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) intends to again dredge the port of Falmouth in order to extend the Falmouth cruise ship pier, according to the Jamaica Gleaner.

A PAJ representative stated that the new project will permit the Jamaican port to allow two of the Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class (originally known as the Genesis Class) cruise ships (Oasis, Allure, Harmony and Symphony of the Seas) to dock simultaneously in Falmouth. 

The PAJ has tried to avoid discussing the controversial project although a number of local Jamaican leaders have voiced opposition to the dredging.

As we reported earlier this summer, the Gleaner reported on calls for the local citizens in Jamaica to resist the dredging. A pastor in Trelawny, the Reverend Devere Nugent of the William Knibb Baptist Church, was "calling on the people and churches in the parish to resist the plan to do further dredging of the sea, which is a proposal to bring more cruise ships to the resort town."

Reverend Nugent said "I am calling on the churches and people to establish baskets of resistance. We must resist the further dredging of the sea. Let us no longer sit back and be exploited.The people who are planning to do further dredging are doing so for their own profit, none of which stays in Falmouth. Falmouth Jamaica Dredging They don't live here, they don't shop here, and they don't join any church or civic organization here. It is broad-based exploitation."

We have reported on Royal Caribbean exploitation of Falmouth and the destruction of the local habitat there before. The coral reefs were pulverized and dumped on fields of mangroves when the port pier was build for Royal Caribbean nine years ago.    

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

Photo credit: top - Jim Walker

Interested in this issue? We suggest reading: Can the Cruise Industry Clean Up Its Act?  

Canadian Woman from Oasis of the Seas Missing in Nassau

Samantha LoverridgeThe Nassau Tribune published a troubling article today indicating that:  

"Police are seeking the public’s help in locating 27–year-old Canadian Samantha Loveridge, who was a passenger onboard the Oasis of the Seas that arrived in New Providence on Sunday.

Ms. Loveridge is a white female of slim build who was last seen in Nassau on Sunday when she disembarked the cruise ship at Prince George Dock."

Photo Credit:  Nassau Tribune

Contact information for the Police in the Bahamas can he obtained here.  

Update: Ms. Loveridge has been located and arrangements are being made for her to return to Canada. 

 

 

Passenger Overboard from Oasis of the Seas

A video posted by a passenger on YouTube shows a man holding on to the support bracket of a lifeboat when his hands apparently slip and he falls overboard from the Oasis of the Seas last night around 1:00 A.M.  

The video (warning, graphic content, available on Sun-Sentinel) taken by another passenger from a higher balcony cabin records a confusing set of circumstances taking place as the man tries to hold onto the side of the lifeboat, apparently loses his grip, and falls into the water. 

"He's there! He's there! Stop! Get the lifeboat! Get the life ring! Throw it over!" yells the woman videotaping the terrible ordeal after he plunges into the water.

ABC News quotes Royal Caribbean saying that the incident occurred "17 miles east of Turks and Caicos Islands (when) a 35 year old male guest from Brazil went overboard. He was spotted by Oasis of the Seas crew members intentionally going over the side of the ship.” 

 

What's Worse? Royal Caribbean's Safety or Public Relations Department?

The bizarre story of the overboard Royal Caribbean passenger being rescued by the Disney Magic near Cozumel is still trending. 

Everyone who's cruised or is thinking of cruising has by now read at least one story about the 22 year-old passenger who fell off of the Oasis of the Seas and then was magically rescued by a Disney ship almost 5 hours later. 

The story was first published by a newspaper in Mexico and then translated and published here on Cruise Law News on January 9th. Dozens of publications and news networks have since covered the Royal Caribbean Man Overboardstory. 

Today the Wall Street Journal's Risk & Compliance Report published an article entitled Crisis of the Week: Royal Caribbean Goes Overboard by Ben DiPierto.

As DiPietro points out, it's bad enough that the cruise line lost another person overboard without even knowing it (a result I say of not investing in automatic man overboard technology required by the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act) but the Royal Caribbean passenger was rescued by competing cruise line Disney (which has installed the latest in MOB technology). We have reported on dozens of passengers and crew members who have disappeared on Royal Caribbean ships before, including the Oasis of the Seas, but Royal Caribbean seems more interested in filling its new so-called "smart" ships with gadgets to "wow" the passengers (like the simulated balconies, bumper cars, FlowRiders, rock walls and the North Star capsule) rather than investing in lifesaving personnel and technology.  

The man-overboard story represents the continuation of recent bad news for Royal Caribbean. The cruise line is still reeling from the recent horror story of a near drowning of a 4 year-old child in a life-guard-less pool on Oasis of the Seas on January 3rd. Disney not only has MOB lifesaving technology, but it is one of the few cruise lines with fully staffed lifeguards. Given it's refusal to staff its ships with lifeguards or implement MOB technology, Royal Caribbean is definitely 2 big steps behind Disney in safety. 

Plus, Royal Caribbean just weathered a highly publicized  sexual assault of a woman in her cabin by a mini-bar attendant with unsupervised access to a master key on the Quantum of the Seas on December 29th.  Women being assaulted by cabin attendants entering cabins via master keys has been a problem on Royal Caribbean ship for decades. 

Royal Caribbean appears clueless in handling the MOB public relations fall-out. The crisis management experts cited in DiPietro's article criticize the cruise line for lacking empathy and transparency in its response to this story which has rocketed across Facebook, Twitter, cable new and television. One expert in the Wall Street Journal article says “the company is lacking serious crisis management communications."

There is no doubt about that. But if the cruise line would install MOB devices, hire lifeguards and restrict cabin key-cards, Royal Caribbean wouldn't need to hire new PR people. 

 

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

Photo Credit: DailyMail 

Disney Magic Rescues Overboard Passenger From Oasis of the Seas

Oasis of the SeasA Mexican newspaper reports that U.S. cruise passenger from Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas fell overboard as the cruise ship sailed to Cozumel. The Disney Magic, sailing the same route, then rescued the passenger, identified as Frank Jade. 

The newspaper reports that the Oasis didn't even realize that the passenger had gone overboard. 

After spotting the Royal Caribbean passenger floating in the sea, the Disney Magic stopped and lowered a rescue boat.

The Magic reportedly docked at the dock of Punta Langosta and transferred the passenger to a private clinic for medical care. 

It should be a major embarrassment that a passenger can go overboard without Royal Caribbean detecting that it lost a passenger at sea.  Unfortunately, this cruise line has made no efforts to comply with the 2010 Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act which requires the installation of automatic man overboard systems.

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

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Baldwin040

Near Drowning on Oasis of the Seas Leaves Child in Critical Condition

Local 10 News reports that a child is in critical condition after nearly drowning on board the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas this evening.  According to Channel 7, "officials said the young victim was swept under a wave pool and remained underwater for several minutes." The Broward County Sheriff's Office said the child was under water from 5 to 10 minutes.

The ship promptly returned to Port Everglades.

The 4 year old child was rescued by other passengers. The child was revived on board the ship and taken to Broward Health Medical Center. 

I first learned of the incident when the Port Everglades webcam @PTZtv tweeted "#OasisoftheSeas Oasis of the Seas Drowning approaching berth #18 #PortEverglades o. . . for medical disembark."

There has been great debate in the cruise industry whether to employ life guards to supervise the activities around cruise ship swimming pools. Royal Caribbean experienced a near drowning of a child on the Independence of the Seas in May of this year that left a 6 year old boy fighting for his life in a hospital.

To my knowledge, Disney is the only cruise line to employ life guards on its cruise ships. However it did so only after a 4 year old child nearly drown and sustained a catastrophic brain injury requiring life-time medical care and resulting in a multi-million dollar settlement.   

I have long advocated for having a lifeguard at every pool on a cruise ship. Lifeguards are needed because parents are not perfect, and there is a natural tendency for parents to let their guards down when they are on vacation. Kids deserve to have their parents and the cruise line working together to keep them safe. The cruise industry collects $45 billion dollars a year from passengers and pays virtually zero in U.S. taxes. It's shameful for every cruise line except Disney to refuse to hire lifeguards to keep kids safe. 

In an article published last week entitled Cruise Ships Are Unregulated Trouble on the High Seas, the New York Times wrote that Congress has exempted these cruise ship behemoths from virtually all regulations. The Times characterized the last death of a child in a pool without a lifeguard as a problem with letting cruise lines regulate themselves.  

Here are other articles of kids drowning or nearly drowning on cruise ships:

6 Year Old Drowns on Carnival Victory Cruise Ship

Drowning Tragedy Aboard the Norwegian Breakaway: Where Are the Lifeguards?

No Lifeguards for Children on Cruise Ships? Maritime Law Encourages Cruise Lines to Act Irresponsibly

Imperfect Parents & Corporate Irresponsibility: Why No Lifeguards on  Cruise Ships?

Dangerous Disney Cruise Ship Swimming Pool: Thoughts from a Concerned Cruiser

I'm interviewed below in the video about legal issues about the safety for children around cruise ships swimming pools. 

January 4 2015 Update: Where did this occur on the Oasis?  The Broward County Sheriff's Office refers to a "wave pool" but I didn't realize that the cruise ship has one. He referred to deck 15 where the Flowriders are located but the water there is not deep enough to drown in.  A web site in Italy discusses this issue.

Miami Herald publishes Near-drowning on Royal Caribbean cruise raises concerns about lack of lifeguards.

 

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

Photo: PTZtv

 

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Two Medevacs Delay Oasis of the Seas

This weekend saw some excitement involving the Oasis of the Seas.

On Saturday night, PTZtv (which operates the web cam for the Port of Ft. Lauderdale) began tweeting that the Oasis, which had just left port in Ft. Lauderdale, was quickly heading back to port after a cruise passenger had experienced an injury on the cruise ship.

After the gigantic cruise had transferred the passenger to a pilot boat which met the Oasis a mile or so from port, the ship set sail again. But to the surprise of those following the Oasis on AIS tracking Oasis of the Seas services, the ship quickly turned around a second time for another medical emergency. 

There was speculation that a passenger had suffered a heart attack (possibly fatal). This time the Oasis elected to enter the port and dock. 

In situations like these, there inevitably is talk of passenger inconvenience, demands for compensation by those supposedly "inconvenienced" and other similar nonsense.  

It takes a great amount of fuel to turn a ship like this around.  There is always pressure on the captain and officers to be on time and make all of the ports on the itinerary as scheduled. But it's important for the ship doctors to be free to make medical decisions for the health and safety of the passengers and crew free from such financial issues and corporate meddling.

Read this case where the Oasis of the Seas didn't take the necessary steps to respond to a serious medical emergency and the disastrous effects on a cruise passenger. 

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

 

Image Credit: BFMunchkin via Twitter

Netherlands Fines Royal Caribbean Over $750,000 for Overworking Crewmembers

A newspaper in the Netherlands reports that Royal Caribbean has to pay at least €600,000 in fines for violating labor rules and regulations while the Oasis of the Seas was in the Netherlands. The newspaper says that ship employees lacked proper residence papers and worked excessive hours. Some of the crew members worked "up to 16 hours per day" the inspectors found.

The newspaper explains that the Oasis was undergoing maintenance and repairs while in dry-dock in in Rotterdam last month. Inspectors at the Netherlands labor department informed Royal Caribbean Cruises in advance that when its cruise ship would be in Rotterdam it would have to adhere to Dutch Oasis of the Seasrules and legislation.

According to the newspaper, when ten inspectors boarded the Oasis they found certain working conditions to be in violation of Dutch law. This lead to a second visit by 45 inspectors.

The inspections reportedly revealed that at least 48 crew members did not have proper Dutch work permits. The majority of these crewmembers were from the Philippines and South America.

The reported fine of at least €600,000 turns out to be over $760,000.The inspectors can access a fine of €12,000 per violation. The precise fine will be determined when the investigation is completed.

This fine may be an eye-opener for many people who are unfamiliar with the inner-working of the cruise industry. But it is business as usual as far as we are concerned.

When we interview Royal Caribbean crew members, without exception they tell us that the cruise line requires them to work in excess of the hours permitted by the Maritime Labour Convention. The ship employees have to arrive at work early and attend meetings but they are not permitted to clock in. When they work over 10 hours, they have to clock out and keep working. When they are pressed to work extra hours preparing for USPH inspections, they are required to work off the clock.

It remains to be seen whether Rotterdam receives any more work from Royal Caribbean in the future. Royal Caribbean has decided that the dry-dock repairs needed for sister ship Allure of the Seas will be performed in Cadiz, Spain.

Royal Caribbean has not responded to our request for a statement. 

October 15 2014 Update: A Dutch law firm indicates that 77 Philippines and 8 South-Americans worked on the Oasis without a permit. With a €12,000 fine per person, the fine could amount to one million euro’s. The Dutch firm is urging Royal Caribbean to appeal the fine, claiming that there is an exception for crew members working aboard sea going vessels.

October 16 2014 Update:  There is a very active discussion about this story on our Facebook page. Over 1,600 people have liked it, over 500 shared it and over 400 people have commented.  Most seem to be crew members. As the cruise line overworks and underpays its crew members, the cruise executives at Royal Caribbean enjoy over $100,000,000 in cruise stock. Read: The Rich Get Richer

 

If you have a thought, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.  

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Baldwin040 Creative Commons 3.0  

Norovirus on the Oasis of the Seas?

We have been notified by several cruise passengers aboard the Oasis of the Seas that they became sick with gastrointestinal symptoms including severe nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.  

The cruise line has not disclosed how many passengers or crew experienced symptoms like this yet, and there is no indication whether the illnesses are in fact due to norovirus or some other virus.

Royal Caribbean sent passengers embarking today on the Oasis the following information:

"Hello, this is Royal Caribbean International. We would like to provide you with some important information regarding your Saturday, December 28, sailing onboard Oasis of the Seas out of Port Everglades, Florida. During the ship's last sailing, a number of guests experienced a gastrointestinal illness. We will conduct enhanced sanitizing onboard the ship and within the terminal to help prevent any illness from affecting your cruise. Therefore, your check-in and boarding will be delayed. Because space and seating in the terminal is limited, we ask that you not arrive to the port before 1:30 PM. Check in will take place between 1:30 PM and 4:00 PM. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation and we look forward to welcoming you onboard."

If you have any information about the situation aboard the Oasis, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.  

 

Photo credit: Wikipedia / Baldwin040

Forced to Evacuate the Allure or Oasis of the Seas? Prepare to Become a Navy Seal!

Allure of the Seas - Enough Life Boats?When the executives at Royal Caribbean trotted out the Oasis of the Seas several years ago, they took special efforts to tout that the evacuation and life saving systems on this huge ship were the best in the world. After all, this was the largest, most technologically advanced, and most expensive cruise ship in the world.

Cruise CEO and President Adam Goldstein characterized the evacuation system for passengers as a "holistic" approach to saving lives. You can read about the "holistic" design here on an official Royal Caribbean press statement.

Royal Caribbean produced carefully crafted videos showing that its "revolutionary" huge state-of-the-art 370 person capacity life boats would safely rescue the passengers if anything wrong happened on the high seas requiring an evacuation. 

You can see the video below with William Wright, who captained the Oasis from Europe to Fort Lauderdale, promoting the life boats as marvels of the sea. The video says that the new life boats have double redundancy: double engines, double propellers, and double rudders, in addition to well-lighted and spacious boats, which according to Royal Caribbean would ensure that the 16 crew members assigned to each life boat could comfortably ferry the 354 passengers to safety. 

You could almost hear the thoughts of the cruise executives: we have to assure our customers that this money-making-beast-of-a-ship can safely evacuate 8,500 passengers and crew who are jam-packed together in this highly compressed space. As a result, the public was presented with the nonsensical "holistic" message from CEO Goldstein and the slick video production starring captain Wright (since unceremoniously fired from the company) stating that the passengers are even safer in the life boats!

Many maritime experts believe that the size of the new huge cruise ships make it harder to evacuate quickly and safely. Cruise lines are required to evacuate all passengers and crew in just 30 minutes, which seems like a tall order considering that there could be as many as 8,500 passengers and crew aboard these ships. But CEO Richard Fain promoted his giant ships by claiming that evacuation is in fact Oasis of the Seas Chute and Raft faster on larger ships because "they have more entrances and exits." He went as far as to claim that passengers are actually safer in gigantic cruise ships. 

But what Royal Caribbean was not telling the public was that the life boats were severely limited in number and were only for the passengers. Crew members have to jump down a 60' chute into a flimsy life raft - not a life boat.

The chutes and rafts are contained in canisters located on the ship which deploy and drop down into the water. I last mentioned these type of canisters following the fire aboard Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas last May which burned many of the canisters located on the stern of the cruise ship.

Take a look at the bottom video which shows a Royal Caribbean crew member who gets stuck in the chute and then flies out and lands violently on his back.  We've also written about an incident where 20 crew members were injured in a drill using a similar chute and raft system.      

Recently, the issue arose whether there are an adequate number of lifeboats on the Allure and the Oasis, after the Allure left one of its lifeboats behind in Nassau because of a problem with a cable.

There are only 18 lifeboats to begin with on these ships. Each life boat has a capacity of 370 people, cpnsisting of 354 passengers and 16 crew members who are responsible for overseeing the passengers and maneuvering the life boat.  With only 17 life boats, there is room for only 6,018 passengers; whereas, the Allure has a capacity of 6,296.

The passengers who are not permitted into a life boat will be forced to use something Royal Caribbean and its executives never touted as either revolutionary or "holistic" - the dangerous chute and raft system used by crew members. 

When we broke this story, there was a blow back by the cruise line and many crew members. Royal Caribbean claimed that "we had enough safety crafts for everyone onboard the ship . . . Our ships carry extra lifesaving vessels at all times." Unfortunately, the cruise line use of the words life "crafts" and "vessels" did not distinguish whether it has enough newly designed life "boats" for the passengers versus the dangerous old-school life "rafts" used by the crew.

"Stop nitpicking and creating a controversy!" seemed to be the sentiment by the cruise line and most crew members. These supporters of Royal Caribbean pointed out that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) requires the ship to have 25% extra life craft capacity for the maximum capacity of the passengers and crew and there's no evidence that the Allure was in violation of that when it sailed.

My response is that the IMO requirements are a minimum. More importantly, what about the executives' promises of the revolutionary and holistic approach to saving human souls?  Are grandmothers and children and mothers with babies going to have to jump into the chutes into a lifeboat from deck four, commando style?

It seems so, and the cruise executives know it.  Take a look at the evacuation procedure diagrams on the Oasis. The schematics of the chute system depict passengers with children and mothers clinging onto their infants descending the chutes. These images are directly from Royal Caribbean's cruise ships

The last comment posted to my article said:

"Stop nitpicking, whether it's a craft, raft, or boat as long as there is something in case of an emergency i don't think most people would care. These rafts are the same one the US Navy uses, if it's safe for our troops it's safe for me."

When people leave comments on my blog like this, they automatically leave their internet provider (IP) address. The IP address of this person indicated that the person sent the message from Royal Caribbean in Miami. Whether this macho man was a frustrated low level employee or someone in the operations or safety departments, I'll never know. But someone over at the cruise line thinks that it's okay (and a darn patriotic thing to do!) for passengers to jump down a 60 foot chute acting like Rambo.

I doubt that 75 year old grandmothers or little grand kids realize that they are signing up for this tour of duty when they embark on a luxury cruise of the Caribbean aboard the Allure or the Oasis.  

Perhaps the cruise line is right that it is in technical compliance with the minimal IMO requirements. But the cruise line should be transparent with its guests. It should tell its passengers that instead of a "holistic" rescue in "revolutionary" life boats, they should be prepared to act like a Navy Seal jumping into a raft in a combat zone.

 

  

  

Passengers Injured Aboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas

A reader of Cruise Law News sent us photographs of the Oasis of the Seas arriving in port in Cozumel.

Two ambulances arrived next to the Oasis of the Seas at the dock in Cozumel and took injured passengers away to the hospital. 

The photos show the ambulance lights next to the Oasis of the Seas. There is some indication that passengers may have been injured due to rough weather associated with Tropical Storm Karen.

You can see a set of photo on our Facebook page.

Oasis of the Seas - Cozumel
 

 

Is Royal Caribbean Committing Fraud by Requiring Cruise Passengers to Sign Legally Unenforceable FlowRider Waivers?

If you want to participate in the FlowRider attraction on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the cruise line requires its passengers to sign an electronic waiver. The waiver purports to relieve the cruise line of any and all liability arising out of use of the FlowRider. However, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal ruled last year that the waiver violates U.S. Maritime Law and is legally unenforceable.

In a  case our firm handled, the appellate court held that the Royal Caribbean waiver violated 46 U.S.C. § 30509 which prohibits contractual provisions which attempt to limit the liability of the owner of ships for "personal injury or death caused by the negligence or fault of the owner or the owner's employees or agents." The court held that the statute was clear and unambiguous, and there was no exception for recreational, inherently dangerous, or ultra hazardous activities. Although waivers of this FlowRider Wipe Out - Royal Caribbean Cruisetype may be enforceable on land under certain circumstances, such waivers are illegal and unenforceable on the high seas.

The legal decision is significant because there has been at least one death and many serious injuries to cruise passengers on the Royal Caribbean FlowRiders.

Below you can see an example how the cruise line electronic waiver works.  The participants usually are in a long line near the "Wipeout Bar!" with music blaring when they have to sign the waiver. Quite often, the passengers don't read anything and are led through the waiver by a cruise line employee very quickly. The waivers are not only legally unenforceable, but it seems like no one reads them anyway.

Ever since the Eleventh Circuit struck the waiver down, the cruise's line's requirement to force passengers to sign the waiver appears fraudulent to me.  The waiver is unenforceable. Period. Executing an unenforceable waiver is meaningless. There is a danger that a passenger may not assert their legal rights after they were seriously injured on the FlowRider because the cruise line tricked them into believing that they waived their rights. This constitutes fraud.

If you were injured on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, and you didn't file suit timely (one year) because you believed that you waived your rights, you may still have a basis for a lawsuit against the cruise line.

If you have a question about the Royal Caribbean Flowrider waiver, please contact our office.

 

What's Happening to the FlowRiders on the Allure of the Seas?

For those of you who cruise regularly, you know that Royal Caribbean has two FlowRider attractions on both the Allure of the Seas and the Oasis of the Seas. The FlowRider is a surfing simulation where a thin wave of water is shot across a rubber surface and the passengers tries to surf or boogie board. 

Today I posted an image of what looks like repairs or major maintenance to one of the FlowRiders on the Allure.  You can see another image of the FlowRider below as the work continues.

Anyone know what's going on with the FlowRiders on the Allure?

If you know, join the discussion on our Facebook page.  

Allure of the Seas - FlowRider - Oasis of the Seas

Titanic Redux? Can Royal Caribbean Safely Evacuate 8,500 Passengers & Crew from the Oasis of the Seas?

Oasis of the Seas - Viking Dual Evacuation Chute SystemA retired U.S. Coast Guard official called me last week about issues of cruise ship safety. We had an interesting hour and one-half discussion about whether modern cruise ships are designed to safely evacuate passengers and crew members in times of emergencies like fires or sinkings.   

Our conversation began with Royal Caribbean's biggest cruise ships in the world, the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas

Royal Caribbean touts these news ships as technological marvels of the world. But the evacuation procedures are strictly old-school.

Some aspects of the emergency abandon ship systems are flat-out dangerous. 

The cruise line's press releases mentions that the cruise ship has 18 lifeboats each with a 370 passenger capacity. It says that "lifeboats on Oasis of the Seas have been entirely redesigned and approved as part of a holistic evacuation concept."

But the truth of the matter is that Royal Caribbean had a major problem when it designed the largest cruise ships on the planet. There is a regulation stating that the maximum number of people permitted aboard a lifeboat is 150. There is no way that the cruise line could build a ship with over 55 lifeboats carrying 150 people each. So in order to cram enough people into lifeboats, the cruise line obtained a waiver to increase the maximum lifeboat capacity up to 370 people. 

Oasis of the Seas Canister Chute SystemRoyal Caribbean not only has the largest cruise ships in the world, but it has the largest lifeboats in the world.

But does it have enough?

18 lifeboats with a capacity of 370 equals only 6,660 people. Oasis has a total maximum population of around 8,500 when you count its capacity of around 6,300 passengers and 2,200 crew members. That means that there are around 1,850 people without the lifeboats which Royal Caribbean raves about.  

Royal Caribbean's press statement makes no mention of it, but those who are not assigned or cannot fit into the limited number of lifeboats must use "emergency evacuation chutes."  The term used on the Royal Caribbean ships is "Viking Dual Evacuation Chute."  What is this you may ask?  You won't find Royal Caribbean talking much about the chute system.   

If you look at photographs of the Oasis (or the Allure), along the side of the ship at deck 4 you will see three large lifeboats in-a-line leading from the stern. Then you will see a row of canisters (others may call then cylinders), looking like old depth charges, positioned one on top of the other on deck 4.    

Oasis of the Seas Emergency Evacuation Chute SystemWhen these canisters are opened (see video bottom), a life-raft inflates in the water below. (We are talking about life-rafts - not lifeboats). These life-rafts are connected to a series of chutes running up to deck 4. The passengers and/or crew evacuate the cruise ships by jumping into the entrance to this emergency evacuation apparatus on deck 4. They then rapidly slide / fall down a steep, vertical drop into the inflated life-raft below.

These type of devices are dangerous. There have been a significant number of people killed or seriously injured while trying to evacuate 4 or 5 stories down steep chutes like this. 

In November, I wrote an article about 20 crew members seriously injured in a drill using this type of system who suffered broken bones, sprained ankles, and friction burns during the steep descent. Further injuries were avoided only when other crew members refused to jump. A union representative characterized the evacuation system as "unsuitable and dangerous."      

PBS aired a documentary on behalf of "Inside Nova" which looked at the Oasis of the Seas' evacuation procedures. PBS videotaped the operation of the chutes. In the video below you can see crew members tugging on the chute when suddenly a crew member comes flying out - landing violently on Oasis of the Seas Chute Evacuation Systemhis buttocks. After catching his breath, he exclaims "I got stuck!"

Now the first reaction to the video may be that it seems funny. But if you think about it for a second, it is actually terrifying. The placard on the cruise ship shows families with little kids and infants who are lining up to jump. The drawing on the ship actually show a mother clinging to her infant sailing down the chute a few feet above another passenger while a large man is jumping into the chute above her. I cannot imagine a more dangerous scenario.

Can you imagine what would happen if a 235 lb man lands on a 130 lb woman holding on to her 25 lb infant at the bottom of the chute?  Serious injury would occur.  Serious head injuries are likely if multiple people and children are in the chute at the same time. Far fetched?  Hardly. This scenario is actually depicted in the instructional drawings on the Oasis itself.

Royal Caribbean may say that only crew members are suppose to use this system. That's mentioned on the PBS video where you can see photographs of the chute system. That does not say much for the cruise line's consideration of the safety of its own crew.  

But why do the drawings of the chute system depict passengers with children and mothers clinging onto their infants descending the chutes?  These images are directly from Royal Caribbean's cruise ships. And if in fact only crew members are assigned to the chutes, why should they be subject to such dangers on a cruise ship which its owners tout as the safest ship in the world?

The other issue to consider, of course, is what happens if the Oasis suffers a Costa Concordia type of accident where the cruise ship lifts heavily to one side?  As we know from the Concordia, the lifeboats could not be deployed once the ship listed to 22 degrees.  Half of the Concordia lifeboats, on the port side of the vessel, were useless once the ship listed to the starboard side.  If anything like this happens on the Oasis, there will be a riot where passengers and crew fight to get into the remaining Abandon Ship Oasis of the Seaslifeboats and the rest will be left to take their chances jumping down the chutes hoping to land in a raft many stories below. 

Then there are the wind and sea conditions. All of the drills for the Oasis or Allure take place on sunny days in the calm waters of the Caribbean. Take a look here for an example.  Around and around the lifeboats drive in the protected waters of a beautiful lagoon in the Caribbean. What fun.

But what happens when these ships are re-positioned to Europe, Indonesia or Australia where there are high seas and unpredictable weather?  After all, Royal Caribbean is ordering more Oasis class monster ships right now. Trying to evacuate thousands of people down chutes into life-rafts in high waves and winds could be a disaster. There is also the risk of the tether ropes breaking, the chutes twisting, or the life-rafts ripping away from the chutes.

I for one would hate to think of anyone's spouse, or kids, or parents, whether they are crew or passengers, having to jump into an evacuation chute and fall 50 feet into a raft in rough seas.  

A chute and a raft are hardly a "holistic" approach to survival.  It's a disappointing and antiquated way of trying to save lives on the supposedly most sophisticated cruise ship in the world.

Don't forget to watch the video of the chute system below:       

        

 

What are your thoughts on this evacuation system?  If you are a crew member, have you ever been down a chute like this? Join the discussion on our Facebook page.  

Third Oasis-Class Cruise Ship: Bad for Environment, Bad for U.S., Great for Lawyers & Cruise CEO's

Allure of the Seas - Oasis of the Seas FlowRider Royal Caribbean Cruises just announced a third Oasis-class cruise ship will be built at the South Korea-owned shipyard STX France after the financing fell through with the STX Finland shipyard.  

The as-of-yet unnamed gigantic ship will follow fellow behemoths the Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas which are ported in Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.

CEO Richard Fain, who just sold $11,500,000 worth of RCL stock, proclaimed that "these ships have consistently generated outstanding guest satisfaction ratings and continue to produce superior financial results . . . "

The new billion-dollar-plus cruise ship is expected to come on line sometime in mid to late 2016. STX France provided Royal Caribbean with a one-year option to build a fourth Oasis-class ship with a 2018 delivery date. 

There is speculation where the new ship will be ported, with the South Florida Business Journal proposing Miami where Royal Caribbean is based and U.K. travel blogger Captain Greybeard raising the possibility of deploying the ship to the Mediterranean or the Far East.

What's my take on another "Giant of the Seas" arriving on the scene? First, its a continuing disaster for the environment. The supposedly most technologically advanced cruise ships in the world still burn highly toxic high-sulfur-content bunker fuel. And small Caribbean islands are forced to destroy ancient coral Allure of the Seas - Oasis of the Seas - Royal Caribbeanreefs as a price to pay from the privilege of hosting these enormous floating cities into their small ports.

The multi-billion dollar deal enormously benefits South Korea and France. The off-shore building project represents another drain of money and jobs from the U.S. to the South Korean conglomerate which owns the shipyard in France. 

The arrival of one or two additional Oasis-class ships will carry 5,000 to 10,000 additional cruise passengers. They will be trying to stay safe on the ship's various attractions like the rock-climbing wall, the zip-line and the incredibly dangerous FlowRiders which have caused serious injury and even death over the years.   

One would hope that the cruise line takes greater care in designing these amusement-park-like attractions to avoid the risk of serious injury.  Because as matters now stand, Royal Caribbean's gigantic sized cruise ships are good news only for the cruise line's executives and the personal injury lawyers representing the injured passengers.  

Royal Caribbean Smears Crime Victim & Gets Cozumel Rape Lawsuit Thrown Out Before Trial

A trial scheduled this month involving a Royal Caribbean cruise passenger who alleges she was gang-raped while ashore in Cozumel was averted when the federal court judge granted a motion filed by the cruise line to end the case.

The order granting Royal Caribbean's motion was posted on line by Leagle yesterday and can be read here

The case involved a young woman from Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas who was shopping in an area recommended by the cruise line. Royal Caribbean derives many millions of dollars in income when cruise passengers shop Oasis of the Seas - Cozumel Mexicoat the cruise-line-recommended stores.   

The passenger left the ship and went to a shopping areas which Royal Caribbean recommends. After walking a few blocks down the main strip to a store called "Viva Mexico," the passenger turned around and subsequently encountered a man selling jewelry from a cart. The cruise line literature does not mention shopping cart vendors.  

The man with the jewelry cart told her that he had other jewelry in his store and led her to a store not identified on the cruise line map but under the same roof of other cruise-advertised stores. The man then pushed her down a hallway and into a restroom where he forced her to perform oral sex on him. Four additional Mexican men then raped her orally and vaginally.

The victim hired lawyers here in Miami who sued Royal Caribbean for failing to warn her of the danger of sexual assault in Cozumel and recommending a shopping area where she was raped.

Royal Caribbean moved to end the case arguing that it had no duty to warn of dangers ashore off of the cruise ship - an argument the court quickly rejected.

The cruise line then argued that it had taken millions of passengers to the port of Cozumel but it was unaware of instances of sexual assault or violent crime specifically involving Royal Caribbean passengers or crew members in the shopping area depicted on the map or in Cozumel.

The court held that the case could not proceed without such evidence.  The ruling is rather strange because there was no showing by the cruise line that it was unaware of rapes and violence against women other than passengers and crew in the shopping area and in Cozumel in general. When the victim's lawyer served subpoenas on the other major cruise lines (Carnival, NCL, etc.) to obtain evidence of how many other cruise line passengers and crew were crimes victims in Cozumel, all of the cruise lines objected.     

The court also essentially ignored affidavits submitted by the victim's lawyers that there were other violent assaults in the area and crew members are aware of the dangers ashore in Cozumel and tell their supervisors, but the cruise line keeps the passengers in the dark.

The court also gave little weight to evidence submitted that to monitor security risks in places to which Royal Caribbean directs its passengers to in Cozumel, Royal Caribbean relies on United States State Department travel warnings, reports from its passengers and crew, the local police, and its port agent.

Just last week in a case involving a Royal Caribbean passenger who alleges she was raped at Senor Frog's in Cozumel, the local press reported that there were 7 cases of rape in the preceding six months.  If Royal Caribbean claims that it didn't know of rapes in Cozumel, the cruise line is not doing a good job of staying informed of the crime in this Mexican port where it takes its guests and encourages them to shop ashore.

In addition, two travel warnings issued by the State Department were in existence at the time of the gang rape, which refer to Cozumel, rape, and sexual assault as a "serious problem" in resort areas. 

The disturbing thing about the case is that Royal Caribbean went to great lengths to argue that before the rape, the young woman allegedly attempted to purchase "illegal drugs" while she was ashore shopping.  Legally, it is irrelevant to the cruise line's duty to warn whether the passenger was previously trying to buy pot or some other "drug." No woman deserves to be raped - regardless of whether they are looking to smoke reefer, drink a pitcher of margaritas, or buy some over-priced jewelry in Cozumel.

Unfortunately this is one of the tactics cruise lines use to destroy the credibility of women raped on cruise ships and in ports of call.    

This is a case certain to go on appeal, and may be reversed by the appellate court. 

 

Photo credit:  Fotki / Mark Chatfield

Royal Caribbean's New Port in Falmouth, Jamaica - At What Cost to the Environment?

I have written about Royal Caribbean's new port development in the town of Falmouth Jamaica before. It seems to me that the new development for the cruise line perpetuates the historical master (cruise line) - servant (Jamaica) relationship which continues to exploit the Jamaican people.

My tour of Falmouth reinforced those beliefs.  Most of the profits from goods sold behind the walled gates to the port leave with the cruise ship and return to the cruise line's coffers in Miami.  And most of the cruise passengers who left the Allure of the Seas when it was in port quickly headed out of Falmouth on cruise line excursions to Ocho Rio and Montego Bay.

But this article is not about the economic exploitation of Falmouth. It addresses the environmental consequences to the island caused by trying to accommodate Royal Caribbean's two monster Falmouth Jamaica - Royal Caribbean Port - Reef and Mangrove Destruction (Genesis) class cruise ships, the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas - the two biggest cruise ships in the world.

The motivation for this article came from reading an article Can the Cruise Industry Clean Up Its Act? in OnEarth magazine ("A Survival Guide for the Planet.")    

I learned a couple of things from this article.  First, the Oasis and the Allure, even though Royal Caribbean touts them as environmentally friendly ships, are burning the dirtiest and most dangerous fuel in the world - bunker fuel - which is essentially a tar-like refinery by-product.  The non-combustible particles blacken the sky and pose a major health hazard to the health of people in a hundred mile radius.

Secondly, the presence of Royal Caribbean's new mega-ships in the little port required the destruction of some 35,000,000 cubic feet of coral reef and the destruction of two square miles of mangroves which are now buried under the now pulverized reef material.   Quite frankly when I visited Falmouth last year, I was taken back by the destruction I could see. But now I appreciate just how widespread and complete Royal Caribbean's plans were to destroy the reef and mangroves.   OnEarth magazine explains:

"In Falmouth, to accommodate Allure and Oasis, wrecking crews had to smash a quarter-mile-wide opening in an offshore barrier reef. They dredged coral, both living and dead, as well as the rock substrate, and trucked it inland to a two-square-mile dump site -- a clear-cut area on the outskirts of town that was once a thriving red mangrove swamp. Now all that’s left is 35 million cubic feet of pulverized coral and rubble. When I visit the site with Roland Haye, a Jamaican environmental activist, he tells me, "As a boy, I used to play Tarzan here and see crocodile. It was a winter home for great heron and swan." He points out broken conch shells, dismembered starfish, bits of sea sponge, and severed lobes of brain coral."

Port of Falmouth - Reef and Mangrove Damage - Royal CaribbeanAnother problem is that the removal of the natural reef exposes the shore to pounding of the waves. When I visited, I observed that the road from Ocho Rios to Falmouth, previously protected by the reef, was literally covered with water from the encroaching waves. The road was already eroding.  

While reading the OnEarth magazine article, I learned about Esther Figueroa, a Jamaican filmmaker who documented the destruction of the reef and mangroves in order to dig a giant water hole for Royal Caribbean to park its monstrosities of the seas. (Why does Joni Mitchell's song Big Yellow Taxi - "they paved paradise" - come to mind?).

Ms. Figuero's short video is below, at the bottom.

But first take a look at the top video. While looking on YouTube for Ms. Figueroa's video, I also ran across a short promotional video for the Royal Caribbean port by "CruiseGuy," a cruise enthusiast and local cruise celebrity, who was interviewed on a local South Florida TV station. He raves about how wonderful Royal Caribbean's new facility in Falmouth will be. The video shows a beautiful color drawing of a tree filled port nestled between the Oasis and the Allure.    

Compare this cruise dream with the reality revealed by Ms. Figueroa's video on the bottom.  

"Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til it's gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot"
 

  

 

 

Why Are Royal Caribbean's "Most Technologically Advanced" Cruise Ships Burning Nasty Bunker Fuel?

A couple of years ago I blogged about the nastiest fuel on the planet - bunker fuel.  It's the dredge at the bottom of oil refineries, a nasty tar like substance which is impossible to be completely burned.  It leaves non-combustible particles that blacken the sky and, if inhaled, cause lung disease, cancer, asthma, emphysema.  Cruise ships burn it because it's cheap.  But it presents long term and costly health issues to people around the world who are forced to breathe the cruise ship emissions.

No one in their right mind would burn this stuff in their house or car and you would call the police if your neighbor did.  But this is the cornerstone of the cruise industry.   

When Royal Caribbean brought the new Genesis class cruise ships on line, the cruise line touted the Oasis of the Seas and its sister ship Allure of the Seas as technological marvels. But this weekend while reading an article Can the Cruise Industry Clean Up Its Act? in OnEarth magazine ("A Survival Guide for the Planet.") I learned something new.

Although Royal Caribbean touts the Oasis and Allure as "green" cruise ships, they still burn the world's dirtiest fuel - bunker fuel.  The article states that Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas:

" . . . still burns bunker oil, also known as bunker fuel, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels. Today, virtually every cruise ship is powered by this cheap, gelatinous sludge, which presents the single biggest hurdle to an industry that wants to call itself sustainable. As long as Allure guzzles this stuff, she will leave a colossal environmental footprint . . . "  

The article goes on to state that every dollar spent to reduce pollution from ships will create as much as $34 in health benefits. "Cleaner ships will translate into fewer asthma emergencies, heart attacks, and lung ailments, especially among children and the elderly."  But don't expect Royal Caribbean to invest a penny into such health concerns. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean are neither the stewards of the air nor the protectors of your family's lungs.  

As long as the Oasis and the Allure burn bunker fuel, they are no more technologically advanced than a 1960's tanker.  

Oasis of the Seas Cruise Ship - Pollution - Bunker Fuel

 For additional information about cruise ship pollution, read an editorial in the Seattle Times Cruise Industry Should Comply With New Air-Quality Regulation

Twitter Insight: Oasis of the Seas Encounters Refugees on the High Seas

This evening my twitter feed came alive with a number of fascinating tweets by passengers sailing aboard the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas as it sailed between Florida and Cuba.

The passengers, Jason Cochran, whose Twitter name is @Bastable and has a cool website, and "Nomadic Matt" (I could not figure out his real name) who Twitter name is @nomadicmatt and who has a neat travel website, tweeted about their cruise ship sailing across something strange - 18 refugees in a raft.

Actually encountering rafters on the high seas is not particularly strange at all.

I have blogged a lot about cruise ships "rescuing" Cuban refugees. (Just click on the "Rescue" Oasis of the Seas - Bastable - Cuban Refugeescategory to the left to read a couple of articles.) For some strange reason, Royal Caribbean cruise ships are most likely to sail upon rafters trying to escape the oppressive regime in Cuba. Why Royal Caribbean?  I have no idea.  Most of the clueless cruisers think that the rafters are "saved" and about to be invited into the U.S. 

The problem is that the Cubans are never "rescued." The cruise line usually takes them on the ship, calls the U.S. Coast Guard who sails out to the scene, and the Coast Guard processes the refugees and sails them back to Cuba where they end up in Castro's jails.

But today was different.  The tweeters explained that the crew of the Oasis brought food and water to the refugees, but the refugees didn't want to be "rescued."  They knew the U.S. Coast Guard would arrive and they wanted to leave.

There are some people who understand this perfectly well - ‏@shaneyhudson - a travel writer from Australia, tweeted "Coast guard would rather them drown than let them touch US shore. Will tow them back." He's right. Its rare to hear someone more bitter than me about these type of things.  

Bastable tweeted: "The Oasis‬ is now leaving the raft behind, slowly turning east. No Coast Guard cutter yet. Goodbye. We hope things turn out for you."   

I agree Bastable,  A tragic tale, indeed.    

Let's hope the winds and currents and the grace of God bring the refugees ashore tonight and they plant their feet on U.S. soil and can begin free lives here in America.

 

Photo credit:  Bastable

Key West to Dredge Channel to Accomodate Oasis of the Seas?

Key West - Cruise Port for Mega Ships?While the city of Charleston South Carolina is resisting the expansion of the cruise industry into its city, the southernmost city of the U.S. may be heading in the other direction.  Key West appears to be poised to accommodate bigger and more cruise ships, including the new mega ships the Allure and Oasis of the Seas.

The KeyNoter newspaper reports that Key West is considering widening the shipping channel into Key West Harbor, allowing for much larger cruise ships to port.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prepared a report about the dredging project which would cost $35 million.

There have been no report prepared yet regarding the environmental and economic impacts so far. A feasibility study would cost about $5.5 million.

The newspaper reports that next week, the Key West officials will invite the local residents to a meeting to hear from the Army Corps engineers, staff from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the Key West City Commission.

The newspaper indicates that Key West has 350 cruise-ship visits per year, totaling about 800,000 annual passengers who pay a disembarkation fee.  Key West's population is only around 25,000.

The Key West Chamber of Commerce supports the dredging project which would widen the channel by 150 feet from 300 to 450 feet.  The Key West environmental group Last Stand opposes it.

The article mentions that after the channel is widened, Key West could accommodate Royal Caribbean's mega-ship Oasis of the Seas, which would bring up to 6,500 passengers and 2,000 crew to the city on a single visit. 

The only question I would have if I lived in Key West is - why?  Key West already has 800,000 tourists by cruise ship a year.  Do you really need to spend $35,000,000 to widen the channel in order to squeeze mega ships like the Oasis into your little harbor?  

Oasis of the Seas - Key West

 

Accident on Oasis of the Seas Seriously Injures Crew Member

Cruise Law News has been contacted by two passengers this weekend, inquiring about a serious accident which occurred on the Oasis of the Seas.  The passengers are describing the incident as occurring during a crew fire drill while the cruise ship was at the port in Cozumel last Thursday, January 27th.  A crew member was badly injured and taken from the cruise ship by a medical team.

The captain of the Oasis made a number of announcements indicating that the crew member was in critical condition and underwent surgery.

 If you were you on the cruise and have pertinent information, please feel free to leave a message below.

January 29, 2011:  We received information that the accident occurred "during the mandatory drill an oxygen tank cracked and hit a crew member on the head.  Safety officer broke his leg."    

January 30, 2011 Update: a passenger comments below that a defective oxygen tank used during the fire drills 'took off like a rocket' and hit the crew member in the head and he was taken to Miami for emergency medical treatment.  

January 31, 2011 Update:  a cruise insider informs us that the Royal Caribbean crew member died on January 29, 2011.

A Mysterious Passenger Death, Another Royal Caribbean Crew Death, Country Music in Mexico, and a Cruise Ship Named After an Ogress

The month of November ends with the mystery of a dead Carnival passenger, another dead Royal Caribbean crew member, a drunk HAL passenger, and the usual weird cruise news. 

Murder Cover Up on the Carnival Liberty?  According to Carnival's PR spokesperson Vance Gulliksen, the death of a passenger on the Carnival Liberty had nothing to so with a crime or FBI - Carnival Liberty Cruise Ship - Passenger Deathviolence, it was just "medical related."  But passengers who were aboard the cruise ship commented on our blog articles Passenger Death On Carnival Liberty Cruise Ship and Death on a Fun Ship: What Really Happened on the Carnival Liberty? that the 36 years old female passenger met a violent if not gruesome death.  We posted a video (left) from one of the passengers showing the FBI leaving the cruise ship with what appears to be bags of evidence.  Is Carnival trying to hide the truth?  It would not be the first time.  We have made a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request and will stay on top of the story.   

Why Did a 33 Year Old RCCL Cook from Jamaica Die on the Oasis of the Seas?  Following the death of a young Jamaican cook on the mega ship Oasis of the Seas, Royal Caribbean took a different PR approach than Carnival and simply said that it is standard protocol to call the FBI following a crew member death.  Actually, there is no protocol to notify the FBI every time a crew employee or passenger dies during a cruise.  The FBI suggests that they be notified when there are suspicious circumstances surrounding a shipboard death.  Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Carnival do a notoriously terrible job handling crime cases and are about the least transparent corporations in revealing information when things go wrong at seas.      

How Could A Single Drunk Passenger Almost "Destroy, Disable, or Wreck" a HAL Cruise Tatlor Swift - Kanye West - Allure of the SeasShip?  An intoxicated passenger dropped an anchor early one morning while cruising on the Holland America Line Ryndam cruise ship.  The FBI arrested the drunk passenger with great fanfare.  The media followed up with the usual throw-the-stupid-drunk overboard stories.  But if there really is a criminal case to be made against the passenger for attempting to “damage, destroy, disable, or wreck a vessel” (a felony pursuant to the United States Code), then what does that say about this cruise line's security protocols?  If a stupid, drunk can single handedly wreck a cruise ship, what do you think a group of smart determined terrorists can do? 

Lesson learned?  There is way too much alcohol and far too few experienced security personnel on these foreign flagged cruise ships.    

Aqua Concert in Cozumel:  On the bright side, country artist Taylor Swift will be singing her hits to a captive audience aboard Royal Caribbean's newest monster cruise ship, Allure of the Seas.  On January 21, 2011, as the cruise ship docks in Cozumel, Mexico, Ms. Swift will perform in the cruise Princess Fiona - Royal Caribbean - Godmother - Allure of the Seas - Fain - Goldsteinship’s AquaTheater, providing an open-air / ocean view concert.  Let's hope that a brandy-sipping Kanye West (above right) doesn't show up on stage and take her microphone away, babbling that Beyoncé should be singing instead.  OK.  I'll admit it.  I prefer Beyoncé rather than the skinny country chick.  But that's not the point. 

Ogress Fiona and the Nation of Why Not?  Royal Caribbean announced that the Godmother of its monstrous Allure of the Seas cruise ship is no other than Shrek's Princess Fiona.  I'm not sure of the thought process behind naming a cruise ship after a cursed by-day princess who becomes an ogress at sunset.  But anything goes at the Nation of Why Not.  Sounds like the results of a deal with DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg to market his movie creatures, and RCCL is pleased to cram the movie marketing down their passengers' throats.  Ogress Fiona, President Goldstein,CEO Fain and the Allure's Captain certainly make for a handsome PR photo.  Yikes. 

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Found Dead on Oasis of the Seas

A Royal Caribbean crew member was found dead in his cabin on the mega-ship Oasis of the Seas on November 26th.  A local television station in Miami, CBS-4, identifies the crew member as a cook.

 According to a statement from the cruise line, the crew member is a 33-year old Jamaican man. 

"As is our standard procedure, both the FBI and local law enforcement were notified and responding to the ship on Saturday when it arrived at Port Everglades."

Oasis of the seas - Death - Crew member - Royal CaribbeanThis is the second death of a crew member aboard the Oasis of the Seas this year.   In May, 45 year old Dillon Roache, of St. Vincent, jumped overboard in an apparent suicide. 

Royal Caribbean has experienced a high number of crew members deaths this year. In May we reported on Royal Caribbean crew member Satianand (Satyanand) Buddaru who disappeared from the Explorer of the Seas -  Crew Member Overboard from Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas.  In March a crew member employed by Park West Gallery jumped overboard from the Radiance of the Seas.  Our stories about the incident are available here: "Man Overboard" Reported on Radiance of the Seas and here Master of Radiance of the Seas Praised for Rapid Response to Crew Overboard.   On New Year's Eve Royal Caribbean crew member Neha Chhikara jumped from the Monarch of the Seas

It is currently unknown whether this incident involved a death by natural causes (highly unusual with a 33 year old man), a suicide or foul play.

If you have information about this incident, please leave a comment below.  

Wipeout! Liability of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line for FlowRider Accidents

In the last several months, many cruise passengers contacted our office who have been seriously injured on the FlowRiders on Royal Caribbean cruise ships. Some passenger are injured when they fall.  Others are injured after they fall and then the water current drives them over the ridge into the back wall breaking their ankles.  

FlowRider - Royal Caribbean - Accidents - Injuries - Cruise The injuries are extremely serious.  All passengers required surgery and were left with permanent injuries.

The complaints which we hear from the passengers are all the same -  the cruise line "instructors" seemed to be ill-trained or in a rush, and the instructions given to the guests were incomplete.  Without exception once the accident occurred, the crew members at the FlowRider did not know what to do.  The injured passengers often find themselves being put off in the next port on a Caribbean island with inadequate medical treatment.

Royal Caribbean is the only cruise line which has FlowRiders.  That's because the other cruise line do not want to subject their guests to such serious injuries and then face the legal liability of having one of these dangerous activities on their cruise ships.    

Royal Caribbean has FlowRiders on the Oasis of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, and Liberty of the Seas.  The cruise line describes the FlowRiders innocently enough on its website

"How It Works - The FlowRider sends a thin sheet of water up a sloped and (thankfully) cushioned platform to create a wavelike flow of water. So it's perfect for beginning, intermediate and advanced surfers . . . "

Royal Caribbean faces liability for: inadequate instructions to passengers; failure to maintain and operate the FlowRider consistent with manufacture instructions and industry standards; failure to FlowRider Wipeout - Royal Caribbean Flow Rider Injury accurately disclose and effectively warn passengers of prior accidents, injuries, and deaths aboard the FlowRider; and failing to respond appropriately to the accidents.

The cruise line forces the passengers to sign "Onboard Activities Waivers."  The cruise line tries to argue that these 'waivers" strip the passengers of their rights whenever they are injured while flowboarding, zip lining, rock climbing, or ice skating. 

We believe these waivers are invalid.  They violate U.S. Federal law which prohibits shipping companies and cruise lines avoiding or limiting liability for injuries and deaths on the high seas.

Royal Caribbean knows that hundreds of passengers a year will be injured on the FlowRiders on their cruise ships,  They have installed large flat-screen tvs in the adjacent "Wipeout Bar" for the other passengers to watch the fun.  But if you are seriously injured, check with a maritime lawyer before you take the cruise line's word that their so-called "waivers" are valid.   

 

Don't forget to watch the video below - of Royal Caribbean FlowRider wipeouts - sung to "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor" by Drowning Pool:  

 

 

December 21, 2011 Update:  FlowRider Accidents: Royal Caribbean Liability Waivers Are Unenforceable!

 

Credits:

Photo 1           randmunn1 Fkickr 

Photo 2          carolsummer66 photobucket 

Video             YouTube lilmikee420

Another Overboard From A Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship? - Oasis of the Seas

Has another person disappeared from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship?

A passenger on Royal Caribbean's mega ship Oasis of the Seas is commenting on Cruise Critic that the Captain announced earlier this afternoon that the cruise ship was turning around to search for a missing person.  

Passengers aboard the cruise ship (see the comments below) are telling us that a crew member went overboard.

Overboard - Missing - Royal Caribbean - Oasis of the Seas If this information is correct, then this is the fourth overboard from Royal Caribbean cruise ships this year.  On May 6th we reported on Royal Caribbean crew member Satianand (Satyanand) Buddaru who disappeared from the Explorer of the Seas -  Crew Member Overboard from Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas

In March a crew member employed by Park West Gallery jumped overboard from the Radiance of the Seas.  Our stories about the incident are available here: "Man Overboard" Reported on Radiance of the Seas and here Master of Radiance of the Seas Praised for Rapid Response to Crew Overboard.

On New Year's Eve Royal Caribbean crew member Neha Chhikara jumped from the Monarch of the Seas.

These type of incidents raise questions whether this cruise line has adequate security systems in place to address the issue of passenger and crew member overboards.  Last year, the  popular web site Jaunted published an article "Enough With People Jumping Off Cruise Ships Already!" The article refers to ". . . an assistant purser on Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas (who) apparently hated his job so much that he couldn't wait until he was back on land to quit, hopping overboard as the ship steamed from Key West to Miami . . . "  Fortunately, he was rescued.

Royal Caribbean has had more than its share of unexplained "disappearances" of passengers and crew, including the very disturbing case of Mirrian Carver who vanished from the Mercury cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean's subsidiary Celebrity Cruises.  ABC's Primetime covered the story in an article "Cruise Cover-Up?  Cruise Line Doesn't Notify Anyone When Woman Disappears On Second Day Of Trip."  

Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have a reputation of being very secretive when people go overboard.  Following the last crew overboard from the Explorer of the Seas, we received sixty-three (63) comments to our article.  Most of the comments were from passengers or crew members on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  Passengers are often the only source of accurate and timely information when things go wrong on the high seas.

Were you on the Oasis of the Seas during this latest disappearance?  If you have information to share, please leave a comment below.

May 25th 2:00 p.m. Update - Crew Member Identified:

The Coast Guard News identifies the crew member as 45 year old  Dillon Roache, of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  The Coast Guard states that Mr. Roache was "confirmed overboard" between Nassau and St. Thomas.  This means that the cruise ship's surveillance cameras captured images of the crew member going overboard.  As we have mentioned in prior articles, Royal Caribbean apparently does not monitor its exterior cameras or use technology to alert the bridge when the security cameras detect persons going overboard. 

Many male crew members from St. Vincent work as manual laborers (utility cleaners, night cleaners, etc.).  The work is hard and the pay is as low as $137 for 85 hour work week.  Read "Screwed If By Sea" for an idea of the working conditions on Royal Caribbean.  

May 26th Update - Crew Members Reported Mr. Roach Missing around  1:00 p.m. on Monday  

The Virgin Islands Daily News reports that according to a statement issued by Royal Caribbean, "about 1 p.m. on Monday, May 24th the Oasis of the Seas’ crew reported that one of their co-workers was missing. Security searched the ship and paged the missing crew member, then contacted the U.S. Coast Guard and the Bahamian Coast Guard."  According to the newspaper, "closed circuit camera footage revealed that the missing crew member fell from the ship, Royal Caribbean said."  But the cruise line did not disclose the circumstances to explain why the crew member went overboard.

May 27th Update - Questions Remain How Crew Member Went Overboard:

In prior incidents when crew members went overboard from Royal Caribbean cruise ships, the cruise line claimed the crew members jumped.  But in this situation, the cruise line has stayed Oasis of the Seas - Crew Overboard - Webcam - Surveillancemum.  The Norwegian shipping magazine Tradewinds just published an article about this latest disappearance from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  The article states that the crew member "fell' and referred to the incident as a "horrific accident."   Notably absent from this article, as well as the  statements from the Coast Guard or cruise line, is any indication that the crew member was suicidal and "jumped."     

The Oasis of the Seas has hundreds of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras.  It has several webcams where you can even watch what's happening on the cruise ship from your home computer, like the webcam of the pool and sports zone (above right).  Royal Caribbean knows what happened, but is not telling.

This is the type of case where the cruise lines could establish some degree of credibility and transparency with the American public.  Instead, this cruise line has defaulted to its usual character of secrecy.

Does anyone has information regarding how the incident occurred?  Please leave a comment below. 

May 29 Update - Passengers Return to Fort Lauderdale:

Some passengers returning home from the cruise today have emailed us.  A few have left comments, including one passenger, "Dave," who writes that the crew member jumped off of deck five at 3 a.m. in the morning and was "seen on the camera swimming in the ocean."   Can other passengers confirm this?   Leave us a comment below if you have information to share .  .  . 

May 30 Update - Interview with Wife:

The Caribbean Daily News interviewed the crew member's wife, Doris Roache, who indicated that her husband had worked for Royal Caribbean for five years, and was employed as an assistant waiter.  He left St. Vincent on Friday May 21st after spending two months vacation with her.  He flew to Miami and stayed in a hotel Friday night and joined the cruise ship on Saturday, May 22nd. The ship sailed at 5 p.m. Saturday evening.  Mrs. Roache received a call from her husband between 11:00 -12:00 p.m. Saturday night. He told her he was okay and that the ship was sailing towards the Bahamas.  She later received a call on Monday morning, May 24th, between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. from the "ship’s administration" saying that her husband was missing and that he was last seen aboard the ship at 11:00 p.m. Sunday, May 23rd. while the ship was sailing.  "They said that he did not come to work; he is an assistant waiter and he is never late so they sent somebody to look for him and he was nowhere to be found.” 

 

Credits:

Oasis of the Seas       Kenneth Karsten via shipspotting.com

Oasis of the Seas webcam       Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. 

Oasis of the Seas - Wow! - Another Cruise Puff Piece By the Miami Herald

An article this morning caught my eye: "Newest and Biggest Cruise Ship: Oasis of the Seas." The article contains the usual "wow-look-how-big-it-is!" style of writing which is most typically associated with travel agents.  You know, those travel agents doubling as authors whose interest Miami Heraldin describing this monster-of-cruise-ship is hopelessly intertwined with obtaining commissions by selling cruises. 

Then I realized that the article (appearing in a Dallas newspaper) was written by Jane Wooldridge who is the business editor of the Miami Herald.

I have written about the Miami Herald and Ms. Wooldridge in several prior articles: Miami Herald: Asleep at the Wheel Regarding the Cruise Industry and Miami Herald - See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil.

There have been an incredible number of newsworthy developments involving cruise lines over the past five years - missing passengers, high profile sexual assaults, endless pollution fines, fires, sinkings, and five Congressional hearings involving Miami based cruise lines. But the Miami Herald wouldn't touch these stories.  It did not even report on the passage of the first cruise crime bill in the 40 history of the cruise industry. 

The Miami Herald's writers never publish anything negative or controversial which might embarrass their cruise line friends.  Credible newspapers with real journalists are left to cover these legitimate stories - like the Los Angeles Times, the San Fransisco Chronicle, or the New York Times.

The Miami Herald sold out to the Miami-based  cruise industry long ago.  This latest article is just the same old cruise cheerleading that the Herald is known for.  Consider the gushing adjectives chosen in the description of the mega ship:  "wow ... amazing . . . Oasis of the Seas - Monster of the Seasrevolutionary."  Can you imagine a business editor anywhere writing such drivel? The article contained quotes only from other cruise enthusiasts, travel agents and the cruise line's CEO, Richard Fain. 

The spectacle of the Oasis of the Seas raises disturbing questions which I have mentioned in numerous articles. But you will find no hint of controversy in articles by Miami Herald employees who consistently write travel pieces designed to sell tickets for their cruise line advertisers.  

Is it just coincidence that the article uses the word "Wow" (caps in original), when the corporate mantra at  Royal Caribbean is "Deliver the Wow?"   

And the latest controversy of this Cloverfield-like-beast-of-cruise-ship sailing past the ruins of Haiti to the cruise line's "private destination" of Labadee seems to many like corporate malfeasance on steroids.  But the Herald will look the other way.

See no evil.  Hear no evil.  Speak no evil.  The tradition of the Miami Herald continues.

 

Credits:

Newspaper vending machine        Daquella Manera Flickr Photostream 

Oasis of the Seas                       Kenneth Karsten via shipspotting.com

Royal Caribbean's "Debt of the Seas" - Ready to Sail - But Safety and Security Questions Remain Unanswered

TIME magazine's not-yet-published December 14th edition contains a story about Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas called "Floating Island."

I thought that the title of the article was rather weak.  "Floating Foreclosure" might be more accurate . . . 

The best line in the article - to cruise lines, every passenger is a potential ATM - accurately reflects the cruise line's necessity to try and suck every dime out of their customers to pay for Royal Caribbean's $1,500,000,000 heavily-financed-floating-city which might as well be called Debt of the Seas. There are many beautiful photographs of the cruise ship. 

But the Oasis looks frightening like an over-developed, largely empty, and soon-to-be-repossessed-condominium, the likes of which plague the Miami skyline.

The last time that TIME devoted a couple of pages to the cruise industry was back in March of 2006 when it discussed crime aboard Royal Caribbean cruise ships in an article entitled "Crime Rocks the Boats."  That article is framed and hangs on my office wall, but not just because it mentions two of my clients.  TIME's insightful article by Julie Rawe was the first time a major periodical took a hard look at the cruise industry's nasty practice of covering up shipboard crimes. 

Janet Kelly - Jennifer Hagel - Royal Caribbean - Cruise CrimeBoth clients featured in the TIME article - Janet Kelly who was a victim of a violent shipboard crime and Jennifer Hagel who lost her husband under mysterious circumstances during a Royal Caribbean cruise - overcame their personal tragedies to help change the cruise industry.  Both ladies appeared before our U.S. Congress in 2006 and went on television to get the message out that changes needed to be made to protect American traveling on foreign flagged cruise ships, particularly Royal Caribbean's ships.     

So here we are almost four years later.  In the hysteria and hype surrounding the arrival of the Oasis of the Seas in South Florida, the media has lost all thought of the issue of passenger safety. The seemingly endless articles focus almost exclusively on the size, cost, and how-on-earth-are-we-going-to-pay-for what TIME calls a "sea monster" like the Oasis.     

Several weeks ago, I prepared "Seven Questions to Ask Royal Caribbean Executives Regarding Oasis of the Seas."  CEO Fain and President Goldstein were aboard the Oasis with microphone in hand and supposedly open for all questions.  But they refused to provide any information about the safety and  security of the passengers. Certainly U.S. passengers who pay thousands of dollars each to sail on this mega-target of a ship deserve straight forward answers whether their families will be safe from crime and terrorists. 

So here are some of the questions again, and easy ones at that:

Q:  The LA Times reported that for a period of 32 months, there were over 250 incidents of sexual assault, battery, and sexual harassment against guests and crew members on Royal Caribbean Royal Caribbean - Cruise Line - Executives - Richard Fain - Adam Goldsteincruise ships.  In light of these problems, how many security guards are employed on the Oasis of the Seas?

Q:  How many security guards are assigned to the seven "neighborhoods" on the cruise ship?  Are there security "sub-stations" in each of the neighborhoods?

Q:  How many security guards patrol the neighborhoods from 10:00 p.m. to 4 a.m., a time period we have found  when female passengers are at a higher risk of being assaulted?

Q:  Saturday Night Live joked about the Oasis of the Seas being being bounty for pirates. Whereas the thought of a pirate attack in the Caribbean may be silly, a large cruise ship like this could be a target of a terrorist group.  Does the ship have a sufficient number of security personnel to not only protect the passengers from shipboard crime, but deter and fight off a terrorist attack?

The Oasis of the Seas will make its inaugural sailing tomorrow - Saturday, December 5, 2009.  Because Royal Caribbean won't answer any questions, ask yourself - has Royal Caribbean invested adequately into safety and security technologies and personnel to protect you and your family?

The cruise line executives will never tell, but we shall soon find out.  

 

Credits

Janet Kelly and Jennifer Hagel     ABC News 

Royal Caribbean executives    Royal Caribbean via Cruise Critic

New Report Details Cruise Industry's Record of Pollution

A report entitled "Getting a Grip on Cruise Pollutionreleased today by the Friends of the Earth (FOE) organization concludes that the billions of dollars earned by the cruise industry Friends of the Earth - Cruise Ship Pollution each year comes at a significant cost to our nation’s air and water.

The report was
researched and authored by Ross Klein, a Professor and independent expert on cruise ship pollution.  Professor Klein takes a detailed look at the various ways in which the cruise industry has harmed - and continues to harm - the environments in which cruise ships travel.

“This report provides a vital resource to anyone concerned about the cruise industry’s environmental impacts. With today’s launch of the largest cruise ship ever built - Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas - the report shines a light on an industry that has long avoided comprehensive environmental regulation and pollution controls,” said Marcie Keever, FOE's Earth’s Clean Vessels Campaign Director. “Cruise ships continue to dump sewage into our waters and poison our Oasis of the Seas - Pollution - Emissionsair with engines that burn bottom-of-the barrel bunker fuel.”

"Getting a Grip on Cruise Ship Pollution" 
looks at all aspects of the cruise industry, from its pollution streams, to its history of environmental violations, to the modest number of environmental laws that govern the industry. The report also contains a wide-ranging set of policy recommendations, providing solutions for comprehensive environmental reform of the cruise industry.

To learn more, visit the Friends of Earth website.


Resources:

Catalog of cruise industry environmental violations, fines and other incidents: Professor Ross Klein's website CruiseJunkie

Overview of cruise ship pollution from Friends of the Earth website.

Source: Friends of the Earth news release. FOE is the U.S. voice of the world's largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 77 countries. Since 1969, FOE has fought to create a more healthy, just world.

Credit:

Oasis of the Seas       Kenneth Karsten via shipspotting.com

Shopping Mall of the Seas

Oasis of the Seas - A Floating Mall?Tim Adams of the U.K.'s Observer is one of hundreds of travel writers invited aboard Royal Caribbean's new mega-liner Oasis of the Seas

Unlike the majority of cruise groupies who have gushed praise for the mega-ship, Mr Adams' article is not exactly what the executives of Royal Caribbean were hoping for.  

The article is entitled "Oasis of the Seas: the Ship that Mistook Itself for a City State."

Mr. Adams' first sentence sets the tone for his critique: "It carries more than 8,000 people, has an on-board park and themed bars from all over the globe. But one experience you don't get on board Oasis of the Seas is that of being at sea."

This is a criticism which many reporters have made, including the most famous travel writer in the world Arthur Frommer who writes in his blog that Royal Caribbean is "dumbing down" the travel experience while taking aim at the passenger's wallets .  The Gadling travel site echoes a familiar Oasis of the Seas - Designer Stores at Seasentiment in the article "The Oasis of the Seas: Designed to Keep Your Dollars Captive (and "Dumb Down" the Travel Experience)."  

Royal Caribbean's conceptual drawings of the ship - showing women with designer bags briskly walking to the next store - reinforces my conclusion that the cruise ship was designed more like a floating high-rise Dadeland Mall (Miami's mega shopping center) than anything resembling an ocean liner.  Like a cavernous mall, the Oasis is huge, busy, noisy and designed to take your money by selling you things that you absolutely don't need and probably don't really want. 

Here are some of Mr. Adam's observations:

"The Oasis . . . is partly a tribute to XXXL, the American god of girth . . .

The ship is an oasis within the sea, a sort of inward-looking gated community of the waves, moving its passengers restlessly from experience to experience, spending money.

I have a sense that in years to come the Oasis of the Seas . . . may be seen as something of a symbol of the end of an American empire based on vast consumption . . ."

There are others who share Mr. Adams' views.  Take a moment and read:

"Royal Caribbean's "Monster of the Seas" - a Cruise Ship Only Gordon Gekko Could Love"

"Oasis of the Seas - A Vision of All Consuming Hell"

 

Photo credits     Royal Caribbean

Fearless Fain, Royal Caribbean's CEO

Those of you who have followed my blog over the last three months know that I have been hard on Royal Caribbean.  I think that this cruise line treats its injured crew members terribly, and it has Royal Caribbean - Richard Fain - Who's the Daddy?handled the problem with sexual assaults on its cruise ships even worse.  I also think the Oasis of the Seas is a boondoggle.

So there are my biases.

But I have been rather intrigued by how Royal Caribbean's CEO, Richard Fain, doesn't seem to let much bother him.  Year after year he keep coming up with the never ending succession of bigger cruise ships which are announced to the world with great fanfare. 

Whenever there is a reporter or news camera surrounding a Royal Caribbean event, there Mr. Fain  is - showing President Clinton around Royal Caribbean's private "island" in Labadee, Haiti, or riding the flow-rider on the Independence of the Seas in Southampton, or waiving to reporters while spinning around and around on the carousel on the Oasis of the Seas

It is hard to imagine his competitor - Mickey Arison at Carnival - even trying to get aboard a boogie board. That would be ugly.  But "Fearless Fain" seems to be a former athlete and a natural at things like this.  He obviously is skilled at PR and marketing his Royal Caribbean brand with a hands-on approach. 

Now, I will quickly admit that the phrase "Fearless Fain" is not my idea.  Rather it was the title of an Richard Fain - Royal Caribbeanarticle written by John Honeywell a/k/a "Captain Greybeard" who writes an opinion piece for the Mirror in the U.K.  The flow-rider photo above is from Captain Greybeard's photo-stream on Flickr of the Independence of the Seas ("Who's the Daddy?")

Speaking of the flow-rider, there has already been one death after a passenger fell and struck his head.  But Royal Caribbean requires all passengers to sign waivers of liability before they step onto the boogie board and try to break their necks. And speaking of waivers, Mr. Fain announced on his "Chairman's Blog" that the new Oasis of the Seas will be able to expedite passengers riding the zipline over Central Park.  He suggested having them just swipe their sign and sail cards which will acknowledge their waiver of their rights if the line breaks.  No need for long lines, or a lot of Richard Fain - American Flag?paperwork. Very innovative.    

There is an interesting photograph of Mr. Fain signing papers when the cruise line officially took possession of the Oasis of the Seas.  Right in the center of the photograph is an American flag.  Now, this strikes me as funny.  Mr. Fain registered his company in Liberia.  All of his cruise ships fly flags of convenience in countries like Liberia and the Bahamas in order to avoid paying any U.S. income tax and avoid U.S. laws and regulations.

Was this happenstance?  Hardly.  I remember a couple of years ago when a Court in Miami ordered Mr. Fain to appear for a video deposition in downtown Miami in a case when parents alleged that their little girl had been molested by a youth counselor on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  Mr. Fain instructed the law firm Richard Fain - Havinf Fundefending the case to make certain that an American flag was positioned behind him as he sat in front of the videographer.  They didn't have a flag so they had to go and rent one for the afternoon. 

As Royal Caribbean tries to fill up the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas comes into the fleet next year, it will be interesting to see if Mr. Fain can continue to skillfully market his Liberian corporation to us tax-paying U.S. citizens.            

Credits:

Richard Fain (photo 1)  John Honeywell a/k/a Captain Greybeard

Richard Fain (photos 2, 4)   Reuters via Daylife.com     

Richard Fain (photo 3) UpTake Travel Industry

Oasis of the Seas - A Vision of All Consuming Hell

The San Francisco Chronicle is a great newspaper.  Like the L.A. Times, it has an endless staff of intellectually curious, bright journalists instilled with an ethic of investigative journalism of the likes Miami Herald - Cruise Line Fanof super-journalist Douglas Franz.  All qualities which our newspapers here in South Florida are  sorely missing.

Miami Herald - An Enabler of the "Greed of the Seas" 

I have commented before on how the Miami Herald is basically the cruise line's bitch, if you excuse my French.  

Which brings me to today's blog.  The Miami Herald is attending a press frenzy today in Port Everglades on Royal Caribbean's mega-monster Oasis of the Seas. Tomorrow, the increasingly few Miami residents who subscribe to the Miami Herald can expect the usual puff piece with its usual "wow! look-at-how-big-it-is" stories. 

Where are the free thinkers questioning the madness of this monster?  The "journalists" surrounding this beast of a ship more resemble groupies thronging for attention around a 1980's metal band.  

So I felt redeemed today when I read a column from talented journalist Mark Moford of the San Francisco Chronicle about Royal Caribbean's monster of the seas.  I have attempted a couple of similar insights such as Royal Caribbean's "Monster of the Seas" - a Cruise Ship Only Gordon Gekko Could Love but my article falls well short of Mr. Moford's straight-to-the-jugular writing. 

Oasis of the Seas - Monster of the SeasHis feelings today about monster cruise ships are so spot on that I will just repeat them verbatim:

Mark Moford and Dante's Inferno

"If you're anything like me, you can't help but be completely overwhelmed by one devastating, all-encompassing thought whenever you see any of those insane floating nightmares known as monster cruise ships.

You think of sewage. 

Right? Don't you? It's all I can do not to imagine the mountains of waste these ungodly leviathans produce on your average oceanic journey: The heaps of garbage, sewage, toilet paper, plastic, chemicals and leftover food from the gluttonous buffets, all that clammy shrimp, rotting lettuce and industrial prime rib uneaten by 6,000 largely unhealthy people agreeing to be trapped aboard a floating ring of Dante's inferno for two solid weeks.

A Terrifically Ugly Floating Vomitorium

I fully believe cruise ships are one of man's most nefarious inventions, an extremely sad, low-vibrating form of evil, cleverly disguised as desirable luxury but which, if you spend more than a few hours wandering the decks by yourself, will subtly and calmly urge you to jump overboard and end it all. Which is exactly why they're all based in Florida.

Mark MofordHence, it was utterly impossible for me to stifle a bone-deep shudder when fresh images of the world's largest cruise ship, the Oasis of the Seas, upwards of 225,000 gross tons and several times larger than the Titanic, recently lumbered across my jaded retina. This nefarious colossus is not merely terrifically ugly, not merely a bizarre testament to man's voracious desire to build the absolutely silliest, most ginormous things he can possibly imagine, not merely greed and PR and unchecked capitalism run amok. Oh wait, that's exactly what it is. And I'm not afraid to admit: It frightens me deeply.

I suppose the good news is, whenever tacky cruise ships make the news - usually because of a nasty flu outbreak on board that turns the entire vessel into a floating vomitorium - I'm wont to recall the late David Foster Wallace's pitch-perfect, all-time classic piece from Harper's (PDF here) years back that set the standard for brilliant literary takedowns. Far as I'm concerned, anything that re-ignites an appreciation for DFW can't be all bad."

 

Credits:

Miami Herald's Business Monday   Miami Herald

Oasis of the Seas    Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., a Liberian Corporation

Mark Moford   SFGate / San Francisco Chronicle 

 

Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas Arrives in Fort Lauderdale

Royal Caribbean's new "Genesis" class cruise ship, Oasis of the Seas, arrived this morning in Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale, Florida). 

It looks big. 

Here are two videos.  The first by the Miami Herald shows the arrival of the cruise ship in port.  The second by CBS News, featuring Peter Greenberg, is an introductory piece.

Prayers for the safety and security of this cruise ship and its passengers & crew.

 

 

 

Historic Port of Falmouth - Jamaica's "Crapital" for the Oasis of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Cruises plans on using Falmouth, in Jamaica, as a port for its new monster of a cruise ship Oasis of the Seas.  There is a concern in Jamaica that Royal Caribbean is exploiting it's historic town in the process.

A Historic and Quaint "Colonial" Town - Sugar, Rum & Slaves  

Port of Falmouth Jamiaca Falmouth is the chief town and capital of Trelawny parish, Jamaica, and is located on Jamaica's north coast near Montego Bay.

In the late 1700's, Jamaica was the world’s leading sugar producer. There were hundreds of sugar estates and enormous wealth created by slaves for the rich estate owners. Falmouth was named after the birthplace of Sir William Trelawny in Falmouth, Cornwall, Britain. At the turn of the 1800's, one hundred sugar plantations in Trelawny parish provided sugar and rum for export to Britain. Falmouth also has a notorious past because it was a center for the slave trade from Africa.  Based on its rum, sugar and slave business, it became one the wealthiest ports in the "New World." 

Falmouth is also considered to be one of the Caribbean’s best-preserved historic towns. Historic FalmouthMeticulously planned in the Colonial style, it is often compared to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, here in the United States. 

Royal Caribbean Makes a Sweet Deal

Several years ago, Royal Caribbean Cruises needed a port to accommodate its new "Genesis" class cruise ships (the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas).  These ships were far too big to use a regular port. 

The cruise line approached Jamaica and proposed a deal where Royal Caribbean would agree to use Falmouth as a port for its new mega ships - provided that Jamaica spend around $120 million deepening its port and creating a huge facililty to accommodate the two new mega-ships carrying over 6,000 passengers each.  The trade-off to Jamaica for this investment would be the infusion of money into Falmouth and the surrounding parish with the arrival of the new mega ships.     

Jamaica quickly jumped at the deal. No environmental impact statement or detailed economic analysis was prepared. The Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) prepared promotional materials suggesting that "the destination will deeply reference the town's history, offering visitors a unigue sensory experience of the Colonial era."  William Tatham, Vice President of Cruise and Marina Operations at the Port Authority of Jamaica, proclaimed: “cruise visitors are looking for more memorable experiences, and this is certainly what Falmouth will be able to deliver.”

Royal Caribbean Cruise President Adam Goldstein  Royal Caribbean's President Adam Goldstein signed the deal with Jamaica's Prime Minister Bruce Golding  and promised to deliver 400,000 passengers a year to Falmouth over the next 20 years, with an expectation that each passenger would spend over $100 in the port. 

Jamaicans were promised a revitalized local economy with thousands of U.S. passengers spending hundreds of thousands of dollars every time the Genesis class cruise ships arrived in port.

Oasis of the Seas - a Self-Contained "Vegas with an Anchor"   

Fast forward to November 2009.  There is now little talk about passengers actually getting off the Oasis of the Seas and going into Falmouth.  Yesterday, the Charlotte Observer ran a story called  "Vegas with an Anchor," which quoted one the cruise ship's captains stating that “our hope, of course, is that people Oasis of the Seasdon't get off, because this ship itself is the destination. This is better than a lot of the islands.”

Paul Motter, the editor of the cruise community CruiseMates, echoed this sentiment: "I think it's going to be the first ship where people truly book just for the ship and hardly care where it goes."

Gadling, the online travel site, criticized the "nearly entirely inward-looking" experience of the Oasis of the Seas.  "With the aptly named Oasis, you don't need to leave the ship at all . . . As the Oasis passes by port after port, please pardon the passengers if they're not gathered at the rail watching the world pass by."

The thought of a megaship so big and self-contained that its passengers don't bother to disembark while in Falmouth is not lost on the people of Jamaica.  After spending and borrowing $120 million, they now realize that Royal Caribbean may have just taken them for a ride.

Oasis of the Seas - Looking for a Place to Offload It's Pee and Poo

In articles entitled "Why We Fail" and "Fantasies, Follies, and Frauds," John Maxwell of the Jamaica Observer warns of the  "transformation of our beautiful heirloom Falmouth . . .  to please the billionaire owners of Royal Caribbean Lines.  He writes:

John Maxwell - Jamiaca Observer"In beautiful and historic Falmouth, we are busy making a billion-dollar cosy corner for the Royal Caribbean Line on the alleged promise that they will be bringing 6,000 visitors a week to Falmouth. What we don't know is that we have probably been conned.

The Oasis of the Seas will make land-based hotels irrelevant. Instead of bringing visitors to Jamaica the new ships will bring an ersatz Jamaica to the visitors. Each of these ships will be human zoos specially designed to bemuse their clientele."

"Crapital" (sic) of the World?

Mr. Maxwell continues with his concern that Jamaica's town of Falmouth may become just a lovely place to unload the crap from the Oasis of the Seas' 6,000 passengers and 1,500 crew members:

"Given all this, the rationale for the Falmouth cruise shipping centre is simple: There's got to be somewhere to dump the huge amounts of waste generated by such a monumentally environmentally unfriendly project. Falmouth's destiny is to act as a relief point for the ship to be sanitized, resupplied with cheap Jamaican water and for the ship, its passengers and crew to offload their excrement in what will become the cruise crapital (sic) of the world"

Oasis of the Seas Allure of the SeasJamaica has a history of being exploited by foreign plantation owners, sugar barons, slave owners, bauxite-mining companies and now the mega ships of the $15 billion Royal Caribbean cruise line. 

Next year, the Oasis of the Seas will invade the historic port of Falmouth.  Later in 2010, the Allure of the Seas will follow.  When these floating-high-rise-shopping-centers cast a shadow over all of old town Falmouth, will Jamaica realize that it's once quaint port is being used for little more than a big latrine?     

 

Credits:

Historic prints of Falmouth   Falmouth Heritage Renewal

Adam Goldstein and Bruce Golding   Jamaica Ministry of Transport & Works

Oasis of the Seas   Kenneth Karsten via shipspotting.com

John Maxwell    Jamaica Gleaner

"Royally Grounded' - Royal Caribbean's Earnings Fall 44%

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Royal Caribbean Cruises' third-quarter earnings fell 44% as ticket prices remained soft and the travel industry continued to slump.  Royal Caribbean reported a third-quarter profit of a little over $230 million, down from around $412 million a year earlier.

Royal Caribbean - Cruise LawIn an article entitled "Royally Grounded," the Motley Fool put things in simpler terms, reporting that the cruise line's third quarter "was a dud."  Revenue fell 15% to $1.8 billion, as "the crummy economy and (swine flu) fears kept bookings low and cheap."

And things will only get worse for Royal Caribbean. 

The Wall Street Journal reports that Royal Caribbean also projected a loss for the current quarter, notwithstanding the arrival of its mega cruise ship Oasis of the Seas.  The Motley Fool warns that when "Royal Caribbean is telling investors to expect a loss during the quarter in which Oasis of the Seas makes its debut, it's time to worry."

Royal Caribbean will be an interesting stock to watch as they try and sell tickets for the Oasis of the Seas and, next year, the Allure of the Seas.

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

A popular part of Cruise Law News is the monthly "Worst Cruise Line in the World" award.  This is a special award, reserved only for the cruise line which demonstrates the worst treatment of passengers, crew members, and the environment.  

And the Winner for October Is  . . .  Royal Caribbean Cruises.

A Little Background Info on Royal Caribbean Cruises

Miami based Royal Caribbean Cruises is the second largest cruise line in the world, consisting of four brands: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and its luxury line - Azamara Royal Caribbean - Worst Cruise Line in the WorldCruises.  It also operates its Spanish Subsidiary - Pullmantour Cruises, where it sends its old cruise ships like the Zenith and the Sovereign of the Seas.  

Like other U.S. based cruise lines, Royal Caribbean registered its business overseas (Liberia) and flagged its cruise ships in foreign countries (Liberia, Bahamas) in order to avoid paying U.S. taxes.  Although it collects between $5 and $6 billion a year from U.S. tax-paying citizens, Royal Caribbean does not pay U.S. taxes by virtue of its foreign corporate citizenship.  Its crew members are 99% non-U.S. citizens.

A Multi-Billion Dollar Corporation Which Pays Its Crew Members Peanuts 

Royal Caribbean crew members who toil behind the scenes, like galley cleaners, earn around $550 while working 360 hours a month - that's about $1.50 an hour.  Yes, that's right - $1.50 an hour.  Royal Caribbean has a net worth of around $15 billion dollars, but pays its hardest working crew members $1.50 an hour. 

Royal Caribbean waiters, bartenders, and cabin attendants earn a salary of only $50 a month. That's $1.67 a day. The cruise line depends on its passengers to tip the crew members so that they can make a living.    

Royal Caribbean invests virtually nothing into its crew members by way of medical treatment or employment benefits.  It is always looking for ways to save money at the expense of its crew.  Royal Caribbean is struggling to finance its + $1,500,000,000 (yes that's 1.5 $billion) cruise ship, Oasis of the Seas.  Its inaugural cruise is in just two weeks but it cannot even sell enough tickets to make its first voyage profitable.  And Royal Caribbean is sweating bullets figuring out how it will finance the even more expensive cruise ship Allure of the Seas, which will be arriving next year.  

So how does Royal Caribbean plan to pay for its two + $3,000,000,000 "Monsters of the Seas?"

Lets-Screw-The-Crew-Members-First

Royal Caribbean started pinching pennies with its crew members when it realized that the economy was tanking.  Its stock fell from $45 a share to under $6 a share, and it became obvious that it could not meet its financial obligations for its new mega cruise ships it ordered several years earlier.  Long before Royal Caribbean turned its back on its most loyal passengers - its Diamond and Diamond Plus passengers - the cruise line targeted its crew members to try and suck money back into its business.

As I mentioned in a prior article "Cruise Ship Medical Care - Royal Caribbean Gives Their Crew Members the Royal Shaft,' Royal Caribbean has been giving the screws to its foreign crew members, particularly the men and women from the Caribbean islands. The cruise line slashed Crew Member Medical Treatmentthe daily amount it pays to its sick or injured crew members from $25 a day to only $12 a day.  Obviously, no one in the world can eat and pay rent and other living expenses - which is the cruise line's legal obligation - on a pittance of only $12 a day.  But this is what Royal Caribbean is doing, scrimping on every penny, to try and finance its new cruise ships. 

Another tactic Royal Caribbean used to save money was to adopt a strict policy of keeping its crew members out of the U.S. whenever they are injured or become sick.  Under the General Maritime Law, cruise lines like Royal Caribbean are obligated to provide prompt and adequate medical treatment to their ill crew members.  This is called the doctrine of "maintenance and cure," the oldest legal doctrine in the U.S. 

Royal Caribbean is based here in Miami, which is a good place to manage its crew members' medical needs.  But the cruise line adopted a policy of keeping the ship employees out of the U.S.  Royal Caribbean is the poster child of corporate malfeasance when it comes to abandoning its sick crew members in third world countries around the world.      

"Ms. Jones" - Royal Caribbean Sees What It Can Get Away With        

We have a crew member client, lets call her "Ms. Jones."  She is from Jamaica.  She is a twenty-five year old, hard working woman who, like many young people from Jamaica, sought a career and better life working on a cruise ship.  In April of this year she felt sick and went to the ship doctor on Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas while the ship was in Europe.  The ship doctor did not take Ms. Jones seriously.  She continued to work.  April turned to May and May turned into June.  Finally she was referred from the cruise ships to a doctor ashore who eventually mis-diagnosed her condition as a neurological condition.    

Royal Caribbean - Crew Member Medical Care When medical conditions cannot be managed on the cruise ships, Royal Caribbean sends its ill crew members to, of all places, the Dominican Republic for treatment.  Why?  It's cheap.  No other reason.  To save money.  The Dominican Republic is an impoverished country, next to Haiti. It is certainly one of the last places you would think of for state-of-the-art medical treatment.  

Dumped in the Dominican Republic

The odds were stacked against Ms. Jones when she arrived in the capital, Santo Domingo. But the good news, initially, is that the doctors finally ordered blood tests and diagnosed that Ms. Smith did not have an orthopedic problem.

She had leukemia. 

This is not a good diagnosis and the diagnosis had been unreasonably delayed.  But the doctors at least had finally figured out what was ailing Ms. Jones.  They had a plan as of early July.  The doctors notified Royal Caribbean and requested permission to start Ms. Jones on the preferred drug for this type of leukemia, "Gleevac," and to consider her for bone marrow transplantation.

Neglected In Jamaica

So what did Royal Caribbean do?  Did they fly her quickly to Miami which has excellent board certified oncologists?  No. They sent Ms. Jones back to her village in Jamaica, a location which makes Santo Domingo look like a thriving metropolis. Royal Caribbean provided no medicine to treat her leukemia and no plans for bone marrow transplantation.  They did this to save money.  Ms. Jones found herself in Jamaica in a weakened and immunosuppressed condition with a malignancy.  Yet no "Gleevac."  No money.  No "sick" wages.    

Ms. Jones languished in Jamaica.  July turned into August.  And then August turned into Leukemia - Crew Member Medical TreatmentSeptember. No Gleevac.  No bone marrow transplantation.  No living expenses.  Her calls and emails to Royal Caribbean begging for assistance were ignored.    

Ms. Jones contacted us.  We immediately notified Royal Caribbean and demanded that Ms. Jones receive her Gleevac, her living expenses, and wages.  We insisted that she sent to Miami for evaluation.  In response, Royal Caribbean called our client directly, behind our back. We have seen Royal Caribbean do this before. They were caught, and they began scrambling. 

Royal Caribbean then wrote to us, claiming that Ms. Jones had received her medicine.  This was a big lie.  We pressed the issue and Royal Caribbean instructed us not to contact its "medical department."  We were left to deal with a low level "claims adjuster" whose only job is to deny claims -  like the insolent claims representative for the "Great Benefit" insurance company in John Grisham's Rainmaker who writes denial letter after denial letter to the mother of a child dying of leukemia. 

Crew Member Medical Treatment - Cancer We quickly by-passed the claims handler and wrote to and called the lawyers at the cruise line.  They informed us that because a lawsuit had not been filed, they would not talk with us.  So within one hour, I prepared a lawsuit and had a process server run over to the port to serve their General Counsel.  Still, they refused to discuss the situation. They continued to stall, lie and obfuscate.

Not a Single Gleevac Pill in the Entire Country

Finally, the truth became evident - not only had they failed to provide Ms. Jones with the life saving "Gleevac" but there was no such medicine in the entire country of Jamaica.  Finally, Royal Caribbean arranged for the medicine to be flown to Jamaica - over 5 months after Ms. Jones first went to the Royal Caribbean ship doctor.

Like most cancers, leukemia left untreated can advance to the "blast" stage, where the prognosis is not good.  And the chances of death increase exponentially. 

As of this late date, Ms. Jones remains in Jamaica.  She is still taking her Gleevac, as long as it Royal Caribbean Cruises - Worst Cruise lIne in the World lasts.  She is receiving only $12 a day to live on, always paid late. On Friday evening, Royal Caribbean finally agreed to permit Ms. Jones to come to the U.S. but it took her hiring a lawyer and filing a lawsuit first.  We are trying to obtain a visa for her from the U.S. Embassy so she can come to Miami to be properly evaluated and treated by board certified U.S. oncologists. 

Her life depends on it.

For anyone reading this article who like me has lost a loved one to cancer, you know that life is too precious to play games like this. Particularly by a $15 billion dollar corporation.  Life is far too precious for such arrogance. 

Royal Caribbean's Priorities - Profits Not People

Meanwhile the hype and fanfare surrounding the arrival of Royal Caribbean's billion dollar cruise ship Oasis of the Seas continue.  You can read what I think of this boondoggle and environmental disaster in "Royal Caribbean's "Monster of the Seas" - a Cruise Ship Only Gordon Gekko Could Love.  There are lots of empty cabins which Royal Caribbean needs to fill for the Oasis of the Seas to make money. 

Titanic dreams occupy the minds of Royal Caribbean executives, CEO Richard Fain and President Adam Goldstein.  Their egos and the fate of Royal Caribbean are hopelessly intertwined with these floating monstrosities.  

They have never heard of Ms. Jones or other crew members like her, living on $12 a day, fighting to stay alive.

 

Photo Credits

Oasis of the Seas      DailyMail.co.uk  "Inside the world's biggest and most expensive ever cruise ship, the £810million Oasis of the Seas"

Photo of Royal Caribbean crew member, Mr. Doran McDonald    Jonathon Postal, Miami New Times 

Leukemia blood film    Euthman's Flickr Photostream

Royal Caribbean Takes Delivery of "Monster of the Seas"

Royal Caribbean's "Monster of the Seas" - a Cruise Ship Only Gordon Gekko Could Love

Cruise fans, travel agents and cruise communities have been abuzz in anticipation of Royal Caribbean's new cruise ship - the "Oasis of the Seas."   "Amazing! . . Wow! . . Look at that!" . . . have been the extent of the popular media's insight into this new super mega ship.    

But a few journalists have questioned the environmental appropriateness of this monster of a cruise ship. In an article entitled "A Titanic for These Times," San Francisco writer Mark Follman concludes that only someone interested in a "decadent vacation cruise" could rationalize boarding what will be the biggest, longest, tallest, widest, heaviest, and most expensive passenger ship ever built.

"Floating Emblem of a Bankrupt Era?"

Follman's intuition is that the experience would be akin to "feasting on a nine-course meal in the middle of an Ethiopian refugee camp."  He cites an article by Rory Nugent in the Atlantic magazine which questions the rationale of building such a monstrosity.  According to the article "Hope Floats," the passengers will consume 560,000 gallons of water a day,  and the ship will burn 12 tons of diesel an hour.  Although Royal Caribbean and the cruise industry's 16,000 travel agents may hope that the Oasis of the Seas will be a success, Mr. Nugent raises the question that the ship "may leave the dock already a dinosaur - a floating emblem of a bankrupt era."

A Corporate Felon That Can't Get It Right 

At a time when only fools question the effect of greenhouse gases, the melting of the Arctic cap, and the need to develop sustainable businesses, Royal Caribbean has spent and mostly borrowed over a billion dollars to create a ship so at odds with the environment that it resembles the monster in the movie Cloverfield.  In 2004, Royal Caribbean came off of a 5 year probation after pleading guilty to felonies for widespread pollution and repeated lying to the U.S. Coast Guard.  Just two days ago, the environmental group 'Friends of the Earth" awarded Royal Caribbean a "F" for the disastrous impact on air and water caused by its cruise ships. 

Three 250 HP Engines on a 37 Foot Boat?

Many corporations take on the personality and values of their leaders. During the publicity build up for the Oasis of the Seas' debut, Royal Caribbean's CEO Richard Fain was interviewed by David Andrews of the U. K.'s "Times Online."  In an article aptly entitled "Biggest is the Best for Cruise Chief,"  Mr. Fain reveals his rivalry with Carnival and the need to "give his business the ascendancy again . . . the Royal Caribbean International brand . . . will be bigger than anything Carnival can compete with."

After finishing the article, I felt that I had just read the lines for Gordon Gekko ("greed is good") in the 1987 movie Wall Street.  

Photo credit - Oasis of the Seas - Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, via San Francisco Chronicle ("Oasis of the Seas is a real ocean monster")