Vision of the Seas Descends Into Drug-Fueled Orgy During Mediterranean Cruise?

Vision of the Seas Anchored Party Last year, Royal Caribbean Cruises agreed with the producers of a reality television show called "Shipmates" to use the cruise line's Vision of the Seas in the filming of the program. Channel 4 TV in the UK used the Vision as the setting for what the producers describe as a "party-fueled luxury cruise ship" sailing in the Mediterranean Sea with a horde of thousands of 20 year-olds "seeking the ultimate party experience on the once-in-a-lifetime experience." Promoting a theme of "sun, sea & sass," the TV producers said that the partying shipmate contestants would compete in challenges where other passengers would vote the drunk participants as either winners or losers.

But last week it seems that Royal Caribbean got more than it bargained for. 

Several newspapers in the UK report that a five-day cruise on the Vision, which started in Barcelona earlier this month and sailed to Cannes, Ibiza and Mallorca and returned to Barcelona, turned into a "drug fueled orgy" during the filming of the television show. Royal Caribbean charted its cruise ship to Anchored Cruises which promoted wild champagne-spray pool parties with DJ's pumping electronic music to the young, partying festival-like crowd. 

Passengers stated that the crowd was smoking weed, snorting cocaine, and drinking excessively to the point that people were passing out around the pool and in corridors in the ship and had to be Vision of the Seas Anchored Cruisetaken back to their cabins in wheelchairs. 

A crew member reportedly told one of the UK publications "Staff were being abused. Guests walked around the ship half naked. They were drunk and clearly on drugs. I’ve never seen anything like it."

Passengers people were reporting snorting cocaine . . . as "partygoers vomited in the swimming pool and over the ship's side." Another passenger reportedly said the cruise was "carnage on a new level of wrongness" and observed "group sex all over the 'lawless' ship, adding drink and drugs were so rife: 'I'm surprised no-one died.'"

You can see the debacle via tabloid publications like the Sun and the Daily Mail Online.

Royal Caribbean claims that it has a "zero tolerance policy for the use or possession of illegal drugs on our ships. Ship charters are held to the same strict standards. We operate with the health and safety of our guests and crew as our highest priority, and we cooperate fully with law enforcement when we are aware of violations."

This is a typical gobbledygook statement and the usual behavior by Royal Caribbean who often looks the other way when large scale drug use is exposed during events such as deadly Atlantis rave parties which the cruise line routinely hosts. Royal Caribbean is also well known for chartering its ships for swinger sex cruises

Ironically, Royal Caribbean announced yesterday that it is purchasing a majority interest in the high-brow, ultra-luxurious cruise brand Silversea Cruises. Can you imagine this cruise line operating theVision of the Seas Anchored Cruise Silver Wind or Silver Shadow?

You can see other photos of the out-of-control cruise party on our Facebook page.

Anchored Cruise is already advertising a similar event on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship planned for 2019. 

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

Photo credits: Sun and Daily Mail. 

Royal Caribbean Buys Majority Stake in Silversea Cruises

Today, Royal Caribbean Cruises announced that it is acquiring a 66.7% stake in Silversea Cruises for $1,000,000,000 (billion) and assuming around $500,000,000 (million) in debt.

As a privately held cruise brand, Silversea operates nine ships with two newbuilds, Silver Moon and Silver Dawn, which are under construction for delivery in 2020 and 2021, with an option for a sister ship.

RCL states that it plans to finance the purchase through debt. Silversea's executive chairman, Manfredi Lefebvre d'Ovidio, will qualify for an estimated contingent payment of of 472,000 RCL shares, based on reaching certain 2019-2020 performance marks, which are currently worth a little over $50,000,000 based on the current price of RCL shares. 

Seatrade Cruise explains that Silversea was the "brainchild of Antonio Lefebvre d’Ovidio, a noted Italian jurist and law professor who wanted to create a new class of spacious ships with highly Royal Caribbean - Silversea Cruise Dealpersonalized service. In 1988, he purchased the majority of Sitmar Cruises, merging it with P&O's Princess Cruises a year later. In 1994, he launched Silversea Cruises with two purpose-built ships. His son Manfredi, who had been involved in the family's businesses from an early age, managed ship operations. He took control of the company and became chairman in 2001."

Silversea Cruises has tarnished its reputation in the last few years, having faced the embarrassment of crew members being ordered to hide carts of food and galley equipment in crew member quarters on the Silver Shadow in 2013. CNN aired a special report of the CDC flunking the Silver Shadow when inspectors caught Silversea in the act.  The Silver Shadow flunked another CDC inspection in 2015. 

The Silver Wind also flunked a USPH sanitation inspection last month.  

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Photo Credit; Royal Caribbean/Silversea via Travel Weekly,

Jury Returns $20,000,000 Verdict for Seriously Injured Royal Caribbean Officer on Voyager of the Seas

A Miami-Dade County jury returned a verdict against Royal Caribbean Cruises of more than $20,000,000 on behalf of an officer who was injured on the Voyager of the Seas during an accident in 2008.

Royal Caribbean officer Lisa Spearman was seriously and permanently injured when a watertight door crushed her right hand when she came to the assistance of the cruise ship nurse. The ship nurse stumbled while attempting to walk past the door during an emergency test, according to the lawsuit which her attorneys filed.

Ms. Spearman alleged that following the accident, Royal Caribbean refused to re-hire her and then refused to pursue disability benefits on her behalf. She sued the cruise line for negligence under the Voyager of the SeasJones Act, unseaworthiness of the vessel under the General Maritime Law, failure to provide prompt, proper and adequate medical care (also under U.S. General Maritime law), failure to pay wages under 46 U.S.C. 10313, retaliatory discharge and breach of contract.

The jury returned a verdict of $20,300,000 after a three week trial. 

Ms. Spearman was represented by Miami maritime lawyer Tonya Meister-Griffin, who was assisted by attorneys Deborah Gander and Susan Carlson of the Colson, Hicks Eidson law firm.  

Congratulations to Ms. Meister and the team of lawyers who represented Ms. Spearman.

Royal Caribbean was represented by David Horr of the firm Horr, Novak & Skipp.  

Currently, crew members are prohibited from filing lawsuits before a judge and a jury because cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have inserted one-sided arbitration provisions in the ship employees' contracts. Absent a change in the law, Ms. Spearman, whose employment contract dates back to 2008 and did not contain an arbitration requirement, undoubtedly will be one of the last crew members who are able to try their case before a jury in the Miami-Dade courthouse.  

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Update: The Miami Herald covered the story in an article this afternoon (with photographs).  Newsweek also published CRUISE WORKER WINS $20M PAYOUT AFTER HAND CRUSHED BY DOOR ON ROYAL CARIBBEAN SHIP.  Stuff (New Zealand) New Zealand woman Lisa Spearman wins US$20.3m payout from cruise ship giant Royal Caribbean.

Photo credit: Spaceaero2 - CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia. 

Royal Caribbean Unreasonably Delays Reporting Overboard Crew Member from Vision of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Overboard Vision of the SeasOn December 8, 2017, a crew member went overboard from the Vision of the Seas cruise ship operated by Miami based Royal Caribbean Cruises. I reported on the incident at the time based on what passengers were stating about the cruise. 

The Vision sailed out of Galveston on December 4, 2017 on a seven day cruise, leaving and returning to Galveston, to ports in Progresso and Cozumel, Mexico.  During the return cruise to Galveston, a crew member could not be accounted for. He apparently checked into his job in the early morning hours but had disappeared from the cruise ship sometime thereafter. A ship-wide search was conducted without success.

I wrote at the time that there was no indication that the ship stopped or turned around to conduct a search in the water. Unfortunately, the scenario fits a typical pattern when a crew member goes over the rails un-witnessed late at night or in the early hours of the morning on a Royal Caribbean ship. Royal Caribbean has not invested in the available automatic man-overboard technology (using heat sensors, infrared, motion detection and/or radar technology) which can send a signal to the bridge, capture the image of the person going overboard, and track the person by radar in the water. Instead, the ship will eventually review closed-circuit television images, conduct a search of the cabin on the ship, often not perform a search at sea, and belatedly notify the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Royal Caribbean registered the Vision of the Seas in the Bahamas which is responsible for conducting investigations when passengers or crew members go overboard from cruise ships registered in that flag of convenience ("FOC") country. The Bahamas Maritime Authority ("BMA") just published its investigation into this man overboard situation on the Vision. You can read the report here

The BMA report offers a rare insight into how Royal Caribbean responds to and investigates man overboard situations. The report also attached internal security summaries and portions of Royal Caribbean's safety and quality ("SQM") manual which outline the cruise line's written policies and procedures regarding a "missing person." 

The report reveals that Royal Caribbean repeatedly failed to inquire into the missing crew member's whereabouts and failed to timely report his absence from the ship to the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean register their cruise ships in countries like the Bahamas in order to avoid U.S. labor regulations and U.S. income taxes. They are used to having FOC states look the other way and not criticize them in situations like this, but the BMA report reveals very disturbing information about the shoddy operations of this cruise ship.

The BMA report indicates that the crew member was a 24 year-old citizen of Mauritius. The report  mentions that the crew member was a facilities cleaner who worked at the pool area on deck 9. He woke up around 4:30 A.M. in a cabin which he shared with his girlfriend who was also from Mauritius. He reported to work at 5:00 A.M. He walked to elevators which took him to deck nine and then he took an elevator to deck five. He walked to the stern on deck 5, placed his cleaning bucket on the deck, climbed over the stern rail and then climbed back onto the deck, and then walked toward the port side where he apparently jumped overboard. 

Royal Caribbean Overboard Vision of the Seas

CCTV images (which officers on the ship first reviewed approximately eight and one-half hours later) show the crew member's movements on decks 9 and 5 but do not show the crew members actually going overboard because a floodlight blocked the CCTV camera on the port/aft side on Deck 5 with a view of the stern of the ship. 

There was no mention in the report of an automatic man overboard system which would have immediately sent a signal and alarm to the bridge that the crew member went over the rails. 

Royal Caribbean Overboard Vision of the Seas

Unlike other cruise lines (like NCL), Royal Caribbean does not monitor the CCTV cameras on its cruise ships. 

The BMA reveals the following chronology:

  • 04:30 - Crew member awakes and leaves cabin which he shared with his girlfriend; 
  • 05:00 - Crew member reports to work and his supervisor assigns him the deck 9 pool deck to clean;
  • 05:09 - 5:14 - Crew member shown on CCTV heading to and walking on deck 9 and then goes to deck 5 where he climbs over the stern railing near the crew life-raft canister area which does not provide direct access to the sea and then he climbs over the rail back onto deck 5;
  • 05:14 - Crew member walks to port side of the stern which has direct drop to the water and apparently jumps overboard (although CCTV camera is blocked);
  • 09:30 - Crew member fails to attend mandatory safety training;
  • 12:00 - Designated safety officer responsible for training goes to lunch without noting that the crew member was absent from training; 
  • 12:40 - Crew member's supervisor, the Facilities Head Cleaner, notes that the crew member is missing from his work station;
  • 12:45 - 1st Announcement made in crew areas;
  • 13:05 - Bridge was informed;
  • 13:16 - 2nd announcement made in crew areas;
  • 13:40 - 3rd announcement made in crew and areas;
  • 13:40 - 14:45 - Officers review CCTV footage; take statements from the facilities head cleaner and head cleaner; staff captain and master interview the crew member's girlfriend and isolates her in a different cabin with a security guard posted outside the door;
  • 14:45 - Security officer notifies Global Security department in Miami of a "possible missing person;"
  • 15:20 - Search of ship begins; 
  • 15:45 - Security Officer seals crew member's cabin, locks cabin door with padlock and "crime scene tape;" officers conclude that there is no clear view of crew member jumping overboard because the area of the railing is not covered by CCTV (blind area) but concludes that "CCTV clearly showed a CM …. entering the area where he possible jumped over board and did not return back;"
  • 15:47 - Master notifies U.S. Coast Guard in Galveston by telephone about "missing person" situation;
  • 16:49 - "Whole ship search" completed but missing crew member not found. 

Royal Caribbean Overboard Vision of the Seas

There are a couple of conclusions which can readily be made from this chronology:

It took seven and one-half hours before the supervisor noticed that the crew member was missing from his work station.  It took eight and one-half hours before the safety officer reviewed the CCTV images. It took over nine and one-half hours after the crew member went overboard (and two hours after the first public announcement of the missing man were made on the ship) before the security officer finally notified the security department in Miami that a crew member probably went overboard. It then took over another hour to finally notify the U.S. Coast Guard of the overboard crew member. At this time, it Royal Caribbean SQM Safety and Quality Manual was then over ten and one-half hours after the crew member went overboard. 

It appears that the officers on the Royal Caribbean ship were indifferent to whether the Coast Guard even conducted a search after this extraordinary delay.  The Security Officer wrote in his report (attached to the BMA report) that "we are not aware if a search was carried out by USCG."

The Royal Caribbean SQM (blurred in original) requires the master of the cruise ship to "immediately" notify the cruise line's security and marine operations departments by telephone in any "suspected overboard situation." Unless there is an actual and reliable sighting of the person going overboard, the SQM also prohibits the Master from turning the ship around to conduct searches in the water and even then only after the Master first notifies the cruise line's marine operations department in Miami. 

Notably absent from the flag state report is any mention of the fact that the cruise ship lacked an automatic man overboard system. The report's conclusions and recommendations do not discuss the obvious problem that the bridge was not immediately aware that the crew members went over the rails. The only conclusion of significance was that if the security "trainer had reported him absent when training was to commence (i.,e., at 9:30, over four hours after the crew member went overboard) then his own work supervisor may have raised the alarm considerably earlier." The only recommendation in the report was to review "possible impediments to all cameras should be made and rectified where found." 

Vision of the Seas SQM Safety and Quality Manual Royal Caribbean 

This is hardly a reasonable conclusion or recommendation. Eliminating blind spots in CCTV cameras (to be reviewed only after-the-fact when crew members have already gone overboard long ago) or requiring diligence in requiring attendance in crew training (again with the hope that a person not attending a training session will somehow result in a supervisor learning that a crew member went overboard hours earlier) will not possibly achieve immediate notification of a man overboard. 

A couple of year ago, I wrote about the problem of crew members going missing from Royal Caribbean cruise ships without explanation. During a three year period between 2009 and 2012, at least thirteen crew members went over the rails of Royal Caribbean (and Celebrity) ships, including the Majesty of the Seas, Monarch of the Seas (twice), Radiance of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas. Oasis of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Summit, and Monarch of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas (two). Most of these cases were never investigated by the flag state, which, it seems, could not care less. 

Until the United States Coast Guard becomes concerned with the absence of automatic man overboard systems on cruise ships calling on U.S. ports and institutes serious action against the companies for the extreme delays in reporting overboard crew and passengers (like preventing the ships from sailing), cruise lines like Royal Caribbean will continue to act in this irresponsible manner.  

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Image credits: Bahamian Maritime Authority
 

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger From Anthem of the Seas

A Coast Guard aircrew from Elizabeth City, North Carolina medevaced an ill passenger from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship yesterday morning.

An 83-year-old woman who was experiencing renal failure needed emergency medical treatment yesterday when the Anthem of the Seas was returning to New Jersey from a Caribbean cruise. 

The cruise ship was approximately 160 miles southeast of Elizabeth City, North Carolina, when the captain contacted the Coast Guard to request a medical evacuation of the passenger.

The Coast Giard dispatched a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and a  HC-130 Hercules aircraft from the Coast Guard station in Elizabeth City. Once at the cruise ship, the helicopter crew hoisted the woman, a family member and a nurse aboard, and transported them to Norfolk Sentara General Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia. 

Video Credit: Defense Visual Information Distribution System (DVIDS) via United States Coast Guard DIstrict 5

Carnival Does the Right Thing Following Cabin Flood

Yesterday (May 3) a broken pipe aboard the Carnival Dream flooded around 50 cabins on the ship and sent water cascading down deck 9. Photos (right) and videos posted on Facebook show water pouring from the ceiling and down the walls.

Carnival confirmed that the water line break involved "clean water from a fire suppression system." 

By all accounts, Carnival did the right thing. After crew members quickly dried the area and replaced the carpeting, Carnival offered a 100% reimburment to those effected, an additional 50% off a future Carnival Dream Flooded Cabincruise and the option to be flown home today.

But other cruise lines have not been as generous when passenger cabins flood during cruises.

A flood aboard Royal Caribean's Serenade of the Seas back in January 2015 affected several hundred cabins, but the cruise line offfered only a partial cruise credit to this affected guests.  

Probably the most egregious situation involved a flood due to a broken pipe aboard the Freedom of the Seas back in January of 2011 (photo and video below). Royal Caribbean refused to refund any portion of the cruise fares of the inconvienced passengers - instead offering only a 50% on a future cruise. One story involved a couple's first vacation after the husband served in the Iraqi War.  You can see a video of the mess here.

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

Photo credit: Top - Facebook (Marla DeAnn Haase); bottom - Facebook (Jess DaPonte‎). Freedom of the Seas Cabin Flood

 

 

Royal Caribbean Boycotts Rotterdam Shipyard After €1,000,000 Fine?

Three and a-half years ago, I wrote about a large fine leveled against Royal Caribbean for violating labor rules and regulations while the Oasis of the Seas was dry-docked in the Netherlands. Dutch labor inspectors had arrived at the shipyard in Rotterdam and found that numerous employees who were working on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship lacked proper residence papers and worked excessive hours (some up to 16 hours per day).

The Oasis had been undergoing maintenance and repairs while in dry-dock in Rotterdam when 45  inspectors from the Netherlands labor department boarded the ship. The inspectors determined that as many as 124 ship employees were not part of the regular crew and the cruise line should have Keppel Verolme - Oasis of the Seasapplied for work permits for them.

The finding of the Dutch labor inspectors ("arbeidsinspectie") led to a  €1,000,000 fine. This was an unprecedented action by a port state enforcing their local labor regulations against a large cruise company.

I asked at the time that "it remains to be seen whether Rotterdam receives any more work from Royal Caribbean in the future."

Upon notice of the fine, Royal Caribbean quickly decided that the dry-dock repairs needed for its sister ship, the Allure of the Seas, would be performed in Cadiz, Spain. Since then, Royal Caribbean has avoided any maintenance of its ships in Rotterdam. Just last month, Royal Caribbean sent the Brilliance of the Seas from Amsterdam to a shipyard in Hamburg, Germany.  

Royal Caribbean had used the shipyard extensively in the past, including projects like stretching and installing a mid-body section in the Enchantment of the Seas back in 2005. 

The CEO (Kommer Damen) of the shipyard in question (Damen Shipyards, formerly Keppel Verolme), recently criticized the fine in a Dutch newspaper, Maritiemnieuws (auto translate via Google Chrome).  Mr. Damen was interviewed in the Dutch VNO-NCW opinion forum

Mr. Damen essentially stated that the strict enforcement of the labor regulations of the Netherlands caused the shipyard to lose up to "about 1 billion euros" over the past 4 years. Mr. Damen characterized the fine as "simply unwise policy." The opinion piece states that Royal Caribbean allegedly objected to and did not pay the labor fine.

Mr. Damen explained that, in his opinion, it is "entirely customary" for foreign shipowners to deploy their own ship employees ("riding crew"), as opposed to local employees employed by the shipyards, during maintenance projects. But, as Mr. Damen further argues, only the Dutch labor inspectors interpret and enforce the international regulations for labor on board ships in such a way that it is not possible to employ over a hundred ship employees not hired pursuant to the local labor laws. He cites the situation in countries such as Germany or France, where the the local inspectors permit the shipping companies to fly in extra crew for specialized projects taking place at shipyards. 

We originally reported that Royal Caribbean had employed over 100 ship employees (and as many as as 77 Filipinos) to work on the Oasis of the Seas project during the dry-dock in Rotterdam. The cruise line was reportedly working these crew members as long as 16 hours a day (far in excess of the Dutch labor regulations) and likely for a fraction of what would have been paid to Dutch workers.  

But when a labor fine results in lost revenue of a shipyard catering to the multi-million dollar business of a cruise line, its appears that labor inspectors will be forced to look the other way when ship workers work far-more-hours and for far-less-money than permitted by law. 

Have a comment? Please leave a message or join the discussion on our Facebook page where I ask the question: Do you trust the cruise lines and shipyards to look after the labor rights of crew members?

Photo credit: Damen Verolme Rotterdam YouTube - Videoclip - Keppel Verolme dry-docking OASIS OF THE SEAS

Royal Caribbean Chairman Fain Remains Highest Paid Cruise Executive

Royal Caribbean Chairman Richard Fain remains the highest paid executive in the cruise industry. 

Mr. Fain is the highest paid cruise executive for the second year in a row. Mr. Fain was paid $13,343,413 last year (2017), an increase of nearly three million dollars, from $10,405,684 in 2016. 

Royal Caribbean enjoyed a record earnings year in 2017.

The Miami-based cruise line just reported strong first quarterly returns for 2018 - net income of RCCL Chairman Richard Fain$218,700.000 (million), revenues of $2,027,000,000 (billion) and passenger ticket revenues of $1,425,000,000 (billion). 

Financial records also reveal that Mr. Fain sold 20,000 shares of RCL stock two weeks ago. In a transaction dated Friday, April 13th, he sold 17,500 shares of stock at an average price of $114.84, and 2,500 shares at an average price of $115.40 for a total transaction of nearly  $2,300,000.00. Following the sale, SEC records reflect that the chief executive officer now own 882,537 shares of the company’s stock, valued at over approximately $100,000,000. 

Royal Caribbean is the leader of the "over-sized" cruise ship club (think Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas) with its newest billion-dollar Oasis-class ship (and largest cruise ship in the world) Symphony of the Seas which was delivered from the shipyard last month.

But can the cruise business support the many huge ships coming on line? Skift just published Royal Caribbean Ups Forecast But Wall Street Worries About Too Many Ships.

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

Interested in this issue? We suggest reading Fearless Fain, Royal Caribbean's CEO.

Photo Credit: Carmen Molino YouTube - "Symphony of the Seas delivery. Richard Fain talks to the audience."

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger from Anthem of the Seas

The U.S. Coast Guard medevaced an ill passenger from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship on Friday.

The Anthem of the Seas was approximately 50 miles east of Ocean City, New Jersey, on Friday, April 27, 2018 when the medevac occurred. According to NJ.com, the captain of the Anthem requested a medical evacuation around 6:20 p.m. for a passenger who was suffering from kidney failure. The Coast Guard station in Atlantic City, New Jersey deployed a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter which hoisted the 71-year-old man and brought him to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City.

The medical evacuation was one of three Coast Guard medevacs from a cruise ship on the eastern coast of the U.S. in the last 2 days

Video Credit: U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City via Defense Visual Information Distribution System

 

Lawsuits Against Miami-Based Cruise Lines: Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean

Bloomberg Legal reports today that according to data which it collected over the last several years, 83 federal personal injury cases were filed against cruise lines in the first three months of 2018. Bloomberg concludes that this figure continues an upward trend over the last two years in which 188 negligence suits were filed against cruise lines in in 2017 and 164 in 2016. 

Bloomberg also states that "personal injury cases against the three biggest cruise lines - Carnival, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings - accounted for 78 to 87 percent of all federal litigation they faced over the last five years, according to the data which it collected. 

Bloomberg explains that the lawsuits "often involve slip-and-fall claims, but recent complaints also Miami Cruise Linesallege serious illnesses and injuries worsened by shipboard medical decisions."

The article does not explain that according to the terms and conditions in the passenger contracts, most cruise lines require that all legal claims be filed in the cruise line's home city, such as Miami for Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean. These terms have been held to be binding by the United States Supreme Court in Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute, 499 U.S. 585 (1991).

Cruise lines based outside of Miami typically require that lawsuit be filed in the location of the city or state where their headquarters are based. For example, Holland America Line requires Seattle, Washington and Princess Cruises requires California.  

Cruise lines now require that lawsuits be filed in federal court, which is typically more conservative than state court. 

Although the article suggests that litigation against cruise lines is on the rise compared to the last two years, the fact of the matter is that lawsuits filed against the cruise industry have dropped off substantially compared to 15 years ago.

For the five year period from 2001 to 2006, there was an average of 423 lawsuits filed a year against cruise lines, according to the Miami Herald article "Law on the High Seas," by Amy Martinez (article at bottom). In contrast, for the last two years (2016-2017), there was an average of only 176 according to the data collected by Bloomberg, which is just 40% of the 2001-2006 average (even though over 50% fewer people were cruising fifteen years ago).

The reason for this decline is that most cruise lines no longer permit crew members to file lawsuits in the  U.S., but instead require the filing of international arbitration where judges and juries are not permitted. 

The only lawsuits which are now permitted to be filed against the cruise industry involve passengers who are injured during cruises.

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

Photo credit: Marc Averette - Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 wikipedia

Lawsuits Against Cruise Lines

Passenger Goes Overboard From Anthem of the Seas

Late yesterday afternoon, a young man was reported overboard from the Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas which was heading back to its home port in Bayonne, New Jersey at the time of the incident.

The overboard occurred around 4 P.M. yesterday. The Anthem arrived in Bayonne early this (Saturday) morning. 

The cruise ship was returning from a trip to the Bahamas.

Anthem of the Seas OverboardA passenger on the Anthem stated that a "an overboard alarm sounded onboard the Anthem of the Seas . . . followed by (an) announcement saying they are searching 'for one of your fellow passengers,'and asking passengers to stay clear of the decks where they are operating life boats. They are asking passengers to keep a look out. The ship did a hard turn to return to the man overboard spot."

We reported the incident on our Facebook page

Royal Caribbean has released a statement stating that “we are sorry to report that a guest on board Anthem of the Seas was observed intentionally going overboard while the ship was en route to Cape Liberty, New Jersey.”

The passenger was reportedly a 24-year-old man from the United States. Passengers on the ship state that he apparently jumped from an upper deck near the stern of the ship. 

The Norwegian Gem participated in the search which was not successful in locating the passenger. The U.S. Coast Guard also sent search aircraft.

Please leave a message below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Royal Caribbean's CocoCay: A Vote of No Confidence in Nassau?

In a media blitz, Royal Caribbean recently announced that it plans a massive overhaul of its "private island," CocoCay, in the Bahamas.

USA Today reported that Royal Caribbean's will spend $200,000,000 for what is described as a "massive makeover" of its private destination in the Bahamas that will include the addition of one of the largest water parks in the Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean is one of the many Miami based cruise lines which entered into a long term lease with the Bahamas of one its native islands.

The island is in the Berry Islands in the Bahamas and was previously known as Little Stirrup Cay. Royal CaribbeanCoco Cay Bahamas assumed the lease of the island upon acquisition of Admiral Cruises and renamed the island CocoCay. Royal Caribbean is one of the first cruise lines to lease islands in the Bahamas for their exclusive use.

The newspaper reports that the overhaul of the 125-acre island, to be renamed "Perfect Day at CocoCay" will include a 1,600 foot-long zip-line, the largest freshwater pool in the region, a helium balloon ride that takes cruise passengers 450 feet into the air and several other "over-the-top" features.

The project will also include dredging of the coral basin around the island and the installation of a pier in order to accommodate Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class ships which each carry over 6,000 passengers.

The water park will have a “South Beach” area where the cruise passengers can, for an extra fee, rent  jet skis or cabanas or pay for boat excursions or parasails trips.

Royal Caribbean will receive 100% of the profits from the revenues generated by the zip lines, helium balloon rides and other activities operated by the cruise line in the renovated private island. 

In my view, the project seems to be a vote of no confidence in the existing ports in the Bahamas, Nassau and Freeport.  

According to the Tribune newspaper in Nassau, an activist in the Bahamas, Heather Carey, denounced the project in a Facebook post yesterday. 

Ms. Carey said in her post on Facebook: “Just another example of how the cruise ship industry does little to benefit us locally, and instead continues to make the visitor experience more insular to the cruise ship islands, taking away any motivation to explore places like Nassau or to enjoy the excursions we offer. . . . We cannot give away any more of our beautiful Bahamas to these bottomless pits."

Ms. Carey is absolutely correct is her assessment of the Royal Caribbean's plans. I should also add that the high crime rate in Nassau probably factored into the cruise line's decision to invest heavily into the cruise line's private destination.

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

Photo credit: Royal Caribbean via USA Today. 

Lawsuit: Two Adult Cruise Passengers Assault Minor on Independence of the Seas

Sexual Assault Royal CaribbeanSurveillance video on Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas shows an attack on a 13 year old boy by two adult passengers.

The men, identified by local Miami news station NBC 4 as Martinez and Lawson, corner the teenager in the ship's library, before pinning him against the bookcase. The boy had apparently made an inappropriate comment earlier during the cruise to to Lawson's daughter (Martinez's niece).

In retaliation, the men confronted the minor, with Martinez taking off his shirt and sexually assaulting the minor, according to the article titled Teen’s Assault on Cruise Ship Caught on Surveillance Camera.

The minor's mother reportedly said about the attack on her son: "He physically punched him, choked him, smothered his face in the pillow, pulled his clothes off, was on top of my son."

The Sun Sentinel covered the disturbing story shortly after it occurred back in January of 2016. 

The family of the boy is represented by another maritime lawyer here in Miami. 

Royal Caribbean said "the ship’s crew has no duty to monitor the cameras . . . "

A criminal judge sentenced Martinez to three years in prison for lewd and lascivious behavior with a child under 16, and sentenced Lawson to two years in prison sentence for child abuse.

The article mentions that in 2016-2017, 69 percent of crimes committed on board cruise ships were sexual assaults. The chairman of the International Cruise Victims Association (ICV), Ken Carver, told NBC 4 that "a third of all the rapes on cruise ships are on minors, if you can believe that." You can read the 2013 Congressional cruise crime report with this alarming statistic here

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Photo credit: Broward Country Sheriff's Office via Sun Sentinel; video credit: NBC 4. 

Recent USPH Sanitations: Allure and Grandeur Nearly Fail Inspections

Carnival Cruise Lines has been in the news lately with four of its cruise ships failing sanitation inspections in the last two months and a total of five ships failing USPH inspections in the last year. 

The Carnival Vista (79), Carnival Breeze (77), Carnival Triumph (78), and the Carnival Liberty (80) all recently failed USPH inspections, The Carnival Paradise (83) also failed the VSP inspection last year. Last year also saw the Carnival Conquest (89), Carnival Dream (87), Carnival Fantasy (88) and Carnival Imagination (89) receiving very low sanitation scores. This year, the Carnival Vista received a low score of only 88 during its re-inspection (although the CDC has still not officially posted the score on its data base yet), following its disastrous score of 79 in December 2017 where USPH inspectors caught Carnival hiding food and galley equipment in crew member cabins.

You can see all of the most recently published USPH sanitation scores in the CDC's Vessel Sanitation Programs' (VSP) "Green Sheet" (warning the CDC often delays the publishing of sanitation scores online). 

Grandeur of the SeasBut Carnival is not the only cruise line suffering from failing or low sanitation scores. 

In the last month, two Royal Caribbean cruise ships have received scores barely above the failing score of 85. The Grandeur of the Seas received a score of 87 in an inspection which took place on January 5, 2018 which was only recently published. There were deductions for various unsanitary conditions as well as heavily corroded and difficult-to-clean steel counters in the galleys of the ship which you can read here

Several major newspaper reported that several dozens of passengers were sickened with gastrointestinal sicknesses on the Grandeur earlier last month. 

Some people may point out that the Grandeur (photo right) is an older ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet, having come into service well over 20 years ago and showing obvious signs of external rust and lack of maintenance. But the Allure is obviously a newer and arguably better maintained ship.  

But the recent USPH report involving the Allure of the Seas shows that it received a barely-passing score of only 86. The acute gastroenteritis (AGE) logs indicated that a Royal Caribbean food handler who was symptomatic with acute gastroenteritis symptoms returned to work before the completion of the mandatory 48 hour isolation period. A second crew member exhibited acute gastroenteritis symptoms continued to eat meals in the crew mess and did not report to the ship infirmary until over two days later. Another crew member who was symptomatic with AGE symptoms proceeded to eat in crew mess and attend a work meeting, and reported to the ship's medical department only later.

Even more disturbing is that the USPH inspectors found the following:

"Seat cushions had storage under them in the Windjammer and decks 3, 4, and 5 of the main dining room. These storage areas were heavily soiled with debris, had raw wood, and were located above carpet and/or concrete decks. In these areas, the inspection team found: two closed gallon bottles of Allure of the Seasdrinking water, several bags of neatly folded and bagged linen napkins, a bucket full of silverware, a box of gloves and wiping cloths, wrapped salad stands, several bottles of kitchen degreaser, chlorine bleach, biogel, wet plastic containers, and a large bag with dozens of serving utensils. These were also found along with brooms, dust pans, vacuum cleaners, and other nonfood equipment."

This sounds like a crew member or crew members tried to hide cleaning materials along with napkins, eating and serving utensils in obviously improper locations which were described as heavily soiled area in the Windjammer Cafe and main dining room. It is difficult to believe that the USPH did not fail the ship for this intentional type of unsanitary conduct. The purpose of USPH cruise ship inspections is to prevent the spread of shipboard disease outbreaks.

Perhaps coincidentally (or not), in December of 2017, Royal Caribbean notified its oncoming passengers that "some guests onboard experienced gastrointestinal illness. In an abundance of caution, we are conducting enhanced sanitizing onboard the ship and within the cruise terminal to help prevent any illness from affecting your cruise."  

The questions arises why so many cruise ships operated by both Carnival and Royal Caribbean are receiving low and sometimes failing sanitation scores. Crew members hiding food or eating utensils  and working while ill are hardly new. Are USPH inspectors more vigorously inspecting the ships? Or this the result of too much work and too few crew members who are responsible for cleaning the ship, as some people say?

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In 2015, I publsihed an article about the "hide and seek" games played on the Liberty fo the Seas in Did Royal Caribbean Dupe USPH Inspectors? On our Facebook page, I asked: Do cruise lines hide pots & pans, galley equipment and food from USPH Inspectors? A. Yes. B. No.  The overwhelming response was yes. 

Photo credit: Grandeur of the Seas (in Miami) and Allure of the Seas (in Jamaica) - Jim Walker. 

Dredging for "Mega Liners" While the Bay Waters Swamp the Roads to Falmouth?

In Falmouth, Jamaica, the Port Authority of Jamaica is continuing to pursue dredging projects in order to permit the gigantic "mega liners," including Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class (sometimes called "Genesis-class") cruise ships to squeeze into the port, which was rebuilt in 2011. During the construction of the two new two piers, the port was originally dredged.    

Jamaica has a goal of boosting the numbers of cruise visitors, seemingly irrespective of the damage which dredging will cause to the environment around the port. At the urging of Miami-based cruise lines, the government of Jamaica intends to dredge the southern berth of the port at Falmouth this year. This will cause significant further destruction of the reefs around the port in order to allow two Oasis-class vessels to dock at the same time.

This is part of the plan recently touted by the Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness which Falmouth Jamaica Portfeatures further dredging the port of Falmouth, referred to alternatively in the Jamaican Gleaner as the "jewel of the Caribbean" or "the region's number one destination" for cruise shipping.

Prime Minister Holness stated to the Jamiacan newspaper that the Falmouth pier '"was built in anticipation for not only the growing demands of the cruise industry, but also the fact that cruise ships were "getting bigger by the day." He was quoted as saying "it wasn't that long ago when we had ships with a carrying capacity of say 2,000 being touted as the largest cruise ships in the world. Since then, we have seen a number of vessels earning that title. We have had Freedom of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and now, we have Harmony of the Seas, with its 2,747 staterooms, and 8,550 guests and staff on 16 decks."

The Prime Minister noted that it was an "excellent idea to have constructed this port. We can now host the mega liners and all the Oasis Class vessels."

Six years ago, in my article titled Royal Caribbean's New Port in Falmouth, Jamaica - At What Cost to the Environment?, I cited the article of Can the Cruise Industry Clean Up Its Act? by Michael Behar, who wrote that in Falmouth, Royal Caribbean oversaw the smashing of "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." 

In that article, I wrote that the removal of the natural reef exposes the shore to pounding of the waves from the adjacent bay.  "When I visited (back in 2012) , I observed that the road . . .  to Falmouth, previously protected from the pounding of the by the reef, was literally covered with water from the encroaching waves. The road was already eroding . . ."

Yesterday, a friend of mine in Montego Bay filmed a short video from his cell phone as he drove into Falmouth. The video shows the bay's waters from the now destroyed reef system lapping over the deteriorating roadway into the port of Falmouth.   

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Photo credit: Falmouth Port (above) - Jim Walker

Royal Caribbean, on Soaring 4th Quarter Revenues & Profits, to Pay Employees 5% Bonuses

Royal Caribbean announced its fourth quarter financial results with CEO Richard Fain stating that the cruise company received revenues of $2,000,000,000 with net profits of $288,040,000. Royal Caribbean's fourth-quarter profits and revenues reportedly exceeded Wall Street estimates,

Mr. Fain told CNBC that the company met its lofty three-year goals of "double earnings" and a "double-digit" return on invested capital. In response the Royal Caribbean executive stated yesterday that Royal Caribbean employees will each receive a bonuses in the amount of 5% of their annual salary. 

Investor Place reports that the cruise line will be distributing the bonus to its 66,000 employees. This Roya; Caribean CEO Richard Fainwill include shore-side and shipboard employees. This bonuses will be in the form of "equity grants" which will vest over three years. RCL reports that total spending on the bonuses will be $80 million.

Crew members state that their annual minimum guaranteed salaries range from $500 to $600 a month for a pot-washer to around $800 to $1,300 for a waiter, cabin attendant or bar tender. These Royal Caribbean ship  employees typically work contracts of around 6 to 8 months straight which turns out to working approximately 9 months a year. So a 5% bonus turns out to be around $225 to $270 for a pot-washer to around $350 to $550 for waiters, cabin attendants and bartenders, to be paid over the course of three years.

Meanwhile, CEO Fain reportedly sold 20,000 shares of Royal Caribbean Cruises stock in a transaction on January 16th. The stock was sold at an average price of $128.10, for a total transaction of $2,562,000.00. Following the sale, the chief executive officer now directly owns 807,741 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $103,471,622.10, according to SEC records. Ms. Fain indirectly owns another 216,206 shares which, at a price of $128.10 each, have a value of $27,695,988.60. Mr. Fain's' direct and indirect holdings of RCL stock are valued at $131,167,610.70, at the price of $128.10 a share. 

RCL shares are now worth around $132 a share, up approximately $4 more a share since last week, so Mr. Fain's RCL total RCL shares are now worth around $4,000,000 more than they were at the time of the sale last week. 

The point is, that although it's to be commended in theory that crew members will be rewarded for their hard work with bonuses, the amounts to be paid to the crew in question are rather minuscule, especially because they are to be paid over the course of the next three years rather than in a single check now. The bulk of the $80 million to be paid in bonuses will primarily go to the higher paid shore-side workers. So be sure to tip the crew members with cash when you cruise.

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Photo credit: CNBC 

Joel Taylor Dies on Harmony of the Seas - Latest Drug-Related Death on a Royal Caribbean/Atlantis Cruise?

Storm Chasers' star Joel Taylor died of a suspected overdose on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship which had been chartered by Atlantis Events, according to TMZ and other websites.

Mr. Taylor was reportedly on Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas. These tabloids report that passengers on the Royal Caribbean ship stated that "drugs on the party boat were plentiful."  

Law enforcement allegedly told TMZ that "it appears the death could be an overdose and Joel Taylor was consuming controlled substances."

"Joel had consumed enough GHB on the dance floor Tuesday that he was rendered unconscious andAtlantis Cruises - Haromy of the Seas taken off the dance floor by 2 people and back to his room."

According to the New York Daily News, "passengers aboard the Harmony of the Seas added that they witnessed Taylor taking drugs, including ecstasy and cocaine."

This is not the first time that a passenger died allegedly due to drugs aboard a cruise ship chartered by Atlantis Events, which advertises its "unbelievable parties" on cruises with Royal Caribbean. 

In 2009, a passenger died after he reportedly took drugs during a cruise aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship which had been chartered for the use of Atlantis Events.

In 2010, I wrote the article Another Death on a Royal Caribbean - Atlantis Cruise after a passenger died while aboard the Liberty of the Seas which had been chartered to Atlantis Events. There was widespread discussion regarding the use of drugs during Atlantis sponsored events.

In 2011, a passenger was arrested for selling large quantities of ecstasy pills, methamphetamine, ketamine and other drugs aboard Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas which had been chartered by Atlantis Events. There were reportedly a half-dozen drug overdoses during the cruise. 

A week before that Royal Caribbean/Atlantis cruise, I wrote Is Royal Caribbean Ready for Medical Emergencies During the World's Largest Gay Cruise?  I questioned why Royal Caribbean tolerated the widespread use of drugs during Atlantis Events. I also stated that cruise ships are not the place to have a medical emergency, whether you are gay, lesbian, transgendered, or straight. Cruise ships are often characterized by the questionable experience and training of the shipboard doctors and staff and the limited nature of the cruise ship's medical facilities.

The Harmony of the Seas was on a seven day cruise which left Fort Lauderdale on January 20th, sailing to Labadee (Haiti), San Juan (Puerto Rico), and St. Maarten, and then returning to Fort Lauderdale on January 27th. Law enforcement reportedly boarded the cruise ship when it docked in San Juan yesterday.

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February 8, 2018 Update: Quartz A Reality Star's Death Has Exposed a Dangerous Drug Culture on Party Cruises. 

Photo credit: Atlantis Events via Mike Sington twitter page

Royal Caribbean Reschedules Cruise to Repair Grandeur of the Seas

Royal Caribbean is rescheduling the current cruise of the Grandeur of the Seas, in order to begin repairs to the cruise ship for what the cruise line refers to as a "technical issue which limits the operation of one of the two rudders used to steer the ship."

Royal Caribbean notified its guests, at the last minute today, who were planning to board the Grandeur on Thursday, January 11, 2018 that the cruise had been rescheduled to Saturday, January 13th.

Grandeur of the SeasThis news was first reported on by the popular Royal Caribbean Blog

Guests will receive an onboard credit in the amount of a 50% refund of their cruise fare, excluding taxes and fees.The cruise line will reimburse guests for change fees up to $200 per person for domestic flights and up to $300 per person for international flights.  Those passengers who wish to cancel their cruise will receive a refund. 

The Grandeur is one of the oldest ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet, which first went into service in 1996.

Last year, a lifeboat fell off its davits from the Grandeur of the Seas due to an apparent lack of maintenance. 

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Excursion Boat for Royal Caribbean & Celebrity Passengers Sinks in Mexico

News sources in Mexico are reporting that an excursion boat with cruise passengers aboard sank last week. 

Riviera Maya News reports that the cruise excursion incident took place on Wednesday January 3rd, approximately 15 minutes after the boat sailed from Cozumel with ten cruise guests aboard it. The boat's crew instructed the cruise passengers to head to the bow; however, the boat took on water quickly and the guests had to jump into the water. The cruise passengers reportedly were from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship and a Celebrity ship (the Celebrity Equinox). 

The cruise passengers were reportedly rescued from the water by other boats in the area, 

Local news sources state that none of the cruise passengers were physically injured.

The YouTube video at the bottom shows the bow of the sunken tourist boat bobbing in the water with some of the passengers being rescued. 

There have been several other similar incidents during cruise excursions near Cozumel, Mexico. Just six weeks ago, 95 German cruise poassengers from the Mein Schiff 6 cruise ship were rescued after a catamaran boat began to sink during an excursion, acording to the Baja Post (photo below).  

This mishap occurs just over two weeks after a deadly bus excursion accident near Costa Maya, Mexico when a bus with 11 cruise passengers from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship and a Celebrity Cruises ship was heading towards a Mayan ruins tourist attraction in Chacchoben, in Quintana Roo state, Mexico. 

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Video credit (below): 5to Poder Periodismo ConSentido YouTube page. Image credit (bottom) of November 16, 2017 sinking -  Noticaribe via Baja Post.

 Mexico Excursion Accident

 

Royal Caribbean Hikes Gratuities, Again

Shortly after the new year, Royal Caribbean will again increase the automatic gratuities which it charges its passengers. Royal Caribbean will hike the automatic gratuities which it adds onto its guests' accounts (by more than 7%) to $14.50 per person, per day. Passengers who stay in suites will pay even more, $17.50 per person, per day.

USA Today explains that a family of four will now pay more than $400 in automatic gratuities on a 7 night cruise which is one of the highest gratuities in the cruise business. 

The increase is the third in three years at the line. In early 2015, the Royal Caribbean's gratuity fee Royal Caribbean Automatic Gratutieswas $12.

Like rival cruise lines, Royal Caribbean has been drastically increasing its automatic gratuities. USA Today says that Royal Caribbean's gratuity charge has now jumped by nearly 21% since May 2015 (more than five times the rate of inflation). 

Cruise lines suggest that the extra gratuities go to the hard working crew members, but that's hardly true. Crew members used to receive substantially more when passengers used to directly hand them money as tips. Cabin attendants and waiters have stated that the auto gratuities go to the cruise lines which take a cut and distribute some of the money to non-tip earning crew members. 

The Swiss TravelNews site rightly contends that "the passengers indirectly pay a massive wage component of these employees."

Royal Caribbean says that passengers can lower or remove the automatic gratuities by by visiting the Guest Services desk. Expect this to happen, as many passengers don't like to pay gratuities when the service is average or to pay what the cruise lines should already be paying in wages. The same thing happened when Carnival hiked its auto gratuities. Carnival Hikes Pre-Paid Gratuities But Will Passengers Secretly Remove Tips?

We reported on a prior automatic gratuity increase in 2015 in Loyal to Royal? Expect to Pay Higher Gratuities! (And the Money's Not for the Crew). Not coincidentally, CEO Richard Fain has RCL stock now worth over $110,000,000. 

Matt Hochberg's Royal Caribbean Blog as the first to announce the gratuity increase. 

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U.S. Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger from Vision of the Seas

This morning the United States Coast Guard medevaced a 23 year old passenger from the cruise ship, Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas,  according to a Baton Rouge news station.

The young woman was suffering from "suspected internal bleeding from a prior incident." It is less than clear what prior incident the news account is referring to.

The cruise ship was reportedly 100 miles south of Southwest Pass, Louisiana when the Eighth Coast Guard District launched a helicopter and a HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft to assist in the rescue of the woman.

The Coast Guard said the helicopter aircrew arrived on scene at 10 a.m. this morning and took the woman from the cruise ship to Jefferson Medical Center in New Orleans where the woman was reported to be in stable condition.  

Photo credit: Defense Video Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Giles, U.S. Coast Guard District 8.

Medevac Vision of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Cruises Excursion Bus Crash in Mexico - Five Questions

What happened? On December 19, 2017, an excursion bus (identified as tourist bus number 1012, Mercedes Benz, license plates 82 RA7V), operated by a Mexican transportation company on behalf of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., carrying passengers from the Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas and from the Celebrity Equinox (also owned by Royal Caribbean) ran off the road while dirivng to a Mayan ruins tourist attraction in Chacchoben, in Quintana Roo state, Mexico. The accident resulted in the bus flipping over, shattering windows and ejecting some of the passengers onto the road and the shoulder of the road. The two cruise ships sailed from ports in South Florida, with the Equinox leaving from PortMiami and the Serenade leaving from Port Everglades, with both ships arriving at the port of Costa Maya (Mahahual). Royal Caribbean stated via Royal Caribbean Celebrity Cruises Bus Excursion AccidentTwitter that there were 27 passengers aboard the excursion bus (in addition to the bus guide and the bus driver), although the federal police in Mexico stated that there were 31 people on the bus.  

How many guests were killed? Eleven passengers and a Mexican guide were killed in the accident.  

The Swedish and Canadian governments confirmed the deaths of cruise passengers from those countries. There were two passengers from Sweden and one from Canada (from Quebec) who were killed. The U.S. embassy in Mexico City confirmed that there were eight American deaths. There are news accounts of multiple injuries to U.S. passengers as well as Royal Caribbean guests from Canada.

How many guests were injured? The Quintana Roo state prosecutor's office had reported that seven injured tourists had returned to the cruise ships while 13 remained hospitalized, six of them in Tulum and seven in the city of Chetumal, near the Belize border. Of the thirteen people seriously injured, there are three Americans, four Brazilians, three Canadians, and two Swedes (who reportedly have already been flown to the U.S. for medical treatment), as well as the Mexican bus driver. 

How did the accident occur? The cause of the accident remains under investigation. Initial information is that a passenger on another bus which passed the crash site observed skid marks on the dry pavement. According to NBC News, Quintana Roo state prosecutor Miguel Angel Pech Cen Royal Caribbean Bus Excursion Accidentsaid at a news conference that a preliminary investigation indicates that the bus driver's negligence led him to lose control, and when he tried to return back to the narrow highway, the bus flipped, struck a tree and landed in vegetation along the roadside. "Due to a lack of care the driver lost control of the bus' steering to the right, leaving the asphalt," Pech Cen said. He said signs found at the scene indicate the driver was going too fast.

The Associated Press reported via NBC News that Mexican authorities said "driver negligence and excessive speed caused the crash."

Reuters is reporting that the front tire of the bus may have exploded, according to the local police chief in Mexico. 

There is conflicting information regarding the whereabouts of the driver of the excursion bus. Some sources say that the driver has been arrested and will be prosecuted for criminal negligence. Others reports indicate that the driver's whereabouts are not known to Mexican prosecutors. 

At least one passenger (photo left) was quoted as saying that "the seat belts were tied below the seats, no one told us to put them on . . ." This may explain why some of the bus passengers were apparently not restrianed in their seats and were ejected from the bus.

Is Royal Caribbean Responsible? Cruise lines have a legal duty to conduct a through background check into the reputation, qualifications and safety record of the tour operators which they involve in their excursions for their guests. They are legally required under U.S. maritime law to vet the individuals and companies who/which drive their customers in ports of call. Cruise lines also have a legal duty to warn passengers of dangers in foreign ports of call. If other passengers complained that the tour drivers were speeding or driving recklessly or there were no functioning seatbelts available for use by the guests on the buses, then the cruise line had a duty to intervene and correct these dangerous conditions or warn of these dangers. Cruise lines can be held liable in the U.S. court system for accidents which occur in foreign ports of call for the negligent operation of excursion buses operated by the local agents, particularly when the cruise lines misrepresent that the Cruise Bus Excursion Accident - Mexicoexcursions are carefully vetted and safe.

Royal Caribbean operates many thousands of excursions around the world. It would require the cruise line to vet and inspect ten to fifteen foreign cruise excursion and transportation companies around the world each and every day of the year if it were inclined to perform a background check on each tour operator at least once a year. The cruise line does not devote the resources necessary to properly vet and oversee the safe operation of excursions aroud the world, despite the hundreds of millions of tax-free dollars it collects from its passengers who take such cruise excursions. 

There are reports on social media that other cruise customers have experienced unsafe conditions on this excursion before this accident. Posters leaving comments on the popular Cruise Critic site have stated: "We went on probably this same exursion which is down a dirt road at top speeds for 45 minutes. We feared our life and would never do it again . . . " Another poster stated: "This is the exact cruise port and the exact bus tour and the exact road we were on, a week and a half ago . . Speed and driving and safety rules are not the same in other countries. On the way back from the tour, the bus was going extremely fast. I commented that we better hope nothing unexpectedly comes out of bush. It is a lery long, 45 minute straight stretch of road."

A newspaper in Mexico writes regarding the local tour company " . . . is not the first time that (it) is involved in an accident due to the lack of caution of its operators that drive exceeding the speed limits . . ."

What is Royal Caribbean's Excursion Safety Record? There have been at least six bus excursions throughout the Caribbean in the last ten years where Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises passengers have been killed or seriously injured. You can read more about prior cruise excursion accidents here.

Cruise lines collect hundreds of millions of dollars promoting and selling shore excursions in foreign ports of call, and are not even subject to U.S. taxes on this highly profitable business.  Yet, they claim that their local agents are "independent contractors" who are not subject to jurisdiction here in the U.S. when their cruise guests are injured or killed during these excursions.  

Read: Fort Lauderdale's Sun Sentinel: Can cruise lines ensure shore excursions they offer are safe? 

Read: NBC News:  Mexico tourist bus crash: Survivors heading home, 2 victims ID’d.

Image credit:  Celebrity Equinox (top) - CBS News; cruise passenger (middle) - Time magazine; scene of accident (bottom) - CBS News; video below - CBS News; Facebook loading page of Serenade of the Seas by Sunnya343 CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.  

Bus Accident in Mexico Kills 12 Cruise Passengers from Celebrity Equinox and Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas

Multiple news sources are reporting that at least twelve people died when a bus carrying anywhere from twenty-seven to thirty-one cruise passengers on an excursion to Mayan ruins in eastern Mexico flipped over on a highway earlier today. Additional cruise passengers, with some sources suggesting up to eighteen people, were also injured in the accident.  

The excursion bus was heading from Costa Maya to the ruins at Chacchoben, about 110 miles south of Tulum in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. The majority of the passengers were reportedly from the Serenade of the Seas

The photos and videos of the incident show many passengers lying in the road or beside the overturned bus, indicating that many people in the bus may not have been furnished with working seatbelts and they were ejected when the bus overturned. Unfortunately, we have seen this situation in other cruise line excursion bus cases, including those operated on behalf of Royal Caribbean/Celebrity Cruises. 

There have been a large number of excursion bus accidents involving Royal Caribbean and its sister Mexico Excursion Bus Crashcruise line, Celebrity Cruises.

In 2015, Celebrity passengers from the Celebrity Summit were killed and injured in an excursion bus accident in Tortola.

In 2012, there were two cruise excursion bus crashes in Caribbean islands, both involving Royal Caribbean passengers. Royal Caribbean cruise passengers from the Serenade of the Seas were injured during an excursion in St. Thomas. A Royal Caribbean sponsored excursion tour bus crashed in St. Martin and injured passengers from the Freedom of the Seas.

In 2009, a dozen passengers from Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Summit were seriously injured when an open air excursion vehicle ran off the road in Dominica. We represented passengers against the cruise line and the excursion company in that accident. You can read information on the Dominica excursion accident in an article "Injured Visitors to Dominica Airlifted to Miami."

Cruise lines face legal liability when passengers are injured or killed during sponsored excursions. Cruise lines have a duty to vet the excursions companies and warn of dangers in the road conditions and driving in foreign ports of call. Cruise lines can also be held responsible for negligent hiring and retention of the transportation companies and for vicarious liability based on theories of agency. 

You can search this blog for other discussions of numerous cruise ship excursion bus accidents

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The Miami Herald quotes our firm in 12 reported dead as tourist bus crashes in Mexico.

December 20, 2017 Update:  A local newspaper in Mexico writes that the local tour company  " . . .  is not the first time that (it) is involved in an accident due to the lack of caution of its operators that drive exceeding the speed limits . . ."  ABC Radio reported the acccount of a passenger who travelled to the same excursion site, saying ... "one of the sides of the bus was 'smashed' after it fell on its side and that the 'whole windshield was gone . . . “The seat belts were tied below the seats, so no one told us to put the seat belts on . . . '”  

A Mexican newspaper quoted the national police that the death toll has increased: "there were 15 deaths, 14 tourists and 1 Mexican guide, 11 died on the spot and 4 on the way to the hospital."

The Washington Post reoports that a Mexican state prosecutor alleges that the deadly bus crash was caused by the driver’s negligence and excessive speed of the bus. 

Photo credit: TV AZTECA (top); Video image -  7 cty youtube (middle); video - AP via Miami Herald (bottom). 

Mexico Royal Caribbean & Celerity Cruises Bus Excusion Accident

 

 

Norovirus of the Seas

Its been a tough month for Royal Caribbean. More than 200 passengers became ill and five had to be hospitalized after an outbreak on the Ovation of the Seas during a two-week cruise between Sydney and Singapore, according to the Washington Post.

Local newspapers in South Florida are reporting today that the Independence of the Seas which left Port Everglades on Monday, for a Caribbean cruise, and returned to Fort Lauderdale this morning with at least 332 passengers sickened by a norovirus outbreak.

A cruise travel writer, @CruiseNiche, was on the cruise and posted photos on Twitter about the widespread gastrointestinal outbreak. 

Independence of the Seas NoroNBC News reports that over 500 Royal Caribbean passengers have been sickened on these two cruises alone. 

Last month, there was a gastrointestinal outbreak on the Anthem of the Seas. Royal Caribbean confirmed that "were a total of 98 reported cases of gastro-intestinal illness symptoms, which represents 1.9 percent of the 4,905 guests and crew onboard."

The CDC's Vessel Sanitation Plan requires cruise ships to send a separate notification when the GI illness count exceeds 2% of the total number of passengers or crew onboard. Cruise ship outbreak updates are posted on the CDC website only when 3% or more of the passengers and crew report symptoms to the ship infirmary during the cruise. Because there were less than than 2% of the passengers and crew members reported ill during the cruise, the CDC will not list the outbreak on its official cruise ship Outbreak Updates page.

There was also a norovirus outbreak on the Anthem of the Seas at the end of February and early March 2016 which was reported to the CDC

Norovirus outbreaks are typically caused by contaminated food or water, according to the CDC and the FDA, although most cruise lines automatically blame their passengers for bringing the virus aboard the ship and/or spreading the outbreak by not washing their hands.

From my view, hand-washing can't hurt, but it won't help if the food is contaminated by an ill food handler or waiter. And of course, washing your hands won't protect you if you contract norovirus via airborne transmission. Three years ago, in an article titled Norovirus Spreads by Air on Cruise Ships, I discussed that researchers have concluded that norovirus can spread by air, according to a publication in the highly respected Clinical Infectious Diseases. This is an issue which the cruise lines have never acknowledged.

As we have said in prior articles, don't call us if you get sick on a cruise. Establishing where the virus came from, or that the cruise line was negligent, is virtually impossible to prove, especially since the CDC conducts no epidemiological analysis and sometimes can't even figure out the source of the outbreak.

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

Photo credit: @CruiseNiche 

Independence of the Seas

Crew Member Missing From Vision of the Seas

Vision of the SeasToday, several passengers contacted me to ask for information regarding a Royal Caribbean crew member who apparently disappeared from the Vision of the Seas last week.

On Thursday, December 8, 2017, the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, which had left from Galveston, Texas earlier in the week, made announcements that a crew member could not be accounted for on the ship as of the late afternoon. The crew member had apparently checked into his job in the early morning hours but had disappeared sometime thereafter. A ship-wide search was conducted without success. 

There was speculation that high winds and rough seas may have played a part in the crew member going overboard. 

There is no indication that the ship stopped or turned around to conduct a search in the water. Unfortunately, the scenario fits a typical pattern when a crew member goes over the rails unwitnessed late at night or in the early hours of the morning on a Royal Caribbean ship.  Royal Caribbean has not invested in the available automatic man-overboard technology (using heat sensors or infrared or motion detection and radar technology) which can send a signal to the bridge, capture the image of the person going overboard, and track the person by radar in the water.  Instead, the ship will conduct a cabin search for the missing person, review closed-circuit television images and often do not perform a search at sea. 

As I recently explained in an article about MSC Cruises recently implementing this technology, MSC Cruises Implements New Man Overboard System Amidst Industry Delays, over 22 people on average disappear each year from cruise ships, and only 13.8% are saved. Unfortunately, the cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Organization (CLIA), has chosen to minimize cruise disappearances by misleading PR releases rather than devoting financial resources toward improving safety. Most cruise lines do not invest in MOB systems which do not return a direct financial profit to the penny-pinching cruise industry.

Ironically, the Miami Herald today wrote an article styled Technology is About to Change the Future of Cruising which omitted any discussion about using existing technology to comply with the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act which required the implementation of such life-saving technology.

Royal Caribbean is one of the cruise lines which will never respond to requests for information from us about disappearances of crew or passengers or other mishaps at sea.

Should you have any information about this disappearance, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page

December 12, 2017 Update: Galveston Daily News Crew member missing from Vision of the Seas. A news station in Galveston reported that the missing crew member was a pool attendant from Mauritius (video below).

Photo Credit: Pjotr Mahhonin - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia. 

RCCL Chairman Richard Fain Cashed Stock Worth Around $2,500,000

Richard Fain Royal Caribbean Royal Caribbean top executive Richard Fain reportedly sold 20,000 shares of Royal Caribbean (RCL) stock this week for a total amount of approximately $2,500,000.

In a transaction this past Monday, November 13th, he sold his shares at an an average price of $123.76, for a total value of $2,475,200.00. CEO Fain officer reportedly now owns 895,416 shares of his cruise company’s stock, valued at around $110,816,684.16. 

In August 2017, Mr. Fain sold over $24,000,000 of Royal Caribbean stock. 

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

Interested in this issue? Read Cruise Executive Richard Fain Hits the Jackpot Again.

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean Press Center

Noro on the Anthem?

A local news station in Philadelphia reports on a recent gastrointestinal outbreak on the Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas.

ABC-6 reports that a family from Philadelphia returned from a 7-night cruise aboar the Anthem which departed Cape Liberty, New Jersey on Saturday, November 4th. The news stations reports that on the second day of the seven day cruise, "rumors of the virus started circulating . . . and started to spread fast. Workers could be seen spraying the narrow hallways, but it was apparently spreading like wildfire." 

A newlywed woman and her husband and several of her family members became ill with symptoms of a gastrointestinal virus. 

The family complained to the news stations that "some hand sanitizing stations ... didn't have any Royal Caribbean Norovirussanitizer available to us, there were out of soap at certain sinks, there were no sanitizing stations at the elevators . . the ship's managers (didn't take) enough measures to stop the spread of the virus, which is not airborne but rather comes from personal touch with others or germs left on surfaces."

Royal Caribbeaan confirmed that "were a total of 98 reported cases of gastro-intestinal illness symptoms, which represents 1.9 percent of the 4,905 guests and crew onboard." 

The CDC's Vessel Sanitation Plan requires cruise ships to send a separate notification when the GI illness count exceeds 2% of the total number of passengers or crew onboard. Cruise ship outbreak updates are posted on the CDC website only when 3% or more of the passengers and crew report symptoms to the ship informary during the cruise.

Because there were less than than 2% of the passengers and crew members reported ill during the cruise, the CDC will not list the outbreak on its official cruise ship Outbreak Updates page.

A couple of take-aways from this article. First, how many passengers did not dislose their symptoms to the ship doctor?

Secondly, there is no indication that the outbreak is related to norovirus, which cannot be confirmed until there is scientific analysis of the infected passengers' stool samples, which will not be done because the CDC is not involved.

Thirdly, the local news station is wrong that GI virus outbreaks can't occur through airborne transmission. Two years ago, in an article titled Norovirus Spreads by Air on Cruise Ships, I discussed that researchers have concluded that norovirus can spread by air, according to a publication in the highly respected Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Finally, don't call us if you get sick on a cruise. Establising where the virus came from, or that the cruise line was negligent, is virtually impossible to prove, especially since the CDC conducts no epidemiological analysis and sometimes can't even figure out the source of the outbreak

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

Read: Gastrointestinal Outbreak on the Crown Princess, Again.

Sick Passenger Medevaced from Grandeur of the Seas

Medevac CruiseAccording to Florida Today, aircrews from Patrick Air Force Base medevaced an ill passenger from the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas yesterday.

The Grandeur was en route to to Baltimore, Maryland when the air force base was requested to assist in evacuating a passenger reportedly suffering from appendicitis on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship. The cruise ship was approximately 690 miles off of Cape Canaveral, according to the article. (Although the video information suggests that the ship was about 500 miles from Brevard County). 

The long-range rescue "involved HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and 2 HC-130 aerial refueling aircraft" to reach the cruise ship vessel, according to representatives of the 920th Rescue group.

The U.S. Coast Guard was not involved in the operation, according to Coast Guard officials.

According to the article, the passenger was accompanied by his spouse aboard the rescue helicopter, and flown to Holmes Regional Medical Center, in Melbourne Florida, where he reportedly is recovering,

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

November 10, 2017 Update: How the Air Force Carried Out a Daring Rescue of an Ailing Cruise Ship Passenger

 

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Lindsey Maurice via Florida Today.     

 

Do Cruise Lines Permit Registered Sexual Offenders to Cruise?

There are around 750,000 (some say the number is over 850,000) sexual offenders registered in the United States. Many thousands of these sexual offenders go on cruises each year. Some cruise lines do not permit registered offenders to cruise, but many if not most cruise lines do. 

Another lawyer here in Miami recently wrote an interesting article for the Huffington Post about this important issue, titled Should Cruise Ships Allow Sexual Offenders to Sail? 

The article points out, believe it or not, that there is a travel-related resource which caters to registered sexual offenders called Resources for RSO Travels, which published a blog post Can Registered Sex Offenders Go on a Cruise? The article answers its own question, writing "the answer is YES!" but further explains that there are some cruise line which block sexual offenders from cruising:

" . . . here are the two cruise lines that are notoriously known for denying registered sex offenders: Royal Caribbean and Carnival. Here are the cruise lines that allow registered sex offenders to board the ship: Norwegian, MSC, Holland America."

When I read the article, I find it disturbing that the registered offenders' blog characterized Royal Caribbean and Carnival as "notorious" for prohibiting sexual offenders from cruising and not characterizing NCL, MSC and HAL as "notorious" for permitting sexual predators to board their cruise ships. I suppose that's part of the problem with many sexual offenders. Even after being criminally convicted of their sexual crimes and placed on the National Sex Offender Public Website, they think Sexual Offender Cruise Shipthat they really didn't do anything wrong and they should be entitled to the same privileges as people who didn't commit sexual crimes. 

I have represented far too many people sexually assaulted on cruise ships, including dozens of children sexually abused during cruises, to have any tolerance for sexual offenders protesting that they were not permitted to cruise. 

Some men go on cruises for the primary purpose of abusing children. A couple of years ago, I wrote about a 71 year old man from Pennsylvania (photo left) who cruised on the Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas and went went into the cruise ship's water zone and fondled a 6-year-old boy. He attempted to fondle a second child in an adjoining Jacuzzi. At a hearing before a Federal Magistrate in Pennsylvania, an FBI agent testified that the pedophile admitted that he went on the cruise to "have a sexual encounter with a young boy." (There was no indication that the man was on a sexual offender database at the time of the cruise; shortly after this incident Royal Caribbean starting performing background checks of passengers).  The man was convicted, served jail time and when released from jail he attempted to molest other children

But don't expect the U.S. government or port authorities (at either the state or national levels) to perform background checks and prevent sexual offenders from cruising.  Homeland Security and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection may arrest sexual predators who have an outstanding warrants but they usually do so only after the cruise ship returns to port. 

For example, a 28 year-old man (photo right) was arrested while disembarking the Carnival Inspiration at the Port of Tampa a few years ago. His name was flagged by a sweep of the manifest of Sexual Assault Outstanding Warrantpassengers by Homeland Security officials who determined that the passenger was wanted for sexual assault in addition to assault with a weapon and forcible confinement. The U.S. Marshals arrested the passenger only after the cruise ship returned to port. Regretfully, our federal government routinely looks at the ship passenger list only after the bad guys have already boarded the cruise ship.

If you take a cruise, you may be cruising with at least one felon aboard. U.S. Customs and Border Protection arrested five passengers on outstanding warrants only after the Carnival Magic returned to port in Galveston several years ago. 

Cruise lines should do everything possible to keep pedophiles, sexual predators and sexual offenders  off of cruise ships. Yes, I realize that all sexual offenders are not pedophiles or technically "sexual predators" (who by definition must have been convicted of a first degree sexual crime or multiple lesser sexual crimes). But it is a step in the right direction for cruise lines to perform background checks on passengers to screen out such people convicted of sexual crimes.

Over the years, I have received many questions from people wanting to go on a cruise asking whether registered sexual offenders are allowed to cruise.  Usually, their inquires are anonymous. They claim that a "friend" is thinking of going on a cruise. They explain that their "friend" is a "really nice guy" who made a mistake a "long time ago" and is now "no threat to anyone" and other similar gobbledygook. 

A particularly annoying occurrence is when a registered sexual offender complains to me that they booked a cruise and received an email at the last minute that they are prohibited from going on the cruise. I have received many of these type of inquiries over the last several months from men convicted of sexual crimes and listed as registered offenders wanting to cruise with Carnival.  Although the cruise line always refunds their fares, several people have complained that they have been "inconvenienced" and want to see if they a lawsuit for being a victim of "discrimination."

I do not respond to such inquires, which have involved to date only people who had booked cruises with Carnival and Royal Caribbean and were notified by these cruise lines that they had been identified on a sexual offender database. The registered offenders who contact my law office remind me that most families who cruise have no idea who they are cruising with.  So kudos to Carnival and Royal Caribbean for keeping known sexual offenders off their ships and trying to keep their guests safe. Shame on the other cruise lines who don't perform such background checks.  

The bottom line is that there is no law to my knowledge prohibiting sexual offenders from cruising. Even if there were such a law, our federal government does a poor job vetting passenger manifests and probably would not find out until after the cruise ship leaves port. Its up to the cruise lines to screen their passengers and most cruise lines don't. It seems like only Carnival and Royal Caribbean do. 

Keep in mind that most of the sexual assaults of passengers are committed by crew members.  Few countries other than the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia have sexual offender databases, and very few countries have any online databases permitting any cruise line or hiring agents from knowing whether job applicants from the countries where crew members are hired (India, Indonesia, and the Caribbean islands) have been arrested or convicted of sexual or violent crimes. (And of course passengers from non U.S. countires without sexual offender databases cannot be screened). 

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

November 4, 2017 Update: A reader on our Facebook page commented that Carnival is already partnering with INTERPOL for enhanced security screening using INTERPOL'S I-Checkit global security system . . . Read the link here.

Photo credit:

Top -  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Bottom - U.S. Customs and Border Protection

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?  

Cruises to Cuba Continue Despite U.S. Warnings

The U.S. State Department issued a new safety warning last Friday regarding travel to Cuba.

The U.S. government warned Americans not to travel to Cuba because of recent sonic attacks on U.S. citizens who were working for the U.S. Embassy in Havana. The attacks caused the U.S. employees to experience hearing loss, ear-ringing, dizziness, difficulty sleeping, headaches and cognitive problems, among other symptoms.  

But the Miami-based cruise lines are ignoring the warning.

Carnival Cruise CEO Arnold DonaldCarnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean are continuing their cruises to Cuba. 

Carnival issued a statement that “while members and relatives of the U.S. diplomatic corps have suffered illnesses apparently triggered by occurrences at the diplomatic offices or possibly their homes, none of the more than 475,000 other Americans visiting Cuba this year have reported similar health issues related to their visits. We are, of course, closely monitoring and are in touch with U.S., as well as Cuban authorities, and will act accordingly if anything warrants a change in our plans . . .  Please be advised that your visa for travel to Cuba is valid, and there are no issues with your return to the U.S. The State Department advisory does not prohibit Americans from traveling to Cuba.”

Newsweek and the New York Times report that the U.S. has already expelled two Cuban diplomats over the attacks, and is considering further retaliatory steps. The attacks have reportedly occurred at hotels as well as U.S. citizen's homes.  "Because some of the attacks occurred in hotels where U.S. State Department employees were temporarily staying, officials said they worried that tourists and others U.S. visitors could be affected."

Most recently, the U.S. expelled 15 of Cuba's diplomats today to protest Cuba's attacks on American embassy employees in Havana. Last week, the U.S. announced it was withdrawing 60 percent of the U.S. diplomats from Cuba because they might be harmed if they stay.

The U.S. State Department said: "Because our personnel's safety is at risk and we are unable to identify the source of the attacks, we believe U.S. citizens may also be at risk and warn them not to travel to Cuba."

With most of the eastern Caribbean islands largely destroyed by hurricanes Irma and Maria, the cruise lines in Miami are hesitant to further disrupt their businesses by suspending cruises to Cuba. Carnival CEO Arnold Donald (photo, above right with Fathom president Tara Russell) has always banked on cruising to Cuba. 

Many travel companies suggest that the U.S. warning is overstated. The cruise lines point to the fact that only U.S. diplomats and embassy employees have been victims, so far. 

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

Photo credit: CNBC

Cat-5 Hurricane Irma Threatening South Florida, Scattering Cruise Ships

Hurricane Irwin Cruise ShipHurricane Irma, which continues to strengthen as it heads west toward the Leeward Islands and Virgin Islands, is now a Category 5 storm with winds of over 175 mph (with gusts up to 215 mph) as of this morning's advisories. The huge storm is predicted to continue west across the Caribbean, north of Dominican Republic/Haiti and Cuba, and then turn to the north, likely hitting the Florida Keys and South Florida by late Saturday / early Sunday morning.

Irma will continue as a category 5 storm for the next few days, although its intensity will decrease to a category 4 with winds of 150 mph. 

The most reliable computer models (the U.S. and European models) show Irma continuing to head west before making a sharp turn to the north towards South Florida, although there are no guarantees exactly where or when that northward turn will occur. 

"Spaghetti models" via Mike's Weather Page (image below) is my favorite page to follow the progress of the hurricane. You can see the probable path of this dangerous storm heading into the Florida Keys and South Florida here.  

Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas was the first cruise ship to alter its itinerary from its original Eastern Caribbean schedule to the Western Caribbean. The Allure's itinerary was changed to Cozumel, Labadee, and Falmouth. It appears likely that Royal Caribbean's private destination in Labadee (Haiti) will be directly impacted by Irma later this week; cruises to that destination seem likely to be rescheduled. 

Royal Caribbean's changes to its itineraries are listed on its Facebook page. The cruise line cancelled the September 8th cruises to the Bahamas by the Enchantment of the Seas and the Majesty of the Seas. Royal Caribbean is saying that the cruise fare and fees for these cruises will be 100% refunded to the original form of payment, and we are also offering a 25% future cruise credit, based on the cruise fare, if a new cruise is booked in the next 30 days.

Regarding the Allure of the Seas (September 10 Western Caribbean), Anthem of the Seas (September 9 Bermuda), Empress of the Seas (September 9 Cuba) and Harmony of the Seas (September 9 Eastern Caribbean), guests are asked to check on updates at the cruise line's Facebook page.

Royal Caribbean's Chief Meteorologist, James Van Fleet, who the cruise line hired after the debacle when the Anthem of the Seas sailed into a well-forecasted storm last year, will be on the hot seat responding to questions posed to him on line. Mr. Van Fleet is already fielding inquiries via his Twitter account. The last question posted was "I'm currently on harmony and someone thinks Irma is going to Hurricane Irma Cruise Shipcause us to reenact titanic. Can you confirm?"  (A PR video produced by Royal Caribbean is below.)  It remains to be seen whether Mr. Fleet was hired for public relations purposes or to provide meaningful information and insight to the Royal Caribbean ships at sea.

Carnival will also be changing its fleet's cruise ship itineraries. The Carnival Glory, scheduled for an Eastern Caribbean itinerary, will switch to a Western Caribbean cruise, which will include Grand Cayman, Roatan, Belize City and Cozumel. Carnival's changes to the itineraries of the Carnival Magic, Carnival Splendor and Carnival Pride are explained below. 

NCL canceled the three-day cruise to the Bahamas from the port of Miami on the Norwegian Sky scheduled for September 8th, as well as a seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the Norwegian Escape scheduled for September 9th. NCL will offer full refunds and 50 percent future cruise credits.

The itineraries of the cruise ships of other lines are certain to change as Irma heads toward Florida. Additional days at sea and more ports of call in places like Roatan and Belize seem likely.

A large number of air carriers are permitting flyers to cancel their scheduled flights to the Caribbean islands, with some adding flights from the islands to Miami to accommodate people wanting to escape the storm. Cruise lines typically do not permit such cancellations and have policies which permit the ships to change itineraries at their sole  discretion. Unless the passengers have purchased insurance applying to this situation, there is little that families themselves can do to cancel their cruises without incurring penalties or forfeiting their fares.

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

Photo credit: Top - NOAA via AP; middle - Mike Weather Page. 

HURRICANE IRMA ITINERARY CHANGES (courtesy of Carnival)
September 3, 2017

CARNIVAL GLORY (SEVEN-DAY CRUISE FROM MIAMI)
Revised Itinerary Original Itinerary
Sept. 2 – Miami Sept. 2 – Miami
Sept. 3 – At Sea Sept. 3 – Half Moon Cay
Sept. 4 – Grand Cayman Sept. 4 – At Sea
Sept. 5 – Mahogany Bay (Roatan) Sept. 5 – St. Thomas
Sept. 6 – Belize Sept. 6 – San Juan
Sept. 7 – Cozumel Sept. 7- Grand Turk
Sept. 8 – At Sea Sept. 8 – At Sea
Sept. 9 – Miami Sept. 9 – Miami

CARNIVAL MAGIC (SIX-DAY CRUISE FROM PORT CANAVERAL)
Revised Itinerary Original Itinerary
Sept. 3 – Port Canaveral Sept. 3 – Port Canaveral
Sept. 4 – At Sea Sept. 4 – Nassau
Sept. 5 – Cozumel Sept. 5 – At Sea
Sept. 6 – Belize Sept. 6 – Amber Cove (Dominican Republic)
Sept. 7 – Costa Maya Sept. 7- Grand Turk
Sept. 8 – At Sea Sept. 8 – At Sea
Sept. 9 – Port Canaveral Sept. 9 – Port Canaveral


CARNIVAL SPLENDOR (SIX-DAY CRUISE FROM PORT FORT LAUDERDALE )
Revised Itinerary Original Itinerary
Sept. 3 – Port Everglades Sept. 3 – Port Everglades
Sept. 4 – At Sea Sept. 4 – Nassau
Sept. 5 – Cozumel Sept. 5 – Half Moon Cay
Sept. 6 – Mahogany Bay (Roatan) Belize Sept. 6 – Grand Turk
Sept. 7 – Belize Sept. 7- Amber Cove (Dominican Republic)
Sept. 8 – At Sea Sept. 8 – At Sea
Sept. 9 – Port Everglades Sept. 9 – Port Everglades

CARNIVAL PRIDE (SEVEN-DAY CRUISE FROM BALTIMORE)
Revised Itinerary Original Itinerary
Sept. 3 – Baltimore Sept. 3 – Baltimore
Sept. 4 – At Sea Sept. 4 – At Sea
Sept. 5 – Charleston Sept. 5 – At Sea
Sept. 6 – Freeport Sept. 6 – Grand Turk
Sept. 7 – Nassau Sept. 7- Half Moon Cay
Sept. 8 – At Sea Sept. 8 – At Sea
Sept. 9 – At Sea Sept. 9 – At Sea
Sept. 10 - Baltimore Sept. 10 – Baltimore 

 

"Speed Restrictions" Plague Allure of the Seas

Allure of the SeasSeveral Royal Caribbean customers have reported that propulsion issues which the Allure of the Seas experienced several years ago have returned and will interfere with the cruises which are scheduled in the future.

One guest sent us an email she recently received:

"Dear Valued Guest,

We have updated information about your sailing.

Allure of the Seas currently has a speed restriction that will result in slight adjustments to your itinerary. For your convenience, the updates are noted below. The new port of San Juan, Puerto Rico offers the opportunity to visit the culturally rich city of Old San Juan and the lush rainforest of El Yunque. We apologize for this change, but have no doubt that your vacation will be nothing short of amazing. We can't wait to welcome you on board."

The guest who contacted us said that Royal Caribbean replaced St. Kitts with San Juan (others said that Royal Caribbean replaced St. Thomas with San Juan on other itineraries) and the duration of time that the ship will remain in the other ports of call has changed.

Many quests have made their plans a long time ago and chose the itineraries for the specific ports in question, with some people planning honeymoons and anniversaries.  They naturally feel disappointed. They are prohibited from canceling the planned cruises at this point without a penalty being assessed. Many have asked whether compensation is in order.

Unfortunately, the one-sided terms of their cruise tickets permit Royal Caribbean to change ports like this. It's not nice bit it's not illegal.  It is a matter of goodwill and the company's view of its own PR. Compensation is usually reserved for missed ports.

The cruise line that will say that, notwithstanding the propulsion issues, the guests are still receiving the value of a 7-night Caribbean cruise.

Back in November of 2013, passengers aboard the Allure began noticing that the cruise ship was shortening its stay in Nassau and then arriving late in St. Thomas; some excursions were canceled. We wrote about the problems in Dry Dock Cure for Allure of the Seas?

The Allure eventually went into dry dock (with the use of cofferdams) in the Bahamas in early 2014 for the repair of the bearings in an azipod, which was the subject of an interesting YouTube video

To our knowledge, Royal Caribbean has made no official announcements regarding this issue; there is no indication one way or the other whether the cruise line will respond to the ship's reduced speed with an early dry dock again. 

Stay tuned . . . 

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

August 18, 2017 Update: The Allure is scheduled for dry-dock repairs on Janaury 21, 2018, according to Royal Caribbean. The cruise line says that the cruise ship will undergo "standard maintenance work."  The specfics of the work is not specified.

Photo Credit: Allure of the Seas (in Falmouth Jamaica) - Jim Walker

COO Goldstein Sells Over $14,000,000 in Royal Caribbean Stock

Richard Fain Adam Goldstein Royal Caribbean CruisesRoyal Caribbean President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Adam Goldstein (photo, to the right) sold 120,000 shares of his company's cruise stock on August 2 and 3, 2017.  The stock was sold at an average price of $118.21 for a total sale of $14,185,200.00, according to the SEC.  

This follows the sale of RCL stock by CEO Richard Fain earlier in the week, where he collected $24,406,075.98. Cruise executives Goldstein and Fain, who often sell big blocks of company stock in tandem like this, together sold over $38,500,000 in RCL stock last week. 

Following the sale, COO Goldstein still owns 191,252 shares of RCL stock, valued at $22,607,898.92. The sale was disclosed in a document filed with the SEC

After the sales last week, Mr. Goldstein and Mr. Fain now own over $134,000,000 of RCL stock.

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

Photo credit: Royal Caribbean press center.

CEO Fain Rakes In Over $24,000,000 In Sale Of RCCL Stock

Royal Caribbean Richard FainRoyal Caribbean chief executive officer Richard D. Fain sold 210,706 shares of his cruise line stock in a transaction on Wednesday, August 2, 2017 at an average price of $115.83, for a total value of $24,406,075.98.

Mr. Fain was last in the news in April when a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission reflected that his total compensation last year was in the amount of $10,400,000.

Maritime Executive recently reported that Royal Caribbean's income for the second quarter reached $370 million, the highest second quarter earnings in company history. The cruise line's financial performance, the maritime journal wrote, "vindicates Fain's prediction that 2017 would shape up to be a 'sensational year.'"

Following the stock sale, CEO Fain reportedly now owns 967,741 shares of his company’s stock, valued at $112,093,440.03. 

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

Interested in this issue? Read Cruise Executive Richard Fain Hits the Jackpot Again.

Photo Credit: CNBC

Controlling the Images: How Royal Caribbean Handles PR During Cruise Ship Fires

Royal Caribbean Cruise PRPR News recently published an interesting article about how Royal Caribbean Cruises successfully handled its public relations image during the 2013 fire aboard the Grandeur of the Seas. Titled How Royal Caribbean Controls the Message During a Crisis, the article explains how the cruise line effectively controlled the narrative when the Grandeur caught on fire while cruising to Nassau.

PR Success: Immediately after the fire, Royal Caribbean quickly flew its president and a professional photographer to the port and tweeted photos of the cruise CEO interacting with guests "so that journalists would use those photos instead of a guest’s."

I mentioned this effective PR move in an article which I posted shortly after the fire titled Where Are Photo & Video Images of the Fire on the Grandeur of the Seas?  I commented on Royal Caribbean's new and improved PR efforts, but pointed out that the cruise line released more photos of the cruise CEO having tea with passengers after the fire than of the damage to the ship. 

A video report by ABC News helped to explain why there were no videos or photographs because the cruise ship's crew stopped passengers from taking images of the fire and chaos. Passenger Carrie royal Caribbean Cruise PRMcTigue told ABC News that "even when people put their cameras up to photograph the sunrise, they were told, 'no photos.'"

PR Disasters: But Royal Caribbean has not always been able to control the images shown to the public when its cruise ships catch on fire. In July 2015, the Freedom of the Seas caught on fire. When we learned that the Freedom was on fire while heading to port in Falmouth, Jamaica, we asked a former client who lives near the port to video the fire. He videotaped the ship coming into port, billowing a huge amount of smoke. We immediately posted the video, on our Facebook page, which was viewed by over a million people within two days. We also posted the video on this blog with other images of the fire and the passengers mustering to prepare to abandon the fire-stricken ship.

So when Royal Caribbean tried to spin the story, with a misleading statement by its CEO that the fire was allegedly "small and quickly extinguished," the public could make their own assessment regarding the size and ferocity of the fire. All of the major networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) carried the video on their news programs and the international media included the video on their multi-media presentations.

The public was left with the impression that the cruise line was either completely out-of-touch with the danger posed to its guests or that it deliberately fabricated a falsehood to masquerade as the truth, which I suggested in the Royal Caribbean "Small Fire" Hoax.

Royal Caribbean also caused a public uproar after it sailed the Anthem of the Seas into a well publicized storm last year. Royal Caribbean's PR people tried to say that the storm was "unforeseeable" but weather professionals didn't buy it. They ripped the cruise line for routing the cruise ship directly into the storm. Read the Washington Post's 4,000-passenger cruise ship inexplicably sails into Atlantic mega-storm. Weather experts accurately predicted the Atlantic seas out of New Jersey to be over 30 feet high with winds of hurricane strength, but the Anthem nonetheless recklessly sailed into theRoyal Caribbean Cruise PR storm, terrorizing thousands of passengers and burning out the clutches of its azipods in the process. The Anthem returned to port in New Jersey with only one propulsion unit operating.

Royal Caribbean initially denied any damage or injury to the ship or the passengers and then falsely claimed that the only damage to the ship was "cosmetic." Al Roker, the popular television weatherman on the Today Show, best summed up Royal Caribbean's claim that the storm was not predicted: "Royal Caribbean's claim that this was not predicted is bullfeathers."  USA TODAY chimed in with "Meteorologists: Royal Caribbean blew it on sailing into storm."

Practice Makes Perfect?  The director of the cruise line's corporate communications, Cynthia Martinez, was quoted in the PR article as saying that that the company often "practices roundtable discussions of how to handle an issue, and sometimes they practice writing tweets and press releases for specific situations." So the next time that a Royal Caribbean ship catches on fire or sails into a storm, remember that what you may be seeing from this cruise line is what it wants you to believe rather than the reality of what actually occurred or - as Al Roker said - "bullfeathers."

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

Royal Caribbean to Pull Some of its Cruise Ships from Falmouth, Jamaica?

Royal Caribbean and sister cruise line Celebrity Cruises are pulling some of their cruise ships from the port of Falmouth, Jamaica, according to the Jamaican Gleaner.

Yesterday, the Gleaner published an article titled Major Cruiselines Pull Out Of Falmouth Port, Financial Fallout Expected. The article is admittedly confusing. It quotes Falmouth’s mayor, Colin Gager, referring to three ships, the "Allure of the Seas," and two unnamed ships from Celebrity and Royal Caribbean. It seems that Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises changed the itineraries of three cruise ships from Falmouth at sometime in the future. 

It does Falmouth Jamaica Royal Caribbeannot appear that these cruise lines are pulling all of their ships from this port. The Royal Caribbean website still lists the Independence, Liberty, Oasis, Allure, and Harmony of the Seas sailing to Falmouth in 2017 and 2018 and the Adventure of the Seas calling on Falmouth in late 2018 and 2019. 

The article cites three reason expressed by the Falmouth mayor for the disruption of arrivals at the port: (1) "visitor harassment," (2) the "conduct of tour bus operators," and (3) "craft vendors leaving much to be desired."

Many cruise passengers have complained about being harassed in Falmouth, as well as other ports in Jamaica such as Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, by vendors and hair-braiders over the years. There have been many discussions between Royal Caribbean and Jamaican tourism officials about the cruise visitors' complaints of harassment. 

Local tour bus operators have been a problem with safely taking cruise passengers from the port to excursions. Last year over a dozen passengers were injured in a crash of a tour bus where the driver was reportedly driving erratically. The accident killed one Royal Caribbean passenger who was aboard the tour bus.

Royal Caribbean invested heavily in developing the historic port, which we have reported on several times. Local newspapers are reporting on promises by Royal Caribbean and the local port authority to complete a large market with over 200 stalls, a transportation center in the middle of town, and an artisan village.

Royal Caribbean and the Port Authority of Jamaica are planning to further dredge the port to make room to permit Falmouth to permit two cruise ships which are the size of the Allure of the Seas (or the Oasis or the Harmony) to be in port at the same time. There have been reports in the local press that there is opposition to the dredging by local citizens of Jamaica. Last month, the Gleaner reported on calls for the local citizens to resist the dredging. It mentioned that 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."

Falmouth JamaicaReverend 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. 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 question arises whether Royal Caribbean is pulling some of its ships from Falmouth to make a point with those resisting the cruise line's plans for the port.

Ironically, the Jamaican minister of tourism, Edmund Bartlett, boasted a couple of months ago in the Jamaican Observer that Falmouth was hosting many of the largest cruise ships in the world and would soon be the region’s "number one cruise destination."

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

Photo credit: Jim Walker

Cruise Industry: A Menace to Wildlife?

Big Red - Harvest Caye - NCLThis weekend, a reader of this blog sent me an article from the San Pedro Sun regarding NCL's exploitation of rare macaws in its development in Belize at Harvest Caye.

Scarlet Macaws

NCL reportedly obtained numerous birds (toucans and other macaws) and animals and reptiles from the Belize government from the wild and/or rescue and rehabilitation centers for display in cages for the benefit of cruise visitors. 

The article addressed the plight of a scarlet macaw, which is one of the most poached birds in Belize, which was rescued by the Belize Bird Rescue (BBR), a non-profit organization in Belize. The male bird, which was named "Big Red," was rescued and underwent rehabilitation for wild release; however, several weeks ago the bird reportedly was given to Harvest Caye to entertain cruise tourists, much to the outrage of local Belizeans. Critics of NCL's boondoggle in Belize point out that NCL did not even mention a captive animal facility in the cruise line environmental impact assessment or obtain permission to possess rare birds in its environmental clearance process.  NCL apparently created its own so-called "conservation NGO" but it is not working with any of the existing NGO's in Belize.

The article about NCL's conduct, although outrageous, is just one of many examples of the abuse of birds and animals at cruise line private resorts and excursions throughout the world.

Swim-With-The-Dolphins

Dolphin rescue groups have repeatedly protested against ”swim-with-the-dolphins" excursions, like the notorious Blackbeard's Cay in the Bahamas, which have become a major feature of the cruise experience. Carnival and Royal Caribbean advertise them as “once in a lifetime experiences." The trade of dolphins in the Caribbean is big business. There are many dozens of swim-with-the-dolphins excursions sold by cruise lines in Mexico and throughout the Caribbean. The Dolphin Project writes about dolphins "confined in tiny, chlorinated tanks, where they are subject to relentless sun exposure (often resulting in sunburn), noise pollution, continuous human interaction and water toxins. Some live in polluted harbor waters, in hastily constructed holding pens, “conveniently” close to cruise ship ports for quick, tourist access." 

Cayman Island Turtle FarmCayman Islands Turtles

An animal protection group explains that in their natural ocean habitats, green sea turtles can dive to depths over 400 feet and can swim several thousands of miles a year. But held in captivity in what was originally called the Cayman Turtle Farm, subsequently re-branded as the friendlier-sounding Cayman Turtle Centre, the turtles are kept in small, crowded holding pens and are removed only for entertainment purposes to be mishandled by tourists and used for props in selfie-photos. You can also eat the turtles which are bred at the tourist facility. More than 200,000 people visit the tourist-turtle farm each year; approximately three quarters are cruise passengers.

Surrey Horses in Mexico, the Bahamas and the Caribbean

Horse tours are a popular tourist attraction for cruise visitors. Cruise lines sell dozens of excursions to tour the various port towns via horse drawn carriages. In many destinations, the horses are poorly fed Carriage Horses - Bahamasand abused. They suffer from heat exhaustion, dehydration, malnutrition, traffic fumes, noise pollution, stress, and injuries. The situation in Nassau is particularly bad; a malnourished horse dropped dead on Bay Street in downtown Nassau only to be tied by the legs and dragged down the street by a pickup truck. Exploiting horses is a dreadful way to spend a vacation cruise.

The cruise industry supports hundreds of local ports and has great influence over activities by the local communities. For example, if the cruise line would stop doing business with the tour operators who abuse horses and do business only with reputable bus and van operators, the abuse would stop virtually overnight.

Similarly, if the cruise industry would stop calling at port countries like the Faroe Islands which slaughter pilot whales, there would be considerable pressure to end the barbaric sport of killing sentient mammals, as we have urged for years.  

There are literally literally thousands of cruise excursions offered by each of the major cruise lines Faroe Islands Slaughter Whaleswhich take the majority of the revenue from the excursion. There's little consideration given by the cruise lines to anything except how much money the cruise lines can collect. I tend to view the problem as starting at the top, with the greedy cruise executives looking to collect every nickle and dime possible; but thoughtless cruise passengers are part of the problem too. One person commenting on NCL's exploitation of macaws in Belize posted this comment:

"Par for the course for people who encourage thousands of passengers to swim with captive dolphins, ride tortured elephants, camels and the like. However the passengers are equally to blame."     

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

This petition to end the exploitation of Belize's wildlife on NCL's Harvest Caye has reached 20,000 signatures. Read here.

Photo credits: 

Big Red - San Pedro Sun

Dolphin - Delfines En Libertad, Report on captive dolphins in Mexico.

Turtles -  World Animal Protection.

Horses - Stop Brutal Abuse and Suffering of Surrey Horses in the Bahamas.

Pilot Whales - Green Travel Life.

Former Royal Caribbean Crew Member Convicted of Murdering Family Who He Met During Cruise

Shakti RamsurrunNewspapers are reporting that a jury in Canada convicted a former Royal Caribbean waiter, from Mauritius, of murdering a young woman and her family who he met during a cruise in 2009. 

In December of 2009, two weeks before Christmas, 24 year-old Shakti Ramsurrun, from the country of Mauritius (off of the southeastern coast of Africa) met 19 year-old cruise passenger Anne-Katherine Powers and her parents on a cruise aboard the Explorer of the Seas. Mr. Ramsurrun had been employed as a waiter by Royal Caribbean Cruises for only two months.

The following day, when the Explorer reached Coco Cay, Mr. Ramsurrun accompanied the young Canadian woman ashore, although he knew that that he was violating the company's anti-fraternization policy. 

Over the next few months, the friendship between the two continued and they became engaged. 

In April 2010, four months after the first cruise, the family returned for a second cruise aboard the Explorer to celebrate the 25th marriage anniversary of Ms. Powers' parents. Mr. Ramsurrun reportedly "asked the captain for special permission to spend time with my fiancee." Ms. Powers reportedly Shakti Ramsurrunended up staying in Mr. Ramsurrun's cabin during the cruise, if Mr. Ramsurrun's trial testimony is accurate. 

They later became married in Maurtius and, after staying there for a short time, they moved to Canada where they lived in Ms. Powers' parent's house with their newborn son. 

Ms. Powers wanted to separate from her husband, after their relationship deteriorated, but the couple still lived together. Mr. Ramsurrun moved to the basement of the family home. Ms. Powers' parents wanted him to leave their house, but Mr. Ramsurrun remained. In 2012, Mr, Ramsurrun killed Ms. Powers and her parents and left the house with the estranged couple's child. The police apprehended him with his child in a van, and he was charged with the triple slaying. 

Mr. Ramsurrun has remained in jail for the past 5 years. Late last week, a jury convicted him of murdering the family. According to the Ottawa Citizen, the court sentenced him to life imprisonment with no chance for parole for 25 years. 

The last Royal Caribbean crew member from  Mauritius who was in the news was Karan Seechurn who worked on the Quantum of the Seas as a mini-bar attendant. He was arrested and pleaded guilty of abusive sexual contact in 2015 after he used a master key to enter a woman's cabin and molest her while she was sleeping. 

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

Hat tip to Crew Center who covered the story: Fairy tale turned into a nightmare - Ex Crew Member charged with triple murder.

Photo credit: Top - Radio Canada ICI Ottawa-Gatineau; bottom - Gatineau Police Department via Ottawa Citizen

Disappearance of Royal Caribbean Crew Member Adriana Morales de Florencio

There remains no leads, which have been publicly discussed to date, regarding the whereabouts of Royal Caribbean crew member Adriana Morales de Florencio. We first mentioned her disappearance on April 20, 2017. 

Adriana was reported missing after the cruise ship she worked on, the Navigator of the Seas, stopped in the port of Kralendijk, Bonaire last week.

Recent articles say that Adriana's family members have obtained passports to travel from Mexico to Panama by air and, then, they will take a boat to reach Bonaire to meet the authorities, investigators and cruise line representatives. 

The police in Bonaire have released a poster with Adriana's information, which you can see below. 

If you have relevant information, please contact the police.

April 30, 2017 Update: Terrible news; a newspaper reports that Adriana's body was located in Bonaire

Adriana Morales de Florencio Kralendijk, Bonaire

 

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Missing from Liberty of the Seas

Liberty of the Seas A number of newspapers in Galveston are reporting that the U.S. Coast Guard is searching for a Royal Caribbean crew member who apparently went overboard from the Liberty of the Seas this morning.  

ABC-13 News in Galveston is reporting that a 39-year-old Filipino crew member was reported missing from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship around 4:30 a.m. this morning.

Images of the unidentified crew member were reportedly captured by a closed circuit television (CCTV) on the Liberty of the Seas at about 1:30 a.m. Monday. He was later reported missing at 4:30 a.m. after he failed to report to his job station.  

The Coast Guard search involved an airplane dispatched from the Coast guard station in Corpus Christi and a patrol boat from Galveston. The crew member is believed to have disappeared approximately 170 miles southeast of Galveston. 

The three hour delay between the last images of the crew member on CCTV and the reporting of the missing crew member probably means that the cruise ship was not equipped with an automatic man overboard system which would have immediately notified the bridge that a person has gone over the rails of the ship and into the water.  

AIS tracking systems reveal that the Liberty of the Seas apparently did not conduct searches for the crew member in the Gulf of Mexico.

This is an issue we have written about regularly. 

Modern man overboard technology includes motion detection systems which can immediately signal the bridge and simultaneously capture an image of the person going overboard thus verifying that is not a false alarm. The technology can actually track the person in the water, even at night, with radar and infrared technology. 

Where most overboards involving cruise passengers seem to be the result of the sale of excessive alcohol, overboards involving crew members seems to involve employees jumping overboard (there is no evidence that this occurred in this specific case). In 2012, I chronicled a dozen crew members who went overboard from Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise ships during a period of three years. I cited the difficult working conditions and low pay which crew members face which are almost unimaginable by U.S. standards: 12 plus hour days, 7 days a week, 30 days a month with no days off over the course of 6 to 10 month contacts, for as little as $550 a month for non-tip earning ship employees. I asked Is Royal Caribbean Working Its Crew Members to Death?

This problem is not limited solely to the Royal Caribbean brands.  We have written about crew members from Carnival, MSC, NCL and Princess who have apparently intentionally gone overboard. 

In our experience, the medical treatment for physical injuries involving crew members is spotty at best. Ibuprofen is often the only "treatment." Medical care for crew members suffering from depression and other emotional issues is virtually non-existent.

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

Photo credit: Hassocks5489 at English Wikipedia - Public Domain, commons / wikimedia.

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Missing in Bonnaire

Adriana Morales de Florencio - Royal Caribbean Crew Member Missing in BonnaireNewspapers in Bonaire are reporting that the police in that country are looking for a crew member employed by Royal Caribbean on the Navigator of the Seas who did not return to the cruise ship after going ashore in the port of Kralendijk two days ago.

Mexican national Adriana Morales de Florencio, reportedly left the Royal Caribbean cruise ship on Thursday, April 20th, around noon. But she did not return before the cruise ship left the harbor of Kralendijk, according to the BES Reporter

The Notisia ING Facebook page has several photographs posted of the missing young woman. 

According to police information, Ms. Morales was born in 1993; she was was wearing a black sleeveless blouse, short cut-off jeans and black shoes.

The young woman reportedly was in the middle of her second contract; she worked both contracts on the Navigator.

The majority of people missing under these type of circumstances are passengers who eventually turn up.  It is unusual for a crew member not to return to their job on a cruise ship. It is less than clear what, if anything, the cruise line is doing to search for her. 

Have information? Please leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.

April 30, 2017 Update: Terrible news; a newspaper reports that Adriana's body was found in Bonaire.

Photo credit: Notisia ING Royaal Caribbean Crew Member Adriana Morales de Florencio Missing in Bonnaire

CEO Compensation: The Rich Get Richer

Richard Fain  RCL Royal Caribbean CEO Richard D. Fain's reportedly collected total compensation last year in the amount of $10,400,000 (million) compared to his total compensation in 2015 of $9,400,000 (million), according to a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

CEO Fain recently sold 20,000 shares of  Royal Caribbean stock.  The RCL stock was sold at an average price of $94.92, for a total transaction of $1,898,400.00. Following the transaction, Mr. Fain now owns 1,027,741 shares in the company, valued at approximately $97,553,175.72. He also indirectly owns another 426,912 shares of RCL stock, for  the benefit of certain family members, worth over $40,230,479.

Interested in this issue?  Read Cruise Executive Richard Fain Hits the Jackpot Again.

Anthem of the Seas Suffers Propulsion Problem

The Anthem of the Seas is experiencing propulsion problems, necessitating a slight alteration in its current itinerary according to the popular RCL Blog. The ship will remain in Nassau, for two days, where repairs will be attempted to correct the problem.  

The propulsion problem issue is reportedly due to an electrical issue in one of the pod systems.  The Anthem has been cruising at reduced speed on this voyage. AIS systems show it sailing between 15 and 17 knots. 

Last February, the Anthem of the Seas encountered a large storm after leaving Bayonne, New Jersey. The Coast Guard announced that one of the vessel's two azipods malfunctioned during the storm and that the Anthem returned to port in New Jersey with only one propulsion unit operating. The Coast Anthem of the Seas Guard stated that "during the storm the port azipod, which is one component of the vessel's propulsion system, burned out all four clutches." Royal Caribbean, which initially denied any damage or injury to the ship or the passengers and then claimed that the only damage to the ship was cosmetic, was forced to try and quickly replace the clutches on the storm damaged azipod before the ship's next cruise. The cruise line also decided the starboard azipod 's clutch also needed to be replaced "as a precaution," raising the possibility that it also sustained damage during the storm.

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

Photo credit: El Coleccionista de Instantes Fotografía & Video - El Crucero Anthem of The Seas en el muelle de Santa Catalina de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria., CC BY-SA 2.0, commons / wikimedia. 

FBI Releases New Video Regarding Amy Lynn Bradley Who Disappeared From Rhapsody of the Seas

Amy Bradley Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the SeasThe mysterious case of cruise passenger Amy Lynn Bradley is again in the news.

Amy was traveling with her brother and parents when she disappeared 19 years ago while aboard the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Rhapsody of the Seas. The ship had left Oranjestad, Aruba, and was sailing to Curaçao, in the Netherlands Antilles. On March 24, 1998, at age 23, Amy vanished.

The Bradley family was highly critical of Royal Caribbean who they faulted for the delay in responding to the incident and for what they felt was insensitivity toward their plight. Like most disappearances at sea, the cruise line's "investigation" seemed designed to protect the cruise line's image and legal interests. The FBI investigation, as usual, went no where.

Amy's disappearance in 1998 occurred six to seven years before the highly publicized cases of Merrian Carver in 2004 and George Smith IV in 2005, before the formation of the International Cruise Victims organization, and before five Congressional hearings which led to the passage of the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2010. The Bradleys were fighting the cruise line largely alone.

The International Cruise Victims organization contains a story about Amy's disappearance.

The Bradley family's website is here.  

The FBI page contains this description of the case: "Amy Lynn Bradley, while on a family cruise to the Caribbean, went missing from the Royal Caribbean International Cruise Line’s ship Rhapsody of the Seas. On Saturday, March 21, 1998, the vessel departed San Juan, Puerto Rico, and traveled to its first port of call, the island of Aruba. On Monday, March 23, 1998, Rhapsody of the Seas departed Aruba and was traveling in international waters to its next island port of Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. During the early morning hours of Tuesday, March 24, 1998, Amy Lynn Bradley went missing. The vessel later departed Curacao and continued on to the island of St. Martin (Sint Maarten) and further traveled to St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands, before returning to San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Saturday, March 28, 1998."

The FBI is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to the recovery of Amy Lynn Bradley and information that leads to the identification, arrest, and conviction of the person(s) responsible for her disappearance.

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

Photo credit: Bradley family

 

 

Drowning on the Anthem of the Seas?

Anthem of the SeasToday, I received emails from passengers, who disembarked from the Anthem of the Seas, that there had been a drowning on the Royal Caribbean ship yesterday.  One guest stated:

"We departed Anthem of the Seas this morning wondering whether there was a death in the main outdoor pool this week. While there were multiple medical emergencies onboard during this cruise, the pool incident was the most talked about amongst guests. This was the first week RCCL had lifeguards onboard. My husband was walking through the pool area when he heard clapping as if someone was doing a stunt in the pool. Then he said the medical response team was called and rushed to the scene and used a defibrillator. The main pool was closed for the rest of the day while security did their investigation. Some passengers said it was a drowning. We also noticed on the itinerary channel that the ships course changed to head directly to the coast as if it were meeting a helicopter. Perhaps that was for any earlier emergency." 

Another guest stated: "A lady drown this week aboard the Anthem."

An eight year old child drowned on the Anthem nine months ago.  That incident was one of four drownings or near-drownings involving children which occurred on Royal Caribbean ships (Liberty of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas and  Independence of the Seas) in the last two years. An adult woman also reportedly drowned on the Anthem last August.  

Ironically, Royal Caribbean just announced that it would begin to employ lifeguards on its ships. The Anthem of the Seas was one of the first ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet to be staffed with lifeguards this month.

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

Update: I received the following message from a guest: "My family was on this same cruise on Anthem of the Seas this past week and can confirm that an older woman in her 60's or 70's did die in the outdoor pool on Friday. My wife and I were in the medical clinic with the nurse when her deceased body was wheeled in. During my follow-up appointment with the doctor on Saturday I asked the doctor about this woman and he confirmed to me that she died by drowning in the pool but it was not yet determined if there was an underlying medical cause, such as a heart attack, etc."

March 20, 2017 Update: This from another guest on the ship: "I was at the pool 2 feet away, from where she entered. I think she was much older than 70's maybe even 90. She got in to swim, she swam a slow crawl across the pool. She knew how to swim and went the diagonal length, the guard was watching her. When I looked back She was motionless in the water near where she got in. The guard and I saw at the same time. He prodded her with his life float, no response. Then again , no response. He went In and got her out fairly fast. I would have gone in after the first prod, but it was only a couple seconds. She knew how to swim, had to be underlying event."

 

Photo credit: GlynLowe.com, Hamburg, Germany - Anthem of the Seas - Cruise Ship in Hamburg, CC BY 2.0, commons / wikimedia.

Is Too Much Ever Enough? NCL to Gouge Customers Again

Travel Weekly and Cruise Critic are reporting that Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is raising gratuities on April 1st from $13.50 per person, per day, to $13.99, on all ships except the Norwegian Sky. Daily gratuities for standard cabins on the Norwegian Sky will increase to $18.99 (an increase over 40%). 

Travel Weekly says that NCL will increase daily gratuities for suites from $15.50 to $16.99 on all of its ships except for the Sky where it will charge $21.99. 

It seems that there is no limit to the greed of cruise executives. NCL CEO Frank Del Rio just spoke at Seatrade Global about how the stock market was at all time high and fewer regulations and President Trump's pro-business tax cuts were good for his business. Del Rio collected nearly $32 million in Miami Cruise Ship Capital of the World2015

Del Rio's NCL has gouged its customers before, with extra charges, including increased room services charges, automatic gratuities and restaurant cover charges. He made this statement at an earning conference in 2015: "... we have looked across the fleet to identify areas where marginal changes ... can be implemented to improve performance. A few examples include a 6.7% average increase in beverage prices, the introduction of a nominal room service fee and lower costs from renegotiated shore excursion agreements. To put into perspective how these small changes can add up quickly, every dollar increase in yield translates to approximately $15 million to the bottom line."

Of course, all the major cruise lines nickel-and-dime their customers. Royal Caribbean just began charging for room service and, in the past, increased its gratuities while attempting to create the appearance that the increases were for its hard-working crew members (Read: Loyal to Royal? Expect to Pay Higher Gratuities! And the Money's Not for the Crew). Carnival Corp. did exactly the same thing while it also pocketed the increased gratuities (Read: Carnival Hikes Pre-Paid Gratuities But Will Passengers Secretly Remove Tips?)

Today, I read an article by David Grace Author titled When Greed Is Thought To Be A Virtue - When More Is Never Enough. He discusses what he calls the "more-more-more-until-it-all-blows-up" business phenomenon. The cruise executives, Del Rio in particular, put on quite a demonstration of unbridled greed at the Seatrade Cruise conference last week. The CEO's have an unhealthy, unchecked pursuit of profits in an industry which has always overreached into the American public's pockets.  The cruise industry pays virtually no taxes, exploits their workers from around the world, and still nickle-and-dimes their tax-paying customers whenever they have a chance. 

When is enough, enough? 

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

Photo credit: Marc Averette - CC BY-SA 1.0, commons / wikimedia.

Royal Caribbean to Charge Room Service Fee

Royal CaribbeanTwo popular cruise blogs, the Royal Caribbean Blog and Cruise Fever, are reporting that Royal Caribbean will soon begin to charge its guests a fee of $7.95 for room service from the All Day Menu and the American Section of the breakfast menu.

Cruise guests reportedly will still be able to order complimentary continental breakfast without incurring additional fees. Guests in suites will not be charged service fees.

The service fee will begin on sailings after March 27, 2017.

Royal Caribbean announced the change on its Twitter feed, much to the disappointment of its followers.

Royal Caribbean follows other cruise lines, like NCL (Read: NCL Gouges Guests with New Charges), which also charges a $7.95 room service charge. Carnival also announced a similar fee several years ago.

Most of the major cruise lines have been accused of nickel-and-diming passengers. Many cruise passengers have complained that room service should be included in the traditional inclusive-cruise fares. 

Don't think for a second that the new room service charges are for the hard working crew members.

Marginal increases in services like room service puts big bucks into the cruise executives' pockets.

NCL's CEO Frank Del Rio said in May 2015: "... we have looked across the fleet to identify areas where marginal changes that are commensurate with market conditions can be implemented to improve performance. A few examples include a 6.7% average increase in beverage prices, the introduction of a nominal room service fee and lower costs from renegotiated shore excursion agreements. To put into perspective how these small changes can add up quickly, every dollar increase in yield translates to approximately $15 million to the bottom line."

Del Rio collected nearly $32 million in compensation that year (2015). 

In June of 2015, Royal Caribbean hiked the automatic daily gratuity on its cruise ships by nearly 8% to $12.95 per person. USA Today wrote at the time that with this increase, a family of four will pay more than $350 in service charges on a typical seven-night cruise -- one of the highest levies in the cruise business.

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

Photo credit: Jim Walker

Update: We are receiving a number of humorous comments to the article on our Facebook discussion, including this one: "Next thing you know they'll put coin operated toilets in all the cabins." 

Royal Caribbean Cruise Executive Concerned About Crime in Nassau

Oasis of the Seas Nassau BahamasThe Tribune newspaper in Nassau reports that during a meeting between the CEO of Royal Caribbean International brand, Michael Bayley, and Prime Minister Perry Christie, the cruise executive stated that he is “concerned” about high levels of crime in the Bahamas. 

Mr. Bayley says that he has previously communicated his concerns regarding the issue of crime affecting his Royal Caribbean customers to the Bahamian government through the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA).

He claims that his cruise line's ships bring around 1,700,000 guests to the the Bahamas each year. However, if his cruise customers do not feel safe visiting the country, they will no longer vacation in the Bahamas, he says. 

Many cruise passengers to Nassau have told us over the last few years that they do not get off of the cruise ship upon arriving in the Bahamas because of crime ashore. 

Mr. Bayley says that Royal Caribbean is "committed to maintaining a concrete relationship with the country and plans to double visitor numbers over the next 10 years."  If true, this is an ambitious goal given the high crime rate in Nassau and the opening of ports in Cuba to Miami based cruise lines. 

Ironically, the Royal Caribbean CEO was meeting with the Bahamian Prime Minister about the development of the cruise line's private destination in Coco Cay, Bahamas. With the development of a large fixed pier, the priavte cay will be able to receive larger cruise ships including the Oasis-class ships which carry up to 5,400 passengers.

As reflected in the comments to the article, many people feel that numerous  islands in the Bahamas are being developed as private resorts for the cruise lines to escape the problems with crime and trash which detract from Nassau's reputation as a top cruise port. 

In a PR news release, Royal Caribbean promised to increase the number of Bahamians employed by the cruise line in the next five years. This is an issue where the cruise line has failed miserably in the past. Compared to other countries like Jamaica where there are many thousands of cooks, cleaners and cabin attendants working in Royal Caribbean ships, there are relatively few crew members from the Bahamas working for Royal Caribbean.

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March 9, 2017 UpdateGovt Should Be Concerned At Cruise Line’s Worries.

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas in Nassau, Bahamas - Baldwin040 - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Royal Caribbean & Celebrity Pay Alaska's Environmental Fines

Royal Caribbean Alaska Air Pollution Violations Seatrade Cruise News reports that Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises recently settled all claims related to alleged violations of the Alaska Marine Visible Emissions Standards that occurred over an earlier five-year period on certain ships.

Last year, we reported that the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation issued notices of violation to a number of cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, for a pollution violations over the past five years. In addition to Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises, NCL, Carnival, Holland America, Princess, and Silversea violated the Alaskan emission standards.

In its most recent annual report, Royal Caribbean stated that the cruise line had settled the claims pursuant to a compliance order by consent this month for an undisclosed amount. and performing certain remedial actions.

As we mentioned in our article last April, Alaska issued 18 notices of violation involving 48 instances of excessive air emissions against a host of cruise lines since 2010,. Each violation of law carries a fine of approximately $37,500.

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Is a Cruise Ship the Perfect Place to Commit a Crime?

MIndy Jordon Disappearance - NCLEarlier today, I mentioned the recent disappearance of a young Chinese woman from the MSC Magnifica.

It appears that she may have been a murder victim, according to the police in Italy who are investigating the case.  

If this is true, this is hardly the first time that a cruise passenger has been killed at sea. 

Cruise passenger Karen Roston was thrown overboard by her husband during an Admiral Cruises vacation. He was later convicted of the crime. 

Mindy Jordon went overboard from a NCL cruise ship when she went on a vacation with a husband reportedly with an abusive and violent background. 

The case of George Smith, of course, is perhaps the clearest example of a crime at sea, after he was reportedly thrown overboard by a man, who was also sailing on the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas as a passenger, who reportedly gave Mr. Smith a "paragliding lesson without a parachute." 

Micki Kanesaki DisappearanceA Chinese cruise passenger murdered his wife by pitching her overboard during a cruise aboard the Macau Success. He falsely claimed that his wife committed suicide.

A drunken passenger killed his wife during a cruise on the Carnival Elation to Mexico. 

A lawyer was arrested for allegedly strangling & throwing his wife, Micki Kanesaki off an Italian cruise ship several years ago. 

A woman from Vancouver, Canada, Fariba Amani, who was cruising aboard the Bahamas Celebration cruise ship operated by the Celebration Cruise Lines, disappeared under mysterious circumstances during a cruise with her boyfriend.

Farabi Amani DisappearanceThere are many others who met with foul play on cruise ships. 

A Brazilian crew member, Camilla Peixoto Bandeira, working aboard the MSC Musica was strangled to death by her boyfriend. 

23 year old  Amy Lynn Bradley disappeared from Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas under highly suspicious circumstances where it appears that she was abducted.

Carnival passenger Annette Mizener appeared to have been thrown overboard from a Carnival ship cruising to Mexico.  

A Holland America Line (HAL) crew member sexually assaulted, violently beat, and tried to throw a woman from her balcony on HAL's Nieuw Amsterdam. The crew member was arrested and sentenced Jennifer Ellis-Seitz Balconyto jail, although in most such cases there are no arrests or prosecutions.  

Other young, healthy and seemingly happy individuals have disappeared from cruise ships, with the cruise line wildly speculating that they probably committed suicide, like Denisa Markoska, and Angelo Faliva.

A murder investigation was opened after after a 53 year old woman went overboard from the Costa Fortuna

A young woman, Jennifer Ellis-Seitz, disappeared over the rails of her cabin's balcony resulting in the FBI investigating the conduct of her husband when other passengers commented on what they considered his highly strange behavior. The FBI eventually declined the case after finding no evidence of foul play. There was, of course, no automatic man overboard system in place.

It was the mysterious disappearance of Merrian Carver from the Celebrity Mercury back in 2004, and the resulting cover-up by the cruise line, which motivated her father, Ken Carver to create the International Cruise Victims organization.   

Several lawmakers have asked whether a cruise ship is the perfect place to commit a crime, largely Camilla Peixoto Bandeira - MSC Disappearancebecause of jurisdictional nightmares like this

The cruise industry is quick to label disappearances at sea as "suicides" even when the facts suggest otherwise. Read: "Suicide" - One of the Cruise Lines' Favorite Excuses When a Passenger Disappears at Sea.

Mike Driscoll, editor of Cruiseweek, a cruise publication, was recently quoted as saying "Most over-boards to date have been suicides."  He offered no statistical evidence to support this inaccurate claim. In fact, the majority of disappearances involve highly intoxicated individuals who go over the rails. Whether you view this phenomenon as the result of reckless conduct by the drunken passenger or the irresponsibility of the cruise line in over-serving their guests to make profits from the vast amount of alcohol sold during a cruise, there is no question that alcohol is involved in most disappearances from cruise ships.  You can track the last 288 case of overboards maintained by cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein and easily Annetter Mizener Disappearancesee that alcohol plays a significant role in most overboard cases.   

Unfortunately, it also appears that a cruise is a perfect location for a murder, particularly when there are few automatic man overboard cameras installed on ships which would document and, possibly, deter criminal activity.  

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

March 3, 2017 Update: Cops believe missing Dublin-based mum was murdered on cruise ship and thrown overboard in suitcase.

Photo credits:

Mindy Jordon - International Cruise Victims 

Denisa Markosa DisappearanceMicki Kanesaki - Orange County Register

Fariba Amani - Global News Canada

Jennifer Ellis-Seitz balcony - TODAY

Camilla Peixoto Bandeira - A Tribuna newspaper

Annette Mizener - ABC News

Denisa Markosa - Fokus newspaper (Macedonia)

Finally! Royal Caribbean Hires Lifeguards

Two months ago, I wrote that Royal Caribbean Cruises was advertising that it was going to hire lifeguards on its cruise ships. In our December 22, 2016 article titled Royal Caribbean Cruises to Hire Lifeguards, I noted that Royal Caribbean had reconsidered its policy of only posting “swim at your own risk” signs and providing life jackets for children.

Like other cruise lines (with the exception of Disney), Royal Caribbean did not previously employ lifeguards even though a number of children have drowned or nearly drowned in pools on its cruise ships. Children have been found motionless under the water in lifeguard-less pools on the Anthem of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas and the Independence of the Seas in just the last three years. The children were 4, 6, 8 and 8 years old.

Other cruise lines experienced similar tragedies in their swimming pools. In the last 2 to 3 years, a dozen passengers drowned or nearly drowned in cruise ship swimming pools without lifeguards. The cases primarily involved children. In addition to the Royal Caribbean cases, Royal Caribbean Pool Lifeguardother cruise lines experienced deaths or near-drownings on their ships: Princess (4, 3 adults and one 8 year-old child), NCL (3)(ages 4, 6 and 10), Carnival (1)(age 6), and Disney (1)(age 4)(before Disney hired lifeguards). The near-drownings involved situations where other passengers rescued the children. 

Last month, we learned that Royal Caribbean entered into an agreement with IAM Star Guard Elite. "IAM" is the acronym for Innovative Attraction Management, LLC. IAM agreed to provide lifeguards as well as management, consulting, and risk prevention services to the cruise line IAM also also provide litigation support as part of its swimming pool related risk management services. IAM also scheduled an aquatics conference aboard Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas at Atlantis, Paradise Island when the Royal Caribbean ship called on the port of Nassau at the end of last month. 

Yesterday, with much fanfare, Royal Caribbean announced that it will staff all of its ships with lifeguards. The lifeguards will be dressed in bright red and white uniforms, and stationed at every pool, including the Solarium, during opening hours.

The new water safety program will include new signage and will be rolled out across all Royal Caribbean cruise ships over the next four months, starting with Oasis of the Seas.

Parents, of course, will still be expected to supervise their children. I have long advocated assigning a lifeguard to 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 Express newspaper in London covered the story and posted the results of a poll which indicated that the majority of its readers favored Royal Caribbean's new policy. 70% of the readers who participated in the poll said "Yes, it's a great idea" to the question "Should all cruise lines introduce lifeguards on board their ships?," with 30% responding "I don't think it would make a difference."

But there has never been a public consensus regarding this issue. The majority of people responding to articles about children drowning in cruise ship swimming pools quickly attack the parents and even suggest that the parents should be arrested. Other readers selfishly voice petty concerns that the cruise line may begin to pass the costs of hiring lifeguards on to its customers and they do not want to pay higher cruise fares.

The hard-core cruise fan site Cruise Critic asked its readers "Do you think cruise ships should have lifeguards?" Only a little over 30% said "Yes, you can’t be too careful," with around 20% saying that lifeguards should be employed only "on ships aimed at families." 40% of the Cruise Critic readers said "No, it’s not their responsibility," which seems heartless considering how many children have died on cruise ships without lifeguards. 

Congratulations to Royal Caribbean for joining Disney as the only cruise lines with a demonstrated commitment to keeping children safe around pools at sea. Hopefully, other cruise lines like industry giant Carnival will quickly follow suit.

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Photo credit: Lifeguard uniforms - Royal Caribbean PR via Express newspaper.

Coast Guard Grounds Majesty of the Seas for Life Vest Violation

Majesty of the Seas Life VestThe U.S. Coast Guard ordered Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas to remain at Port Canaveral after a safety inspection yesterday revealed problems with the ship's life vests.

Upset passengers quickly went to social media to voice their displeasure:

As reported by local ABC affiliate WFTV- 9:

@eric_thebruce tweeted:  "How many life jackets aren't up to code @RoyalCaribbean? This didn't sneak up on you. Thanks for checking @uscoastguard" 

@Jktaylor1 tweetded "@RoyalCaribbean come on man. 1st the Captain makes an announcement we are leaving early morning. Now we are delayed until 1400. #Unsatisfied"

@vballrach1 tweetded "@RoyalCaribbean we are spending the night in port due to safety violations reported by the Coast Guard. never had this happen before"

The Majesty of the Seas is a Sovereign-class cruise ship built in 1992.  The nearly 25-year old ship apparently had old life vests aboard the ship which were in a state of disrepair. The Coast Guard stated that its inspection revealed "some technical issues, including some outdoor lifejackets showing their age."

A month ago, a lifeboat fell off from another one of the older Royal Caribbean cruise ships, the 20-year old Grandeur of the Seas, while the ship was at port in Charleston.    

The Majesty is expected to replace the life vests today and sail later this afternoon. 

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Photo Credit: Coast Guard Statement - @MarkLehman

 

Filipinos on Cruise Ships: Lost at Sea?

Yesterday, investigative journalist Lizzie Presser's article about the plight of crew members from the Philippines working on cruise ships was published. Titled Below Deck - Filipinos make up nearly a third of all cruise ship workers. It’s a good job. Until it isn’t, the article follows the lives of several young Filipino men who went to sea for Miami-based cruise lines in order to provide a better life for their families. But when they were injured after working unreasonably long hours (12 hours a day for as long as 10 months without a break), the crew members found that they had no real legal rights to hold their employers responsible. 

Carnival Imagination - Filipino Crew Members This is an issue which I have written about regularly over the years, explaining the legal problems Filipinos face while working on cruise ships owned by companies like Carnival and Royal Caribbean:

Filipino Labor Board Punishes Burned Crew Member.

Screwing Filipinos & Imprisoning Lawyers: Seafarers "Protection Act" Protects Cruise Line Employers.

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

Photo credit: Kevin Kunishi via https://story.californiasunday.com

Lifeboat Breaks Free From Grandeur of the Seas

Grandeur of the Seas LifeboatA lifeboat accident occurred this afternoon while the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas was in the port of Charleston.

A passenger aboard the cruise ship (who wishes to remain anonymous) informed me that a lifeboat had fallen from the cruise ship and was upside down in the water. He sent photographs of the lifeboat taken by other passengers. One photograph shows a cable which is are obviously frayed (bottom photo) and suggests that the cables may have broken and dropped the lifeboat into the water.

This raises obvious concerns that the other cables to the remaining lifeboats may be in a state of disrepair. These lifeboats carry as many as 150 guests. 

It is currently unknown whether the accident occurred during a lifeboat drill or whether there were crew members in the lifeboat when it fell. 

A newspaper in Charleston says that a "life raft" fell off the cruise ship, but this appears to clearly be an error. The photo above of the lifeboat upside down in the water which was sent to me can be compared to an online photo of a Grandeur lifeboat on davits (below); the metal rails on the side in both photos can be readily observed.  

The newspaper reports that the U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said "staff from the ship are attempting Grandeur of the Seas Lifeboatto retrieve the life raft and a team from the Coast Guard will assess any potential pollution impacts."

There are no reports at this time whether there are any crew member injuries at this time. The newspaper says that "there was no one was on the raft."

This is not the first lifeboat accident on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. In September, two crew members were killed and other crew members were critically injured after a lifeboat fell from the Harmony of the Seas, which was docked in Marseilles, France. Five members of the ship's navigation crew were on board during a drill when the lifeboat became detached and fell ten meters into the water. 

I boarded the Grandeur of the Seas last month with a maritime expert to inspect the lifeboats in a case where a crew member was seriously injured. One observation I left with was that this twenty-year old ship is a victim of deferred maintenance. You can see very heavy rust in the metal throughout the ship, particularly around the windows. Some of the rust is so serious that the windows near the upper, Granddeur of the Seas Lifeboatstarboard side near the stern have been replaced with temporary covers. (See photo at bottom). Earlier this year, another 20 year-old Royal Caribbean ship in the same Vision class, the Rhapsody of the Seas, suffered five windows on deck three breaking, injuring cruise passengers and partially flooding the cabins on decks two and three when the ship encountered rough weather. You can see the rusted windows here and on our Facebook page

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

January 17, 2017 Update: The Grandeur of the Seas arrives today at the port of Miami, without a lifeboat. The Grandeur apparently left the fallen lifeboat behind in Charleston. Has the Coast Guard inspected the other lifeboats? Photo (above) via @PTZtv

Photo Credit: middle - shipspotting

Top - Kenneth Kozak via News2-Charleston.

Below - Anonymous.

Bottom - Jim Walker.Grandeur of the Seas

Grandeur of the Seas Lifeboat

Royal Caribbean Continues to Advertise for Lifeguards

Two weeks ago, we reported that Royal Caribbean was posting a job description for a lifeguard on an onboard crew TV channel on one of its cruise ship (Ovation of the Seas). 

We viewed this as good news after at least five passengers, mostly children, have drowned or nearly drowned in the numerous pools on the Royal Caribbean ships. Its refusal to previously acknowledge that its we-don't-use-lifeguards policy was literally killing children was particularly frustrating to see.  

It now seems clear that the cruise line appears committed to ending its ill conceived swim-at-your-own-risk policy. This weekend several people notified me that the cruise line is publicly advertising the lifeguard and lifeguard manager jobs on several sites on the internet, such as here and here

These job postings link to a program called Star Guard Elite, which touts a "complete Royal Caribbean Lifeguardaquatic risk prevention and lifeguard training system unmatched in the industry." Last month, the Star Guard Elite website offered the job of a cruise ship lifeguard manager with Royal Caribbean. Its Facebook advertisement says: "Have you ever wanted to live on a cruise ship and see the world? We are looking for the best and brightest Aquatics Managers to join our project with Royal Caribbean."

This program is a product of IAM Star Guard Elite. "IAM" is the acronym for Innovative Attraction Management, LLC. IAM offers aquatic services including the providing of lifeguards as well as management, consulting, and risk prevention services.  It consults with a wide variety of water parks in the U.S. IAM also provides litigation support as part of its risk management services.

Not coincidentally, at the end of this month, IAM is offering an aquatics conference aboard the Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas as well as at Atlantis, Paradise Island when the Royal Caribbean ship calls on the port of Nassau.

It seems that last year IAM StarGuard Elite joined the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association where it advertised CPR, AED, and water awareness services to cruise line excursion operators.

Although the cruise line has not publicly announced its association with IAM StarGuard Elite program, it seems that Royal Caribbean is finally headed in the right direction. So kudos to them.  It reinforces my opinion that today's gigantic cruise ships with multiple swimming pools, water sides and jacuzzis are much more like a water park (which require lifeguards pursuant to state law) than a hotel (which typically doesn't). Without lifeguards, future deaths of children on the increasingly huge Royal Caribbean ships with H2O parks, swimming pools and theme-park-like water attractions, seem certain. 

So Royal Caribbean will join Disney as the only cruise lines with a demonstrated commitment to keeping children safe around pools at sea. Hopefully, other cruise lines will quickly follow suit. 

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

Photo credit: Boy drowns on Royal Caribbean - Jacab Priplett via Twitter via NY Daily News.

Royal Caribbean Cruises to Hire Lifeguards

Royal Caribbean is now advertising that it is hiring lifeguards on its cruise ships. The cruise line posted the availability of the lifeguard position as of December 21, 2016. 

The posting (below) indicates that the lifeguard "will need to perform rescue of Guests in danger of drowning and be vigilant to potential accidents. Will be trained to administer first aid, CPR, Oxygen & AED as required. This position will open, close, monitor and operate aquatic recreational spaces including but not limited to Swimming Pools, H2O Zones / Splashaway Bay and other designated water attractions . . . " 

This reflects a change of position with this cruise line which previously did not employ lifeguards on its cruise ships. 

Like other cruise lines, Royal Caribbean has seen several children drown or nearly drown on its cruise ships. An 8 year old child died in a June 30, 2016 incident aboard the Anthem of the Seas, after he was found unresponsive in a pool. 

The cruise line has now apparently reconsidered its policy of only posting “swim at your own risk” signs and providing life jackets for children.

Last December, another eight year old child drowned in an unattended swimming pool on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas. The child was pulled unconscious from one of the cruise ship's pools by a passenger.

In January last year, a 4 year old boy nearly drowning aboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas on January 3, 2015. The Miami Herald published Near-Drowning on Royal Caribbean Cruise Raises Concerns About Lack of Lifeguards after that incident. In May 2014, a 6 year old boy nearly drown on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas and left the child fighting for his life in a hospital.

Lifeguard are also needed for adults who have been known to drown or nearly drown while cruising with this cruise line and others.

Last year, in an article titled Cruise Ships Are Unregulated Trouble on the High Seas, the New York Times wrote that Congress exempted cruise ships 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.

Most cruise lines, with the exception of Disney Cruises, do not employ lifeguards on their ships. Many passengers believe that it is solely the obligation of parents to supervise their children. My thought is that children are best protected from drowning only through a combination of well trained lifeguards and attentive parents working together to keep kids on the ships safe.

December 24, 2016 Update:

Miami New Times Miami-Based Royal Caribbean to Add Lifeguards on Cruises.

TravelPulse Is Royal Caribbean International Adding Lifeguards to Its Ships?

Royal  Caribbean Lifeguards 

Passenger Reported Overboard From Independence of the Seas

Independece of the SeasA passenger reportedly went overboard from the Independence of the Seas last night, according to other passengers who reported the incident on Twitter. 

CruiseNiche reports that the staff of the Royal Caribbean cruise ship confirmed that a passenger apparently jumped from an upper deck of the ship. Other cruise ships, a Coast Guard vessel and helicopter are reportedly assisting in the search. 

AIS (via Marine Traffic) shows the Independence of the Seas heading back toward South Florida, making a series of slow circles. 

There have been 282 prior overboards from cruise ships since 2000.

Update: A local news station is reporting that the overboard passenger was a young man, age 22. 

Search underway for 22-year-old Royal Caribbean passenger who went overboard. Video via News7 Miami.  

Cuba Permits NCL and RCCL Cruises

CubaCuba has granted permission to Royal Caribbean Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line to sail passengers to the island.

Cuba also approved all three of Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) brands, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, which will start cruising there in March.

Oceania will first send the Marina to Cuba from Miami on March 7th. The cruise ship will call on Havana and other ports in Cuba. 

Regent's Seven Seas Mariner will sail to Cuba in April, and NCL's Norwegian Sky will start cruising to Cuba in May.

As matters now stand, the only U.S. based cruise line, Carnival's Fathom, has been sailing the Adonia on the so-called "voluntourism" cruises for the past year, although it announced that it will stop sailing as of June of 2017.

The cruises are required to be part of educational and "people-to-people" exchanges between Americans and Cubans pursuant to U.S. government procedures.

I previously announced, as an April Fools joke, that Royal Caribbean planned to rename the Empress of the Seas the Cuban Empress and was going to be home-ported in Havana.    

On a serious note, Fidel Castro's death has not dampened the feelings of many Cubans who fled Cuba in the early 1960's after Castro came into power. Many families lost everything when they fled Cuba many years ago. They see no point in doing business with a country still run by Castro's brother where the money from cruise ship passengers goes directly to the Communist government run by the military.

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

 

Passenger Alleges Sexual Assault on Explorer of the Seas

News 7 in Australia reports today that a cruise passenger on a Royal Caribbean ship arriving in Sydney, Australia alleges that she was a victim of sexual assault by another passenger during the cruise.    

The news account states that the Explorer of the Seas arrived in Sydney after a nine day cruise to Vanuatu and was met by police. Detectives reportedly spent several hours talking to witnesses, taking statements and collecting forensic evidence from what the news account described as a crime scene. 

The news station indicates that no arrests were made.  The cruise line reportedly provided support to the alleged victim.

Lawsuit: Passenger Contracts Legionnaires' Disease on Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas

Majesty of the SeasA passenger from Ohio who sailed aboard the Majesty of the Seas last November and developed Legionnaires' disease has filed suit against Royal Caribbean. The passenger alleges that only after he boarded the cruise ship in Miami, and the ship had set sail, did the cruise line notify him, via a notice placed under his door, that Legionella had been discovered in the ship's water system on prior cruises.       

Legionnaires' disease is one of the most serious diseases a passenger can contract on a cruise ship. Legionnaires’ disease is a severe pneumonia caused by inhalation or possibly aspiration of warm, aerosolized water containing Legionella organisms. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), contaminated ships’ whirlpool spas and potable water supply systems are the most commonly implicated sources of shipboard Legionella outbreaks. Symptoms include a cough, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle aches and headache. Although prompt antibiotic treatment can kill the bacteria, 5% to 30% of people infected with Legionella will die from the infection.  

After the cruise ended on November 13, 2015, Royal Caribbean sent an email to the disembarking passengers, stating that they may have been exposed to Legionella during the cruise. It stated that if passengers become ill, they should seek medical attention and undergo testing for Legionella. 

Royal Caribbean stated that two passengers had been confirmed to be infected with Legionnaires' disease from the cruise ship, and that one person was possibly infected. One person was infected during a cruise in July 2015 and one other person was infected during a cruise in October 2015. The email stated that Royal Caribbean had shut down the whirlpools on the ship after it confirmed the first case of Legionnaires' disease associated with the July sailing. The cruise line claimed that it treated the ship's water supplies with extra chlorine (the email mentions "two rounds of treatment with chlorine"), but water samples taken from showers confirmed the presence of Legionella.

Royal Caribbean also sent the email to those people who had booked cruises on the Majesty on future dates, advising that the risk of illness is "low but not zero" and suggesting to future cruisers that they may want to reschedule their cruises for a later date depending on their individual risk factors.       

A few days after returning home, the passenger began experiencing symptoms consistent with Legionnaires' disease. He visited his doctor on an urgent basis and he was immediately hospitalized. His lawsuit lists kidney, heart and pulmonary failure among other complications which he suffered as a result of the disease which he contracted on the cruise ship. 

The lawsuit alleges that Royal Caribbean was on actual notice of Legionella on its ship but notified the passengers only after Majesty sailed and was at sea. In addition to alleging that the cruise line was negligent, the lawsuit states that the cruise line "acted with deliberate and wanton recklessness" in refusing to advise passengers of the Legionella prior to the cruise. Royal Caribbean, the lawsuit alleges, acted in "callous disregard" of the dangers to the passenger's health in order to promote its economic interests.

The lawsuit seeks punitive damages, in addition to compensatory damages, due to the cruise line's intentional misconduct.  

The lawsuit was filed by Miami maritime lawyer Domingo Rodriquez

There was a discussion regarding Legionnaires' disease and this particular cruise last year on the Cruise Critic boards. If the comments are accurate, some of the passengers apparently were not notified of the Legionella on the ship during the cruise but were notified only after the cruise was over. At least one person commenting said that he sailed on the cruise ending November 13, 2015 but never received an email from the cruise line. One poster mentioned that a family member who was on the cruise was allegedly admitted to the hospital with Legionnaires' Disease. She stated at the time: "we did not get the email about the ship being contaminated until the afternoon of Nov. 13, after we had just gotten off the ship . . . This was very irresponsible and unethical on Royal Caribbean's part."  

In my opinion, it is outrageous that Royal Caribbean kept sailing the Majesty if it knew that the ship's water supply was still contaminated with Legionella after multiple "extra-chlorine" treatments. It is Legionellaprobable that some of the passengers or crew members would become sick because, obviously, passengers are going to shower during cruises. Unfortunately, we have seen this cruise line take the "show-must-go-on" attitude to extremes over the years, whether it is recklessly sailing into hurricanes or repeatedly exposing its passengers to noro virus on successive cruises.

There have been a number cases of Legionnaires' disease on cruise ships over the years. The most infamous case involved the Horizon cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean's sister cruise line, Celebrity Cruises (before it was purchased by Royal Caribbean), back in 1994.

Following a deadly shipboard outbreak which caused Celebrity to cancel cruises and fly passengers back from Bermuda, passengers sued Celebrity alleging that the company defrauded them by refusing to disclose that Legionella was present on the cruise ship. An Associated Press writer wrote that: "on Saturday passengers on the cruise ship Horizon were told the risk of contracting Legionnaires' disease on board was low. On Tuesday they were hustled off the ship in Bermuda as a precaution." (Numerous passengers were nonetheless infected). The AP quoted passengers as saying at the time: "everyone is entitled to a worry-free vacation and this has been anything but that" and "the people who operate this line should be chastised" and "what they did to the passengers is unconscionable."

Celebrity subsequently sued the manufacturer of the ship's pool and whirlpool equipment, alleging that extensive press coverage of the disease outbreak stigmatized the company, thus hurting its reputation and reducing its profits. Celebrity obtained a $193 million verdict, although an appellate court subsequently reduced the verdict.

Regarding the recent outbreak, if Royal Caribbean was uncertain whether the Majesty of the Seas still had Legionella in its water system, merely warning future passengers that the risk of illness was "low" but not canceling cruises was, at a minimum, irresponsible. Not informing passengers who cruised on the ship of the disease until after they sailed is truly reprehensible conduct. 

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

Photo credit: Top -  CC-BY-SA-3.0/Matt H. Wade at Wikipedia; bottom - By CDC (PHIL #1187) - CDC Public Health Image Library, Public Domain.

Legionella Royal Caribbean Email

Legionella Royal Caribbean Email

 

Rhapsody of the Seas Damaged Again During Storm

Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas was damaged after it encountered a storm early this morning during a cruise.

A dozen large windows in the Viking Crown Lounge were reportedly broken, as you can see in a video posted to YouTube. Several panes of glass are also missing from the pool deck.

Passengers reported that the ship heavily listed during the storm.

The ship is the middle of a ten day round trip cruise from Venice. It is currently sailing a sea day and is scheduled to arrive in Santorini tomorrow, assuming its itinerary does not change.

The Rhapsody of the Seas was last damaged by a storm on April 25th of this year. A wave struck the cruise ship early in the morning, breaking the windows of five passenger cabins on deck three, injuring cruise passengers and partially flooding the cabins on deck two and three. We received photographs suggesting that the windows in the passenger cabins were poorly maintained.

Video credit: Heather Barrett YouTube 

A passenger aboard the cruise ship sent photos of the damage which you can see on our Facebook page.  A passenger also sent a video of water cascading down the main stairwell as passengers come up the stairs holding their life vests, around 5:00 A.M.

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Lifeboat Accident on Harmony of the Seas Kills One and Injures Several Others

Newspapers in France are reporting that one crew member has been killed and four other crew members were injured after a lifeboat fell from the Harmony of the Seas, which was docked in Marseilles, France.

According to 20 Minutes newspaper, five members of the ship's navigation crew were on board during a drill when the lifeboat became detached and fell ten meters into the water. The newspaper reports that two of the crew members injured are in critical condition. The deceased crew members is reportedly a Filipino citizen.

Several years ago, the trade organization Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) announced that Harmony of the Seascruise lines were prohibited from raising or lowering lifeboats with crew members aboard. Many cruise lines have ignored this safety rule.

Eight crew members were in a lifeboat during a drill in 2013 on the Thomson Majesty cruise ship when the lifeboat plunged 60 feet into the water. The lifeboat landed upside down. 5 of the crew were killed and 3 were injured.

In July of this year, a rescue boat drill resulted in the boat falling into the water with four crew members from the Norwegian Breakaway while the cruise ship was in Bermuda. Two crew members were killed and two other seriously injured.

Between these two events, there have been several other lifeboat mishaps. In January of this year, a cruise ship tender boat on the Balmoral operated by Fred Olsen Lines malfunctioned, during a scheduled boat training drill while the cruise ship was docked in Funchal, Madeira. Fortunately, no one was injured. In August 2015, an excursion boat from the Costa Mediterranea apparently broke a cable while it was being lowered in Montenegro. Photographs sent to me shows what appears to be a lifeboat dangling on the side of the Costa cruise ship. In October 2014, a rescue boat on the Coral Princess was being raised on davits with two crew members aboard when a cable snapped and a crew member was killed.

It is currently unknown whether a cable broke or whether the lowering mechanism malfunctioned or was performed incorrectly. 

Several years ago, Cruise Critic published an article: Lifeboat Tragedy: Did Cruise Line Ignore Safety Guidelines? It quotes an expert on lifeboat drills: "Alan Graveson, Senior International Secretary of Nautilus the U.K.-based seafarers' union, said: "I issued instructions seven years ago that preferably nobody should be in the lifeboat during a safety drill, and if that's not possible then there should be a maximum of two people. We also contacted Captain Ben Lyons, who has sailed as an officer on both larger mega-ships and smaller expedition ships, to get an insider's perspective on the incident. "Lifeboat drills are almost invariably considered one of the most dangerous parts of life at sea for a cruise," he told us in an e-mail. "There is a strong sentiment amongst many seafarers that lifeboats (through drills) have killed and injured many more people than they have saved."

CLIA has removed the language of the policy from its website, but you can review a cached version here ("Under this policy, for safety considerations, the loading of lifeboats for training purposes is to be performed only while the boat is waterborne and the boat should be lowered and raised with only the lifeboat crew onboard.") 

September 15 2016 Update: Nautiluc International UNION CALLS FOR RADICAL ACTION AFTER ANOTHER LIFEBOAT ACCIDENT.

Photo Credit: By kees torn - UNION BEAR , Harmony of the Seas & EN AVANT 20.

Cruise Passengers Injured in Jeep Safari Accident in Antigua

A newspaper in Antigua reports that a safari jeep excursion vehicle filled with cruise passengers flipped on its side in a road accident last week.

The newspaper reports that nine cruise passengers, consisting of six U.S. passengers and three German passengers, were riding in the back of the open air jeep. The injured were reportedly treated at the Mount St. John’s Medical Centre in Antigua. 

The newspaper says that the jeep was attempting to overtake a tractor when the driver of the safari jeep swerved to avoid oncoming traffic, causing it to flip on its side.

Antigua Safari Jeep AccidentThe passengers were reportedly from Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas

The safari jeep was reportedly operated by Tropical Adventures in Antigua.

It is currently unknown whether this was an independent excursion or whether it was sold and booked through the cruise line. 

There have been a number of excursion accidents involving passengers from Royal Caribbean and its sister company, Celebrity Cruises, over the last many years.  

Last January of this year, one passenger from the Independence of the Seas was killed and a half-dozen passengers were injured in a collision, between an excursion bus and a truck near Falmouth, Jamaica. We are representing the family of the deceased passenger and several injured passengers. 

Last December, two Celebrity passengers from the Summit were killed and 16 other passengers were injured on an excursion bus transporting cruise tourists to an excursion in Tortola, British West Indies.

In July 2012, Royal Caribbean cruise passengers from the Freedom of the Seas cruise ship were involved in a serious accident heading to an excursion in St. Martin.

In January 2012, a cruise sponsored open safari bus excursion from Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas cruise ship crashed in St. Thomas, resulting in injuries to cruise passengers.

In February 2009, a dozen passengers from Celebrity Cruises' Summit cruise ship were seriously injured when an open air excursion vehicle ran off the road in Dominica. We represented passengers against the cruise line and the excursion company in that accident. Information on the Dominica excursion accident is contained in an article "Injured Visitors to Dominica Airlifted to Miami."

Photo Credit: Antigua Observer 

Grandeur of the Seas Spots Abandoned Vessel Near Bermuda

Grandeur of the SeasThis morning the Grandeur of the Seas, cruising from Bermuda to Baltimore, changed course and took steps to assist what turned out to be a small abandoned vessel adrift on the high seas.

The Royal Caribbean cruise ship stopped and investigated the derelict vessel. Cruise ships often stop and administer assistance in circumstances like this. Royal Caribbean deployed a rescue boat and the crew also threw life rings into the water in the event that there were people aboard the vessel.  

The crew of the rescue boat observed that that there were signs that another vessel has visited the stranded boat before. The crew of the Grandeur then collected the life rings and brought the rescue crew back aboard, and returned on its cruise back to the U.S.

Lowering and raising rescue boats like this is potentially dangerous, but it is a task that crew members often perform on the high seas.

Photo credit:  Anonymous (above); cruise passenger Natt Penn (below).  

Grandeur of the Seas Bermuda to Baltimore (dereliict boat)

Confusion Surrounds Medical Emergency in Swimming Pool on Anthem of the Seas

Anthem of the SeasLast Wednesday, I received a number of messages from cruise passengers about an incident on board Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas regarding what was described as a woman (passenger) who either suffered a heart attack or nearly drowned in one of the ship's swimming pools.

The cruise ship increased its speed to arrive back in port in New Jersey so that the passenger could receive shore-side medical treatment, although some people indicated that the woman died on the ship while it was returning to port.

This weekend, the Jersey Journal posted an article titled Cruise ship sped back to Bayonne after woman's medical emergency in pool: Royal Caribbean. The article quoted one of the ship's passengers who reportedly witnessed part of what happened when the Anthem was about halfway through its return voyage from Bermuda to Bayonne: 

"When we arrived in the area, she had just been pulled from the water and was unresponsive and had a pale/purple look." 

A press release issued by Royal Caribbean, however, downplayed the incident saying:

"On Tuesday, August 10, a 72-year old female from the U.S. onboard Anthem of the Seas was witnessed by guests having difficulty swimming in one of the ship’s pools. The guest was helped out of the pool, was initially treated by the ship’s medical team, but required additional medical attention. Therefore, the ship increased its speed for the earliest possible arrival into Cape Liberty, New Jersey for a medical evacuation. Royal Caribbean’s Care Team provided support to the guest’s family and our thoughts and prayers are with them."

The newspaper said that none of several area hospitals in Hudson County and Staten Island, or the U.S. Coast Guard for the New York/New Jersey area, or the Bayonne Police Department had "knowledge of any cases matching Royal Caribbean's description of the incident."

Did the woman pass away after being pulled from the water unresponsive (or "helped out of the pool" as the cruise line euphemistically puts it)? Why wasn't a medevac by helicopter requested? (We have reported on a prior medevac this June when a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter flew 260 miles out to pick up ill passengers from a NCL cruise ship).

Royal Caribbean is no stranger to swimming pool medical emergencies. An eight year old boy died after being pulled from an unattended swimming pool on the Anthem of the Seas in June of this year. A four year old and a six year old nearly drowned in pools on the Oasis of the Seas and the Independence of the Seas respectively.

Before this latest incident, fourteen (14) passengers drowned or nearly drowned on cruise ships without lifeguards, including eleven children. After every such tragedy, many cruise fans quickly blame the children's parents for not paying attention.  But three adults drowned in cruise ship swimming pools without lifeguards in just the last two years. 

Lifeguards, of course, do more than just keep kids safe in pools.  A certified lifeguard, trained in life saving measures, can provide immediate CPR on the scene of a heart attack or other medical emergency.  

If a passenger suffers a near drowning or a heart attack, and a lifeguard is not on the scene to immediately provide CPR, it may be too late - for the medical team to run up from a lower deck on a huge ship, for ship personnel to decide whether to request a helicopter medevac, or for the ship to speed up to return to port. 

Photo Credit: By www.GlynLowe.com from Hamburg, Germany - Anthem of the Seas - Cruise Ship in Hamburg, CC BY 2.0.

Chinese Woman Falls From Cruise Ship, Swims for 38 Hours, Rescued

Chinese Woman Fell From Cruise ShipThe People's Daily China, a newspaper in China, reported on the "miraculous' rescue of a thirty-two year old woman from Shanghai, who reportedly fell from a cruise ship. The newspaper tweeted that she reportedly swam for 38 hours and was then rescued by fishermen. 

Earlier today the People's Daily's twitter page @PDChina tweeted:

@PDChina "32-year-old Shanghai woman miraculously saved by fisherman on Fri after she fell from a cruise ship & swam for 38hrs."

The newspaper posted two photographs. The first show shows a crowd surrounding a woman leaving a ship. The second photo (left) shows a woman, whose face is digitally obscured, being questioned.

There is no information regarding the name of the cruise ship, or a description regarding how or where the woman went overboard.

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

Photo credit:@PDChina / People's Daily, China

August 14, 2016 Update: The popular Cruise Hive covers the story with interesting additional information.  In the article titled Overboard Royal Caribbean Passenger Rescued After 38 Hours Adrift At Sea, Cruise Hive sites the Chinese media and says that the woman was a passenger on board the Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas who "accidentally fell overboard on August 10 when she  . . . was leaning too far over the railings she fell overboard at around 9 PM."  The cruise ship then returned to its home port in Shanghai the next morning at around 6 A.M. on August 11. It was not until Chinese authorities boarded the ship and the CCTV footage was finally reviewed was the woman seen on video going overboard. On August 12 around 11:00 A.M., fishermen rescued her.  

This situation is another reason why cruise lines like Royal Caribbean should be compelled to comply with the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act and install automatic man overboard systems.  

August 15, 2016 Update: Major newspapers like the BBC and the Telegraph are covering the story.

Empress of the Seas Flunks CDC Sanitation Inspection

Empress of the SeasAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas flunked a surprise sanitation inspection conducted in early June. The Empress of the Seas scored a failing score of only 80.  You can read the report here. A score of 85 or lower is considered a failure.

The Empress of the Seas underwent an extended period of renovations in Spain and later in Freeport, Bahamas when the ship was transferred back from Pullmantur. Royal Caribbean canceled a total of thirteen cruises scheduled for earlier this year. The first sanitation violation related to the renovation and involved a bathroom for the medical staff which could be used only for storage and was "heavily soiled." Back in April of this year, Royal Caribbean told the Miami Herald that “as work has progressed, we learned that more significant infrastructure and physical improvements across the ship’s multiple galleys and provisioning areas were needed to meet our high standards.”

I was contacted previously by crew members, during the renovation period, who complained  of unsanitary conditions on the ship. There was talk that the CDC had inspected the ship and initially had not given the ship a passing score, although there was nothing officially posted on the CDC website. Several crew members said that the ship had fallen substantially in disrepair while operated by Pullmantur and had a major problem with pests.    

It is apparent, however, that once back in the Royal Caribbean fleet, the Empress failed to meet high standards. The report regarding the June inspection details forty four CDC violations, ranging from improper procedures to monitor acute gastrointestinal illness cases to incorrect potable water and swimming pool/whirlpool testing.   

The report included numerous references to live and dead flies and cockroaches around refrigerators, buffet lines and other areas used for food storage. The ships was also in violation of the CDC's requirement to use rat guards, and was utilizing rat guards on only one out of six mooring lines while the ship was in port.

A crew member states that the Empress was reinspected earlier this month, on July 10th, and received a score of 97.  If such an inspection took place, the CDC has not posted that inspection yet.  

Royal Caribbean, including its Celebrity brand, has failed other inspections in the past.  In 2013, the Celebrity Century scored only a 78.  The same year, the Celebrity Summit scored only a 81. The Monarch of the Seas scored a 85 in 2011. 

Two years ago, Market Watch published the 5 Most Hygienic Cruise Lines and concluded that Costa and Disney and three other smaller lines had never failed a CDC inspection. Since then, the Disney Wonder experienced a gastrointestinal outbreak in April of this year.    

We last mentioned the Empress of the Seas three weeks ago when it experienced problems with one of its engines, causing Royal Caribbean to alter the cruise ship's itinerary.

Photo Credit: By Jsausley - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.

A Day Late: Filing Delay Causes Royal Caribbean to Reveal Secret Port Documents

The Jamaica Gleaner reports that Royal Caribbean and it's subsidiary, Falmouth Jamaica Land Company, are required to disclose their contractual arrangements with the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) to build Falmouth Port because they were a day late in filing a notice of appeal.

An environmental watchdog group, the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), had previously requested copies of the contracts and other documents between Royal Caribbean / Falmouth Jamaica Land Company and the PAJ which had formed a joint venture to develop the Port of Falmouth in Trelawny. The controversial project was spearheaded by Royal Caribbean and involved the dredging and filling of the old port of Falmouth. It turned out, as many environmentalists feared, to be a disaster to the local environment of Falmouth.  Millions of cubic feet of living coral reefs were pulverized and then dumped on dozens of acres of native mangrove fields to build a port capable of accommodating the largest cruise ships in the world, the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas.  

The finished port left many local residents disappointed due to the fact that most passengers either did not leave the walled port facility and invest much in the local economy or were whisked away Falmouth Jamaica Royal Caribbeanfrom Falmouth in buses to shore excursion destinations sold by the cruise line.      

Jamaica spent a small fortune for the port, well over $150,000,000. Royal Caribbean promised that it would pursue plans of developing 125,000 sq. ft. of leasable building space, including ground floor retail, restaurant space, a boutique hotel, residential units, and a shopping center for the local community, all linked to the original town by tram-cars, to be built by the cruise line in collaboration with the Port Authority of Jamaica.  

According to the Jamaica Gleaner, Royal Caribbean reportedly guaranteed $8 million in annual fees to the PAJ, based on a formula of bringing a minimum of 667,000 passengers annually or paying the shortfall, for a ten year period. The cruise line also reportedly promised the PAJ, which owns the land on which the pier is built, an annual ground rent of approximately $3 million. There was also talk about hundreds of new jobs created in the port project, including "construction workers, drivers, shop workers, sales clerks, cooks, bartenders and wait staff, security guards, maintenance staff, information and walking tour guides, entertainers, artisans and taxi drivers."

The disclosure of the contracts and other documents between Royal Caribbean and the PAJ should shed light on the true nature and details of the arrangements between the Miami-based cruise line and the Jamaican port authority. However, the port authority refused to reveal the documents to the environmental trust. The environment trust appealed to an Access to Information Appeal Tribunal, which ruled in its favor. 

Royal Caribbean sought permission to appeal the ruling of the Access to Information Appeal Tribunal, which was granted on July 7, 2015 by the Supreme Court. Royal Caribbean then filed its appeal notice, with an Appeal Tribunal, on July 22, fifteen days later.

But the Appeal Tribunal questioned whether Royal Caribbean had filed its appeal outside of the court's 14 day filing requirement and sought an order striking Royal Caribbean's appeal. Royal Caribbean argued that the date the order was granted should not be counted in the 14-day period, but this argument was rejected. 

The ruling striking Royal Caribbean's appeal was upheld by the Appellate Court which concluded that the cruise line's appellate forms were filed one day late using a 14 day period beginning on the date of the order requiring the documents to be disclosed.

Royal Caribbean can apply to the Court of Appeal for leave to appeal to the Privy Council, Jamaica’s final court of appeal.

As maters now stand, the Jamaica Environment Trust expects to finally obtain a copy of the lease agreement and the pier usage agreement from the Port Authority.

Photo Credit: Jim Walker

Eight Year Old Nearly Drowns on Anthem of the Seas

Multiple news sources are reporting that Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas cruise ship turned around after leaving Bayonne, New Jersey because an 8-year-old child was found unresponsive at the bottom of one of the ship's swimming pools this evening.

ABC-Channel 7 News NY says that the "8-year-old is currently on life-support."

Children drowning or nearly drowning in cruise ship swimming pools unattended by life guards is not an uncommon topic. 

Anthem of the SeasLast December, an eight year old child drowned in an unattended swimming pool on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas. The child was pulled unconscious from one of the cruise ship's pools by a passenger. 

In January last year, a 4 year old boy nearly drowning aboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas on January 3, 2015. The Miami Herald published Near-drowning on Royal Caribbean cruise raises concerns about lack of lifeguards after that incident.

In May 2014, a 6 year old boy nearly drown on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas and left the child fighting for his life in a hospital.

Last year, in an article titled 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.

All major cruise lines have lost children and passengers in swimming pools on their ships. Like Royal Caribbean, Carnival, NCL and Princess Cruises continue to refuse to hire lifeguards.

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 on the Fantasy 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 billions of 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 and to be trained and certified in life saving measures and CPR.

Read Thoughts From A Concerned Cruiser about cruise ship swimming pool safety before Disney hired life guards.

The Miami Herald covered the issue and interviewed me, reporting that there have been a dozen passengers who have drowned or nearly drowned in cruise ship swimming pools without lifeguards in the last 2-3 years involving primarily children: Royal Caribbean (4)(ages 4, 6, 8 and 8), Princess (4) (3 adults and one 8 year-old child), NCL (3)(ages 4, 6 and 10), Carnival (1)(age 6), and Disney (1)(age 4)(before hiring lifeguards).

July 11 2016 Update: The boy, identified as Prince Adepoju of Maryland, died on July 2, 2016, according to multiple media reports.

 

Photo Credit:  By GlynLowe, Hamburg, Germany https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46635956; Video Credit CBS-2 NY. 

 

 

Empress of the Seas Experiences Engine Problems

Empress of the SeasA number of cruise sites are reporting that Royal Caribbean Empress of the Seas is experiencing problems with one of its engines, causing the cruise line to alter the cruise ship's current itinerary.

The popular Cruise Critic site says that the ship called on Nassau yesterday and visited CocoCay today but did not call on Grand Cayman as originally planned. The ship will call on Key West on Wednesday as planned. Cruise Critic quoted Royal Caribbean saying that the cruise line "will work on the issue, (while) the ship is sailing at a reduced rate of speed."

There is no indication from Royal Caribbean when the problem will be fixed or whether future sailings will be altered as well.

Royal Caribbean is offering an onboard credit in the amount of 10 percent of the cruise fare paid, per cabin.

This gesture will not sit well with some  cruise passengers currently on the Empress of the Seas, I suspect. Bahamas is not a particularly popular port in contrast to the Cayman Islands. The ship was transferred to Royal Caribbean from Pullmantur Cruises after a 50 million dollar cosmetic renovation first in a shipyard in Spain and later in Freeport, Bahamas. The delay resulted in at least a dozen cruises to be missed, much to the aggravation of families booked on the canceled cruises. Its a shame if there are passengers aboard who were on previous canceled cruises.

We last mentioned the Empress of the Seas in an April Fool's spoof.   

Photo credit: Jsausley CC BY-SA 4.0.

Ovation of the Seas, Christened in China - Sign of the Times?

Ovation of the SeasIt was announced on cruise related websites that Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas was christened in China over this past weekend.

The new 4,650 passenger and 1,500 crew member cruise ship arrived in Tianjin, China a few days ago.

The christening was presided over by the first Chinese godmother, Fan Bingbing, who is a Chinese actress, television producer and pop singer who first reached fame via the Chinese television series My Fair Princess and, more recently, in X-Men: Days of Future Past where she plays a mutant. 

Royal Caribbean plans to base the massive cruise ship in Sydney starting in mid-December 2016. 

Royal Caribbean Chairman Richard Fain (photo below) escorted Ms. Bingbing onto the stage for the ceremonies. 

Having a U.S. based cruise line announce such a ceremony in what was once called "communist China" reveals how much the times have changed in the world of cruising and how hard a U.S. based company is catering to the Chinese market.  

Interested in this story?  Read: China, China, China. 

Photo credit:  top kees torn - SMIT ELBE, SD SALVOR, CC BY-SA 2.0

Bottom: via Royal Caribbean International

Fan Bingbing and Richard Fain

Four Cruise Passengers Busted for Cocaine Smuggling

WFTV-9 (ABC) reports that four women were arrested on charges of smuggling cocaine weighing a little over 6.5 kilograms at Port Canaveral last month after taking a cruise on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas.  

The local ABC news station identified Lakisha Abney, Shawnta Aiken, Ciera Bryant and Shenique Milbourne as cruise passengers who departed on a seven-night Western Caribbean cruise last month. When the Royal Caribbean cruise ship arrived back at Port Canaveral on May 15, U.S. Customs officials reportedly Falmouth Jamaica Freedom of the Seasdiscovered five vacuum sealed packages of cocaine in Ms. Bryant' bra and girdle. 

The Customs officials searched Ms. Bryant after noticing that her voice and hands were shaking and she was not making eye contact. The officials then searched Ms. Abney, Ms. Aiken and Ms. Milbourne who Ms. Bryant identified as her traveling companions. The officials reportedly found several vacuum-sealed packages containing cocaine in each of the women’s bras and girdles.

The four women from the Washington D.C. and Maryland area are seen on Facebook posing for what appears to be a fun cruise.

The cruise in question called on Labadee Haiti, Falmouth Jamaica, George Town Grand Cayman and Cozumel Mexico. WPTV said that "while in Jamaica, the women met a man who gave them the cocaine and the bras and girdle to hide the drugs in." 

In April, WFTV reported that two Royal Caribbean crew members were arrested for smuggling cocaine aboard the Freedom of the Seas into Port Canaveral.

October 20, 2016 Update: One of the four women who pleaded guilty was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Photo credit: Shawnta Aiken Facebook page.

Story and video credit: WFTV-8 (ABC) 

December 15, 2016 Update: A fifth woman has been implicated in the drug smuggling.

Wave Damages Rhapsody of the Seas

Rhapsody of the SeasLast night / early this morning around 4:A.M - 4:30 A.M., a wave struck the Rhapsody of the Seas, breaking the windows of five passenger cabins on deck three, injuring cruise passengers and partially flooding the cabins on deck three and also on deck two. 

One passenger, Kerry Boyd, tweeted; "Woke up at 4:30 am on our cruise first night when 5 windows on our floor burst open flooding the floor with sea water. All well, but tired"  She tweeted that 60 cabins were flooded.

Another passenger, Todd Scuderi, tweeted a series of three tweets publicly about the incident. 

"I'm on Rhapsody of the Seas. Last night 4am wave hit ship and knocked out my window and 4 others on deck 3. lucky we weren't swept out.

(2) ceilings and walls collapsed. We were all bleeding and hallway was flooded. Royal Caribbean has not handled this well.

(3) ship staying in Corsica till 12am to "fix it" This was only night 1 of 9 nights."

The Rhapsody will have its broken cabin windows replaced in Corsica.

Please contact us if you are a crew member or other passengers with additional information. 

Photo Credit: Benyoch CC BY-SA 3.0 commons / wikimedia

Have a thought?  Please join the discussion on our Facebook page

April 26 2016 Update: a comment left on our Facebook page: 

"Freak wave hitting Rhapsody o.t.Seas... Ron & my Cabin Windows scattered, hughe wave crushing in at 4am/25th April, while we were asleep. Cabin totally flooded, we were covered in Blood, Seawater, scattered glass, ceiling panels, insulation, metall racks and debris, which used to be cabin interior. Partition Walls caved in, Doors crushed and bent, stuck in the frame with passengers trapped inside.

So far we are ok, bruises and cuts taken care off, most luggage, clothes rescued, but missing Glasses, Medication, Mobile Phone...probably at the bottom of the ocean.
Our "well being" mentally wise is not really 'back to normal".... we are very much shaken up.
Very, very poor Handling of us Survivors by Company.... took 7 hours to get one person saying "i will take care of you"....and 15hours for the Captain to talk to us...!!!!"

From another passenger on our Facebook page:

"We were disembarked from this ship yesterday along with 50 other passengers. Some are lucky to be alive after their windows cracked, sea water poured in & they were trapped in their cabins.

The Captain made an announcement & said that the ship had been caught between 2 large swells which caused the ship to flex & popped the Windows. We have just landed at Heathrow. Came via Orly & now have to get to Gatwick to collect our car. R Carribbean v unsympathetic & some passengers were injured & very shaken."

Statement by Royal Caribbean:

The cruise line issued the following statement, which is posted on the Cruise Hive site.

"On Monday, April 25, while sailing to Ajaccio, Corsica, Rhapsody of the Seas encountered inclement weather. Five stateroom windows on the third deck were broken, resulting in water incursion. Six rooms were damaged, and carpeting in some nearby hallways and staterooms on deck three was soaked by water. No serious injuries were reported. The windows were replaced and the ship resumed her itinerary.

Because of the soaked flooring, which could not be immediately replaced without causing great inconvenience, 45 guests were relocated to other staterooms, and 44 departed the ship in Corsica. We have compensated all the affected guests with a full refund and future cruise certificate in the total amount of the cruise fare they paid for their sailing, as well as handling accommodations and travel costs for those who left the ship."

A newspaper in New Zealand is the latest to report on the fiasco.

May 10 2016 Update:  Rusted Window Frames on the Rhapsody of the Seas? and Photos on Facebook.

Royal Caribbean to Homeport Empress of the Seas in Havana

CubaIn breaking news, Cruise Law News has learned that Royal Caribbean will be home-porting the refurbished Empress of the Seas in Havana, Cuba.  

Effective August 14, 2016, the Empress of the Seas, originally named the Nordic Empress, will be sailing 7 day cruises from Havana to Nassau Bahamas, Labadee Haiti, Falmouth Jamaica and Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. In a starting move, the cruise line will be changing the name of the cruise ship to the Cuban Empress.

The cruise ship left the Royal Caribbean fleet in 2007 and, since then, has sailed for Royal Caribbean's Spanish subsidiary Pullmantur Cruises. Last year, Royal Caribbean announced that the cruise ship would be returning to its fleet in March of this year. The ship has been undergoing extensive renovations, first in Cadiz Spain and currently in Freeport Bahamas for the past several weeks. The ship was supposed to be sailing a Caribbean itinerary this summer but recently canceled six weeks of cruises because the cruise ship's renovations were behind schedule.  

Many travel agents have speculated that the cruise ship, because of its smaller size, is well suited to be the first ship for Royal Caribbean to enter the Cuban cruise market.  It will be the smallest cruise ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet behind the Majesty of the Seas. Many travel agents have noted that the cruise line has not booked any cruises on this ship after July as a sign that Royal Caribbean has planned all along try to get the Empress into Cuba before the end of the summer.

Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain commented that "Cuba is a great opportunity for us in the cruise business because we bring our own hotels and our own infrastructure . . . "

Earlier this month, Carnival announced that it had obtained approval from Cuba to sail from the U.S. into Cuban ports. On May 1st, Carnival's new "social impact" brand, Fathom, will be sailing passengers from Miami to several ports in Cuba, on the Adonia, a cruise ship with around 700 passengers. This will be the first time in 50 years that a cruise ship from Miami will call on a port in Cuba.  

Motivated by profits (fares on the Adonia are 2 to 3 times the average cost of a Caribbean cruise) and its competition with cross-town rival Carnival, Royal Caribbean pulled off a coup by one-upping Carnival by becoming the first U.S. cruise line which will base a cruise ship in Cuba. Royal Caribbean's Chief Operating Officer Adam Goldstein, who reportedly has spent several weeks in Havana meeting with Cuban officials, is expected to speak at a press conference later today. 

Royal Caribbean will utilize Havana's relatively modern cruise facility where two European lines, Costa Cruises and Pullmantur, used to operate. But both pulled out after Costa was acquired by Carnival Corporation in 2000 and Pullmantur by Royal Caribbean in 2006  due to the U.S. ban on travel to the communist nation. 

Royal Caribbean has made several Cuban-themed renovations to the cruise ship which executive Goldstein will be announcing shortly. The Cuban Empress will feature the "Che Guevara cigar room" Cuban Prisonwhich will feature hand-rolled Cohibas cigars. The cruise ship will also unveil the "Royal Castro Grill" where cruise passengers can enjoy fine Cuban cuisine. Late night entertainment will take place in the "Fidel & Raul's" nightclub where guests can dance the Mambo and sip Cuban "Havana Club" rum.

The cruise line will be offering excursions to Cuba's famous Combinado del Esto prison which houses thousands of dissidents and political prisoners. Also imprisoned are hundreds of Cuban families who tried to flee Cuba to the U.S. on make-shift rafts but were intercepted by U.S. based cruise ships and then forced to return to Cuba (no photos allowed).

Have a thought? Please join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo Credits: 

Top - Mark Scott Johnson CC BY 2.0 commons / wikimedia.

Bottom - Franklin Reyes / AP Photo via Avax News

RCCL on Terrorism: Most Destinations Are Absolutely Safe

Adam GoldsteinRoyal Caribbean's Adam Goldstein was on FOX Business's @MorningsMaria yesterday. The FOX analysts questioned Mr. Goldstein after the terrorists' attack on the airport and subway in Belgium yesterday.  

Mr. Goldstein, the President and Chief Operating Officer of the cruise line, explained that his company makes a lot of effort into its security. Royal Caribbean's cruise ships call on approximately 500 ports annually. Like other companies, it makes judgments based on the security information it has received prior to calling on a port. Occasionally, it will decide that it is not in the best interests of the cruise line and its guests to go to a particular port, like the recent case of Bali which its Celebrity Solstice and Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas  avoided.

Most places Royal Caribbean sails to are "absolutely safe," Mr. Goldstein claims.

He said that after the terrorist attacks last year in Paris, there was a "brief" decline in business of a week or two from Northern Europe countries. He said the effect on his cruise line business was "de Royal Caribbean Jim Cramerminimis."  He does not expect anything different after this latest attack in Brussels.

The FOX News panel also questioned Mr. Goldstein on the effect of the Zika virus on bookings. He also downplayed the effect of this serious medical problem, which is believed to cause abnormally underdeveloped heads (microcephaly) in newborn children.

Mr. Goldstein said: "We are not aware that we ever saw any sort of impact on the business and it doesn't seem to be a conversation today."

This is an interesting perspective. Yesterday, another financial show on CNBC, Jim Cramer's MAD MONEY, suggested that although cruise lines deny that the Zika virus has affected their operations to date, it will severely impact cruising in the coming months

You can hear Mr. Goldstein below.

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Families of Children With Autism File Suit Against Royal Caribbean

The Palm Beach Post is reporting that a lawsuit was filed this week against Royal Caribbean by families of children with autism who faced the February 6th storm which terrorized many passengers aboard the Anthem of the Seas.

The article was written by the the Palm Beach Post's weather reporter, Kim Miller, in her blog called WeatherPlus.  

Ms. Miller writes that "40 families of children with autism sued the luxury cruise company saying Anthem o fthe Seas Stormofficials were negligent in their actions to sail the Anthem of the Seas into the storm despite forecasts that predicted turbulent weather."  

She cites the lawsuit filed on Monday which says that "there were 40 families with Autism Spectrum Disorder children aboard the vessel and parents and aides did their best to protect themselves and their children who were being severely battered and traumatized."

The lawsuit represents a potential public relations nightmare for the cruise line which, ironically, has collaborated with Autism on the Seas, a non-profit national organization, since 2007, in developing cruise vacation services to accommodate adults and families living with children with special needs, including "autism, asperger syndrome, down syndrome, tourette syndrome, and cerebral palsy." 

Royal Caribbean said that the lawsuit lacks merit. The cruise line again commented that the Anthem encountered "unexpectedly severe storm" but still kept "the ship safe . . ." 

This may well prove to be a difficult case to defend given the fact that weather forecasts predicted 30+ foot waves and hurricane strength winds which rocked the cruise ship and damaged at least one of the ship's azipod propulsion units in the storm. 

The court records reflect that John Ostrow of Miami and Alan Trachtman of New York City represent the families. Long time cruise line defense lawyer Curtis Mase of the Mase and Lara law firm in Miami is representing Royal Caribbean in the first two lawsuits arising out of the storm last month. 

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Photo Credit: Incredible World / ABC News / Youtube

Seatrade Global 2016: How About the Crew Members?

Later this morning, Seatrade's State of the Global Cruise Industry Conference, moderated by CBS Travel Editor Peter Greenberg, will feature four cruise executives: Frank Del Rio, President & CEO, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd, Arnold Donald, President & CEO, Carnival Corporation, Richard Fain, Chairman & CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman, MSC Cruises. 

Three additional cruise line leaders will conclude the presentation: Charles A. Robertson, Chairman & CEO, American Cruise Lines, Edie Rodriguez, President & CEO, Crystal Cruises, and Tara Russell, President, Carnival Corporation's Fathom ('impact travel"). 

Shortly, if this Seatrade is like any other, we will hear about the growth of the industry and the increasingly larger cruise ships built to accommodate the 24,000,000 people who will decide to Crew Membervacation on the high seas this year. There is no doubt that the cruise industry, a rich and powerful industry, continues to grow at a record pace.  

But there will be little mention of the hard work by the tens of thousands of crew members from around the world who are the backbone of the industry. Seatrade Global (and its predecessor Cruise Shipping Miami) measures itself in terms of the number of the passengers and giant ships and the money which these cruise customers and cruise ships generate for the ports and the industry as a whole. The cruise executives will tell us about a Florida port, Port Everglades, just setting a new record for the most cruise ship passengers in a single day, 54,700 passengers last Sunday. 

But the cruise executives will not mention an incident this weekend in Port Everglades, the day before the port set a new record for passengers, when a Royal Caribbean crew member threatened to jump off the Oasis of the Seas. Are cruise lines pushing their crew members too hard for too little?

Crew members are working harder and longer than anytime in the history of the cruise industry. MLC2006 was suppose to result in the protection of the crew members, by ensuring that men and women who work on ships at sea are guaranteed a reasonable number of time resting. But, in reality, crew members hired as waiters state that they can't log their time in when they arrive in the dining hall at 6:30 A.M to prepare their stations for the rush of passengers who enter the dining rooms for a 7:00 A.M breakfast. And they are often required to sign out and continue to work "off the clock" when they exceed the maximum hours theoretically limited by MLC2006.  

Crew members also complain that they attend meetings only during their "breaks." Many crew member who accurately log their long hours into the electronic time systems have their real hours worked changed by managers to comply with the MLC2006 auditors hired by the Carnivals and Royal Caribbeans. Take a minute and read the comments left by crew members on our Facebook page commenting on the sad state of MLC2006 non-compliance by the major cruise lines today. 

I recently posted a question on Facebook which I asked several years ago whether Royal Caribbean was working its crew members to death? Crew members left insightful information and quickly added that its not just Royal Caribbean working its crew members too hard but it is an industry wide problem. When a galley worker newly hired on a Princess cruise ship, the Island Princess, ended his life last week, another round of criticism followed. Are cruises bosses uninterested in crew welfare as they seek record profits on their gigantic ships?

Crew members like waiters, cabin attendants, galley workers and cleaners work regular 12+ hour days, seven days a week, for months at a time. They work even harder and longer when their cruise ships call on U.S. ports and their department heads are concerned of a surprise USPH inspection as well as when norovirus breaks out and "enhanced cleaning" is required.

The industry's trade organization, CLIA, meanwhile touts in a recent tweet that "Our work never ends. Crewmembers continually clean & sanitize cruise ships to ensure passenger & crew #health." True indeed as far as "continually cleaning" goes. Yes, this may be one of the few CLIA statements that is factually true given the seemingly endless hours worked by the crew.  But there is no overtime or extra pay when the crew members work around the clock as a recent gastrointestinal outbreak during an Oceania cruise demonstrated. Crew members reported working 18 to 20 hours a day.

The cruise executives know that such long hours result in low morale and burn-out, but they look the other way. Ironically, cruise executive Micky Arison just re-tweeted a post by @ProjectTimeOff designed to encourage potential Carnival cruise customers to take time off from work and cruise - "The truth is out: time off work reduces burnout, improves morale, and boosts creativity." @MickyArison tweeted "Absolutely the case on a #cruise." Maybe so if you're a guest.

Absolutely not if you are a crew member.

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Photo credit: Getty Images

Royal Caribbean Cancels Radiance's Stop in Bali Due to Terrorism Concerns

Radiance of the SeasRoyal Caribbean is canceling the March 17th port call in Bali for the Radiance of the Seas due to its concerns over terrorism. The cruise line informed passengers: 

"Hello, this is Royal Caribbean International. We would like to provide you with some important information regarding your March 12, 2016, sailing onboard Radiance of the Seas. In an abundance of caution, and based on the latest security information we have gathered, Royal Caribbean International has made a decision to cancel its call to Bali, Indonesia on Thursday, March 17, 2016. Additional ports of call have been added to your itinerary. A letter with additional details will be provided to you at boarding. We appreciate your understanding as your safety is always our foremost concern."

Last week, sister cruise line Celebrity distributed letters to the passengers and crew members on the Celebrity Solstice indicating that the cruise ship will not be calling on Bali (Benoa) due to the potential of a terrorist attack. You can read our article - Celebrity Solstice Cancels Stop in Bali Due to Concern of Terrorism.

March 10, 2016 Update:  Newspapers in Australia are reporting that the "Radiance of the Seas and the Celebrity Millenium will also leave the island off their itineraries. Celebrity Millenium was due to overnight in Bali on March 16, and Radiance of the Seas was scheduled to visit the following day."

Photo credit: Bahnfrend - CC BY-SA 4.0, creative commons / wikimedia.

Overboard From Navigator of the Seas

Navigator of the SeasI have received inquiries on Facebook for information regarding a person overboard from the Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas who apparantly disappeared into the water late last night.

Passengers on the ship are stating that there was an "Oscar, Oscar, Oscar" (man overboard) announcement around 11:00 P.M. The cruise ship began a search. Lighted life preservers were thrown overboard. The Coast Guard was notified and a helicopter arrived on the scene after an hour and a half. Passengers commented that it was very dark and difficult circumstances to try and rescue anyone. 

The cruise ship has returned to port in Port Everglades without rescuing the overboard person or locating his or her body. It is currently unknown whether the person is a passenger or crew member.

Cruise lines may be unable to prevent overboards but there is technology available to automatically detect and quickly respond to these type of emergencies. Take a look at one such system which is readily available on the market. Unfortunately, cruise lines like Royal Caribbean seem to have invested only in virtual balconies, fast internet, the FlowRider and other bells and whistles designed to WOW the customers.

Photo Credit: Ahecht CC BY-SA 4.0, creatiive commons / wikimedia

March 6, 2016 Update: Royal Caribbean released the followings statement:

"On Friday, March 4, 2016, at approximately 10:55 p.m., a guest onboard Navigator of the Seas reported that they had witnessed another guest going overboard from their stateroom balcony. A review of the ship’s closed-circuit camera footage observed a 46-year-old male guest from the U.S. going overboard from deck 10. The location of the ship at the time the guest went overboard was marked on the ship’s Global Positioning System (GPS), and the ship, along with the Coast Guard, conducted a search for the missing guest. Early Saturday morning, the ship was advised by the Coast Guard that they would be assuming control of the search and the ship resumed its journey to Port Everglades, Florida. Royal Caribbean’s Care Team is providing support to the guest’s family and our thoughts and prayers are with them. Navigator of the Seas sailed a six-night itinerary that departed Port Everglades, on February 28, made a port calls to Georgetown, Grand Cayman; Falmouth, Jamaica; and Labadee, Haiti." 

Is Royal Caribbean Telling You the Truth?

When the Anthem of the Seas sailed into the forecasted storm last month, Royal Caribbean's PR department began to downplay the controversy. They claimed that they were surprised by the storm. But the truth is that the storm was accurately forecasted with waves over 30 feet and hurricane strength winds. Even NBC weatherman Al Roker mocked Royal Caribbean, pointing out the forecast and saying "Bullfeathers!" (see video) to the cruise line's claim of surprise.  

Royal Caribbean initially said that no one was injured and the cruise ship experienced no damage. This was also untrue. When passengers began posting photos and video on social media showing the destruction of the storm, the cruise line finally admitted that there were injuries but claimed that only "four injuries have been reported, none severe." This was untrue. I've spoken to far more than 4 Al Roker Bullfeatherspassengers who allege injuries, some of them quite severe. They all say that the ship infirmary was literally overwhelmed by injured passengers. Some tell me that the medical staff finally shut and locked the door to the medical facility in order to keep others injured out.

Royal Caribbean also later said that the ship only had cosmetic damage and was "seaworthy." Again, this was completely untrue. The U.S. Coast Guard revealed that when the Anthem returned to port in New Jersey, one of the two azipods was in fact damaged and had to be repaired before the cruise ship could be cleared to sail.

Several passengers contacted our office seeking to become involved in the class action lawsuit filed against Royal Caribbean because they feel that the cruise line has not been honest with them or the public and had trivialized their concerns and fears. 

Today PIX-11 in New York interviewed a Royal Caribbean passenger who feels that Royal Caribbean was not honest with the passengers on the latest Anthem cruise that was cut short short again.  The cruise line said that they were returning the Anthem early to port because of "rough weather" that was supposed to hit the ship on Tuesday and Wednesday.  But there was no such storm.  Instead there was a gastrointestinal illness outbreak that the passenger believes was the true cause of the early return.  

Listen to the interview.  She's a cruise fan but feels deceived.

 

Anthem of the Seas: Afraid of the Weather or More Bad Publicity?

This evening Royal Caribbean announced via Twitter that that it's "closely watching a large storm off the coast of Cape Hatteras. We want to be extra cautious when it comes to weather in the area." The cruise line decided that it is canceling the last two days of the current Anthem of the Seas cruise which will skip Barbados and St Kitts in order to "avoid a severe storm & provide guests with a comfortable journey back home."

Is this the same cruise line which recklessly sailed into a much larger storm three weeks ago?

The forecasted wind and wave conditions seem modest compared to the weather conditions forecast prior to the disastrous cruise on February 6th when the cruise ship sailed into waves over 30 feet and encountered hurricane strength winds.

So why the cautious approach today? Is this a cruise line that really learned its lesson?  Is this the result of new decision makers back in Miami who decide whether the Royal Caribbean ships will encounter rough weather? Remember, Royal Caribbean announced that the last storm revealed what the cruise line said were "gaps in our planning system that we are addressing."

Royal Caribbean also said that it was strengthening its storm avoidance policy, and allegedly added resources at its corporate headquarters in Miami to provide additional guidance to its captains. 

So is the decision this evening to cut the cruise short the result of more cautious meteorologists and fewer macho captains?  I doubt it. The weather reports seem pretty tame. 

It seems that the decision to cancel the remainder of the Anthem cruise is motivated more in order to avoid bad press than bad weather. Why? Passengers are reporting that over 65 people have come down with symptoms of the dreaded norovirus. A code red is underway. If there are 65 official reports, chances are that the true number is much higher. There will be what the cruise lines call "enhanced" cleaning when the ship returns to New Jersey on Wednesday in an effort to kill the noro.  Royal Caribbean's reputation can't take a massive noro outbreak on the heels of subjecting its guests to a massive storm earlier this month.

So what happens when the cruise ship returns to port 2 days early?  If this were truly just a weather related event, then the passengers, whose flights home are still scheduled two days later, should be able to stay on the ship. But if passengers are forced to leave the ship early for the anticipated super cleaning, it would seem that Royal Caribbean is more concerned with eradicating norovirus from its huge cruise ship than risking its guests encountering another round of rough weather.  

Anthem of the Seas Captain's Letter

Anthem of the Seas Lawsuits: Royal Caribbean Recklessly Sailed Into Storm

Today, Miami lawyers filed suit on behalf of a cruise passenger who sailed aboard the Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas on Sunday, February 7th. The Lipcon law firm, based here in Miami, has filed a proposed class action lawsuit against Royal Caribbean in Federal Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Anyone who has read this blog in the last two weeks knows how I feel about the cruise in question. There is little doubt that the cruise line acted recklessly by ignoring weather forecasts of hurricane strength winds and 30 foot waves of this Altantic winter storm.  The winds strengthened, as to be expected in a storm like this, to well over 100 MPH. Many passengers experienced Anthem of the Seas Storm Lawsuitterrifying experiences where some passengers were fearful of losing their lives and those of their loved ones on the cruise ship.    

The Anthem of the Seas returned to New Jersey with severe damage to its propulsion system, among other damage. 

The captain of the Anthem of the Seas said during a talk to the passengers after the storm that he expected waves of only 12 to 15 foot waves.  But weather forecasts indicate that much higher waves, to over 30 feet, were expected. This means that the cruise line did not provide accurate weather reports to the captain or he ignored them. Navigation officers are required to up load "passage plans" pursuant to the the International Safety Management (ISM) codes before they sail. This information will quickly reveal exactly what weather conditions the captain anticipated during the ill-fated cruise in question.      

ABC reports that any passenger who was on the ship can be represented in the lawsuit, which covers both passengers who suffered physical injuries and those passengers who are alleging only severe emotional, psychological and emotional stress. 

You can read the lawsuit papers here.

At least one other lawsuit was filed last week by a lawyer in Houston, Texas.

Our firm will be representing passengers who sustained physical injuries during the storm.  

Cruise lines ordinarily have a duty of only "reasonable care" under the circumstances. But in instances of rough weather, cruise lines have a much higher duty of care toward the passengers. Some characterize this duty as the "highest duty of care" of the passengers when the ship is expected to encounter rough weather.  

Can it seriously be argued that Royal Caribbean exercised "high care" when it sailed 4,500 passengers, including the elderly and children, into a winter storm forecast to bash the ship with hurricane strength winds and waves over 30 feet?  

Read our last article on the Anthem of the Seas fiasco.

Is the Anthem of Seas More Unseaworthy Than It Looks?

Anthem of the Seas StormThe maritime blog gCaptain published an article yesterday, written by Rick Spilman, author of the well written Old Salt blog, titled Anthem of the Sea - is She  Seaworthy?  The Old Salt blog takes issue with an article I wrote several years ago entitled Are Cruise Ships Dangerously Top Heavy?

In my article I was critical of the cruise industry's trend to build these jam-packed mega cruise ships of today - the 'floating condo" as some call them, which "seem to be out-of-proportionally tall, perched precariously on a hull which seems incapable of safely supporting a structure towering hundreds of feet into the air."  Fours years ago, I said that these monster ships "look like condominiums ripped out of Collins Avenue on Miami Beach and placed on a barge. They look eager to tip over."

I am more convinced today of these observations after the Anthem of the Seas debacle this past week. 

Commenting on the recent fiasco, the Old Salt blog stated that the cruise ship passed the test of encountering a major storm. It said that the cruise ship "survived" what it characterized as a "full-scale blowout trial in highly dangerous conditions." It pointed out that "no one died or was seriously injured" and "the ship made it into port under its own power."

The Old Salt blog scoffed at the notion that the Anthem of the Seas was "unsafe" and concluded that the gigantic cruise ship and others designed like it "are a lot more seaworthy than they look."

But the article was published before the Coast Guard announced that one of the vessel's two azipods Anthem of the Seas Abandon Shipmalfunctioned during the storm and that the Anthem returned to port in New Jersey with only one propulsion unit operating. Late yesterday afternoon, the Coast Guard stated that "during the storm the port azipod, which is one component of the vessel's propulsion system, burned out all four clutches." Royal Caribbean, which initially denied any damage or injury to the ship or the passengers and then claimed that the only damage to the ship was cosmetic, was forced to try and quickly replace the clutches on the storm damaged azipod before the ship's scheduled departure today. The cruise line also decided the starboard azipod 's clutch also needed to be replaced "as a precaution," raising the possibility that it also sustained damage during the storm.

So putting differing opinions aside, the undisputed fact of the matter is that the Anthem of the Seas sustained significant damage to its propulsion system during the storm and returned to port unseaworthy.

The failure of portions of the cruise ship's propulsion system is very troubling  It raises an issue which I discussed in my article four years ago: "ask yourself whether you really want to take your family onto one of these floating sky-scrapper hotels when, God forbid, it loses power while encountering rough seas?"

If the Anthem's propulsion was further disabled during the storm, the cruise ship would be in serious trouble. 

“Major casualties are the result of synergy from multiple causes. If one bad thing happens, you probably get through it,” maritime law litigator and law professor Larry Brennan told the media. “If a ship loses propulsion in a storm, it’s at the mercy of the seas. Instead of cosmetic or structural damage, there’s a much better chance that a ship can be lost.”

Cruise passengers claim that the waves crashed over the top of the lifeboats tethered along the side of the Anthem of the Seas as the ship listed heeled heavily to one side. Even if passengers could have gotten into the lifeboats, this class of Royal Caribbean ships does not have enough lifeboats for both passengers and crew members. The ship is designed such that the crew are forced to use a system of sliding down chutes into life-rafts - a dangerous design even in pleasant weather. Panic may cause the crew members and the passengers to compete to get into the lifeboats which are far safer than the life-rafts. As I explained and illustrated in my article Titanic Redux, there is a danger of the tether ropes breaking, the chutes twisting, or the life-rafts ripping away from the chutes during the type of rough weather which the Anthem faced this week.  

Of course a vessel can be unseaworthy not only when it is designed in an unsafe manner, or it is in state of disrepair, but when the vessel has unsafe procedures. The fact of the matter is that the Anthem of the Seas and other huge cruise ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet do not have a safe means of evacuating passengers and crew members at sea, particularly in dangerous storm conditions.

But most passengers don't seem to be aware of this dangerous practice. The Anthem is claimed to be a technological marvel with all types of bells and whistles to wow the passengers: from being served by a robotic waiter to simulated surfing on the FlowRider to simulated sky diving on the iFly to riding on the North Star. But it has no way to evacuate people safely if disaster strikes, which almost happened last week.

All issues considered, I would say that the Anthem of the Seas is far more unseaworthy than it looks.

Images credit: Weather Nation YouTube - top

Anthem of the Seas Returns to New Jersey: Has Royal Caribbean Learned a Lesson?

Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas StormThe storm-ravaged Anthem of the Seas is returning to port in New Jersey tonight with around 4,500 passengers aboard, many of whom feel traumatized by the cruise to the Bahamas run amok.

Many passengers on the cruise ship have contacted our office to complain that they literally feared for their lives and those of their families when the ship sailed into the predicted storm earlier this week. Many couples say that they told their partners that they loved them and said goodbye, afraid that as the cruise ship was rocked by 30 foot waves and blasted by 125+ MPH winds the ship would list over and they would drown in the surging ocean.

Many passengers also told me that they knew that there would be no way to safely board life boats in light of the high winds and intense waves if they had to abandon ship. They mentioned their panicked children who saw the fear in their parents' eyes of perishing at sea.

Today I was interviewed by several local news stations in New York City, including the local CBS station channel 2 (video below) about the cruise line's ill-fated decision to cruise into the storm

Meanwhile, it appears that Royal Caribbean has come to the realization that it made a mistake by not paying attention to the weather forecasts (which accurately predicted that there would be a storm developing with waves predicted of over 30 feet). Travel Market reports that Royal Caribbean has formed a shoreside team of meteorologists and captains to monitor the weather and advise the navigational teams of its cruise ships of storms and whether it is prudent to proceed.

Royal Caribbean sent the following statement to the media:

"Anthem of the Seas will return to Cape Liberty, NJ this evening, and we are grateful for the safe return of our guests and crew.

We apologize for exposing our guests and crew to the weather they faced, and for what they went through.

Our ship and our crew performed very well to keep everyone safe during severe weather. Of more than 6000 people on board, only four minor injuries were reported.

Despite that fact, the event, exceptional as it was, identified gaps in our planning system that we are addressing. Though that system has performed well through many instances of severe weather around the world, what happened this week showed that we need to do better.

The severity of Sunday's storm, with its sustained 120-mph winds, far exceeded forecasts. Even so, it is our responsibility to eliminate every surprise we possibly can.

As of today, we are strengthening our storm avoidance policy, and have added resources at our Miami headquarters to provide additional guidance to our ships' captains.

As for Anthem of the Seas, much of the superficial damage caused by the storm has been repaired. We expect to resume her planned itinerary for next week's cruise.

Again, we offer our apologies to our guests and crew." 

Statement courtesy of local ABC station 7 in New York City.

 

Is the Public Sick of Lying Cruise Lines Endangering Passenger Safety?

Anthem of the Seas Captain VideoYesterday, Florida Senator Bill Nelson stated that he is proposing that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigate the circumstances surrounding Royal Caribbean's decision to cruise the Anthem of the Seas into a storm with over 4,500 passengers aboard. The Senator expressed frustration with the fact that the Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailed into a storm with expected 30 foot seas and hurricane force winds.

The captain of the cruise ship spoke to the passengers on the ship yesterday via video, telling them that the forecasts of the storm indicated that there would be winds of only around 12 to 15 feet which is clearly contradicted by several forecasts indicating that the waves would be twice that in height.

The Today Show's weatherman Al Roker summed it up accurately saying that the cruise line's claim that it was surprised by the storm was "bull feathers." (video)

Some may question the wisdom of having the master of the cruise ship providing false information to the cruise line's guests after he terrorized them by recklessly sailing into the storm, but this is a cruise line which has a Pinocchio-like tendency of lying to the public when the truth would serve it better.  When a TV weatherman makes you the butt of a joke on a popular morning television program, you may want to re-think your PR strategy.

Just last July, Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas caught fire as it sailed into Falmouth, Jamaica. Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas FireWhat makes the fire so memorable is that the cruise line went out of its way to downplay the event, calling the major event - which burned from the bottom to the top of the ship - just a contained and quickly extinguished "'small fire." It repeated over and over the cruise line's talking point that the safety of its passengers is always its highest priority. The "small fire" hoax, as I called it, and the cruise line's habitual practice of placing profits over safety, were revealed by video of the large ship fire posted on social media and the cruise line's decision to flaunt IMO recommendations and keep sailing without anyone conducting a survey of the heavily damaged ship. 

The Anthem of the Seas debacle places the cruise industry back before before a cruising public which is increasingly weary of dealing with the high seas drama of rough weather, cruise ship fires, and cruise mishaps - ranging from poop cruise inconveniences to Costa Concordia-scale disasters, when families are just trying to enjoy a vacation at sea with their kids. Providing false and misleading information to these families after the fact just makes things worse. It tarnishes the credibility of the entire cruise industry before the public.

Newspapers are again posting videos of cruise ship disasters from the past. like the one below from USA TODAY. The question of "who is policing the cruise ship industry" is again being asked in public forums.  No one, we believe.

The bottom line is do you trust the cruise lines when they claim that your family's safety and security is their top priority? If this were the case, then cruise ships would not be sailing to the majority of the ports in the Caribbean which are mostly far more dangerous than the U.S.'s most dangerous inner cities.  

Some people may scoff at the notion that a cruise lines would possibly risk a new billion dollar cruise ship filled with many thousands of passengers and crew by sailing into a storm forecast with extreme winds and sea conditions.  But cruise ships don't make money if they are not operating. When cruising requires prudence and caution, whether it be dealing with proper maintenance of cruise ship engines or respect for mother nature, cruise lines seem prone to exhibit a macho "we can't sink" mentality that invokes historical references to the Titanic. 

Photo/video credit: Sean Ferguson YouTube

 

Master of the Anthem of the Seas: Storm Not Accurately Forecast

A YouTube video of the Master of the Anthem of the Seas was broadcast to the staterooms on the Anthem of the Seas internal channel the day after the storm. A passenger, Sean Ferguson, recorded it with his iPhone.

The captain stated that, in his opinion, the low pressure system was not forecast accurately and the Anthem of the Seas faced wind and wave conditions much worse than were forecast.

His comments are in stark contrast to a number of meteorologists who have stated that the storm was accurately forecast last week. Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell, a local meteorologist from Ohio, posted photographs of the damage on his Facebook page. Another meteorologist, Ryan Maue, a "digital meteorologist for WeatherBell Analytics, said it's hard to believe no one at Royal Caribbean had been aware of a storm system that had been forecast — and included in official advisories and warnings issued by the National Weather Service — days in advance, " says NJ.com in the article Royal Caribbean ripped by weather pro for routing 'Anthem' cruise ship into storm.

The meteorologists at the Weather Channel were highly critical of Royal Caribbean last night and stated that the storm was accurately predicted in several programs and widely reported. The Weather Channel broadcast images showing that the seas were predicted to be over 30 feet last week (see photo below), which sharply contrasted with the Royal Caribbean captain's claim that the waves were forecast to be only 12 to 15 feet in height.   

Of interest is the Master's statement that the winds which rocked the cruise ship were up to 170 MPH which is actually higher than the estimates of many terrified passengers who contacted us of around 150 MPH.  He also stated that the passenger were understandably extremely uncomfortable and fearful of the weather conditions.

Ar the 18 minute mark of the video, the Master used an online chart from PassageWeather.com which, ironically, accurately predicted the development of this storm before the Anthem of the Seas sailed into danger. 

Al Roker, the popular television weatherman on the Today Show, best summed up Royal Caribbean's claim that the storm was not predicted:  "Royal Caribbean's claim that this was not predicted is bullfeathers.

USA TODAY published Meteorologists: Royal Caribbean blew it on sailing into storm. 

Florida Senator Bill Nelson was quoted in the press asking why would the ship continue right into the path of the ferocious storm that had been predicted at least four days on February 3rd, before the cruise encountered it, according to the Daily Mail.

Storm Anthem of the Seas Cruise

 

Anthem of the Seas Cruises Into Rough Weather

Anthem of the Seas StormRoyal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas was pounded by rough weather last night, according to passengers leaving comments, photos and video on the internet.

New accounts initially indicated that there was no damage to the cruise ship or injuries to the passengers but this notion was quickly dispelled by images of extensive damage caused by the storm.

Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell, posted photographs of the damage on his Facebook page.

The storm was the result of a sudden although predictable intensification known as "bombogenesis," which is explained by this article in Forbes magazine.

ABC News reported that "after seeing pictures and people’s comments on Twitter and other social media platforms, the USCG contacted the Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas to check in.”

Passengers contacted us indicating that several guests were injured in the mayhem caused by the hurricane strength 125+ MPH winds and 30+ foot waves.  

The cruise line said initialy that it would be late getting to Port Canaveral but later said that the Anthem would return to New Jersey. Passengers would be refunded 100% and, in addition, receive 50% of their fares a future cruise credit in compensation. 

The storm and damage to the ship reminds me of a harrowing incident on the Brilliance of the Seas when several passengers were seriously injured when a storm hit the Royal Caribbean cruise ship in December 2010. The ship tried to outrun a known storm into Alexandria, Egypt. Royal Caribbean tried to spin the story in the media, saying that the storm was far worse than expected. 

Watch Top Five Worst Cruise Ship Disaster Videos

February 8 2016 Update: Seems that Royal Caribbean is playing the "unforseeable" weather game again. Weather professionals are not buying it  - Royal Caribbean ripped by weather pro for routing 'Anthem' cruise ship into storm. Also read 4,000-passenger cruise ship inexplicably sails into Atlantic mega-storm.  The Weather Channel pointed out that several weather programs predicited the high waves and high winds last week, and questioned where the cruise line obtained its weather forecasts.

February 9 2016 UpdateMaster of the Anthem of the Seas: Storm Not Accurately Forecast.

Image Credit: NOAA/NASA via Forbes

Storm Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas

Coke Bust on Jewel of the Seas

Jewel of the SeasThe Daily Star reports that U.S. authorities in San Juan arrested seven people after finding 24 pounds (11 kilograms) of cocaine aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship just before it was to set to sail. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said today that a canine doing cabin inspections aboard the Jewel of the Seas found the drugs on Sunday.

Royal Caribbean says six of the arrested were U.S. male passengers. The identity of the seventh was not disclosed. 

Photo Credit:  Dave Souza Creative Commons BY-SA 2.5 / Wikipedia

 

Is Your Cruise Ship Prepared for a Terrorist Attack?

Yahoo Travel just interviewed me for its article Is Your Cruise Ship Prepared for a Terrorist Attack?

There are nearly 500 comments to the article some of which are quite interesting to read.

The Yahoo article does not really touch upon the issue that cruise ships are largely unarmed. So regardless how you feel about the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the cruise ships by and large don't have armed security guards. Contrary to people who want to believe that the ships are armed but the cruise lines don't want to tip their hand to the terrorists, there is in fact no hidden cache of weapons ready to be deployed by the cruise ship's security forces.  

Cruise ships are flagged in foreign countries like the Bahamas or Panama. The international Maritime Organization (IMO) has no authority to regulate the use of guns on these foreign flagged ship. The IMO does not even recommend that cruise ships have guns.

We have written about the dangerous current set of affairs where some cruise ships are sailing into Somali pirate infested waters where the few security guards had to use fake wooden rifles, deck chairs and water cannons to fight off pirates armed with rocket propelled grenades. You can read about pirate attacks against cruise ships here:

Are Cruise Lines Taking Adequate Steps to Protect Passengers from Pirate Attacks?
Cruise Line Liability for Injuries to Passengers and Crew Members Caused by Pirate Attacks

Some cruise ships go as far as to install razor wire around the rails and position logs to be dropped on the pirates below if they run their skiffs up to the cruise ship. You can see a photo of this spectacle here.

As we explained in this article, the IMO issued "guidance" on the use of armed guards on ships, but stresses that it is still not recommending them. Instead it states that shipping companies should consider arming crew members or hiring private armed guards on board only after conducting a risk assessment subject to approval by the flag state. The IMO also recommends that shipping companies follow all laws and regulations imposed by that flag state regarding the use of armed guard apply to their vessels.

The only cruise ships which seems to permit weapons aboard Cruise Ships - Weapons at Seaare flagged in Italy, which seems to have a different attitude towards guns and permits cruise ships flagged there (like Costa) to have weapons aboard.

A Costa ship got itself into a bit of scandal a couple of years ago when a female crew member was photographed holding a huge automatic weapon in the bridge of the cruise ship. The Italian newspaper Oggi published photographs of the attractive Romanian blonde, Sasha Alexandra, posing in the bridge of the Costa Atlantica. She was photographed next to the captain in a tight cocktail dress holding a large machine gun.

But cruise ships from Carnival, Royal Caribbean or NCL, flying the flags of the Bahamas or Panama, have no weapons at sea.

One reader on our Facebook page remarked:

"Cruise lines can't even keep the Ranch Dressing filled at the salad bar . . You are fooling yourself if you think they would be able to fight off an armed boarding / takeover attempt."

I tend to agree.

Photo Credit: Oggi via Telegraph

Royal Caribbean Cancels Another Cruise to Labadee

Royal Caribbean announced that it is canceling another port stop, this time by the Navigator of the Seas, at it's "private destination" in Labadee, Haiti. According to the RCL Blog, Royal Caribbean said today:

"Royal Caribbean has not received any guarantees or assurances that there will not be any protests in the future. If a protest takes place while a ship is port, there would be a significant impact on our guests’ ability to enjoy Labadee, or we may have to cancel the visit completely."

As we mentioned on the 19th, a small flotilla of boats carrying Haitians protested when the Freedom of the Seas tried to call on Labadee.  Although most of the traditional media tried to down-play the Labadee Haiti Cruiseincident or suggest that it was part of the protests about the national election in Haiti, many have suggested that the protests were focused on the exploitation of Haitian people brought about by Royal Caribbean and its trademarked resort of Labadie. (Royal Caribbean's "Labadee®" is derived from the name of the 1600's French plantation baron and slave owner Marquis de La'Badie.) 

We recently published an article by a cruise passenger on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship yesterday - Local Protesters Greet Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship as well as an article which I wrote: Haitians Protest at Royal Caribbean's "Private Destination" at Labadee.  

After the Royal Caribbean ship was turned away, Prime Minister Evans Paul issued a press statement on Twitter, praising the cruise line and promising that regular tourist activities would continue in Labadee:

“The Haitian government strongly condemns with the utmost vigor the incident that occurred, this Tuesday, January 19, 2016, at the tourist port of Labadee with the inopportune arrival of a group of protesters to the dock of this port. This situation caused a regrettable tension for cruise passengers arriving at the site.

Therefore, the Government believes that some different can be resolved through dialogue and calls for calm everyone. The government has taken steps to remedy this situation caused by social order demands. Government officials will have to meet as soon as possible, residents of Labadee area and thus start a dialogue process.

On the other hand, we want to reassure and give our largest tourism partner of the cruise ship company Royal Caribbean all the guarantee that the arrangements will be made by the government to secure the area and allow the tourism activity to continue on the site of Labadee as usual.

The Government of the Republic of Haiti reaffirms the implementation of its overall policy to ensure that Haiti can become one of the main tourist destinations in the Caribbean that can accommodate visitors from around the world."

Royal Caribbean also said: "We will continue to closely monitor the situation and are in close communication with local and government officials in Haiti. At this time, we have not made any decisions regarding any additional upcoming port calls to Labadee. The next schedule call is Vision of the Seas, on Sunday, January 24."

The photo above, credit Freedom of the Seas cruise passenger Tom Fox, was taken on January 19th. 

January 22, 2016 Update:  A Haitian on-line site claims that "representatives of the Haitian Government met Thursday the residents of the community of Labadee to start the dialogue process. Meanwhile, the Minister Villedrouin will meet today Royal Caribbean with a view to guarantee a early resumption of tourism activities in Labadee."

Embarquement pour Labadee, "prison pour touristes"  Boarding for Labadee, "prison for tourists" - (use Google Chrome to automatically translate). "Six years after the earthquake that struck Haiti January 12, 2010, Caterina Clerici and Kim Wall, two independent journalists, respectively photographer and writer, visited the country the time to four geographic and thematic chapters, to understand how tourism can definitely transform the country - for better or for worse."

Local Protesters Greet Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship

By Tom Fox, currently aboard the Freedom of the Seas

Dozens of chanting protesters, banging pots and cymbals, and packed onto a half dozen small vessels, greeted Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas cruise ship as it docked this morning in Labadee, Haiti.

Labadee is a 260-acre peninsula – dubbed a “vacationer’s paradise” by the cruise line -- along Haiti's lush, mountainous and secluded north coast. A small beachfront resort with palm covered cabanas, the area is separated from the rest of the island, cut off by a 12-foot high fence and guarded by security forces.

Royal Caribbean, according to various cruise websites, has leased the land until 2050.

At first it appeared the vessels were approaching the docked ship as part of a rehearsed welcoming ceremony. However, when two coast guard ships arrived and began circling the vessels and encouraging them to leave the waters, it became clear this was a protest – though the specifics of the protesters complaints were not completely spelled out.

One sign, held by one of the protesters, read “USA Away!”

The Freedom of the Seas cruise ship states it carries 3600 passengers. Many were waiting near the gangplanks waiting to disembark shortly after breakfast. With the protests going on many on the ship watched from their balconies taking pictures and waiting for further instructions

After some thirty minutes’ delay the ship, a voice over the ship’s loudspeaker system announce there would be a short delay before passengers could leave the ship. The vessels continued to play cat and mouse with the coast guard vessels, slightly larger than the protesters’ boats, but all dwarfed by the docked cruise ship.

After more than two hours a voice once again came across the loudspeaker system explaining to passengers that local Haitian elections will take place in another week and that the protests they were watching were a local matter.

It seemed a number of passengers and crew members weren’t buying this explanation. 

Finally, the voice stated that the cruise ship would not be disembarking today “for the safety of our passengers, which we hold to be of the utmost importance.”

One veteran crewmember told me said she had been sailing into Labadee for 13 years and this was the first time she had seen such a protest.

Nestled on the northern coast of Haiti, Labadee, according to Royal Caribbean’s website, “is the ultimate private destination for cruise vacationers – and we're the only cruise line that sails there.”

According to several cruise websites, passengers are not allowed to leave Labadee to venture out to see the rest of the island. Haiti is the poorest of the nations in the Western hemisphere and suffered a devastating earthquake in 2010, although it apparently did not affect the northern part of the island where Labadee is located.

Cruise travel websites state that only a small group of Haitian merchants are given rights to sell their merchandise and establish their businesses at the Labadee resort. Most workers are employed by Royal Caribbean and come from outside nations.

Royal Caribbean proudly advertises its private Haitian resort. One advertisement reads: “Looking to unleash adrenaline? Strap on a helmet and harness, and soar down 500 feet on the Dragon's Breath Flight Line, the world's longest zip line over water. Curious to explore Haiti's unique culture and incredible landscapes? Explore Haitian life, its coastline, flora and fauna on one of our exciting shore excursions and tours. Ready to kick back, relax and sip a Labadoozie? Get the VIP treatment while unwinding beachside in our private cabanas. Take it all in on one of our eastern or western Caribbean cruises to Labadee.”

Visitors don’t spend the night at Labadee. For years blogs and message boards have been critical of the idea of tourists frolicking in the sun at Labadee when so much hunger and poverty rest only miles away.

"Royal Caribbean is performing a sickening act to me by taking tourists to Haiti," wrote one poster on CNN's Connect the World blog. "Having a beach party while people are dead, dying and suffering minutes away hardly makes me want to cruise that particular line," wrote another.

Freedom of the Seas
was back at sea by mid-morning with Captain Ron Holmes on one of the ship’s channels reassuring passengers that the protests were solely a local matter and that there would be plenty of activities on board the ship, all intended to make up for the lost fun they had suffered from being kept at sea by the protesters.

Video Credit: Tom Fox

 

Haitians Protest at Royal Caribbean's "Private Destination" at Labadee

Many news sources are reporting that thousands of Haitian protesters have rioted in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and other locations in Haiti against President Michel Martelly and the upcoming election to determine his successor, which some say is rigged in favor of his ruling party, according to Time magazine. The turmoil comes before the scheduled runoff election this coming Sunday between Jovenel Moïse, who is backed by the current government, and opposition candidate Jude Célestin. 

Protests are also taking place today in the port at Labadee, an idyllic 260 acre "private destination" operated by the Royal Caribbean cruise line on the northern coast of the country. Small boatloads of protesters have blocked cruise passengers from disembarking the Freedom of the Seas which arrived Labadee, Haiti - Royal Caribbean by Tom Foxin Labadee this morning.

The controversy has been witnessed first hand by Tom Fox, a passenger aboard the Freedom of the Seas. Ironically, Mr. Fox just retired after 35 year as the publisher of the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) two weeks ago.

You can read Mr. Fox's account here

Mr. Fox says that the cruise ship was met by a number of small vessels packed with protesters clanging pans and shouting, One or two Haitian coast guard vessels kept watch, guiding through and among the other vessels. Mr. Fox reports that the demonstration has been non violent so far. The captain of the Royal Caribbean cruise ship announced that the protests were "due to the upcoming Haitian election."

It is curious, however, that one of the signs on one of the vessels read "USA Away," according to Mr Fox. 

In 1986, Royal Caribbean shook hands with the tyrant Baby Doc Duvalier to seal a deal where it obtained exclusive control of 260 acres of sovereign waterfront land from Haiti. Royal Caribbean trademarked it's new "private island" - "Labadee®" - derived from the name of the 1600's French plantation baron and slave owner Marquis de La'Badie. It then erected a 12 foot high security fence around its "island" and hired armed security guards to keep the impoverished Haitians out.

Royal Caribbean ran into a public relations nightmare in 2010 following the earthquake which devastated Port of Prince, when it sailed its mega cruise ships into its private resort.

Mr. Fox points out that a Freedom of the Seas crew member says that the protest at Labadee has been unprecedented in her 13 years of visiting the port, although Mr. Fox tweeted that some crew members doubt that the protests are, in fact, due to the Haitian elections.

There is a video on Facebook (shown below) with people leaving comments that the protests are about a work-strike and the use of the $10 passenger head tax collected by the cruise line.  

All photo credit to Tom Fox.

Video Credit Jc Roy.

 

 

Crime Watch Daily's When Cruise Ship Passengers Disappear Without a Trace

Crime Watch Daily is a new program which focuses on stories of crime in the daily life of average Americans.  Last month, it published it's first show regarding crime on cruise ships - Cruise Ship Crime: Hard to Prosecute, Convict about the difficulties prosecuting crimes on the high seas.

The program has now published its second show about cruise ship dangers - When Cruise Ship Passengers Disappear Without A Trace.  

When 40 year old Boston resident Merrian Carver "disappeared" from the cruise ship Mercury operated by Royal Caribbean’s subsidiary brand Celebrity Cruises, the cruise line tried its best to cover the incident up. It didn’t report Merrian missing to either the FBI or the Alaskan State Troopers, Merrian Carvereven though the cabin attendant reported her missing early in the cruise. Merrian’s father, insurance executive Ken Carver, began a serious investigation. Royal Caribbean responded by lying to Mr. Carver and disposing of evidence. Mr. Carver didn’t go away and the story went public. The The Arizona Republic published an excellently researched and written story. In response, the cruise line reached into its bag of tricks and pulled out a good excuse: " . . . there is very little a cruise line, a resort or a hotel can do to prevent someone from committing suicide."

Aside of the speculation fueled by the cruise line's lawyers and PR team, there was no competent evidence whatsoever for Royal Caribbean's self serving announcement to the media. If it was a suicide, why did Royal Caribbean work so hard to cover the incident up and lie to Mr. Carver? Indeed, there is now an issue whether a crew member was involved in Merrian's death.

Other cruise lines would duplicate the shameful way that Royal Caribbean handled the case. In 2009, I wrote "Suicide" - One of the Cruise Lines' Favorite Excuses When a Passenger Disappears at Sea.

Since then, we have seen repeated mysteries where young, healthy and seemingly happy crew members and passengers disappear from cruise ships, with the cruise line wildly speculating that they probably committed suicide, like Denisa Markoska, or Angelo Faliva, or Fariba Amani, or Annette Mizener, or George Smith, where there is absolutely no evidence supporting such a conclusion.

Royal Caribbean refused to speak to Crime Watch Daily. The cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Organization, claims that automatic man overboard systems - which can easily detect a person going overboard and immediately report the incident to the bridge - are somehow just an "emerging technology."  

 

Sexual Assault Alleged on Mariner of the Seas

Mariner of the SeasCourt House News reports that a former Royal Caribbean crew member working on the Mariner of the Seas has alleged in a lawsuit filed in Miami that another crew member sexually assaulted her in November 2013. 

"Jane Doe" alleges that when she returned to her cabin, the crew member was having sex with her roommate in her cabin and she left the cabin. When she returned, she alleges that her roommate and the male crew member were sleeping. She claims that she then got into her bed and fell asleep. She alleges that later, she awoke when the male crew member began to sexually assault her.

After the alleged sexual assault, Jane Doe claims that "she notified the ship's chief of security, and then went to the ship's medical center to have a rape kit performed."

The complaint also alleges that Jane Doe did not receive appropriate medical treatment.   She has since left the cruise line's employment.

The crew member is represented by Michael Winkleman of the Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman law firm in Miami.  

Photo Credit:  Spaceaero2 Creative Commons 4.0 via Wikipedia

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.” 

 

Cruise Executive Goldstein Sells Royal Caribbean Stock for $8.9 Million

Richard Fain Adam Goldstein Royal Caribbean Cruises President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Adam Goldstein sold 90,000 shares of the cruise line's stock today.

Mr. Goldstein sold the shares at $98.88 per share for a total value of $8,898,804.

Mr.Goldstein last sold RCL stock in July when he sold 4,184 shares at at $91.08 per share for a total value of $381,094.19.

At that time, he joined other cruise line executives dumping RCL stock. Royal Caribbean chairman Richard Fain sold 151,032 shares of his cruise line's stock for $13,650,151 at an average price of $90.40 a share. Royal Caribbean's General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer Bradley Stein sold 2,402 shares of the company stock for for a total value of $218,748.70. These insider traders sold $14,249,993 of company stock last summer.

October 27, 2015 update: Royal Caribbean Chairman & CEO Richard Fain sold 80,516 shares yesterday. The Insider Trading Report said that the insider selling transaction was disclosed on October 26, 2015 to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The shares were sold at $98.80 per share for a total value of $7,955,335.00. Together, cruise executives Fain and Goldstein sold $16, 854,139 worth of Royal Caribbean stock yesterday and over $30,000,000. since July. 

According to the DFN, "following the completion of the transaction, the chief operating officer (Mr. Goldstein) now directly owns 253,153 shares in the company, valued at $25,031,768.64."

October 29, 2015 updateRoyal Caribbean's Vice President Harri U. Kulovaara reportedly sold 8,228 shares of RCL stock on October 27th at an average price of $100.32, for a total of $825,432.96.

Splendour of the Seas Catches on Fire

Royal Caribbean's Splendour of the Seas caught on fire this morning as the cruise ship was sailing in the Mediterranean near the Greek islands. 

“There’s thick acrid smoke all over the cabins," reported an Irish passenger according to UTV in London.

“We can constantly smell smoke. Smoke here. Smoke everywhere. Everywhere on the ship we can smell smoke," added the passenger.  

A crew member contacted me after the engine room fire, saying that it was a "big fire" and the crew were summoned to their emergency stations for many hours. The ship is now heading toward Venice.

There were no deaths and the cruise line claims that there were no injuries. However, a passenger commented that "many elderly and disabled passengers appeared to be struggling." 

Spllendor of the SeasHe added “everything is smoke. damaged. The smell of burning plastic and burning rubber was very thick on our floor so everything in our room is contaminated.”

Royal Caribbean tweeted: "#SplendourOfTheSeas experienced a fire this morning in 1 of its engine rooms. Fire was contained & extinguished, all systems are functioning."

Royal Caribbean experienced a large fire in July when the Freedom of the Seas erupted in flames as it approached Falmouth, Jamaica.  In May 2013, the Grandeur of the Seas sustained a large fire which the crew battled for over 2 hours as the ship headed to Jamaica.

Photo Credit: Ivan T. Creative Commons 3.0 Wikipedia 

Update: The CruiseNeeds website reports that consumer expert Clark Howard, who is a passenger on the cruise ship, reported “We had a severe engine fire that lasted just under two hours . . . We were adrift at sea for a good while, and now we’re moving on less than half power.”

Royal Caribbean subsequently disclosed that "1 guest, 19 crew treated for smoke inhalation and released. 1 crew still being treated."

One passenger commented "currently running on one engine, very rocky. It's hard to walk around, very many people are sick."

Alaska Alleges Cruise Lines Violated Air Emission Laws

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation contends that cruise lines have violated Alaska air pollution regulations for the past five years. 

Tradewinds, a shipping trade organization, and the Juneau Empire report that Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) and Royal Caribbean Cruises disclosed in recent SEC earnings reports that they violated Alaskan Marine Vessel Visible Emission Standards.

KRBD reports that the alleged violation of the Alaskan air pollution law is widespread in the cruise industry. The community radio program interviewed a specialist at the Alaskan environmental program who identified other cruise lines who are accused of violating Alaskan law. In addition to NCL and Vision of the Seas Alaska PollutionRoyal Caribbean, Carnival, Holland America, Princess, Celebrity and Silverseas violated the emission standards according to the environmental specialist. 

Alaska issued 18 notices of violation involving 48 instances of excessive air emissions since 2010, according to KRBD. Each violation of law carries a fine of approximately $37,500. 

The cruise line are contesting the violations and are in negotiation with Alaska. 

The cruise industry, which largely burns cheap filthy bunker fuel, is installing scrubbers to reduce air emissions.

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

 

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas cruise ship - AlaskanLibrarian's Flickr photostream

Royal Caribbean's "Boomerango:" When will the First Lawsuit be Filed?

Boomerango Royal Caribbean CruiseThe Royal Caribbean Blog announced yesterday that the renovation of the Liberty of the Seas this January will include the reconfiguration of the sports deck and the installation of water slides including a water slide called a "Boomerango."

The blog says that the "Boomerango will let guests ride in rafts, where they will "plummet down a steep drop, then shoot up a nearly vertical wall, high into the air, for a moment of weightlessness.'"

Sounds like fun you may say?  Perhaps, but expect serious personal injuries to occur. 

The Royal Caribbean blog indicates that the "Boomerango" appears to be a water slide built by the WhiteWater company.  Familiar with that name? It's the same company which acquired the FlowRider from WaveLoch which is in use on nine Royal Caribbean cruise ships. The FlowRider simulated surfing device is the most dangerous activity at sea, in my assessment, with hundreds of accidents occurring occrring thoughout the fleet each year. 

Royal Caribbean has a reputation for being the first cruise line to offer many new yet dangerous recreational attractions at sea over the years, including the notorious FlowRider and the iFly simulated sky diving device. 

If the cruise line handles the "Boomerango" like the other attractions on its ships, there will not be proper warnings or signage accurately disclosing the risk of serious personal injury to the guests and the operational instructions to the passengers will be poor. The company will likely force the guests to sign sports activity waivers, which the courts have already held to be illegal

Expect the "Boomerango" lawsuits to start early next year.

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

Photo Credits:  Royal Caribbean via the Royal Caribbean blog.

Sell Out? Royal Caribbean Executives Sell Stock For Over $14,000,000 After Freedom of the Seas' Fire

Royal Caribbean Cruise StockYesterday, Royal Caribbean chairman Richard Fain sold 151,032 shares of his cruise line's stock for $13,650,151 at an average price of $90.40 a share. President and Chief Operating Officer Adam Goldstein sold 4,184 shares at at $91.08 per share for a total value of $381,094.19. Royal Caribbean's General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer Bradley Stein sold 2,402 shares of the company stock for for a total value of $218,748.70.  In sum, these insider traders sold $14,249,993 of company stock.

A little over 10 days earlier Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas burst into flames as the cruise ship approached Falmouth, Jamaica. The ship burned for one and one-half hours and destroyed all of the insulation around the exhaust stack from the bottom deck to the fifteen deck. Many passengers, crew members and maritime experts believe that the fire may have started due to the installation of a scrubber system on the cruise ship and the welding process to accomplish the work. Royal Caribbean is not saying, of course. 

The cruise lines has also been criticized for downplaying the fire, saying that it was just a "small fire" which was contained in the lower mechanical spaces and it was quickly extinguished, all patently false statements as we have demonstrated in video and photographs. To make matter worse, the cruise ship sailed onto the next port without a post-fire inspection by the flag state (Bahamas) or the classification society. This ship never should have sailed on without a rigorous inspection after the fire. The photographs clearly show that the ship sustained major damage. The photographs and first hand observations by the crew confirm that the fire destroyed the insulation around the exhaust stack and this presented a grave potential danger to the ship's passengers and crew. 

My opinion is that the Royal Caribbean cruise executives effectively misled the public about the fire in order to maintain the stock's improved performance. The company shares have rallied 46.38% in the past year. On July 31, 2015, the shares had rallied to one year high of $90.88 compared to a one year low on October 15, 2014 of $52.32.

If the executives had shut the ship down in Jamaica for the mandatory SOLAS inspection, this would have resulted in tens of millions of dollars spent by the company on lodging, airfare of all passengers back to Miami and cruise refunds to over 4,000 people which would have had a material negative effect on the company's stock.  Did the executives put their financial interests ahead of passenger and Royal Caribbbean Freedom of the Seas Firecrew safety? Absolutely they did, in my opinion. 

What do these executives really think about the stock value now that the fire is out and the cruise line has dodged, so far, a publicity fall-out?  One analyst said that "Mr. Richard’s trade could mean only one (thing): that he’s a pessimist when it comes to the Company’s prospects and its stock price."

Fain & company bamboozled the public with the "small fire" hoax. I suspect that the executives thought that it was time to cash out and put some more millions in their accounts before the truth comes out. 

Have a thought? Leave a message below or join the discussion on our Facebook page

Interested in this issue? Read Cruise Executive Richard Fain Hits the Jackpot Again.

Photo Credit: Bottom - Facebook

Cruise Industry Image Up But Problems Remain

Cruise Industry Financial InformationA reporter for the Marketplace interviewed me yesterday regarding the state of the cruise industry.

I explained that compared to a year or two ago, the general perception of cruise lines is up. More than 23,000,000 passengers will cruise this year. Bigger and bigger cruise ships are being constructed. Travel agents seem more energized than before and appear to have lost their funk brought about by the Costa Concordia and Triumph "poop cruise" disasters.

Industry leader Carnival Corporation, with over 100 cruise ships in its multi-brand fleet, is reaping the rewards of hiring Arnold Donald with his dynamic and charismatic style of leadership.    

Cruise fares are up, prices for excursions and alcohol are up while the cruise CEO's are driving costs down.  

On the other side of the coin, critics say that the same-old-problems remain in the industry. Last week the Freedom of the Sea erupted in flames and literally burned from bottom of the ship to deck 15. Royal Caribbean tried to down-play the fire, but YouTube videos and photos posted on Facebook and Twitter showed that the fire was indeed dangerous and that the cruise lines still suffer from a lack of transparency that has tarnished the industry for years. Our friend and former Royal Caribbean cook Kevin Chamber's video of the ship on fire has been viewed well over a million times.  

Crew members and passengers tell me that contractors aboard the Freedom of the Seas were installing a scrubber system when the fire erupted. The captain of the ship says that the cruise line will disclose why the fire broke out, which the suits at Royal Caribbean's headquarters in Miami will never do. Its been over two years since the Grandeur of the Seas ignited near the Bahamas and the cruise line still refuses to tell the public what happened. The Freedom of the Seas fire will become just another mystery where the cruise line will keep its customers in the dark.

Just a couple of days ago, the Safari Voyager also erupted in flames in Seattle, due to welding operations. Welding at sea rather than in dry-dock is one of the risks of cruising and only one of many dangers that the cruise industry won't tell you.

Today, the Professional Mariner published an article titled "U.S. Coast Guard cites loose bolts, escape-route issues in fatal fire" about a Coast Guard marine safety alert regarding the deadly fire aboard the Oceania Insignia where three crew members perished when the cruise ship ignited in port at St. Lucia last December.       

This week two crew members were seriously injured when a rescue boat was being lowered from the NCL Pride of America in Hawaii when the cables broke. 

In just the last couple of months, passengers and crew members disappeared from Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Costa, MSC, NCL and HAL cruise ships. Yet, the industry as a whole still refuses to invest in automatic man overboard technology.

Sexual assaults at sea still occur with alarming frequency. In the last month, the news mentioned a passenger and a crew member assaulting women on Celebrity cruise ships in separate incidents. A sexual predator employed by Disney Cruises was recently sentenced to  over 5 years after pleading guilty to molesting a 13 year old passenger on the Disney Dream.   

Four months ago, twenty-two cruise passengers from Costa and MSC cruise ship were murdered by terrorists in Tunis, after these cruise lines sailed them into danger without a single warning.  The specter of ISIS terror remains a dark cloud over cruise ships which risk proceeding along itineraries across North Africa.  

Cruise Ship Fire - Royal CaribbeanBut the 40 billion-dollar-a-year cruise industry is rich and powerful. As a result of incorporating its businesses in place like Liberia or Panama and registering its ships in third world countries like the Bahamas, cruise lines avoid U.S. taxes and can pay their crew members peanuts. The industry has a huge advantage over U.S. resorts and hotels. It's cheaper to sail on a Carnival cruise out of Galveston than it is to stay in a Motel 6. 

That's why Royal Caribbean's stock price was largely unaffected after the Freedom of the Seas burned last week. CNBC's Simon Hobbs reported that as long as propulsion is not lost and passengers are not stranded at sea, a cruise ship fire is "not material for investors."  Mr. Hobbs is right about that, it seems. That's probably why the cruise executives decided not to comply with the International Maritime Organization's recommended Safety of Life at Sea regulations, which require a post-fire investigation and survey, but instead chose to keep the cruise ship sailing on to the Caymans and Mexico. 

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Freedom of the Seas Fire: Is Royal Caribbean Installing a Scrubber System With Passengers Aboard?

Freedom of the Seas Fire Falmouth JamaicaA number of Royal Caribbean crew members have contacted me complaining that they don't feel safe because of ongoing construction on the Freedom of the Seas to install an advanced emission purification system (AEP), also known as a "scrubber system." 

Contractors from Harris Pye Engineering have been aboard the cruise ship retrofitting the ship with the AEP system. Royal Caribbean routinely uses cheap fuel with high-sulphur levels. Instead of using expensive low-sulphur fuel, the cruise line made a decision to install the AEP scrubber equipment in and around the engine and exhaust systems in order to try and comply with new air emission standards of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). 

This type of work is routinely done when a cruise ship is not in service, but in dry dock when passengers are not aboard for safety reasons. There is a risk of fire and attendant danger of potential injury during the AEP installation. 

One of the crew members sent me a copy of a letter that Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley sent to the employees on the ship shortly after the fire. The crew member, who wishes to stay anonymous to avoid being terminated, feels that the letter is misleading.

The cruise CEO says that the fire was allegedly contained within the ship's mechanical spaces.The crew members who I have communicated with say that is absolutely not true. The fire started down near the engine and exhaust system and spread from the mechanical spaces up to the top deck. The fire was clearly not contained. Photos confirm this and show flames actually burning through the top and erupting so that onlookers could see the exhaust superstructure on fire from ashore. 

The crew members question their safety and the safety of their guests while this work is ongoing. Receiving a letter from a Miami cruise executive, which is inconsistent with the truth as they observed it on the ship, just increases their concerns.   

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

See: Photographs of the fire damages here.

Watch: Video of the fire here.

Read: The Royal Caribbean "Small Fire" Hoax.

Photo Credit:  Raymond Bower via Facebook

Freedom of the Seas Fire Falmouth Jamaica

The Royal Caribbean "Small Fire" Hoax

Freedom of the Seas Fire Falmouth JamaicaA hoax is defined as a "deliberately fabricated falsehood made to masquerade as truth."

Royal Caribbean engaged in a hoax when it characterized the big, dangerous fire on the Freedom of the Seas which engulfed the little port of Falmouth with billowing black smoke as just a "small fire."

Cruise lines used to be able to get away with these shenanigans, before social media took over the internet and exposed the truth. Now everyone has an iPhone and can record what happens in real time for all to see.

The video of the fire which I posted on my YouTube page (taken by former Royal Caribbean crew member and Jamaican Kevin Chambers) has been viewed over 1,000,000 times on Facebook. It speaks for itself. 

Some of the world's foremost maritime experts have chimed in on Royal Caribbean's misrepresentations.  

Captain Michael Lloyd said: "There is no such thing as a 'small fire' except in the minds of the PR reps in the cruise line offices. At sea especially, every fire is serious regardless of the whereabouts and size. Any Merchant Navy officer or fire officer for that matter knows that. I suppose in cruise line jargon someone has to be killed for it to be serious."

Captain Bill Doherty of Nexus Consulting commented: "That's one major fire! Why wasn't there a proper Flag state and Class post casualty survey done prior to sailing?"

former officer at a senior level within the cruise industry remarked: "This practice is all to common. The crew may be drilled on a regular basis, when it boils down to it, safety will play second fiddle to profit and keeping the passengers onboard. Why the classification society would allow the vessel to sail without inspection I don't know - there is a genuine risk of deficiencies that may invalidate the vessels P&I coverage. How the senior officers onboard sleep when signing their names to the paperwork I don't know."

A Chief Marine Engineer said: "Judging from this image, that kind and size of smoke suggests a big and serious fire in the Engine Room. The vessel should have not been permitted to sail without a thorough investigation of the cause and the integrity of her sailing out once again have been established."

A reader of this blog sent us several photos of the internal damage to the Freedom of the Seas today. Take a look here

A "small fire?" Ha!

July 28 2015 Update:  The video below taken by Kevin Chambers has been viewed over 1,000,000 times on our facebook page.

The word is out that this was no small or quickly extinquished fire.  Falmouth cruise ship blaze was no ‘small fire’ – US Maritime Lawyer.

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Freedom of the Seas Fire Falmouth Jamaica 

Photo Credit:  Facebook 

Cruise Ship Fire Video Viewed Over 1,000,000 Times

Freedom of the Sea Fire Falmouth JamaicaThere is an ongoing social media battle between the cruise industry and the proponents of improving the industry. This blog is part of that struggle.  Our motto is "every thing the cruise lines don"t want you to know." 

Every time there is a cruise ship fire, the cruise lines rush to send out the message that the fire was "small," "quickly extinguished," and no passengers were injured. In the world of social media, It is irrelevant to the cruise lines that the fire may have been large and prolonged and that crew members were burned or killed, as was the case in the fire aboard the Oceania Insignia.

Our former client Kevin Chambers used to work for Royal Caribbean and lives in the Montego Bay area. He rushed to Falmouth when the fire on the Freedom of the Seas broke out (the smoke could be seem for miles) and videotaped the spectacle. I posted it on our Facebook page and, later, on our YouTube page. 

In less than two days, it has been viewed over 1,000,000 times on our Facebook page alone.

You can see it here: Fire on the Freedom of the Seas in Falmouth, Jamaica.

As expected, the cruise line is spinning the story. It's just another "small" fire that was "quickly extinguished," says Royal Caribbean. Hogwash. 1,000,000 people know better. They've seen the video. 

Freedom of the Seas on Fire Near Falmouth, Jamaica

Freedom of the Seas Cruise Fire JamaicaI have received several calls this morning from friends in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios that the Freedom of the Seas is on fire as it docked at the port of Falmouth, Jamaica.

I also have friends / former Royal Caribbean crew members in Falmouth who are going to obtain photographs of the blaze on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship. 

The photo to the left was taken by a former client, Kevin Chambers, who lives in the Montego Bay area. You can see Kevin's video of the cruise ship coming into port here and at the bottom of this page.

We have been studying the issue of cruise ship fires for many years.

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

Read: Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires - Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?

Update: The passengers were ordered to their muster stations. The cruise line says that the fire erupted in a "mechanical area." The initial reports are that there are no injuries to pasengers, which is good news.  The question remains whether crew members were injured. Last December, a fire erupted on the Oceania Insignia when the cruise ship was in St.Lucia. Initial reports from the cruise line were that the passengers were not effected, but it turned out that three crew members were killed

The latest news is that one crew member was treated for burns, according to Royal Caribbean.

Incredibly, although not surprisingly, Royal Caribbean decided to continue on with the cruise, says the Miami Herald. The U.S. Coast guard is not going to inspect the cruise ship until it returns to the U.S.

 

You can see dramatic photographs of the fire here.

Freedon of Seas Cruise Ship Fire

Freedom of Seas Cruise Fire

Photo Credit: Top Kevin Chambers; middle @JuanDwptv ; bottom @MssJayne.  Video below taken by my friend and former client Kevin Chambers:

 

Smith Family Calls for Justice for George

WNEM reports that Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut joined the family of George Smith to plead for a federal law to protect cruise passengers.

Senator Blumenthal and Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts have introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2015. WNEM says that the new law will:

  • Require vessels to integrate technology that can be used for capturing images of passengers and detecting passengers who have fallen overboard, to the extent that such technology is available.
  • Improve medical standards aboard cruise ships.
  • Require vessels to be staffed with an appropriate number of sea marshals, who have been certified by, and are operating under the jurisdiction of, the United States Coast Guard.
  • Establish the Department of Transportation (DOT) as the lead federal agency for consumer protection for cruise ship passengers, similar to the role the Department has in aviation consumer protection.
  • Give consumers a clear upfront summary of the restrictive terms and conditions in cruise contracts. The Secretary of Transportation would develop standards for the cruise lines to provide prospective passengers with a short summary of the key terms in the contract. Consumers would be able to read a plain language summary of the key rights and limitations that passengers have during their cruise so they are fully aware of what rights they have, and don't have, before they book their tickets.
  • Establish a consumer complaints toll-free hotline telephone number, give the DOT the authority to investigate complaints, and create an Advisory Committee for Passenger Vessel Consumer Protection, which would be charged with evaluating current consumer protections and generating recommendations for improvements.
  • Require the reporting of crimes against minors to the list of currently reported crime statistics.
  • Address crimes on cruise ships by strengthening video surveillance requirements in public areas, and setting requirements for the amount of time cruises lines must retain videos.
  • Establish a victim advocate to be the primary point of contact in assisting victims, including helping the victim to understand their rights in international waters, get access to appropriate law enforcement and consulate services, and have access to necessary victim support services.

  

WNEM TV 5

 

A Decade of Injustice: The George Smith Case

This weekend will mark 10 years since George Smith disappeared from Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas in the early morning hours of July 5, 2005. 

Mr. Smith was on a honeymoon cruise with his newlywed bride, Jennifer Hagel, who we later represented on behalf of Mr. Smith's estate against the cruise line over his disappearance.

I have written about this terrible tragedy many times, including writing a series of articles about some of George SmithCruise Mystery the details about the case. 

I have always thought that the case involved foul play, and that George Smith was tossed over-the-rails.

The case was mentioned routinely on television and cable news back in 2005-2006. We were interviewed on a regular basis. Royal Caribbean sent a slew of people to appear in the media like the former captain (whose opinions were ludicrous) as well as PR representatives, crisis communication experts and even the CEO of the cruise line. They tended to cast aspersions against Mr. Smith, or his bride, or both, or played dumb. They never ever produced videos in the cruise line's possession. 

What Royal Caribbean didn't disclose to the media back then was that it had a video recording of some of the other passengers who were last with Mr. Smith in his cabin early on the morning in question. After Mr. Smith's disappearance, the men were recorded mocking Mr. Smith. One of them then said: "we gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute." This video was in the possession of the cruise line by the end of the cruise and, later, in the possession of the FBI which did not disclose it to any of the family members. It eventually became known to the Smith family only around 7 years after the incident.

The greatest mystery about this cruise line crime case is not what happened to George Smith; it's why the FBI shut its investigation down and why the Department of Justice didn't arrest those responsible long ago.

What do you think of the Captain's excuse that George Smith may have been smoking a cigar on the balcony and just lost his balance?

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CBS is airing an episode on 48 Hours tomorrow night about the case. A preview is below:  

 

 

Did Royal Caribbean Dupe USPH Inspectors?

A former crew member posted photographs saying that the Liberty of the Seas hid equipment, pots, pans and other items from the galley during an USPH inspection last December. You can see photographs of the galley equipment hidden throughout the ship (primarily in the crew quarter) on our Facebook page.

Two years ago Silversea Cruises crew members came to us complaining that the Silver Shadow was hiding quantities of food and galley equipment from USPH inspections. We gave them the contact information of the USPH which the flunked the ship on the next inspection for intentionally hiding a dozen Liberty of the Seastrolleys of galley items and perishable food in the crew quarters.  

I posed the following inquiry on this blog: How Many Cruise Lines Play Games with USPH Inspectors?

And I asked the following question on Facebook:: Do cruise lines hide pots & pans, galley equipment and food from USPH inspectors?

Of the first 100 crew members who answered the poll (admittedly unscientific), around 90% said yes, cruise lines hide galley items from inspectors. One crew member said: "There will be more equipment in the crew cabin during the inspection then in the galley that's for sure!!!"

Crew members still tell me that the unsanitary practice is widespread. The Silversea Cruises scandal occurred in 2013 but the cruise line just flunked an inspection this month after the USPH caught the cruise line playing hide and seek games again.

The USPH inspections are rigorous. Crew members are ordered into working additional long hours to try and be ready. A failed score is a major embarrassment for a cruise ships and a kiss of death for a F&B manager. Some cruise lines cut corners and dupe the inspectors.

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

May 27, 2015 Update:  Of the last 200 crew members who left a response on our Facebook page, over 180 say that hiding galley items and food on cruise ships from USPH inspectors is common.

Photo Credit: Facebook

 

Loyal to Royal? Expect to Pay Higher Gratuities! (And the Money's Not for the Crew)

Loyal to Royal Caribbean - Cruise Line GreedLoyal to Royal?

Expect to pay more in gratuities.

Effective June 1st for all sailings departing on or after July 1st, the new gratuities charged by Royal Caribbean to its passengers will be $12.95 per day, per guest in standard accommodations, and $15.95 per day, per guest in suites. 

There seems to be a trend across the cruise industry to nickel & dime the customers. NCL, for example, just started charging a room service fee.  

NCL's CEO Del Rio said this while reporting on last quarter:  "... we have looked across the fleet to identify areas where marginal changes that are commensurate with market conditions can be implemented to improve performance.

A few examples include a 6.7% average increase in beverage prices, the introduction of a nominal room service fee and lower costs from renegotiated shore excursion agreements. To put into perspective how these small changes can add up quickly, every dollar increase in yield translates to approximately $15 million to the bottom line." 

Royal Caribbean's increased gratuities is designed to increase profits and put more money in the executives pockets. 

What RCCL is not telling you: not all the gratuities go to the hard-working crew members.

Royal Caribbean, like Carnival and NCL, has been diverting tips from the crew into revenue ever since it began the pre-paid gratuities. Remember when you used to hand your cabin steward cash at the end of the cruise? Most cruise lines stopped that practice in order to grab a good chuck of the money intended for the crew for themselves.

Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean do a poor job taking care of their crew members. You see evidence of it everywhere. Carnival canceled the meager retirement plan for its crew a couple of years ago. NCL is Richardd Fain - Royal Caribbeancharging for room service and is charging higher prices for drinks and excursions but there's no indication that it will pass any more money along to the crew. The crew members' benefits have been cut and they are still working insane hours every day.

I have never heard of any cruise line making changes designed to benefit the crew in the last decade.

Some passengers say they are fed up and will no longer be loyal to their favorite cruise line. So the "Loyal to Royals" will switch to NCL, and the "Loyal to Norwegians" will switch to Carnival and so forth and so on. Around and around the guests will spin as the cruise lines suck up their nickels and dimes while the cruise executives pocket millions and millions without a thought of their hard-working crew. 

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

May 15, 2015 Update: USA TODAY's Cruise Log says that "with the increase, a family of four will pay more than $350 in service charges on a typical seven-night cruise -- one of the highest levies in the business.

FlowRider Accident Seriously Injures Passenger on Independence of the Seas

FlowRider The Independence of the Seas returned early to Fort Lauderdale this morning because a passenger sustained a serious injury yesterday.

Several passengers emailed me stating that the Royal Caribbean passenger sustained major head trauma after he fell on the FlowRider. It is unclear exactly when or how the accident occurred, but the Independence of the Seas returned to port in Fort Lauderdale this morning around 3:00 A.M.

Flowriders are exceedingly dangerous. There have been numerous broken ankles, wrists, elbows, shoulders and necks and even one death on Royal Caribbean cruise ships when a passenger broke his neck and was killed. We believe the FlowRiders are unreasonably unsafe, defectively designed with negligent instructors. 

Most passengers do not realize that the Royal Caribbean waiver which the cruise line forces passengers to sign is illegal and unenforceable under Maritime Law.  

Don't forget to read: FlowRider Accidents: Royal Caribbean Liability Waivers Are Unenforceable!

Danger on the High Seas - Royal Caribbean's Deadly FlowRider. Don't watch video if you are squeamish. 

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

 

Video Credit: Jim Walker

Majesty of the Seas "Bio-Friendly" Oil Leak: Whopper of the Week

Vessel Oil Leak Cruise Critic reports that the Majesty of the Seas, built in 1992, is in dry dock in Freeport because the cruise ship is leaking oil. 

The Majesty is the oldest in Royal Caribbean's fleet of cruise ships. The cruise line is sending the ship to Pullmantur next year. 

Royal Caribbean canceled the cruise for this week (a four-night Bahamas cruise). The cruise line says that it will issue refunds and future cruise certificates.  

Royal Caribbean tried to minimize the PR fallout by claiming that there was no damage to the environment. The PR person at the cruise line, Cynthia Martinez, says repairs will "resolve an issue that is causing a small amount of bio-friendly oil to leak."

I am used to the typical gobbledygook PR statements from Royal Caribbean, but this one took the cake. 

Anyone know of petroleum based products that are good for the water, fish and aquatic bids?  

 

Photo Credit: Disney Travel Babble

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Pleads Guilty to Sexual Abuse

A Royal Caribbean crew member pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a cruise passenger last year, according to a New Jersey newspaper.

NJ.com reports that Karan Seechurn of Mauritius, an employee who worked aboard the Royal Caribbean Quantum of the Seas, pleaded guilty to one count of abusive sexual contact.

In December of last year, crew member Seechurm (a mini-bar attendant) used a master key while he Karan Seechurn Royal Caribbean Cruisewas off-duty to enter a woman's cabin and molested the woman while she was sleeping. 

As we wrote last year, it's a dangerous practice to give male cabin attendants or mini-bar attendants a master key to passenger cabins. Prior sexual assaults have occurred on Royal Caribbean ships under similar circumstances. Royal Caribbean touts the Quantum as the most technological advanced cruise ship on the high seas. It's too bad that the cruise line didn't use old school technology and deactivate the master keys and cards to passenger cabins after hours.

The crew member faces up to three years for the sexual abuse charge. The sentence seems quite light. Seechurn tried to prevent the woman from leaving her cabin and threatened her when she awoke.

Many of his co-employees came to his defense on social media last year and posted comments disparaging the victim. 

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

 

Photo Credit: Karan Seechurn Google Plus Page

At Least 116 Sick on Legend of the Seas

Legend of the Seas Another Royal Caribbean cruise ship is plagued by a gastrointestinal bug.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the Legend of the Seas has 114 sick passengers aboard as well as 2 sick crew members. They are experiencing the typical GI symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea.

The cruise ship is sailing a March 30 - April 14, 2015 itinerary to San Diego, California. The Celebrity Infinity is currently in San Diego with another GI outbreak. Both cruise ship sailed from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and sailed a similar itinerary.   

So far this year four of the five GI outbreaks reported by the CDC involve Royal Caribbean-owned cruise ships in the Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruses fleet:  Grandeur of the Seas, Equinox, Infinity and Legend of the Seas. The fifth outbreak is on the Norwegian Pride

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Photo Credit:  Jim Hooker / Colorado Locks via Wikipedia

"Rats & Roaches:" Cruise Lines Neglect Sick Crew Members

Cruise lines owe their crew members the absolute legal duty of providing medical treatment when the crew become sick or injured on the company's cruise ships.

Pursuant to the "maintenance and cure" doctrine, the cruise line is required to provide "maintenance" (room and board) and "care" (medical care and treatment) to the point that the crew member reaches his or her "maximum medical improvement." 

This ancient legal doctrine of protecting seafarers can be traced back to the Medieval Sea Codes. It was introduced into United States Maritime Law by the Supreme Court in 1823. Under the doctrine, Hotel Food Greasy Salty Disgustingthe cruise lines has an affirmative obligation of taking care of their injured employees in a manner which is no different than the natural responsibility of a mother or father to a child, the courts have analogized. 

But putting pleasant-sounding legal theories aside, in reality the practice of the cruise lines today is quite different. When a crew member hires a lawyer, the cruise lines put the sick crew member in dirty, low-rent hotels where they feed them disgusting food. Unfortunately, the Miami-based cruise lines act like resentful uncaring parents who neglect their responsibilities.

Royal Caribbean: When I first began representing crew members in the 1990's, Royal Caribbean used to house their injured crew members in a hotel close to South Miami Hospital. It was a nice, safe hotel with good food where crew members could go to and from the hospital with little inconvenience. But as soon as the crew member hired a lawyer, the cruise line would retaliate against their sick employee. Royal Caribbean would immediately kick the crew member out of the hotel and send them to a dump-of-a-hotel near I-95 and 163rd Street.  The area was known as a hang-out for drug dealers and prostitutes. The hookers would use the dirty hotel rooms on an hourly basis. It was a dangerous and demoralizing location for ill crew members to try and recuperate.  

More recently, Royal Caribbean uses a hotel in Miami hear 8th Street. Here are some of the descriptions on Trip Advisor:

"This hotel is absolutely horrible! Do not stay here. Management is awful. Toilet overflows constantly and cleaning crew does not help. . . Stay away from this hotel. Don't even spend a $1 on this hotel."

"Nothing good about this place . . . the room has no air conditioner or working fan. The bathroom was disgusting and had a terrible odor coming from the sink. Next thing, it was 11 pm and there were people just screaming for ages in the hallways . . .  Don't stay here!!!

Crew members at this hotel complain regularly about roaches, no hot water, inedible greasy salty food (photo above by crew member), extra charges for bottled water, malfunctioning televisions, and unsanitary bathrooms.   

Carnival:  We receive the same type of complaints from crew members on sick leave in the hotels which Carnival selects especially for its injured crew members who are represented by lawyers. It's a disgraceful practice. One crew member undergoing back surgery sent us a video below of a rat that lives under the buffet in the crew member dining room. 

We complained to Carnival, but it could care less. 

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Kids, Cruise Ship Swimming Pools & Safety: Where are the Lifeguards?

NBC's Today show aired a special program this morning titled Why do some cruise ships lack lifeguards to watch children?  

In my opinion, the answer is simple: cruise lines are cutting corners to increase profits. Plus, cruise lines face no legal consequence if the child dies. The cruise industry doesn't face financial accountability because a child's life has no financial worth under the Death on the High Seas Act.

Lots of cruise fans like to assign 100% fault on the parents. However, that won't prevent children from drowning in unattended cruise ship pools in the future. Cruise lines have a legal obligation to exercise reasonable care to keep kids safe. Not hiring a lifeguard is reckless.  A warning sign by itself won't work. Kids don't pay attention to signs. Some kids can't even read. Small children can't comprehend the risks involved, especially if they can't swim.  

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) says that it attempts to manage pool safety for kids only by using signs. It's a flawed policy that will ensure that children drown while on cruise vacations.

       

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger from Grandeur of the Seas

The U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a passenger yesterday Wednesday from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship 95 miles east of Cape Lookout, North Carolina.

The Grandeur of the Seas contacted the Coast guard yesterday afternoon, stating that a 71-year-old female passenger was suffering from abdominal pain.

The Coast Guard sent a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Elizabeth City, North Carolina, at about 2:20 p.m. which arrived at the cruise ship around 4 p.m.

The helicopter lifted the passenger and her husband and a member of the ship's infirmary. The helicopter then flew Morehead City, North Carolina, to provide medical treatment to the passenger at a local hospital. 

 

 

Man Overboard From Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas

NBC News and local WPTV are reporting that a man has gone overboard from Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas last night. 

U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Ryan Doss says that search crews are looking for a man who "either voluntarily jumped or fell" from a cruise ship overnight near the Florida Keys. NBC News quotes Royal Caribbean saying that that the passenger had "climbed over a railing," based on an after-the-fact review of surveillance cameras.

Liberty of the SeasThe cruise ship returned to port in Port Everglades, Florida, as planned this morning.

The incident happened about 20 miles off Marathon, Florida.

A Coast Guard cutter out of Miami and a boat crew based in Marathon are searching for the passenger. 

Royal Caribbean has not installed an automatic man overboard system on the Liberty of the Seas, or any other of its cruise ships

This year, people have gone overboard from the Carnival Triumph, Carnival Glory, Star Cruises' Super Star Libra, Celebrity Constellation, Princess Sapphire Princess, and Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas.

Update“A review of the ship’s closed-circuit camera footage observed a 47-year-old male guest from the U.S. climbing over the railing and going overboard from deck 12,” according to a press statement from Royal Caribbean International.

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Photo Credit: Hassocks5489 via Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0

Jurisdictional Hurdles Delay Arrest of Rapist on Celebrity Reflection

A newspaper in Malta reports that the Malta Police have issued what is described as an "European arrest warrant" for a Scottish man wanted for attempted rape after he assaulted a girl from England aboard the Celebrity Reflection cruise ship last summer.

The newspaper says that the incident happened last summer on the Reflection when the young British student's beverage was spiked by a passenger from Scotland, who then "indecently assaulted her Celebrity Reflectionand tried to rape her." 

Royal Caribbean registered the Reflection in Malta, which is a island nation in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, in order to avoid U.S. taxes, labor and wages laws and safety regulations. Cruise lines routinely register their cruise ships in places like the Bahamas, Bermuda and Panama for tax avoidance purposes.

Because the incident took place in international waters, criminal proceedings must be instituted in Malta where the cruise ship is registered rather than in any of the ports of call or the victim's home country.

When the girl returned with her family to the U.K., the British police interviewed her and collected evidence. But the law enforcement in Malta did not take steps to arrest the Scottish passenger. The victim retained a lawyer who contacted the newspaper in Malta after he had heard nothing from the Maltese local law enforcement authorities for six months. It sounds like the police in Malta issued an arrest warrant only after the local press placed pressure on them.

Registering a cruise ship in a rocky little island in the middle of nowhere creates a no man's lands where it's virtually impossible to arrest and prosecute a sexual predator. This is a common problem that a sexual assault victim on a cruise ship experiences. The police in places like the Bahamas and Panama (or Malta, Marshall Islands, Bermuda etc.) have no resources or interest in prosecuting rapists on cruise ships around the world. 

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Photo Credit: Cruise Critic

Pedophile Passenger Who Molested Child on Liberty of the Seas, Arrested Again in Pittsburgh

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a 76 year-old man from Pennsylvania who went on a Royal Caribbean cruise in 2009 in a quest to molest boys has been arrested in Pittsburgh for "unlawful contact with a minor" and "corruption of minors," as well as providing false identification to law enforcement authorities.

As we reported in June 2010, 71 year-old Sherwood Stevenson went into the Liberty of the Seas water zone on the Liberty of the Seas and fondled a 6-year-old boy in December 2009. He attempted to fondle a second child in an adjoining Jacuzzi. Sexual Predator Abuses 6 Year Old Aboard Royal Sherwood StevensonCaribbean's Liberty of the Seas.

In November 2011, a judge sentenced Stevenson to nearly four years and nine months in federal prison,15 years' probation. Stevenson was required to pay a $10,000 fine and register as a sex offender.

Stevenson was released from jail in December 2014.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported yesterday that Stevenson tried offering candy to a student on a school field trip to a science center. A Pittsburgh teacher noticed Stevenson walking behind his school group. When the teacher approached Stevenson, he pointed to a 12-year-old boy and told the teacher, “I’m his grandfather, Woody.” Stevenson had asked the boy if he wanted candy and, “Do you want to go to the movies with me sometime?”

Stevenson spent almost 2 years in jail before his sentence on the cruise ship molestation case, so he subsequently served only approximately 3 years of his sentence in jail. His jail sentence seems short, especially considering that he is a repeat offender. This monster needs to be locked up for life. 

Parents should be aware that child predators are potentially everywhere, from schools trips to cruises. 

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

 

Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Norovirus Forces Grandeur of the Seas' Early Return to Baltimore

Grandeur of the Seas Multiple news sources in Baltimore are reporting that over 200 passenger and crew members aboard the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas are stricken with norovirus, requiring the cruise ship to skip a port and return to its home port in Baltimore a day early.

A local CBS station says that "just over 200" guests and crew members came down with symptoms of norovirus and the cruise ship decided to return early so that they could receive medical attention.

WBAL Radio reports that there was a medical emergency for one at least one passenger and an outbreak of norovirus among nearly 200 others. 193 passengers and 9 crew members are ill with norovirus.

One passenger who contacted us says that Royal Caribbean promised $75 credit for missing the port of Labadee. The ship will be subjected to enhanced cleaning. 

The Grandeur has been in the news for norovirus in the last year.

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Photo Credit: J. Glover licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

 

Soaked Serenade of the Seas Suffers Major Power Loss to Cabins

Cruise passengers are saying that the Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas, in New Orleans, suffered a major power loss today.

A passenger says that the cruise ship was partially flooded during a heavy rain storm. The Coast Guard says a broken water pipe caused the problem. This reportedly caused a large part of the cruise ship to experience electrical problems.

Royal Caribbean sent this message to the passengers scheduled to board the ship today:

Serenade of the Seas"Hello, this is Royal Caribbean International. We would like to provide you an update regarding your sailing today onboard Serenade of the Seas out of New Orleans. The U.S. Coast Guard is currently onboard inspecting the ship. We are waiting for authorization from the Coast Guard to begin boarding. Because the cruise terminal in New Orleans is very limited in space, we ask that guest explore the local area until we can begin boarding. We will contact you again once we have received permission to begin the boarding process. We appreciate your patience and understanding, and we look forward to welcoming you onboard."

A few hours later, it sent this message:

"Hello, this is Royal Caribbean International with an update your sailing today onboard Serenade of the Seas. The U.S. Coast Guard has given us permission to begin the boarding process. Please return to the terminal so that we may check you in for your cruise. Our entire onboard team look forward to welcoming you onboard, and will do their very best to make your sailing as enjoyable as possible."

Serenade of the SeasOne passenger who was apparently on the Serenade when it returned to port in New Orleans said that power was lost to around 175 cabins.  

Apparently, according to this passenger, 400 passengers will not be able to cruise because their cabins have no power. 

Nonetheless, the Coast Guard cleared the Serenade to be boarded. The ship is staying in New Orleans until it is cleared to sail.  

Royal Caribbean has not commented on the condition of the vessel or whether some of the passengers will remain in New Orleans. 

Update: Media reports say 417 cabins affecting some some 800 passengers have been affected. 

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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. 

 

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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.

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Baldwin040

Connecticut FBI Closes Investigation into Disappearance of George Smith

The family of George Smith announced today that the Connecticut FBI notified their family that it is closing its investigation into Mr. Smith's George's death aboard the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas.

Mr. Smith disappeared during his honeymoon cruise in July 2005 under mysterious circumstances while the Royal Caribbean ship was sailing to Kusadasi, Turkey.  

The Smith family said on their Facebook page that "we were told by the Connecticut FBI that there was not enough evidence to prove that George had been murdered and that his death may have been the result of an accident!"

The FBI has a dismal record solving crimes at sea. In my opinion there was nothing accidental about Mr. Smith's disappearance.

The Smith family said that they intend to move the investigation into their son's disappearance to another jurisdiction, such as New York. They are offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

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Video Credit: CBS News / 48 Hours  

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.

 

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Photo: PTZtv

 

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British Police Arrest MSC Cruises Crew Member for Child Porn

According to the  Yorkshire Evening Post, West Yorkshire Police officers arrested a crew member on a Southampton-based cruise ship for possession of a vast amount of child pornography.

The newspaper article identifies the crew member as Howard Ellis, age 60. He reportedly worked as a musician on a cruise ship. The police arrested him when his ship came returned to the port at Southampton. 

The police seized "three lap top computers, four hard drives and a mobile phone" which reportedly contained 625 images and movies of children, some as young as seven years old, being Howard Ellissexually abused.

The article does not identify the name of the cruise line, however Mr. Ellis' website states that he has worked as a musician for MSC Cruises for the last two years. 

What's particularly disturbing is that this is not Mr. Ellis' first conviction for child pornography. The newspaper article indicates that he has two previous convictions for downloading abusive images of children in January and March 2010 and was sentenced to 18 months in jail. 

His resume indicates that he has worked as an entertainer in the cruise industry for the better part of two decades. He worked for Carnival from 1994 to 2004; Royal Caribbean from 2005 to 2006; P&O Cruises from 2006 to 2009; and DFDS Seaways (a ferry line) from 2009 to 2010.

Although Mr. Ellis was the "subject of a community order and a sexual offences prevention order," after his 2010 convictions, MSC Cruises hired him after he served his jail sentence.  It's a pity that MSC doesn't have adequate vetting procedures to screen a pervert like this from its cruise ships.

You can read about the problem of child porn on cruise ships below:

Perverts, Child Predators and Cruise Ships

Celebrity Cruises Crew Member Arrested on Child Porn Charges

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Photo Credit: Musicians Page

Whooping Cough Outbreak on the Voyager of the Seas?

Whooping CoughThe operator of a fan Voyager of the Seas Facebook page (not operated by the cruise line) posted the following:

"If you where on the Voyager of the Seas relocation cruise from Singapore to Sydney cruise and you have a really bad cough, then I suggest you got and see a Doctor as you may have Whooping cough . . . "

A large number of passengers have posted comments in response to this post. Many passengers on the cruise say that they are ill.  Many people say that they are having their blood drawn and are seeing doctors to have their throats swabbed. Others say that it has been confirmed that they have been diagnosed with whooping cough.

Passengers complain that they have hear nothing from Royal Caribbean. One person who heard back from the cruise line remarked: "I've heard from RC and they told me they are not compelled to notify all passengers . . . "

Whooping cough, also known as "pertussisis," is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the bacterium bordetella pertussis.

Pertussis is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe. Pertussis most commonly affects infants and young children. It can be fatal, especially in babies less than 1 year of age.

The best way to protect against pertussis is immunization.

Voyager of the Seas

Photo Credit: Antimicrobe.org / Wikipedia (Corgi5623)

Did the Freedom of the Seas Fail a USPH Sanitation Inspection?

On November 27, 2014, I received a communication directly from a Royal Caribbean crew member indicating that the United States Public Health (USPH) conducted a surprise health inspection of the Freedom of the Seas on November 23rd. The crew member said that the USPH flunked the cruise ship for being unsanitary.  

The crew member, who is still working on the ship and wishes to remain anonymous, said that the USPH gave Royal Caribbean a failing score of "84" (85 or below is a failing grade).

A failed USPH score is a big thing. Only two major U.S. based cruise ships (the Ocean PrincessFruit Flies and Silver Discoverer) failed such an inspection this year. It's embarrassing to the cruise line. It has sometimes ended a F&B (food & beverage) manager's career.  

Since communicating with the crew member, I have checked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USPH) database daily for the official report.

Today, the CDC report was finally released. To my surprise, the official score was an "86," one point above failing.  So what happened between November 23rd and today?

The crew member's account of the inspection seems credible to me. The crew member indicated that there was a great deal of controversy over the failed inspection when the government inspectors left the ship. The crew member mentioned particular aspects of the failed inspection. I tend to believe the account.

Did the inspectors reconsider and change the score after leaving the ship? If so, why? Was this a good faith reconsideration and recalculation based on objective criteria? Or were there behind-the-scenes shenanigans and arm-twisting that resulted in the score being changed to a passing score? There can be no doubt that Royal Caribbean has a cozy relationship with the federal agencies; it routinely hires from the CDC, USPH, FBI and USCG.

So what does the official report say? Here are a few of the findings:

  • Two crew members working with symptomatic acute gastroenteritis;
  • Improper cooling logs for food, risking illness;
  • Cases of food stored on heavily soiled decks;
  • Trolley with plates stored in elevator lobby;
  • Food soil in Sorrentos galley; and
  • Live fruit flies in Windjammer buffet, Chops galley, Windjammer pot wash, Sorrentos bussing station, Cafe Promenade bar, Diamond Lounge buffet, and Crown Viking bar.

The last cruise ship I recall flunking a USPH inspection for fruit flies was the old Monarch of the Seas

If the Freedom's score was not really a "F," it sure sounds like a solid "D-."  

 

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Photo Credit: Batzner Pest Management

Royal Caribbean Executive Cashes In Again

Adam Goldstein Royal CaribbeanI've written many articles about the rich-get-richer schemes of cruise executives: paying the crew members a pittance, making the crew work for 10-to-12 hours a day 6-to-8 months without a single day off, firing hundreds of office employees when the stock drops, and so forth and so on.

Well you can add this article to the list.

The Securities & Exchange Commission revealed that Royal Caribbean's Chief Operating Officer Adam Goldstein unloaded 90,000 shares of the company’s stock yesterday. Goldstein sold a small portion of his RCL stock at an average price of $77.31 for $6,957,900.00. Following the the sale, he still owns 310,724 shares of his cruise stock, valued at approximately $24,022,072. 

I last wrote about cruise executive Goldstein's stock sales this summer - The Rich Get Richer: Cruise Executive Goldstein Unloads $2,599,935.36 of Royal Caribbean Stock.

Goldstein caused an uproar in August when the cruise line announced that it was charging kids $10 to have breakfast with Shrek

Now you can understand where all those nickels and dimes go - into the cruise executives' pockets.

 

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Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean Press Center

False Man Overboard Report: Radiance of the Seas Recovers Body of Missing Fishermann

Today a number of people contacted me believing that a passenger had gone overboard from the Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas near Auckland, New Zealand. 

The cruise ship notified the local coast guard last night and a helicopter arrived from Auckland. The cruise ship turned back to guide maritime authorities to the location where the body had been seen. The cruise ship sent a rescue boat to the scene. 

It turns out that no one went overboard and the body in the water was that of a missing fisherman.

Radiance of the Seas Here is an account by a passenger on the cruise ship:

"At approximately 7:45pm on Dec. 3, 2014, as the ship sailed from Auckland to Tauranga, New Zealand, an "Oscar" alert (port side) was announced from the Bridge. The ship was stopped and the emergency rescue operation was immediate.

I viewed the activity from Deck 11 (Windjammer) as the yellow ship rescue boat retrieved an orange life ring from the ocean on the port side of the ship. It made many passes as it looked for the person. A dark colored rescue helicopter was also present.

While it was after sundown, there was still light to conduct the operation. However, they were going to lose the light soon.

At approximately 8:35pm, from the starboard side of the ship, the yellow rescue boat appeared to have the person at the side of the boat. There were three crew on the rescue boat: one navigating and the other two holding on to the person over the side of the boat. From what I could see, the person appeared to be wearing a dark shirt or sweater and appeared to be large in size. It appeared the person could not be lifted onto the rescue boat by the two crew holding on.

A red and yellow rescue helicopter joined the dark colored helicopter on the starboard side of the ship near the rescue boat. A wet-suited diver with swim fins jumped from the red/yellow helicopter into the ocean, holding some sort of harness (it appeared to be black and bright pink in color). The diver swam to the yellow rescue boat.

An orange and white boat drove up and appeared to be some sort of Coast Guard vessel. From what I could see, the Coast Guard vessel did not get close enough to the yellow rescue boat to allow a handover of the person. There did not appear to be a hoisting of the person into the red/yellow helicopter via the harness.

At approximately 8:45pm, the yellow rescue boat left the scene and proceeded to return to the port side of the ship (from which it was launched). I was standing at the aft end of the ship and watched as the yellow boat drove by me. It appeared to contain only three people: the navigator and two crew members in white RCCL jumpsuits.

The red/yellow rescue helicopter appeared to fly over the ship once before returning to shore. The white/orange Coast Guard vessel departed the scene, but did not appear to be traveling at a great rate of speed.

The Captain made an announcement from the Bridge (this is the general jist of what he said....any direct quotes are noted with "......"): "This is the Captain speaking from the Bridge. As you can see, we have deviated from our course." This is because a guest noticed a person in the water and we started a rescue operation. "The person was recovered and is in the care of the Coast Guard. We are hopeful for a happy ending." This will not impact our arrival at our next port of call. We appreciate your patience and are grateful for the help of all guests involved."

. . . The crew sprang to action at once and crew not involved in the operation directly appeared somber as they continued their duties . . .

The Captain made an announcement at dinner tonight: The "Oscar" incident did not involve a passenger or crew member from the ship. It was a local fisherman who had been reported missing at sea earlier. He obviously did not survive the incident, but the Chief Safety Officer and the rescue crew were able to find the body and hand over to the Coast Guard. At least his family has closure and he can be laid to rest properly . . . ."
 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Fletcher6 Creative Commons 3.0

Royal Caribbean Uses Illegal Lobbyist to Conceal Cruise Fares

Over the years, Royal Caribbean has been sued by the State of Florida for antitrust violations for its confusing advertisements. The cruise line previously agreed to end its misleading advertised cruise fares, including failing to reveal hidden fuel supplements. An agreement signed by cruise executive Adam Goldstein is attached. Royal Caribbean and sister company paid a settlement of $21,000,000.

But it doesn't seem like Royal Caribbean learned its lesson.

The Tampa Bay Times has exposed shenanigans between Royal Caribbean and the former and present Pam Bondi Tom McCollum Royal CaribbeanFlorida Attorney Generals which suggest that the cruise line is still trying to conceal the true price of a Royal Caribbean cruise fare.   

Royal Caribbean hired former Attorney General Bill McCollum last year to meet with his successor, current Attorney General Pam Bondi, and Royal Caribbean's general counsel Brad Stein in an effort to conceal the true costs of its cruise fare. 

The Tampa Bay Times writes: "Royal Caribbean's advertised rates would no longer have to include fees for services like baggage handling and loading cargo. The fees, which can inflate a trip's cost by more than $100, could be listed separately from the company's advertised rates." 

The Times explains that McCollum didn't register himself or his client Royal Caribbean with the state "which is a requirement for anyone who lobbies the executive branch." 

McCollum claims that as a lawyer he's exempt from registering as a lobbyist.

McCollum's firm contributed $650,000 to Bondi's re-election campaign over a two year period.  

In my view, it seems that the Republican controlled Florida Attorney General is open for secret Royal Caribbean Cruisesbusiness for her friends and corporations lacking transparency like Royal Caribbean. 

Earlier this year the Miami Herald reported that John Fox, Royal Caribbean Cruises' vice president for government relations, met with the chairwoman of the Miami-Dade County Commission and voiced the cruise line's opposition to a proposal to build a new soccer stadium next to the cruise company's headquarters at the Port of Miami. 

Miami-Dade rules require company principals to register if they are going to discuss items pending before the county with government officials.

Royal Caribbean called the lack of registration an "oversight."

 

Photo Credit:  Rick Flagg, Florida Broadband News

Medical Malpractice on the High Seas: Cruise Passengers Have Rights!

Three years ago, i wrote an article lamenting the sad state of affairs surrounding cruise ship medical care entitled: Medical Malpractice on the High Seas: Do Cruise Passengers Have Any Rights? 

The answer, in short, was no.  I wrote that a cruise ship is about the only place on earth where a doctor can negligently kill your loved one and there is no accountability.

In "If the Ship Doctor Kills You, Too Bad," I explained that passengers were plagued not only by the limited nature of cruise ship medical care but by the cruise industry's immunity from legal responsibility. Cruise cruise lines were able to avoid all liability even when the ship doctor or nurses negligently Royal Caribbean Cruise Medical Careharmed the passenger.  Cruise lines had immunity for medical malpractice lawsuits under the antiquated "Barbetta doctrine."

Passengers were left to seek accountability by trying to sue the doctor. This was problematic for several reasons. The doctor inevitably does not live in the U.S. and it was difficult to serve a ship doctor with a lawsuit or obtain personal jurisdiction over him in a U.S. court. Also, many ship doctors do not have liability insurance and have few assets.

You can read this case to see the extraordinary steps that the ship doctors and cruise lines went to to avoid liability even in clear cut cases where the doctor acted irresponsibly. Over the years, cruise lines fought tooth and nail to maintain their immunity from medical negligence on cruise ships even though they collect tens of billions of dollars a year and pay no U.S. taxes. 

With the recent 11th Circuit decision in Franza v. Royal Caribbean, the law has now changed. Cruise lines are finally responsible when passengers receive bad medical care on cruise ships. 

The landmark decision reflects the reality of the cruise industry today. Cruise lines are extremely wealthy, pay no U.S. taxes, and operate state-of-the-art medical facilities in what are essentially floating cities. Royal Caribbean's newest ship, Quantum of the Seas, cost over $1,000,000,000 and is touted as the most sophisticated ship in the world.  Plus, it offers some of the most dangerous attractions in the cruise industry, with the iFly simulated sky-diving and FlowRider simulated surfing attractions. Why shouldn't this cruise line be responsible when cruise passengers are seriously injured and then the cruise ship doctor commits malpractice?

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Photo Credit: Jim Walker

Despite the Hype, Quantum of the Seas is Just Another Dumb Cruise Ship

Quantum North StarThe cruise industry is abuzz with excitement about Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship, the Quantum of the Seas. I wrote yesterday that during an interview with CNBC, cruise chairman Richard Fain called the giant ship "wonderful, exciting, fantastic and terrific." The CNBC reporter excitedly called the ship the "best and brightest."

The "smart ship" is how the cruise line pitched the $1,000,000,000 cruise ship. The media jumped aboard without first objectively testing the new ship. There are dozens of articles by travel publications endorsing the cruise line's marketing image of the giant ship as the "most technologically advanced ship ever to sail."

Putting the marketing-hysteria aside, just how smart is the cruise ship?

Yes, the Quantum has the North Star viewing pod, the first iFly simulated sky-diving on a ship (which will keep the personal injury lawyers busy for a decade), another FlowRider simulated-surfing-device (a real money-maker considering the cost of private lessons), a robotic bartender and the first (old school) bumper cars at sea. But these are just gadgets designed for passenger fun. Same goes for the virtual balconies for the windowless interior cabins, for which the cruise line can now charge a premium.    

The internet connection on the Quantum is reportedly faster than other cruise ships, so the kids can download movies I suppose. But it's still slower than land-based connectivity. Do you really want to Automatic Man Overboard see the kids turning into couch potatoes staring at their gaming devices during a cruise?

Unfortunately, Royal Caribbean didn't invest in technology to make the Quantum safer for the guests or the crew. In 2010, President Obama signed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, requiring the installation of automatic man-overboard devices. Other than Disney which reportedly has installed the safety devices, Royal Caribbean and the rest of the cruise industry refuse to invest the monies to utilize the technology, even though there is no question that the technology is available.

Automatic man-overboard systems are designed to immediately send a signal to the bridge and capture the image of the person going overboard so that prompt search and rescue measures can be undertaken. Royal Caribbean has experienced more than its share of passengers and crew going overboard in its fleet of ships. It needs to invest some of its tax-free bounty to install such safety systems. But instead it spent money on gee-whiz contraptions designed to WOW the public and increase profits. 

So as the Quantum passengers enjoy the iFly, FlowRider and North Star, drink gin-and-tonics served by robots, and gaze out of their simulated balconies, people will continue to disappear at sea. And the Quantum will continue to sail on without knowing, like the dumb ship that she is.  

 

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Photo Credits: Top - Royal Caribbean; bottom - CruelKev2's blog         

11th Circuit Rejects Cruise Lines' Immunity Defense to Medical Malpractice Claims

Today the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal published an opinion which recognizes the right of cruise ship passengers who become victims of medical malpractice to hold cruise lines vicariously liable for the negligence of the shipboard doctors and nurses.

The case is PATRICIA FRANZA, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Pasquale F. Vaglio versus ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES, LTD., a Liberian corporation.  You can read the opinion (63 pages) here.    

Previously, cruise lines were able to hide behind the immunity defense set forth in Barbetta v. S/S Bermuda Star, 848 F.2d 1364 (5th Cir. 1988). The so-called “Barbetta rule” immunizes a shipowner Quatum of the Seas from respondeat superior liability whenever a cruise ship employee renders negligent medical care to its passengers. Cruise lines enjoyed broad immunity "no matter how clear the shipowner’s control over its medical staff or how egregious the claimed acts of negligence."

The Franza v. Royal Caribbean decision involved an "elderly cruise ship passenger (who) fell and bashed his head while the vessel, the Explorer of the Seas, was docked at port in Bermuda. The injured traveler, Pasquale Vaglio, was wheeled back onto the ship, where he sought treatment from the onboard medical staff in the ship’s designated medical center. Over the next few hours, Vaglio allegedly received such negligent medical attention that his life could not be saved. In particular, the ship’s nurse purportedly failed to assess his cranial trauma, neglected to conduct any diagnostic scans, and released him with no treatment to speak of. The onboard doctor, for his part, failed even to meet with Vaglio for nearly four hours."

The Vaglios then encountered another delay when "the onboard medical staff would not examine Vaglio until the ship’s personnel obtained credit card information." Tragically, Mr. Vaglio died a week later.

Mr. Vaglio's daughter, Patricia, filed suit to hold Royal Caribbean vicariously liable for the shipboard medical team's negligence under two theories: actual agency (also termed respondeat superior) and apparent agency. 

After the trial court dismissed Ms. Vaglio's lawsuit under the "Barbetta rule," she appealed the dismissal of her case to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal.  

In a decision authored by Justice Stanley Marcus, the Eleventh Circuit rejected the "Barbetta rule" and recognized that maritime employers have long been vicariously liable for the negligence of their ship employees. The Barbetta rule was fashioned at a time when ships had sparse, if any medical facilities, and often no ship doctor or nurses. But now the cruise industry boasts state-of-the-art medical facilities and touts that its cruise ship doctors and infirmaries comply with the the American College of Emergency Physicians guidelines. 

Justice Marcus pointed out that in a Royal Caribbean press release authored by Royal Caribbean cruise executive Adam Goldstein, he boasted about the cruise line's "onboard laboratory equipment, x-ray units, and clot-busting thrombolytics" which were important to the public's "tranquility and peace of mind." The court stated that it was "disingenuous for large cruise lines to disclaim any medical expertise when they routinely provide access to extensive medical care in the infirmaries they have constructed for this very purpose."

Justice Marcus stated: 

“Here, the roots of the Barbetta rule snake back in to a wholly different world. Instead of nineteenth-century steamships, we now confront state of the art cruise ships that house thousands of people and operate as floating cities, complete with well-stocked modern infirmaries and urgent care centers. In place of truly independent doctors and nurses, we must now acknowledge that medical professionals routinely work for corporate masters. And whereas ships historically went ‘off the grid’ when they set sail, modern technology enables distant ships to communicate instantaneously with the mainland in meaningful ways. In short, despite its prominence, the Barbetta rule now seems to prevail more by Philip D. Parrish Lawyer Miamithe strength of inertia than by the strength of its reasoning. In our view, ‘the reasons that originally led’ other courts to adopt ‘the rule have long since disappeared.’”

The decision is an important one because cruise lines will no longer entice cruise passengers aboard their cruise ships by representing the excellence of the medical care and then assert immunity when the shipboard doctors and nurses maim the passengers. 

The case was handled by trial lawyers Andy Waks and Joel Barnett at the trial level and appellate specialist Philip D. Parrish at the appellate level (photo right).  Mr. Parrish has handled other important maritime cases on behalf of cruise ship passengers.  Mr. Parrish successfully handled several high profile decisions for our firm's clients: Chaparro v. Carnival (cruise lines have duty to warn of crimes in ports of call), Johnson v. Royal Caribbean (flowrider liability waiver is illegal), and Doe v. Princess (addressing scope of crew member arbitration agreement).    

 

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

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Wedel 04 CC BY-SA 4.0 Frank Schwichtenberg

Quantum of the Seas Diverted to Azores Due to Medical Emergency

Yesterday, I received a number of emails about Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas as it continued its transatlantic crossing to the U.S.  

There is talk onboard that the new ship needed a medevac due to a medical emergency. The ship had to be diverted and made an unscheduled stop in Azores where a pilot boat picked up a passenger lying in a stretcher with a neck restraint. He had to undergo emergency surgery. 

A passenger also dislocated his shoulder on Royal Caribbean's FlowRider.  

I'm not certain whether the medevac and the FlowRider injury are connected.

I'm wondering whether Royal Caribbean is still requiring passengers to sign the legally unenforceable waivers of liability before they step onto the FlowRider or into the cruise line's new iFly® simulated sky-diving contraption or before they participate in the bumper-car demolition derby. 

Last year I wrote a tongue-in-cheek article about all of the new ways that passengers will be injured on Royal Caribbean's much proclaimed first "smart ship," entitled Quantum of the Seas - A Cruise Lawyer's Dream?  

I suspect that the first lawsuit will be filed against the Quantum before the ship even reaches the U.S.

Video Credit: YouTube / Morgens Hallas

 

 

Are Cruise Lines Discriminating Against Crew Members from Serbia & Bosnia-Herzegovina?

Royal Caribbean CruisesNewspapers in Serbia are reporting that several cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, are allegedly refusing to hire crew members from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. You can read one article from the Telegraf newspaper here.

The newspapers are suggesting that the cruise lines took this action to blacklist young people from this part of East Europe because the prospective employees intended to fake injuries and bring lawsuits for compensation soon after joining the cruise companies.

The Sef Foruma Facebook page says that even candidates who are just waiting to join cruise ships receive rejection letters (see blow) after the crew members have already gone though pre-employment medical examinations. 

These allegations surprise us. We have represented many crew members from these countries (as well as Croatia). Many of these cases involve serious accidents and injuries resulting in surgeries as well as substandard medical care by cruise ship doctors. One of our last cases involved the refusal of the cruise line to provide medical treatment to a young Serbian woman suffering from cancer.

I suspect that if cruises line are refusing to hire employees from Serbia or Bosnia-Herzegovina, it's because the companies can hire crew members cheaper from Indonesia, India and the Philippines.

There is nothing that can be done even if the cruise lines are openly discriminating against citizens from these countries. Cruise lines are free to hire and fire (or not re-hire) ship employees with impunity. There is a saying in Miami amongst maritime lawyers that cruise lines can fire crew members for good reason, bad reason or no reason. Unfortunately, its the crew members who are trying to support their families who suffer the most.  

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

Serbia Crew Members

 Photo Credit: Wikepedia / Baldwin040 Creative Commons 3.0; Image Credit: Sef Foruma.

Update: I received this comment from a reader from Serbia saying that the hiring agency had its contract with the cruise line canceled because it was charging recruits for a job:  

"AGENCY Service published false news in TELEGRAF newspapers , In order to hide behind their bad deeds The point is that the agency -Kouzon lost license , they have lost their license because they charge recruits for trainings , which the company ( Royal ) already paid to them ,,,,,,Also, they charge recruits for services 350Eur + training 120 Eur it is at least 450 Eur per recruit ,,, as well This is against the law to do in the Republic of Serbia ,,,, to make long story short ,,, they took money for too many recruits, and now they lost license ,, and they are not able anymore to send recruits to work for Royal,,, that is a problem,,, so they make false story and they are hiding behind ....Crew members from every country sue the company if they got injured, From Brasil, Agentila, USA, China and nobody got banned for that .......That is a false news, a thousand peoples from Balkan are waiting for a job because they paid to the agency for that, but they will not go because agency lost license ,,that ia all truth ,,,,,and And these are the bills that confirm that the agency collect money for services and training."

A Sick Ship? Adventure of the Seas Can't Shake the Bug

Earlier this month, we were contacted by passengers aboard the Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas because of back-to-back norovirus outbreaks requiring "deep cleaning" of the cruise ship.You can read our article about the situation here

A number of passengers complained of some pretty gross conditions:

One lady said "i was swimming and had to go round feces, which was also in the jacuzzi...it was reported but nothing was said . . . "

Another man said "the most serious issue on board the ship was the failure of its sewage system, a point admitted by its officers during the Q and A session. The ship stank like a Royal Caribbean Cruise Norovirussewage farm throughout the 14 days. We we also found the bed linen in our cabin filthy (pillows were brown and needed to be replaced) . . . This ship has problems!"

And then there was the inevitable debate whether the virus outbreak was caused by the failure of some passengers to wash their hands versus noro-contaminated food or water versus a virus-laden ship itself.

Passengers are now telling us that the norovirus outbreak continues on the third consecutive sailing of the Adventure which is scheduled for yet another so-called "deep cleaning" this weekend. Passengers received an email from the company explaining the the ship will undergo the enhanced cleaning before it leaves Southampton on Sunday, October 26th. Will the next cruise become the fourth consecutive "Norovirus on the High Seas?"

Some of the people who contacted us have small children, elderly parents, elderly grandparents or they are recovering from cancer, or have suppressed immune systems. They are asking whether they can cancel and obtain a refund or reschedule. They are asking us what to do.

Unfortunately the cruise line holds all of the cards in this situation. Royal Caribbean will certainly keep your money if you don't show up for the cruise and it will absolutely not issue you a refund. The only issue is whether the cruise line will permit a few people to reschedule on a case-by-case basis. 

Royal Caribbean just announced yesterday that it made almost $500,000,000 in profits for the third quarter of this year (and pays no U.S. taxes on that loot) so you might think that it has sufficient money to be understanding and reasonable under this circumstances. After all, its ship is sick. Who on earth wants to voluntarily subject their family to disease? But Royal Caribbean has a strict attitude against permitting fearful customers to reschedule even if there's something wrong with its ship. 

One person who contacted us said he was nervous about his family "catching the bug" but fell that he has no chance to reschedule. He said he "will let you know how it went!"

Customers should not become human guinea pigs like this. A good vacation should not depend on the success of another last minute "deep cleaning" of a sick ship which repeatedly failed.

The ship is enormous - 15 decks, 10 pools and whirlpools, 15 bars, clubs and lounges, and thousands and thousands of cabins packed into its 1,000 plus feet. Its an enormous undertaking to clean a ship like this. The chance of a 100% eradication of the nasty bug is slim, no matter how hard the crew is pressed into working overtime.  It takes only a few microbes of noro to sicken the next round of guests. The norovirus could be hidden under the commode seat cover or in the fabric of the duvet covers where the prior passengers were blasting millions of microbes of noro-infected vomit and diarrhea into the bathroom's and cabin's crooks and crannies. 

There are few laws protecting consumers on the high seas. There should be a norovirus policy where a passenger can obtain a hassle-free refund whenever there is a consecutive disease outbreak.  

If you get sick on the upcoming cruise, consider hiring a lawyer. No, not me. There's a good firm in the U.K. which has successfully handled cases this like. You can contact them here.

The cruise line is counting on the hundreds of its customers who fall victim to the pukefest not knowing what to do. After all, you and your family are really not guinea pigs, even if the cruise line treats you like one.   

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

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 led 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  

Cruise Ship Law: Don't File Suit at the Last Minute in the Wrong Courthouse

Last week, the Third District Court of Appeal in Florida enforced the terms of a Royal Caribbean passenger ticket and dismissed a lawsuit filed at the last minute in the wrong courthouse.

The case was filed on behalf of a passenger against Royal Caribbean for personal injuries sustained in a cruise ship accident. The passenger hired a local law firm which filed suit a few days before the expiration of the one-year limitation period set forth in the ticket. But instead of filing in federal court as required by the terms of the ticket, her attorneys filed in state court in the Miami-Dade courthouse Roya; Caribbeanwhere most negligence cases can be pursued.

Royal Caribbean filed a motion to dismiss the case. The trial court denied the motion, and the cruise line appealed.

The appellate court reversed the trial court. The appellate court ruled that the cruise line had reasonably communicated the important terms and conditions of the ticket to the passenger before she boarded the cruise ship. The ticket stated in bold and capital letters that the ticket contained important terms and conditions, including a one year limitations period to file suit and a forum selection clause indicating that suit must be filed in United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

The appellate court held that it is irrelevant whether the passenger actually received or read the ticket contract, as long as the ticket contained conspicuous terms and conditions.  

The decision was consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute, 499 U.S. 585 (1991).  

The appellate court also ruled that Royal Caribbean had no obligation to remove the case to federal court after the lawsuit was mistakenly filed in the wrong state courthouse. Because of her counsel's error in filing suit in state court rather than federal court, and the running of the one year limitations period in the interim, the passenger was prohibited from filing suit against the cruise line in the right courthouse.

The only lawsuit the passenger can possibly pursue under these circumstances at this time is a legal malpractice claim against her attorneys.

Practice Tips for Passengers:

  • The cruise line must receive a written notice of your intention to seek compensation within six (6) months of your accident. Have your lawyer write the letter.
  • You must file your lawsuit within one (1) year of the accident.
  • The lawsuit must be filed in the location specified in your ticket.  Most cruise lines like Carnival, Celebrity, NCL and Royal Caribbean require that lawsuits be filed in federal court in Miami. 

Read the terms of your ticket!  The terms are legally enforceable.  

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

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Baldwin040 Creative commons 3.0

Norovirus on the Adventure of the Seas?

We have been contacted by passengers on the Adventure of the Seas, complaining about an a norovirus outbreak.

This morning we received this latest comment:

"My family have just returned from a European cruise onboard Royal Caribbean's Adventure of The Seas. There was a nasty outbreak of noro virus inboard affecting many guests which led to a full deep clean in port here in the UK today before the ship set sail again.

Rather worryingly, my family was told by a crew member that this was the second consecutive cruise by the ship to be affected by noro virus."

The Adventure is currently on a Mediterranean itinerary.

On November 2, 2014 the ship will sail from Southampton, England on a 14 night transatlantic cruise. It will reposition for Caribbean cruises sailing from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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

October 24 2014 Update: Sick ship? Adventure of the Seas Can't Shake the Bug. The Adventure suffers through its third consecutive norovirus outbreak. Will the "deep cleaning" work this time? Will Royal Caribbean permit its customers to reschedule?  

Adventure of the Seas

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Brian Burnell Creative Commons 3.0

Ebola on the High Seas: Should Cruise Passengers Worry About Becoming Infected?

I have received a dozen inquiries in the last few days about the chances of contracting Ebola during a cruise. My thought is that the chance is slim that anyone is going to go on a cruise and return home infected with the virus.  But there are some issues that concern me.

For U.S. Travelers, Chances of Infection Are Slim at this Time

From what I have learned, it's very difficult to contract the the virus. A cruise passenger would first have to come into close personal contact with an infected person. The infection could come from contact with the infected victim's bodily fluids (blood, saliva, vomit, feces, urine, or semen) or through contaminated needles. This would first require travel to the affected countries in West Africa (Liberia, Cruise Ship EbolaSierra Leone, and Guinea) and then intimate contact with an Ebola victim.

So far, the only victim in the U.S. is Thomas Duncan who traveled to Dallas from Liberia and since died. There is a chance that the persons who he came into contact with could develop the disease, but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is carefully monitoring the health of all persons who possibly could have come into contact with Mr. Duncan.  

Cruise lines are prudently avoiding ports in West Africa. Holland America Line, Seabourn Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Fred Olsen are dropping West African ports in Ghana, Gambia and Senegal. Princess Cruises is considering rerouting its 30-day "West Africa Adventure," according to the L.A. Times. 

Royal Caribbean does not call on any ports in West Africa, although ironically Royal Caribbean is incorporated in Liberia to avoid taxes and regulations.

Bloomberg says that the Ebola scare has lowered cruise stocks. Carnival's stock price fell 5.5 percent, NCL was down 2.8 percent, and Royal Caribbean fell 5.9 percent even though it doesn't sail near the affected (infected) area.

To my knowledge, there are no cruise lines which routinely hire from Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea. In fact, I have never met or even heard of crew members from these countries. I anticipate that if there are any crew members from these countries, they will not be be re-hired when they return home on vacation. Miami-based cruise lines enacted such hiring freezes on crew members from affected areas during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in the past.

But I'm Uncertain About the Future

There are some factors, though, that make me nervous about the future.

  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that as many as 1,400.000 people could be infected with Ebola by January 2015.  
  • The virus will get worse in the West African countries.
  • Experts predict the virus to appear in Europe within the month.
  • There are reports that Ebola can survive on surfaces for anywhere from a few hours to several days, depending on the type of surface, the temperature, and the amount of light. 
  • According to the CDC, the average time for symptoms of Ebola to appear is 8-10 days. 
  • Many travelers don't disclose illnesses either before or during their cruises because they don't want to be barred from the ship or confined to their cabin.   
  • Some employees don't report to the ship infirmary because they don't want to lose their tips.

My concern is that the outbreak will continue and expand. It has already reached Spain. Jacquie Kubin writes in her article Ebola: Lessons Learned from SARS, the Flu, and HIV / AIDS that there is a 75% probability that the virus will reach France by the end of October and a 50% chance that Ebola will migrate to the U.K.

If the virus reaches Europe so quickly, future cruise travelers and employees could become infected. If those infected are booked on cruises, it is foreseeable that an infected person will fail to disclose the early symptoms of Ebola (intentionally or simply because they doesn't know they have been infected) when they appear at the airport or terminal and then embark the aircraft or cruise ship.

We already know from noro virus cases, many cruise passengers are ill when they come to the cruise ship. Unfortunately, they sometimes lie to get on the ship, and they won't stay in their cabins even when they are infectious.

We also know from past experiences that some crew members report to work when they are ill, including food handlers. This is documented in the CDC literature.  

Cruise ships are not prepared to handle a situation with an infected Ebola victim aboard. Any crew Cruise Ship Ebolamembers called upon to clean up the vomit and diarrhea and other bodily fluids of a sick passenger would likely become infected. An infected chef or waiter shedding Ebola would be a disaster and could potentially infect hundreds of passengers.  

We have seen that cruise ships can easily be plagued by outbreaks of diseases which include not only gastrointestinal diseases, noro virus and e-coli, but measles & rubella, Legionnaires Disease, SARS and other infectious diseases.

Unlike noro virus which lasts a few days, Ebola is potentially deadly. The victim needs immediate and specialized treatment that a cruise ship can't provide. An Ebola outbreak on a cruise ship could result in deaths as well as a public relations disaster.

Stay Tuned and Hope for the Best

There currently is no vaccine for Ebola. Clinical trials are just starting.

For the next many months, cruise lines will consider West Africa to be a no-man's land. Until the disease is eradicated, the cruise lines must avoid the ports there. Cruise ships will continue sailing wide of West Africa until the coast is clear. Hopefully the virus will not spread to Europe and find its way onto cruise ships. 

October 17 2014 Update: Texas Hospital Worker Who Handled Ebola Samples is on the Carnival Magic

October 18 2014 Update: Cruise Industry is Completely Unprepared for Ebola Outbreak

 

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

Read circular letter (No. 3484) about Ebola published by the International Maritime Organization.

Photo Credits: Top - Daily Times; Botton - CDC via AP

A Quantum Hazard: Why is a Smart Ship So Stinky?

Quantum of the SeasKallis Video Production's YouTube page shows a video of the arrival of Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas in Bremerhaven on October 5, 2014.

The video was taken from a gyrocopter. 

The Quantum is the latest ballyhooed giant cruise ship from Royal Caribbean. Two weeks ago it was trotted out from the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany and sailed down the River Ems to the sea. It is scheduled to arrive in New York in November. It will be home ported in Shanghai. 

“We were determined to take the best advances in modern technology, turn them into shipboard ‘wows’ . . . " said Royal Caribbean chairman Richard Fain in the article High Tech on the High Seas: Royal Caribbean Unveils 'World's First SmartShip.

Judging by this video, it's too bad that this supposedly technological "smart" ship still burns bunker fuel.  Watch the video below; you can see the ship spewing emissions from high sulfur "dirty" fuel. Unfortunately, China is a good location for such an environmental beast. There are loose air standards over there.    

Nasty bunker fuel causes asthma, heart disease, cancer, respiratory illness and premature death.  

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

Overworked & Underpaid on the High Seas

This weekend I read an interesting article in the Springfield Register-Guard about Royal Caribbean Cruises' plans to add employees at its call center in Oregon.

There are currently over 700 employees at the call center in Oregon, according to the newspaper. The cruise line is planning to add another 220 mostly full time employees.

What struck me about the article was the lucrative pay and benefits which the cruise line provides to its employees. The newspapers says "Royal Caribbean touts its modern facility, which includes a fitness center and cafeteria; base pay that starts at $8.85 to $10.50 an hour, not including incentive pay; Royal Caribbean Call Center Spinngfield Oregonhealth care insurance; a retirement plan; the chance to advance rapidly, and cruising privileges."

The cruise line also received lucrative incentives to open the call center back in 2006. The state of Oregon provided $1.3 million in incentives, including a $600,000 loan. The company was required to pay back only around $64,000. 

What a great employment package for the people in Oregon (especially compared to the Royal Caribbean operations in the U.K. which was out-sourced to Guatemala earlier this year). They can make over $400 working 40 hours a week, plus benefits, in a nice facility doing a cushy job. 

How does that compare to a cleaner from Jamaica who works on a Royal Caribbean ship 10 to 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, with no time off and no benefits?  A cleaner on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship makes around $550 a month performing strenuous work under difficult circumstances, far from the comforts of home. That turns out to around $1.75 an hour. They are tied to contracts lasting anywhere from 6 to 9 months without a single day off.

The cruise line pays no taxes on the billions of dollars paid each year by cruise passenger, because it is incorporated in Liberia and it registers its ship under flags of convenience (Bahamas and Liberia) on its cruise ships. It rakes in millions and millions each year in profits. Its cruise executives, Mr. Fain and Mr. Goldstein, are collectively worth well over $100,000,000 because of the hard working and minimally paid crew, mostly from the Caribbean islands, east Europe, India, Indonesia and the Philippines.

The U.S. executives are swimming in cash while paying the "foreign" crew peanuts. 

There is something wrong when a U.S. call center employee sitting in a cubicle answering the phone for the cruise line can work less than one-half of the hours of a shipboard employee yet earn three times more, plus benefits and perks.   

 

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

Don't forget to read:  

Cruise Law Visits Royal Caribbean in Oregon

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

Royal Caribbean Cruise Executive Fain: "We've Done Loads to Make the Crew's Job Easier . . . We're Proud of Our Low Staff Turnover" True or False?

Travel Weekly just published an "interview" of Royal Caribbean cruise executive Richard Fain as part of the cruise line's promotional build-up to the arrival of the Quantum of the Seas. 

it's hyperbolic, razzle-dazzle, gobbledygook at it's finest.  

Royal Caribbean has been been invading crew gratuities for years, doubling up officers in what were previously single cabins, and working the ship employees harder than ever before. When I read the $100 million executive Fain say: "We’ve done loads to make the crew’s job easier . . . We’re proud of our low staff turnover lower," I though that I would pose the following simple question to the crew members who follow Richard Fain - Royal Caribbeanour Facebook page: 

True? or False?

Well here are some of the answers from the Royal Caribbean crew that you will never see in a publication like Travel Weekly:

" . . . on any rccl ship the crew members go (especially from f&b dept.) they always complain they are short of equipment to serve the guest! Your sweet words are only for your market benefits but they are actually false!"

"False . . . Every week there's at least one person who resigns . . . . If you resign with prior notice, you have 1 year to be rehired. Last year they decided to place all 2 stripe officers in shared cabins and take away most privileges, this cost many of them to resign as well."

"Long hours without any benefits."

"I worked 9 years for Royal Caribbean, nothing improves for the crew, all the opposite."

"I think he is talking like a politician.....there are many resignations now due to the working conditions and they are not being replaced; just the other crew members being made to work longer hours and do unpaid extra duties. 'Turnover' is the total of ins and outs, so by not replacing people the turnover figure is falsely low."

"Robots taking over the ships. Crew members start looking for other jobs!!"

If you want to read all of the comments on our Facebook page about Fain's interview, click here.

 

Photo Credit: Wall Street Journal Smart Money / by Jeffrey Salter / Redux

Crew Member Disappears From Independence of the Seas: Why No Mention in the Press or Social Media?

A crew member disappeared from Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas earlier in the week.

We were first notified of the crew member's disappearance from another crew member who was concerned about the incident. Today we received confirmation that a crew member went overboard from a reliable separate and independent source. 

The missing crew member was reportedly a galley worker from India. The crew member went overboard early in the morning before the cruise ship called on its scheduled port in France. 

The ship is currently on a two week cruise, starting on August 9, 2014 from Southampton and sailing to Independence of the Seas Gibraltar, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, before returning to Southampton.

This is the third time in two months a person has gone overboard from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship without any mention of the incident in the press or on social media. 

A passenger went overboard from the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas on August 7, 2014. There were no rescue attempts by the ship. The cruise ship, like all other Royal Caribbean cruise ships, has no automatic man overboard system which could detect someone going overboard and immediately alert the bridge. The passenger was not noticed missing until a cabin attendant entered the cabin over 14 hours later. There was no mention of the incident in the press or on social media until we first mentioned the incident.

Another passenger jumped from the Splendour of the Seas on June 13, 2014. The cruise ship personnel rescued him because he was seen going overboard by other passengers and crew members. Again, there was no mention of the incident until we reported on it. The incident demonstrates that even when a person intentionally goes overboard (an act often considered to be suicidal), the cruise ship can safely rescue them if man overboard steps are immediately taken.

A passenger also recently went overboard (August 2, 2014) from the Caribbean Princess. Like the situation on the Splendor, the passenger intentionally jumped overboard but was quickly rescued because he was seen going into the water.  Again, there was no mention of the incident until cruise expert Ross Klein first mentioned it on his website

Of course, many people going overboard are not witnessed. That's why automatic man overboard systems are important. The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 requires the installation of man overboard technology. The history of the legislation indicates that it does not matter whether the person intentionally went overboard (suicidal or not), accidentally went overboard (due to alcohol, recklessness or otherwise), or was thrown overboard. Cruise ships must install the available technology.  

Why are these incidents not being mentioned in the press or discussed on social media? Some people believe that it's nobody's business. They say that if someone wants to jump overboard, they must be suicidal and there's nothing the cruise line could do or should do.  

Other people say that I'm just making these incidents up. If they can't find confirmation of the overboard on the internet after a Google search, they say I must be lying. This view permeates the group-think, cult-of-personality, lynch mob mentality on Cruise Critic message boards

In situations like the Grandeur, or more recently the Independence, the person is not discovered missing until hours and hours later, when the ship reaches port or a crew member doesn't report to work in the morning or a cabin attendant finally enters the cabin.  The ship is then over a hundred miles away. 

My thought is that it comes down to a lack of transparency. Cruise lines don't like news of their guests or employees disappearing at sea. Cruise lines sell images of magical vacations with happy, smiling customers and friendly crew members. They don't like stories of out-of-their-mind-drunk-on-cruise-booze passengers, or over-worked and despondent crew members or, God forbid, passengers or crew thrown overboard into the dark waters. They suppress the information. They don't like lawyers who point out that their entire fleet is in violation of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.

 

Interested in this issue? Consider reading Is Royal Caribbean Working Its Crew Members to Death? 

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

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Aztec06

Person Overboard From Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas?

Cruise Law News has been told that a person allegedly went overboard from the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas as the cruise ship was returning from Bermuda to Baltimore earlier this week. 

The incident reportedly occurred around 3:00 AM late Wednesday night / early Thursday morning, August 7th.

According to a person on the cruise ship who wishes to remain anonymous, a state room attendant found a note when he entered the cabin on Thursday. The ship was searched, the CCTV Grandeur of the Seas cameras reviewed, and the overboard was eventually discovered.

The passenger was reportedly a U.S. citizen, 70 years old and traveling alone. The missing person alert was raised 12 hours or so after the overboard (from the CCTV review).

The cruise ship continued on to Baltimore. It didn't go back. There appears to be no search.

If this information is accurate, it appears that the incident may have involved a suicide. However, it also illustrates that the cruise line has still not installed automatic man overboard systems as required by the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010. The cruise safety law requires such technology regardless of whether the passenger or crew member intentionally jumped, accidentally went overboard, or was thrown into the ocean. 

There are lots of questions which remain unanswered. Did the captain of the cruise ship make any announcements?  Why didn't the ship turn around much earlier and conduct a search? Did the cruise ship notify the U.S. Coast Guard?

We have written about people going overboard from the Grandeur before.  

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein have documented 235 people (in addition to this one) going overboard from cruise ships since 2000. 

Are there passenger or crew members who have additional information to share?

Please leave a comment below or join, the discussion on our Facebook page.

August 10 2014 Update: This is the second overboard passenger from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in the last two months who was not reported in the press or discussed in social media. Three weeks ago, we reported on a passenger who went overboard from the Splendor of the Seas. Fortunately the cruise line personnel quickly rescued him. You can read about that incident here

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Citking

Royal Caribbean to Charge Kids $10 To Have Breakfast With Shrek

An article by Cruise Critic titled No More Free Breakfasts caught my eye today.

Cruise Critic says that Royal Caribbean is adding a $10 surcharge for kids and parents to dine with the cruise line's DreamWorks characters at breakfast on the Oasis, Allure, Freedom, Liberty, Voyager, and Mariner of the Seas.

According to Cruise Critic, "character breakfasts" have been free since Royal Caribbean first launched them in 2010.

Dreamworks Character Royal CaribbeanHowever, starting September 1st, the cruise line will charge the fee to any passenger over 5 years old.

The first three comments on Cruise Critic summed up my thoughts perfectly:

"I'm glad my grandson was able to do the breakfast last year. RCCL is getting greedy."

"Disappointed with RCCL. More nickel and dimeing . . ." 

"Just another way to nickel and dime you . . ."

For a mom and dad and with 2 kids over  5 years old, the cruise line charge will come to $40 a day to have breakfast with Shrek (photographed with Adam Goldstein). 

It is particularly greedy for Royal Caribbean to nickel and dime their little guests considering that just last week we reported that cruise CEO's Fain and Goldstein have a combined net worth over $100,000,000 on their cruise line operations and are getting richer.

I'd be tempted to move up to Disney Cruise Line and have have my kids meet and greet Micky Mouse and Cinderella for free.

 

Note: The Royal Caribbean Blog first reported on the charge. 

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean Press Center 

The Rich Get Richer: Royal Caribbean's Fain Cashes In

Richard Fain Adam GoldsteonReuters reports that Royal Caribbean's CEO Richard Fain recently sold 94,850 shares at average price of $62.38 for a total value of $5,916,743.00; and exercised options for 51,143 shares at $7.27 per share for a total value of $3,190,300.00.

CEO Fain holds over a million shares of his cruise line's stock.  Reuters says he holds 1,380,000 (million) shares for a value of over $86,000,000. Tech Insider says that Mr. Fain owns 1,153,689 company shares for a total value of around $72,000,000. This excludes the shares owned by various trusts for the benefit of of the Fain family. 

Earlier this week, we reported that Royal Caribbean Chief Operating Officer (COO) Adam Goldstein unloaded sold 42,152 shares of RCL stock at an average price of $61.68 for $2,599,935.36. COO Goldstein still owns 370,724 shares valued at $22,866,256.

Notwithstanding the vast wealth of these cruise CEO's, Royal Caribbean has made substantial cut-backs in the salaries of its staff and crew members, increased work, and reduced benefits. 

 

Photo Credits: Royal Caribbean Press Center

The Rich Get Richer: Cruise Executive Goldstein Unloads $2,599,935.36 of Royal Caribbean Stock

Media reports say that Royal Caribbean Cruises Chief Operating Officer (COO) Adam Goldstein sold 42,152 shares of his cruise company’s stock yesterday.

The shares were sold at an average price of $61.68 for $2,599,935.36.

COO Goldstein still owns 370,724 shares of Royal Caribbean stock, valued at $22,866,256.

Royal Caribbean announced its earnings results on Thursday. The cruise line reported revenue of $1.98 billion for the quarter. The company’s quarterly revenue was up 5.2%.  

Royal Caribbean We last reported on Mr. Goldstein in February when he sold 44,256 shares of Royal Caribbean stock at an average price of $52.96, for a total transaction of $2,343,797.76.  

What do the hard working crew members and the loyal shore-side cruise employees think of all of the money Mr. Goldstein is raking in? 

The cruise line pays a minimal salary to Royal Caribbean waiters and cabin attendants of only $50 a month; the cruise passengers pay tips to the waiters and stewards but the cruise line is scooping up much of the tips to pay other crew member's salaries. Employees like utility cleaners earn a pittance of around $550 a month (with no tips) working around 11-12 hours a day, every day of the month during contracts that are 6-8 months long.

In September of last year, Royal Caribbean fired over one-hundred employees in its corporate offices in order to increase profits. You can read about that here: Loyal to Royal? Royal Caribbean Axes 100 Jobs in Corporate Headquarters.

What's the saying? The rich get richer, the poor get poorer.

Royal Caribbean Bars Pregnant Passenger, Then Apologizes

News sources in Canada are reporting that Royal Caribbean barred a woman from cruising with her family after she admitted that she was pregnant but didn't have a note from her doctor stating that she was fit to travel. 

Global Toronto states that Michelle Ligori, her husband and their two sons were booked aboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas out of Fort Lauderdale.

According to the television station, the following exchange took place between Ms. Ligori and a cruise line representative. 

Oasis of the Seas"The girl at the counter said, ‘Any chance you're pregnant?'" Ligori said. "And I was taken off guard and said, ‘Yes, I found out a few days before we left,' and she said, ‘Do you have a note?' She told us you cannot get on without a note."

The station further states that Ligori was positive on a home pregnancy test but she had not seen her family doctor yet. She and her husband did not want to say anything to family members or their two young sons because the pregnancy was at the very early stages. She was in compliance with the cruise line's pregnancy restriction which prohibit cruising after 24 weeks of pregnancy.

"We were treated like parasites," Ligori said of Royal Caribbean.

Ms. Ligori scrambled to obtain a doctor's note but the cruise ship sailed. The couple spent $1,200 for additional hotels, taxi fares and a flight for her family to catch the cruise in the Bahamas two days later.

Royal Caribbean initially refused to compensate her until the media began covering the story. When the case went public, the cruise line contacted the family to offer an apology and refund them for the missed days and their expenses. 

We have written about cruising while pregnant before: Pregnancy & Cruising: What To Expect If You Are Expecting.

 Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Baldwin 040

 

 

Murder at Sea? CBS' 48 Hours Updates DIsappearance of George Smith From Brilliance of the Seas Nine Years Ago

Its been nine years since George Smith disappeared during his honeymoon cruise aboard the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas.

CBS focuses on new developments in the cruise ship mystery, in a 48 Hours story entitled "Murder at Sea?"

Its introduction says: a newlywed vanishes off the cruise ship where he was honeymooning - 9 years later, "48 Hours" reports on the renewed push to find out what happened to George Smith. 

You can watch the program below: 

Royal Caribbean Premiers Google Street View of Allure of the Seas

Royal Caribbean is using Google Maps Business View (the commercial version of Google’s Street View) to advertise the Allure of the Seas. 

The Telegraph newspaper writes that "visitors to the website select from a series of options to enable them to 'tour' the ship’s restaurants, cabins and pools as well as the ship's 'unique activities,' which include a surfing machine, rock-climbing wall and zip wire."

Take a tour here. It's pretty cool.

Its too bad that Royal Caribbean hasn't invested the same time and effort into implementing automatic man overboard video camera technology required by the 2010 Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act. Read: Royal Caribbean's Misplaced Priorities: Fast Internet, Virtual Balconies But No Automatic Man-Overboard Systems.

Royal Caribbean Google Tour

The George Smith Case - Nine Years Later

George Smith DisappearanceTomorrow will be the nine year anniversary of the disappearance of George Smith from the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas during his honeymoon cruise. 

Mr. Smith went overboard from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship on July 5, 2005 as the ship was sailing to Turkey.

Suspicions have focused on several men who were in Mr. Smith's cabin before he went overboard, particularly after one of the men made incriminating statements. We have written many prior articles about the case which you can review here.

CBS will air an updated story of the efforts of Mr. Smith's family tomorrow night on 48 HOURS.  A preview is below. 

The Smith family has recently announced a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for his disappearance. 

 

If you have information about who may have killed Mr. Smith, please consider using the following contact information:

1 (844) 651 1936 

georgesmithtipline@gmail.com

Justice for George

Near Death Experience Aboard the Independence of the Seas: When Will Royal Caribbean Hire Lifeguards?

Four days ago, we discussed the near drowning of a six year old boy whose heart had stopped when he was found on the bottom of a swimming pool on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas.

People contacting us say the boy slipped and struck his head. Other children reportedly pulled the unconscious boy from the pool. Royal Caribbean was not supervising the Royal Caribbean pool. 

Royal Caribbean, like Carnival and NCL, has no lifeguards assigned to its pools. Only Disney takes the responsible step of employing lifeguards on cruise ships.

Independence of the Seas Pool - LifeguardI have written at length about these type of situations.

Saving children's lives requires the joint efforts of the parents and the cruise line. Parents must obviously supervise their children, and the cruise line must supervise their pools.  If the pools are intended for adults only, then there must be cruise employees at the pools enforcing that rule as well as any other rules such as "no children," "no running on the pool decks" or "no horseplay." 

Contrary to what many people believe, a "no lifeguard" or "swim at your own risk" sign, without more, is legally insufficient to exculpate the cruise ship from liability.

Disney used to rely on "no lifeguard" signs, but after the near drowning death last year of a child who was rendered severely brain damaged and needs expensive lifetime care, the Magical Cruise Line now employees lifeguards throughout its fleet. It took only one prior incident for Disney to throw away the "no lifeguard" signs and do the right thing by assigning ship employees to the pools.

Today we were notified that a similar incident occurred previously on the Independence of the Seas. A concerned parents told us: 

"The same happened to my daughter, six years ago, who was age six at the time, on the Independence of the Seas. We had gone with large group of family and friends and it was our first full day at sea. All the kids were so excited and it was our first cruise so we didn't really know the rules or anything about the ship. The kids were running around on the children's area where the water fountains were, this area was a water area for kids, however, in the same area was a pool, which was really deep water, we had no idea and this is where my daughter jumped in, after following her cousin, who was eight months older than her and could swim a little. The pool was six feet deep, we checked afterwards and this was the deepest pool on the ship, even deeper than the adults pool, why this was put next to the kids area, I have no idea. My daughter could not swim and panicked, she tried alerting her cousin who tried to help but as she was so small too, she nearly pulled her down.

It was only by chance that my sister was walking past to go back to her room that she spotted them and had to jump in fully clothed to save her. We were only yards away but as this pool was right in the middle of area we couldn't see them."

It's easy to blame parents whenever they let their guard down for a minute. But its entirely foreseeable and predictable that parents, especially parents on vacation, will make mistakes - perhaps only for a few precious seconds.

Ignoring a prior similar incident when a child nearly drowns is a dangerous proposition for a cruise line. A prior incident provides "notice" of the danger and requires the cruise line to take corrective measures to prevent similar injuries or fatalities from occurring.

Putting away legal issues of liability, the best way to protect kids is to have the parents supervise the kids and the cruise line supervise the pools. 

That's why a responsible cruise line (so far only Disney) employs lifeguard to supervise the pools. 

How many other incidents will it take before Royal Caribbean does the right thing and hires lifeguards?

Two U.S. Passengers Arrested for Rape on Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas

Navigator of the SeasThe Jamaica Gleaner reports that 2 U.S. men aboard Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Sea, which docked in Falmouth Jamaica yesterday morning, are accused of raping a female passenger aboard the cruise ship.

The Gleaner says that the "men were accused of raping a female passenger who they were partying with the night before on the vessel."

The sexual assault reportedly occurred at 5:30 AM, yesterday morning, when the cruise ship was sailing approximately 50 miles outside Jamaican waters.

The Gleaner also says that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), with assistance from the Jamaican police, is investigating the incident.

It is less than clear what this means as the FBI typically does not travel to the Caribbean ports to investigate crimes like this. The typical situation is for the FBI to get involved only after the cruise ship returns to an U.S. port. Sometimes the victim will get off of the cruise ship at the next port and fly back to the U.S. in circumstances like this.

Sexual assaults are not infrequent on cruise ships, particularly given the tremendous amount of alcohol sold by the cruise lines.

The newspaper says that the Navigator will return to Galveston tomorrow, "where the accused will be processed."

 

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia / Bahnfrend

Near Drowning Aboard Independence of the Seas: Six Year Old Boy Fighting for Life in French Hospital

BBC News reports that a six year old boy was pulled from a swimming pool on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas yesterday. 

The AFP news agency says that the child's heart had stopped when he was found in the cruise ship pool.

BBC says that the cruise ship's doctor was able to re-start the boy's heart. The cruise line then requested that the boy be taken for emergency medical treatment ashore in northwest France by Independence of the Seas Swimming Poolhelicopter. 

A spokesman for a maritime agency in Brest, France said that the "child was found in a state of cardio-respiratory arrest at the bottom of the ship's pool."

This incident will be certain to trigger another debate whether cruise lines should staff their swimming pools with lifeguards. 

In the last year, four children six years of age or younger have drown or nearly drown on the major cruise lines, Disney, Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Lines. None of these ships had lifeguards assigned to their pools at the time. 

A 4 year child remains brain damaged after he nearly drowned on a Disney cruise ship, the Fantasy, in March of last year.  A 6 year old child is dead after drowning on a Carnival cruise ship, the Victory, in October of last year. A 4 year old is dead and his 6 year old brother is injured after similar tragedies on NCL's Norwegian Breakaway, last February.

In our view, there is no excuse not to assign lifeguards to cruise ship pools. The costs is minimal and the need is substantial.  Yes, parents need to supervise their children but cruise lines need to exercise their corporate responsibility to supervise the pools, enforce pool rules, and be ready to perform CPR if necessary.

Here are two of our many articles on the issue:

Imperfect Parents & Corporate Irresponsibility: Why No Lifeguards?

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

Disney is now the only cruise line which employs lifeguards, after the near-fatality last year. 

January 4 2015 Update: Another passenger performed emergency CPR on the child and saved him. Harpenden mum saves six-year-old from drowning on holiday cruise.

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

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Jolly Janner

Independence of the Seas Arrested in Norway

A newspaper in Norway reports today that a pilot association seized the Independence of the Seas for non-payment of the association's fees. The association petitioned a court in Norway to detain the cruise ship. A local bailiff served the arrest papers today.

The Independence of the Seas was in Alesund, Norway at the time of the legal action.

In the U.S., vessels can be seized for non-payment of provisions and services such as pilotage fees, crew member wages, food and fuel. The vendors and service providers have a maritime lien for the goods and services. Norway has a similar legal provision permitting the courts to "arrest" a vessel when Independence of the Seasit refuses to meet its financial obligations to creditors and satisfy the maritime lien. If the lien is not satisfied, the vessel can be sold at auction.  

"Vessel arrest" is a  common legal remedy to collect money from fly-by-night maritime owners and operators which try to avoid paying their debts to third parties. You can read about one such case here. I have heard of only one modern cruise ship operated by a top cruise line being arrested, and that was the Carnival Triumph several years ago

In Norway, as well as many other countries, local pilots are required to be at the helm of a ship that enters the local waters of the country. The shipping companies are required to pay the pilots who are more familiar with the local waters. 

The pilot association, Norwegian Coastal Administration (NCA) (Kystverket in Norwegian), issued a press release, stating that the pilot and security fees incurred by Royal Caribbean during several cruises last year have been owed since at least last October.  

The newspaper says that the lien was for  around NOK 600,000 which is approximately $100,000 U.S.

NCA says that it is owed substantial other fees from other cruise line and will be stepping up its collection efforts as the cruise ships return to Norway.

NCA says in its press release that non-payment or delayed payment from some cruise lines have been a major problem and the the association has been unable to convince the cruise lines to pay punctually. The association has been unable to convince certain companies with the worst payment history to meet their obligations voluntarily.

A representative of the association was quoted saying that sometimes it's been many months, up to a year before the outstanding amounts have been paid. How can we operate?

The newspaper further states that once the arrest papers were served on the cruise ship, the captain contacted Royal Caribbean which paid the lien (as well as court costs and interest) within one hour. The cruise ship was then released by the local marshal and was free to sail. 

The Independence of the Seas was last in the news in April when its thrusters swamped a boat in St.Kitts involved in mooring operations, killing two local men handling the lines. 

May 23 2014 Update: The BBC is now covering the story.

Passenger Medevaced From Majesty of the Seas

Majesty of the Seas Injury Accident Local Miami news station WSVN channel 7 reports this morning that Miami Fire Rescue medevaced a Royal Caribbean cruise ship passenger who sustained a serious head injury. The medevaced occurred last night. 

The medical evacuation occurred on the Majesty of the Seas cruise ship. WSVN says that the passenger suffered the injury while the cruise ship was approximately four miles from the port of Miami. 

The video shows the cruise ship passenger being transferred from the Majesty through an open crew entrance into the Miami Fire Rescue rescue vessel. These type of transfers are dangerous. Passengers have been dropped into the sea during the transfers if they are done incorrectly. You can see a terrifying botched passenger rescue here.

The Fire Rescue then returned to port and the passenger was taken for emergency medical treatment at Mercy Hospital. 

The video also shows cruise passengers who witnessed the event cheering and applauding the paramedics.

Update: A local CBS news station reports that the passenger is a 32 year old Swedish citizen. A spokesperson for the cruise line said that the passenger was first treated in the medical facility on the Majesty of the Seas ship on Tuesday but on Wednesday the passenger required “additional and urgent medical attention.” 

 

WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Royal Caribbean Tries to Block David Beckham's Soccer Stadium

International soccer star David Beckham plans to build a soccer stadium at the Port of Miami with the dramatic vista of downtown Miami in the background. But the Chairman of Royal Caribbean Cruises is doing everything possible to block Beckham's plans. 

In an interview with television station Local 10, cruise executive Richard Fain says that the port isn't a suitable location for the stadium. 

It's also a location where Fain's cruise line built a parking lot and a gym for its employees, which are David Beckham Soccer Stadium obviously not the best uses of the 12 acre property. Unlike Norwegian Cruise Lines and Carnival which operate their headquarters on the north and north-west sides of the Miami International airport, Royal Caribbean's headquarters are located right at the port.

Fain and his "well-funded Miami Seaport Alliance" seem to be using scare tactics, arguing that the new stadium "will jeopardize more than 200 cargo and cruise-related jobs," a claim that newspaper researchers find false.

Fain doesn't want to talk about losing his parking lot and the gym. He couches his argument against the soccer stadium in terms of "protecting our port."  But the land is not suitable for deep water use by today's mega-liners.

May it just be that Fain doesn't want to see the new stadium towering over his cruise line's offices and causing traffic delays disrupting his daily drive into the office?     

Miami's mayor, Tomas Regalado, says the decision on the new stadium site will rest with the people of Miami. 

Photo Credit: Design Boom

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

 

Quadcopter Buzzes the Allure of the Seas in Fort Lauderdale

This week I ran across a video of a "quadcopter" (also called a quadrotor helicopter or a quadrocopter) flying over the beach in Fort Lauderdale.

What's interesting is that the quadcopter quickly catches up with Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas. It flies behind and far over the giant cruise ship for a few minutes. 

It seems rather amazing that a little copter like that can fly so far and high and fast, and it can be safely controlled from so far away.

The video was shot and edited by Carlo Vaccari.  You can see his Facebook page RC Copters here.  

It was disappointing, however, to see an incredible amount of diesel / bunker fuel smoke billowing out of the ship. It's particularly nasty around the 5:00 minute mark. 

A year ago we blogged about a quadcopter buzzing the Costa Concordia - QuadroCopter Operators Arrested in Giglio for Filming Costa Concordia.

Former Royal Caribbean Crew Member, Acquitted of Raping Passenger, Wins Unlawful Detention Lawsuit Against the Bahamas

The Nassau Guardian published an article yesterday about a former Royal Caribbean crew member, Ruel Lockwood, previously employed as a stateroom attendant, who was accused of raping a young woman on Royal Caribbean's Sovereign of the Seas cruise ship during a cruise to Nassau in 2006.

The crew member entered the college student's cabin with a key card, which he used to enter cabins to clean them.

The jury in the Nassau, Bahamas acquitted the crew member of the rape in the criminal case, although Nassau Bahamas CourthouseRoyal Caribbean paid $1,500,000.00 to settle the civil case which we filed here in Miami.

After crew member Lockwood was acquitted, he remained in jail for 4 days in Nassau. For that, he sued the Bahamas for "unlawful detention."

The Bahamian judge entered the order of acquittal on November 19, 2007, but immigration officials kept him in jail until November 23, 2007. The immigration officials contended that the cruise line did not complete the travel arrangements for Lockwood until November 23rd. However, Lockwood contended that Royal Caribbean had a ticket for him to fly home to Nicaragua earlier but the immigration officials refused to release his passport and kept him in jail unnecessarily. 

In 2011, Lockwood filed a civil case against the Bahamas for the extra days he stayed in jail. Yesterday the Bahamian trial court found that Lockwood should have been released by November 21st and awarded him compensation and legal costs to be determined at a later date.

We wrote about this weird situation back in 2011.  Lockwood spent approximately a year in a Bahamian jail for the alleged rape. But after the immigration officials and/or Royal Caribbean screwed up, Lockwood will receive compensation for 2 days. I wonder what a Bahamian judge will think that's worth?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit: Merco Press

Reefer Madness: Bahamas Magistrate Taunts & Shakes Down Royal Caribbean Potheads

The Nassau Tribune reports on a criminal hearing last weekend in the Bahamas after five cruise ship passengers from two different ship were arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana.  The five passengers each had between one and five grams of pot. I'm told that's enough pot for a couple of joints.

A 28 year old from Leesburg, Florida was apprehended by the Chief of Security on the Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas with 1 gram of pot. The ship's security invited the Bahamian police onto the Enchantment and handed the joint and the passenger over. The Magistrate filed him Pot Bahamas$500 and threatened that if he didn't pay the fine immediately he would throw him in jail, adding “and unlike US prisons, our prisons are not as hospitable.” 

A 27 year old man from Sarasota, Florida was arrested after he bought 2 grams of pot ashore in downtown Nassau. He arrived in Nassau on the Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas. The Magistrate fined him $500 as well, telling him "some countries in Asia can carry a punishment as severe as death."

A 60 year old woman on the Enchantment of the Seas was arrested with 5 grams of pot. The magistrate filed her $800, stating (and I quote): "It is a shock that individuals at this age would be engaging in such illegal activities.” 

A 61 year old man from Fort Meyers on an unspecified cruise ships was arrested after the cruise ship turned him over to the Bahamian police with 5 grams of pot. He received a $800 fine.

The last pothead was a 37 year old who bought 2 grams for $50 at the straw market. The stoner told the judge “I was walking around the straw market. I was drinking. I had like two rums that morning . . " The judge was unimpressed and threatened him with a three month jail sentence if he didn't pay $500 right away.  

It never ceases to amaze me that cruise lines like Royal Caribbean make hundreds of millions of dollars pushing booze on their ships to the point that the passenger are knee-walking-and-puking drunk, but a cruise ship security officer will collar a guest for a single joint and turn them over to the police. 

The double standard also applies to the Bahamas where pot dealers canvas the port and sell pot up and down Bay Street and in and around every bar in town. One of the chief complaints we hear from Crime Nassau Bahamascruise passengers sailing to Nassau is that they are constantly harassed by the local citizens to buy pot the second they step off the cruise ship and walk into town.  

The Bahamas has one of the highest crime rates in the world. It lets child predators go free, it has a deplorable record solving crimes on Bahamian-flagged cruise ships, and it is clueless when it comes to solving murders and violent crimes against tourists

Nabbing cruise tourists with a joint or two, and teaming up with the cruise lines to pull passengers off the ship with small amounts of pot while Bahamians are openly selling the stuff at the straw market, are duplicitous revenue collecting exercises.

The Bahamas is one gunshot away from losing the cruise lines. It needs to concentrate its limited resources on protecting its citizens and visitors from armed bad guys and not hassle the tourists who bring money into its impoverished country. 

 

Photo Credit: Vibe (top); Nassau Tribune April 9 2014 newspaper - Tribune.

More Trouble for Cruise Tourism in Roatan

The Telegraph reports that Cruising Excursions, a company which operates tours exploring Roatan's "fishing villages, mangroves, iguana farms and beaches," announced that it is canceling its tours on the island.

An excursion company representative said that “a string of reports of robberies, violence against visitors and now this horrific murder have forced us to suspend our cruise excursion programme on this beautiful island. "

The newspaper further quoting the spokesperson saying that it is “very sad for the majority of law Roatan Hondurad Cruise Crimeabiding island residents, especially those who make a living from tourism but we cannot recommend cruisers go ashore until we are reassured that measures are in place to protect visitors."

The excursion company also said that all bookings have been canceled with full refunds.

Roatan is in crisis mode trying to respond to the murder of a Filipino crew member from the Norwegian Pearl a week ago. We previously reported on the horrific crime

The excursion company's withdrawal from Roatan is significant because it was based not only on the recent homicide but on what it describes as a string of violent robberies this year. 

We reported on prior armed robberies in January and March

Roatan attended the Cruise Shipping Miami convention in Miami Beach last month to promote its port. I stopped and took a photo of the booth. I thought that it was just a matter of time before something like this happened.

 

Photo Credit:  Jim Walker

Honduran Crew Members Busted for Smuggling 100 Pounds of Cocaine on Royal Caribbean Owned Cruise Ship

Pullmantur EmpressA newspaper in Brazil reports that the police arrested crew members on a cruise ship who were smuggling 100 pounds of cocaine.

The Globo newspaper identified the cruise ship as the M/S Empress, owned by Royal Caribbean and operated by the Royal Caribbean brand Pullmantur.  

The police officers arrested Honduran crew members after finding 333 bags of cocaine weighing 100 pounds. The drugs were found in the crew members' cabin in several bags hidden in coffee pouches. 

The drugs were intended to be delivered to Europe. 

Royal Caribbean said that it has a "zero tolerance" policy regarding illegal drugs on its ships.

The cruise ship was previously operated by Royal Caribbean International as the Nordic Empress and Empress of the Seas.

Photo Credit: Top - Reuters / Bottom - Wikipedia (Borodun)

Pullmantur Empress Cruise Ship

Grandeur of the Seas is Still Sick: Cruise Industry Heading Toward Record Breaking Year for Virus of the Seas

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has documented passengers sailing on Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas out of Baltimore have been sickened on two consecutive cruises. 

The CDC website reflects that 97 passengers and 8 crew members on the Grandeur of the Seas became ill with vomiting and diarrhea. It left April 5 for a seven-day cruise and returns to Baltimore today.

Royal Caribbean Cruises notified passengers who will be boarding today to arrive late at the port Grandeur of the Seas - Baltimore - Noro Virusbecause the cruise ship will undergo another round of the so-called "enhanced cleaning."

The Associated Press indicates that Royal Caribbean believes norovirus to be the cause.

As is the situation with virtually all gastrointestinal outbreaks on cruise ships, the CDC has not announced an explanation how the outbreak took place. Contaminated food? Contaminated water? Sick crew members working while ill in the galley or dining rooms? Cruise passengers not washing their hands? (the cruise lines' usual excuse). Your guess is as good as mine.  

This is the second consecutive cruise on the Grandeur with a illness outbreak, The CDC reported that 111  passengers and 6 crew members became ill with norovirus on the Grandeur during its cruise from March 28 to April 5. You can read our report here.

The CDC has documented a total of 8 gastrointestinal illness outbreaks on cruises returning to a U.S. ports so far this year. (There was also a norovirus outbreak aboard the P&O Oriana recently). There were just 9 outbreaks in all of last year. Norovirus is cited as one of the reasons the public has less confidence in the safety and reliability of cruising, especially from people who have never cruised before.

This week we were contacted by many cruise passengers asking whether they could cancel the cruise which leaves today because of the ongoing outbreak. Unfortunately the cruise lines hold all of the cards in cases like this.  Fear of becoming sick is not a legally recognized reason to cancel a cruise and expect a refund. However, it all depends on the goodwill of the cruise line. A FOX News report indicates that the spokesperson for Royal Caribbean, Cynthia Martinez, said "if passengers don't want to take Saturday's cruise, Royal Caribbean staff will help them reschedule." 

You can contact Ms. Martinez on Twitter - @CrisisCommChick / telephone (305) 982-2458 / email cynthiamartinez@rccl.com

Suing a cruise line for compensation when exposed to a gastrointestinal virus is a losing proposition because the CDC does such a poor job trying to determine the cause of the outbreak. In this most recent case the CDC has not determined the type of virus much less how the virus came on the cruise ship.

The last message we received was last night: "I will be traveling on the Grandeur this Saturday as well and our check in time was delayed 4 hours! I will be bringing my own bleach wipes on board. Wish us luck!"

Good luck!

Photo Credit: WBAL Baltimore

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

Vomiting & Diarrhea Bug Infects Passengers on Grandeur of the Seas

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 111 out of of 2122 passengers (5.23%) and 6 out of 790 crew (0.76%) have reported ill with gastrointestinal illness involving vomiting and diarrhea. The Royal Caribbean ship was on a 7 day cruise from Baltimore.

You can read the CDC report here. The CDC hasn't figured out yet whether the gastrointestinal outbreak was caused by norovirus. 

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein reports that cruise passengers have received the following Grandeur of the Seasinformation in an email:

"Hello, this is Royal Caribbean International. We would like to provide you with some important information regarding your Saturday, April 5th, sailing onboard Grandeur of the Seas out of the Port of Baltimore. 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 2:00 PM. Check in will take place between 2:00 PM and 4:30 PM."

I always wonder about the effectiveness of "enhanced cleaning" when the CDC can't determine what the disease is much less how it can aboard the cruise ship.

Any passengers cruising this week please let us know whether the virus was eradicated or whether the outbreak continues.

 

 Photo Credit: Wikipedia / J. Glover

Independence of the Seas Mooring Mishap Kills Two in St. Kitts

This morning we were contacted by passengers aboard Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas indicating that two dockworkers were killed when the cruise ship was leaving the port.

The passengers described the incident as occurring when the two dockworkers were in a small vessel trying to remove the last mooring lines. The Independence of the Seas' wake allegedly swamped the vessel with its azipods and threw the two men into the water. The vessel then allegedly slammed into the Celebrity Silhouette and overturned.

The two men were described as wearing life-vests, although one vest apparently became loose when the man was tossed into the water.

The passengers who we communicated with were critical that the Independence "launched rescue but not fast enough. Celebrity took 30 min after we launched rescue to respond."  They described a "lack of quick response and feeling of helplessness."

The incident occurred yesterday around 5:00 PM.  The Independence was delayed approximately 3 Independence of the Seas St Kittshours.

The incident has already been posted on social media sites.

The Times Caribbean Blog posted this on Facebook (and the photo to the right):  

"Eyewitnesses suggest that the Cruise Liner may have pulled out before the men had enough time to clear the berthing area. As a result the sea currents created by the massive cruise liner may have caused the smaller berthing boat to capsize and the men were apparently sucked below water by the current and drowned."

The news account also indicated that "the small boat was capsized when our rear azipods pushed us away from the dock. The two men where thrown overboard and never resurfaced, only one had on a life vest, the other man's life vest came off when he was thrown into the water. The capsized boat was then pushed into the back of the Silhouette. All of this viewed from my aft balcony, kinda puts a damper on an otherwise wonderful cruise. Very sad for the families of these two men.'" 

CNN iReport posted information (based on the Times Caribbean account) and a local newspaper in St. Kitts, SKNVibes, published an article as well.

The St. Kitts & Nevis Observer identified the two men. 

April 5 2014 UpdateLinesman expresses safety concerns following colleague's death.

If anyone has additional information or photos or video of the incident, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo Credit: Times Caribbean

High Waves Rock Grandeur of the Seas

This week we have been asked questions about rough weather which apparently bounced Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas around. Today I ran across this video about a passenger;s experiences abord the Grandeur.

A Pennsylvania news station, WHTM ABC 27, reports that passenger Patti Hill Bocassini was ending her 10 day vacation aboard the Grandeur when rough weather struck as the ship was heading back to Baltimore. 

The passengers had enjoyed great weather but the cruise ship encountered 20 foot waves and high winds which the captain said were caused by the Nor'easter ahead of the ship. A "rogue" wave allegedly hit the Grandeur and caused some damage.

If you were on the ship and have information to share, please leave a comment or join the discussion on Facebook.

abc27 WHTM

Royal PR #FAIL: Royal Caribbean Keeps Adventure & Navigator Passengers in the Dark

This weekend saw the epic failure of Royal Caribbean's corporate communications department after two of its cruise ships, the Adventure of the Seas and the Navigator of the Seas, encountered difficulties returning to their respective ports. 

The Adventure of the Seas encountered propulsion problems last week and, eventually, a total failure on Saturday night, after the cruise ship's "fixipod" leaked oil and the ship lost propulsion. The ship limped back to San Juan on Sunday with great uncertainty whether it could possibly be repaired in time for it to sail. The ship is scheduled for a drydock at the end of the month, but it appears that Royal Caribbean decided to try and do a quick-fix of the damaged "fixipod" and squeeze in one more cruise to avoid having to refund their several thousands of passengers millions of dollars in refunds. Families Port of Galveston - Navigator of the Seas - Oil Spillwho had flown to San Juan to board the Adventure were not told of the propulsion issues and found themselves standing in a long line in the hot sun while the cruise line's public relations department said nothing. As of this morning (Monday), the ship has still not sailed.

While the Adventure of the Seas saga was unfolding, the Navigator of the Seas was delayed returning to port by an oil spill caused by a collision between a ship and a barge. Families who had driven and flown into Houston to make the cruise where not advised of the oil spill or the delay embarking the ship while the Royal Caribbean department remained quite. Meanwhile the Carnival PR department was routinely posting updates on Twitter and Facebook about the problem which its ship, the Magic, faced with the oil spill. Carnival maintained a centralized "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)" on its website.  It timely notified its guests that the cruise aboard the Carnival Magic would be delayed until Monday and that they should locate a hotel and get a good night's sleep. 

By early Sunday afternoon, the Royal Caribbean passengers began openly complaining on Twitter and Facebook about the cruise line's refusal to keep them up to date. A public relations nightmare was unfolding.

Numerous passengers and family members began bitterly complaining that Royal Caribbean was not notifying them via email, test messaging or telephone, and the cruise line was not utilizing its Twitter or Facebook feeds. Royal Caribbean has a public relations account of Twitter, called @RoyalCaribPR, San Juan Long Lines Adventure of the Seasbut it had remained silent for the psst 48 hours. People calling the cruise line were placed on hold, or the service representatives didn't know what was going on. It was as if the entire customer relations department has outsourced to a distant village in India. 

The passengers in San Juan were congregating in long lines in the hot son without water or food (photo left, via @_DanielnPearson). There was reportedly a single restroom with long lines. People were suffering, particularly the elderly. One passenger sent me a photo of the long lines via Twitter. 

One passenger commented on Cruise Critic that Royal Caribbean "is refusing water and people are leaving in ambulances." Some passengers reportedly collapsed due to the heat and lack of water. And @It'sYourWorld tweeted a photo (photo below right) of a San Juan ambulance which arrived at the port to attend to one of the passenger trying to board the ship.  

Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean's Facebook page said nothing about either the Adventure or the Navigator. While people began demanding an update on Twitter, Royal Caribbean posted a photograph of a beautiful tropical port of call (photo bottom left). At a time of crisis with customers begging for information, Royal Caribbean was clueless. It was trying to sell cruises with images of paradise when people in the sun needed water. 

As the afternoon dragged on into the evening and night, the passenger attempting to board these Royal Caribbean ships were kept in the dark. When Royal Caribbean finally began to tweet, its tweets were meaningless. One tweet it made over and over said: " We will provide more information . . . as information is available." 

Hundreds of passengers and the usual "Loyal-to-Royal" cruise fans began tweeting every few seconds. Of the hundreds of tweets, here are a few.

A cruise social media expert said: 'Hey @CCLSupport any way you can help out @RoyalCaribbean on their updates? They don't seem to be taking your lead :)"  He added another tweet: "@RoyalCaribbean's last tweet was promo for Ibiza & @RoyalCaribPR's last tweet was Friday. #FAIL"

A woman concerned for her elderly parents tweeted: "@RoyalCaribbean when can incoming guests check luggage? Senior parents (one disabled) have been up since 4am. They are exhausted."

Another woman from Texas tweeted: "My mom received no email or call updates. Found all the update info on Twitter. Pathetic!"

A man from Ohio tweeted: "@RoyalCaribbean why are your offices closed when you have 1000s of passengers waiting for information about boarding the Navigator of Seas?"

A cruise fan from Denver tweeted: "@RoyalCaribbean I understand the oil spill is out of your control but do you know how to use technology to communicate with your passengers?"

He added: "@RoyalCaribbean = confusion."

A member of Cruise Critic left this comment:

" . . . I am appalled by the lack of communication. Problems happen, (like busted ships and oil spills) but this is a problem that they knew they would have today given that it started Wednesday. There absolutely should have been a corporate plan in place to communicate with extra staff at port (3 days to fly staff from MIA to SJ is plenty of time) even if the only thing they would be able to communicate was that they don't know anything yet. Despite what anyone thinks, in corporate America today if you are Ambulance Stressed and Exhausted Cruise Passengers - San Juannot ahead of the news cycle you are behind...tweets, FB etc are required, and certainly emails, phone calls, texts, to passengers sailing are required, not 'optional.'

If as reported, no water or accommodations for elderly and special needs passengers were made while waiting to board; that's another major failure given the huge amount of time the company had to prepare for what they knew would be a problem. A hotel ballroom and shuttle could have been arranged cheaply.

This is completely unacceptable and another huge black eye for the Royal and the cruise industry."

You can read the Cruise Critic comments here.

Throughout Sunday afternoon, we received emails and comments on our blog and Facebook page asking for basic information about these two Royal Caribbean cruises from passengers at the ports, travel agents and concerned family members at home. A cruise line has a major PR problem when guests and travel agents are ignored and have to seek information from a maritime lawyer rather than a cruise representative. We directed a number of people calling us to the Carnival updates about the Galveston situation and also sent the link to the webcam at the port of Galveston so that they could see when the Navigator finally arrived in port (photo top right).

It still remains uncertain whether the Adventure of the Seas will sail today. The Royal Caribbean PR Twitter feed @RoyalCaribPR remains silent. The Royal Caribbean main Twitter page @RoyalCaribbean has offered no updates for 14 hours. The page claims that it offers "inspiration and information from the official sponsor of WOW. Living the #cruiselife 24/7." Hardly.

The problem here is that cruise lines like Royal Caribbean try and squeeze their ships (and employees) to make every dime possible.  It could have decided to take its crippled Adventure of the Seas out of service a week early for dry-dock but instead loaded the new round of passengers aboard to avoid paying a hotel for the night or refunds for the missed cruise. 

This is not Royal Caribbean's first PR blunder in San Juan. In August 2011 as a hurricane headed to the island, Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas sailed 6 hours early. But Royal Caribbean did not contact its guests via the emergency contact information about the new itinerary.  It didn't provide the passengers, who arrived in San Juan to find that the ship had left, with hotel rooms. It abandoned its guests in the middle of a hurricane and didn't bother to tell them.

Super cruise fan Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor of Cruise Critic, expressed outrage in her blog Bad Royal Caribbean Fantasy VacationsWeather Blunder: A Lesson in Cruise Crisis Control? "This takes my breath away. And it’s not about the fact that it didn’t offer to pay for hotels and flights . . . . It’s about dropping the ball in a risky situation. Clearly, I’m not the only one who is shocked at Royal Caribbean’s lack of responsibility to its customers. On Cruise Critic’s forums, its blog, and its Facebook page, travelers are incredulous." 

One of the continuing criticisms of the cruise industry is that it may be skilled at marketing fantasy images of idyllic cruise vacations but it is not prepared when disaster strikes one of its increasingly gigantic cruise ships. It's clear that Royal Caribbean has not invested into the infrastructure of its crisis management department and developed policies and procedures to effectively communicate meaningful information in real time. If Royal Caribbean can't handle a weekend when two cruise ships are delayed, one for an oil slick and another for a known propulsion issue, do you think that it can communicate effectively when a fire strands either the Oasis or the Allure on the high seas in rough weather or, God forbid, a huge ship sinks at sea? 

Propulsion Problems: Mis-Adventure of the Seas Limps Back to San Juan

Royal Caribbean Adventure of the SeasLast Wednesday, Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas canceled two port calls after the ship’s cruise ship' "fixipod" propulsion unit device lost oil as the ship headed to port in St. Kitts.

Royal Caribbean says that it placed oil booms around the ship to contain the leaking oil, and its engineers began addressing the problem.

Since then, cruise passengers and family members ashore have expressed concern with what happening with the ship and whether there will be a delay or changes in the itinerary of the cruise which leaves today.  

Their concerns intensified after the cruise ship lost all propulsion last night.

There have been on line discussions whether the "fixipod" will be repaired before the ship goes into dry dock on March 30th. The ship has limped back to San Juan at very low speed this morning. It looks like there have been additional issues which slowed the ship down further. At this point it looks like today's cruise may going forward (still anyone's guess) but it's less than clear how much of a delay there will be in boarding and/or sailing.

As usual, the discussion seem to be only when the ship will sail, not whether it's safe to cruise on a ship with 5 - 6 days of propulsion problems.

Cruise Critic members have expressed frustration over what they perceive as a lack of communication by Royal Caribbean. One member posted:

"They've posted NOTHING on the agent site, consumer site, their FB page, nor either the Public Relations nor regular twitter feeds, and I've asked!

And, no one knows diddly when you call...."

Fixipod Azipod On March 21, Royal Caribbean posted this one tweet:

"Adventure is sailing a modified itinerary due to a delayed departure from St. Kitts for required work on the ship's fixipod."

But nothing since then. It's surprising that a multi-billion dollar corporation which spends literally hundreds of millions a year in a big marketing campaign can't figure out how to utilize Twitter and Facebook (both are free) to communicate with their guests and the public.

I have not heard anything about whether the cruise line intends to compensate the passengers for the missed ports of call. Anyone know?

If you were on the cruise, please leave a comment or join the discussion on Facebook. If you have photos or a video of the tugs bringing the ship into port in San Juan, please send us a copy! 

March 24, 2014 Update: This is the most inept PR handling of a cruise problem I have ever seen. Read about Royal PR #FAIL: Royal Caribbean Keeps Adventure & Navigator Passengers in the Dark.

 

Photo Credit:

Top: CC-BY-SA-3.0/Matt H. Wade at Wikipedia

Bottom: Kvaerner Masa (image of Voyager of the Seas)

Coast Guard Responds to Injured Passenger on Grandeur of the Seas

The U.S. Coast Guard provided emergency transportation for an injured cruise ship passenger this morning.

The Coast Guard released a statement that it medevaced a 93-year-old man from Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas in the lower Chesapeake Bay.

The Royal Caribbean ship contacted the Coast Guard via VHF-FM at approximately 9 p.m. Saturday night and reported that a passenger suffered a head injury and was in need of medical assistance.

The Coast Guard crew, together with Virginia Beach Fire Department personnel, responded with a 45-foot response boat. The crew arrived at the cruise ship at approximately 1:30 a.m. this morning. They transferred the man and his wife aboard the Coast Guard boat and took them ashore. The passengers were then transferred to local emergency medical services and taken to Virginia Beach General Hospital.

There is no indication how the passenger was injured.  Many people have informed us that the Grandeur encountered rough weather heading back to port, although it is unknown whether the passenger's injury was related to sea and wind conditions.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / J. Glover

Grandeur of the Seas

Cruise Crime Cover Up: Cruise Lines Report Only Small Fraction of Crimes to the Public

WPTV Cruise Ship CrimeWPTV West Palm Beach aired an interesting program last night indicating that the cruise industry reports only a small percentage of crimes committed on cruise ships.

Last year the cruise lines reported only 78 crimes on cruise ships.  However, pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the news station located reports of more than 300 crimes on just cruise ships leaving from Florida ports. 

In 2013, the cruise lines disclosed only 14 thefts from cruise ships. However, WPTV's Dan Krauth stated that a FOIA request uncovered 75 thefts on cruise ship on Florida-based cruise ships alone. Under current U.S. law, cruise lines have to report only thefts involving property worth $10,000 or more. So if $9,999 of a passenger's stuff is stolen, the cruise lines keep it secret.

Jewelry, computers, money and other valuables were stolen essentially on every single cruise leaving Florida last year but only a tiny fraction of the thefts were reported by the cruise lines to the police. 

The cruise industry conceals the vast majority of physical assaults, sexual assaults and thefts which happen during cruising. It also touts crime statistics based on the incomplete database, creating a false and misleading impression of what really happens on the high seas. 

 

 

WPTV interviewed me during the program. The news station also cited a publication by our firm's former law clerk, Caitlin Burke, explaining that cruise ships evade U.S. law by incorporating in foreign countries and registering their cruise ships in places like the Bahamas. “Flags of convenience” date all the way back to the 1920s, according to Caitlin E. Burke, an advocate for cruise victims. “Flagging a ship under a foreign flag for the convenience of the cruise line is nothing new, nor is it rare,” Burke wrote in A Qualitative Study of Victimization and Legal Issues Relevant to Cruise Ships.

Interested in this issue?  Read Cruise Industry Launches False Crime Statistics Campaign

Credit: video and photograph WPTV

Royal Caribbean: The Rich Get Richer, the Poor Get Poorer

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line CEO Adam GoldsteinRoyal Caribbean Cruises President and CEO Adam Goldstein sold 44,256 shares of Royal Caribbean stock yesterday.