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).    

 

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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 lead to a second visit by 45 inspectors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Baldwin040 Creative Commons 3.0  

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.  

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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 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. 

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.  Zolimax News reports that Mr. Goldstein sold his stock at an average price of $52.96, for a total transaction of $2,343,797.76.

After the sale, Mr. Goldstein's stocks total 358,804 shares, valued at approximately $19,002,260.

Royal Caribbean (RCL) has a 52-week low of $31.35 and a 52-week high of $53.42. 

We last reported on the cruise president's stock sales in October of last year when he sold 7,855 shares of RCL stock at an average price of $43.22, for a total value of $339,493.10. At that time, he reportedly owned 335,654 shares of Royal Caribbean stock, valued at approximately $14,506,966. 

It looks like the cruise executive's net worth has increased by over $7,000,000.

Royal Caribbean pays a salary to its waiters and cabin attendants of only $50 a month; the cruise passengers pay tips to the waiters and stewards but Royal Caribbean 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.

 

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

Photo Credit: Adam Goldstein - Cruise360 Vimeo

Cruise Industry Launches False Crime Statistics Campaign

After the Costa Concordia capsized, travel agents began telling their clients that such incidents were "rare" and that cruising was "absolutely safe." Some travel agents went as far as to claim that the last time a cruise ship sank was over a 100 years ago when the Titanic struck an iceberg.

Of course this was false. But the travel agents were repeating the talking points issued by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA). This was part of a campaign by CLIA to assure the public that cruising was safe and sound. You can read about the false and misleading campaign by the cruise industry here: Six Lies The Cruise Lines Will Tell You After The Costa Concordia Crash.

Holland America LineIt seems like the cruise industry is now back at work spreading falsehoods again.

Following the vicious rape, beating and attempted murder of the 31 year old passenger aboard the HAL Nieuw Amsterdam, HAL's president Stein Kruse released a statement claiming that "no incident like this has occurred in our company's 140-year history."

Of course this is false too. Just last month a 18 year old girl was raped by an officer on the Amsterdam cruise ship, according to an article written by another lawyer here in Miami who represents victims of sexual assault on cruise ships.

The official Coast Guard portal also reveals that there recently have been reported rapes of women on HAL cruise ships, including assaults committed by crew members. 

The sexual assault of women and children is a problem which the cruise industry avoids discussing. When pressed to mention the issue, the cruise lines always say that sexual assaults are "rare." 

A year and a half ago, I wrote an article revealing 23 Reports of Sexual Assault on NCL Cruise Ships in 15 Months. I have also mentioned that Royal Caribbean reportedly experienced 24 sexual assaults during the same year. 

But the cruise lines will never acknowledge the true numbers. In its press releases, the cruise industry invariably fudges the numbers.  The cruise lines were successful in altering the language of the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act such that only those cruise ship crimes reported to and closed by the FBI needed to be disclosed to the public. The problem was that not all cruise ship crimes are reported to the FBI and the FBI keeps most files open.

The result is that only a tiny portion of cruise ship crimes is ever publicly disclosed, according to a report by the Senate Commerce Committee. Of 959 crimes reported to the FBI for a 18 month period in 2011 and 2012, only 31 were disclosed on a web site maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.

In addition to the cover-up of crimes, the cruise lines have been adept at keeping the cause of cruise ship disappearances secret. 

HAL has been unable to explain why the last five passengers who disappeared from HAL cruise ships Cruise Ship Crimewent overboard. Several of these passengers were women who disappeared from their cabins. HAL always seems to argue that the passengers committed suicide.

If the 31 year old woman recently victimized on the Nieuw Amsterdam had not fought her attacker off, and she disappeared during the cruise, what would HAL be saying about her now? Would it accuse her of committing suicide? Would the violent crime become just a "mystery?" A cruise line capable of a whopper like there-has-been-no-woman-attacked-for-140-years is capable of saying anything.

The cruise lines are relying on the CLIA travel agents to relay their false crime statistics and misleading opinions to the public. Travel Pulse just published "Agents: The Front Line In Telling the Real Cruise Story."

The travel publication says:

"Another week and another negative story hits the consumer media in regards to cruising. The latest issue involved a crewmember who is accused of raping and beating a passenger on board a Holland America Line charter.

It’s another challenge for the cruise lines, but an even bigger one for the travel agents who are on the front lines.

                                                     *              *            *             *

Despite what you might see or hear in the consumer media, travelers should seek out the insights and advice of a professional travel agent. They’ll get the true story, and the real numbers, when it comes to that particular story." (Emphasis added)

So what is the "truth" that the cruise lines and travel agents want us to believe in order to buy cruises from them?  

What is the "true story" about the HAL crew member who was, as the travel publication puts it, "accused" of "raping and beating" the passenger?  He has already confessed to raping as well as beating, choking and attempting to murder the poor woman who he tried to throw into the sea.  

And what are the "real numbers?" Do the travel agents really want us to believe that the last time a ship sank before the Concordia was the Titanic in 1912? And there had never been a prior rape of a passenger by a crew member on a HAL cruise ship for 140 years dating back to 1874?    

A travel agent that repeats the tall tales and skewed crime statistics of the cruise lines to their clients, tells them to ignore the media stories (like CNN), and represents that cruising is absolutely safe has a good chance of being sued for fraud if their clients are victimized.  

 

Photo Credit: Nieuw Amsterdam Wikipedia / Cybergoth

Did Splendor of the Seas or Other Cruise Ships Dump Sewage Near Turtle Beach in Brazil?

A reader of Cruise News in Brazil sent us an article from a Brazilian newspaper indicating that swimmers (including children) at a public beach near Búzios City, Brazil reported to the hospital with irritated eyes, difficulty breathing, and gastrointestinal problems.

The beach is called Praia da Tartaruga (Turtle Beach).

According to the newspaper Globo, public environmental officials in Brazil reportedly believe that the health problems may have been caused by discharge from one of three cruise ships in the area.

Samples were taken from the three cruise ships which called on the city of Búzios (north of Rio de Splendor of the Seas BrazilJaneiro) to compare them with contaminated water collected at the public beach. 

The three cruise ships have not been identified. However, the newspaper contains a photograph of the Royal Caribbean Splendor of the Seas. The newspaper indicates that the aerial photograph was taken by Secretary of State for Environment, Indio da Costa. Discolored water was observed around the cruise ship. The Brazilian official is quoted saying (translated):

"Still can not know what contaminated water, but we are almost certain that the problem was caused by the release of untreated sewage or treated irregularly by one of the ships docked in Buzios." 

The health authorities closed the beach due to the polluted water. 

The newspaper states that fines for polluting the waters of Brazil can reach $50 million, according to Brazil's Secretary of State for Environment.

The Brazilian cruise organization denied that the polluted water came from cruise ships. It said that the cruise companies comply with the guidelines a set by the MARPOL Convention (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships). 

It is unknown to us whether the Sovereign of the Seas or any other cruise ships were dumping anything in the Brazilian waters, or whether the discolored water around the Sovereign as shown in the photographs is attributable to silt being churned up by the ship's engines, the decomposition of algae or some other explanation. 

The test results are expected to be ready by Wednesday. We will identify the other cruise ships in the area as soon as we obtain this information.

We recently discussed an incident involving a MSC cruise ship which reportedly was caught dumping black garbage bags off the coast of Brazil near a marine sanctuary, after making a transatlantic crossing. A cruise passenger videotaped the dumpingSplendor of the Seas Brazil

 Photos Credit: Indio da Costa, Secretary of Environment from the State of Rio de Janeiro via Globo.com

America Now: Cruise Ship Crime

Cruise Ship CrimeToday, "America Now - News You Can Use" aired a video about the issue of cruise ship crimes.

The video shows images of 15 cruise passengers who were victimized during cruises. 

Although cruising appears to be a "hassle-free" vacation, there are crimes which occur. The number one crime is sexual assault, with over 30% of such crimes involving minors.

One of the problems with crimes on cruise ships is that there is no independent police force.  The security personnel are employees of the cruise line. There is a conflict of interest which occurs when a passenger is victimized, particularly when the assailant is a crew member.  

Interviewed during the program are Jamie Barnett, the President of the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization, and Laurie Dishman who was sexually assaulted during a Royal Caribbean cruise to Mexico.

Photo Credit: NBC

 

 

Passenger Goes Overboard from Royal Caribbean's Splendor of the Seas

A newspaper in Brazil reports that a passenger went overboard on Friday February 7, 2014 from the Splendor of the Seas cruise ship while it was sailing in the waters of Uruguay.

The vessel reportedly docked later at the Port of Santos, São Paulo, on Sunday, February 9, 2014. The local police investigated the incident and believe that it was a case of suicide.

Witnesses indicate that the passenger, a 47 year old Brazilian man, was wearing a life vest when he jumped into the water from the 7th floor of the cruise ship. Ship passengers who disembarked at the Port of Santos on Sunday state that the cruise ship searched for the man and managed to locate his body.  

Royal Caribbean said that the guest threw himself overboard. The ship stopped and conducted a search, and alerted  Uruguayan Coast Guard.

According to the newspaper, the cruise line says the Splendor of the Seas left Santos on February 2, with stops in Punta del Este and Montevideo, Uruguay and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Splendor of the Seas DeathRoyal Caribbean also says it is focused on providing support to the man's family. 

This is the fifth person overboard from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in less than 2 months.

In addition to this latest case, crew and passengers have gone overboard from the Celebrity Constellation, Rhapsody of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas and Independence of the Seas.

 

Photo Credit:

Top: Wikipedia / Exequiel Pérez Millán / GNU Free Documentation License,

Bottom: Globo newspaper / Santa Casa de Santos / G1 Santos)

Royal Caribbean's Misplaced Priorities: Fast Internet, Virtual Balconies But No Automatic Man-Overboard Systems

Today I read an article by a popular cruise blogger that Royal Caribbean was on track to deliver a fast land-based internet experience to its guests.

The article went on to say that "cruise lines are working overtime, trying to enable passenger use of their electronic devices at sea just as they might at home."

I suppose this is of some interest to the cruising public, knowing that they can surf the internet on the high seas just as fast as they can at home.

Virtual Balcony Another article which caught my eye was in Wired magazine entitled "Cruise Ship’s 80-Inch ‘Virtual Balconies’ Livestream the High Seas." 

The article explains that on Royal Caribbean' Navigator of the Seas, the cruise line has installed, in 81 interior staterooms, floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall screens which display a live feed of the bow and stern video cameras. Those passengers "stuck" in interior, view-less cabins will be able to enjoy clear, beautiful images of the Caribbean waters.

The article explains that the high-tech video gear is marine compliant and can handle all of the sun, heat, salt, and water "that comes with being at sea." Further, "fiber-optic cable carries the video to a server, then to a set-top box that decodes and processes the video before it’s displayed on the screen." 

Consultants from MIT and Harvard were involved in the project in order to bring the best technology to the cruise ship. 

All of this technology is coming from the cruise line which prides itself in "Delivering the Wow!" to its guests. When it comes to designing cruise ships which incorporate the newest entertainment gadgets for its passengers to enjoy, Royal Caribbean is the best. This is the cruise line which will introduce the Quantum of the Seas later this year, filled with all types of technological marvels like simulated sky-diving and a gee-whiz" Jetson-family-like futuristic mechanical arm that magically transports passengers high above the ocean in a glass capsule called the "North Star."

But one thing which the Quantum of the Seas will be lacking is an automatic man-overboard (MOB) system which will signal the bridge when a passenger or crew member goes over the rails and into the sea. Such devices were required by the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act. But Royal Caribbean, like most cruise lines, has not bothered to install such systems onto its fleet of cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean has experienced the most passengers and crew going overboard in the last two months. In all cases there is no mention of the required MOB systems. In some cases its does not even appear that the ships were even equipped with a sufficient number of surveillance systems to determine how and why the guest or employee disappeared from the ship.

The cruise industry claims that technology doesn't exist to detect when people go overboard. Cruise lines also claim that salt deposits from the sea spray can obscure the view of the MOB cameras.

North StarWhen it comes to why it has not complied with the life-saving safety law, Royal Caribbean has a boat load of excuses. It is still using old school, outdated technology. It can't even figure out how to keep an exterior camera clean.

But when it comes to the technology for its gadgets like cameras for its live-streaming, virtual balconies, it involved experts from MIT and Harvard to design the best cameras for the marine environment.    

The difference is that Royal Caribbean can generate significant profits by selling higher speed internet and charging more for an interior cabin if it has a virtual balcony. Royal Caribbean will charge a premium fare for the Quantum of the Seas with its "North Star" ride in the sky.  

But a CVSSA-compliant MOB system creates more costs and no profits. You will hear nothing about Royal Caribbean involving experts from MIT and Harvard to create "gee-whiz" safety devices. Yes, crew members and passengers will continue to disappear at sea but, in the cruise line's view, they are both easily replaceable.

 

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean / Royal Caribbean via Wired

Sign of the Apocalypse? Royal Caribbean Cruises for $32 a night

Motel 6 - Cheap Cruise FaresMarket Watch says you can cruise on Royal Caribbean for $32 a night.

Yes, it may be an interior cabin. And yes, you run the risk of catching norovirus like a record number of passenger did recently on Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas. But what the heck, its cheaper than staying at a Motel 6 which starts at $39.99.

Market Watch says that the low price may be a result of Royal Caribbean's recent woes with the Explorer. When disaster strikes or a "cruise for hell" affecting thousands of people hits the press, cruise lines often drop their fares. Of course, the cruise line is also trying to prime the pump for wave season.  

An article in Reuters, As Outbreaks Hit Cruises, Are Deals Worth Risking Illness?, explains that "potential travelers need to weigh the odds they'll get sick against the amount of money they might save now, and see what they can stomach."

Norovirus on Explorer of the Seas: More Sick than Reported

Explorer of the SeasCNN interviewed a family who became sick with gastrointestinal illness while sailing aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas.  

These passengers (Mom, Dad and two kids), made some interesting comments. They disputed the official statistics reported by the cruise line to the Centers for Disease control (CDC) indicating that only 20% of the passengers were infected.  

They believed that a more reasonable estimate is that 80% were infected and 20% were not infected. At some point, they say, the cruise ship's medical infirmary was over-run with sick passengers. The facility could not process and treat the hundreds of people becoming ill. 

The family also said that the cruise line medical personnel "told us to stop coming down" (to the infirmary).

Watch the video below. 

Photo Credit: Roberto Schmidt / AFP / Getty

 

Why Cruise Lines Want the Cause of Norovirus Outbreaks to Remain a Mystery

One hundred and fifty passengers reported ill on the Explorer of the Seas on Tuesday January 22, 2014, according to the cruise line's records. The following day, Wednesday, another 300 passengers reported being sick. In the first couple of days into the 10 day cruise, the Royal Caribbean cruise ship was faced with a full blown gastrointestinal epidemic. 

The numbers increased from 450 to 684 by the end of the cruise, including crew members.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that it sent one CDC sanitation inspector and one epidemiologist to the cruise ship when it arrived in St. Thomas, USVI on Sunday, Janaury 26, 2014. 

Cruise Ship NorovirusWhen I heard this news about the arrival of the CDC, I thought "just one epidemiologist?" The ship is huge - 15 stories high and longer than 3 football fields! It has over 4,200 people on board. How can one scientist possibly conclude not only the exact type of virus which was sickening the people on the enormous ship but also make an accurate determination how the virus came aboard and spread so quickly? There needs to be a team of a dozen epidemiology experts to handle such a task.

So the Explorer is back in New Jersey. Over 3,000 passengers will board tomorrow.

What type of virus sickened the ship and its passengers? The CDC has not yet concluded, assuming it will make a determination.

The CDC could not figure out the last two cruise ship GI outbreaks. The "causative agents" for the outbreaks on the NCL Star last week and the NCL Gem in November are listed as "unknown."  

The cause of the recent Explorer of the Seas outbreak may end up "unknown" as well.

If you look at the CDC data over the years, you will see that usually the CDC will at least figure out what type of pathogen is involved. It's usually norovirus, or e-coli or a combination of the two. But what you will never see is the CDC figuring out where the virus came from and how it spread.

Why? I believe that the CDC resources are so minimal and the time to conduct an investigation is so limited that it is virtually impossible to make a meaningful scientific analysis of the problem. All of the guests scatter back to their homes around the world. It's impossible to interview all of them. And the cruise line wants to re-rack the ship quickly. Ships don't make money sitting idle. The cruise lines depend on continuous rounds of customers buying booze, spending money on excursions and gift shop purchases, and gambling their money away. Investigating a cruise ship disease outbreak is completely different from an outbreak at a nursing home or child care facility where investigators can take their time, interview and test everyone and get to the truth of the matter.     

Look at the CDC data and you will learn that the CDC has not determined how norovirus comes aboard cruise ships for the last 50 outbreaks. Not one single time. They have failed miserably time after time in determining this causal issue.

The first two primary objectives of a CDC investigation are to:

  • determine the etiology of the outbreak; and
  • determine the method of transmission among the passengers.

There are a number of possible causes for a norovirus outbreaks. The CDC and FDA say that the most likely cause is often contaminated food or water.  The CDC has also flunked cruise ships during their sanitation inspections when they find evidence that galley employees kept working after they were Cruise Norovirussick. Earlier this year, a south Florida TV station aired a special about "Cruise Ship Workers Breaking Rules & Making Passengers Sick."

We also know that some galley employees hide food and cooking equipment from the CDC inspectors. Silversea Cruises was caught hiding 15 large trolleys of meat, fish, cheese and deserts down in the crew quarters. We revealed this last year and then CNN aired a special last year. Don't think that just Silversea plays hide-the-salami from the CDC sanitation inspectors. Unfortunately, the CDC inspects cruise ships which come into U.S. ports only twice a year.

Of course, passengers can be infected before they cruise and bring the virus onboard with them. They can also fail to wash their hands when they go to the buffet and make pigs of themselves at the buffet. Many passengers know that if they disclose their sickness they can be left behind. Many don't have insurance and the cruise lines never provide a refund to someone showing up ill. Some don't want to report sick to the infirmary because they are afraid of being quarantined and billed for the medical services.

The determination of exactly what caused the initial onset of the sickness and caused it to spread is a scientific / medical process. It should have nothing to do with the litigation blame game or public relations / reputation-protection issues.

But the cruise industry will always blame the passengers for bringing the virus onto the ship. They will not wait for the CDC to finish its investigation. The cruise trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), issues the same talking points after every single outbreak. The passengers need to wash their hands, CLIA will say. The 16,000 CLIA travel agents say the same thing, over and over, like trained parrots.

Today a well know travel agent tweeted: "It is the passengers!" as the only possible explanation for the outbreak on the Explorer.  Two days ago, Royal Caribbean Chairman Richard Fain was asked about the outbreak on the Explorer during a TV interview . He responded by saying that his cruise ship was "amazingly safe" and that the cause of the viral outbreak was because "they're having a lot of cold up in the north."  Of course norovirus has nothing to do with having a cold or cold weather. The cruise executive's off-the-cuff comments were just another way of delivering the "blame the passengers" message and diverting attention away from the ship and the crew. 

Passengers and crew members deserve to know why they are sick. 

Anecdotal stories, tall tales, PR statements and blame games will never solve the problem. Only scientific analysis from educated, trained and experienced epidemiologists will get to the bottom of the problem.

If I oversaw the cruise industry, which collects 35 to 40 billions dollars, tax free, every year, I would not be satisfied with the CDC never determining why a virus came aboard on my fleet of cruise ships and spread like wild fire, sickening my hard working crew and ruining the vacations of my guests. "Unknown" is not an acceptable answer. I would hire my own team of experts to get to the bottom of the matter. Then I would transparently tell my employees, customers and the public exactly what the scientists concluded, whether it was attributable to the ship food, or water, or the crew, or the Cruise Ship Noroviruspassengers.

But the cruise industry will never do that. They fear that perhaps 2 or 3 times out of 5, a group of experts may point to the cruise ship or crew rather than the dirty hands of the passengers as the cause of the outbreak.

That would be bad for the cruise industry's reputation and image. That would permit personal injury lawyers to file class action lawsuits. That would permit passengers to be fully compensated rather than having to accept 50% refunds and credits to sail on another cruise ship that they may never want to go on again.

As matters now stand, a scientific process designed to lead to the truth and the attendant medical and legal consequences gives way to a public relations effort full of speculation, untruthful talking points and finger pointing. 

And so the cause of viral outbreaks on cruise ships remains a mystery. And that's exactly what the cruise lines want. 

Will the Explorer of the Seas Be Ready to Safely Sail Tomorrow?

Explorer of the Seas Norovirus CleaningThe Explorer of the Seas arrived back in port in New Jersey yesterday.

ABC news interviewed some of the sick passengers. Its video below shows one passenger being taken away in an ambulance. ABC calls the incident a "horrific outbreak at sea." 

Incredibly, even though this is the largest gastrointestinal illness outbreaks on a cruise ship in 20 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still has not officially announced what is causing the widespread illnesses.  In addition, the CDC has not declared how the virus came on the ship. It is an impossible task for a single epidemiologist to make such a determination. Without figuring out where and how the virus started, it seems difficult to take steps to eradicate the virus and make certain that the ship is safe to sail on.

The cruise line crew members are busy spraying, wiping and scrubbing. The ship sets sail again tomorrow. I say good luck to the next round of guests. 

 


 

Chart Shows Massive GI Outbreak: Explorer of the Seas Returns to New Jersey with 684 Sick People Aboard

Explorer of the SeasThe noro-stricken Explorer of the Seas has returned to New Jersey filled with 684 ill passengers and crew members. This is reportedly the largest gastrointestinal illness outbreaks on a cruise ship in twenty years.

A gastrointestinal illness (GI) chart from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship shows that the outbreak became obvious on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 when nearly 150 passengers reported that they were sick. By the next day, Wednesday. January 22, 2014, over 300 additional passengers suffered from the onset of the illness. You can track the outbreak affecting both passengers and crew on the chart below.

The chart does not have data included from yesterday or today.

The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that there are 684 ill, with 630 passengers and 54 crew members affected. 

It will be interesting if Royal Caribbean will produce a (GI) chart showing the number of patients who suffered from GI during the prior cruise.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Explorer of the Seas Norovirus Chart 

  Photo Credit: Explorer of the Seas - Thomas Layer / AP Photo 

Norovirus on the Explorer of the Seas: Why No Compensation for Crew Members?

Crew members work hard on cruise ships. Waiters and cabin attendants earn wages from Royal Caribbean of only $50 a month. That's right. $50 a month. That's something like $1.67 a day. They depend almost exclusively on tips from the passengers to support their families back home.

Utility cleaners are not entitled to tips, and they earn around only $545 a month. That's around $18.30 a day. 

Crew members work a minimum of 12 hours a day, sometimes more.

Norovirus Explorer of the Seas - Royal CaribbeanThey work 7 days a week. Every single day of the month. For 8 months.

When a norovirus outbreak occurs, they are pressed into duty to try and sanitize the huge ship. That involves hours and hours of extra spraying and wiping and scrubbing everything in sight.

I cannot imagine the extra work required of the cabin attendants who clean as many as 18 cabins and bathrooms a day. I don't know how these men and women clean so many cabins and bathroom when there's no gastrointestinal illness outbreak. But when noro virus strikes and the puking and diarrhea starts, there are literally millions and millions of noro infected microbes floating around in an aerosolized form. The microbes can fall into the fabric of the furniture, the duvet covers on the bed, into the carpet fibers, and all the tiny nooks and crannies of the bathroom tiles.  

When the passengers leave the cruise ship at the last day of this cruise from hell, will they tip these hardworking crew members?  Many passengers are mad and feel ripped off. They didn't obtain the vacations which they paid for with their family. They want their money back from the cruise line. Are they going to track down the public bathroom cleaners responsible for sanitizing all of the public restrooms and give them a $50 tip?

Today Royal Caribbean announced "compensation" for the passengers: a 50% refund and a 50% future credit. Is that fair? Some will accept it. Others will think that they are being mistreated again. Some people were sailing on the Explorer as a replacement cruise after the Grandeur of the Seas caught on fire last year. Are they interested in testing their luck one more time? 

Whatever you think of the cruise line's offer of compensation, remember one thing. The crew is not getting a nickel extra from the cruise line. So if you are a passenger and want to bitch, whine, moan and complain, don't forget about all of those crew members you left behind. Remember that they were the ones cleaning up all of your vomit and removing your bio-hazard bags. They are not receiving any compensation at all.  They are busy trying to get the cruise ship in shape for the next 3,000 guests who will soon board.

Explorer of the Seas Norovirus

Photo Credit: Top - Getty Images

Time Magazine: The Top 13 Cruise Ship Norovirus Outbreaks

With the Explorer of the Seas sailing back to New Jersey with almost 650 victims of norovirus related nausea and diarrhea, Time magazine just published the article Cruise Out of Control: The 13 Worst Norovirus Outbreaks on Cruise Ships.

The worst outbreak is, of course, Royal Caribbean's Explorer but the cruise line and its sister line Celebrity Cruises have the top three worst outbreaks and five of the top 13 worst outbreaks.

The passengers and crew aboard the Celebrity Mercury suffered through outbreaks on five consecutive  sailings back in 2000, including 443 sick in February 2000 and 419 in March. The Centers Norovirus Cruise Shipfor Disease Control and Prevention finally issued a rare no-sail order because the ship kept infecting the passengers and the cruise line wouldn't stop sailing.

The overall winner of Time's top 13 list is Princess Cruises which had five outbreaks on its brand alone: Crown Princess (January 2010) - 396; Crown Princess (February 2012) - 363;  Ruby Princess (March 2013) - 276; Coral Princess (February 2009) - 271; and Sun Princess (July 2012) - 216.

The disturbing thing about the list is that the Centers for Disease Control were unable to publish a single conclusion about where the norovirus came from. The public is left with the "blame game" of wondering whether the cruise ship food or water was contaminated, or the outbreak was caused by a sick galley worker, or was brought aboard by sick passengers and then spread because of inadequate hygiene.

Royal Caribbean Chairman Places Blame for Norovirus: "They're Having a Lot of Cold Up in the North"

Richard Fain Royal Caribbean NorovirusWith the norovirus controversy swirling around the Explorer of the Seas, Royal Caribbean cruise line executive Richard Fain appeared on a CNBC financial program today with host Simon Hobbs. Chairman Fain was discussing the fourth quarter 2013 profits when the issue came up of the over 600 sick passengers and crew.

Mr. Fain seemed to become quite defensive. He placed blame for what the ship doctors believe is the dreadful norovirus, saying: "They're having a lot of cold up in the north."   

Of course norovirus is not a cold, and its not caused by the cold. Far from it.

Norovirus is transmitted by fecally contaminated food or water; by person-to-person contact; and via aerosolization of the virus and subsequent contamination of surfaces. It can linger around for a week or two on surfaces and fabrics and even months and years in contaminated water.

How and why norovirus appears on cruise ships is a hotly debated topic.

Unless and until the CDC epidemiologist locates how the norovirus came on the cruise ship, it will be anyone's guess where the nasty bug came from. Blaming the people from New Jersey for bring a cold aboard the Explorer of the Seas is preposterous, but that's part of the blame game that cruise lines play.

The game plan for cruise lines is to always blame the passengers for the virus and to take the focus off of the possibility that an ill galley worker spread the virus or there were contamination problems with the food or water in the first place.

Mr. Fain told CNBC "'we screen our passengers best we can." Again, blame the passengers who slipped through the screening process, rather than saying that they screen their crew, food and water. 

Mr. Fain said his ships are "amazingly safe and secure" but he "wished he didn't have to prove it so many times."

Well if you have over 600 passengers and crew sick with norovirus puking all over the place, you have some proving to do again.  Accusing the people from Hoboken of having a cold is not going to work.

 

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When Norovirus Strikes, Cruise Line Cheerleaders Run & Hide

The news of 600 passengers and crew members stricken with what appears to be norovirus is dominating the cruise news today. The story broke on Friday with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announcing that a little over 300 passenger and crew aboard the Explorer of the Seas were suffering from nausea and diarrhea. 

The number rose to over 450 by the weekend. This morning the CDC raised the number of sick people to over 600.

This story came on the heels of another Royal Caribbean norovirus case last week. The Majesty of the Seas returned to Miami the other week with passengers and crew sickened by norovirus. The story Explorer of the Seas Noroviruswas heavily reported as well.

The cruise norovirus stories seem to bring the disgusting Triumph "poop cruise" stories back to life. Hundreds of people floating around on a nasty ship jammed with people who wanted off the cruise and away from all of the vomit and diarrhea.

This morning around 4:00 AM I published my second article ("A Royal Mess") on the outbreak. I then went to the airport in Miami at 5:30 AM to meet a client. A CNN special about the Explorer's gastrointestinal illness (GI) outbreak was on a flat screen television positioned above one of the baggage carousels. Hundreds of people who had just flown into Miami watched the television as they waited for their bags. I watched them either shake their heads in disgust or laugh, perhaps nervously, as the CNN anchor interviewed a Royal Caribbean passenger who described the widespread illnesses on the sick ship.

I was familiar with this particular passenger's plight because we had exchanged tweets on Twitter about the cruise ship GI outbreak. Passengers tweeted over the weekend to anyone and everyone who would listen to stories about the ordeal. I could see that reporters from ABC, CBS and other major networks were sending messages to anyone they could find on Twitter looking for a live voice to tell the story. Reuters reported that one passenger wrote on Twitter: "I've been sick and quarantined... Everything I touch goes in a biohazard bag." A newspaper in the U.K., the Daily Mail, embedded tweets from some of the sick passengers, including a couple of tweets that I shared with one ill passenger.

The puke-fest-on-the-cruise-from-hell-story was growing and growing. It became clear that far more than 300 people were sick. The story would shortly become viral.

As usual, CNN beat their competitors in covering the story with a couple of video interviews of passengers on the stricken ship. One passenger was angry about the cruise line's disorganization. He said his last cruise with Royal Caribbean also involved widespread gastrointestinal illnesses. Another passenger complained that no one in the ship's room service would answer his calls for water, and no one told him when the quarantine was lifted.     

Where were the public relation representatives of Royal Caribbean protecting the crew's and cruise line's reputations? Where were the PR experts for the cruise industry? Royal Caribbean finally sent out a formal statement to the press but there was no one on the cruise line's twitter feed interacting contemporaneously with the sick and suffering on the cruise ship. 

The trade organization for the cruise line, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), was asleep. Indeed, a check of the CLIA Twitter feed (@CruiseFacts) shows no tweets since December 18, 2013 - over a month! That's an eternity in the fast paced world of social media.

The CEO of CLIA, Christine Duffy, was no where to be seen. She needed to present the cruise industry's side of the story. She last tweeted on Thursday, the day before the outbreak from her handle @CLIACEO. Ironically, she last tweeted about a "great column" in Travel Weekly about the "new wave of attacks on the cruise industry" which featured a travel agent's criticism of me. (You can read my response here).

This shows a problem with the cruise lines' PR. The cruise industry PR is always late and in reaction to bad press. The cruise industry seems to be always complaining about CNN and the bad press, but it doesn't bother to interact with its aggrieved customers in real time. By the time it finally responds to bad news, there are other stories bringing even worse news. The travel writers will be pleased to write a puff piece whenever CLIA wants one, but the coverage is strictly after-the-fact. It lacks spontaneity and genuineness. There are no travel writers fast and nimble enough to react immediately when trouble comes.  

When disaster strikes, whether it's a fire, a capsizing, or just the latest norovirus outbreak, the cruise lines don't know what to do. Their twitter and Facebook pages are silent. Their executives go to the Miami Heat games. The travel agents and travel publications run and hide.

A crisis management expert, Rich Klein, just wrote a blog about the predicament facing Royal Caribbean. With the headline "Honesty Remains Lonely Word," he writes that the cruise line has active Twitter and Facebook pages "but 24+ hours into their respective crises, only customers are reporting the obvious news while the companies offer little insight into what happened."

As sick passengers lamented their cruise-from-hell on Twitter and aggressive news reporters brought their stories to an international audience, Royal Caribbean and CLIA were enjoying their weekend. No one had their hands on the wheels of the PR machine. When genuine sympathy and a quick refund were in order, the cruise industry engaged in slow motion corporate talk. Royal Caribbean has still not even mentioned whether or how it intends to compensate its sick guests for the unpleasant, aborted cruise. 

 

Photo Credit: Thomas Layer / AP Photo

A Royal Mess: Sick Count Increases to Over 600, Cruise Ends Early

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that over 600 people have been sickened by the gastrointestinal illness outbreak on the Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas, CNN reports.

The Royal Caribbean cruise ship left Cape Liberty, New Jersey on January 21, 2014 for a 10 day cruise through the Caribbean. The ship missed a stop at its private stop in Labadee Haiti after the outbreak. It sailed to San Juan to be cleaned. 

The CDC initially stated that over 300 people (281 passengers and 22 crew members) were ill. (Its official report is here with the new statistics). However, over the weekend we began to hear reports from passengers that the number Royal Caribbean Cruise Explorer of the Seas Norovirusof people suffering from nausea and diarrhea had increased to to over 450 and, now, to over 600. 

CNN quotes a spokeswoman with the CDC that more than 600 people on the ship have become ill, reporting vomiting and diarrhea. The CDC spokeswoman said 564 passengers and 47 crew members reported being ill.

Royal Caribbean is ending the cruise two days early. The cruise line will "use the extra time to sanitize the ship even more thoroughly." 

We have been contacted by guests on this ill fated cruise as well passengers from the prior cruise who became ill. 

Passengers who contacted Royal Caribbean say that the cruise line is not considering refunds of any type.

We previously reported on the incident in our article: Puke Fest Aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas.

There has been no official word from the CDC whether this is in fact norovirus, although the symptoms are consistent with the virus. The cruise lines invariably blame the passengers, but the CDC has never in my experience ever pin-pointed the exact source of an outbreak like this.

NBC News raises the issue whether the outbreak on the Explorer is linked to a nasty new type of norovirus known as the GII 4 Sydney strain which caused an outbreak on the Queen Mary 2.

Join our discussion on Facebook about why norovirus outbreaks occur on cruise ships

 

Puke Fest Aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that there is an outbreak of gastrointestinal sickness of a large percentage of cruise passengers aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas cruise ship.

The CDC indicates that 281 passengers (9.21% of total passengers) are suffering from norovirus type of symptoms. The symptoms include vomiting, nausea, headaches and diarehhea. You can read the report here

The pro-cruise site Cruise Critic calls the problem a "small outbreak" but the truth is that 9% is a high percentage.  It is not unusual for passengers not to report the illness in order to avoid being Explorer of the Seasquarantined in the cabin or for crew members who rely on tips to keep working after they are ill. The total numbers are often under-reported.

In addition to sick passengers, 22 crew members are reportedly ill according to the CDC. 

The CDC website states that an environmental health officer and an epidemiologist will board the ship in St. Thomas, USVI on January 26, 2014 to conduct an epidemiologic investigation. 

It may be possible to determine whether the outbreak is in fact related to norovirus. But the CDC will not have any success is determining why and how the virus came aboard. There is not enough time for the CDC to conduct an exhaustive scientific analysis and, as usual, the ship will not sit idle waiting for the test results. The cruise ship will continue to sail whether the CDC determines if it is norovirus or exactly why it is on the ship. 

Earlier this week, cruise expert Professor Ross Klein indicated that the CDC reported 130 passengers and 12 crew members became ill with gastrointestinal illness while cruising aboard the NCL Norwegian Star

The Majesty of the Seas returned to Miami a week ago with 70 people reported ill with gastrointestinal illnesses.

Were the outbreaks on the Royal Caribbean and NCL ships caused by the passengers not washing their hands? That's always what the cruise lines say.

Or was it due to crew members who kept working after they became sick and causing the outbreak? Or was it contaminated food or water, which is a common cause?

We will never know. The cause of gastrointestinal outbreaks is usually a mystery on cruise ships.

 

Have a comment? Please leave a message below or join the discussion on our Facebook page - what's the most common cause of norovirus on cruise ships?  

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Emma Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don't think so.

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

I don't think so either.

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, and worse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Man Overboard from the Adventure of the Seas

Adventure of the SeasEarly this morning we received an email from a cruise passenger aboard the Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas alerting us that a man had gone overboard last night. We received this message:

"Man overboard Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas. Close enough to San Juan to be getting AT&T service right now. At about 8:45 - 9:00 PM, the Captain came over loudspeaker and announced that a man had "jumped" overboard. They also said they believed he was in his mid 20s. About 30 - 45 minutes later they announced the arrival of a Coast Guard helicopter. I can verify. When the announcement was made I went on deck and witnessed the ship turning around. They launched life preservers with lights attached as well as two rescue boats. There were spotlights at first and brighter ones joined later. There was talk spreading throughout the shop that people had witnessed the pulling the spotlights out of the theater or ice rink.

I wrote that at about 11 last night. We are now heading to port. Captain told us there would be a 4 hour delay and that he extended condolences to the family. No more information at this time."

There have been at least 219 persons overboard since 2000, according to cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein.

Nine days ago, we reported on another passengers who disappeared from Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas.

If you are on the cruise or have any information or photographs you wish to share, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Update Sunday afternoon: The AP quotes a Royal Caribbean spokesperson saying that the captain of the Adventure of the Seas stopped the ship, turned around and alerted authorities after a passenger reported seeing the person going overboard late Saturday.The cruise spokesperson said footage of the incident was also captured by the ship's cameras.  You can read updated comments here.

According to the Coast Guard said that the missing man is Canadian Tien Phuoc Nguyen, age 26, and was sailing with his family.

There is an article in a Puerto Rican newspaper suggesting that the man may have been involved in an argument with his family & under influence of alcohol, and that ship security tried to intervene prior to him going overboard.

The U.K.'s Daily Mail also covered the story.  

 

Photo Credit: Top CC-BY-SA-3.0 / Matt H. Wade at Wikipedia

Norovirus on the Oasis of the Seas?

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo credit: Wikipedia / Baldwin040

Man Overboard From Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas

We have been notified from readers of Cruise Law News that a passenger has gone overboard from the Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas.

The cruise ship was reportedly 550 kilometres east of Brisbane on a trip from Sydney to the South Pacific.

The P&O's Pacific Pearl cruise ship was involved in the recovery of the body.

We have reported often that cruise ships do not have automatic man-overboard alarms to detect passengers and crew who go overboard.

If this case, according to the local press, the man was seen falling into the sea around 2:00 AM, but he was not rescued. The cruise line claims that crew members "immediately threw life rings and marker smoke into the water, turned the ship around and launched rescue boats," but this has not been verified by a passenger on board.  

We have not yet received details from any passengers regarding exactly what happened or how the cruise ship responded.

His body was located approximately 7 and one-half hours later, at 9:30 AM. 

If you have information, photographs or video regarding this incident, please contact us.

Photos Credit: Wikipedia / Lisa LushRhapsody of the Seas 

 

Miami-Dade Jury Hits Royal Caribbean with $6.2 Million Verdict

Today, a jury here in Miami, Florida returned a verdict over $6,200,000 on behalf of a seriously injured crew member.

The crew members is from Haiti and worked as a cleaner on the Jewel of the Seas

He sustained a serious back injury due to the repetitive nature of his work and the long hours which crew members are required to work.

After the crew member sustained injury, Royal Caribbean sent the crew member to Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic for medical treatment. There a surgeon performed a back fusion. The Brett Rivkindcrew member's lawyer alleged that the surgery was unnecessary and caused the crew member unnecessary and additional injuries. 

We have written about the medical facilities in Santo Dominican before. Rather than fly the injured crew members to Miami, where the cruise line in headquartered and the executives reside, the cruise line often sends their ship employees to the Dominican Republic where the medical expenses are substantially cheaper although the treatment is substantially inferior.

We have discussed the sub-standard medical facilities in Santo Domingo before. A jury in Miami previously returned a $1,000,000 verdict for a Celebrity crew member who underwent a crippling, unnecessary pacemaker surgery.   

Royal Caribbean tries to save money by keeping its ill and injured crew members out of Miami, and this is often the result. Read: Cruise Ship Medical Care - Royal Caribbean Gives Their Crew Members the Royal Shaft

Royal Caribbean reportedly made no settlement offer before trial.

The jury returned a verdict for the crew member finding that Royal Caribbean was negligent under the Jones Act, the vessel was unseaworthy, and the cruise line failed to provide prompt and adequate medical treatment. 

The crew member was represented by Miami maritime lawyer Brett Rivkind, photo above.

The total verdict was in the amount of $6,282,261.

The cruise lawyer was defended by defense lawyer David Horr.

Rhapsody of the Seas Delayed in South Pacific

A reader of this blog from Australia has informed us that Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas cruise ship is delayed at port in the South Pacific due to unspecified problems with the ship.

AIS tracking systems shows the cruise ship in the port of Port Vila, Efate in the Vanautu islands.

We do not see any news of the situation on line.

There is no indication of the reason for the delayed departure. 

If you are on the cruise ship and have any information to share, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Rhapsody of the Seas - Vanuatu Islands

 

Shell Game: No Justice for Cruise Passenger Who Suffered Sepsis, Multiple Organ Failure & Cerebral Hemorrhage Due to Alleged Misdiagnosis by Royal Caribbean Ship Doctor

The Florida Third District Court of Appeal published a ruling today which is, in a word, shameful.

The case involved allegations by a passenger who sailed on a cruise that she suffered sepsis, multiple organ failure, and a cerebral hemorrhage due to medical malpractice and misrepresentations by a doctor on a Royal Caribbean ship.

According to the allegations in the lawsuit filed in Miami, Ms. Gutierrez and her husband sailed on Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas cruise ship in May 2010 from Port Everglades, Florida for a week long cruise through the Western Caribbean. Ms. Gutierrez experienced intense abdominal pain as the Royal Caribbean - Oasis of the Seas - Ship Doctor Chris Taylorcruise ship approached Labadee, Haiti. She was taken by wheelchair to the ship's medical facility. The ship doctor, Dr. Chris Taylor, diagnosed and treated her for gastritis. However, Ms. Gutierrez was actually suffering from a far more serious abdominal infection.

The lawsuit papers further alleged that Dr. Taylor and the cruise line told Ms. Gutierrez and her husband that they could not be evacuated from the vessel and taken to an on-shore hospital. In truth, emergency evacuation services could have been arranged. Ms. Gutierrez sought emergency medical assistance at the ship’s next port in Mexico where she underwent abdominal surgery. Ultimately, she suffered abdominal sepsis, multiple organ failure, and a cerebral hemorrhage.

Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have insulated themselves from lawsuits when ship doctors maim cruise passengers by characterizing the doctors as "independent contractors" for whom they are not liable.

Most cruise passengers don't understand that the doctors wearing officer stripes and cruise line uniforms and hats who treat them in the ship infirmary are somehow not ship doctors for legal purposes. Passengers usually don't read the fine print buries in the cruise ticket and are tricked into thinking that big, beautiful cruise ships like the Oasis costing over a billion dollars must hire highly trained, educated and experienced ship employees in the infirmaries and the cruise lines must be responsible for the doctors when they make errors. We have written about this issue many times before. Read: If the Ship Doctor Kills You, Too Bad

So as matters now stand, when passengers are injured or killed due to malpractice of the doctors in the cruise ship infirmary, they can't sue the cruise line in most cases. They are left to try and seek the recovery of medical bills and other compensation from the doctors who are usually not U.S. citizens.  

In Ms. Gutierrez's case, Dr. Taylor was born in the U.K. but for the last nine years he worked on cruise ships sailing from Florida. When Dr. Taylor was sued, the cruise lines hired its usual defense lawyers to defend him. They moved to avoid the lawsuit arguing that Ms. Gutierrez could not establish that Dr. Taylor was subject to personal jurisdiction here. However, Ms. Gutierrez's lawyers did a thorough job establishing a strong connection between Dr. Taylor and the state of Florida:

  • Dr. Taylor entered into employment agreements in Florida with Florida-based cruise lines (Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines) over the course of nine years;
  • Dr. Taylor's employment agreements specified Florida as the required jurisdiction to resolve any disputes with the cruise lines; 
  • Dr. Taylor attended annual medical conferences in Florida;
  • Dr. Taylor received advanced cardiac life support certification in Florida;
  • Dr. Taylor vacationed from time to time in Florida;
  • Dr. Taylor made presentations at medical conferences in Florida;
  • Dr. Taylor maintained two bank accounts in Florida;
  • Dr. Taylor worked aboard cruise ships that embarked/disembarked at a Florida port one day a week;
  • Dr. Taylor was on duty and treated passengers and crew members while the cruise ships were in Florida waters and returning to Miami, docked in Miami, and leaving Miami, weekly, over a course of nine years; and
  • For all intents and purposes, Dr. Taylor worked and resided exclusively on a cruise ship.      

Based on these undisputed facts, the trial court ruled that the ship doctor was clearly subject to jurisdiction in Florida and could be sued in the courts in Florida.  The judge ruled that Dr. Taylor not only Oasis of the Seasintentionally played a “shell game" to thwart jurisdiction in Florida, but he engaged in a "nefarious scheme" to avoid being sued in any court. 

On appeal, in a 2-1 decision the Third District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court holding that the factors discussed above were insufficient to establish jurisdiction over Dr. Taylor.  In my view, the appellate court nitpicked the lower court's findings and ignored the continuous and substantial relationship between the ship doctor and the state of Florida.    

You can read the order here.

The result of this decision is cruise passengers' rights are further limited. This is exactly how the cruise industry wants it.

Ms. Gurierrez, a mother of young children, is left with permanent brain injury, huge medical bills and no compensation. 

Royal Caribbean may boast that its 1.2 billion dollar mega-ship Oasis of the Seas is the largest and most technologically advanced cruise ship in the world. But as far as the treatment of gravely ill guests is concerned, the cruise line is sailing in Medieval times.     

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

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

 

Coincidence or a sign of mischief to come? The Wall Street Journal published an article in March 2010 about the Oasis of the Seas which mentioned Dr. Taylor talking about rarely medevacing passengers back to the U.S. This was two months before Ms. Gutierrez sailed on the Oasis:

The ship has three doctors on board. It also has its own intensive care unit and can keep one person at a time on life support. Every few weeks a passenger has a heart attack so thrombolytic drugs are kept on-hand, says Chris Taylor, the ship's senior doctor.

If there's a serious illness, the ship's doctors and captain can decide to divert to a port early, but rarely is anyone airlifted back to the U.S., says Dr. Taylor, who has been a doctor on cruise ships for seven years. "Many people have the belief that the U.S. coast guard is always going to come to the rescue if there is any emergency at sea. The actual truth of the matter is that most of the time the ship is well out of range of the coast guard," he says.
  

Photo credit: Dr. Chris Taylor - LinkedIn;  Oasis of the Seas - Wikipedia / Baldwin 040. 

Freedom of the Seas Responds to Three Medical Emergencies

Freedom of the Seas - Medical EmergenciesThis evening Cruise Critic reported that Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas altered her itinerary yesterday because three passengers were evacuated from the cruise ship for medical reasons.

The popular online community said that a helicopter airlifted one person from Coco Cay.  Later, the cruise ship was diverted to Nassau, Bahamas to send two other people to the hospital.  A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean reportedly said that the three incidents were not related. 

There was no indication regarding the nature of illnesses and/or injuries or whether the medical emergencies involved passengers or crew members.

The Freedom of the Seas stopped at San Juan today rather than sail to St. Thomas.

There is no indication whether passengers will be offered any type of compensation for the missed port. 

If you have any information about the nature of the medical emergencies, or have video or photos to share, please leave a comment, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo Credit: Freedom of the Seas - Wikipedia / Andres Manuel Rodriguez

Yah Mon! Cruise Law Goes to Jamaica

Tomorrow the lawyers here at our firm are traveling again to Jamaica.

We'll be visiting our clients to see how they are doing. I will be meeting friends in Falmouth and will see if there has been any signs of the revitalization of the town after the new Royal Caribbean port destroyed ancient coral reefs and native mangroves to make way for the Oasis and Allure of the Seas

We will also make ourselves available to meet with any crew members who need to learn about the Injured Crew Members - Jamaica - Lawyers legal rights of cruise ship employees who become ill or injured on cruise ships. 

I will be arriving at Montego Bay tomorrow morning and I will be available to meet with crew members or their family for two days (Monday and Tuesday). I'll  be hosting a free conference at the "Jamaica No Problem Room" in the beautiful Hibiscus Lodge in Ocho Rio. The address is 83 Main Street in Ocho Rios. Please come with your questions or concerns. No fee or obligation of course.

My co-counsel Jonathan Aronson will be will me.

The photo above was from a prior visit to the famous "No Problem Room." 

If Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Celebrity, Disney or some other cruise line has treated you poorly after you were injured on the ship, or if you have medical problems like hypertension, diabetes, cancer or other illnesses which require treatment, please don't hesitate to contact me. 

And if you can't come to the clinic, no problem.  Please email me at jim@cruiselaw.com and I will be pleased to answer any questions you may have and can call you to discuss your concerns if you wish. 

Allure of the Seas Finally Scheduled for Dry Dock

Allure of the SeasRoyal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world, will enter dry dock in the Bahamas in February 2014 to undergo repairs to its propulsion system.

The decision was finally announced after the cruise line had been under criticism for not disclosing the Allure was unable to cruise any faster than around 17 knots rather than its top of over 22 knots. 

Several newspapers are saying that the cruise ship had a problem with one of its three propulsion "pods." The ship has been arriving late and leaving early from its ports of call and cancelling some excursions.

The Allure will undergo repairs during the week of Feb. 24, 2014. The cruise scheduled for that week will be cancelled and the cruise fare refunded. 

 

Dry Dock Cure for Allure of the Seas?

Tom Stieghorst of Travel Weekly reports that Royal Caribbean may send the Allure of the Seas, which has been plagued by problems with its propulsion system, to an early drydock in order to fix the problem.

The article says the scheduled drydock is not until in 2015, but the cruise line may take the giant ship out of service earlier.

Travel Weekly quotes cruise chairman Richard Rain as the source of the information. 

Allure of the SeasRoyal Caribbean has been criticized for not being transparent in telling the public of the problem before cruising. 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 have been cancelled.

USA TODAY also weighs in on the issue with its article "World's Largest Cruise Ship May Need Repairs." The newspaper explains that the Allure is just the latest in a series of ships that have experienced problems with pod propulsion systems. Three months ago, sister cruise line Celebrity Cruises' Millennium suffered a pod problem resulting in the cancellation of several cruises. 

We have been contacted by cruisers who are booked on the Allure over the next several months, wondering whether the propulsion problems will be fixed by the time of their cruise.  

This news will create only more speculation and worry, as it now seems probable that the Allure will be taken out of service for a week or two sometime in the next few months. Exactly when is anyone's guess.   

 

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia (Daniel Christensen)

Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas: "Full Speed Ahead?"

A reader of Cruise Law News sent us a humorous tweet from Royal Caribbean. The problem is that the cruise line didn't intend it to be funny.

Royal Caribbean tweeted a photograph of the Allure of the Seas (below left) with the caption "Full speed ahead."

Of course everyone following cruise news knows that the Allure of the Seas is experiencing a problem with its propulsion system which we have written about a couple of times. Read here and here.

Allure of the Seas Propulsion ProblemsThere is currently a debate in the cruise community between those die-hard cruise supporters who think the propulsion problems are a lot to do about nothing and those cruisers who are annoyed that their expensive cruise vacations involve leaving some cruise ports early and arriving late at others and missing some excursions in the process.  

I won't jump into that argument except to say that the cruise line is not helping its reputation by keeping its usually loyal-to-Royal customers in the dark.

I'm not the first to comment on the "full speed ahead" caption showing the Allure tearing up the waves.

Others on Twitter have had their fun.

@MartinosCafe tweeted: "@Royal Caribbean Is that your way of telling us the ship is fixed?"

And @linerlovers tweeted: "I wish they WERE at full speed!"

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

New Cruise Terminals & Piers: A Risky Business?

A local news station in Houston is reporting that for the first time, a cruise ship has sailed from its home port at the Bayport Cruise Terminal in Houston. Princess Cruises' Caribbean Princess set sail earlier this week for a four day cruise to Progresso, Mexico.

The remarkable part of the story is that the cruise terminal was built long ago and has sat largely unused. The cruise terminal was completed in 2009 at a cost of $108 million with bond money that the local taxpayers have been paying for the past 4 to 5 years. 

Empty and abandoned cruise terminals are a risk that struggling U.S. cities and powerless Carnival Cruise Line - 800 Pound Gorilla Caribbean islands run while dealing with the rich and powerful cruise lines.

A Houston port official excitedly talked about all of the employment benefits which finally are coming from the cruise terminal:

"You have the line handlers, you have our wonderful longshoreman association that's providing the handling of the baggage, stevedores that are handling our parking, so there are just a variety of jobs and economic impact that's created from this cruise operation." 

But such success is usually a long time coming and is often fleeting.

Just ask Mobile Alabama.

The city built an expensive cruise terminal as part of its "partnership" with Carnival Cruise Line.  When the cruise line pulled its cruise ship from the Alabama port, the city was left with a debt of $35,000,000.

Carnival thought that it could make more money by re-positioning its cruise ship in either New Orleans or Tampa, and left Mobile high and dry.  Ironically, the only cruise ship to return to Mobile in the last couple of years was the Carnival Triumph which had to be towed to port following the infamous "poop cruise' earlier this year.     

Carnival never enters into a contract with a port promising to commit ships to the port for a finite number of years. So cities like Mobile build their new terminals on a wish and a prayer.

One-sided deals in favor of the cruise lines are the business norm. Carnival is the proverbial 800 pound gorilla. Port cities can either sign the bad deal or the cruise line goes elsewhere. And Carnival can break the deal whenever it wants and for any reason, good or bad.

Just ask Norfolk, Virginia. Carnival abandoned it last month leaving the city with a $30,000,000 debt for a new cruise terminal that the local taxpayers are stuck with paying. Carnival cited the additional operating costs associated with new environmental emission regulations which prohibit the use of cheap, toxic bunker fuel which can still be burned on cruises out of Miami.

The here-today, gone-tomorrow exploitation of cities like Houston, Mobile and Norfolk is particularly bad in the Caribbean ports. Take, for example, Antigua.  Carnival dropped Antigua like a hot potato. Carnival broke up with its Caribbean "business partner" with a "Dear John" letter sent via e-mail. The sudden and unexpected pull-out costs the Caribbean island $40,000,000 annually.

Consider what's happening in Tortola too. Carnival cruise ships announced that it is pulling the Sunshine, Freedom, Liberty, Glory and the Valor from the island. Carnival may return if and when Tortola invests into improving its cruise facilities. 

The latest news from the Caribbean is that the Cayman Islands is trying to figure out how to pay $200,000,000 for two new cruise ship piers so that Carnival and Royal Caribbean passengers don't have to tender in from the cruise ships to the island. The Cayman Islands has a GNP of less than one billion dollars a year; however, Royal Caribbean alone will collect closer to 7 billions dollars a year. Carnival will collect far more than that.

The Caymans can't possibly pay for the news cruise piers by itself. But if it decides to "partner" with these giant, rich cruise lines, it may find itself paying for much of the cruise project and ongoing operating expenses with no legally enforceable assurances from the cruise lines.   

It's risky business for poor cities and tourist-dependent Caribbean islands with no sustainable businesses to trust the cruise lines.  Cruise lines like Carnival are cutthroats. They hold all of the cards and will up and leave in a split second if they can make a better deal elsewhere. 

Comment from a Reader: Allure of the Seas Propulsion Problem - What is Royal Caribbean Hiding?

Every so often we will publish a comment from a reader of Cruise Law News about an issue we are discussing on this blog.  This morning we received the comment below from a reader about the propulsion problem on the Allure of the Seas.

Quite often, the problems with the cruise industry's poor image is not so much that things go wrong on the high seas, but that the cruise lines are not transparent when go amiss. When a major newspaper like USA TODAY or a major online cruise site like Cruise Critic breaks a story about a problem, it creates a perception that the cruise lines are being sneaky and are more interested in covering up a Allure of the Seasproblem than fixing it.

Our reader's comments are below:

"What really bothers me about this is that Royal Caribbean is keeping silent on this issue instead of informing it's passengers about the problem. Haven't they learned anything from the problems that Carnival faced by not keeping their passengers informed?

I thought it was interesting that I called my travel agent and she was not aware of the problem but said that she would call the company. While I waited for her to call me back I called RCCL's customer service line to ask about the propulsion problem. The operator hemmed and hawed but wouldn't give me a straight answer. She even tried to tell me that there was a small problem and it had been fixed. When I told her that I knew about the problem and that it hadn't been fixed she said she needed to call her supervisor. I never did get a straight answer out of either of them. I, as a customer think that I have a right to know what is RCCL hiding? I think the media should be asking this of Adam. And is the ship actually safe to be sailing?"

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

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia (Daniel Christensen)

Propulsion Problems Plague Allure of the Seas

Over the past six weeks, we have received emails from Royal Caribbean crew members saying that the Allure of the Seas has suffered propulsion problems. The crew members have been told by their supervisors to tell the cruise passengers that nothing is wrong.

Well this evening the story broke on Cruise Critic that Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas Suffers Propulsion Issues.

According to Cruise Critic, Royal Caribbean has admitted that it has experienced a significant reduction in the cruise ship's speed which has caused delays and shortened calls during its cruises. A Royal Allure of the Seas Cruise ShipCaribbean spokesperson said:

"Allure of the Seas currently has a small restriction on her top speed. All equipment is fully operational, and there is no impact on the maneuverability of the ship or on the safety of our guests and crew."

A Cruise Critic member said: "When we were checking in the day before, they handed us a sheet of paper indicating that the Nassau short stay will now be shorter by one hour, on top of a delayed arrival in St. Thomas two days later. The reason stated was technical issues with the ship's top speed. I was also told while on board that they want to slow down a bit to save fuel."

The cruise line changed recent itineraries by shortening stays in Nassau by one hour and St. Thomas  by three hours. The Royal Caribbean spokesperson told Cruise Critic:

"I won't be able to provide you with additional details. But yes, the plan is to get Allure back up to top speed."

Can you imagine owning the world's largest and most expensive cruise ship that already has problems maintaining the speed advertised when sold? 

Are you a crew member or have you sailed recently on the Allure of the Seas? Do you have information about the propulsion issues?  Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia (Zache)

Royal Caribbean President Sells Stock

Adam Goldstein Royal CaribbeanNews sources report that Royal Caribbean President Adam Goldstein sold 7,855 shares of RCL stock on the open market in a transaction yesterday.

Goldstein's sold the stock at an average price of $43.22, for a total value of $339,493.10.

He reportedly now directly owns 335,654 shares of Royal Caribbean stock, valued at approximately $14,506,966.

Yesterday on our Facebook page, I suggested that at a price of $43 you should take your profit on RCL stock and run.

In July 2013, we reported that President Goldstein sold almost 19,000 shares of RCL stock worth over $700,000. This year Goldstein has sold over $1,000,000 of his company's stock. 

Two years ago, Goldstein sold over 40,000 shares between February 1 - 16, 2011 - for a total of over $1,900,000.

Royal Caribbean has not suffered the same severe problems as rival Carnival this year, but it has had its share of problems.  It suffered a major fire on the Grandeur of the Seas in May, and its subsidiary brand Pullmantur also a major fire on the Zenith cruise ship in June.

Just last month, Royal Caribbean cleaned house and terminated over 100 employees in its corporate offices in Miami as a cost saving measure. Read about that here: Loyal to Royal? Royal Caribbean Axes 100 Jobs in Corporate Headquarters.   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Image Credit: The Guardian

Cruise Crime & Missing People: Are Cruise Lines Telling You the Truth?

The non-profit International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization released an interesting press statement today.

Earlier this year, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee convened a hearing about protecting cruise ship passengers. Senator Rockefeller planned to introduce legislation which required the cruise industry to report crimes and overboards which occur on cruise ships.

Under intense pressure before the Senate committee, the executives of the three major U.S. based cruise lines (Carnival, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean) promised at the outset of the hearing to begin to "voluntarily" report cruise ship crimes and man overboard situations. Was this an earnest commitment to transparency or a last Cruise Ship Safety ditch effort to stave off legislation?

My son and I were at the hearing. The first thing I thought was "sounds good, but what tricks are the cruise lines up to this time?"

Shortly after the hearing, the cruise line began to post their crime and man-overboard data.

Royal Caribbean and sister line Celebrity Cruises quickly proved that they can't be trusted. They chose to disclose only three (3) overboard persons for the time period from October 2010 to June 2013. As explained in our article Cruise Line "Voluntary" Crime & Man-Overboard Disclosures: Royal Caribbean's Data Is Incomplete and Misleading, at least eleven (11) persons went overboard during this time period.  

Royal Caribbean was particularly sneaky. It chose to define man-overboards as excluding all crew members and included only U.S. passengers. In the process, Royal Caribbean summarily excluded eight men who were either crew members or were non-U.S. citizens who went overboard.   

So instead of learning the complete story about people disappearing from Royal Caribbean ships, the public learned of only 27% of the truth (only 3 out of 11). This is exactly the type of deceitful conduct that Senator Rockefeller wanted to avoid.

So what tricks were played by Royal Caribbean's competitor, Carnival?

The ICV press statement today reveals that Carnival Corporation, which owns Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa, HAL, P&O Cruises, Princess and many others, combines all of its its cruise brand data in one tally in order to dilute the rate of crime on its cruise brand with the most crime.  

Why does Carnival Corporation (the parent company) do this?  Because it gives the false appearance that Carnival Cruise Lines is much safer than it actually is. Based upon research by cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein, Carnival Cruise Lines makes up less than half the total of the Carnival brands but accounts for a whopping 88% of all the crimes for the parent company, Carnival Corporation. (The conclusions are based on crime data obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request for the period covering October 1, 2007 to September 30, 2008.)

The purpose of the cruise crime disclosure is to permit consumers to determine the safest / most dangerous cruise lines to take your family on cruises. 

But the cruise lines are playing a big game. Trickery and dishonesty are the names of the game. 

The Carnivals and Royal Caribbeans can't help themselves. They are incapable of telling the U.S. public the truth.

That's one reason why the House and Senate have introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act (H.R. 2800 and S.1340). And that's why you should insist that these bills are enacted into law.    

You can read the ICV press release here.

Passengers Injured Aboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas

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

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

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

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

Oasis of the Seas - Cozumel
 

 

FlowRider: Royal Caribbean Opts for Excitement Over Safety - Expect More Injuries

Royal Caribbean President Adam Goldstein has a strange article this past week on his Sea Views blog. It's about his cruise line's "FlowRider" attraction, where passengers attempt to boogie board or surf on a thin water streaming at a high speed across the surface of the attraction.

We have written a number of articles about the FlowRider and the numerous serious injuries (and one death) which have occurred on Royal Caribbean cruise ships. Read: Wipeout! Liability of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line for FlowRider Accidents.

Notwithstanding the danger, CEO Goldstein writes that Royal Caribbean "recently loosened the reins a Royal Caribbean Cruise FlowRiderbit as it relates to the tricks guests are permitted to perform on our FlowRider® surf simulators."

Goldstein explains that in 2012, "in an effort to find the right balance between excitement and safety we had tightened up our rules in 2012. Maybe a little too much . . . " But it seems that the cruise line has now opted for a bit less safety and more fun. The cruise executive writes: 

"As of this summer, guests are able to try various types of fun tricks such as sitting, 180 degree turn, facing opposite direction, lazy boy, drop knee, drop knee 360, layback, boogie shuvit, baseball catcher, 360, skiing, show pony, rail slide, basic ollie, pop shuvit, heel side stall and the toe side stall . . ."

Expect more injuries and more lawsuits. And you'll never see a photo of Goldstein risking breaking his neck on the FlowRider.

President Goldstein spins the surfing attraction by telling the story of a young ten year old cruise passenger who learned to surf on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship and is now the "World Flowboard" champion.  Good for her.

But here is where the story gets weird. The letter that Goldstein posts on his blog, and supposedly was written by the child, states that an officer on the ship "called me over and asked if I had completed my activities waiver."  (Do children really write like this?) The officer then allegedly checks the child in and she starts to FlowRide!

The troubling thing is that children can't execute waivers, an officer can't complete the waiver on behalf of a child, and the waiver is illegal in the first place.

Our firm handled the case where the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal struck the cruise line's "activities waiver" down, holding that it is unlawful and cannot be used against injured FlowRider participants on the high seas.

There are also design defects in the FlowRider, we allege, which most participants don't realize.

It's a sad spectacle watching a cruise CEO hawk FlowRider cruises by mentioning children signing activity waivers that the courts have ruled to be void and unenforceable.

 

Photo Credit: Jim Walker

Loyal to Royal? Royal Caribbean Axes 100 Jobs in Corporate Headquarters

The rumors of job terminations at Royal Caribbean ended yesterday when multiple news sources announced that the Miami-based cruise lines cut around 100 employees from its payroll.

Seatrade Insider was the first publication I read yesterday about the large scale termination at the cruise line's headquarters. Its article entitled Royal Caribbean Global EVP Bauer is Leaving, 100 Other Positions are Eliminated showed a photo of  a rather somber Ms. Bauer looking tense with her hands clinched. Although the photo was probably a stock photo, the photo to me captured the anxiety and grim nature of mass lay-offs.      

Ms. Bauer has been a popular executive for Royal Caribbean and has been one the regulars photographed Lisa Bauer Royal Caribbeanwhenever a new cruise ship comes on line or a new terminal is opened. She has worked for Royal Caribbean for the past 11 years involved in sales, marketing, hotel operations and product development.

The photograph to the right shows Ms. Bauer in happier days when she was discussing the unveiling of the Oasis of the Sea. She is shown with the Royal Caribbean fraternity brothers Chairman Richard Fain, President Adam Goldstein and Captain William Wright.     

The Miami Herald published a story on the cruise employees lay-offs as well as Travel Weekly which ran the title Royal Caribbean Cuts 100 Jobs, Including Bauer's.

In addition to Ms. Bauer, some 100 other level positions were eliminated.

A couple of years ago, Royal Caribbean initiated a similar purge of 400 employees when the vice president of risk management, the head of crew claims, the head of passenger claims and a senior representative in corporate communications were all fired. Like Ms. Bauer, these four senior employees were all women.

The other major mass termination occurred in 2001 when the cruise line eliminated 500 jobs.

I'd like to know how many of the 100 Royal Caribbean employees terminated yesterday were women? Anyone know?   

The Seatrade Insider called the most recent mass firings a "drive for greater corporate efficiency."  

Hogwash. That's gobbledygook. The reality is fewer people will now do more work to keep money in the Chairman's and President's pockets.

In June, we published a spot-on article about Royal Caribbean cutting the senior officers in its marine operations department while increasing the work and reducing the pay of those officers which survived the cuts. You can read that article here: Cruise Lines Increase Responsibilities & Hours of Officers But Decrease Pay.  

These actions call into question whether "Loyal to Royal" is just a publicity slogan. 

Florida Couple Stranded By Azamara in Turkey Returns to U.S.

WFTS ABC Action News reports on the case of Dodge Melkonian who fell and broke his hip on the Azamara Journey cruise ship. It's a story we have mentioned several times here on Cruise Law News. 

After the cruise line (Royal Caribbean owns Azamara) left Dodge and his wife, Jill, in a non-English speaking hospital in Turkey, the Melkonians turned to their travel agent, Elite Travel agency owner Tammy Levent, for assistance.  

Travel agent Levent contacted ABC Action News which reached out to U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, who Dodge Melkonian - Azamara Cruise Shipworked with the U.S. Embassy.

Now, the Melkonians are back in the U.S. where Dodge immediately went to the hospital. 

Mr. Melkonian needs weeks of therapy and their bills are mounting, but there is still no clear answers from Royal Caribbean.  

Ms. Melkonian said she wasn't getting the help she needed from the cruise line and they bought the cruise insurance. She told ABC Action News that, despite having insurance, the cruise line wanted them to pay out of pocket first and then file a claim.

The cruise line, which succumbed to bad press and eventually made an initial down payment on the Turkish hospital bill, claims that it is assisting the Melkoniians. In a statement, Royal Caribbean said "our focus continues to be on Mr. & Mrs. Melkonian's well-being and we continue to work closely with them to provide the assistance they need."

But Ms. Melkonians isn't so sure about that, saying "the rest of the hospital bill is still not decided. So there's a lot if confusion."  

The incident comes at a time when Congress is watching the cruise lines with a skeptical eye.   

"I just hope they change some of the policies," Ms. Melkonian said.

The Melkonian's travel agent, Tammy Levent, said that she has received calls from Washington to discuss the issues surrounding the Melkonian's case.


Story Credit: WFTS ABC Action News / Photo Credit: CBS News

Are Royal Caribbean FlowRiders Defectively Designed?

FlowRider - Royal Caribbean  When Royal Caribbean decided to be the only cruise line in the world with FlowRiders installed on its cruise ships, the cruise line had to have the FlowRider designed to fit on a ship.

Unlike some surfing simulators on land with long wash-out zones (the space between the top of the ridge and the back wall) where the participant will lose speed and come safely to a rest, the FlowRiders on Royal Caribbean cruise ships have a wash-out zone of only around eleven feet. This creates a danger where the participant will crash into the back wall at high speed.

The problem is compounded by a lack of sufficient padding of the wall. 

For example, watch this link and see this passenger wipe out. Although he is not a skinny fellow, he still crashes into the back wall.  Watch the last few seconds and you can see his arms and legs fly into the air upon hitting the wall.

You can also get an idea of the force of the water by watching the video below.

Are these FlowRiders defectively designed?  Should there be longer wash-out zones and thicker padding on the end wall?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Danger on the High Seas - Royal Caribbean's Deadly FlowRider

Watch the video of the FlowRider at the top.  Looks like fun doesn't it?  The rider surfs on the water and never wipe-outs. Easy right?

Not at all. The person in the video is a skilled and experienced Royal Caribbean employee who has spent many hours riding the FlowRider.

Now take a look at the second video at the bottom when a novice tries to surf on the FlowRider. Beware, don't look if you can't stomach a gruesome accident. It's serious. "Ouch" is an understatement. 

The FlowRider is exceedingly dangerous. It has caused at least one death on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship and many broken bones.  

Royal Caribbean uses experienced, athletic crew members like the one on the video at top to ride the FlowRider while the passengers first embark on the Allure of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas and other cruise ships. This attracts the passengers to come back and make reservations for private lessons which can cost up to $480 an hour.  The FlowRider is a major money maker for the cruise line. 

Read about the FlowRider and holding Royal Caribbean responsible when cruise passengers are seriously injured on the cruise line's money making attraction:

Wipeout! Liability of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line for FlowRider Accidents     

  

Azamara PR Disaster Continues: Is a Law Required to Prevent Cruise Lines from Abandoning Injured Passengers?

The fall-out over Azamara's abandonment of an elderly couple from Clearwater Florida continues.

The luxury cruise line Azamara, a subsidiary of Miami based Royal Caribbean Cruises, has been accused of abandoning its guest Dodge Melkonian, an 89-year-old World War II veteran, and his wife at a "rural" hospital in Turkey after Mr. Melkonian broke his hip on the Azamara Journey last week.   

The story has been extensively covered, first by a local ABC news station, and later by the U.S. national press like CBS, CNN, and ABC as well as the New York Daily News. The international press has shown interest in the plight of the Melkonian couple. The regular cruise bloggers, like Cruise Critic and Travel Dodge Melkonian - Tampa Bay TimesAgent Central, have also added their perspective.  

Azamara's CEO has made matters worst by gratuitously tweeting comments on his Twitter account stating that 89 year old dodge Melkonian should contact his travel agent and the insurance company and essentially leave the cruise line alone.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson called the cruise line's conduct "outrageous."

The South Florida Business Journal published an article Move Over Carnival, Royal Caribbean Takes Shot at Ruining Industry's Image.

The Tampa Bay Times is the latest news organization to cover the story. Its article Couple Stranded by Cruise in Turkey Receives Outpouring of Support is highly critical of the cruise line's indifference to the Melkonians.

So who are the winners and losers in this story? And what are the lessons to be learned?

The Winners: Mr. Melkonian's surgery was a success because of the couple's persistent travel agents who sprang into action when the insurance company (sold through the cruise line) refused to act responsibly in assisting Mr. Melkonian. And a Turkish tour guide, involved by the hard-working travel agents, not only assisted the couple in reaching a quality hospital but even donated his blood which was needed for Mr. Melkonian's surgery.  

The Losers: "The health & safety of cruise passengers are the cruise industry's highest priorities?" Hardly.  Azamara, Royal Caribbean and the cruise industry prove, again, that talk is cheap. 

Lessons Learned: Even luxury cruise lines can treat their guests shabbily. The case demonstrates the "cut and run" strategy of the cruise industry. When a passenger (or crew member) becomes ill or seriously injured during a cruise, the cruise lines' usual response to to get them off the cruise ship as soon as possible and then wash their hands of the problem.  

This is hardly the first time a cruise line abandoned a passenger ashore and sailed off.  We have seen this exact situation play out numerous times, particularly in ports of call in the Caribbean and Mexico. Read our article British Passenger Stuck In Mexican Hospital Following Heart Attack on Princess Cruise Ship.

Legislation Needed: The Melkonian's travel agents are communicating with Senator Nelson's office about drafting a law that "would ban cruise lines from leaving people stranded." The Melkonian's travel agent was quoted saying: "Where is the humanity in that?  There is no accountability, and that has to change."

 

Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Times

Cruise Ship Crime & Sexual Assault Lawyer: Read About Our Experience, Reputation & Results

There has been a great deal of debate over the past decade regarding the amount of crime which occurs on cruise ships. The cruise industry claims that crime is "rare," whereas at least one cruise expert who testified before Congress stated that the rate of crime on cruise ships is twice that of crime ashore.

Of course one crime is too many if it affects you or your family. 

The most likely crime on cruise ships is sexual assault.  The most likely victim is a woman or child aboard the ship as a passenger. And the most likely perpetrator is a crew member.  

Strict Liability: Cruise lines are strictly liable to pay compensation when a crew member sexually assaults a passenger. There is no need to have to prove that the cruise line knew that the ship employee Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Crimehad a record of assaulting other passengers and/or that the cruise ship was negligent in failing to warn the passenger of the danger of being attacked on the ship. If the crew member rapes a passenger, then the cruise line is vicariously liable.

Our firm has education and substantial experience to handle maritime sexual assault lawsuits against the major cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise lines.

Education:  Jim Walker focused on maritime law at Tulane University School of Law. He studied all of the maritime law personal injury courses and graduated in 1983.  He has practiced maritime law for 30 years.

Experience:  The firm has handled sexual assault cases against Carnival, Celebrity, Cunard, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean where women and children have been victimized on cruise ships. Three of our clients have testified before the U.S. Congress about being sexually assaulted during cruises. We have attended eight Congressional hearings about issues regarding the safety of cruise ship passengers.

Reputation:  Jim Walker has referred to as a "Prominent Private Practice Maritime Attorney" by Fox News; a "Top Maritime Lawyer" by the ABA Journal; a "Premier Lawyer for Cruise Passengers" by Reuters; a "Top Cruise Lawyer" by USA Today; and a "Leading Miami Attorney" by Newsweek Magazine. Read "about Jim Walker" for further details.

Results: We have obtained compensation for victims in a wide variety of cruise ship rape, sexual assault, and molestation cases, including the following recoveries: over $3,000,000, $2,500,000, $1,500,000, $900,000, $650,000, $500,000, $385,000, $250,000, and $115,000. (Please note that all cases are unique. These results may or may not reflect the compensation obtainable in your case).

Clients: We have represented women from ages 18 to 45 and parents of children from age 3 to 17. We have represented over 75 women and children sexually assaulted on cruise ships.

Types and Locations of Sexual Assaults:  Cases we handled include a variety of cruise ship employees - staff captain, ship doctor, chief engineer, hotel director, security guard, cabin attendant, bartender, cleaner, and child supervisor. The rapes and molestation cases occurred in various locations on the cruise ship. The most common locations are passenger cabins, storage rooms, and crew bathrooms.

We have studied the problem of cruise ship crimes extensively.  Consider reading:

Sexual Perverts & Pedophiles on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships

Rape of 15 Year Old Girl Is Latest Crime Against Children on Carnival Cruises

Another Child Porn Bust, This Time on Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas

How safe is a cruise? Even after new law, it's hard to say

If you have a question about cruise ship crimes, and in particular sexual assault during cruises, please call our office at (305) 995 5300. or email me directly at jim@cruiselaw.com.

Azamara Abandons 89 Year Old Passenger in Turkey with Broken Hip

Melkonian - Azamara CruisesWFTS, an ABC affiliate in Tampa, Florida, reports on a story that we hear about all too often - an elderly passenger is injured during a cruise and ends up alone in a foreign hospital where no one speaks English. The cruise ship then sails off.

In a case which has received attention from Florida Senator Bill Nelson, Jill and her husband, Dodge Melkonian, age 89, were sailing aboard the Royal Caribbean luxury brand Azamara Cruises. Mr. Melkonian fell and broke his hip and ended up in a Turkish hospital which Mrs. Melkonian described as dirty, where no one spoke English, and was not equipped or qualified to perform the emergency surgery.

The news station quotes Mrs. Melkonian stating that "I think Royal Caribbean needs to be held accountable. They have to revamp policies for international accounts."

She bought insurance through the cruise line and tried to get her husband transferred. But the cruise line reportedly would not cooperate and told her to file an insurance claim first.

Mrs. Melkonian reached out to her travel agent who was helpful and summed up the situation saying: "The man could be dying. He is 89 years old with a broken hip, You have insurance, shouldn't it cover you? They drop you in a hospital that's not capable of even doing the surgery."

The travel agent contacted an English speaking tour guide who, in turn, contacted the U.S. embassy which helped transfer Mr. Melkonian to Istanbul, a six-hour trip. The cruise line reportedly ignored the couple once they were off of the ship and the insurance company tried to cancel the transportation.

Senator Bill Nelson said he is working to bring the couple home safely:

"Royal Caribbean has a responsibility to take care of their passengers, even when they have to put them in a foreign hospital," said Nelson. 

Photo & story credit: WFTS (ABC Action News) Tampa Florida

August 21 2013 Update: ABC News picked up the story. Its quotes Florida Senator Bill Nelson saying: "It's outrageous that they would leave an elderly couple in a foreign country without adequate support."

August 22 2013 Update: CNN's Headline News picked up the story this afternoon. "Couple Stranded Abroad After Cruise Injury."

  

 

Lawsuit Filed Against Royal Caribbean After Injury to Child

Today local NBC affiliate channel 6 aired a story today about a 9 year old boy who underwent emergency brain surgery after being injured during a cruise sponsored game on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

The incident occurred on the Monarch of the Seas. 

The child's family say that they trusted Royal Caribbean to organize safe activities for their son during the cruise. The family claims that two staff members threw balls at the boy who ran to avoid getting hit.  The boy collided with another child and then struck his head on a hard object. 

Monarch of the SeasaThe child then underwent emergency brain surgery in Nassau.

The family is now suing Royal Caribbean claiming that the activity designed by the cruise line was unreasonably dangerous for the child. 

Royal Caribbean responded with the following statement:

“We regret that a young guest that sailed onboard Monarch of the Seas was injured. A vacation is supposed to be filled with fun, rejuvenation and relaxation, and it is regrettable that this family's vacation was interrupted by their son's injury, However, Royal Caribbean believes that while this unfortunate incident happened on board a cruise ship, it is not unique to a cruise ship, and could happen at any school, playground, or daycare.”

It should be interesting to see if Royal Caribbean releases the true number of injuries caused by the game - or whether it hides the ball so to speak. 

The child and his family are represented by Miami lawyer Spencer Aronfeld.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Sparrowman980

  

Royal Caribbean CEO on Fox News: Fires & Cruise Mishaps are "Extremely Rare"

The cruise industry's reputation is under siege.  

Cruise line presidents used to be able to appear on cable news business shows and trot out their new products and intineraries and pontificate at length without a hint of controversy.

But as you can see in this interview on FOX BUSINESS, Royal Caribbean Cruises CEO and President Adam Goldstein had to dodge and weave through what should have been a friendly interview by a FOX NEWS business reporter. It's hard to talk about the new cruise ships coming on line, when images of the stranded Triumph and the burned stern of the Grandeur of the Seas are playing as a back drop.

Cruise fires and mishaps are "extremely rare" cruise executive Goldstein says.     

Are you convinced?

 

Cruise Ship Law - Lawsuits Against Royal Caribbean Cruise Line in Miami, Florida

Our law firm handles cases on behalf of injured passengers and crew members against cruise lines.  Other law firms handle auto accidents, dog bite cases and whatever may walk in the door.  Our firm sues only cruise lines in cases involving serious injuries. That’s all that we do.

One of the cruise lines that we file lawsuits against on a regular basis is Royal Caribbean.

Types of Royal Caribbean Lawsuits:  The type of cases we handle against Royal Caribbean can be divided into two general categories – personal injury cases and crime cases.

Crime Lawsuits:  Most of the crime cases we have handled over the years involve sexual assaults on Royal Caribbean cruise ships.  We have represented women who have been sexually assaulted on cruises by cruise line ship doctors, security guards, waiters, bar tenders and cleaners. The rapes have occurred in the passenger cabins, utility closets, and crew bathrooms. 

The crimes are not limited to the cruise ships. Crimes against passengers have occurred during cruise sponsored excursions such as diving and snorkeling trips, sailing and catamaran outings, and in and around bars at the cruise port in the Caribbean and Mexico. We have represented parents whose minor children have been molested by Royal Caribbean crew members and teenagers who have been sexually assaulted by older passengers.

Injury Lawsuits:  Passengers on Royal Caribbean cruise ships have been seriously injured in a wide FlowRider Danger - Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship variety of cases.  Passengers occasionally slip and fall on slippery decks and floors and sustain serious injuries such as fractured ankles, knees and hips. Injuries on the cruise line’s wide variety of recreational attractions are common, including skating rinks and rock climbing attractions.  Injuries on the Royal Caribbean FlowRider surfing simulator are frequent.  Royal Caribbean passengers have sustained serious, permanent and debilitating injuries, and have even been killed, on the highly dangerous FlowRider. 

The FlowRider is a major money making attraction for Royal Caribbean, but it's unreasonably dangerous in my opinion.

You can read about FlowRider accidents and injuries here.

Types of Clients:  We represent cruise ship passengers and crew members. Most of the passengers we represent are from the United States. We have represented clients literally from across the United States. 

Our crew member clients, who sustain back, neck and wrist injuries due to the long hours and repetitive nature of their work, are typically from Jamaica, St. Vincent, India, Argentina, Venezuela, Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia, among other countries. 

If you or a family member have been seriously injured due to the negligence of Royal Caribbean, consider hiring a law firm which focuses its experience and resources on cruise ship lawsuits – not auto accident or dog bite cases.

Call our office at (305) 995 5300 or email me at jim@cruiselaw.com. 

 

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean FlowRider Sign - Jim Walker

"Voluntary" Cruise Crime Statistics Keep Public in the Dark

Cruise Ship CrimeCBS travel expert Peter Greenberg has interesting comments on the recent crime statistics released by the three major cruise lines.

Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean posted 237 crimes which allegedly took place on their cruise ship over the last 2 to 3 years. This is the first time that the cruise industry has ever publicly posted their onboard crime statistics.

The information, however, is very limited.  The cruise lines do not mention the name of the cruise ship, or the date of the incident, or where the incident is alleged to have occurred or any explanation regarding what happened. The companies also do not disclose whether the victim is a child.

Legislation proposed by Senator Rockefeller will require the cruise lines to provide greater specificity about the crimes.  For example, the public should know whether a particular cruise ship has experienced multiple incidents where child counselors are accused of molesting children in a child-care facility on the ship.  As matters now stand, it's impossible to tell from the cruise lines' skimpy crime charts what the crime reports really involve.     

 

 

Rape & Sexual Assault Most Common Crimes on Cruise Ships

A local CBS station in Alabama reports that since January 2011, the U.S. Coast Guard publicly reported only 31 crimes aboard cruise ships. However, after Senator Rockefeller placed pressure on the cruise industry, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian on Thursday reported 94 crimes and 20 crimes, respectively, between October 2010 and the end of June of this year. These figures do not include Carnival. 

Is this a complete list of crimes? No. Extracting honest crimes statistics from the cruise industry is a long process. 

The news station states that the most common crime allegations are rape and sexual assault, followed by thefts.  

 

Cruise Line "Voluntary" Crime & Man-Overboard Disclosures: Royal Caribbean's Data Is Incomplete and Misleading

Senator RockefellerYesterday Royal Caribbean and a couple of other cruise lines "voluntarily" posted a limited amount of data on their websites regarding cruise crimes and disappearances of people from cruise ships.

Of course there was nothing remotely "voluntary" about the cruise lines' conduct.

Last week Senator Rockefeller convened a hearing where he introduced legislation intended to compel, under penalty of law, all of the CLIA cruise lines to divulge incidents of disappearances from cruise ships and theft, homicide and sexual assault on ships. On the day of the hearing, the president of Royal Caribbean, Adam Goldstein, announced that his cruise line, as well as Carnival and NCL, would agree to post crime data without the necessity of legislation.  Cruise executive Goldstein said that his cruise line would begin posting the crime and man overboard information on August 1st.

The cruise lines have been resisting and dodging disclosing truthful crime statistics over the course of the last 7 Congressional hearings I have attended. Cruise CEO Goldstein's new promises of transparency were made for PR purposes to try and stave off the tough legislation introduced by Senator Rockefeller. 

Senator Rockefeller is skeptical that the cruise industry can be trusted to self-report accurate crime statistics. The Associated Press quoted Senator Rockefeller stating: “If we’re really going to make a difference for consumers, I believe it’s going to take legislative action to make sure this industry is required to give customers the information they need and deserve when they’re making a decision about taking a cruise."

The CEO of the International Cruise Victims organization, Ken Carver, is also skeptical that the cruise industry can be trusted, The AP quoted Mr. Carver's belief that crimes reported by cruise lines are vastly lower than reality, because the initial investigations are handled by cruise line security personnel rather than law enforcement officials.

The skepticism by Senator Rockefeller and cruise victim advocate Carver is well founded. There is a well documented history of the cruise lines providing incomplete and misleading crime data to Congress and the American people. In some instances the information released by the major cruise lines is patently false.

In January 2007, the LA Times published an article looking into the problem of crime on cruise ships, entitled "Cruise Industry's Dark Waters." The article points out that Congressman Shays previously called for Congressional hearings where he requested crime statistics from the cruise industry. The cruise lines resisted the legislation arguing that it can be trusted to provide honest information. At several points in the hearings, when cruise line representatives extolled their safety statistics, Congressman Shays seemed skeptical. "I do not think we have all of the statistics," he told representatives of major cruise lines.

Royal Caribbean informed Congressman Shays that 66 sexual assaults occurred over a three year Adam Goldstein Senate Hearrng Cruise Ship Crimeperiod on its cruise ships. However, in a case we handled against Royal Caribbean involving 12-year-old twins who alleged that a crew member molested them, the cruise line was forced to hand over the internal records requested by our firm after a judge threatened to fine it $1,000 a day if it failed to comply. 

The Royal Caribbean data revealed not just 66 incidents, but 273 reports from passengers who said they were victims of sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual harassment and inappropriate touching during a shorter time period. The LA Times quoted me saying that Royal Caribbean "redefined things and in the process, magically, poof, what used to be a crime no longer existed. Then they served up these numbers and thought they could get away with it."

So with this history in mind, let's take a look at what Royal Caribbean just posted yesterday as part of its "voluntary" disclosure on its website.

It disclosed just three persons overboard for the time period beginning October 2010 through the end of June 2013. There is no information regarding these incidents on the cruise line's skimpy website chart. There is no way a consumer can understand what happened. One of the three incidents involved a young woman who went overboard in September 2012. You can read about in detail on our website here, here and here

What's even more troubling is that Royal Caribbean did not reveal that 8 other people went overboard from Royal Caribbean cruise ships and the ships operated by its subsidiary Celebrity Cruises for the time period in question. Consider  the following man overboard incidents which occurred in the Royal Caribbean / Celebrity fleet:

January 2011 - Passenger disappeared from the Liberty of the Seas

March 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Grandeur of the Seas. 

March 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Constellation.

May 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Eclipse

May 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Millennium (see cruise expert Professor Ross Klein's database)

December 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Summit

January 2012 - Crew member disappeared from the Monarch of the Seas. 

February 2012 - Passenger disappeared from the Allure of the Seas. 

September 2012 - Crew member disappeared from the Serenade of the Seas.

October 2012 - Another crew member disappeared from the Serenade of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean's website indicates that the cruise line intends to reveal only those overboard situations involving U.S. citizens. But there is no reason to hide man overboard incidents involving passengers of other nationalities and crew members. Disney Cruise Line, for example, discloses overboard cases involving non-U.S. citizens.

The truth is that at least 11 people went overboard for the time period in question. But Royal Caribbean disclosed only 3 incidents. That's only around 27% of the true number.  If a cruise ship is a floating city, why exclude all of the crew members and non-U.S. citizens who are members of the city? Royal Caribbean includes crew members and non-U.S. passengers as part of its population in determining crime ratios, Allure of the Sea Crime Statisticsbut then excludes crew members and non U.S. citizens when they are victims. That manipulation of the data distorts the true crime ratios. 

The only explanation for doing this is that the cruise line wants to present an image that is markedly different from the truth. 

Royal Caribbean's "voluntary" disclosure reveals exactly why the cruise industry cannot be trusted. Senator Rockefeller, like Congressman Shays long ago, has every reason not to believe the cruise lines' "voluntary" statistics.

The American people and citizens of countries around the world deserve to know the truth about crime and overboard cruise passengers and crew members. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean like to keep the public in the dark.

A well drafted law with stiff penalties is the only way to shed light on what really happens on cruise ships far out at sea. 

"CNN Effect" Doesn't Stop Royal Caribbean CEO From Buying Nearly $1,000,000 in RCL Cruise Stock

Yesterday, I wrote a short article about Royal Caribbean President Adam Goldstein selling 2,181 shares of RCL cruise stock earlier this week at an average price of $36.80, for a total value of $80,260.80. Cruise executives buying and selling their company's own stock is interesting to me as an indicator into their true thoughts about the direction of their business' future.

That being said, an cruise executive's sale of only $80,000 worth of stock doesn't say much. $80,000 may pay the annual wages of a dozen RCL utility cleaners but it's pocket change for a cruise line president. Goldstein still owns 335,654 shares of the company’s stock worth over $12,350,000.   

But today Forbes reports that Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain purchased 26,800 shares of RCL stock which, at a price of $36.82 a share, turns out to be $985,776.

As Forbes writes: "company’s own top management tend to have the best inside view into the business, so when company officers make major buys, investors are wise to take notice."

RCL’s low point in its 52 week range is $24.16 per share. Its 52 week high is $38.62. 

So CEO Fain is buying near the top of the chart. Seems risky to me.

As we mentioned this week, research firms are split on RCL's stock. One analyst gave the stock a "sell" rating, nine analysts assigned a "hold" rating and ten issued a "buy" rating. RCL currently has a consensus rating of “hold” and a consensus target price of $40.21.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Richard Fain Travel Weekly quoted Fain at the cruise line's second-quarter earning call last week. He said that despite the “unrelenting pressure of a deluge of negative publicity” on the cruise industry, things are looking up. Mr. Fain said the company is overcoming what he called the "CNN effect” of negative media scrutiny on things like highly publicized cruise ship fires that have occurred this year.

Royal Caribbean suffered a serious fire to its Grandeur of the Seas. And just last month, it's subsidiary brand Pullmantur's Zenith suffered an engine room fire which disabled the ship which needed to be pulled by tugs to back to shore.  

Royal Caribbean is also suffering from the spill-over effect from the negative publicity caused by Carnival's Costa Concordia disaster and the Triumph's infamous "poop cruise," in addition to other Carnival cruise ship mishaps.   

Does Mr. Fain know something that the analysts and the public doesn't know? Or this really a big calculated bluff to prime the pump of positive thinking?

I am not too sure that I would bank on a more positive public perception of the cruise industry developing naturally. The "CNN effect" is real.  In my opinion, the images broadcast by CNN are a lot more persuasive and powerful than the positive musings of a hopeful cruise executive.  

Plus there's a couple of things to keep in mind. There are increasing cut backs in RCL officer and staff salaries and crew pay coupled with an increase in their responsibilities which are deteriorating morale on the ships. Some of the tips which formerly went to the RCL cabin attendants and waiters are being channeled away from the crew to the company's income stream and destroying the crew's attitude in the process. And the MLC will come onto effect next month, restricting crew member working excessive hours, which may increase RCL's costs, restrict the cruise line's historical exploitation of its crew, and push its profit margins down.

Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the SeasRCL's cost cutting measures helped it to squeeze out a profit this past quarter, but it was under $25 million on gross revenues of $1.88 billion. How much more can RCL cut from the already overworked and underpaid crew?

And no cruise executive pumping up a stock price would dare mention Senator Rockefeller's announcement last week that he intends to introduce legislation to take away the loopholes in the U.S. tax code which permits the cruise lines to avoid U.S. taxes on its foreign flagged cruise ships.

Are brighter days ahead for RCL and CEO Fain's newly acquired 26,800 shares?

Maybe. Maybe not. But one thing is certain. All it will take is for one cruise ship to suffer another engine room fire for the "CNN effect" to send the RCL stock price plummeting south.

July 31 2013 Update: Watch List News reports that Royal Caribbean Cruises' President  Adam Goldstein "dumped 16,717 shares of the stock on the open market in a transaction that occurred on Tuesday, July 30th. The stock was sold at an average price of $37.20, for a total value of $621,872.40."

 

Photo Credit:

Top: Royal Caribbean Press Center

Bottom: Janeeva Russell / The Freeport Times / AP

Royal Caribbean President Sells 2,181 Shares of Cruise Stock

RCL Adam Goldstein The Daily Political reports that Royal Caribbean President Adam Goldstein (left) unloaded 2,181 shares of RCL cruise stock yesterday at an average price of $36.80, for a total value of $80,260.80.

Goldstein still owns 335,654 shares of the company’s stock worth over $12,350,000. 

A number of research firms have recently commented on RCL's stock value. One analyst gave the stock a "sell" rating, nine analysts assigned a "hold" rating and ten issued a "buy" rating to the company’s stock. RCL currently has a consensus rating of “hold” and a consensus target price of $40.21.

The stock has a 52 week low of $24.16 and a 52 week high of $38.62. 

Royal Caribbean posted its quarterly earnings last week. The company had revenue of $1.88 billion for the quarter, with a profit of under $25,000,000.  

RCL Chairman Richard Fain (below right) said that a fire on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Grandeur of the Seas, weak pricing in the Caribbean and itinerary disruptions in Asia affected earnings in the second quarter. 

RCL Chairman Richard FainThe cruise line's business model is predicated on its avoidance of U.S. taxes and regulations, such as minimum wage, overtime, and OHSA regulations. Royal Caribbean avoids taxes and many U.S. regulations by incorporating itself in Africa and incorporating its cruise ships in places like the Bahamas and Malta.

Royal Caribbean and its subsidiaries are currently exempt from U.S. corporate tax on U.S. source income from the international operation of cruise ships pursuant to Section 883 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Senator Rockefeller stated at a Senate hearing last week that he would introduce legislation to close loopholes in the federal tax code which permits foreign incorporated companies operating foreign flagged cruise ships to avoid paying their fair share of U.S. taxes.

If such legislation was enacted into law, the RCL stock value would plummet. 

July 21 2013 Update: Watch List News reports that Royal Caribbean Cruises' President Adam Goldstein "dumped 16,717 shares of the stock on the open market in a transaction that occurred on Tuesday, July 30th. The stock was sold at an average price of $37.20, for a total value of $621,872.40."

 

Photo Credits: Top - NBC News; Bottom - Examiner.com

NBC Covers Cruise Ship Crime: "Lawmakers Turn Attention to Crime on Cruise Ships"

Cruise Ship CrimeTonight NBC News aired a segment on the recent hearing before the Senate regarding the issue of cruise ship crimes.

Senator Rockefeller scheduled the hearing in a year filled with high-profile cruise ship mishaps. NBC correspondent Mark Potter reports that lawmakers are turning their attention to the amount of crime that takes place while vacationers are out at sea. 

Senator Rockefeller's staff conducted an exhaustive analysis of cruise ship crimes. Senator Rockefeller discovered that of the 959 crimes alleged to have occurred on cruise ships since 2011, only 31 crimes were disclosed to the American people.

Concealing the accurate number of crimes, particularly sexual crimes against children, is a real disservice to the cruising public. 

I was interviewed at the Port of Miami about the need for cruise passengers to remain vigilant during cruises.  

Professor Ross Klein, a cruise expert who has testified before Congress on several occasions, explained that 18% of the sexual assaults on cruises, occur against minors.  

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

Watch the video below. 

  

 

Is Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas Safe to Sail After Fire?

Six weeks ago, the Grandeur of the Seas burst into flames on the high seas. It took two hours before the crew could finally extinguish the blaze. The cruise ship has since been in dry dock in the Bahamas under repair.

Yesterday travel agents and the cruise & travel media who Royal Caribbean invited aboard the cruise sailed on a one day cruise out of Baltimore for promotional purposes. Today passengers will sail on a one week cruise. One news station out of Baltimore broadcast that the Grandeur is "repaired and ready to sail." 

The problem is that repairs to the cruise ship are still ongoing.

Grandeur of the Seas Fire - Cruise Ship Over 150 passengers from 78 cabins were bumped from the cruise today because their cabins are still being reconstructed. 

Travel agents aboard the ship report that repair work is still ongoing. According to Cruise Critic, in addition to the 78 cabins which are not ready for passengers, several lounges (Diamond Club & South Pacific Lounge) which burned last month will remain closed.

The concern that I have when I hear news like this is whether the cruise ship is really ready to sail and, most importantly, safe for passengers to cruise? Remember that there has been no report released of what caused the fire in the first place. We previously wrote about the tendency of the cruise lines to bring their ships back to service quickly and long before the official analysis is completed, assuming an official report is ever prepared. Read What Caused the Grandeur of the Seas Fire?     

The investigation into the Grandeur fire is being overseen by the Bahamas, with the assistance of the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).  Cruise Critic says that the "Bahamas Maritime Authority is currently drafting a final report on the incident."  Hogwash.  The Bahamas was responsible for investigating the fire which disabled the Carnival Triumph (the infamous "poop cruise" five months ago) and the Bahamas has still not finalized a report on that cruise fire yet.  

And there has been no report released on the cause of the other high profile cruise ship fire which occurred aboard Carnival's Splendor and left it disabled. That fire occurred over two and one-half years ago.  Another flag of convenience country (Panama) was responsible for overseeing that investigation, but has released nothing.

Its seems irresponsible to pile many thousands of travel agents and cruise passengers (not to mention the hard working crew) aboard the ship without telling the guests why the last time the Grandeur sailed several thousands of people stood at their muster stations in the middle of the night watching the lifeboat being deployed as the fire raged for two hours.

Grandeur of the Seas FireWhat caused the fire?  Why was the fire not extinguished by an automatic system? Is there even an automatic suppression at the mooring area at the stern of the ship? If not, shouldn't one be installed?

Were any of the travel agents and travel media asking these questions? Do any of the passengers boarding the cruise ship this morning care about these basic issues?

It doesn't seem so. A local CBS station in Baltimore aired these comments from travel agents: 

You always tell your clients things happen. Fires happen on land, they’re going to happen at sea,” said Paul Cathcart, travel agent.

“Nobody was hurt. You got free drinks. You got an extra day at sea,” said Donna Lopez, travel agent. 

Join the discussion on Facebook - was the fire caused by a cigarette? An electrical problem? Should the public trust the cruise lines to tell the truth?

 

Photo Credits:

Top: Cruise Critic Facebook

Bottom: Janeeva Russel / the Freeport News

Day of the Seafarer? Cruise Lines Increase Responsibilities & Hours of Officers But Decrease Pay

Day of the Seafarer 2013 - Royal Caribbean CruiseToday is the "Day of the Mariner."  According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), today is the day to recognize the dedication and hard work of seafarers in the shipping industry.  

Most of the focus of this blog over the years has been on the frequent abuse of the lower rank crew members, like the cruise ship cleaners, cabin attendants, and waiters. However, it's just not the crew who are being abused. There has been an increasing trend in the cruise industry to overwork and mistreat the professional mariners / deck officers who work aboard the major cruise lines.

Every single cruise ship relies on highly trained, professional and knowledgeable marine officers to safely run the ship's operations.  The safety of the passengers & and the security of the ship depend on the officers' flawless execution of navigation duties 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In the cruise industry, safety can be achieved only by highly skilled officers who are well rested and physically and psychologically fit for duty.

But there has been a trend in the last few years to increase the work load of the ship's officers while substantially decreasing their pay. Some officers face a 50% reduction in their pay.  If they complain, the cruise lines are quick to terminate their employment and replace them with less qualified or experienced mariners.  

One cruise line for example, Royal Caribbean, has progressively deteriorated the working conditions, physical and mental fitness and morale of its marine officers in the last 5 years. The work load of the officers has risen to the point where officers work well in excess of the hour limitations recommended by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). The officers are required to work up to and in excess of 14 hours per day every day, which is the standard 8 hours of watch that is expected for watch keepers and 6 hours of "overtime" work for "secondary" duties.

Would you fly in an airplane knowing that the pilots responsible for the flight had been working 14 hours or more a day for the past 8 weeks?

Royal Caribbean has progressively downsized its marine / deck departments over the years. The secondary work loads (deck maintenance, lifesaving, navigation) used to be spread out between multiple officers and a dedicated chief officer for maintenance and a dedicated safety officer for safety training. These roles have now been combined into fewer and fewer officers while the cruise ships get bigger and bigger.

Royal Caribbean has now increased contract lengths by an extra 4 weeks for these over-tired, over-worked, under-paid officers. The cruise line seems to consider the officers "disposable" if they try and bring up the topic of excessive work loads. The company can fire highly experienced and loyal officers with impunity. 

There are also rumblings in the ranks of Royal Caribbean that the cruise line has steadily focused on hiring officers of less professional competency. The replacements are increasingly coming from countries where you can buy a license. Some officers from these countries cannot speak English, and they do not fully understand and were never really trained on the proper operations of the complex bridge systems on today's modern ships,

Royal Caribbean - Money - ProfitThere is no question that the cruise lines are pushing their crew and their ships harder and harder.

The cruise industry is placing unreasonable demands on professional seafarers as well. At the same time, the cruise lines are inserting one-sided arbitration clauses in the seafarer's employment contracts which strip the officers of their rights under U.S. law and permit the cruise lines to get away with dangerous conditions and work practices. It is no coincidence that there are more and more cruise mishaps reported in the news.

If its really the "Day of the Seafarer," it's important for the world to understand that the cruise lines are raking in the cash at the expense of crew members and officers alike. Cruise executives are getting richer and richer while the seafarers we salute today are working increasingly longer hours for less pay with fewer rights. 

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

Royal Caribbean Cruise Passenger Sentenced to Jail for Over 5,000 Images of Child Pornography

Gary Lee Reed - Chilh PornographyIn a story we first reported on in December last year, a cruise passenger aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship was sentenced to eight years in federal prison for transporting thousands of child pornography photos and videos on a cruise from Port Canaveral. 

Gary Lee Reed seemed like a normal passenger but an initial search of his laptop computer revealed 1,162 photos and videos when he cruised on Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas ship during a cruise to the Bahamas and back to Florida. 

Federal agents searched the 47-year-old's computer laptop he brought during the cruise and found the extensive collection of child pornography. The Orlando Sentinel reported that around 350 of the victims in photos and videos were identified by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The images included sexual abuse of toddlers and babies.

Reed was returning to Port Canaveral at the end of the cruise to the Bahamas. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Office of Homeland Security Investigations.

Reed is from Idaho and a newspaper there reported earlier this year that Reed had a desktop computer, thumb drives, CDs and DVDs where he downloaded and stored child pornography images at his home.

A forensic search of the computers, discs, USB flash and digital hard drives revealed a staggering amount of child pornography: 38,731 images and 680 videos of child pornography.  A more detailed search of his laptop seized after the cruise in Florida revealed a total of 3,021 images and 2000 videos of child pornography.

Reed faced up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and five years of supervised release for the crime, according to the plea agreement, which adds that he will also have to register as a sex offender.

Think passengers and crew members with child porn on cruises are rare? Read here

 

Photo Credit: Florida Today

Where Are Photo & Video Images of the Fire on the Grandeur of the Seas?

Cruise fans have largely praised Royal Caribbean's public relations efforts in responding to the fire which erupted aboard the Grandeur of the Seas early Monday morning.

Royal Caribbean tweeted updates from its new Twitter PR feed @RoyalCaribPR and updated its Facebook page. It uploaded one photo showing a portion of the damage to to fire stricken cruise ship (a good PR move) and one image of cruise president Goldstein inspecting the damage once the ship arrived in Freeport.  But most of the of the photos Royal Caribbean released were of the cruise president and executives meeting with cruise passengers at the port and on the cruise ship

The question I wondered was where are the photos and video of the fire? We have handled other cruise ship fires. There are usually videos taken by passengers which quickly find their way to the media and/or are posted on YouTube, as in the case of the deadly Star Princess fire off the coast of Cruise Line President Adam Goldstein - Grandeur of the Seas FireJamaica. You can't comprehend a ship fire until you have seen the flames and billowing smoke and listened to the frightening sounds surrounding such an event.

The first information released about the Grandeur fire was that the fire was limited to deck 3. But in truth, the fire damaged decks 3, 4, 5 and a portion of 6 deck and burned for 2 hours.

So where are images of this 2 hour multi-deck fire?

A video report by ABC News states that the cruise ship's crew tried to stop passengers from taking pictures of the fire and chaos.

Carrie McTigue told ABC News that "even when people put their cameras up to photograph the sunrise, they were told, 'no photos.'"  

I have seen Royal Caribbean try and stop passengers from taking photos of what the passengers though was a near collision between Royal Caribbean and Disney cruise ships which you can see in a video here. But some crew members responded that there is a policy against the taking of photos during a muster drill and that's why the crew interfered with the photography.

I am a big fan of "citizen journalists."  I believe that photos and video taken by passengers and crew are an important part in telling the whole story of what really happens during ship fires and other cruise calamities.  Even with Royal Caribbean's new and improved PR efforts, the fact remains that the cruise line released more photos of the cruise CEO reassuring passengers than of the damage to the ship. Plus there are absolutely no photos or video released of the fire itself.

Better cruise PR is still cruise PR. The cruise line still wants to control the images you see and your feelings about the experience. 

Two and one-half years after the Carnival Splendor fire, there have been no photos or video released of the fire or the damage to the engine room (or even a report) regarding the disabled cruise ship. Regarding the more recent Carnival Triumph fire, again there are no images released of the fire. I am aware of only one innocuous photo of the fire damage in the engine room which was released by the Coast Guard. 

Secrecy like this is not a good thing. The American public should not settle for a few photos of a cruise CEO drinking ice tea with passengers in a cafe after a ship fire. The release of full and complete reports, photos and video are important to maintain a transparent and safe cruising environment.

 

Have a thought?  Please leave a comment below, or discuss the issue on our Facebook page.

Cruise Ship Fires: When is Enough, Enough?

Today CNN and other networks have repeatedly aired images of the burned Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Grandeur of the Seas

I clicked on the flat screen TV in my office this afternoon and took the photos below, of the burned stern of the cruise ship and passengers with life-vests on, in the casino and on deck at their muster stations.

Royal Caribbean's handling of the fire was considered a lot more transparent than the way Carnival communicated with the public following the fire which disabled the Carnival Triumph.   But the Grandeur never lost power, whereas the Triumph was disabled 90 miles from shore and then drifted to 150 miles offshore before a tug arrived.  Yesterday Royal Caribbean's president, Adam Goldstein, took a 45 minute flight from Miami to Freeport. Photos of him speaking with passengers while drinking ice tea in a cafe on the cruise ship seemed reassuring to the U.S. public who have been inundated with images from CNN of the last cruise-from-hell stories. 

But when is enough bad publicity enough?  I read many comments to news stories of this latest cruise fire from readers who thought this was another Carnival cruise ship fire. And even if the general public can distinguish between Carnival and Royal Caribbean, there is clearly a consensus of people who believe that there are far too many cruise ships catching on fire these days.

Cruise Ship Fire  

Cruise Ship Fire

 Cruise Ship Fire

 Cruise Ship Fires

ABC News: Passengers on Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas Heard "Big Explosions"

According to ABC News, passengers aboard Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas said they heard "big explosions" after a fire broke out early Monday morning, charring the stern of the ship and forcing an early end to the cruise.

Royal Caribbean said the fire was discovered at 2:50 AM on Monday on the mooring area on deck three. The decks above were charred in the fire. Passenger remained at their muster stations until around 7:15 AM. 

Passenger Luke Sluscher, 20, was awakened by the commotion. When he stepped outside his room, he "heard crew yelling mayday, mayday, as they ran to put out the fire."  

Royal Caribbean is now flying passengers back to Baltimore from Freeport, Bahamas. Passengers will receive a full refund of their fare and a certificate for a future cruise.

Royal Caribbean's PR team received high marks for using social media to keep the public informed and by flying its president, Adam Goldstein, to the scene.

Watch the remainder of the story below:

 

 

Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas Catches on Fire

News stations in South Florida are reporting that a fire broke out early this morning aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailing off the Florida coast.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the fire broke out aboard the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas

The fire occurred on deck three on the 916-foot ship.

A NBC news station said that the fire was categorized as a “Class A” fire, meaning it broke out in solid Grandeur of the Seas Cruise Ship Firecombustible materials such as wood or plastic and did not involve fuel or other flammable liquids.

The cruise ship radioed for assistance. Another cruise ship, the Carnival Sensation, was on on standby to help the ship in case of evacuation. Passenger gathered at muster stations.

The fire was extinquished, although there are conflicting accounts of how long it took. A comment on the Cruise Critic site says that it took two hours to stop the fire.

A photo released by Royal Caribbean shows a huge fire and smoke residue on the stern of the cruise ship.

The Grandeur of the Seas was recently given a $48 million refurbishment and was based in Baltimore, according to the Royal Caribbean website.

The Grandeur was on its way to Coco Cay, Bahamas, when the fire broke out, according to a Royal Caribbean Cruises statement.  The ship is now in Freeport, Bahamas, where it will be inspected.  

Were you on the cruise? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

 

Photo below via ABC / cruise expert Professor Ross Klein:

Grandeur of the Seas - Cruise Ship Fire 

48 Hours Update: "New" Evidence in Disappearance of Cruise Passenger George Smith

Cruise Passenger George SmithSaturday night, CBS's "'48 Hours" will air what is being described as "important new evidence" in the mysterious disappearance of George Smith during his honeymoon cruise. The episode is called "48 Hours: Murder at Sea?"

You may recall that George Smith from the Greenwich Connecticut area was enjoying his honeymoon with his newly-wed bride Jennifer Hagel when he disappeared from the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas in the early morning hours of July 5, 2005, leaving a blood-stained awning behind him. 

The cruise line quickly concluded that Mr. Smith was intoxicated and must have been sitting on a balcony railing and fell overboard, and it reported this self-serving opinion as its official report to the flag state. Royal Caribbean ignored the fact that four young men were last seen in the Smith's cabin and that there were sounds of an argument and loud noises consistent with a struggle, followed by a resounding "thud" on the awning below.  

Gregory Rozenbeg - Cruise Disappearance of George SmithWe represented George's wife, Jennifer, who instructed us to retain noted forensic scientist Henry Lee in the face of the cruise line's lack of cooperation.

Last year, CBS reported that the FBI had possession of a videotape taken by the four men where they talk callously of George's death. The video captures one of the men saying "we gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute." Cruise passenger Greg Rosenberg reportedly flashes gang signs and says "Told ya I was gangsta." 

We have written prior articles about Gregory Rozenberg such as "Disappearance of George Smith Update: Do You Have Information About Gregory Rozenberg?"   Rozenberg's mugshots are readily available online, including the one to the right taken last fall.

Royal Caribbean concealed this tape from us throughout our representation of Jennifer Hagel. The tape's existence was revealed by the FBI last year to the lawyer for the Smith family. 

Its disgraceful that the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice have not proceeded with a criminal case. Its been going on eight years since George's disappearance. A prosecution is long overdue.

Read our other articles about the case:

Disappearance of George Smith - Trouble as the Cruise Ship Sails to Kusadasi

A Frantic Call Back to Connecticut

Media Frenzy Follows Case of "Missing Honeymooner"

Dr. Henry Lee Boards the Brilliance of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Blocks Dr. Henry Lee's Dummy Experiment

The International Cruise Victims Organization Is Born!

Royal Caribbean Captain Says Its Just an Accident Involving a Bloody Nose

Larry King Live & the "Missing Groom Mystery" 

 

Senator Rockefeller Places Royal Caribbean & Norwegian Cruise Line Under the Microscope: Will Cruise CEO's Fain and Sheehan Be Honest?

Cruise lines hate U.S. governmental scrutiny of their business operations.  

The whole purpose of incorporating their businesses and flagging their cruise ships in foreign countries is to avoid U.S. taxes and the scrutiny of federal regulators. This business model permits the cruise lines to pay virtually no U.S. taxes and to avoid U.S. wage, labor and safety laws. Cruise lines often conceal shipboard crimes and the industry's abuse of crew members.

But one U.S. Senator, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, is taking the cruise lines' lack of transparency head on. Following Carnival's string of disabled cruise ships and nonchalant attitude towards its quests, Senator Rockefeller sent a letter to Carnival billionaire cruise CEO Micky Arison in March, inquiring into issues pertaining to the cruise line's avoidance of taxes as well as issues regarding the safety of cruise passengers. You can read the letter here

Carnival's letter back to Rockefeller dodged and weaved and argued and mostly avoided responding to Senator Rockefeller's concerns. Carnival refused to disclose, for example, the number of victims of sexual assault - a topic that the cruise lines strenuously try to avoid talking about.  We summarized Arison's defiant attitude in our article: Carnival CEO Arison's Letter to Senator Rockefeller: Screw You!

Undaunted, Senator Rockefeller has sent another letter to Arison and has also sent letters to the CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises (Richard Fain) and Norwegian Cruise Lines (Kevin Sheehan).

NCL Cruise CEO Kevin SheehanIn his letters yesterday, the Senator is inquiring into the internal safety audits which the cruise lines and the cruise association are allegedly conducting. At the recent cruise trade show on Miami Beach, the Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCL cruise executives talked at length about their ability to learn from their own internal investigations but never stated that they would release the reports from the investigations.

This is the usual cruise line ploy: assuring the public that they are busy at work investigating themselves after cruise ships sink or catch on fire; however, they never ever disclose the results of their alleged investigations. Carnival said that it was conducting an internal audit of its operations after the Carnival Splendor was disabled after an engine room fire in 2010.  But Carnival has never released the results of its investigation. The public remains in the dark.

Senator Rockefeller is also again demanding that the cruise lines disclose the number of crimes, particularly sexual assault, on cruise ships. The cruise industry has been notoriously dishonest in revealing accurate crimes statistics. It usually defaults to conclusory, self-serving opinions that crime is "rare" while simultaneously concealing the true crime statistics.

At a prior Congressional hearing, Royal Caribbean responded to a Congressional inquiry by stating Royal Caribbean Cruise CEO Richard Fainthat 66 women were raped during a three year period.  But in a court case we handled, the cruise line was ordered to reveal that the actual number of such crimes was much higher.

The LA Times reported on the cover-up in an article: Cruise Industry's Dark Waters.   

Royal Caribbean faced no consequence for misleading Congress back in 2006.  

The cruise lines' response to Senator Rockefeller in due on May 24th.  

Will RCCL CEO Fain and NCL CEO Sheehan be transparent? Or will they join Arison in a game of hide and seek?

Is It Safe to Walk the Decks of Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships at Night?

Last week I ran across an interesting blog article by a thirty-three year old woman who sailed aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship out of Tampa with her long time boyfriend. Around 2:00 AM one night, she craved a cigarette and proceeded to an upper deck to smoke and look at the stars. 

She encountered a naked man masturbating. He stalked her. She ran from the deck terrified. She immediately told crew members involved in cleaning a lower deck what happened. She then proceeded to the deck four service desk and made an official report of what happened. 

The article is about the indifferent, casual and almost bemused response of the cruise line to her Cruise Ship Deck - Cruise ship Crimeordeal. The comments to her frightening personal experience are revealing. Some comments seem to be from crew members accusing her of being hysterical and essentially telling her to "get over it."

Indecent exposure and public masturbation are crimes in virtually all U.S. states. But in most situations state law does not apply to foreign flagged cruise ships in international waters. Do the laws of foreign countries like Liberia and the Bahamas prohibit such conduct? Did the cruise line report the crime to the flag state? I don't know but I doubt it. I'm sure no police detective from Africa or a small Caribbean island appeared to investigate.

The U.S. federal government theoretically has jurisdiction over federal crimes at sea where the victim is an American and a federal law was broken.  But I don't think public masturbation or indecent exposure are federal crimes. Did the cruise line report the incident to the FBI?  Probably not, but even if it did, I am sure that the FBI declined to appear either.

Florida is the only state in the U.S. which has laws extending jurisdiction to local law enforcement to prosecute crimes which occur on cruise ships.  A state police officer or sheriff's detective from Florida could make an arrest once the cruise ship returned to port in Tampa. But this assumes that the cruise line notified the local law enforcement officials and further assumes the cruise line saved the CCTV surveillance images of the naked man and turned the evidence over to the police.

In my experience, the chances of this cruise line taking such steps are between slim and none.

There will be no prosecution of this cruise pervert. The video images of the naked man on deck and the cruise ship guest running down the stairs in terror will never see the light of day. No mug shots depicting the pervert will ever make it onto the internet. No one from the Miami offices of the cruise line will reach out to the victim with an apology, or words of assurance, or an offer of assistance.   

 

Photo Credit: Daily Mail

Billion Dollar Law Firm Spends Millions to Charter Liberty of the Seas Cruise Ship

Today the Washingtonian reported on a gigantic law firm, DLA Piper. chartering a gigantic cruise ship for a partner retreat. The 4,200-lawyer international firm selected Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas.

The Washingtonian calls the Piper firm a "legal behemoth" which has over 100 worldwide offices. It seems like only the partners are invited but that's enough to require a cruise behemoth like the Liberty of the Seas.  The cruise will begin in Barcelona and the ship will then sail up the coast to Nice. Sounds nice.   

DLA Piper Liberty of the Seas CruiseThe charter costs over $3,000,000 plus the costs of booze, excursions, and of course flying the partners around the world to Spain. I don't see these fat cats flying economy.

How can a law firm afford such an extravaganza? Don't worry. The firm represents mostly gigantic corporations as clients and has money to burn. The Wall Street Journal just reported that DLA Piper collected over $2,400,000,000 last year.  Yes that's right, $2.4 billion.

I'll keep my personal opinions about this to myself for a change, but let me just say that there is a reason I chose to work at my own small firm and not at a gigantic law firm with so much money that it can go on a boondoggle like this.  

I asked readers of my Facebook page to come up with one word which describes the cruise.  The response are pretty funny.  Read the comments here and give us your thoughts.   

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Hassocks5489

Salt into the Wound: Royal Caribbean Denies Legionnaires Disease Came from Liberty of the Seas

Last week we reported on an article in the BBC about a former Royal Caribbean captain who died after contracting Legionnaire's disease. BBC's story was entitled Ex-Royal Caribbean Captain Died of Legionella. His widow is now proceeding with an inquest back in the UK.    

This is a disturbing story which we looked into last year: Royal Caribbean Delivers Cruel Blow to Widow of Beloved Captain Tore Myhra.

Royal Caribbean initially declined comment to the BBC saying that it does not comment about pending legal cases, but it looks like the cruise line has changed its mind. Royal Caribbean just sent the BBC a statement saying for the first time that "Royal Caribbean is certain that Mr. Myhra did not contract Legionella while sailing on board Liberty of the Seas."  The cruise line further states that Captain Myhra reported to the Captain Tore Myhraship's doctor only with "flu-like symptoms."

It is interesting to contrast Royal Caribbean's denials today with what the cruise line stated when Captain Myhra fell ill on the cruise ship. Back in December 2009, Royal Caribbean did not deny that the cruise ship had the deadly bacteria. It stated only that ". . . we do not know the source of the guest's legionellosis . . " The cruise line further explained that in response to the legionella-related death it sanitized key areas onboard the ship, including whirlpools and the H2O Zone.  

As we reported in 2009 in our article Former Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Captain Dies of Legionnaire's Disease After Sailing on Liberty of the Seas, the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner concluded that Captain Myhra became sick on the cruise ship and suffered "nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory difficulty and dry cough.'' His symptoms worsened and he died of "Legionella pneumophila pneumonia" the day after he departed the cruise ship, on November 1, 2009.

The Miami Herald covered the story and interviewed the Centers for Disease Control: The Herald said that the CDC investigated "five or six cases of Legionnaires' disease aboard cruise ships going in and out of South Florida in the past three months" around the time of Captain Myhra's death.

The South Florida Business Journal reported that during the next cruise, a family on the Liberty of the Seas found the H20 water area and hot tubs were closed six out of seven days of the cruise. A passenger reportedly said "This cruise started off horrible as we were told there had been two cases of Legionnaire's disease on the 11/1 sailing and that Customs was also checking the entire ship . . . " Another passenger mentioned receiving a letter in the stateroom, indicating a passenger on the previous cruise had been diagnosed with Legionnaire's, so the H20 Zone and hot tubs were closed. 

Why is Royal Caribbean now so "certain" that its former captain did not contract the disease on its cruise ship and he had just "flu-like" symptoms?  

It seems like this cruise cruise line will say anything to avoid bad press, even if it means pouring salt into the wounds of Captain Myhra's grieving wife and daughter.  

Loyal to Royal? Inquest to be Held into Legionella Death of Former Royal Caribbean Captain

BBC published an article today about a story we have covered over the last three years.

The story involves a former Royal Caribbean captain who died due to sickness contracted while cruising with the same cruise line he and his wife had worked for.

Tore and Sue Myhra "met and fell in love" on board a Royal Caribbean ship in the 1980s.

Tore Myhra - LegionellaBut in 2009, the couple were on a Royal Caribbean cruise as passengers aboard the Liberty of the Seas when Captain Myhra became ill and four days later died of Legionella in a Miami hospital.

An inquest into the death will be held next month in the U.K. 

Mrs Myhra said her husband's case was "ironic" in that he had not been afforded the same consideration he had shown others when he was working.

In 1998, he sailed a Royal Caribbean cruise ship into a Caribbean port  at night so a sick passenger could receive emergency medical treatment. But Royal Caribbean kept the ill former captain on the cruise ship when he was dying.

Royal Caribbean did not treat his widow, a former long term purser on several Royal Caribbean cruise ships, or her daughter any better. 

You can read our article about this sad and disturbing case here. It should give new meaning to "Loyal to Royal."

Royal Caribbean Delivers Cruel Blow to Widow of Beloved Captain Tore Myhra

Quantum of the Seas - A Cruise Lawyer's Dream?

Richard Fain Bumper Car Quantum of the SeasToday was another weird day in the world of cruise law.  Sitting in my office I watched CNN coverage of the bombing in Boston on my big screen TV's most of the day while also following the travel industry's internet coverage of the unveiling of images of Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas (as well as filing a few lawsuits against my favorite cruise line).

It was a strange contrast watching the somber coverage of the deadly Boston bombing with the gushing praise by travel agents and cruise fans of artist-drawings of a silly looking, gigantic but-not-yet-built-cruise ship which touts all types of frivolous contraptions. 

I didn't see any photos or video of larger and better equipped medical facilities to take care of the residents and guests of this gigantic floating city, or police substations for this sometimes dangerous maritime community, or helicopters to medevac ill guests and crew to safety or to assist in rescuing overboard passengers, or top notch security systems to keep the terrorists at bay.

The cruise ship has not been built yet (it is scheduled to come on line in the fall of 2014) but that did not stop the cruise line CEO and cruise president from showing digital images and video of all types of weird and futuristic things. 

One of the first images I saw on Twitter was a photo taken by the popular @CruiseGuy of Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain arriving at theQuantum of the Seas Virtual Balcony Quantum of the Seas presentation in a bumper car with a Royal Caribbean logo painted on the top. You guessed it - Royal Caribbean will offer the first cruise ship with a bumper car rink! Hundreds of drunk passengers without helmets smashing into each other on the high seas! That should keep the defense lawyers at the cruise line busy for a decade.

CEO Fain seems like a good sport. Years ago he was photographed riding on the carousel on the new Oasis of the Seas and he surfed a FlowRider when the Independence of the Sea debuted a while back. So why not ride a bumper car which he could smash into President Goldstein on stage?    

A big hit seemed to be the "virtual balcony" for the dark, interior cabins for those passengers who can't afford the real thing.  Hhmmhh . . .  a virtual view. Sounds depressing to me. Every time I look out at my virtual view I realize that I can't afford a real view, like from the Royal Loft. But the real question is who will be the first lawyer to file suit when a tipsy passenger breaks his nose smashing into the wall after forgetting its just a virtual balcony?  It won't be me, but trust me it will happen. How many broken noses will it take before the virtual balcony doors have virtual warning signs?

Quantum of the Seas North StarThen there is something called simulated sky-diving which the Quantum will premier. Sure sounds dangerous, but again it is "simulated" right? Looks like flying to me (broken neck anyone?). Take a look at the video here.  

Royal Caribbean has been sued for injuries and death on its FlowRiders (simulated surfing), rock walls, skating rinks and zip-lines. Simulated sky-diving may continue Royal Caribbean's tradition of having the most innovative and dangerous attractions on the seas. Let's hope that the sky-diving injuries are just "simulated" too.    

But the best "gee-wizz" attraction will be a Jetson-famiy futuristic mechanical arm that magically transports passengers high above the ocean in a glass capsule. Its called the "North Star." Kinda like a amusement park ride of the future that has never been tested on land, so-let's do-it-on-the-high-seas!

I'm going to go ahead and file a lawsuit on that one today.

If you missed the debut, watch below for a summary!

 

Leave a comment or join the discussion on our Facebok page.

Cruise Booze: Is a Passenger's Drinking Problem Just His Own?

An article this weekend from the popular cruise community Cruise Critic caught my attention: "Royal Caribbean Removes Passenger from Cruise Ship for Rowdy Behavior."

The article is about Royal Caribbean kicking a passenger off the Rhapsody of the Seas for what is described as "rowdy behavior" that included throwing items overboard while the ship sailed in the south Pacific. The cruise line has a "Guest Conduct" policy which requires the passengers to act responsibility and permits the cruise line to kick them off the cruise when they act badly. 

I don't disagree with the notion of removing an unruly passenger from a cruise. But the first thing I Cruise Ship Drunk Rowdy Conduct thought of was that Royal Caribbean probably over-served the guest too much booze in the first place. I later read comments that the passenger in question was probably drunk when he threw a bunch of stuff overboard and then staggered back to his cabin and passed out.

Royal Caribbean has what it calls a SafeServe policy where it supposedly trains its staff not to over-serve alcohol to passengers. But from the many comments to the incident on the Cruise Critic message board, it seems that the drinking policy is not rigorously enforced. The cruise line also offers an All-You-Can-Drink package which can lead only to more and more drunken conduct.

I have written about Royal Caribbean's drinking policies in the past where the company collects hundreds of millions of dollars in profits a year based on a system where bartenders earning only $50 a day from the cruise line push booze to make tips from the passengers. 

Here are some comments to the rowdy passenger article:

"Saw way too much of the drunken behaviour on our last Royal Caribbean Cruise aboard Voyager and I have to agree that alot are now making sure they get their full monies worth with the drinks package and the only way to do that is to make sure you are just about smashed everyday."

"I cannot imagine drinking for ten straight days, actually I can, it's called "leaving Las Vegas" and it starred Nicholas Cage . . ." 

So what happens when a cruise line violates its drinking policy and then a passenger breaks the guest conduct policy?  Yes, the guest usually gets the boot. But shouldn't the bartenders responsible for over-serving the guest also find themselves on the dock the next morning?  Should cruise executives face culpability when excessive serving of alcohol leads to unruly conduct, fights, crimes and people going over-board?

Or is a passenger's drinking problem just his problem alone?  

 

  

Photo Credit: Cruise Critic

Legal Rights of Crew Members Injured on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships

Royal Caribbean Crew Member When injured Royal Caribbean crew members contact us, there are a few things that they usually say:

"The ship doctor would not take me seriously and just gave me Ibuprofen;"

"My supervisor told me that if I didn't want to work I would be sent home;"

"The company would not send me to a doctor in the Miami but sent me to Nassau instead;"

"The ship doctor would not authorize a MRI;"

"The company sent me home and I have no money;"

"The company sent me home and no medical treatment is arranged;" 

"I called my medical case manager and she didn't call me back;" and

"I emailed my medical case manager and she didn't email me back."

One of the problems which Royal Caribbean crew members face is that they are required to work excessive hours (12 hours or more) seven days a week all month long. Repetitive injuries to their back, neck and wrists are common. Complicating matters is that there is constant pressure to keep working. Stateroom attendants have to clean the 20 or so cabins assigned to them each and every day; a negative comment from a guest may be the kiss of death and result in a 10 year cabin attendant finding herself summarily dismissed from the cruise ship.  

The next problem is that there is very little actual diagnosis of crew members injuries taking place on cruise ships. Rather the focus is on giving pain relievers to the injured crew which just masks the problem and can result in the injury becoming worse.  Many crew members tell us that ship infirmaries Royal Caribbean Crew Member have baskets of Ibuprofen pills out at the nurse's station, not unlike a bowl of candy to eat.

And when the crew member can no longer work and gets sent home? In most cases, the cruise line has not scheduled any medical treatment. Nor has the company provided a check for the crew member's sick wages or living expenses.  

The crew medical personnel in the company's offices in Miami are understaffed. A single medical case manager may be required to handle over 150 crew member cases.  If you are a sick or injured Royal Caribbean crew member and feel that the company isn't paying attention to you, that's because it isn't.

Under the U.S. maritime law, cruise lines are required to provide you with prompt and adequate medical care on the cruise ship. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean also have to provide full and complete "maintenance and cure" when a crew member is home on medical leave.

Over the last decade we have represented RCCL crew members from around the world. We are currently representing cleaners, waiters, assistant waiters, cooks, and cabin attendants from Jamaica, India, Guyana, Nicaragua, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Canada, Mexico, Trinidad, St. Vincent, Peru and other countries.

If you were injured on a cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean (or sister company Celebrity Cruises) due to an accident, over-work or bad medical care, and are frustrated by the way the cruise line is treating you - don't suffer alone.  We will be pleased to help you.

We will explain your rights and answer any questions you have.

Email me at jim@cruiselaw.com or call our office at 305 995 5300.

 

Photo Credit - Jim Walker with clients:

Top: RCCL cabin attendant from St. Vincent in Miami for medical treatment

Bottom: RCCL cook injured in galley / photo taken in front of Allure of the Seas in Jamaica

Sexual Perverts & Pedophiles on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships

Todd Nordahl - Sexual Assault - Royal CaribbeanYesterday, I wrote a short article here about a 49 year old man who reportedly sexually assaulted a 15 year old boy on the Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas cruise ship.  As I mentioned earlier, a FBI press release states that Todd Nordahl, of Tuscon Arizona, was arrested when the Royal Caribbean cruise ship returned to Galveston from a seven-night cruise. Nordahl was charged with sexually abusing the boy on March 27. He allegedly provided alcohol to the minor victim, made sexual advances toward the child and then sexually assaulted him.

Sexual assaults on Royal Caribbean cruise ships, as well as on other cruise lines, are more frequent than the cruise industry will admit. There are many hundreds of crimes which have occurred over the years on the Royal Caribbean fleet - child porn freaks, child predators and sexual deviants - both crew members and fellow passengers.  

In 1999, Royal Caribbean commissioned a study to access the frequency of sexual assaults on its fleet of cruise ships. The independent experts concluded that sexual misconduct on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise ship occurred "frequently." 

Royal Caribbean Sexual Assault Cruise ShipThe experts recommended that certain steps be taken to reduce the number of incidents. In response, the cruise line implemented none of the recommendations. Instead, Royal Caribbean began a PR campaign stating that sexual misconduct was "rare" and touted that the "safety of passengers was its highest priority." The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) later adopted the "safety is our highest priority" slogan as its official talking point.

Our firm was the first to uncover and obtain an order compelling the cruise line to release this report to the public.

Royal Caribbean, in my assessment, continues to perpetuate a fraud on the American public by telling them that their cruise ships are safe, when it knows that that sexual assaults are "frequent."  

Since then there have been many sexual assaults of children throughout the Royal Caribbean - Celebrity Cruises fleet of ships.  Here are some of the recent cases of child porn addicts, sexual predators and men convicted of assaulting children aboard Royal Caribbean / Celebrity cruise ships:

Two years ago, a 15 girl was sexually assaulted by who she describes as a uniformed Royal Caribbean crew member aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas cruise ship. The crime occurred after the cruise employee let himself into the child's cabin while her parents were at a different part of the cruise ship. Like most cruise ship crime cases, the FBI did not arrest anyone and the crime remains unsolved. Child Porn Royal Caribbean Cruise ShipSee the video below to watch the disturbing story.

Timothy David Webb, age 32, (left) was arrested after he disembarked Royal Caribbean's cruise ship Grandeur of the Seas as a passenger at the Norfolk cruise ship terminal. Webb is a convicted sex offender and has a prior conviction sodomy in the state of Virginia. The customs agents pulled Webb from a line of passengers disembarking the cruise ship and searched his laptop, which contained child pornography videos.

A 15 year old girl was raped on the Allure of the Seas last year. The crime occurred after the girl was lured from the cruise ship's teen club called "Fuel" when a 15 year old boy told her he was having a party in his room. Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship The young girl, who was vacationing with her family, was led to believe that she would meet friends there. However, after entering entering the cabin, she was confronted by an older passenger, Luiz Scavone, age 20. His full name is Luiz Antônio Scavone Neto (right). The Broward Sheriff's Office (BSO) said that Scavone and the 15 year old boy prevented her from leaving, removed her clothing, forced oral sex, and then both raped her. "The victim told them 'no' several times and tried to leave but was not able to," according to the BSO. Scavone and the 15-year-old boy have been charged with "lewd and lascivious battery." Both pled guilty to the crimes.

Celebrity Cruises Sexual AssaultAmado Nicholas Hernandez, age 31, (left) is a pedophile who was employed by Celebrity Cruises as an audiovisual manager and provided onboard guest-entertainment services aboard the Constellation cruise ship. Hernandez was arrested after police determined that his computer contained 450 photographs and about 250 video files of child pornography portraying a total of 44 different victims. The criminal complaint filed against Hernandez alleged that upcoming cruises included several stops in Mexico. Hernandez, in documented online chats, reportedly had bragged that he had bought young boys for sex in Mexico and “almost offed one,” the criminal complaint alleges. He reportedly dressed as Santa Claus on the Celebrity cruise ship and was photographed with the children of passengers sitting on his lap.  

Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Sexual Assault A Royal Caribbean crew member has pleaded guilty to the sexual abuse of a 14 year old girl during a Caribbean cruise. 25 year old Fabian Palmer admitted engaging in sexual relations with the girl during a cruise from Baltimore in December 2010. Crew member Palmer was employed by Royal Caribbean as a pool attendant and interacted regularly with passengers during cruises. He met the girl and her family earlier during the cruise. Palmer took the child into a men's locker room on the Enchantment of the Seas and engaged in sexual acts in the bathroom.

Federal authorities arrested an Idaho man who took a cruise from Port Canaveral with more than 1,000 Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Porn images of child pornography on a laptop he took on the cruise ship. According to a complaint filed in Orlando federal court, authorities were inspecting cruise passengers onboard Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas cruise ship on December 10, 2012, when they discovered that the laptop computer of cruise passenger Gary Lee Reed, of Blackfoot Idaho, had around 1,162 images and videos depicting child pornography. The images included sexual abuse of toddlers and babies. Reed reportedly admitted that he has viewed child pornography for many years. He was arrested and subsequently indicted by an Orlando federal grand jury on a child pornography charge.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Child Predator A Pittsburgh-area man was sentenced to nearly five years in federal prison for traveling to Florida in order to take a cruise so he could molest a young boy. Seventy-three-year-old Sherwood Stevenson pleaded guilty to traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. Stevenson fondled a 6-year-old boy while in a hot tub on the Royal Caribbean Liberty if the Seas cruise ship in December 2009. When that boy got away, Stevenson made brief contact with another boy. Stevenson told investigators he took the cruise so he could molest young boys.

We have handled over 75 sexual assaults of women and children on cruise ships over the past decade. We maintain a large data-base of many hundreds of such crimes on cruise ships.

Cruise lines will never tell you the truth about sexual assault. It is the cruise industry's dirtiest secret.    

Cruise Crime Allegations: 15 Year Old Boy Sexually Assaulted on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas

Mariner of the Seas - Todd NordahlA 49 year old cruise passenger was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a 15 year old boy during a recent cruise aboard the Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas.

According to a FBI press release, Todd Nordahl, of Arizona, was arrested when the Royal Caribbean cruise ship returned to Galveston from a seven-night cruise. 

The charges are that on March 27, Nordahl provided alcohol to the minor victim, made sexual advances toward the child and then sexually assaulted the boy.

Nordahl, 49, is being held in the Galveston County Jail. There is a hearing scheduled tomorrow in Federal Court in Texas before U.S. Magistrate Judge John R. Froeschner at 2:00 PM.

Sexual assaults on cruise ships are one of the cruise industry's dirtiest secrets.  Tomorrow we will post some of the most devious child porn addicts and sexual predators caught on Royal Caribbean cruise ships.

Did Liberty of the Seas Rescue Two Cuban Boaters? Royal Caribbean Isn't Sure

Last Sunday the Liberty of the Seas cruised upon two stranded boaters as the cruise ship was returning from the Caribbean.  The ship stopped and picked up two Cuban men.

As WPTV reports, Royal Caribbean originally said that its cruise ship picked them up. But later it issued this statement, saying: The two Cubans did not board the Liberty of the Seas, but were retrieved by a coast guard vessel…"

But cruise passenger Emily Zazdin, who filmed the rescue, said  "I got video of them coming up to the ship and they were taken aboard."  

The Coast Guard said they picked up the two men from the cruise ship and found they have legal status in the U.S. The Coast Guard took them to the border patrol offices in Marathon, where their legal status were confirmed, and they were released.

You can see in the video (courtesy RSS 622) at the bottom the Coast Guard arriving at the cruise ship to take the men away in a Coast Guard vessel.  

Just goes to show you, take anything the cruise line PR people tell you with a grain of salt.

 

 

Murder Aboard Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas?

Enchantmemt of the Seas Cruise Ship MurderLast night I received an email from a person who follows cruising who received information that there may have been what is being described as a "murder / suicide" on an unidentified Royal Caribbean cruise ship. There was a vague posting of the alleged incident on the Disney boards

This morning I received another email from a passenger who just disembarked the Enchantment of the Seas cruise ship.  The person's email is as follows:

"Just got off Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas. They were detaining everyone on the 7Th floor and the police were there collecting statements. The crew wouldn't say what was going on but other passengers said there was a murder/death on the 7th fl. Post if you hear anything about it."

My understanding is that the Enchantment OTS is moored in Baltimore at the moment.  

Enchantment of the Seas Cabin 7110If you have any information about this alleged incident, please leave a message or post a comment on our Facebook page.

Update March 25 2013:  I received the following information this morning from a person who wishes to remain anonymous:

The deceased person is reportedly a woman in her 60's who allegedly was found on the floor by her husband.    

She reportedly had fallen inside the cabin earlier the same evening and hit her head and went to bathroom where she fell again this is when husband called for help. Nurses arrived to the cabin to attend the situation however she was pronounced dead at 5 AM.

(Please note that I cannot verify any of this information or any comments below). 

The cabin was thereafter sealed at some point until arrival into port where investigations will begin.

We were also provided with a copy of a photo of the door of the cabin in question which shows a plexi-glass cover over the key hole and key card slot with a lock around the handle.  

The FBI has told news stations in Baltimore that there are "suspicious undertones" surrounding the death.

A local CBS news station in Baltimore aired a short video on the investigation.

March 28, 2013 Update: The AP is reporting that an "autopsy shows that a Virginia woman found dead aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship died of natural causes.

FBI spokesman Rich Wolf has identified the woman as 64-year-old Katherine Kennedy, of Midlothian, Va. He says Kennedy died of heart disease.

Her husband found her dead Sunday in her cabin on the Enchantment of the Seas cruise ship. FBI agents met the ship when it arrived in Baltimore on Monday to begin investigating the unexplained death.

Wolf says Kennedy also had a laceration on her forehead, but authorities determined that she got the cut when she fell down. They said it had nothing to do with her death."

Photo Credit:

Top: Rageousgtx at en.wikipedia

Bottom: Anonymous

Royal Caribbean's Norovirus of the Seas Returns to Florida with Sick Passengers

CBS (Miami) reports today that  a Royal Caribbean cruise ship arrived back in Port Everglades this morning with an outbreak of norovirus on board

The cruise line has not responded to requests for information, but passengers aboard the Vision of the Seas complained about vomiting and diarrhea. Passengers said more than 200 passengers had to be quarantined due to the outbreak.

“It’s been a hell of an experience,” said passenger Johny Celaire, of the 11-day cruise.  The captain reportedly announced there had been an outbreak of the norovirus on board shortly after the cruise Vision of the Seas Norovirusship departed.

CBS reports that one cruise passenger, Joan Webber was not  quarantined even though her husband was ill.  She is concerned that other passengers infected with the virus will take taxi cabs to hotels and airports where others could be exposed.

“There are people flying out today that are going on an aircraft that have diarrhea so bad they don’t know how they are going to get back up to Canada,” Webber said. “I’m surprised we didn’t go and have the health department talk to us.”

CBS further reports that Celaire said Royal Caribbean’s customer service reps added insult to injury when they called to inquire about the situation.

“She said to me if you had washed your hands you’d be okay,” Celaire said. “I said, ‘How the hell do you know if I didn’t wash my hands?’”

Blaming the passengers is a common ploy by the cruise lines even though the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) state that the most likely cause of norovirus outbreaks is contaminated food or water. 

 

 

 

 

 

"Screw the Crew" Video: Banned By Royal Caribbean & YouTube!

Royal Caribbean Tipping PolicyA former Royal Caribbean crew member recently posted a short video explaining, in his view, how the cruise line steals a portion of the tips intended for stateroom attendants.  We posted the video in an article Are Crew Members Receiving the Tips You Pay?  

Recently this cruise line announced that it was switching to a new system where it will automatically take money from its guests' accounts purportedly for the purpose of being distributed to crew members as tips.  But many crew members have contacted us or posted comments to our blog stating that this is just another scheme to take money from the crew's pockets.

We posted another article earlier this week addressing the new policy and the issue of tips: Royal Caribbean's New Tipping Policy: A Money Grab to Increase Profits?  

We also have a active discussion of the issue on our Facebook page

But Royal Caribbean does not like its crew members revealing what is happening on its cruise ships. We learned that the cruise line threatened the former crew member and objected to the video. Today YouTube took the video down. Take a look below.

This is how foreign incorporated cruise lines (Royal Caribbean is incorporated in Liberia) view the First Amendment guarantees of free speech.

So this cruise line silenced one critic.  But its hard to hide the truth.  If you are a crew member, leave a comment below and tell us about the new tipping policy.             

Royal Caribbean's New Tipping Policy: A Money Grab to Increase Profits?

Royal Caribbean Tipping PolicyRoyal Caribbean announced a new tipping policy.

Passengers will no longer be permitted to pay the "recommended gratuities" directly to the hard working stateroom attendants. Instead, the cruise line will automatically charge tips of $12 a day per person. The tips will be automatically added to the guest's account on a daily basis.

So who receives the tips?

The cruise line says that the tips will be shared by dining services staff, cabin attendants and other housekeeping personnel.  

But some crew members who have contacted our office say that this is a money grab by Royal Caribbean to pay them less. They earn only $50 a month from the cruise line. The rest comes from the guests. They believe that the cruise line is stealing their money. We have heard from many crew who have to clean over 20 cabins, bathrooms and balconies a day and see Royal Caribbean sending their tips back to the cruise line coffer's in Miami.

Two month sago, we asked whether this cruise line's tipping policy was just a scheme to steal the crew member's tips? Remember that this cruise line just suffered a $392,800,000 loss last quarter. It certainly has motivation to dip into the tip jar and steal money intended for its crew members.

Read: Are Crew Members Receiving the Tips You Pay? Watch Royal Caribbean's "Screw the Crew Scheme."Royal Caribbean Tipping Policy

February 20, 2013 Update: Royal Caribbean objected to the video, threatened the crew member who posted it, and was successful in taking the video down.  So much for freedom of speech.  Read our updated article "Screw the Crew" Video: Banned By Royal Caribbean & YouTube! 

  

Groping on the High Seas? John Travolta - Fabian Zanzi Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Over, Finally

Fabian Zanzi - Royal CaribbeanA year ago. Cruise Law News was the first one in the U.S. to report that a Royal Caribbean crew member, Fabian Zanzi, claimed that movie celebrity John Travolta sexually harassed and assaulted him during a cruise.  We had first heard of the alleged incident several years ago from a crew member client who worked on Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas cruise ship. 

We were told that a Royal Caribbean crew member claimed that Travolta came-on-to-him during a cruise on the Enchantment in 2009.  

Zanzi's lawsuit claims that after he served Travolta room service, Travolta disrobed, "forcibly embracing" Zanzi while naked, and engaged in "nonconsensual, inappropriate, extreme and outrageous" contact. 

Zanzi reported the incident to his supervisors at the cruise line. Royal Caribbean then punished Zanzi and kept him confined to his cabin. Travolta ended his cruise early and took a jet back to the U.S.    

Travolta denied everything of course. 

Travolta's lawyers responded to Zanzi's lawsuit by moving to dismiss it and to send the case to arbitration. This way Travolta could avoid the publicity of a jury trial. Arbitration usually results in lower damages awarded to the aggrieved party. This is how cruise lines respond to lawsuits by injured crew members.

A federal court judge recently denied Travolta'a motion to arbitrate the case. You can read the well reasoned opinion here. This means that the case would head toward a jury trial.

But yesterday, the Hollywood news reporters said that Zanzi's lawsuit had been "dropped," after the John Travolta - Fabian Zanzi - Cruise Shipparties had stipulated to a dismissal.  Sounds to me like Travolta paid a settlement, after losing his arbitration motion, in order to avoid the prospect of all of his dirty laundry being aired out before a jury in Los Angeles. The parties probably agreed to keep the settlement terms secret.  A good move by Travolta to put this spectacle to bed.

Meanwhile, Zanzi is proceeding with his claim against Royal Caribbean that it falsely imprisoned him in retaliation for reporting the alleged sexual harassment.

The Zanzi - Royal Caribbean false imprisonment claim is in arbitration, so there will be no jury trial for the Hollywood reporters to attend. My prediction is that eventually the cruise line will agree to a settlement, subject to a confidentiality agreement.

Then the case will end like it began, with everyone trying to keep what happens on cruise ships secret. 

 

Photo credit - John Travolta - WENN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

High School Students in Jamaica: New Cruise Port in Falmouth Not Benefiting the "Small Man"

I have been interested in the port town of Falmouth in Jamaica for the past many years after cruise giant Royal Caribbean convinced Jamaica to invest well over $200,000,000 (U.S.) to accommodate its Oasis class cruise ships,  The project involved the dredging of the port's waters, the destruction of mangroves, the dislocation of its fishing village, and the changing of traffic routes which I have written in prior blog articles here, here, here and here.

My view is that the port primarily benefits the cruise line. There is virtually no investment in the town of Falmouth Jamaica Cruise Ship PortFalmouth itself. The cruise passengers are bused out of town to shop in Ocho Rios or visit places like Dunns River Falls.    

Two days ago, the Jamaica Gleaner published an article stating that high school students in Trelawny have concluded that Royal Caribbean's new port facility in Falmouth is not benefiting the "small man."

Students at the William Knibb Memorial High School in Martha Brae, a few south of Falmouth, have studied the new port and, according to the Gleaner, have given the port a "failing grade" in terms of helping the "common man" in Trelawny.

The article below was written by Gleaner writer Barrington Flemming.

I took the photos yesterday when I was in Falmouth visiting clients.    

"The Falmouth Pier in Trelawny, which has been dubbed the new hub of cruise shipping in Jamaica, has been given a failing grade by sixth form students of William Knibb Memorial High School, who are of the view that it is not measuring up to their expectations in terms of benefits to the town.

Tasanica Ellis, one of eight panellists, who discussed the topic Falmouth: Jamaica's new economic frontier, fact or fiction? during a Gleaner-Island Grill Youth Editors' Forum at her school, described the US$220-million cruise-shipping pier as a US$220-million "monstrosity" which has failed to bring any real benefit to the small man in the historic Georgian town.

"There is no benefit for the small man," said Ellis. "Everything is either boxed into the pier or is spread elsewhere outside of Falmouth. Only the investors in the pier reap any economic benefits."

Added Ellis: "We do not see any partnerships between the investors in the pier that will include the small man and allow for him to get any benefit."

Ellis went on to argue that more could be done to help retain the visitors in the town by developing new attractions and employing more people directly.

"They could develop the Burwood Beach and make it into a proper attraction that could see people gaining employment," said Ellis. "They could open a restaurant offering authentic Jamaican food and drink so the people would be inclined to stay here. Most of the cruise-ship visitors, who come to Falmouth, leave to Montego Bay (St James) or Ocho Rios (St Ann) to enjoy the attractions in those towns."

Lack of Development

Nastascia Gossel, another of the panelists, decried the lack of development in the town while arguing that no provisions have been made to cause any benefit to trickle down to the general populace.

"When we look at Falmouth, it is a total disaster; the small businesses are not seeing any of the benefits that were promised from the development of the cruise-ship pier," argued Gossel. "The drainage system is seriously lacking; to be quite frank, Falmouth has hardly been developed over the past two years."

For Orlando Dowlatt, while the national coffers have benefited from foreign-exchange earnings, the "common man" in Trelawny has been left out of the equation.

"We are seeing that the pier has spurred some economic growth as the country on a whole has been benefiting from the foreign-exchange but for the common man, there is absolutely nothing," Dowlett contended.

The general consensus from the youth was that the pier, while offering economic benefits for the country as a whole, the "trickle down" effect was lacking as the town of Falmouth itself was not feeling the impact of the pier as was promulgated by the Government."

barrington.flemming@gleanerjm.com  

Falmouth Jamaica Royal Caribbean Cruise Port

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

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

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

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

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

Allure of the Seas - FlowRider - Oasis of the Seas

Alleged Rapist Arrested Aboard Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship

Brian DenbyOne of the topics I harp on here at Cruise Law News is the danger of having a sexual predator sailing in the next cabin to you while you enjoy a vacation cruise.  

Cruise ships of course do not screen passengers to determine whether they are sexual predators. The local port officials and sheriff's offices can easily perform background checks like this but they usually don't bother to conduct the checks until the cruise ships are at sea and then it's too late to arrest the undesirables before they can attack someone on the cruise.   

Today we have another example of why it is prudent not to trust the friendly man who is sailing next to your family's cabin.

WSVN-7 reports today that the police arrested a 30 year old man who allegedly sexually assaulted two underage teenage girls outside a South Florida shelter.  The news station states that Brian Denby was arrested after arriving back at the Port of Miami from a cruise this morning.

Three weeks ago, according to police, Denby was walking by a shelter for victims of abuse called "Kids in Distress." After talking to two teen girls who live at the shelter, he hopped the fence sexually abused the two girls. The police released his sketch and after a tip came in the officers were able to identify Denby.

The news station reports that Denby was on vacation on a Royal Caribbean cruise in the Bahamas. When the cruise ship arrived back to the Port of Miami today, the police and federal officials boarded the ship and arrested Denby.  He is in jail in Broward County charged with several counts of lewd and lascivious battery.

Photograph courtesy of Broward County Sheriff's Office via CBS News.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But does it have enough?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        

 

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

Royal Caribbean's New Free Booze Policy: Staying Drunk on the High Seas

Royal Caribbean Cruises, which I believe is one of the leaders in irresponsible alcohol practices in the cruise industry, is adding to its already controversial beverage policies with an offer of free booze when two passengers book balcony rooms or higher levels on trans-Atlantic re-positioning cruises this spring to Europe.

South Florida Business Journal covers the story in an article New Twists in Boozing and Ocean Cruising. The Journal explains that Royal Caribbean is offering the free booze to passengers who buy balcony cabins on:

Royal Caribbean Cruises - Free BoozeNavigator of the Seas’ 15-night sailing from New Orleans to Rome (Civitavecchia) on April 6;

Independence of the Seas’ 13-night sailing from Port Everglades to Southampton, U.K. on April 7;

Brilliance of the Seas’ 11-night sailing from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Lisbon, Portugal on April 13; an

Adventure of the Seas’ 14-night sailing from San Juan to Southampton on April 21.

We have seen a correlation between too much booze and women and children being sexually assaulted, drunken brawls and passengers going overboard. Royal Caribbean does not mention whether there is a limit to how many drinks its bartenders and waiters will serve the passengers. Carnival recently stated that there is a 15 drink "limit" on its all-you-can drink policy. So if that is any indication of the standards of the cruise industry, then the new free drink policy on the Royal Caribbean ships will be surely result a significant portion of the passengers being intoxicated.

We have written about Royal Caribbean drinking policies before. Consider reading Booze Cruise: The Royal Caribbean Way.

The South Florida Business Journal mentions our blog in its article

"Maritime attorney Jim Walker of Walker & O'Neill has written some critical blogs about alcohol consumption on ships. He alleges some cruise lines routinely over serve passengers with bartenders being incentivized to do so. Of course, Walker is in the business of suing cruise lines when something unfortunate happens to passengers or crew members.

Carnival recently imposed a limit of 15 drinks in a 24-hour period for its booze bundles, which Walker likened to "no limit at all." A contrarian might argue that some people can knock down a beer an hour all day long and into the night without being stumbling drunk.

The danger for cruise lines is lawyers in some cases are trying to hold them liable for over serving passengers. Walker has a blog about a lawsuit involving a female passenger on one ship, who was allegedly raped by members of a ship's crew after drinking too much." 

Have a thought? Discuss the issue on our Facebook page

 

Photo credit: Cruise Critic

Antigua National Security Investigates Fist Fight Between Cruise Passengers & Police Over Broken $5 Souvenir

A newspaper in Antiqua reports today about an altercation which allegedly occurred between two cruise passengers & their child and police officers in a souvenir shop in Antigua.

In an article entitled "Cruise Passengers and Police Come to Fisticuffs," the Antigua Obeserver states that  a souvenir shop in the touristy Heritage Quay section of St. John's was the scene of a fist fight yesterday allegedly between two police officers and a couple and their child from Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas. The incident occurred in the the Shipwreck Shop whose website shows pirate statues at the shop's entrance and states that "Shipwreck is the perfect little souvenir shop, filled with Shipwreck Shop - Antigua - Cruise Ship Passengersall sorts of trinkets." The stores sells an assortment of items including ". . . fridge magnets, shot glasses, key rings and even small Caribbean Christmas tree decorations."

The incident apparently occurred when a child from the cruise ship broke an item valued at less than $5 (U.S.).  The owner of the store told the newspaper that he informed the passengers of the store’s “You break it, you pay for it” policy, but the parents declined to pay for the item. The owner, who refused to identify himself to the newspaper, apparently called the local police who arrived on the scene. 

According to the Antigua Observer, the couple told the police that they were not going to pay for the broken souvenir, and an altercation occurred when they tried to leave the store.

The unidentified shop owner said that the cruise passengers were allegedly hostile to his staff and law enforcement officers.  He says that an apology would have been sufficient but the "child got very abusive."  The owner further claims that the child was "beating up on the police." The ship owner further stated: " We must not allow these people to talk down to us. I only want happy customers. The father and his son got very physical. They were hostile to the police and my staff. The officers were being fair and only doing their job. People have to treat people with respect.” 

The newspaper article indicates that the police made no arrest, and the cruise passengers returned to the ship.

The newspaper further states that the island's Ministry of National Security was notified and paid a visit to the souvenir shop to investigate. 

The newspaper contains a second curious twist stating that the cruise ship’s captain allegedly apologized to the shop owner the passengers' behavior and said "he would be asking them to disembark at the next port." 

This is rather unusual because cruise lines like Royal Caribbean tell the cruise passengers that they are on their own while ashore. However, the cruise line Guest Conduct Policy states that its standards of conduct for guests to follow apply "throughout their Royal Caribbean International cruise vacation, including transfers to and from ships, inside terminals, while onboard, at ports of call, during shore excursions and at our private destinations."

It will be interesting to see if the cruise line dumps the family off at the next port, or whether the captain threatened this merely to placate the shop owner and the island's National Security.

A strange story in any event, this is something that begs hearing the passenger's side of these events.

We have reported about all types of things which occur involving cruise passengers ashore in Antigua, such as a young woman being murdered and cruise passengers attacked and robbed and six cruise passengers from Brooklyn arrested after disputing a cab fare and fighting with the police in Antigua. For one, I'd like to understand why the Antigua Ministry of National Security got involved in an altercation involving a broken souvenir trinket worth less than $5.  

January 5, 2013 Update:  Another newspaper contains the "other side of the story."  Caribarena Antigua states that "eyewitness reports from taxi drivers in the area suggests that the police officers were the aggressors, having reportedly “roughed up” the lad in front of his parents and as they interjected they too became victims, with even the pregnant mother receiving a thug or two."

"The family was eventually ordered and escorted back to the ship by a senior officer who arrived on the scene. And during that journey, the child is reported to have wetted himself out of fear."

Irrespective of what occurred, news accounts of a broken trinket, a boy who wets himself, a pregnant mother, and a violent encounter with police will surely cast a black eye on Antigua.

In an unrelated article in the Antigua Oberserver today, tourism officials state that they are optimistic about attracting cruise visitors to Antigua this year.  

The brawl in the tourist area comes at the same time that Antigua announced that it formed a new police unit to protect tourists from crime

 

Photo: Shipwreck Shop

Seven & One-Half Years After Disappearance, George Smith's Family Still Seeking Answers From Royal Caribbean

The Greenwich Time newspaper reports that the family of cruise passenger George Smith, who vanished from Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas, wrote a letter to the cruise line's CEO, Richard D. Fain, on Christmas Eve seeking information about what happened aboard the cruise ship which lead to their son going overboard. 

In July of 2005, Mr. Smith was on his honeymoon with his newlywed bride, Jennifer Hagel, when he disappeared from the cruise ship.  Although the cruise line quickly labeled the incident an accident, there was blood found in his cabin as well as on an awning below his cabin. Four men who were last seen with George Smith Disappearance - Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the SeasMr. Smith were suspected of either being involved in or knowledgeable of the circumstances surrounding his death. 

Last year, there was a bombshell revelation that shortly after the incident, Royal Caribbean had possession of a video taken by one of the four men which revealed one of the other men saying "we gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute." Our firm represented Mr. Smith's wife, and the cruise line kept this videotape secret from us. The question arises what other information the cruise line has not revealed to Mr. Smith's grieving family.

The Smith family noted that it has been 2,729 days since their son and brother went overboard in the Aegean Sea as the cruise ship headed to Turkey. The newspaper quotes from the Smith family's letter to CEO Fain:

"After seven and one half years, we still do not know who murdered George on your cruise liner. His murderer(s) remain at large. Your cruise ship, the floating crime scene, continues to hop from port to port carrying happy-go-lucky passengers seemingly unaware of the atrocities that were inflicted upon our son and brother on that very boat."

"Does Royal Caribbean have information which it did not provide under the terms of its settlement with our family that would finally get justice for George and allow George's soul to rest in peace?"

The George Smith case captivated the nation's attention in 2005 when it became obvious that there was a lot more to the story than what Royal Caribbean wanted the public to believe that this was a passenger simply falling overboard. A number of Congressional hearings were scheduled which brought focus on the problem of crimes and unsolved disappearances on the high seas.

If you want to learn more about this case, consider reading our series of articles about Mr. Smith's disappearance.  

Mystery of the Seas?

Royal Caribbean - New Name for Cruise ShipIt seems that Royal Caribbean has plans for a half-dozen new names for its cruise ships of the future.

Cruise Critic and a Royal Caribbean fan web site report that Royal Caribbean trademarked the names Anthem of the Seas, Passion of the Seas, Vantage of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas and Pulse of the Seas in trademark applications filed on November 2, 2012.

Royal Caribbean previously announced that it is building a new Oasis-class cruise ship. Perhaps Quantum of the Seas will be an appropriately ironic name for Royal Caribbean's next gigantic ship.

Royal Caribbean obviously has some long term plans in mind to have trademarked six new names. Previously Royal Caribbean announced that it will be building new cruise ships as part of its "Project Sunshine" with a new cruise ship coming on line in late 2014.

Right now the cruise line is keeping the name of its next ship a mystery.

What do you think of the new names?  What's your best guess for the name of the next Oasis-class ship?

Join the discussion on our Facebook page. There are some hilarious alternative names being suggested.

Are Crew Members Receving the Tips You Pay? Watch Royal Caribbean's "Screw the Crew" Scheme

Cruise lines have mastered various way to steal the tips which are intended by passengers to compensate waiters and stateroom attendants.  Carnival's P&O Cruises implemented a policy this year to withhold forwarding the tips paid by cruise passengers if the crew member's performance falls below a 92% rating as determined by management. Read Profits Over People: Carnival's Exploitation of Crew Members is Standard Industry Practice.

This is a real hardship because waiters and cabin attendants are paid a salary of only $50 a month and depend on tips to send money home to their families.

As you can see in the video below, a Royal Caribbean crew member alleges that the cruise line has devised a scheme to systematically divert money intended for the crew into the cruise line's coffers. 

Leave a comment below or leave a comment on our Facebook pageRoyal Caribbean Tipping Policy

February 20, 2013 Update: Royal Caribbean objected to the video, threatened the crew member who posted it, and was successful in taking the video down. So much for freedom of speech.  Read our updated article: "Screw the Crew" Video: Banned By Royal Caribbean & YouTube!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Arrest After Cruise Passenger with Service Dog is Attacked Aboard Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas

The popular online community Cruise Critic reports today on a disturbing incident where a 59-year-old passenger attacked another passenger who had a service dog with him aboard Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas on December 20th. 

The article is based primarily on comments by Cruise Critic member "Bloemerl" who posted:

"My heart goes out to our new found friend and his service dog Freedom. He was viciously attacked late at nite while getting a pizza in the Solarium. He was beaten because a man could not respect service dogs and felt Freedom should not be on board." (The photo to the right is not of Freedom).

Service Dog - Disabled - Cruise ShipAlthough Royal Caribbean confirmed the incident occurred, the cruise line disembarked the passenger in Antigua rather than detaining him to be arrested by the FBI when the cruise ship returned to port in Fort Lauderdale.

A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean told Cruise Critic that the attacker was disembarked for being in violation of the line's "guest conduct policy."  

Royal Caribbean claims that it reported the assault and battery to local law enforcement in Antigua "as well as to the Broward Sheriff's Office in Florida." Remarkably, there is no mention of a report to the FBI which has jurisdiction over crimes on the high seas involving U.S. citizens. The FBI can make an arrest where the victim and/or the assailant is a U.S. citizen. The failure of the cruise line to report the incident to the FBI violates the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.

A spokesperson for cruise line said "ship crew would have detained the man had a law enforcement agency asked them to hold him, but no such request was received."  This statement begs the question why the FBI was not notified.

Royal Caribbean also characterized the victim as sustaining only "minor injuries and was treated in the ship's medical facility."  But according to Cruise Critic member "Bloemerl," the man was transferred to a Fort Lauderdale hospital at the conclusion of the sailing to be checked for broken ribs and possible internal injuries.

Unfortunately, this is often the way that cruise lines handle shipboard crimes. If the incident had occurred say at the Dadeland Mall here in Miami, the local police would certainly make an arrest and the case would be prosecuted. But on the high seas, the cruise lines just dump the criminal off at the next port and wash their hands of the situation. Often they refuse to notify the FBI. Prosecutions are then virtually impossible.

 

Photo credit: Royal Caribbean - a service dog is defined by Royal Caribbean as "any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability."

Cruise CEO Fain Bails On Royal Caribbean Stock For Over $11,500,000

Barron's reports that Royal Caribbean Cruises' top executive recently bailed out on a large block of cruise line stock just before the cruise line's shares touched a new 52-week intra-day high.

On December 13th Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard Fain sold 143,140 shares of RCL stock for $4,964,095, an average of $34.68 each. Barron's says that Fain followed up by exercising options and selling 188,443 shares for $6,535,203. 

The RCL stock is down over a point since CEO Fain bailed on the stock. Fain still holds 1,049,064 shares directly and 421,412 shares indirectly.

The last time we wrote about RCL's CEO was when he and other executives at the cruise line were sued for fraud for allegedly making false and misleading statements about the company's fourth quarter results for 2010. In January 2011, the day after touting the financial strength of the cruise line, CEO Fain sold 200,000 shares at a price of $46.63 for what the lawsuit alleges were total illicit proceeds of $9,326,000.  

Big bucks and cruise CEO's go hand in hand, irrespective of how the cruise industry is actually faring. A couple of weeks ago we wrote about Carniva's Micky Arison paying himself a bonus of $90,000,000 after what he describes as one of the one most challenging years for the cruise lines yet. 

Royal Caribbean Cruises CEO Richard Fain

January 4 2013 Update: The issue of cruise line executive compensation made our list of top ten stories for last year:

2012 was reportedly a difficult financial year for the cruise lines but you would never know it by looking at the huge sums of money, bonuses and stock options which the cruise line CEO's pay themselves. In contrast Fain' with his regular multi-million-dollar salary and the $11,500,000 from stock sales, Royal Caribbean's bar-servers were paid only $50 a month and required to work for tips carrying a dozen tropical drinks around the pool deck while balancing a bottle of rum on their heads

 

Photo Credit: Wall Street Journal Smart Money / by Jeffrey Salter / Redux 

Cruise Passenger Rights and Wrongs - Interview With Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker

Over 14 years ago, I was interviewed by Linda Coffman who has a very nice and exceedingly polite blog called CruiseDiva. Ms. Coffman's Twitter handle is @CruiseDiva

It was my first interview by anyone as best as I recall, long before I was interviewed on Larry King Live and Greta Van Sustern and the endless cable news talking heads.  I was a heck of a lot skinnier and had a nice head of hair 15 years ago. What the heck, 1,000 or so cases later, I certainly know a lot more now than I did then.

I have always felt a great appreciation to Ms. Coffman for the thoughtful interview well over a decade ago. I have added a few newer photographs, but the article is re-printed verbatim below:

CRUISES . . .  LIKE NO OTHER VACATION IN THE WORLD

Things that go bump in the night happen. And when they happen on a ship, the horror of the possibilities are heightened. Who would have paid to see the movie Titanic if the ship hadn't sunk? No one embarks on a cruise expecting the worst and no major cruise line purposely puts their guest and ships in danger, but the unexpected and unavoidable can occur during any voyage. In my travels, I've been rousted in the middle of the night by a fire alarm, spent the day at a Red Cross evacuation center, and suffered the indignity of Norovirus--all on dry land.

Cruise divaPerhaps the idyllic and carefree perception of cruise vacations is as much to blame as anything for passenger discontent when the slightest out-of-the-ordinary incident crops up. Cruise lines tout their products as 'simply the best' and 'like no other vacation on earth.' Are they telling the truth? Absolutely. It's true--the worst day on a cruise is better than any day on land. Unless, of course, your ship is on fire, the plumbing doesn't work, or you're dead in the water with a tropical storm fast approaching.  

No cruise line or ship's officers would purposely put their passengers and vessels in harms way. That simply wouldn't make sense. Often decisions to change course and skip a port are beyond their control, particularly when Mother Nature is calling the shots. And there are accidents. However, "unavoidable" is not much consolation to a cruising couple celebrating twenty-five years of marriage on the second honeymoon of a lifetime. 

Distracted by glamorous photos or dreams of moonlit walks on deck and midnight buffets, few passengers take the time to read the fine print, either in the cruise brochure or their ticket. Even if they do read it, the legal language can intimidate the average person.  

For an explanation of passengers' rights and assistance in translating the "contract of carriage" (cruise ticket), I turned to James M. Walker.  A specialist in maritime law, Mr. Walker is a member of the Miami Cruise Ship Lawyer - Miami Florida Maritime Law Association and serves on the Admiralty Law Committee of the Florida Bar. In addition to having the unique perspective of representing both cruise lines and passengers, he has handled cases for clients throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and South America.  

Mr. Walker graciously answered my questions, providing insight into passenger rights and what to do if things go terribly wrong on your vacation. 

How did you become involved in maritime law involving cruise ships? 

I grew up in a port city and our family traveled a lot. Our vacations seemed to revolve around the water - a trip down the Rhine, vacation in Malta, sailing in the Mediterranean Sea, and so on. I have always had an interest in the water. This turned into an interest in maritime law once I started law school at Tulane University, which has a pretty good maritime curriculum. Once I moved to Miami, rightfully called the “cruise ship capital of the world,” I joined a large firm which defended some of the larger cruise lines.  

Now that I am exclusively representing passengers and crew employees, I find myself traveling again on a regular basis. My practice provides me with the opportunity to travel to beautiful places like Vancouver and London, as well as small towns across the heartland of the United States, to meet with our clients.

What are your thoughts as a maritime lawyer regarding the collision involving the Norwegian Dream in the English Channel and the fire aboard Carnival’s Tropicale in the Gulf of Mexico some time back? 

These incidents raise important questions whether the cruise lines are devoting sufficient resources to protect passengers’ health and personal safety. Unfortunately, these mishaps are not isolated incidents. 

Cruise ship fireTake the fire aboard the Tropicale. Despite wide spread media coverage, few major news organizations reported the Tropicale’s prior problems which could be traced back to 1982 when a fire broke out during its inaugural cruise. 

Before the Tropicale fire, Carnival’s Ecstasy caught fire the previous year. Between those two incidents, the Sun Vista ignited off of the coast of Malaysia and 1,000 passengers found themselves in lifeboats in the Straits of Malacca. The video images of the Ecstasy on fire off of Miami Beach are hard to forget, but few people remember that the Ecstasy caught fire in 1996 as well. Carnival‘s experience with ship fires is not limited to the Tropicale or the Ecstasy. Remember the fire aboard Carnival’s Celebration in 1995 which forced 1,700 passengers to evacuate? All of this, and more, occurred in just four years.

Cruise ship fireAfter each incident of this type, the cruise lines immediately offer a reimbursement of some type and, perhaps, a free cruise. Inevitably, the story becomes old and everyone - including the cruise line - forgets about what happened, until the next collision, fire, or other mishap occurs.

A LOOK AT COMPENSATION

What do you think of the practice of some cruise lines offering free cruises to “compensate” for these type of mishaps?

It’s a good start, but is it adequate compensation? Lets look at the “cruise from hell” stories from the Tropicale. These passengers included families who brought their minor children aboard, couples honeymooning, or elderly citizens who used their limited savings for a relaxing vacation. Through no fault of their own, these nice people quickly found themselves in a nightmare - drifting in the Gulf of Mexico, nauseated, with a tropical storm approaching. Carnival’s offer of a full refund and a free cruise is a good idea, but is it adequate remuneration for their experiences? Does this reflect a greater commitment to safety, or just a more savvy public relations department?

The cruise lines are more likely to offer free cruises now than just a few years ago. Compare Carnival’s approach today with its attitude just a few years ago. In 1996, hundreds of passengers became sick and frightened when highs seas rocked the Tropicale as Hurricane Roxanne approached. 600 passengers signed a petition for a full refund. They believed that the captain threatened their safety by taking the cruise ship too close to the hurricane. Carnival responded with a $40 shipboard credit to make up for port charges on the missed ports in Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Does anyone really think this was sufficient compensation? Or was this just a public relations nightmare?       

Do you have any feel for how the passengers themselves regard these offers? 

Some passengers appreciate the “full-refund-plus-a-free-cruise” offer. But many people are not satisfied. The last thing they want to do is to step foot on a particular cruise ship again. 

Cruise law Of course, the debate of a “free cruise or not” ignores the real issue of passenger safety. The important question is whether the cruise industry is devoting adequate financial resources to make their fleet as safe as possible for families and their children. Things like state of the art sprinkler systems, sophisticated security monitoring, and vigorous background checks on their employees.

Remember, this industry earns literally billions each year in profits, and pays less than one percent in U.S. taxes by registering their vessels in Liberia and Panama. The notion that the traveling public should be happy with a free cruise and a tote bag trivializes the fundamental issue of protecting the precious lives and personal safety of millions of passengers every year.

What is the most common complaint you hear from a cruise passenger?

There are two general types of complaints. The first is what I call the “disappointed expectation” complaint. A passenger becomes disappointed because he or she feels that the service was poor, the weather was bad, their cabin had too much engine noise, or something like this. These type of complaints generally do not belong in a courtroom.

The second type of problem is when a passenger has been injured aboard the cruise ship, due to an accident, food poisoning, or an assault. The most common situation is when a passenger slips on a deck, trips on an elevated threshold, or falls down a flight of stairs. It happens on every cruise.

The most common complaint we hear is when a passenger writes to the cruise line regarding a particular problem, and does not receive a response after several months. Most passengers who contact us are not the least bit “lawsuit-minded.” Yet, they find themselves frustrated by the cruise line’s lack of response after they return home.

What are some of the interesting cases you have handled?

When we defended several of the cruise lines in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, we saw virtually every imaginable type of claim. Of course, with more than five million people sailing on cruises from U. S. ports each year - and everyone attempting to escape from reality - there are a lot of unrealized dreams which turn into strange lawsuits. Single women sue claiming that there were not enough single men aboard the cruise ship. The next week, single men sue claiming that there were not enough single women.

My favorite story involves an elderly widow from Miami Beach who loved to sail aboard from Miami at least three times a year. Unfortunately, she would trip or slip or fall every other cruise. She would file suit every year in December and then try to settle the case as soon as possible for at least two free cruises - first class no less. She still sends me a holiday greeting card every December. 

You would agree that there is no constitutional or absolute right to a perfect vacation or cruise?

True.

So what are the types of things which go wrong that are not the cruise line’s responsibility?

Most problems which fall into the “disappointed expectation” category are not the cruise maritime lawyerline’s legal responsibility. An example would be when cruise lines change the itinerary and the passengers miss a popular port.

The courts determine whether a cruise line is legally responsible to a passenger by reviewing the terms of the passenger ticket. I saw one judge literally pull out a magnifying glass to read the fine print buried in the ticket. The passenger invariably loses when this occurs, which is not surprising. The cruise lines have spent considerable effort drafting language which protects them from virtually every imaginable situation. The exception is when a passenger has been injured or assaulted - there is a federal statute which prohibits cruise lines from limiting their liability in these circumstances. However, this exception may not apply if the cruise ship does not call on a U.S. port. 

Cruise lines reserve the right to change their itineraries at their discretion. Do passengers have any right to compensation or a refund (other than port charges) if such a change is made?

No, based on the “fine print” in the ticket. For example, Royal Caribbean’s language says that it “may at any time and without prior notice cancel, advance, postpone or deviate from any scheduled sailing or port of call.” As a public relations gesture, some cruise lines offer $100 or so for missing a port. But this is dependent entirely on the cruise line; they hold all of the cards in these type of situations. 

Theft from staterooms is pretty uncommon on cruise ships, but if something disappears mysteriously from my cabin, what recourse do I have?      

Virtually none. Again, most tickets limit the cruise line’s liability for theft. Carnival excludes any liability for money, jewelry, or other valuables “left lying about the vessel or cabin.” This Cruise attorneyseems reasonable enough. But even if the cruise lines is negligent, there is a $100 limit of liability for lost valuables, and a $500 limit if the valuables are deposited in a safe-deposit box in the purser’s office and then lost or stolen. 

One reported case involved a passenger who reported the loss of several hundred thousands of dollars in jewelry. The court dismissed the case based on the language in the passenger’s ticket limiting the cruise line’s liability to $100. My only advice is to leave your priceless jewelry at home, or buy insurance before you sail. 
 
STEPS TO A RESOLUTION
 
Before seeking the assistance of an attorney, what steps should a passenger take to resolve a claim?

First, read your ticket and take steps to protect your rights! Passengers who are injured have to send a letter to the cruise lines within a short period, usually six months, advising the cruise line that they intend to seek compensation. Also, passengers have a very short period - usually only one year - in which to file suit when they have been injured. If they are one day late, they lose their right to seek compensation.    

When a passenger is injured on a cruise ship, what proof should they present to substantiate a claim for personal injury?

Of course, not all injuries are compensable. There are two issues to consider. The first issue is liability - it is the passenger’s burden to prove that the cruise line is legally responsible for the accident. The second issue is damages - medical expenses, lost wages, and other intangible losses caused by an injury. This issue is simple; keep receipts of all of your out-of-pocket expenses, insurance claims, and medical bills. Be sure to request your shipboard medical records before you disembark. The cruise lines will usually try to put you off the ship without them, but remember - these are records of your health, and you are absolutely entitled to obtain a copy before you leave. 

The most important issue is liability. A passenger will need proof that the cruise line was negligent. First, passengers have to establish that there was a danger aboard the ship, such as an unexpected step-down without any warning signs. Secondly, they must establish that cruise lawyerthe cruise line knew or should have known of the hazard, yet failed to correct the hazard or warn passengers of the danger. This is often quite difficult to establish.  

As a practical matter, passengers need to take photographs and video of the accident scene, take notes and document what occurred, and record the names and addresses of all witnesses. In seventeen years of practicing law, I have never seen a cruise line respond to a passenger’s complaint by saying “yes, we are responsible - sorry, here is your check.” Cruise lines are not in the business of giving away their money. You have to be prepared to fight for what you are entitled.   

What is the most important thing for a passenger to remember if they intend to seek compensation from a cruise line?  

Don’t forget the one year limitations period! Many cruise lines correspond, quite pleasantly, back and forth with passengers regarding their claims. They invite the passenger to submit medical reports. A month or two later, they request other documents, implying that additional information is necessary to evaluate the claim. The cruise lines never mention the one year limitations period, but they know that the clock is ticking away on the passenger’s rights. On the 365th day, when the limitations period has expired, they notify the passenger that the claim is barred. I cannot tell you how many times passengers contact us after the one year period has expired. The ball game is over! There is very little we can do at this point.

Could you explain what steps you take to negotiate a resolution between a passenger and a cruise line?

If we believe that the cruise line is at fault, our approach is always to send correspondence to the cruise line’s risk management department and attempt to establish a dialog.  

Cruise lawyerMany lawyers by-pass the negotiation stage and file suit immediately. This is not always in a passenger’s best interest. The passenger usually lives in a distant state or in Canada or Europe. All cruise lines require that the lawsuit must be filed in a certain city, such as Miami. The passengers will therefore have to travel to Miami to appear for a deposition and for trial. Over 90% of our clients live outside of Florida, and over 30% live abroad. It is expensive to travel to and from Miami, and these expenses usually cannot be recovered from the cruise line even if they are found responsible.     

We therefore try to make a good faith effort to present our client’s case efficiently, and to submit the medical documentation necessary for the cruise lines to make a reasonable offer without the necessity of a lawsuit. Certain cruise lines offer fair compensation in meritorious cases. Other companies play “hard ball” on every claim. They will not offer anything until the lawsuit is filed and the trial date is approaching.

When all else fails and a lawsuit is the last resort, how long can a passenger expect the process to take?

It depends from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In Florida, it can take a year to two years before the case is tried. Then there is the potential for another year if an appeal is taken. Patience is a desirable trait to develop.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

We hope that your readers have a safe and enjoyable cruise. 

 

Photo Credits 

Linda Coffman   Ms. Linda Coffman

Sun Vista cruise ship      Sun Vista "Were You There?" website

 

Another Child Porn Bust, This Time on Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas

Child Porn Royal Caribbean Monarch of the SeasThe Orlando Sentinel reported this afternoon that Federal authorities arrested an Idaho man who took a cruise from Port Canaveral earlier this month with more than 1,000 images of child pornography on a laptop he took on the cruise ship.

According to a complaint filed in Orlando federal court, authorities were inspecting cruise passengers onboard Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas cruise ship on December 10, 2012, when they discovered that the laptop computer of cruise passenger Gary Lee Reed, of Blackfoot Idaho, had around 1,162 images and videos depicting child pornography. 

The images included sexual abuse of toddlers and babies.  Reed reportedly admitted that he has viewed child pornography for many years. He was arrested and subsequently indicted by an Orlando federal grand jury on a child pornography charge. (Anyone have a link to his mugshot?)

Cases like this may be surprising to some families who like to cruise but the arrest of cruise passengers and crew members is not uncommon. Consider the following arrests which we have blogged about here on Cruise Law News for just the last three years:

Cruise Child Porn Paul Trotter Paul Trotter, age 34, is the most prolific cruise child porn king known to the public so far. He worked for Cunard for seven years as a child supervisor aboard the Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth. He would take the children to areas not covered by surveillance cameras and physically and sexually abuse them. A real sicko, he would film himself sexually molesting the children to watch later. This was ultimately what got him caught. Someone tipped the police off in the U.K. where he lived. A police search of his computer revealed not only child pornography but his own videos of his crimes against the kids he was entrusted with on cruises. One newspaper reported that he supervised the "play zone" on 295 cruises over his seven years with Cunard. He admitted to abusing thirteen child probably because he was caught with images of 13 victims, is my suspicion. 295 cruises and several thousand children. A play zone of his own with no one supervising him while he abused the customer's kids. A pedophile's dream. How many more victims are there?  

Edward Brillantes Mangubat, age 40, is another pedophile who worked for Cunard. He was arrested in Halifax when Canadian Border officer searched his laptop computer and found sexually explicit video featuring children. Mangubat worked as a stagehand on Cunard's cruise ship Queen Mary 2. He worked on cruise ships for seven years.

Did he know Trotter and exchange porno tapes? Border agents went to Mangubat’s cabin and discovered that his laptop contained several videos showing “what can only be described as sexual assault of children,” including children under 12.” He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 120 days in jail.

Amado Nicholas Hernandez, age 31, (left) is a pedophile who was employed by Celebrity Cruises as an Child Porn Celebrity Cruise Ship audiovisual manager and provided onboard guest-entertainment services aboard the Constellation cruise ship.

Hernandez was arrested after police determined that his computer contained 450 photographs and about 250 video files of child pornography portraying a total of 44 different victims. The criminal complaint filed against Hernandez alleged that upcoming cruises included several stops in Mexico.

Hernandez, in documented online chats, reportedly had bragged that he had bought young boys for sex in Mexico and “almost offed one,” the criminal complaint alleges.

Nyoman Putra, age 26, an Indonesian working as an assistant room steward on the Carnival Glory, allegedly had child pornography on a laptop computer. Canada Border Services Agency officers were inspecting crew members getting off the cruise ship when they nabbed the Carnival crew member at Pier 22 in Halifax.

Canada's border agents do a good job catching crew members who try and enter the country with child Cruise Ship Pornpornography.  Putra was an assistant cabin attendant. It should concern any parent who cruises with their children to think of pedophile cabin attendants coming into the stateroom.

Jay-Ar Ramos Trilles, age 23, of the Philippines pleaded guilty in Halifax provincial court to charges of possessing and importing child pornography. Canada Border Services Agency officer arrested an assistant waiter on the Costa Atlantica on Tuesday as he was getting off the cruise ship at Pier 22 in Halifax. Two sexually explicit videos of children were found on both a USB flash drive and a laptop computer. One of the videos depicted a boy and a girl between the ages of 10 and 12, while the other showed a six-year-old girl being sexually abused by a man. The prosecutor in Canada stated that the border agency is determined to keep such "abhorrent" material from being brought into the country. Trilles worked with Costa Cruises for three years.

Menandro Lim Lanzar, age 31, from the Philippines was arraigned in Halifax on a charge of importing child pornography. Mr. Lanzar was employed as a quarter master on the NCL cruise ship Norwegian Jewel.

Hendri Dharmawan, age 29, was working as a pastry chef on the Carnival Triumph when he was arrested in Halifax.  The crew member was caught with pornography on his iPhone as he returned to the Carnival cruise ship. The border police then accompanied him back to his cabin where they discovered over two hours of child pornography on Dharmawan's laptop and external hard drive. The footage depicted girls as young as eight and boys as young as 10 being abused.

Cruise Ship Porn PassengerTimothy David Webb, age 32, (left) was arrested after he disembarked Royal Caribbean's cruise ship Grandeur of the Seas as a passenger at the Norfolk cruise ship terminal. Webb is a convicted sex offender and has a prior conviction sodomy in the state of Virginia. The customs agents pulled Webb from a line of passengers disembarking the cruise ship and searched his laptop, which contained child pornography videos. 

Senad Djedovic, (right) from Bosnia and Herzegovina, was arrested earlier this year after he boasted about engaging in sexual relations with a 16 year old girl who sailed on NCL's Norwegian Star cruise ship with her parents. After the cruise ended, Djedovic exchanged emails with the underage girl and received a number of sexually explicit photographs. Other crew members on the NCL cruise ship observed the photos and learned the girl's age and reported Djedovic to NCL which contacted the FBI. A search of Djedovic's computers revealed child pornography. Under a sub-folder entitled "scandals" there were several videos depicting sexual acts with 12 to 15 year old girls. NCL employed Cruise Ship Porn - NCLDjedovic from 2005 to March 2012 aboard a number of different cruise ships.

After Djedovic was arrested, a number of crew members and friends came to his defense arguing that he should be acquitted because sex with a 16 year old is not a big deal and this kind of conduct is not illegal in most countries. Djedovic was sentenced to 8 years in prison.

These type of stories should serve as a wake up to parents who take their children on cruises. Yes, there are sexual deviants and predators on cruise ships. A cruise ship presents the same dangers as your home town.

The stories above mostly involve child porn, not sexual assault. We have discussed all types of cases on this blog about men abusing children, such as a Carnival waiter raping a 14 year old girl, to a youth counselor abusing at least 13 boys on Cunard cruise ship, to a 71 year old man from the Pittsburg area traveling down to Miami to molest a 6 year old boy on a Royal Caribbean ship

Our advice? Parents watch your kids. Yes, the U.S. federal agents and Canadian authorities will occasionally nab a child porno sicko with images on his iPhone or laptop but that's probably a fraction of the child porn coming on and off cruise ships. With 16,000,000 people sailing each year there are many thousands of sick perverts out there on the high seas. 

Toddler Falls From Balcony on Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas

A cruise leaving yesterday from Port Canaveral Florida quickly turned into a nightmare when a family's one-year-old child fell from a balcony to the balcony below.

According to WFTV, the incident occurred on the Royal Caribbean Monarch of the Seas which left yesterday afternoon from Port Canaveral around 4:30 PM. 

The news station states that a one-year-old child crawled through an 11th floor railing and fell to a balcony one floor below. Other news stations do not refer to a fall from a "balcony" but a fall from one deck to the deck below.

The cruise ship turned around and headed back to port. The child was airlifted to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando, some say at 6:30 PM and others say at 7:30 PM.

There are many images of stateroom balconies of this cruise ship on line. Some of the images show vertical railings and well as a horizontal railing at the bottom of stateroom balconies. But my understanding is that deck 11 contains the pools and sports deck and does not contain staterooms. Anyone with information about the railings on deck 11 or how this could occur, please leave a comment below. 

Royal Caribbean issued a statement:

"On Friday, December 21, a 14 month old guest from India traveling on Monarch of the Seas was Monarch of the Seas Cruise Shipinjured in a fall. The guest was initially treated in our medical facility, but required additional and urgent medical attention that could only be provided in a hospital. Therefore, the ship turned around and returned to Port Canaveral, Florida, where we could debark the guest and their family so that the guest could receive urgent medical care.

Our Care Team is providing support and assistance to the guest’s family. Our thoughts are with their family, and we will continue to do our very best to assist them.

Monarch of the Seas is sailing a three-night itinerary that will call to CocoCay and Nassau, Bahamas."

December 26, 2012 Update: a passengers on the cruise left a comment below, stating that the toddler fell from deck 12 down to deck 11 (the pool deck, photo above).

Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Passenger Dies on Snorkeling Excursion in Dominica

Vision of the Seas Several newspapers are reporting that a cruise ship passenger died during a snorkeling excursion while visiting the Caribbean island of Dominica.

The incident involves a cruise passenger from Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas cruise ship. The local police say that  Jim Caves of Riverside, California, was aboard Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas cruise ship, which docked today in Dominica. The news accounts suggest that Mr. Caves complained about feeling sick while snorkeling at a nearby beach with his wife and other family members. He was later pronounced dead.  There is not explanation offered regarding exactly what happened. 

It is currently unknown whether the excursion was booked independently or through the cruise line.

Snorkeling deaths in the Caribbean during cruises are not uncommon.  You can read about recent cases in our articles here and here.  

December 20. 2012 Update: Cruise Critic states that the passenger was on the "Champagne Snorkeling" ship-sponsored excursion, Cynthia Martinez, director of global corporate communications for Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited, told Cruise Critic, "when he began to experience breathing difficulties while snorkeling. He was transported to a local area hospital where sadly he passed away."

Assault With Knife Lands Royal Caribbean Crew Member in Jail

A Royal Caribbean galley worker who attacked a supervisor in May of this year on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison.

U.S. District Judge William Martini sentenced Donny Martin Crisanto, age 31, of Nicaragua, during a court appearance in Newark, New Jersey. 

Cristano had previously pleaded guilty to assaulting the supervisor on May 4 while working in the galley of Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas cruise ship which sails out of Bayonne, N.J. to Bermuda and the Bahamas. 

Donny Crisanto - Royal Caribbean Crew MemberThe U.S. Attorney's Office released the following statement:

A Nicaraguan national who admitted to stabbing his supervisor aboard a cruise ship in international waters was sentenced today to 12 months and one day in federal prison, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Donny Martin Crisanto, 31, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William J. Martini to an Information charging him with knowingly and intentionally assaulting another with a dangerous weapon, with intent to do bodily harm, within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States. Judge Martini imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.

According to documents filed in this case and statements in court:

On May 4, 2012, Crisanto was working as a galley utility employee aboard the Royal Caribbean International, Explorer of the Seas cruise ship, which was operating within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States. Crisanto was inside the ship kitchen, when he assaulted his supervisor, identified only by the initials “M.S.,” the head kitchen steward, with a dangerous weapon. After an earlier work dispute Crisanto approached M.S. from behind and, not acting in self-defense, Crisanto struck M.S. in the forehead and shoulder with a knife.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Martini sentenced Crisanto to one year of supervised release.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward, in Newark, and Royal Caribbean, Explorer of the Seas ship security officers, with the investigation that resulted in the sentence. 

Royal Caribbean & NCL Base Cruise Ships in New Orleans

Cruise Ships - New OrleansLast month, two cruise ships from Miami-based cruise lines arrived in New Orleans. NCL's Norwegian Star, with capacity for around 2,300 passengers, transitioned to the "Big Easy" and relieved the Norwegian Spirit which had been home-ported there.  

Royal Caribbean moved the Navigator of the Seas, a larger ship with a capacity of around 3,100 passengers, into the port of New Orleans where its Voyager of the Seas had been based.  

The cruise ships are based at the renovated Julia Street Terminal.  Both ships will be positioned in New Orleans for six months. 

The Port of New Orleans set a port record for cruise ship passengers for a two day period on November 17th to 18th when a total of almost 25,000 passengers arrived or departed on cruise ships. According to the Port of New Orleans, in 2011 736,908 passengers passed through the port. New Orleans is considered to be a "top 10" U.S. cruise port with 1,000,000 passengers expected by the end of this year. 

I lived in New Orleans from 1980 to 1987 before coming to Miami. I have warm memories of my time there at law school at Tulane and as a young lawyer.  During those years, the cruise industry was much smaller and there were no cruise ships based in New Orleans.  Now there are ships operated by NCL, Royal Caribbean and Carnival.  

One of the benefits of cruising out of New Orleans is the pre-cruise and post-cruise overnight stays in downtown New Orleans and the French Quarter. You can't beat the great food, the bars and late night cafe' au lait and beignets at Cafe du Monde.

I think it's time for Cruise Law to open up a maritime law office back in New Orleans!    

 

Photo Credit; AP / Andy Newman

Cruise Law to Visit Jamaica in December

Jamaica No Problem RoomThe lawyers here at Cruise Law are traveling again to Jamaica. We will be visiting our clients to see how they are doing. We will also make ourselves available to meet with any crew members (or their family members) who need to learn about the legal rights of cruise ship employees if they become ill or injured on cruise ships. 

Our team will be traveling to Montego Bay on Tuesday December 11, 2012 and will be available from December 11th through December 13th for consultation.  

On Wednesday December 12th from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM, we will be hosting a conference at the "Jamaica No Problem Room" in the beautiful Hibiscus Lodge in Ocho Rio. If you live in Ocho Rios or the Montego Bay area you of course know where that is. But if you don't, the address is 83 Main Street in Ocho Rios.

My partner Lisa O'Neill and co-counsel Jonathan Aronson will be will me.

The photo above was from our last visit to the famous "No Problem Room." We met a number of cruise ship employees from Jamaica whose problems we helped solve this year.

In the last two years, we have obtained over $3,000,000 (US $) in compensation and medical benefits for injured and ill Jamaican crew members. 

If the company has been unfair to you after you were injured on the cruise ship, or if you have medical problems like hypertension, diabetes. cancer or other illnesses which require treatment, please don't hesitate to contact us.

The flyer below has been posted on our facebook page.  We hope to see you in the "No Problem Room" in two weeks.   

Jamaican Crew Members - Miami Lawyers

Royal Caribbean's Dangerous FlowRider: Is the Cruise Line Drafting a New Liability Waiver?

One of the most dangerous activities you can participate in during a cruise is found only on Royal Caribbean's cruise ships. It's the "FlowRider," a simulated surfing and water-boarding activity where a thin stream of water shoots up a sloped platform to create a wave-like flow of water.

Wipe-outs are expected. But what is not expected are the serious, life-altering injuries and, sometimes, even death.

You can see one such serious accident in the video below, where a young man falls on his neck. 

A considerable number of cruise passengers have been seriously injured on the Flowrider, which Royal Caribbean helped design and install on five of its cruise ships: one FlowRider on each of the Freedom class cruise ships (Freedom of the Seas, Independence of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas) and two on each of the Oasis class ships (Allure of he Seas and Oasis of the Seas).    

You will read absolutely no warnings about the dangers of the FlowRider on Royal Caribbean's website. Nor will you see any warnings whatsoever posted around the FlowRiders on any of the cruise ships. Even after a passenger was killed when he fell while trying to surf, the cruise line decided not to warn cruise passengers that the activity is, well, deadly

The cruise line's approach to the problem has been to require all passengers who participate in the activity to sign an electronic liability waiver. The process of scrolling through the electronic keypad in a long line is so quick that it's clear that no one reads the waiver. Moreover, the waiver is legally invalid. Earlier this year, the Eleventh Circuit Court of appeal struck down the Royal Caribbean waiver finding that it violated federal law (46 U.S.C 30509) which prohibits contract provisions that attempt to absolve a shipping company from its own negligence.  

At the moment, Royal Caribbean has an illegal waiver, and still no warnings on-line or warnings posted around the FlowRider.   

So what is the cruise line thinking? 

Some people think that Royal Caribbean may be going back to the drawing board to try and draft a new waiver.     

In a recent message thread on the website of the popular on-line cruise community Cruise Critic, there is discussion that the cruise line is working on creating a new and improved liability waiver - apparently for the purpose of trying to navigate around the statutory prohibition found in 46 U.S.C. 30509.  

If that's true, the new waiver will be struck down too. It's too bad that the cruise line won't post warning signs on its website or on the seven FlowRiders on its cruise ships. There are lots of people who don't understand just how dangerous this activity is.

If Royal Caribbean is going to be the only cruise line promoting this dangerous activity, it needs to spend less time drafting illegal waivers and more time drafting effective warnings before the next unsuspecting passenger steps on a surf board and breaks his neck.     

 

Norovirus Continues to Plague Voyager of the Seas Cruise Ship in Australia

The Voyager of the Seas has returned to Australia today after a 18 night cruise.  Like the previous cruise, this cruise aboard the Voyager ended with the cruise ship arriving in port with what appears to be hundreds of cruise passengers infected with norovirus.

We are beginning to receive emails from passengers who were sickened during the cruise (see comments below) and observed "many incidences we saw of poor food handling and personal hygiene practices of both crew members and passengers."

A newspaper in Australia has an article about the problem facing passengers: "Gastro Outbreak Hits Norovirus - Voyager of the SeasVoyager of the Seas Passengers in Sydney Harbour." The article states that the boarding of the "mega liner Voyager of the Seas was thrown into chaos today following an outbreak of a gastrointestinal illness thought to be noro virus." The article mentions that, according to Royal Caribbean, around 135 passengers already aboard the ship were struck by the illness but disembarked in Sydney.

One passenger who contacted us said that around 150 cabins were quarantined which would suggest that Royal Caribbean may have underestimated the number of sick guests.  

According to the newspaper, the lines of passengers at the cruise terminal stretched hundred of meters as frustrated cruisers were left waiting for hours under the sun - many unaware of the cause of the delay. The passengers were required to complete detailed medical forms before they board, but quite frankly it should be the cruise line completing forms detailing the sickness of the cruise ship.  

A cruise line spokeswoman denied any connection between the long lines and the norovirus and blamed "thousands of passengers disregarding allocated staggered boarding times."

Royal Caribbean Norovirus - Voyager of the SeasMany passengers were upset that the cruise line kept them in the dark. Some others were handed at the port an "information sheet" in which Royal Caribbean said those ill had been limited to ''a small percentage of guests.''

What is missing from the newspaper article is the fact that there was a massive outbreak of norovirus on this cruise ship during the prior cruise. No newspapers in Australia reported on the disease outbreak and the cruise line kept mum too. You can read about the prior cruise and the problem with norovirus in our article: "Norovirus Outbreak on Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas?"

One passenger, Steve, wrote to us displeased that Royal Caribbean had not disclosed that there was norovirus on the cruise ship when he boarded on February 5th: 

"In hindsight if we had been made fully aware through official channels that there was an outbreak on the ship, we would have probably gone home as the last thing I needed was to catch a bout of Norovirus. There needs to be a lot more honesty and openness in this industry, as too many people are vulnerable and gullible when it comes to trusting these big cruise companies who profess to have our best interests at heart. Never again RCCL!" 

If you were on the cruise, please leave us a comment about how the cruise line handled the situation, or leave us a comment on our facebook page.

Any New Zealanders on the cruise? There is a news reporter from New Zealand who would like to speak with you. Please email me at jim@cruiselaw.com and I will place you in contact with the reporter.

Anyone with photos, either of the "enhanced cleaning" or crew members wearing protective clothing, etc.? Send us your photos to jim@cruiselaw.com 

November 24, 2012 Update: New Zealand newspaper picks up the story: "Sickness Stalks Luxury Superliner"  As usual, no one in the media raises the issue of the cause of the outbreak. Contaminated food or water? Sick crew members? Or infected passengers coming aboard?  

 

Photo credit: 

Bill Hearne - top photos of Voyager of the Seas

Australia's Daily Telegraph - bottom photo of Royal Caribbean letter 

Fire Reported Aboard Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas

Adventure of the Seas Cruise ShipA passenger aboard the Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas cruise ship states that an engine room fire broke out ten days ago.   

According to a comment on the Cruise Critic message board, the incident occurred on November 13th while the Adventure of the Seas was making the crossing across the Atlantic. A fire on board caused the cruise ship to lose power and electricity for about two minutes. Alarms sounded intermittently. Some passengers smelled or observed smoke. Later, some passengers were later told that a "power surge" caused an engine fire while others said the captain mentioned switching over to a second set of engines.

Apparently no one was injured and the ship continued on its way.

Other than this mention of the alleged incident on Cruise Critic, there are no other references to a fire on the Adventure of the Seas which I have located.

Although the incident sounds minor, there is nothing insignificant about even a small fire in an engine room of a large cruise ship with several thousands of passengers aboard in the middle of the ocean.

There have been over 80 cruise ship fires in the last two decades.  Read about some recent cruise ship fires here.

Anyone else have any information?. 

Pregnancy & Cruising: What To Expect If You Are Expecting

The Washington Post published an interesting article about what pregnant women should expect when they go on a cruise. Written by Christopher Elliott, the article is entitled "What to Expect if You're Expecting to Cruise.

Different cruise lines have different policies when it comes to when a pregnant woman is no longer welcome on a cruise ship. Some cruise lines prohibit women who are 24 weeks pregnant to cruise. The theory, I suppose, is that the risk of something going wrong with the pregnancy, such as premature birth, increases once the pregnancy enters her third trimester?

As Mr. Elliott points out, just two weeks a go a pregnant woman aboard a Disney cruise ship had to be Cruise Ship Pregnancy Policymedevaced after developing complications shortly after the ship left Galveston. You can watch the dramatic hoisting of the passenger up to the Coast Guard helicopter here.    

Of course neither cruise lines nor pregnant passengers want to have to summons the Coast Guard to conduct a rescue on the high seas late at night. Once the ship is a few hundred miles away from port, no helicopter will arrive to save the day.

So everyone seems to be on the same page that cruise pregnancy policies are a good idea.  But the problem is - what happens when a pregnant customer does not read the fine print buried in the cruise ticket and is a few days past the cruise line's deadline? What rights does the cruise consumer have in this situation?  

None, it seems.  The Washington Post article correctly points out that the terms of the ticket control. Unfortunately, the cruise line is likely to block a "too pregnant" passenger from boarding while keeping the passenger's cruise fare. No refund. No exceptions. No future credit.

That's a harsh approach, particularly because some people buy cruises up to a eight months to a year in advance. If a baby is conceived after the cruise is purchased, you'd think that the cruise lines would say congratulations and be reasonable. They're not.  Cruise lines seem to take advantage of the situation.   

Mr. Elliott writes that it is almost like the cruise lines want to make an example by barring pregnant women who don't comply with the policy as a motivation for the public to purchase travel insurance which, not coincidentally, is also sold by many of the cruise lines.

The newspaper quoted me, for what that's worth;  Here's my take:

"I don't think it's unreasonable for the cruise lines to adopt pregnancy policies, particularly given the limited nature of the medical facilities on cruise ships and the absence of doctors who are experienced in obstetrics and gynecology," says James Walker . . . specializing in maritime law. "The problem arises when there is a good-faith misunderstanding by the pregnant passenger, and the cruise line takes a rigid attitude and pockets the consumer's money."

 

Photo credit: SheKnows.com 

Royal Caribbean Cruise Passengers Killed During Dune Buggy Excursion in Mexico

A number of newspapers including the Orlando Sentinel are reporting on the death of a young couple who cruised to Cozumel and died during a dune buggy accident last Saturday.  

Jim Melillo and Susan Borges sailed from Fort Lauderdale to Mexico aboard Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas and signed up for a dune buggy excursion with a number of their friends. They were killed when the dune buggy in which they were riding (driven by another cruise passenger) apparently lost control and struck a metal guardrail. 

The Orlando Sentinel quotes the group members commenting that the dune buggies had poor safety conditions and many of the buggies did not even have seat belts. A Mexican newspaper identifies the dune buggy rental company as "Paraíso" car rental. The dune buggy excursion was not sold through the cruise line.

Even if the excursion were sponsored by Royal Caribbean, there is case law indicating that the cruise line may not be liable in a case like this. In John Morrell & Co. v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., 534 F. Supp. 2d 1345, 2008 AMC 936 (S.D. Fla. 2008), a company paid for twelve of its employees to go on a cruise on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. When the ship was in Cozumel, Mexico, several employees went on a dune buggy expedition that Royal Caribbean made available, but was owned and operated by a Cozumel company. A dune buggy was involved in an accident which caused it to swerve and flip, causing serious injuries to one of the employees resulting in $170,000 in medical benefits and disability benefits.

The court found that Royal Caribbean was not liable for the accident. The cruise ship did not supervise the operation and had no duty to warn passengers of possible dangers in such a trip, as the dangers are obvious the court held. 

 

The couples's family and friends set up a facebook tribute page and a website, Jim and Susan Fund, where you can donate in their memory.  

Should I Send My Daughter on a Cruise?

Sexual Abuse of Children - Disney Cruise ShipOne of the web sites which I read from time to time is "TravelTruth." It is a site which describes itself as a "collaborative effort designed to offer the vacation consumer real world advice without exaggeration, deception, or sales bias. It is the ultimate insider’s view of how things really work, written by an award-winning team of travel consultants and journalists."  

TravelTruth recently addressed the issue raised by a mother who asked whether she should let her daughter vacation on a cruise ship in the Caribbean next spring.  The article is entitled "Bottom Line: Should My Daughter Do This Trip?"The article explains some of the dangers which we touch upon in this blog, namely the absence of independent police authorities on cruise ships, and the risk of sexual assault both on the ships and especially ashore in Mexico and the Caribbean islands.

If you are a parent thinking of taking your daughter (or son) aboard a cruise ship, consider reading the articles about the cruise lines below:

Sexual Assault of Children - Royal CaribbeanCarnival, Celebrity, Cunard, Disney, NCL, Oceania, Princess, and Royal Caribbean  

One of our goals at Cruise Law News is public awareness. Thus, the motto of our blog "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know."  The TravelTruth site also provided a link to our blog for parents to read if they are considering taking their daughters on a cruise.  

Our goal is not to scare the public from cruising, but to educate the public that its not safe to let your guard down aboard cruise ships while cruising with your children.  

Photos:

Top: Disney cruise passenger Lucas George Wickes indicted for felony sexual abuse and aggravated sexual abuse of minor aboard Disney Wonder.

Bottom: Royal Caribbean crew member Fabian Palmer indicted for felony sexual abuse of minor aboard Adventure of the Seas.

88 Year Old Passenger Medevaced From Voyager of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Medevac - Voyager of the Seas Cruise ShipThere is a nice article in the West Australia newspaper about a elderly cruise passenger who had the misfortune of falling on a cruise ship.    

The article, entitled Love is in the Air Amid Rescue, explains that 88 year-old passenger Ms. Eileen Ewins was traveling with her husband, George Ewins, on Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas as the ship re-positioned to Australia for the next 6 months. She fell as she was exiting her cabin and broke her hip. The ship doctor determined that Ms. Ewins needed to be treated on an emergency basis ashore. 

The accident happened on day 12 of the 14 day cruise.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority contacted an offshore helicopter company, the Bristow Group, which sent a helicopter and team of five staff members to fly to cruise ship off of western Australia. 

The helicopter winched both 88 year-old Ms. Ewins as well as her 89 year old husband up and flew them to the Royal Perth Hospital.

"We do everything together," Mr. Perth told the newspaper. 

This is the fourth medevac of an ill passenger from a cruise ship in the last week, including another elderly passenger medevaced from a cruise ship off of the western coast of Australia.

Norovirus Outbreak on Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas?

A number of people have contacted us, including one passenger "Nancy" from Australia, complaining about a recent, major norovirus outbreak on the Voyager of the Seas.  She writes:

"The Voyager of Seas has relocated to Asia Pacific region husband and I sailed on the relocation cruise from Singapore 22nd Oct 2012 to Fremantle Australia. There was Norovirus outbreak around 800 passengers affected undetermined number with chest infection, one Norovirus victim airlifted . . . The ships doctor was swamped with sick passengers couldn't cope turned people away untreated. Cabins were sanitized once during the 14 night cruise and measures taken to fight the infection cabins sanitized as we left the ship ,very hard to fight when there are 3000+ people in one place." 

Voyager of the Seas Cruise Ship Norovirus Outbreak Nancy also commented on the absence of any mention of the disease outbreak: "The outbreak didn't rate a mention on TV or news papers ($$ damaging to tourist trade)." (The image of the Voyager of the Seas to the left was from an earlier norovirus outbreak when the ship was sailing out of New Orleans in February). 

Another person commented:  "My Mother just went on the Singapore to Perth cruise & many people were quarantined . My Mother got sick the last few days of cruise & is still recovering, vomiting diarrhea etc. . . Virus of the Sea Ship . . ."    

Passenger Nancy appeared sympathetic to the cruise line and thought the outbreak may have been due to the failure of the passengers to wash their hands.

Like most outbreaks, it does not appear that any effort will be made to establish the real cause of the outbreak (i.e., a sick passenger brought the virus aboard, or food and water were contaminated, or a sick crew member spread the virus).

The last norovirus reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) involving the Voyager of the Seas was earlier this year on a January 28 to February 4, 2012 sailing

Royal Caribbean and sister cruise line Celebrity have experienced recent problems with norovirus outbreaks - the Celebrity Constellation sailing out of Southampton reportedly had 350 passengers stricken with norovirus last week, and the Rhapsody of the Seas was quarantined last month while in port in Fiji due to the port's concern that sick cruise passengers may infect the local community.  The U.S. media typically does not mention these type of outbreaks. 

Neither of these latest outbreaks were reported to the CDC because the ships did not call on a U.S. port. 

Can anyone else on the cruise verify the outbreak and comment on how the cruise line handled it?  

Please leave a comment below or follow the discussion on our facebook page about the outbreak.

November 23, 2012 Update: Norovirus Continues to Sicken Cruise Passenger on Latest Cruise

"Most Wanted" for Cruise Ship Pollution: Royal Caribbean Chief Engineer Michael Psomadakis - But Is He Really The Only Culprit?

Do you know this former Royal Caribbean crew member?

He's on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s "Most Wanted" List. Here's the story:

In 1993, Michael Evangelos Psomadakis was the chief engineer aboard RCCL's Nordic Empress cruise ship which routinely discharged oil into the water. But the Nordic Empress was no island to itself.  RCCL's fleet of ships was regularly dumping pollutants from Biscayne Bay here in Miami to the pristine waters in Alaska.

The pollution was right outside of the cruise executives' offices at the port of Miami all of the way to Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Pollution Alaska and back.  I can't imagine the abuse of the waters in Europe, Africa, and South America.

There were many Psomadakis's throughout the RCCL fleet of cruise ships.  

Psomadakis - like his employer Royal Caribbean - lied to the Coast Guard about the pollution. A big mistake. This was no Bush administration with its let's-trust-the-big-corporations-and-look-the-other-way mentality. The U.S. justice system, under the leadership of environmentalist Janet Reno, investigated Royal Caribbean and discovered that many RCCL cruise ships were dumping oil & chemicals throughout their routes. A nasty business. Ms. Reno caught the Royal Caribbean bad boys under the corporate leadership of CEO Richard Fain, who claimed to know nothing, with their proverbial pants down.   

Attorney General Reno slammed the cruise line, calling the cruise line "flim-flam" artists. She oversaw the imposition of penalties totaling $27,000,000 for engaging in a "fleet wide conspiracy . . . to save millions of dollars by dumping oily waste into the ocean," according to the the New York Times.

The case was prosecuted here in U.S. courts even though the cruise line claimed that the U.S. had no authority because the company was registered in Liberia and the cruise ship flew a flag of convenience in Liberia (and Liberia had already dismissed the case of course).

Psomadakis escaped FBI agents at a Miami hotel "simply by walking out another exit," as reported by the New York Times. He got away from the FBI and made it back to back to Greece all by himself?

At the end of the day, Royal Caribbean admitted it was a corporate felon, no only for the illegal discharges but for systematically lying to the Coast Guard and Attorney General's office for years. The New York Times article covered the story

If you are interested in what the environment would be like without the U.S. government regulating a renegade Liberian-incorporated-corporation like Royal Caribbean, take a read of the New York Times article here.   

The problem was that Royal Caribbean didn't change it's ways. After the first two million-dollar-fines, Royal Caribbean continued to illegally discharge oil, waste and fecal matter everywhere.  The illegal discharges even increased, reflecting the arrogance of the Liberian holier-than-thou corporation. The cruise line responded with a bogus marketing campaign claiming that it was an environmental steward Royal Caribbean Save the Waves - Cruise Ship Pollution of the seas.  It adopted a PR campaign that it was "Saving the Waves" (see photo) by encouraging its employees (and guests) not to throw any garbage overboard.

But while the crew members wore their "Save the Waves" buttons above deck and served passengers cocktails, Royal Caribbean engineers below the decks fabricated secret by-pass values to dump everything from raw sewage to chemicals used in the photography labs directly into the ocean.  Do you really believe that the cruise executives didn't know?

Fifteen years later, CEO Fain and President Goldstein are still at the helm of the cruise line. Fall guy Psomadakis is on the lam. Yeah, an engineer from Greece is the real culprit behind the wide spread fleet-wide dumping and defiance of the U.S government. 

The most recent news from this cruise lines?  Royal Caribbean will soon deliver us another ostentatious, Oasis-class, bunker-fuel burning, polluting, gigantic cruise ship, ordered by the least environmentally friendly, flim-flam cruise line in the industry.    

Independence of the Seas - a Dirty Cruise Ship? Sick Passengers Sue Royal Caribbean for £500,000

The U.K.'s Daily Echo reports today that twenty-five ill cruise passengers (and their family members) who sailed aboard the Independence of the Seas filed a lawsuit against the Miami based cruise line, Royal Caribbean Cruises, claiming that the dirty ship conditions and unsanitary galley and food led them to become ill.

The newspaper states that in addition to the unsanitary shipboard conditions, the Royal Caribbean cruise ship had insufficient medical facilities and staff to deal with disease outbreaks during cruises.

The lawsuit is described in the newspaper article as including complaints of "flies in their bathrooms, a waiter blowing (his) nose on a napkin that was then placed on a table and an outbreak of illness Independence of the Seas - Norovirus so severe there were often ambulances waiting for passengers in the ports they visited."

There is no mention where the lawsuit was filed or the name of the passengers' lawyers, but it appears that the case was filed in England. The passengers are seeking £500,000 in compensation from the cruise line. The Independence of the Seas sailed from Southampton England.

The affected passengers sailed on five different cruises over the course of a seven month period from December 2010 through June 2011.  In the U.S. courts, cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have successfully enforced a one year limitations period.  There appears to be a longer limitations period in which to file suit in the U.K.

Royal Caribbean denied the allegations of under-cooked food and poor galley hygiene, stating that it delivered “extremely high” health standards for its guests. During the time period in question, "the ship, Independence of the Seas, sailed on 15 cruises, welcoming over 67,000 guests."

Although the cruise line is down-playing the allegations, the fact of the matter is that Royal Caribbean had a problem with norovirus on this cruise ship notwithstanding its attempts at "enhanced cleaning."  It should be pointed out that if the cruise line really carried some 67,000 passengers in this six month period, it collected well over £100,000,000 as well.    

The last norovirus outbreak we reported on which occurred on the Independence  of the Seas was in March 2012.

Independence of the Seas - Lawsuit - Unsanitary FoodThe cruise lines always blame the passengers for not washing their hands, but there is far more to the story than pointing the finger at the guests. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whereas "person to person" transmission of norovirus has been documented, "norwalk gastroenteritis is transmitted by the fecal-oral route via contaminated water and foods."

The FDA also indicates that contaminated water is one of the most likely causes of norovirus. The FDA reports that "water is the most common source of outbreaks and may include water from municipal supplies, well, recreational lakes, swimming pools, and water stored aboard cruise ships." 

Consider a couple of our articles regarding this subject: 

Cruise Ship Norovirus - Clean the Damn Toilets!

Cruise Ship Bathrooms, Norovirus and Medical Care

It will be interesting how this case turns out! 

 

Photo credits:

Drawing - Maxim Magazine

Independence of the Seas - Echo Daily

Norovirus Outbreak on Rhapsody of the Seas in Fiji - Cruise Ship Quarantined

Cruise Norovirus - Rhapsody of the SeasThe Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC) reports that a Royal Caribbean cruise ship berthed at the Suva Wharf in Fiji was quarantined today by authorities following what is described as an outbreak of norovirus. The Health Ministry in Fiji reportedly confirmed 51 cases of the contagious virus on board the Rhapsody of the Seas which is carrying around 2300 passengers and 870 crew.

The FBC states that affected passengers have been isolated and no one is allowed to enter the quarantined area on the ship except the medical response team. 

The cruise ship will leave Fiji for Noumea, New Caledonia later tonight.

Because this outbreak occurred on a cruise ship which did not call on a U.S. port, it will not be reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

You can get norovirus from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces.

The Rhapsody of the Seas experienced a norovirus outbreak the last week of August when 53 of 2,129 passengers (7.19%) experienced vomiting and diarrhea.

October 31, 2012 Update: Cruise ship under quarantine leaves Fiji.

Hurricane Sandy Causes Cruise Ships to Scatter

While some cruise ships have elected to hunker down in port and ride out Hurricane Sandy, other ships such as the Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas and Carnival's Miracle are out at sea trying to skirt the high seas and high winds. ABC News reports: 

 

 

Cruise Law Visits Royal Caribbean in Oregon

Royal Caribbean Cruises calling Center Springfield OregonFor the past week I have been visiting my sister in Oregon. She and her husband have a cottage on the McKenzie River outside of Vida, Oregon, some 30 miles to the east of Eugene. 

The cottage is an idyllic location, nestled under towering Evergreens, overlooking the roaring McKenzie River filled with salmon and trout. Compared to the Miami's bright skies and heat and humidity, Vida has seen cloudy skies, rain and cold nights which call for an extra log or two on my sister's fireplace.

Vida is a particularly great location to get away from Miami, and all of the hustle-and-bustle which comes from being the cruise-ship-capital-of-the-world. It's in a rural location connected to the outside world by a meandering river road traveled by log trucks hauling fallen hardwood trees to the paper mill in nearby Springfield.

Today, I took a 25 minute drive into Springfield with my sister to go to a Fed Ex facility. Nearby I noticed a nautical looking building with a mast-like structure and wave-like roof line which caught my attention. We drove over to the building and, to my surprise, there stood three words that suddenly Springfield Oregon - Royal Caribbean Cruises brought me back to Miami: "Royal Caribbean Cruises." 

The building appears to be designed to look like a cruise ship. We got out of the car and I look a few photos, one of the dramatic, cantilevered entrance (above) and one of my sister standing in front of cruise line sign (right). 

We went inside and I introduced myself. I learned that the building housed a calling center for the cruise line which handles reservations.

I took photos of the Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises model ships and toured the lobby before we left to return to the cabin.

Is Royal Caribbean Working Its Crew Members to Death?

Two weeks ago a television program in the U.K., "Cruises Undercover: The Truth Below Deck," revealed the harsh working conditions aboard cruise ships operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises' subsidiary, Celebrity Cruises. The difficult working conditions and low pay 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.

The result of such a grueling schedule is exhausted and demoralized crew members who are often isolated from their families whose birthdays and anniversaries they miss on a regular basis.  

The mental health and emotional well being of crew members is not a topic that is discussed in the U.S.

Few Americans seem concerned with the working conditions on cruise ships faced by citizens of the greater world community.  Most U.S. citizens respond to the exploitation of crew members from India or Jamaica with the rationalization that whatever pittance the "foreign" crew members are receiving for Missing Royal Caribbean Crew Membersworking 90 hour weeks is more than the workers can receive back home. "If they don't like the work, they can quit" is the common wisdom. No doubt many crew members are easily replaceable considering that a country like India has hundreds of millions of people unemployed.

A week before the "Cruises Undercover" program aired, a Royal Caribbean crew member disappeared from the Serenade of the Seas as it sailed to Italy. The incident was briefly mentioned in the Italian press, as well as in newspapers in Croatia and Spain. We mentioned it in our article "Crew Member Goes Overboard From Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas," but no major media outlets in the U.S. was interested in covering the story.

For a U.S. based cruise industry whose mantra is the "safety of our passengers and crew is our highest priority," there is little expression of such a sentiment when a crew member disappears at sea.

This weekend another Royal Caribbean crew member disappeared. While this is not uncommon as I will explain below, what is unusual is that the disappearance involved the the same Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Serenade of the Seas. This incident was briefly mentioned in an Italian newspaper but, again, no one in the U.S, mentioned it.  We reported on it on Saturday - "Another Crew Member Goes Overboard From Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas." Now two days later, no one else in the U.S. has reported on the story.

Yesterday, I posted a photograph of the Serenade of the Seas on our facebook page and asked "why are so many crew members going overboard from Royal Caribbean cruise ships? A number of former crew members commented and the consensus seems to be that cruise employees are working harder than ever for less money,  One crew member said that working on a ship is "like going on a marathon before preparing yourself for it." Several former Royal Caribbean crew members left their thoughts which are worth reading. 

The concern that I have is that there are so many crew members employed by Royal Caribbean who have gone overboard. Were these employees overwhelmed by work and felt hopeless away from their families? There is great stress placed on the cleaners, cabin attendants and waiters by their supervisors and department heads as Royal Caribbean struggles to stay profitable. Consider that in the three years I have written this blog, the following crew members have gone missing from Royal Caribbean / Celebrity cruise ships:

December 2009 - Majesty of the Seas - crew member jumped.

December 2009 - Monarch of the Seas - crew member jumped.

March 20102 - Radiance of the Seas - crew member jumped.

May 2010 - Explorer of the Seas - crew member jumped.

May 2010 - Oasis of the Seas - crew member disappeared.

March 2011 - Grandeur of the Seas - crew member disappeared.

March 2011 - Constellation - crew member disappeared.

May 2011 - Eclipse - crew member jumped.

December 2011 - Summit - crew member jumped.

January 2012 - Monarch of the Seas - crew member disappeared.

September 2012 - Serenade of the Seas - crew member disappeared.

October 2012 - Serenade of the Seas -crew member disappeared.

The official investigation into these types of incidents lies with the flag state.  But countries like the Bahamas will never go onto a Royal Caribbean ship to investigate a crew death or disappearance and will never, ever criticize the cruise line.

An independent and objective investigation is needed to determine why crew members are going overboard from Royal Caribbean ships. If the cases involve suicides, an inquiry is needed to determine whether the long hours and low pay are contributing causes. There is no question that the crew members need greater rest and greater pay. 

If I ran a large business and one dozen of my employees ended their lives or just "disappeared," I would launch an investigation and get to the bottom of the problem.

But cruise line executives think differently.  None of this puts money in the cruise line's pockets. The crew are viewed as cogs in the machine. When they break, they are easily replaced. 

 

If you have thoughts about this issue or have information about any of these cases, please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our facebook page.  

Photograph: 24ORA.com

Allure of the Seas Crew Members Busted for Cocaine: Alleged Drug Smugglers Included Former and Present Royal Caribbean Cruise Employees

The Sun Sentinel newspaper in Fort Lauderdale reports that two Royal Caribbean arrested in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday as they were disembarking from the Allure of the Seas cruise ship.

The crew members, both age  25, were identified as Winston Hyman and Jimmel Thom (photo below). The cruise ship had returned to Port Everglades from a cruise to Labadee, Haiti, Jamaica and Mexico.

A sniffer dog alerted to a backpack the men had been carrying. More than one kilo of cocaine was discovered inside.

Jimmel Thom - Allure of the SeasOne of the men stated that they were handed backpack from a man in Falmouth, Jamaica.  This man reportedly had previously worked aboard the Allure of the Seas.  One of the crew members, Thom, had worked with this former crew member to smuggle narcotics on and off the Allure before.  He was reportedly paid $2,000 upfront and was then to receive $1,000 once he delivered the cocaine in Fort Lauderdale. 

We have reported on drug smuggling on Royal Caribbean cruise ships before. It's hardly a rare event; you can read the accounts of crew member drug smuggling below:

Another Royal Caribbean Crew Member Busted for Drug Smuggling (Explorer of the Seas)

Million Dollar Drug Bust on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship in Montego Bay (Grandeur of the Seas)

Three Crew Drug Arrests (Enchantment of the Seas)

High Times on the High Seas - Cruise Industry Struggles with "Reefer Madness (Royal Caribbean crew members smuggling drugs into Bermuda)

The Allure of the Seas was also the cruise ships where a travel agent was arrested for dealing large amounts of drugs during a cruise. He was caught with 142 ecstasy pills, 3 grams of methamphetamine, ketamine and $51,000 cash. 

 

Photo credit: Broward County Sheriff's Office via Sun Sentinel

Another Crew Member Goes Overboard From Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas

A newspaper in Italy is reporting that a Royal Caribbean crew member disappeared from the Serenade of the Seas earlier this morning.

The Adnkronos newspaper in Rome reports that the Serenade of the Seas was sailing from Mykonos. Upon arrival at the next port around 7:00 AM this morning, it was discovered that a cabin steward was missing. (Another news account says he was a cleaner).  The newspaper mentions that the last CCTV image of the crew member on the cruise ship was around 1:00 AM and shows the employee walking through a door.  There apparently are no images of the crew member going overboard.  The crew member is reportedly from the Philippines. 

The newspaper states that a search was conducted by five Coast Guard patrol boats and two aircraft.

Royal Caribbean Serenade of the SeasThis is the third person to go overboard from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in the last three weeks.

On September 20th we reported on another crew member who went overboard from this same cruise ship, the Serenade of the Seas, as it was sailing to Italy. You can read our article here

On September 17th a passenger disappeared from the Allure of the Seas shortly after it sailed from South Florida.

In addition to these three Royal Caribbean overboard cases, on September 29th a passenger went overboard from the P & O Aurora cruise ship.

On October 9th we reported on a Holland America Line passenger who disappeared during a cruise on board the HAL Veendam. 

Five passengers missing from cruise ships in the last month. Unfortunately there is no news coverage of cruise ship overboard cases unless the person is a U.S. passenger.  The U.S. press has virtually no interest if a "foreign" crew member goes overboard. Royal Caribbean will not make a statement unless a major media outlet makes an inquiry.  

If you have information about this latest overboard please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our facebook page.

Falmouth Jamaica: Victim of the Royal Caribbean System

The AP published an article today regarding the plight of Falmouth. The world's biggest cruise ships are sucking most of the money out of the Jamaican port and leaving little behind except crushed expectations of the local community.

"World's Biggest Cruise Ships Drop Anchor in Caribbean, But Ship-to-Shore Feud Brews Over Cash" takes a look at Royal Caribbean's "development" of this historic port where it promised that if Jamaica spent a couple hundred million dollars building a deep water port for its monstrous ships the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas, the mostly U.S. passengers would each spend would over $100 ashore and infuse the local Jamaican economy.

Jamaica lived up to its end of the bargain, at consideration damage to the mangroves and coral reefsAllure of the Seas - Royal Caribbean - Falmouth Jamaica  around Falmouth. But the residents of Falmouth are seeing little money in return.  The AP article quotes a local businessman saying: "We were promised that we'd be able to show people our Jamaican heritage, sell our crafts. But most of the tourists stay far away from the local people . . . we're on the losing end."

I have been to Falmouth and feared that it would be another Royal Caribbean project that benefited the cruise line and exploited the local community.  Three years ago I wrote an article critical of what I believed would be another Royal Caribbean scheme (like Labadee Haiti) to suck money from another Caribbean island and sail the loot back to the cruise line's coffers in Miami - "Historic Port of Falmouth - Jamaica's "Crapital" for the Oasis of the Seas."   

I followed this article up with "Will Royal Caribbean Ever Live Up to Its Promises to Falmouth Jamaica?" Unfortunately, the people of Jamaica have a history of being exploited by foreign plantation owners, sugar barons, slave owners, and bauxite-mining companies.  Royal Caribbean is the latest robber baron to appear as the country's professed savior. But like other false prophets, it will do no better for Falmouth than those in the past who have taken greatly and given little in return to this beautiful island.

The AP article says that the people in Falmouth are "growing angry" and predicts that things will only get worse, quoting a local vendor: 

"The pot is starting to boil and, trust me, it will boil over if things don't change around here . . . why can't we, the people who actually live here, make a living off the cruise ships, too?"

The answer lies in history of the non-sustainable cruise industry.  Poor Caribbean countries like Jamaica are beholden to selfish billion dollar U.S. based cruise corporations.  In the end game, the local Jamaicans are victims of the exploitative cruise line system.    

 

 

Video credit: "Victims of The System" - Rootz Underground

Read our other articles about Falmouth:

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

Will Royal Caribbean Ever Live Up to Its Promises to Falmouth Jamaica?

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

Will Jamaica's Cruise Ship Woes Be Solved By A Margaritaville?

Cruise Law Visits Montego Bay Jamaica

NCL Conducts Undercover Investigation on Itself - Will Royal Caribbean Do the Same?

Kevin Sheehan - NCL - Undercover BossRoyal Caribbean and its subsidiary, Celebrity Cruise, have been in a state of panic lately frantically trying to fend off bad publicity surrounding an expose' on crew member hours, wages and working conditions on the Eclipse which aired in the U.K.

The British television station sent two "undercover" reporters on to the cruise ship, one as a passenger and the other as an assistant waiter. They painted a grim image of work on the Celebrity cruise ship: long hours, grueling conditions and low pay.  

Royal Caribbean and Celebrity rallied their friends in the travel community to try and refute the harsh image of "ship life" which crew members face as portrayed by Channel 4 Dispatches program "Undercover Cruises - the Truth Below the Deck." At the end of the day, all the cruise lines accomplished was to bring more attention to the exploitation of crew members and to create the image that they had something to hide. 

But not all cruise lines have this type of knee-jerk reaction to undercover reporters.

An article today in Travel Weekly reveals that at least one cruise CEO would rather see first-hand what the crew members really face, rather than claim that there is a conspiracy every time a reporter goes undercover with a video camera.

Travel Weekly's article "Big Interview: Cruise Boss Kevin Sheehan Learns From Fife on Deck," states that Norwegian Cruise Lines' President Kevin Sheehan went undercover himself to experience first hand the working conditions which his ship employees face. He was filmed as part of the TV program "Undercover Boss." The article explains that the NCL cruise CEO spent one day as a deckhand, another Kevin Sheehan - NCL - Undercover Bossday cleaning cabins and toilets, and a day working in the galley.

I was impressed with this comment he made to Travel Weekly: 

“We made a lot of changes. For example, there was an ice skating rink at the top of Norwegian Epic that had to be set up every evening. There were hundreds of pieces, each weighing 70 lbs, and women crew members doing it. It was back-breaking work and a disaster in my view. We discontinued it.”

Not many cruise line presidents have the transparency to admit something like this.  

Much of the work on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise ships is truly "back-breaking." But you will never see the CEO's from these cruise line admit it or do anything about it. They are too busy sitting in their executive offices protesting that undercover reporters are biased.   

Video: Royal Caribbean Delayed Reporting Overboard Passenger

A'riel Marion - Overboard Cruise Passenger - Allure of the SeasLocal NBC 6 reports that Royal Caribbean delayed reporting the disappearance of Allure of the Seas cruise passenger, A'riel Marion, for two hours, even though another passenger on a lower balcony was literally hit on the arm as Ms. Marion fell to the water.

Based on the official report from the United States Coast Guard, the cruise line did not report the incident to the Coast Guard until 11:30 PM even though a passenger immediately reported the overboard to the ship around 9:27 PM.

Royal Caribbean's initial press release falsely claimed that the cruise line "immediately" reported the overboard. 

Our articles about this case are here:

Passenger Missing From The Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship

Why Didn't Royal Caribbean Immediately Notify the Coast Guard that a Passenger Went Overboard from Allure of the Seas? 

Delay, Deny, Deceive & Defend: Royal Caribbean Shows How Not to Respond to an Overboard Passenger  

 

View more videos at: http://nbcmiami.com.

Case Study: Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. - Avoiding U.S. Taxes, Labor Laws, Environmental Regulations & Criminal Accountability

Royal Caribbean Cruises - A Liberian CoporationToday I read an interesting case analysis from the Journal of Business Case Studies (May/June 2012), which studied the business model of the second largest cruise company in the world, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd.   

The article is entitled "Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.: Innovation At A Cost?" (click on the pdf link)

The article focuses on Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. which was formed in 1997 when Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (founded in 1968) and Celebrity Cruises (founded in 1988) merged together. 

The article explains that the foundation of Royal Caribbean is the avoidance of U.S. taxes and regulation. It accomplishes this by:

  • Incorporating in a foreign country (Liberia, Africa), and
  • Registering its cruise ships in weak, poor and disorganized foreign countries (mostly Liberia and the Bahamas).  

By registering its corporation and ship overseas, it avoids U.S. taxes, labor and environmental laws, and criminal culpability.  U.S. executives are offered millions in bonuses while the cruise line itself pays no U.S. taxes, which is the key to its profitability. The Journal writes that Miami based cruise lines, like Royal Caribbean:

" . . .  take advantage of maritime laws to avoid paying U.S. taxes, gain immunity from American labor laws, avoid U.S. courts in workplace disputes, and fend off new environmental regulations, government records and industry reports show. They have done this by incorporating in Central America and Africa and registering their ships under the flags of foreign nations . . ." 

Although this theoretically gives tiny countries regulatory power over one of some of Florida's Flag of Convenience - Royal Caribbean Cruiseslargest corporations, the flag states " . . . are not only reluctant to discipline major contributors to their economies, but also do not have the resources to enforce regulations or even punish polluters."

Flying flags of convenience has historically been used to conceal criminal activities, and is now "used primarily for economic reasons and sanctuary from restrictive regulatory environments."

Tonight in England a documentary will air about the exploitation of crew members on the Eclipse cruise ship which is operated by Royal Caribbean's sister company, Celebrity Cruises, out of Southampton England.  Crew members work 12 hours a day (sometimes more), every day, every week for the length of their 6 - 8 month contracts with no time off. When injured, the crew members  are often dumped back in their home countries and paid only $12 a day and denied competent medical treatment.

You can trace the root cause of this abuse back to the earliest days of Royal Caribbean in the late 1960's when the cruise line decided to skirt U.S. laws by incorporating in the lawless country of Liberia.       

 

Don't miss:

"Celebrity Cruises Crew Member Controversy Brewing in Britain"

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

"Royal Caribbean Executives Get Richer While Crew Members Get Poorer"

 

Credit: Flags of convenience article - "Flags at Sea . . . "

"Lord Keep Us Safe On This Gigantic Cruise Ship"

Allure of the SeasA news station in Memphis has identified the 21 year old woman who went overboard from Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship on September 16, 2012.

There has been speculation about what happened. This was the overboard where the cruise ship delayed reporting the incident to the Coast Guard for two hours. Some people have speculated that the young lady may have committed suicide, although there is no evidence of that.

That scenario seems highly unlikely given the comments that she was posting on Twitter leading up to the cruise, including many tweets expressing her excitement about the trip.  Consider one of her last tweets upon boarding the cruise ship:   

"Lord keep up safe on this gigantic cruise ship! Let the festivities begin!! See you suckers in a week . . ."

After the delayed Coast Guard search ended, the matter was turned over to the FBI for investigation.

Here's our initial article about this case: Passenger Missing From The Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship.

 

Royal Caribbean Delivers Cruel Blow to Widow of Beloved Captain Tore Myhra

The maritime lawyers here in Miami have been in a state of outrage following a recent decision from an appellate court in the Estate of Tore Myhra v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., Case No. 10-15840 (11th Cir. Sept. 21, 2011).

This case addressed the issue of whether a cruise line could legally enforce a "forum selection clause" transferring the lawsuit to a court outside of the U.S., if the effect of the transfer were to limit the cruise line's liability for personal injury or death occurring on cruises.

There is a federal statute which clearly prohibits cruise lines from doing this. 46 U.S.C. section 30509(a) states that attempts to limit liability by contractual terms in cases where the cruise ship calls on a U.S. port are illegal and unenforceable.

In the Myhra v. Royal Caribbean case, a passenger contracted what is described as a bacterial infection on the Liberty of the Seas cruise ship which led to his death. His widow filed suit in Miami where all lawsuits against this cruise line are filed. But the cruise line moved to dismiss the case, citing terms buried deep in the the passenger ticket which specified the U.K. as the location for the lawsuit.

The lawyers for Mr. Myhra's widow argued that the fine print terms in the passenger ticket were not reasonably communicated to Mr. Myhra, and even if they were, because the U.K. adopted the Athens Convention limiting the liability of cruise lines to a maximum of $75,000 (even including death cases), this clause violated 46 U.S.C. section 30509(a).        

But the Eleventh Circuit held that 46 U.S.C. section 30509(a) was not violated. In a tortuously reasoned opinion, it held that because it was not the cruise line limiting its liability, but rather a foreign country (the U.K.) which provided limited damages, the transfer to the U.K. didn't violate 30509(a). This is a rather circuitous argument. After all, it was Royal Caribbean which inserted the U.K. into the ticket as the chosen forum. It did so because it knew that Britain would afford only limited damages to passengers in cases of injury and death.

The South Florida Lawyers blog covered the story. An anonymous reader commented that the decision was "more intellectual dishonesty from the 11th Circuit." Curiously, in a footnote to the decision, the court held that a different result might be reached if the passengers were a U.S. citizen who bought his ticket in the U.S., as opposed to a Brit who bought his ticket in Britain.

Tore Myhra - Royal Caribbean Cruises - Cruise ShipThe case will be remembered as a result-oriented decision where the xenophobic appellate court's priority was to send the case away from the U.S. based on whatever justification it could scrap together.

But there is more to the story. 

Mr. Myhra was not just an average passenger. He was the former Captain (i.e., Master) of several Royal Caribbean cruise ships. He mastered the Monarch of the Seas and was a captain of one of the cruise line's first cruise ships, the Song of America.

By all accounts, Captain Myhra was a skilled mariner, a dedicated Royal Caribbean employee and a well respected captain who was liked by his fellow officers and crew members on the cruise ships on which he served as Master.

In 1998, Captain Myhra bravely sailed the Monarch of the Seas into the harbor in St. Maarten in the middle of the night to bring a sick passenger ashore for emergency medical treatment. But while the cruise ship was sailing out under the command of another officer, the vessel went off course and ran across a reef. The ship sustained heavy damage to the hull and began to take on water. Captain Myhra took command of the ship and ground it to keep it from sinking.

In 1999, Captain Myhra resigned from Royal Caribbean. Even though he was not at the helm when the ship hit the reef, he took responsibility. Thereafter he began a successful camping business called Rose Farm Touring & Camping Park in England with his wife, Susan, and their daughter.

A decade later, Captain Myhra returned to a Royal Caribbean cruise ship not as the captain but as a passenger with his wife aboard the Liberty of the Seas. Captain Myhra was exposed to Legionnaires Disease along with another passenger due to the negligent manner that the cruise line maintained its water supplies.  Although infected, he was kept aboard the cruise ship until the end of the cruise, only to die in a public hospital the next day.

Captain Myhra ended his career with Royal Caribbean trying to help a sick passenger in the middle of the night by diverting the cruise into port for emergency medical care, but ended his life sickened on a Royal Caribbean ship as a passenger.   

But the irony and injustice does not stop there. Captain Myhra and his wife, Sue, a cruise ship purser herself on Royal Caribbean ships, were "Loyal-to-Royal" friends to the cruise line. They were part of the Royal Caribbean "family."  I'm sure CEO Richard Fain knew them both on a first name basis.

But when Master Myhra died due to exposure to Legionnaires Disease on the Royal Caribbean ship, the cruise line treated his widow and child shabbily.  

Royal Caribbean denied liability and tried to place the blame elsewhere. It could have stepped up to the plate and paid Ms. Myhra and her daughter a reasonable settlement and wished its friends and family members well.  But instead, it paid its defense lawyers in Miami a vast sum of money to try and kick the lawsuit, which Ms. Myhra was forced to file, out of the U.S.

In the end result today, Royal Caribbean beat its former captain's widow and child in a court of law. The appellate court pronounced that their lawsuit for the wrongful-death-by-Legionnaire's-Disease-on-a-Miami-based-cruise-ship is somehow not welcome here in Miami where Royal Caribbean is headquartered.

What a sad spectacle. 

Cruise line CEO Fain and President Adam Goldstein earned over $12,000,000 in 2010 while their cruise ships reduced costs across the fleet, including cost reductions due to fewer tests of its potable water on the Liberty of the Seas and other ships. Meanwhile Ms. Myhra is left to seek compensation in the U.K. for her dead husband and the dead father of her daughter.

After attorney fees and costs, the net compensation will turn into peanuts.

Cruise Lawyers - You Can Love 'Em or Hate 'Em, But You Need Them.

Yesterday I mentioned our blog's three year anniversary. I was pleased to receive some positive comments back from our readers, particularly on our facebook page. Here is one comment that I received via email from a travel agent which I thought was nice: 

"Congratulations on three very successful, provocative, educational and to say the least enlightening years. As a travel professional your articles have caused me to reconsider may things I advise my clients on when it comes not only to cruising but while taking land vacations also.

Thanks for all the good work."

One of our goals is to educate the public about some of the hidden dangers of cruising. So it's encouraging to hear from travel agents who read our blog and learn that they are mentioning some of the issues and safety points we discuss here.

Cruise Ship Lawyer Miami - Royal Caribbean - CarnivalBut our anniversary also brought us hate e-mail as well.  

When I read emails like the one below, I realize that there is no question that we live in a polarized society. Half of the public understands the need for lawyers to help weak & injured people, and to try and keep large corporations in line. The other half of the public views trial lawyers are a sign of the apocalypse:   

"So why do we have to wait in line to sign the silly waivers to do anything like skate, climb or ride the flowrider? You Ambulance chasers make me ashamed to be an American! I've been on many cruises and they are working extremely hard providing an outstanding and safe product. You don't fool most of us -- we know it's all about money! Why don't you get a real job instead of feeding on the labor of others? I have had many conversations with workers on ships -- you know they think we Americans are a bunch of lazy bums looking to sue. It's true -- they laugh at our silly warning labels!

Thank you Mr Lawyer! Mr. Ambulance Chaser."

When I receive emails like this I have to stop and scratch my head. "Waivers" on cruise ships are against the law. There is absolutely no reason to ever stand in a line on a cruise ship to sign a waiver because they are null, void and unenforceable.

Why are they illegal?  Because lawyers fought for injured passengers. In a case we handled, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal recently struck down a cruise line waiver which purported to strip passengers of their legal rights before they can participate in activities like zip lines, wall climbing, flowriders, rock climbing and skating.

Cruise lines hire large teams of lawyers to advance their legal interests. Any case filed against a Miami-based cruise line will be assigned to a team of lawyers and legal assistants - a partner, senior associate, junior associate and a paralegal or two.

In big cases, cruise lines hire a proverbial city of lawyers. Costa cruise line hired dense lawyers in Rome, Genoa, New York, London, Washington DC and Miami to represent it following the Costa Concordia disaster.  

An average passenger or crew member does not stand a chance against a large corporation like Carnival or Royal Caribbean unless they hire a lawyer.

Yes, there are some silly warning signs on some products which are not needed. We can all agree on that and have a good laugh. But if you are a victim of a crime or serious injury during a cruise and don't hire a lawyer, it will be the cruise line who will be having a laugh at your expense. 

Crew Member Goes Overboard From Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas

Serenade of the Seas Overboard CrewAlready reeling from the publicity of its delayed reporting of a 21 year old passenger who went overboard from the Allure of the Seas, Royal Caribbean is now facing the scrutiny of the international press regarding the disappearance of a crew member from the Serenade of the Seas yesterday.

Several newspapers in Italy and Croatia are reporting that a Royal Caribbean went overboard from the Serenade yesterday morning while the cruise ship was sailing in the Adriatic sea.

The Bahamian flagged Serenade of the Seas was crossing the Adriatic for Venice.

There are conflicting reports of the time of the overboard as occurring between 4:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. when the ship's passengers reported that a person had fallen into the sea.

An Italian newspaper reports that the unidentified crew member went overboard in off the Italian coastal city of Ancona. The waters are described either as international waters or waters under the jurisdiction of Croatia. The sea was reportedly rough with winds gusting close to 100 kilometers per hour. 

Coast Guard vessels from Croatia and Italy have searched for the crew member without success.

Cruise lines don't voluntarily disclose information about overboard passengers and crew members. Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein has tracked 187 people going overboard from cruise ships in the last ten years or so.

Anyone with information about this latest case, please leave a comment below.

September 21, 2012:  So far, not a single U.S. newspaper or media outlet has covered the story.  No press statement by Royal Caribbean.  Disturbing that no one cares about cruise overboards unless they involve a passenger from the U.S. 

September 22, 2012: Several people informed us that the overboard Royal Caribbean crew member is from Panama and one reader said that he was employed in the facilities department on the ship.

October 13, 2012: Another crew member goes overboard from the Serenade of the Seas. 2 crew members from the same cruise ship in 3 weeks. What's going on with this ship? 

Photo credit: Il Messaggero.it

Allure of the Seas Overboard: Royal Caribbean Struggling to Justify Late Notification to Coast Guard

With the Coast Guard ending its delayed search and the 21 year old woman still missing at sea, Royal Caribbean is struggling to justify the two hour delay it caused in reporting the latest person overboard from the Allure of the Seas.  Its excuse is a whopper - it claims that it first had to first search the ship to make certain that the passenger was still not onboard. 

This statement is coming from a cruise line PR executive Cynthia Martinez, who is obviously unfamiliar with well established maritime rules and even her company's own man overboard protocols.  According to International Maritime Organization (IMO) recommendations and Coast Guard regulations, cruise ships are required to notify the Coast Guard if the person overboard is not "immediately" observed in the water.  

Royal Caribbean knows better than to act like this. It has some highly experienced mariners and former Coast Guard commanders working for it, like former Coast Guard Commander Captain Howard Newhoff Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seaswho was awarded a medal of commendation by President Reagan in the 1980's and whose skills and service to this country are beyond reproach. He must be shaking his head in disgust after reading the PR statements dreamed up by the cruise line's PR team members who don't know the difference between port and starboard. 

Royal Caribbean said that the Coast Guard was notified when the cruise ship found “the incident on the recording . . . from the video, we could pinpoint the exact time and location using Global Positioning System and provided that information to the Coast Guard.”

Nonsense. The Coast regulations require immediate notification. The GPS coordinates should have been sent to the Coast Guard immediately. Searching the largest cruise ship in the world and pouring over CCTV images from hundreds of cameras first?  A person can float for tens of miles over the course of the unnecessary two hour delay.

Maritime experts on Ring of Fire Radio voiced their displeasure about the delay from 9:30 to 11:30 p.m., over 2 hours after the passenger fell overboard. Gerald McGill, a graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and a former Commanding Officer of two Coast Guard cutters, states:

"The most troubling aspect of this tragedy is why the ship waited two hours before notifying the Coast Guard. Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez said the process of making sure a passenger is not onboard takes some time. She said such verification is necessary before the Coast Guard is notified 'and they commit to sending assets to help search.'

However, in this case a witness reported seeing another passenger go overboard and video footage verified this. The important fact was that “someone” had fallen overboard. Determining who had fallen overboard should not have delayed notifying the Coast Guard. Hopefully the FBI investigation will address this issue."

Delayed notification causes the Coast Guard to expend additional resources and expands the search grid of the Coast Guard cutters, helicopters and aircraft. The expenses increase substantially. And most importantly the chances of the person being rescued - which is why immediate notification to the Coast Guard is required in the first place - decrease dramatically.

 

Check out our facebook page to see what people are saying about how Royal Caribbean handled the situation. 

Norwegian Star - Explorer of the Seas Collision Caught on Video!

A passenger aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas video-taped the collision with the NCL Norwegian Star last week (September 14, 2012) in port in Bermuda.  The NCL ship was hit by high winds (75 MPH) which caused the Star to break away from its mooring lines and strike the stern of the Royal Caribbean ship.

The video was shot from the Windjammer cafe and you can hear the passengers excitedly chattering and sometimes laughing throughout the incident. A Royal Caribbean officer appears in the video and says "you hit my ship!"

The video is by Floobboober (YouTube):

 

Why Didn't Royal Caribbean Immediately Notify the Coast Guard that a Passenger Went Overboard from Allure of the Seas?

Yesterday the first media source which reported that a cruise passenger went overboard from Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas was Cruise Critic.  Notwithstanding its name, Cruise Critic is not remotely a critic of the cruise industry.  It's one of the cruise lines greatest fans and supporters. It will publish cruise line PR statements without question or hesitation.

When Cruise Critic broke the story, Royal Caribbean's PR department had already fed Cruise Critic a statement claiming that another passenger witnessed the 21-year-old American go overboard at about 9:25 p.m. EDT. "The ship's Captain immediately stopped the ship, turned around, and alerted the U.S. and Bahamian Coast Guard," read the cruise line statement.

The next time entry mentioned by Cruise Critic was 3:30 a.m., when the U.S. Coast Guard assumed control of the search and released the Allure of the Seas as well as Carnival's Fascination and Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas cruise ships which had joined in the search for the missing woman. 

Allure of the Seas The impression created by Royal Caribbean and its friends at Cruise Critic was that Royal Caribbean "immediately" notified the proper authorities and "immediately" searched the waters for the young woman and that the search lasted six hours from 9:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. until the Coast Guard released the cruise ship to continue with itinerary. 

What Cruise Critic didn't mention was that, based on an article in the Sun Sentinel newspaper, Royal Caribbean was notified of the 9:25 p.m.overboard at 9:30 a.m. but the cruise line delayed two hours until 11:30 p.m. before notifying the U.S. Coast Guard. The Sun Sentinel article was based on comments directly from the U.S. Coast Guard.  

But no other news sources mentioned the two hour delay; instead, CNN, Miami Herald, CBS FOX News, and others published the false and misleading cruise line statement that Royal Caribbean "immediately" stopped the cruise ship and notified both the U.S. and Bahamian Coast Guards following the 9:25 p.m. incident. 

Coast Guard regulations and the requirements of most cruise ship safety management systems (SMS) required by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) state that the vessel must notify the Coast Guard and other vessels in the vicinity if the overboard person is not "immediately" located in the water. Once a man overboard is reported, most SMS cruise line policies require a prompt reduction of speed of the ship, a "Williams Turn" to head the ship back to the location of the overboard person, the deployment of extra look-outs, the use of spotlights, and preparation to deploy life craft. While this is happening the captain can order a muster and head count if there is any doubt about whether a passenger went overboard.

It is inexplicable that the cruise ship would sail on if an eye witness reported the overboard to the cruise line at 9:30 p.m. Two hours later, the ship would be 30 - 40 miles away not even considering the effect of the current on the person overboard.  The chances of drowning would increase substantially and the search area would increase dramatically due to the delay. 

The Allure is the world's largest cruise ship with 5,400 passengers and 2,300 crew members aboard. A search of this huge ship would take many hours. Did the cruise line really ignore the man overboard report and sail away? Why search the ship or order a muster and head count if an eye witness saw the woman go overboard as initially reported?  It is against basic maritime protocols.

In cases like this, wild speculation follows a delayed rescue attempt. Was this a suicide, foul play or the results of excessive serving of alcohol?  

I don't believe that people wanting to commit suicide take the time and incur the expense of booking a cruise, buying an airplane ticket, packing a big suitcase, and then flying across the U.S. to South Florida for a week long cruise to the Caribbean with the thought of killing themselves.  

But readers commenting on the cruise message boards at cruise fan sites like Cruise Critic have already labeled the case a suicide or 100% her fault for partying.  Sites like Cruise Critic perpetuate the cruise line's misleading PR campaign by ignoring the cruise line's two hour delay and then letting its readers assassinate the woman's character.

Unfortunately, there is no independent police authorities onboard cruise ships to gather the true facts and conduct an objective and timely investigation. Cruise lines investigations are often conducted with the cruise line's reputation and legal interests in mind.

This is a real disservice to families of missing passengers who need transparency in such a time of despair. 

 

September 19, 2012 Update: Royal Caribbean tries to justify why it delayed stopping the ship and notifying the Coast Guard. Coast Guard ends its delayed search. FBI now involved.

Passenger Missing From The Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship

Last night a young woman from Bartlett, Tennessee disappeared from the world's largest cruise ship, the Allure of the Seas.

According to experts who track cruise ship disappearances, she was the 186th person to go overboard from a cruise ship in the last ten years.

At the time of the overboard last night, the Allure was sailing to Nassau after leaving Ft. Lauderdale (Port Everglades).

Royal Caribbean Cruises issued a press release that the 21 year old U.S. passenger went overboard Allure of the Seas OverBoard Passengerat 9:25 PM Eastern Standard Time last night.  The incident was apparently captured on the cruise ship's CCTV cameras. 

Royal Caribbean Delays Notifying the Coast Guard

The Sun Sentinel reports that the incident was reported to the cruise line around 9:30 PM, but the cruise line delayed reporting the incident to the Coast Guard for 2 hours until 11:30 PM. According to the Sun Sentinel. the cruise line apparently searched the ship for two hours to look for the young woman.

Only after the shipboard search was unsuccessful did the ship contact the Coast Guard.

Royal Caribbean Denies Delay

According to Cruise Critic, Royal Caribbean says that there was no delay.  It released a statement claiming that after another passenger observed the overboard and reported it, "the ship's Captain immediately stopped the ship, turned around, and alerted the U.S. and Bahamian Coast Guard."  This is inconsistent with the Coast Guard statement that Royal Caribbean waited until 11:30 PM to notify it and then search in the water for the passenger.

The Allure is a huge ship with some 8,000 passengers and crew members. As the cruise line likes to advertise, the massive ship comprises some seven neighborhoods.  Why would the cruise line waste valuable time searching such a big ship while sailing for two hours away from where the overboard was observed? 

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein reports that 186 people (passengers and crew members) have gone overboard in the last decade or so.

The last overboard from the Allure of the Seas was in early February of this year when an Irish passenger in his 20's went overboard.  

In instances where suicide is suspected, the cruise lines usually allude to that in their initial public statement. There is no mention of that so far.

Alcohol is often involved in cruise ship overboards, but there is no mention of that factor one way or the other.

Please leave a comment below if you have information about what happened, or click on our facebook page to see what other people are saying about this case.

 

September 18, 2012 Update: Cruise line's 2 hour delay in inconsistent with Coast Guard regulations, International Maritime Organization (IMO) recommendations and cruise line safety management system (SMS) procedures - read here..

September 19, 2012 Update:  Royal Caribbean tries to justify why it delayed stopping the ship and notifying the Coast Guard.  Coast Guard ends its delayed search.  FBI now involved. 

September 20, 2012 Update: Royal Caribbean Struggles to Justify Delayed Notification to Coast Guard.

September 22, 2012 Update:  Allure of the Seas: "Profits Over Passenger Safety?

September 27, 2012 Update: Passenger identified.  One of her last comments on Twitter: 'Lord Keep Us Safe On This Gigantic Cruise Ship." 

October 3, 2012 Updates: Delay, Deny, Deceive & Defend: Royal Caribbean Shows How Not to Respond to an Overboard Passenger 

Video: Royal Caribbean Delayed Reporting Overboard Passenger

Bermuda's Kangaroo Courts Back in Action

Bermuda Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner was again busy fining cruise tourists last week.

According to the Bermuda Sun, Magistrate Warner fined a Norwegian Star passenger on his honeymoon $800 after the local police used a sniffer canine to locate a few marijuana cigarettes (6 grams) in the passenger's cabin while he and his newlywed bride were enjoying the sites ashore. 

I have written a dozen articles (here's one and here's another) about the good Judge Warner fining U.S. passengers big bucks for small amounts of pot.  It seems like these fines are a major source of revenue for Bermuda.  The fact that the pot is found only after police take dogs on the cruise ships to conduct searches of private cabins with no warrant or probable cause doesn't seem to mind the prosecution or the judiciary in Bermuda.

American passengers who are already kicked off the cruise ship and facing jail time are always quick to pay $500 to $3,000 to avoid a few months in the slammer on the rocky island.  What a racket.  The newspapers in Bermuda love covering these type of cases and are sure to plaster a photo of the busted pothead in their newspapers

And speaking of rackets, Magistrate Warner also fined a Royal Caribbean cruise passenger $4,000 after he was caught stealing stuff on the Explorer of the Seas cruise ship.  According to Bernews, the Royal Caribbean security caught a passenger from New Jersey "using (a) stolen credit card in three transactions to dishonestly acquire goods and services (from the ship spa) including two bottles of men’s cologne."

Now I don't like crooks and I'm glad that the bad guy with the cologne got caught.  But I wonder how on Explorer of the Seas Nassau Bahamasearth a judge in Bermuda could assert jurisdiction over a theft committed by a U.S. citizen on a foreign flagged cruise ship in international waters?

According to Bernews, Magistrate Warner was also wondering why he was presiding over such a case. The newspaper states: "After questioning and then confirming that the ship was a "Bermuda Registered ship" and Bermuda authorities were lawfully able to take action, Senior Magistrate Archie Warner allowed the case to proceed."

The problem is that the Explorer of the Seas is not a vessel registered in Bermuda. Everyone knows that. No Royal Caribbean cruise ships are registered in Bermuda. The Explorer of the Seas is registered in and flies the flag of the Bahamas. (Next time the magistrate should send someone to the dock and take a photo of the cruise ship's stern. You will see: Explorer of the Seas - Nassau.)

Bermuda, the Bahamas, whatever. Both start with a "B," close enough for Magistrate Warner.  The short hearing netted Bermuda $4,000 - quick money for a case that it has no jurisdiction over.    

This would be amusing, I suppose, except for the fact that Bermuda demonstrates no interest in prosecuting serious cruise ship crimes.  Bermuda looks the other way when faced with rapes, abandonment of mariners at sea, or mysterious disappearances of crew members that occur on cruise ships which are, in fact, flying the maritime flag of Bermuda.

 

Photo Credit: Explorer of the Seas - travel.com

Will Jamaica's Cruise Ship Woes Be Solved By A Margaritaville?

Jamaica's Gleaner newspaper reports that the average amount of money spent by a cruise ship passenger in Jamaica has dropped to just $71.  

The hardest hit Jamaican port has been Falmouth where Royal Caribbean convinced the county of Jamaica to spend over $160,000,000 so far to develop the port (at great destruction to the reefs and environment of Jamaica) on the promise that the U.S. passengers would spend hundreds of dollars each upon entering Jamaica.

Now that Jamaica took Royal Caribbean's bait, dug up its fragile coral reefs and bulldozed its mangroves, the island has learned that the mostly American passengers are spending no where near the promised several hundred of dollars while ashore.

Falmouth Jamaica - Royal Caribbean PortI won't say that I told you so, although I will mention that this is exactly what I predicted in my prior articles:

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

Will Royal Caribbean Ever Live Up to Its Promises to Falmouth Jamaica

One of the problems I observed when I visited Falmouth last year is that the new port contains essentially two worlds - the new port behind the fence which the cruise line erected where the touristy shops are sponsored by Royal Caribbean which sucks in most of the money, and the original stores outside the fence where few passengers venture.  

Compounding the problem is the fact that most of the excursions sold by the cruise line immediately leave the port and take the passengers outside of Falmouth.

But not is all lost, according to the Gleaner.  A Margaritaville is going to open on the Royal Caribbean dock in Falmouth, inside the cruise line fence.  Per capital spending is suppose to increase from $71 to $120 a passenger.

A Margaritaville bar in the historic port of Falmouth?  Ugh.  

Will the promised money roll in?  Probably not.  

But whatever bounty the cruise line passengers bring to the Jimmy Buffet bar in Jamaica will undoubtedly be scooped up by Royal Caribbean and sailed back to Miami.      

 

Photo credit:  Jim Walker

Cruise Ship Rape: International Cruise Victims' Vice President Advocates For Cruise Ship Rape Victims

Tonight CNN's Headline News ("HLN") featured  an interview with the Senior Vice President of the International Cruise Victims ("ICV") regarding the latest cruise rape story involving a thirty-one year old man who participated in and encouraged the gang rape of a fifteen year old victim aboard a Carnival cruise ship.   

ICV VP Laurie Dishman appeared tonight on the CNN channel discussing her personal experience as a rape victim on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship when a part time security guard sexually assaulted Cruise Ship Rape her while she was cruising with Michelle, her best friend since she was five years old.

The crime was particularly brutal and the response by the rapist's employer, Royal Caribbean Cruises, was especially irresponsible. You can read Laurie's story at the website of the ICV here.

Laurie hired me to represent her. Laurie is the most motivated and strongest woman, scratch that - person, I have ever met.  She told me that her goal was to convene a hearing on her case to bring awareness to the problem of cruise ship sexual assaults.  She wanted a law to be passed to protect other cruise passengers.  

She also instructed me to take Royal Caribbean to the task. Not to be modest, but Laurie and I kicked the living crap out of the cruise line. She obtained the highest recovery against a cruise line to date for a sexual assault. Incidentally, there were several Congressional hearings held which discussed Laurie's case and she met with President Obama to discuss the problem rapes on cruise ships. A new cruise safety law, the Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act, was passed largely due to her efforts and her friends in the ICV.  After all, she traveled over 30 times at her own expense to lobby Congress to pass the much needed law to protect cruise passengers.  

Laurie and I (and my wife and kids) became best friends in the process of our several years of litigating against Royal Caribbean and attending hearings in Washington D.C. about crimes on cruise ships.

Laurie has taken her cause to the public as the Vice President of the ICV to educate the public Cruise Ship Rape - Sexual Assaultabout cruise ship crimes.

Tonight it was energizing to see Laurie on CNN explaining the danger of cruise ship rape to the public in the latest incident of an adult buying huge amounts of alcohol for underage boys who participated in the gang rape of the 10th grade child on the Carnival cruise ship. Laurie pointed out that on the day the story broke about the booze fueled gang rape, Carnival announced it all-you-can-drink booze package.  

For $50 a day, you can drink till you puke, or until your posse rapes someone (my editorial, not Laurie's)

You will continue to see Laurie at a national level speaking out for crime victims.  

Thanks Laurie for advocating for the cruising public!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo credit:  Fotki / Mark Chatfield

Lawsuit: Royal Caribbean Crew Member Rapes Cruise Passenger Aboard Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas - Surveillance Camera Shows Victim Trying to Escape

The Miami Herald reports that a Royal Caribbean crew member sexually assaulted a passenger during a New Year’s cruise according to the allegation in a lawsuit filed last week.  The newspaper reports that the sex attack was partially captured on surveillance video.

The woman was attacked on January 1, 2012 while cruising aboard the Navigator of the Seas during an Eastern Caribbean cruise. 

The Herald explains that on the morning of the attack, the victim had gone to an upper-level deck to use a whirlpool. She then asked a crew member for a towel, and he led her into a bathroom, where he assaulted her.  The cruise ship's CCTV surveillance video captured images of the victim trying to Navigator of the Seas - Rape - Cruise Shipescape, only to be dragged back in to the room. 

The woman slipped away and reported the attack to ship security.

The woman's lawyer told the newspaper that he believes that Royal Caribbean's security officers took the man into custody and "kicked him off the ship at the next overseas port."

“This is a problem in the cruise industry and if the company cared, it wouldn’t just turn this guy loose in the nearest port. You need to cooperate with the victim and assist in bringing him to the proper authorities.”

The cruise line claims that it reported the incident to the FBI and local law enforcement in St. Kitts.

As we have mentioned in many other article, the FBI has a terrible record investigating cruise ship rapes. 95% of FBI investigation go nowhere and the alleged crew member rapists go free - often ending up working for a different cruise line after spending a few months at home.

Earlier today we reported on the rape of a Royal Caribbean cruise passenger in Cozumel.

Last month we reported on the rape of a passenger by a crew member aboard the Equinox, operated by Royal Caribbean's sister company Celebrity Cruises.  CNN aired a special