Are Jihadists Sailing on Cruise Ships?

The Associated Press (AP) reports that jihadi fighters are increasingly buying tickets on cruise ships to join extremists in battle zones in Syria and Iraq.

The AP states that jihadists are trying to bypass travel restrictions in neighboring Turkey.

According to the AP, Turkey says that it has been deporting hundreds of terrorists caught in airports and bus stations.  But there are some 15,000 fighters or more from 81 countries traveling to the Middle East to fight for extreme Islamic causes. 

The BBC reports that Islamic militants are using of cruise ships "more and more."

The AP quotes outgoing Interpol chief Ronald Noble as saying:

"Originally, our concern about people on cruise ships - dangerous people on cruise ships - really al Qauda Cruise Shipfocused on the classic sort of rapist, burglar, or violent criminal. But as we've gathered data, we've realized that there are more and more reports that people are using cruise ships in order to get to launch pads, if you will - sort of closer to the conflict zones - of Syria and Iraq."

Terrorism is a concern for any kind of international travel. The current news does not suggest an attack by such groups on cruise ships but there is historical evidence of such attacks. We have written about plans uncovered two years ago by al Qaeda to seize cruise ships and dress passengers in orange jump suits and execute them. Three decades ago, Arab terrorists killed cruise passenger Leon Klinghoffer on the Achille Lauro cruise ship and a decade ago our U.S. Navy lost several dozen sailors who were blown up during the attack on the U.S.S. Cole by an al Qaeda group.

 

Photo Credit: CNN

Carnival Finally Bans Smoking on Balconies

Carnival Cruise Lines announced today that smoking will be prohibited on stateroom balconies effective October 9, 2014.

Carnival Cruise Line  spokesperson Vance Gulliksen said that the new policy is in response to comments by the majority of its customers.  

It's about time. 

In 2007, our client Lynnette Hudson, testified before Congress after her father died on the Star Smoking Cruise ShipPrincess in 2006 because a passenger flicked a cigarette butt from an upper balcony on the cruise ship.

The cigarette butt landed in a lower balcony. It smoldered in a towel or clothing and then caught fire.

Due to the highly combustible balcony partition materials and the absence of heat detectors and sprinklers on the balconies, the fire rapidly spread and burned 100 cabins, killing her father.

Princess knew of the danger of permitting cigarette smoking on balconies but didn't do anything about it before the fatality

You can read about her story here

Carnival already prohibits smoking in cabins.

However, Carnival still permits smoking in designated open-deck areas, night clubs, casinos and casino bars. 

Venice Bans Monster Cruise Ships

The Gazzetta del Sud newspaper reports that government officials in Rome, Italy ordered a halt to large cruise ships passing through the Venice lagoon, effective November 2014. The outright ban on cruise ships applies to those ships over 96,000 tons. (The Costa Concordia is 114,500 tons).

The legislation comes after years of debate and highly charged emotions regarding the effect of increasingly larger cruise ships on the historic old city. 

According to the newspaper, environmentalists warn that the lagoon surrounding Venice, an UNESCO Venice - Large Cruise Ship Banheritage site, is at risk due to its fragile ecosystem. Experts warn that the thousand-year-old wooden piles that prop up the city underwater would crumble like toothpicks under the weight of a 114,500-ton cruise ship like the Costa Concordia cruise ship.

In September, there were protests against the cruise industry which were widely reported in Italy, although the news did not gather much attention in the U.S. You can see photographs of the giant ships here. The Miami-based cruise industry took a rather arrogant approach to the local protesters and largely disregarded them as a radically based nuisance.   

The Italian government also announced a limit on smaller cruise vessels which will become effective in January. Cruise ships more than 40,000 tons must be reduced to 20% of their current volume in Venetian waters. 

The new law was enacted with heavy references to the Costa Concordia disaster last year.

Cruise traffic will eventually be rerouted so that any maritime accident would not approach the best-known and most vulnerable parts of the city and would reduce the disruption of the fragile foundation of the city.

Read some of our prior articles about Venice and the threat of larger cruise ships:

Cruise Ships Swamp Venice

Carnival Sunshine Buzzes Venice & Rekindles Controversy

Monster Cruise Ships Menace Venice

Are Cruise Ships Ruining Venice Or Just Memories From My Youth?

Have a thought about Venice and cruise ships? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.  

 

Webcam credit: ismar.cnr.it 

Wall Street Journal: "Reputation, Regulatory Issues Dog Cruise Industry"

Today the Wall Street Journal published an article about the cruise industry's efforts to overcome damage to its reputation while battling off criticism by a consumer group and efforts by Congress to regulate the industry.

The WSJ points out that the cruise lines have a lot to be concerned with, including "stranded vessels, fires, people falling overboard and being victims of crime." 

The cruise industry claims that no regulation is necessary because it adequately polices itself. The Allure of the Seas - Cruise Ship Regulationcruise lines cite a number of self-imposed (although largely unenforceable) recommendations to provide a safe and secure cruising experience for almost 21 million cruise passengers a year.

I was quoted in the article saying that cruise passengers should not take comfort in the so-called "bill of rights:"

“It’s not a bill of rights, it’s a bill of the industry’s rights, a voluntary scheme to limit their own liability.”

One of the problems I pointed out is that cruise lines register their ships and incorporate their companies in countries outside the U.S.  In the process, the cruise industry avoids U.S. taxes, U.S. minimum wage laws and safety inspections.

Most cruise lines are also not employing automatic man-overboard system, as required by the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010. 

You can access the WSJ here, but you need a subscription to read the whole article.

Do Cruise Lines Conduct Background Checks of Crew Members?

The Florida Today newspaper published two articles today about the issue of sexual assault of passengers and whether cruise lines conduct background checks of their cruise ship employees

The issue of background checks is a rather interesting topic. But it's an issue the cruise lines hate to talk about.

Six weeks ago, I attended a workshop in Washington D.C. about sexual assault on cruise ships and on vacations outside of the U.S. A cruise line spokesman, Bud Darr, Director of the environmental and health program of the cruise industry's trade group, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), Bud Darr - Cruise Line International Association attended.  

One of the participants asked Mr. Darr (photo right) a simple question: Do the cruise lines conduct background checks of their crew members?

Mr. Darr began to stutter. He didn't answer the question. He spun his response around & around & around saying that crime is rare and other gobbledygook until the participant couldn't remember the question.

But the answer is as simple as the question: No.

Cruise lines don't vet their employees. They rely on third-party hiring agents to try and screen the applicants. In places like India and the Caribbean, the hiring agents often accept (require) money from the applicant in order to get a job on a cruise ship. There is no incentive for a hiring agent to turn down a crew member who's willing to pay a little extra to get a job.

In places like Jamaica, the applicant has to obtain a certificate from a constable certifying that the applicant has no criminal record. But there is no computerized data-base for the local police in Ocho Rios, for example, to check whether a Jamaican has committed a crime in Negril or Kingston or other places in Jamaica. After a favor from an uncle or a little pay-o-la to a policeman who's making only $250 a month, anyone can appear with a stamped I'm-not-a-crook certificate and hop aboard a cruise ship.   

We have seen hiring agents in India tell the applicants that unless they list the Four Seasons, or the Hyatt, or the Hilton as a prior job, they would not be hired as a waiter on a Celebrity cruise ship. Falsification of a resume is not only a common practice, it's often required by the cruise lines' hiring agents. 

There's no chance of screening out pedophiles or child molesters. Think your cabin attendant is carefully screened and vetted?  No country in Central America or the Far East has a social-security-type database or a drivers license number system or a sexual criminal record collection practice. If a pedophile shows up with a certificate from God-knows-who that he not a criminal, he's welcome aboard. 

The worse though is not a country like India or Nicaragua. Its the cruise lines themselves. If a crew member aboard Disney has been fired on suspicion of molesting a child, Disney won't tell Carnival or Royal Caribbean. The security personnel of the cruise lines meet every 60 days. They may discuss the risk of a jihadist terrorist attack, but they don't tell each other about pedophiles on their own cruise ship's kid's centers or rapist-employees who molest teenage girls during cruises.  

We have seen cases where a Royal Caribbean rapist who was fired after a passenger alleged rape go to work for Princess, and a Princess rapist who was fired after raping an unconscious woman later join a NCL cruise ship.

99% of crew members are honest and hard-working individuals. But there are perverts, predators and sociopaths everywhere. The problem is that cruise lines have not invested the money necessary for an effective system to weed out the criminals who will prey on unsuspecting passengers and their children. The cruise industry would rather deny that there is an issue and avoid answering honest questions about the problem. 

New York Times Takes a Look at Cruise Ship "Mishaps"

The New York Times Travel Section published an article today about the topic of cruise ship "mishaps" such as collisions, fires, evacuations, groundings, and sinkings.

The problem is that there is no centralized agency collecting data about such incidents. Plus the cruise line industry is notoriously secretive about events that are inconsistent with the notion that cruising is a safe and enjoyable vacation. 

This means that web sites like this and the site Cruise Junkie operated by Professor Ross Klein have to fill the gap.

You can read the article here: How Normal Are Cruise Mishaps?

The New York Times interviewed me and cruise expert Professor Ross Klein.

The Carnival PR person said the usual propaganda, saying that cruise mishaps "are quite rare” and "Carnival's ships are extremely safe."  Lots of self-serving opinions and adjectives but the usual lack of statistics.

Carnival Cruise Ship Accidents

Here's the first comment to the article:

"Ah, for the days of deck chairs, hot bouillon, salt air, gentle strolls around the deck, dressing for dinner, a chance encounter with Dali walking a pair of Ocelots. Now it's down to the sea in floating Malls afloat in sewage. Captain, I think we're sailing backward."

Governor Parnell Continues to Advance Dirty Cruise Industry's Interests

Governor Parnell and the pro-cruise pollution legislators in Alaska have some new talking points in their efforts to weaken the cruise line waste water restrictions. They say that its not the cruise sewage that will harm the state's image but their opponents' "hype" that easing the standards will result in "dirty water and terrible discharges."        

Putting aside for a moment the nasty spectacle of dumping partially treated sewage into the water, the fact is that cruise ship water treatment devices clearly do not treat all of the wastewater discharged in Alaskan waters in compliance with Alaska’s water quality standards regarding ammonia, as well as the heavy metals - copper, nickel and zinc.

Alaska Cruise Ship Pollution It's unhealthy and dangerous to release these heavy metals into the waters where they will find their way in the fish, particularly salmon. 

Three years ago, the cruise industry flat out threatened Governor Parnell that it would boycott Alaska unless he would agree to work with the cruise lines to avoid pollution regulations. Read Governor Parnell Gets Punked.

Instead of demanding better technologies to address this problem, as required by the 2006 initiatives, Governor is heading the state in the other direction where no efforts will be made to address the problems with heavy metals. Meanwhile, the sewage (whether partially treated or not) will continue to fill the Alaskan waters.   

A newspaper in Ketchikan explains that this is a huge problem given the enormous amount of sewage and toxic by-products which cruise ships will dump in Alaskan waters:

"About 30 cruise ships carrying a total of nearly one million people visit Alaska over a five month period. This result is over one billion gallons of cruise discharges being dumped into unknown areas of Alaska state waters every year."

The newspaper also points out that on January 29th, as the relaxed laws were being fast tracked by legislators, Princess Cruises was fined $20,000 (a slap on the wrist) when one of its cruise ships, the 2,590 passenger Golden Princess, discharged 66,000 gallons of chlorinated pool water into Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.  

Zinc, nickel and copper in the fish and chlorine in the water. Alaska is heading backwards.

Read our last article on these disturbing developments in Alaska:

The Dirty Alaskan Cruise Industry Just Got Dirtier

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: 

 

 

Monster Cruise Ships Menace Venice

The UK's Mail Online newspaper has some interesting photographs today regarding the ongoing protests by environmental groups in Italy who are trying to protect the beautiful city of Venice from the effects of water pollution, air emissions and erosion of historical building by traffic from huge cruise ships.

Earlier this week we addressed this issue in our article Italian Environmentalists Urge Sofia Loren to Stop "Monster of the Sea" from Attacking Venice.  

Over the past 25 years, the number of cruise passengers cruising into Venice increased from 280,000 to 1,800,000 last year.

Over 650 gigantic cruise ships sail into Venice every year now.  Unlike the quaint gondolas historically associated with the city, cruise ships today are 1,000 feet long, weigh 140,000 tons and have drafts well over 25 feet. They pose a substantial risk to this fragile Italian city which is struggling against mass tourism and the deterioration of the city's underwater foundations. 

Here is my view of the problem last year: Are Cruise Ships Ruining Venice Or Just Memories From My Youth

Take a look at the spectacle below.  Do you trust the titans of the cruise industry with the survival of historical sites like this?  Do you trust the Micky Arisons of the world to be the curators of Venice?  

Cruise Ships - Venice - MSC Divina

Cruise Ships - Venice - MSC Divina

Photo credit: Getty Images via Mail Online 

'Ships of Shame" - Australia's 60 Minutes Looks at Cruise Ship Crime

Yesterday, Australia's 60 Minutes aired a special program investigating crimes on cruise ships.

The program mentioned the disappearance of Rebecca Coriam (from the Disney Wonder) and Merrian Carver (from the Celebrity Mercury), the outrageous circumstances surrounding the death of Dianne Brimble on a P & O cruise ship, and the sexual assault of a 15 year old girl aboard the Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas.

The program focuses on the problems posed by flags of convenience.  U.S. based cruise ships do not fly American flags but the flags of countries where the cruise ships are registered in order to avoid taxes, labor laws, and safety regulations. If you are on a victim of a crime on a cruise ship flagged in the Bahamas, Panama or Liberia, these countries have jurisdiction and will either do nothing or eventually assign a single policeman to investigate.  Not surprisingly, there are virtually no convictions in most cases of cruise ship crime.

The cruise lines refused to appear in the program, but sent a representative of the trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association, Michael Crye.  Mr. Crye is a lawyer who often appears in public for the cruise lines.  Appearing very nervous, he admitted that most Americans have no idea that a police officer from a third world country would be the representative who may (or may not) appear on the cruise ship following a crime.    

Take a few minutes and watch the program here: Ships of Shame.  

Documentary: Disasters at Sea - Why Ships Sink

The U.K.'s Channel 4 broadcast a cruise documentary tonight called "Disaster at Sea:  Why Ships Sink."

"Why Ships Sink" examines the issue of passenger safety at sea since the Titanic.  A film crew came to Miami last month and interviewed me and others involved in the cruise and maritime industries.

Unfortunately, the documentary is not yet available for airing in the U.S. so please excuse the "watch now" teaser on the website. The program will air in the U.S. in two weeks.  But if you are from the U.K. you should be able to watch the program online or catch it the next time it airs on Channel 4 (Tuesday April 10, 2012 12.05AM on Channel 4). 

Channel 4's write-up of the show is below:    

Disasters at Sea - Why Ships Sink"Nowadays, huge, extravagant cruise ships tower above the ocean surfaces, boasting state-of-the art shopping malls, cinemas and tennis courts, and offering arrays of bars and restaurants.

In spite of a century of advanced design and new technology and being built by the world's greatest expert marine engineers and scientists, lessons from the past are being constantly overlooked and these ships continue to sink.

The Titanic embarked on her maiden voyage in April 1912 and was the largest, heaviest, most expensive luxurious man-made moving object on the planet, built by the world's most skilled labour force.

Regardless of this, the ship sank after striking an iceberg, with catastrophic consequences, shocking the world and prompting a thorough investigation into the dangers at sea.

One hundred years later, the world received a frightening reminder of such deadly events when luxury cruise liner the Costa Concordia suffered a similar impact.

The ship was a palace of the ocean: it had a capacity of 3780 passengers and was 290m long and 31m high. Yet in January 2012, it capsized and sunk off the Tuscan coast in one of the worst disasters in the cruise industry's history.

Disaster at Sea: Why Ships Sink examines the complex web of design and construction weaknesses, navigational and human errors, and failures in evacuation plans, which contribute to the sinking of ships and the loss of passenger lives.

The documentary examines the science behind the individual tragedies of ships and features in-depth interviews with marine engineering experts to find out whether we can prevent another devastating disaster at sea."

 

Credit: Channel 4 

 

 

Are Cruise Ships Dangerously Top Heavy?

Ever since the Costa Concordia disaster, questions have been raised whether modern day cruise ships are being designed more dangerously by increasing their size to pile more and more passengers aboard.

There is no question that cruise ship are getting bigger and bigger.  You need look no further than Royal Caribbean's Genesis class (Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas) which each carry more than 8,000 passenger and crew members.

But it is not just that the cruise ships are getting "bigger" that may pose a danger.  Its that they are designed to be much, much taller, with the hotel structure some seventeen stories high.  The "floating Orchestra Cruise Shipcondos," as some call them, seem to be out-of-proportionally tall, perched precariously on a hull which seems incapable of safely supporting a structure towering hundreds of feet into the air. 

Yesterday, I posed the question on Twitter and facebook:  Are Cruise Ships Top Heavy?"  I received some interesting response, including this one:

Yes. Over 30 years ago the shipbuilders built a ship then put a hotel on the inside now they build a hotel/resort first and try and wrap a ship around it second.....these ships and I use this term very broadly should all be tied up at next available port and used as hotels only.

If this issue interests you, I suggest that you read an excellent article by blogger "Teddy Sheperd" entitled "Why Mega Cruise Ships Are Unsafe: Opinion."  

Mr. Sheperd explains that in the past, there was a reasonable and safe ratio between a vessel's draft (below the waterline) and air draft (above the waterline).  The cruise ships today have lost the reasonable proportions between what's below and above the waterline, making the vessels dependent on stabilizers not only to battle rough weather but to stay upright with only slight to moderate breezes. 

Take a read of Mr. Shepard's article and ask yourself whether you really want to take your family onto one of these floating sky-scrapper hotels when, God forbid, it loses power while encountering rough seas?

I do not pretend to be a naval architect.  I studied English and History at Duke.  It remains a mystery to me how jumbo jets can take off or huge ships can even float.  But you don't need to be an expert to have an opinion on this issue.  Mr. Sheperd reminds us of the old saying in boat building, "if it looks right, it is right."

Well, these cruise ships don't look right to me.  They look like condominiums ripped out of Collins Avenue on Miami Beach and placed on a barge.  They look eager to tip over.

 

Have an opinion whether cruise ships today are inherently unstable?  Please leave a comment below. 

 

Photo:  MSC's Orchestra cruise ship - draft of 7.88 metres (25.9 feet). 

Fallen Buildings, Sunken Ships & Missing Loved Ones

This weekend our television has alternated between college football games and documentaries about the horror of 9/11.

Where were you on 9/11? many of the special programs seem to ask.

Cruise Ship H.M.S Britania - Twin Towers - 9/11I was in my office talking to Dad who was with my Mom visiting my sister in Park City, Utah.  I was with him on the telephone when the first tower began to fall.  I remember him yelling "holy shit son the tower is falling!"   We then both hung up to watch the spectacle.   

There have been some insightful articles about how 9/11 disrupted our lives and changed our perspective of the world around us.   The Connecticut Post published an interesting article "A September Cruise Leads Passenger Home to a Changed City" which is the account of a real estate agent in Connecticut who goes with her husband on a cruise from Southampton when the plane struck the twin towers.

The twin towers gone.  How is that possible? 

The towers were a landmark that seemed to always be in the background of every cruise ship photographed in New York harbor.  I found such a photo and thought it might be appropriate to add it to this article.  But while uploading it, I realized that it shows the H.M.S Britanis which sank off of the coast of South Africa in October 2000. 

9/11 to me brought home the fact that all of us are here on planet earth for a limited period of time.  Great buildings can fall before our eyes.  Magnificent ships can sink out of sight as if they never existed.  Loved ones can leave us.   

But the images of our experiences and the voices of our loved ones remain vivid and distinct today.        

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

 

Photo credit: Chandris Fantasy Cruises via Odinnthor/Virtual Tourist 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oasis of the Seas - Key West

 

Cruise Lines Owe Jamaica More Than $12,000,000 In Unpaid Taxes?

An interesting editorial appears today in the Jamaica Gleaner about a proposal to increase the head tax on visitors who arrive via air to Jamaica from $10 to $20. The writer characterizes this proposed increase as unfair considering the head tax on cruise passengers is only $2 per person.  These taxes help pay the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) which funds projects that enhance Jamaica's tourism industry. 

Jamaica - Cruise Passenger - Head TaxBut the problem, according to the editorial, is that the cruise lines are refusing to pay Jamaica the head taxes collected by the cruise lines from the passengers:   

". . . the tax on cruise-ship passengers is US$2 per passenger, but the cruise lines mostly honour this obligation in the breach. They owe Jamaica more than US$12 million.

And unlike hotels, cruise lines pay little or no taxes in Jamaica and purchase little in the country."

Cruise lines already don't pay U.S. taxes themselves by incorporating their businesses and registering their cruise ships in foreign countries. 

Are the cruise lines charging head taxes on passengers who sail into Jamaica and keeping the money?  I'll ask the cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), for an explanation. 

Don't hold your breath waiting for its answer. 

 

Photo credit:  AOL Travel

Cuba: "Send in U.S. Cruise Ships and Watch Change Come"

I have written a couple of articles about the the cruise industry and Cuba lately, U.S. - Cuba Politics: No Cruise Ships In Havana and Royal Caribbean Intercepts Cuban Immigrants.  Notwithstanding the U.S. embargo of Cuba for over the past four decades, there is no question that U.S. based cruise ships will stop in Havana as an integral part of their Caribbean cruise itinerary in the near future.   Old man and evil dictator Castro was not a cruise ship fan, complaining that the cruise passengers brought little money but a lot of trash to his decrepit island.  But his younger and more pragmatic brother has signaled that cruise ships are welcome in Cuba.    

Cruise Ship - Havana Cuba But when will it happen?  President Obama promised to improve better relations with Cuba which is just 100 miles from Key West - about the same distance from Miami as Disney World in Orlando.  But so far, nothing.

The newspapers have recently been filled with articles about cruise ships from other countries, like England, Canada, and Russia, sailing into Cuba.  The U.K.'s Guardian carried the headlines "Cubans Give Warm Welcome to British Cruise Liner," the Latin America Herald Tribune declared "Cuba Expects Rise in Cruise Visits," and the Cuba Press blasted "Cuba Trying to Attract Canadian Cruise Tourists."

One of my favorite cruise bloggers, Captain Greybeard in England, wrote about a British cruise ship, the Thompson Dream, receiving a warm reception in Havana last week:   

"Cuba rolled out the red carpet for Thomson Dream and her 1,500 passengers yesterday on the cruise ship's first call at the capital, Havana.  Showgirls in sequined bikinis and feather head-dresses, a salsa band and dancing schoolchildren were among the welcoming party, and disembarking passengers were handed shots of rum."  Sounds like fun.

So what is the U.S.'s problem?  The world wants to know.

Frank Barrett, Travel Editor of the the U.K's Mail On Sunday, today writes an amusing yet insightful blog on the issue of cruising to Cuba.  He asks "why does America treat its neighbour like a pariah state?"  His solution, "send in the cruise ships and watch change come."  I agree.  Here is his most excellently written article:

"As 95 per cent of Americans are apparently unable to locate Texas on a map and think that Illinois is a country in Africa, you have to admire the persistence with which the US government has maintained its hate campaign against Cuba (for American readers: Cuba is an island 100 miles south of Key West.  Again for American readers: Key West is the nethermost point of Florida, a US State).

Walk down the main street of Big Butt, Idaho (a US State) and my guess is that 99 out of 100 people would have no idea where Cuba is, or who Fidel Castro might be (Clue: nothing to do with engine oil).

Cuba - Cruise Ships And yet, in certain recondite corners of the American government Dr Strangeloves let their missile launching fingers stray towards the red button whenever anyone mentions the word 'Havana' (capital of Cuba).

American diplomats spend so much of the world's resources in the Middle East trying to broker peace amongst the Israelis and Palestinians, you wonder that they don’t think about declaring peace nearer to home.

But still Americans risk being burned at the stake for the mere heresy of looking at a Cuban holiday brochure.  If they dared to travel there, they would promptly be zapped by a drone missile.
In terms of size and population, Cuba is less significant than a US state like Ohio, and yet it is treated with all the severity of Iran.

Cuba ought to be a key stop on Caribbean cruise itineraries. Yet no American cruise company can touch it with a barge pole.

So three cheers to Thomson for last week including Cuba on the itinerary of the Thomson Dream, the first large cruise ship to visit the island for five years.

Barack Obama came into office promising to build bridges with Cuba - and seems to have done almost nothing.  Thomson has done more with one cruise ship visit.

America needs to learn that, when it comes to fostering political change, tourism is the most effective weapon.  Trying to isolate Cuba has simply strengthened the Cuban will to resist.  Send in a thousand American cruise ships and revolution in Cuba will be inevitable  .  .  ."

 

Credits:

Havana Poster      cruiselinehistory.com

Photo             AP via Fort Mills Times