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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Passengers Injured After Rough Seas Pound AIDAprima

I received the following information from a regular reader of this blog, who wishes to remain anonymous. 

"Today's Bild (translates to "Picture", Germany's largest circulation daily) reports cruise ship Aida Prima was hit by 23 ft waves in the North Sea as it was returning to home port Hamburg on Friday evening from a week-long European itinerary.

All passengers were ordered back to their cabins. Ship is now safely back in port in Hamburg. Per the AIDAprima stormarticle, Aida cruise line confirmed the incident, including injuries to 'three passengers, 'two bruises and a bone fracture.'

Per the article, The Elbe (river connecting Hamburg to the North Sea) had been closed in the hurricane for ships - but the authorities made an exception for the Aida Prima. 'She was allowed to enter and reached the berth at the cruise terminal Steinwerder at 7.45 am. The resulting material damage could not be quantified today.'

The Bild story with stills and video is here, entitled 'Our chaos night on the Aida.'

In the video, it appears that the ship rocked so violently that the chest-high glass barrier around the bar pool broke, sending water cascading onto deck 15. Furniture is being tossed as passengers and crew make their way across the deck."

Many thanks to the anonymous reader for the information.  You can watch the video on our Facebook page.  

Photo credit: Bild

Families of Children With Autism File Suit Against Royal Caribbean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a thought? Please leave a comment on our Facebook page. 

Photo Credit: Incredible World / ABC News / Youtube

"Curse of the Seas" Returns to New Jersey for Noro Cleaning

Passengers on the Anthem of the Seas are stating that as of Monday, as the cruise ship continued to head back to New Jersey for deep cleaning, the captain informed them that 109 passengers are sick with norovirus.

Other passengers also tell me that there are more than this sick, but they don't want to go to the medical facility.    

According to the CDC, cruise lines are required to provide notification to the federal agency when the gastrointestinal illness (GI) count exceeds 2% of the total number of passengers or crew onboard. The CDC-required notification is for totals for the entire voyage.

There are between 4,180 passengers (double occupancy) and 4,905 passengers (maximum occupancy) on the cruise ship so 2% turns out to be between 83 and 98 passengers. So expect Anthem of the Seas - Norovirusthe CDC to officially announce that the Anthem to be the fourth U.S. based cruise ship with an norovirus outbreak this year. 

The much ballyhooed "severe storm" that supposedly caused Royal Caribbean to cancel two days of the cruise is nowhere to be seen, as passengers report good weather and calm cruising. 

Royal Caribbean, which didn't mention the topic of norovirus until passengers went to Twitter complaining of the virus outbreak, denied on Twitter that the outbreak was the reason behind returning to port in New Jersey early. But many news sources blended norovirus into the story after an executive with the Associated Press aboard the cruise ship said that the ship’s captain and its cruise director made announcements about norovirus sickening people on the ship.

The AP executive was also quoted saying that the cruise ship "workers are scurrying around like ants, scrubbing down handrails, tables and any other surfaces that can be washed" - an apt although somewhat derogatory description. This is hardly what the cruise line wants the passengers to think about on a cruise marketed as a relaxing pleasure cruise.  

Whoever you believe, whether the Anthem of the Seas is returning to avoid the so-called storm or because of a virus outbreak, there is no doubt that the Anthem's reputation is being mauled in the court of public opinion.  New York Magazine called her the "bad luck cruise ship."  CNN calls her the seemingly perpetually "storm battered" cruise ship. Some people on Twitter are asking "Anthem of the Seas: Cursèd ship of doom, or just a run of bad luck?"  

Of course, any mention of the Anthem today is accompanied by photos and video of the raucous cruise earlier this month which reminds everyone of the fact that the ill-fated ship sailed into the violent storm.

The "cursed" cruise ship theme was blasted in the headlines of the popular U.K. tabloid newspaper the Daily Mail which asked "Is the Anthem of the Seas Cursed?" The Inquisitr, Newsmax, and the Examiner, among others, all joined the Daily Mail in labeling the Anthem "cursed" in their news Anthem of the SEas Norovirusarticles.   

So the overworked crew members continue to spray and scrub everything in sight. Photos sent to me from the ship show the crew members wiping all rails and counters (photo top) and wrapping a rack of cookies-(photo bottom) with a Saran-Wrap like film, apparently to keep the surfaces and food clean. (I have never seen this before).  

Regarding the crew members who had to deal with storm-frazzled passengers three weeks ago, and are now pressed into non-stop noro-eradication measures, I'm sure that they feel that the Anthem of the Seas may indeed be cursed.

March 1, 2016 Update 5:00 PM:  The CDC disease data-base just listed the Anthem of the Seas. It lists "unknown" rather than norovirus so we may find out that there is some other source of infection like e-coli or something more exotic. 125 passengers and 16 crew members are infected at this point. The CDC recommends sending 10 more crew members and 10 contract cleaners to the ship as well as 4 Hotel and Housekeeping Operations Managers, 3 Public Health staff, one nurse from the cruise line corporate office.   

A newspaper in New Jersey published a story that quotes a passenger on the cruise ship saying that the CDC came on the ship in Puerto Rick and tested for e-coli.  

Anthem of the Seas Lawsuits: Royal Caribbean Recklessly Sailed Into Storm

Today, Miami lawyers filed suit on behalf of a cruise passenger who sailed aboard the Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas on Sunday, February 7th. The Lipcon law firm, based here in Miami, has filed a proposed class action lawsuit against Royal Caribbean in Federal Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Anyone who has read this blog in the last two weeks knows how I feel about the cruise in question. There is little doubt that the cruise line acted recklessly by ignoring weather forecasts of hurricane strength winds and 30 foot waves of this Altantic winter storm.  The winds strengthened, as to be expected in a storm like this, to well over 100 MPH. Many passengers experienced Anthem of the Seas Storm Lawsuitterrifying experiences where some passengers were fearful of losing their lives and those of their loved ones on the cruise ship.    

The Anthem of the Seas returned to New Jersey with severe damage to its propulsion system, among other damage. 

The captain of the Anthem of the Seas said during a talk to the passengers after the storm that he expected waves of only 12 to 15 foot waves.  But weather forecasts indicate that much higher waves, to over 30 feet, were expected. This means that the cruise line did not provide accurate weather reports to the captain or he ignored them. Navigation officers are required to up load "passage plans" pursuant to the the International Safety Management (ISM) codes before they sail. This information will quickly reveal exactly what weather conditions the captain anticipated during the ill-fated cruise in question.      

ABC reports that any passenger who was on the ship can be represented in the lawsuit, which covers both passengers who suffered physical injuries and those passengers who are alleging only severe emotional, psychological and emotional stress. 

You can read the lawsuit papers here.

At least one other lawsuit was filed last week by a lawyer in Houston, Texas.

Our firm will be representing passengers who sustained physical injuries during the storm.  

Cruise lines ordinarily have a duty of only "reasonable care" under the circumstances. But in instances of rough weather, cruise lines have a much higher duty of care toward the passengers. Some characterize this duty as the "highest duty of care" of the passengers when the ship is expected to encounter rough weather.  

Can it seriously be argued that Royal Caribbean exercised "high care" when it sailed 4,500 passengers, including the elderly and children, into a winter storm forecast to bash the ship with hurricane strength winds and waves over 30 feet?  

Read our last article on the Anthem of the Seas fiasco.

Is the Anthem of Seas More Unseaworthy Than It Looks?

Anthem of the Seas StormThe maritime blog gCaptain published an article yesterday, written by Rick Spilman, author of the well written Old Salt blog, titled Anthem of the Sea - is She  Seaworthy?  The Old Salt blog takes issue with an article I wrote several years ago entitled Are Cruise Ships Dangerously Top Heavy?

In my article I was critical of the cruise industry's trend to build these jam-packed mega cruise ships of today - the 'floating condo" as some call them, which "seem to be out-of-proportionally tall, perched precariously on a hull which seems incapable of safely supporting a structure towering hundreds of feet into the air."  Fours years ago, I said that these monster ships "look like condominiums ripped out of Collins Avenue on Miami Beach and placed on a barge. They look eager to tip over."

I am more convinced today of these observations after the Anthem of the Seas debacle this past week. 

Commenting on the recent fiasco, the Old Salt blog stated that the cruise ship passed the test of encountering a major storm. It said that the cruise ship "survived" what it characterized as a "full-scale blowout trial in highly dangerous conditions." It pointed out that "no one died or was seriously injured" and "the ship made it into port under its own power."

The Old Salt blog scoffed at the notion that the Anthem of the Seas was "unsafe" and concluded that the gigantic cruise ship and others designed like it "are a lot more seaworthy than they look."

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

So putting differing opinions aside, the undisputed fact of the matter is that the Anthem of the Seas sustained significant damage to its propulsion system during the storm and returned to port unseaworthy.

The failure of portions of the cruise ship's propulsion system is very troubling  It raises an issue which I discussed in my article four years ago: "ask yourself whether you really want to take your family onto one of these floating sky-scrapper hotels when, God forbid, it loses power while encountering rough seas?"

If the Anthem's propulsion was further disabled during the storm, the cruise ship would be in serious trouble. 

“Major casualties are the result of synergy from multiple causes. If one bad thing happens, you probably get through it,” maritime law litigator and law professor Larry Brennan told the media. “If a ship loses propulsion in a storm, it’s at the mercy of the seas. Instead of cosmetic or structural damage, there’s a much better chance that a ship can be lost.”

Cruise passengers claim that the waves crashed over the top of the lifeboats tethered along the side of the Anthem of the Seas as the ship listed heeled heavily to one side. Even if passengers could have gotten into the lifeboats, this class of Royal Caribbean ships does not have enough lifeboats for both passengers and crew members. The ship is designed such that the crew are forced to use a system of sliding down chutes into life-rafts - a dangerous design even in pleasant weather. Panic may cause the crew members and the passengers to compete to get into the lifeboats which are far safer than the life-rafts. As I explained and illustrated in my article Titanic Redux, there is a danger of the tether ropes breaking, the chutes twisting, or the life-rafts ripping away from the chutes during the type of rough weather which the Anthem faced this week.  

Of course a vessel can be unseaworthy not only when it is designed in an unsafe manner, or it is in state of disrepair, but when the vessel has unsafe procedures. The fact of the matter is that the Anthem of the Seas and other huge cruise ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet do not have a safe means of evacuating passengers and crew members at sea, particularly in dangerous storm conditions.

But most passengers don't seem to be aware of this dangerous practice. The Anthem is claimed to be a technological marvel with all types of bells and whistles to wow the passengers: from being served by a robotic waiter to simulated surfing on the FlowRider to simulated sky diving on the iFly to riding on the North Star. But it has no way to evacuate people safely if disaster strikes, which almost happened last week.

All issues considered, I would say that the Anthem of the Seas is far more unseaworthy than it looks.

Images credit: Weather Nation YouTube - top

Anthem of the Seas Returns to New Jersey: Has Royal Caribbean Learned a Lesson?

Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas StormThe storm-ravaged Anthem of the Seas is returning to port in New Jersey tonight with around 4,500 passengers aboard, many of whom feel traumatized by the cruise to the Bahamas run amok.

Many passengers on the cruise ship have contacted our office to complain that they literally feared for their lives and those of their families when the ship sailed into the predicted storm earlier this week. Many couples say that they told their partners that they loved them and said goodbye, afraid that as the cruise ship was rocked by 30 foot waves and blasted by 125+ MPH winds the ship would list over and they would drown in the surging ocean.

Many passengers also told me that they knew that there would be no way to safely board life boats in light of the high winds and intense waves if they had to abandon ship. They mentioned their panicked children who saw the fear in their parents' eyes of perishing at sea.

Today I was interviewed by several local news stations in New York City, including the local CBS station channel 2 (video below) about the cruise line's ill-fated decision to cruise into the storm

Meanwhile, it appears that Royal Caribbean has come to the realization that it made a mistake by not paying attention to the weather forecasts (which accurately predicted that there would be a storm developing with waves predicted of over 30 feet). Travel Market reports that Royal Caribbean has formed a shoreside team of meteorologists and captains to monitor the weather and advise the navigational teams of its cruise ships of storms and whether it is prudent to proceed.

Royal Caribbean sent the following statement to the media:

"Anthem of the Seas will return to Cape Liberty, NJ this evening, and we are grateful for the safe return of our guests and crew.

We apologize for exposing our guests and crew to the weather they faced, and for what they went through.

Our ship and our crew performed very well to keep everyone safe during severe weather. Of more than 6000 people on board, only four minor injuries were reported.

Despite that fact, the event, exceptional as it was, identified gaps in our planning system that we are addressing. Though that system has performed well through many instances of severe weather around the world, what happened this week showed that we need to do better.

The severity of Sunday's storm, with its sustained 120-mph winds, far exceeded forecasts. Even so, it is our responsibility to eliminate every surprise we possibly can.

As of today, we are strengthening our storm avoidance policy, and have added resources at our Miami headquarters to provide additional guidance to our ships' captains.

As for Anthem of the Seas, much of the superficial damage caused by the storm has been repaired. We expect to resume her planned itinerary for next week's cruise.

Again, we offer our apologies to our guests and crew." 

Statement courtesy of local ABC station 7 in New York City.

 

Master of the Anthem of the Seas: Storm Not Accurately Forecast

A YouTube video of the Master of the Anthem of the Seas was broadcast to the staterooms on the Anthem of the Seas internal channel the day after the storm. A passenger, Sean Ferguson, recorded it with his iPhone.

The captain stated that, in his opinion, the low pressure system was not forecast accurately and the Anthem of the Seas faced wind and wave conditions much worse than were forecast.

His comments are in stark contrast to a number of meteorologists who have stated that the storm was accurately forecast last week. Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell, a local meteorologist from Ohio, posted photographs of the damage on his Facebook page. Another meteorologist, Ryan Maue, a "digital meteorologist for WeatherBell Analytics, said it's hard to believe no one at Royal Caribbean had been aware of a storm system that had been forecast — and included in official advisories and warnings issued by the National Weather Service — days in advance, " says NJ.com in the article Royal Caribbean ripped by weather pro for routing 'Anthem' cruise ship into storm.

The meteorologists at the Weather Channel were highly critical of Royal Caribbean last night and stated that the storm was accurately predicted in several programs and widely reported. The Weather Channel broadcast images showing that the seas were predicted to be over 30 feet last week (see photo below), which sharply contrasted with the Royal Caribbean captain's claim that the waves were forecast to be only 12 to 15 feet in height.   

Of interest is the Master's statement that the winds which rocked the cruise ship were up to 170 MPH which is actually higher than the estimates of many terrified passengers who contacted us of around 150 MPH.  He also stated that the passenger were understandably extremely uncomfortable and fearful of the weather conditions.

Ar the 18 minute mark of the video, the Master used an online chart from PassageWeather.com which, ironically, accurately predicted the development of this storm before the Anthem of the Seas sailed into danger. 

Al Roker, the popular television weatherman on the Today Show, best summed up Royal Caribbean's claim that the storm was not predicted:  "Royal Caribbean's claim that this was not predicted is bullfeathers.

USA TODAY published Meteorologists: Royal Caribbean blew it on sailing into storm. 

Florida Senator Bill Nelson was quoted in the press asking why would the ship continue right into the path of the ferocious storm that had been predicted at least four days on February 3rd, before the cruise encountered it, according to the Daily Mail.

Storm Anthem of the Seas Cruise

 

Anthem of the Seas Cruises Into Rough Weather

Anthem of the Seas StormRoyal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas was pounded by rough weather last night, according to passengers leaving comments, photos and video on the internet.

New accounts initially indicated that there was no damage to the cruise ship or injuries to the passengers but this notion was quickly dispelled by images of extensive damage caused by the storm.

Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell, posted photographs of the damage on his Facebook page.

The storm was the result of a sudden although predictable intensification known as "bombogenesis," which is explained by this article in Forbes magazine.

ABC News reported that "after seeing pictures and people’s comments on Twitter and other social media platforms, the USCG contacted the Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas to check in.”

Passengers contacted us indicating that several guests were injured in the mayhem caused by the hurricane strength 125+ MPH winds and 30+ foot waves.  

The cruise line said initialy that it would be late getting to Port Canaveral but later said that the Anthem would return to New Jersey. Passengers would be refunded 100% and, in addition, receive 50% of their fares a future cruise credit in compensation. 

The storm and damage to the ship reminds me of a harrowing incident on the Brilliance of the Seas when several passengers were seriously injured when a storm hit the Royal Caribbean cruise ship in December 2010. The ship tried to outrun a known storm into Alexandria, Egypt. Royal Caribbean tried to spin the story in the media, saying that the storm was far worse than expected. 

Watch Top Five Worst Cruise Ship Disaster Videos

February 8 2016 Update: Seems that Royal Caribbean is playing the "unforseeable" weather game again. Weather professionals are not buying it  - Royal Caribbean ripped by weather pro for routing 'Anthem' cruise ship into storm. Also read 4,000-passenger cruise ship inexplicably sails into Atlantic mega-storm.  The Weather Channel pointed out that several weather programs predicited the high waves and high winds last week, and questioned where the cruise line obtained its weather forecasts.

February 9 2016 UpdateMaster of the Anthem of the Seas: Storm Not Accurately Forecast.

Image Credit: NOAA/NASA via Forbes

Storm Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas

Terror on the Costa neoRomantica as High Winds Bash Cruise Ship

Costa neoRomanticaA number of newspapers in Europe are reporting that the Costa neoRomantica sustained damage which it encountered high winds and rough weather last Wednesday night. 

An Italian newspaper reported that the Costa cruise ship was hit by high waves (seven meters) raised by gusts of wind that exceeded 125 kilometers per hour. The neoRomantica was sailing from Trapani to Marseille when it was struck by violent gusts of wind.

The cruise ship had to drop one of its giant anchors and skip the port of Marseille. The neoRomantica had to dock in Savona. Costa has use buses to transport passengers from Savona to Marseilles. 

The Italian Crociere in Diretto blog and Facebook page contains accounts of the storm and photographs of the damage to the ship. Many cabins were flooded with water and there was a loss of power and black-out during the storm. Passengers were frightened and some had to stay in the hallways.

You can also read accounts of the storm in La Provence newspaper where passengers claimed that they were not kept informed by the captain or crew. 

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

 

Photo Credit: Rosalba Scarrone Administrator Liveboat.it

What Happened on this Costa Cruise Ship?

Costa Cruise A reader of Cruise Law News sent me a link to this Costa crew member's Facebook page which contains video and photographs of hundreds of broken dishes in the ship's galley.

It appears that the cruise ship experienced some type of incident affecting the ship's navigational system; I'm not sure of the details.

You can see a video of the damage here

I have seen this type of damage before in cases of rough weather, but it appears that poor seamanship may have been a contributing factor in this incident.

Does anyone know about this incident, including the name of the Costa ship and the itinerary? 

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

September 25 2014 Update: We received a number of comments on our Facebook page indicating that the cruise ship involved was the Costa Fascinosa. An Italian newspaper says that the cruise ship was sailing from Venice to the Greek islands when it was struck by bad weather and rough seas for two hours. The newspaper says (translated) the ship "yanked from the waves and with one engine failed, it began to turn on itself. It was like being on a spinning top."

Passengers described "glasses, plates and utensils flying in the air." Several passengers fell "driven by the centrifugal force" imposed by rotation of the ship. People cried and prayed.  

Another Italian newspaper refers to the ship being hit by a water-spot / tornado. The article has a video of the captain's announcement about the storm. The captain reportedly informed the passengers to put life jackets on.

Costa released the following statement today: "We are very sorry for what happened and any inconvenience this caused. We confirm that the evening of 22 September, the Costa Fascinosa met with winds over 90 knots that have influenced the course and met with the inclination of the hull . . . The command of he ship immediately activated the procedures necessary to re-establish a regular and normal navigation, and then proceeded to warn and assist passengers. Costa has taken the route planned in the program."   

 

Photo Credit: Facebook

 

MSC Magnifica Runs Aground in Pireaus

MSC Magnifica PiraeusA number of news sources in Greece are reporting that a MSC cruise ship ran aground (note correction below) today at the southeast Greek port of Piraeus. Greek port authorities released the information. 

There were no injuries or major damage arising from the accident with the Panama-flagged ship Magnifica, the port authorities said. Bad weather conditions were apparently a factor in the incident. 

One news account says that maritime experts are currently investigating the accident, while most of Greece continued to be swept by storms today. 

The cruise ship's bridge cam at this time (image below) shows the cruise ship docked in Piraeus with calm conditions. In addition to the Magnifica, other cruise ships at the port of Pireaus today include the Rotterdam, Ruby Princess and the Constellation.

The Magnifica was reportedly carrying 2,469 passengers and 976 crew members.

If you have any information about the grounding, please leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.

November 20 2013 Update: A number of readers informed me that the cruise ship allided with the left breakwater at the port of Piraeus and sustained slight damage to the portside hull above the waterline. This Greek newspaper article confirms an allision and not a grounding.  (Definition of "allision:" when a vessel strikes a fixed object; versus a "collision" when two vessel strike each other.)

You can see another photo of damage to the breakwater/pier here.

Very clear views of the damage to the breakwater and damage to the cruise ship can be seen here.

See video of the damage here.

See our additional photos of the damage to the interior of the cruise ship are here.

Photo credit top: http://www.tanea.gr/

MSC Magnifica Cruise Ship Web Cam

Rough Weather Lawsuit: A Lynch Mob Forms at USA TODAY's CruiseLog

Last week I mentioned a compensation claim filed in the U.K. at London's High Court following the death of a doctor, Michael Bedford, age 70, who lost his life while cruising as a passenger aboard the MV Athena. Dr. Bedford fell down a flight of stairs on the cruise ship as it sailed to North America during a storm. He later died due to his injuries.   

The gist of the claim is that the cruise ship was negligent in not heeding weather warnings or providing safety warnings to the doctor and other passengers. Sixteen passengers are also suing for injuries claimed in the rough weather.

There was not a lot of information on BBC News which mentioned the death.  So I can't comment on the specifics of the storm and the details of the ensuing death and multiple injuries.  But Athena Cruise Ship - Storm - Lawsuitthere are some generalizations which I have learned over the years handling injury and death cases due to rough weather.

First, most injuries are entirely preventable. If the navigational officers utilize their available systems and convey meaningful and timely warnings to the passengers and crew, all passengers and crew should be ordered to stay in their cabins until the high winds and rough waves pass.  All activities on the cruise ship - like dinners, shows, casinos - should be shut down and there should be no one walking around the ship.  

The situation is particularly serious when elderly quests are involved.  Some cruise lines have standardized procedures requiring crew members to be positioned near stairwells and elevators to make certain that the passengers get safely back to their cabins when a storm strikes. 

Maritime law requires cruise ships to exercise the highest degree of care to its guests when rough weather strikes.

Dr. Bedford's wife stated that "Michael was a disciplinarian and would have stayed in his cabin if he was told to do so by the ship's Captain."

No one should forget the two deaths and serious injuries to 14 passengers on the Louis Majesty cruise ship during rough weather in the Mediterranean where passenger were permitted to freely walk around the cruise ship. No one would have died if the officers warned the passengers and instructed them to return to their cabins.

A similar incident occurred two years ago where a passenger died and multiple passengers were injured during rough weather which struck the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas as it was heading to port in Egypt.  The cruise line denied all liability but thereafter paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements and the Royal Caribbean captain was relieved of his command.    

So it was disturbing today to see the flippant and disrespectful comments to the account of the deadly storm tossed cruise ship in the popular USA TODAY cruise log by Gene Sloan.  Here are the reader comments:

Steve Clouther - Please, give me a break  . . The cruise line should sue them for attempting to tarnish their reputation.

Mona Graham - . . .  this is ridiculous.

Martin Lynn Vogel - Lawyers are vultures.

Chip Gay -· The judge better throw it out or you will see lawsuit rain. I got hurt on a passenger train, because of the thunderstorm. I was on a bus and we did some hydroplaining (sic) and it made me poop my pants .  .  . 

Hanno Phoenicia - Please put these passengers and their lawyers on a leaky boat and throw them overboard.

Corcho Ekim - Drown the crybabies.

Even the moderator of the cruise blog, Gene Sloan, got into the fun with a comment on Twitter: Says one @CruiseLog reader of lawsuit over stormy weather on cruise across Atlantic: "What a bunch of nonsense!"

Of course, there is nothing nonsensical where someone dies on a cruise ship, particularly an elderly passenger trying to navigate a flight of stairs during rough weather, apparently without assistance.

The disturbing thing about the Cruise Log comments is that there was no debate, no difference of opinion, no intelligent discourse, no understanding of the laws which govern the situation, and no interest in being informed. Only contempt for the dead and injured, seemingly egged on by its moderator.

 

Photo Credit:  Athena Cruise Ship - thisisplymouth.co.uk

More Cruise Line PR Games: Royal Caribbean Releases Private Medical Information About Dead Passenger

This weekend we reported on a lawsuit which had been filed against Royal Caribbean over the death of a 56 year old passenger, Barbara Davey (photo below left).  The deceased passenger's husband, John Davey, stated to the Scottish and U.K. media that "Barbara was tossed around like a ragdoll and was seriously hurt" during the violent storm which rocked the Brilliance of the Seas as the cruise ship approached Alexandria Egypt.  Three days later Ms. Davey lapsed into a coma and subsequently died.  Doctors apparently diagnosed a "brain ­hemorrhage" as the cause of death.

Barbara Davey - John Davey - Brilliance of the Seas - DeathThis morning USA Today's CruiseLog picked up on the story in an article "Passenger on Storm-Tossed Cruise Says Event Led to Wife's Death."

Royal Caribbean responded to the USA Today article with a rather remarkable spin:

"Royal Caribbean is disputing the notion that the stormy weather encountered by Brilliance of the Seas had a role in Davey's death, telling USA TODAY that her illness was the result of a pre-existing medical condition.  Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Michelle Nadeem says the ship's doctor was called to Davey's cabin on the second day the vessel was in Malta, three days after the ship hit rough seas, and the doctor quickly determined she had an acute medical emergency and called an ambulance.

'She was taken to the hospital where she remained in critical condition,' Nadeem says, adding that Davey never lost consciousness while on the ship. "The Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Medical Department has determined that Mrs. Davey's acute medical emergency was caused by a preexisting medical condition unrelated to the listing of the ship.' "

I have seen some pretty nasty cruise line PR statements over the years, but this one takes the cake. 

Medical information divulged by a patient to a doctor is strictly confidential in most civilized countries.  In the U.S., patients have privacy rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Michelle Nadeem Cruise Line PR - Royal CaribbeanAccountability Act ("HIPAA") which prohibits medical providers (including cruise doctors) from releasing any information about patients to anyone (including newspaper reporters to say the least!) unless there has been HIPAA-compliant medical releases executed.

But this is the anything-goes world of cruising where privacy rights be damned.  And this is Royal Caribbean which has the worst cruise reputation in the world.  Only the "Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Medical Department" could justify disclosing to the world that Ms. Davey not only had a "pre-existing" medical condition but definitively state that the alleged "pre-existing" condition killed her.

The USA Today article quotes Royal Caribbean spokesperson Michelle Nadeem (photo above right) as the source of the leaked medical information.  The cruise line's PR release when it hired Ms. Nadeem indicates that she is experienced in crisis management, reputation management, social responsibility, and healthcare issues.  She reports directly to the cruise line's CEO,  Richard Fain.   

Now that the death of Ms. Davey has reached the national media, Royal Caribbean wants to set the record straight  -  it's Ms. Davey's fault that she is dead, not the violent rocking of the Royal Caribbean cruise ship which threw her around her cabin like a rag doll.   And the cruise line was prepared to reveal the confidential medical history of a dead woman to prove its point. 

January 31, 2011 Update:  Ms. Nadeem again released Ms. Davey's medical history and information from her medical records to the popular on line cruise community, Cruise Critic.    

 

For additional information about Royal Caribbean's unique style of manging its reputation, consider reading: The Cruise Industry's Reputation - A Sinking Image

Photo credits:

Top      The Courier UK

Bottom        Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

Royal Caribbean Sued for Passenger Death on Storm Tossed Brilliance of the Seas

The Scottish and British press are reporting on a lawsuit filed (or to be filed) against Royal Caribbean following the death passenger who was thrown about her cabin during the December 14, 2010 storm and lapsed into a coma.  Barbara Davey, age 56, was cruising on Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas when the cruise ship failed to make port in Alexandria before a storm hit the ship.

One article: "Passenger Dies after Cruise Ship Sails into 80mph Storm" mentions that the passenger died from what is described as a "brain ­hemorrhage" after the cruise ship was hit by a ­Brilliance of the Seas - Royal Caribbean - Cruise ship"horrific 80 mph storm."

In another article, the passenger's husband, John Davey, describes the ordeal as follows: "Barbara was tossed around like a ragdoll and was seriously hurt. When the storm calmed, the ship's interior was smashed to pieces . . .  Three days later, she lapsed into unconsciousness before my eyes, fell into a coma, and never woke up."  Her husband recently made the difficult decision to remove his wife from life support.

We have written a number of article about the poor seamanship and the cruise line's effort to down play the incident:

Ferocious Storm Batters Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Calls on "Captain Hollywood" to the Rescue Following the Latest Brilliance of the Seas Debacle

Will Royal Caribbean Release CCTV Video of the Brilliance of the Seas During the Storm?

 

January 31, 2011 Update:  Royal Caribbean plays hardball:  Royal Caribbean Releases Private Medical Information About Dead Passenger

 

Photo credit:  anspics Flickr page

Will Royal Caribbean Release CCTV Video of the Brilliance of the Seas During the Storm?

Pacific Sun Storm CCTV VideoThere have been a number of articles about Royal Caribbean initial efforts to down-play the effects of the storm which rocked the Brilliance of the Seas off of the coast of Egypt last week.  The cruise lines corporate office here in Miami are electronically linked to the cruise ships and  instantly receive electronic images and video transmitted from the ships to the corporate offices at the port in Miami.

There undoubtedly are incredible closed circuit television (CCTV) video from the vessel's surveillance and security cameras showing the interior of the Brilliance as it violently rocked from side to side.  But the company keeps CCTV tapes like this secret to avoid embarrassing images being shown around the world.  

Just last September the internet was a buzz today with the release of CCTV films of the interior of the P&O Cruises' Pacific Sun, which ran into a bout of heavy weather in June 2008.

P&O also understated the effects of the storm on the cruise ship and passengers, and it was successful keeping the CCTV under wraps for over two years.

But the video (below) finally made its way out of P&O's control this fall.  When the truth came out, the public went nuts and the video went viral!  The CCTV shows complete bedlam.  A number of passenger were injured. You can clearly see one young lady smash her face into a column at the 47 second mark in the first video of the lounge area.  A second video (not shown) is of a lower deck showing a forklift narrowly miss running over a crew member.

Cruise lines are experts keeping video like this secret.  The risk management departments of cruise lines keep these types of video away from the public's eyes. This permits the cruise lines to contest the passengers' accounts of injuries and lets the defense lawyers claim that the passengers are exaggerating.

Would you have believed what occurred in the video if you did not see it?

What honest soul at the cruise line will leak similar CCTV videos of the Brilliance during the storm to the public?  

 

 

Royal Caribbean Calls on "Captain Hollywood" to the Rescue Following the Latest Brilliance of the Seas Debacle

I have been critical of Royal Caribbean's PR skills over the years, thinking that this particular cruise line's credibility is at the bottom  of the cruise industry.  So when RCCL announced after the terrifying storm which rocked the the Brilliance of the Seas and injured its passengers that the cruise ship "had full power and was operating as normal" and that no passengers were "seriously injured," I thought here we go again - another misleading PR statement.

Brilliance of the Seas - Storm - Cruise  RCCL has pulled this stunt time and time again, quickly issuing misleading statements in the hope that the media will quote its carefully crafted misinformation and then the story will quickly blow over.

This strategy didn't work with the Brilliance storm story.  The storm was too big.  And the damage to the ship's interior and to the passengers' psyche were too extensive. 

Multiple media sources revealed that the ship was clearly not operating "as normal."  The ship was a complete mess.  Televisions were ripped from their mountings lying broken on the floor, glass shattered everywhere, furniture tumbled and passengers were thrown like rag dolls throughout the ship which looked like a bomb had exploded inside. 

Royal Caribbean couldn't sweep this one under the rug. The national networks - ABC, CBS, and NBC - featured dramatic photographs and video taken by passengers aboard the cruise ship.  Dianne Sawyer's news show earlier this week revealed the terror aboard the Brilliance as it was rocked and rolled off of the coast of Egypt in the middle of the night.  ABC ran a story that the passengers were "in revolt."  AOL News and USA Today ran stories that over 100 passengers appeared in the ship infirmary for injuries. 

Royal Caribbean's everything-is-okay PR statement was overwhelmed by the power of YouTube where passengers on the cruise ship post videos and photos of the spectacle for the world to see.  The discrepancy of what these photos (below) showed versus what the cruise line said magnified this cruise line's lack of transparency.

Royal Caribbean finally acknowledged that the incident was indeed "serious" and some passengers were seriously injured (broken bones).   Royal Caribbean also agreed to reimburse the entire cruise fare for all passengers and provided an onboard credit. 

Brilliance of the Seas - Storm - Cruise ShipCaptain Hollywood To The Rescue

The cruise line then called on its Vice President of Marine Operations, William Wright, to appear before the media and answer questions about  what happened. 

Captain Wright flew from Miami to Valletta Malta and was ready when reporters began to interview the Master of the Brilliance, Captain Erik Tengelsen, who has a reputation for being honest and forthright.  Captain Tengelsen was at the helm when he was trying to outrun the storm into the crowded port of Alexandria.  He knew there was a storm on his tail, but when he slowed down at the port in Egypt, the stabilizers lost their effectiveness.  The cruise ship was a sitting duck. 

When Captain Tengelsen told the reporter that the incident was "horrific" and that he knew that a storm had forecast to blow to 45 knots and then gusted to 50 to 60 knots, Captain Wright saw danger brewing.  He quickly interjected that "Mother Nature is fickle" and the weather must have been a surprise. (see video below)  Clearly, Captain Wright had been sent to baby sit the ship and make certain no damaging PR statements with legal implications were made by the vessel's officers.  He shut Captain Tengelsen up and took over the show.       

Royal Caribbean also produced a short YouTube video back in its Miami corporate office. Wearing a friendly open collar and sweater with palm tress swaying behind him, Captain Wright provides a reassuring and calming cadence to bring the public's focus away from the horrific storm off of Egypt.  No real information as usual, but a nice relaxing video to calm everyone down. 

Many in the media loved it.  A very popular cruise blog in the U.K, picked up on the feel-good vibe and Royal Caribbean pulled off a PR comeback with "Full Refund for Brilliance Passengers."

A Seasoned Media Pro 

This is not the first time that Captain Wright has been used as a PR ploy for the cruise line.  He Captain William Wright - Captain Hollywood - Royal Caribbean was the media star for Royal Caribbean following the last high profile incident involving the Brilliance of the Seas.

Our firm was first introduced to Captain Wright when he was pushed to the front of a PR war our firm was engaged in following the death of George Smith during his honeymoon cruise on this very cruise ship, the Brilliance of the Seas, in July 2005.  We represented Mr. Smith's widow.  The cruise line wanted the public to think that her husband's disappearance was just an accident, whereas many thought that Mr. Smith met with foul play.  Royal Caribbean handled the circumstances after George Smith's death badly.  It paraded a number of employees from its corporate communications, human relations and security departments in front of the cameras to carry the Royal Caribbean "its-just-an-accident" message - only to see them flounder before the cameras.

Finally, Royal Caribbean settled upon Captain Wright to appear regularly on the cable news shows.  I nicknamed him "Captain Hollywood" given his tall stature, good looks, deep voice, and dramatization of the cruise line's talking points.  He was was a natural before the media.  Captain Wright appeared regularly on Greta van Sustern's show on Fox "On The Record."   The cruise line also picked him to fly to Washington D.C. to conduct media interviews during the Congressional hearings for the past five years into the investigation into cruise safety and security issues.

Brilliance of the Seas - Rough Weather - Cruise ship Getting cruise executives and media friendly cruise faces in YouTube videos is something I have advocated in the past if the $35,000,000,000 cruise industry wants to compete in the word of media relations.   

But cruise lines like Royal Caribbean are still a long way behind the curve in matters of social media.  For example, around 15,000 people looked at "Captain Hollywood's" video - compared to around 290,000 people who viewed a video on our Cruise Law's YouTube page of a cruise ship facing rough weather in Antarctica.   

Royal Caribbean still has problems handling its PR matters.  Its first inclination is not to tell the truth.  It tends to minimize the seriousness of serious life threatening incidents when honesty would serve it best.  It finally has a blog by its President Adam Goldstein, and it finally is using YouTube, although both its blog and YouTube pages lag far, far behind the popularity enjoyed by this blog and our YouTube page.  The cruise line still does not integrate Facebook, Flickr or, my favorite, Twitter, into its social media.

Instead, its media strategy is to simply issue the same old tepid "everything-is-just-fine" PR statements.  When that doesn't work, it sends Captain Hollywood to the scene to reassure the faithfuls that everything is okay. 

When the next disaster strikes a Royal Caribbean ship, look for Captain Hollywood to fly in from Miami and announce on YouTube that the cruise ship is safe and sound.    
        

 

 

Credits:

Photos of damage to Brilliance of the Seas - MailOnLine

Video - Times of Malta

Ferocious Storm Batters Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas

CBS News is reporting that a "ferocious winter storm" pounded Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas as the cruise ship was heading into port in Alexandria, Egypt yesterday.  

Hurricane force winds and thirty foot waves caused the ship to roll violently.  Passengers complained of furniture and beds being tossed around.  Cruise Critic contained this account from a passenger:

Horrid rollovers at sea approaching Alexandria an hour ago at 2 am. Thrown from bed + nearly pinned between bed that was wildly rolling to the walls and balcony slider -- with upended furniture + broken glass everywhere. Feet cut as we tried to get out of room, and badly bruised, but glad to be alive. Very sore. Very scary  .  .  .  Worse as we're up on deck 10. Couldn't quite make it to Alexandria, but don't know where we"re going - and it's still very bumpy and terrifying.

The popular U.K. cruising blog "Captain GreyBeard" reports "30 Hurt As Storm Batters Brilliance."  However, Royal Caribbean's PR department downplayed the incident, indicating that the cruise ship "had full power and was operating as normal" and that no passengers were "seriously injured."  

The Brilliance bypassed Alexandria and is now sailing to Valetta, Malta.  

 

 

Credit:  CBS News