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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Royal Caribbean Overboard Vision of the Seas

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

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

Royal Caribbean Overboard Vision of the Seas

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

The BMA reveals the following chronology:

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

Royal Caribbean Overboard Vision of the Seas

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

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

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

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

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

Vision of the Seas SQM Safety and Quality Manual Royal Caribbean 

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

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

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

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Image credits: Bahamian Maritime Authority
 

Overboard Passenger from Pacific Dawn Raises Questions Regarding P&O Cruises' Credibility

The disappearance of a 47 year-old woman last week from P&O Cruises' Pacific Dawn was one of 213 people overboard from cruise ships in the last decade and one of 7 disappearances in less than 4 months this year alone. The incident raises the fundamental issue whether it is, in fact, possible for someone to fall off a cruise ship. 

I have written about nearly 200 overboard incidents since I started this blog eight and a-half years ago.  The single most common comment which I hear is that it's impossible for someone to fall off of a cruise ship. When I reported on the recent overboard incident on the Pacific Dawn, the first comment was passengers don't just fall off of a cruise ship.

But based on some of the eye-witness accounts, that is exactly what might have happened on the Pacific Dawn. 

The 47-year-old passenger from Brisbane, Australia, was reportedly with her husband on an exterior Pacific Dawn Overboarddeck, about 15 feet away from where other passengers were playing table tennis inside the cruise ship. Several passengers said the woman "went outside to vomit as she was seasick," according to an Australian newspaper the Courier Mail.

One eye-witness told the Courier Mail that the woman began to vomit while leaning over a railing when she lost her footing and went overboard.

Another passenger, who expressed condolences to the family of the woman, posted a somber photograph (right) of an empty deck and the railing where the woman apparently went overboard. The low railings immediately caught my eye. 

A standard sized life-ring, which you can see mounted slightly above the deck, is only 28-30 inches in diameter, which suggests that the top of the top of railing is probably no more than a total of 40 to 42 inches in height. 

One of the eye-witnesses took a photograph of the railing (below right) which was published in several newspapers. The photo shows four crew members standing around the deck railing. Two of the crew members are leaning on the railing with one crew member is standing in the middle nearby the railing, which appears to barely come to the crew members' waists and the middle crew member's hips.

Several years ago, when I attended a series of Congressional hearings in Washington, D.C. on proposed legislation to require the cruise lines to raise the height of railing on their ships, the cruise lines refused to consider raising their ships' railings Pacific Dawn Overboardto more than 42 inches.

The cruise industry has known for years that passengers who have puked (due to being either sick or intoxicated) over the railings on cruise ships sometimes have fallen overboard in the process. Yet, the cruise lines consistently resisted agreeing to higher railings. They felt that a higher raising would have been too expensive to retrofit on their fleet of ships.

Eventually, when the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) was finally passed into law in 2010 in the U.S., the cruise industry successfully had lobbied for the lower (42 inch) provision.

Before the Pacific Dawn even finished its cruise following the woman's disappearance, news reports announced that P&O Cruises already intended to argue that the woman intentionally went overboard. MSN reported that although "early reports suggested the woman was suffering from sea sickness and had been vomiting over the side," a representative for P&O said "there was nothing to suggest anything of this kind" despite the fact that there were high waves and strong winds at the time. Another newspaper reported that: "9NEWS understands cruise liner P&O will claim its early investigation has concluded that 'it appears the missing person has jumped with the husband attempting to catch her unsuccessfully.'"  9News reported that a ship's security camera footage allegedly showed the passenger "deliberately launching herself over the side" of the ship, according to P&O.

By the time that the ship had returned to Brisbane, the cruise line had already revealed the woman's name to the press and implied that she may have committed suicide. 

It's troubling to see a cruise line dispute eye-witness accounts, state that it intends to prove the passenger intentionally went overboard even before law enforcement boards the ship, and then reveal the name of the victim to the media.

Police "investigators" have apparently now reviewed the surveillance film and agreed with P&O's pre-determined conclusions. But notably absent in the media statements, from either the police or the cruise line, is there any mention that the video shows the woman climbing up on the railings. 

Whatever occurred on the Pacific Dawn, this would not be the first time that a cruise line may have falsely reported that an overboard passenger committed suicide.

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

We suggest reading: "Suicide" - One of the Cruise Lines' Favorite Excuses When a Passenger Disappears at Sea.

Photograph credit: Top - Twitter via hashhag @vviivviieennnne and Fox News; bottom - Channel 10/Twitter via Courier Mail and Associated Newspapers Limited via MSN.com

Suicide on the Crystal Serenity?

Le Télégramme reports that a British chef was found hanging in his cabin aboard the Crystal Serenity cruise ship.

The ship left Bordeaux yesterday for Brest. The crew member was found in his cabin Saturday morning.

The investigation and the autopsy reportedly will be held in Bordeaux. 

Crystal SerenityThis is the third alleged suicide by hanging of a crew member on a cruise ship in the six weeks.

On June 2nd we reported on the apparent suicide of a safety officer on the Disney Dream.

On June 3rd we mentioned the apparent suicide of a young woman employed in the Carnival entertainment department on the Carnival Sensation.

On July 3 we mentioned a Brazilian crew member who disappeared from the Norwegian Sun in Alaskka. NCL suggests that it's a suicide.

Four crew member suicides in just 6 weeks?

Under U.S. maritime law, cruise lines are legally required to provide medical treatment to all crew members who suffer from any type of physical or emotional injury or sickness while working on the ship. The ships are required to provide psychiatric and.or psychological treatment, including ashore, if a crew member is suffering from depression or anxiety. The treatment must last, by law, until the crew member reaches his or her maximum medical improvement.

In our experience, the medical treatment for physical injuries is spotty at best. Ibuprofen is often the only "treatment." Medical care for emotional issues is virtually non-existent. 

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Hat tip to Professor Ross Klein who first mentioned this incident on his CruiseJunkie site

 

Photo Credit: D.strutting via Wiped Creative Commons 3.0

Suicide on the Sensation

Multiple crew members are confirming that a young woman employed in the Carnival entertainment department was found dead on the Carnival Sensation

The cruise ship was last in Nassau, Bahamas. Bahamian news sources reported that "on Monday 1st June 2015 shortly after 6:00am, police received information that the lifeless body of a female crew member was reportedly found dead on board a cruise ship while in Bahamian waters." The Bahamian police never disclose the specific name of cruise ships involving such incidents. 

The woman was reportedly found hanging in an officer's quarters. We are withholding the crew Carnival Sensationmember's name and other details.

This is the second apparent suicide within a 24 hour period involving a crew member. Yesterday, we reported on the death of an officer on the Disney Dream

Like the Disney Dream, the Carnival Sensation is flagged in Nassau, Bahamas in order for the cruise line to avoid U.S. taxes and labor laws. Any investigation into this incident will be conducted by the Bahamas. Unfortunately, it is our experience that the Bahamas refuses to cooperate with the families of crew members who die or are missing from cruise ships flagged in the Bahamas.

There is always mixed reaction and debate when we report on crew member deaths on cruise ships. Cruise lines don't like there to be any mention of it. There have been literally dozens of crew members who have gone overboard and lost at sea in apparent suicides since we have been writing this blog over the past six years. 

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Photo Credit: Sensation in Nassau - WikiEK via Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0

Death Aboard the Disney Dream

Disney Dream Several people informed me that there has been a death aboard the Disney Dream.

An officer was reportedly discovered dead on the cruise ship yesterday. The officer reportedly was discovered hanging, in what I am told is an apparent suicide. His body was located in an air conditioning room reportedly on deck seven.  

The body of the Disney officer was reportedly removed from the cruise ship in the Bahamas. 

The cruise ship was last in Castaway Cay, Disney's private island in the Bahamas. It returned to Port Canaveral and is now heading back to Nassau.

The Dream is registered in Nassau Bahamas. Any investigation will be conducted by the Bahamas Maritime Authority.  

We made an inquiry to Disney Cruise Line but it has not responded.

June 1 2015 Update: Bahamas Police Probe Deaths of 2 Employees of Cruise Lines

June 2 2015 Update: There has been a second crew member death, on a Carnival ship, within a 24 hour period - Suicide on the Sensation

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Photo Credit: Nozzleman75 via Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0

HAL Jumps the Gun (Again), Calls Deaths a "Murder-Suicide"

Yesterday a cabin attendant discovered two cruise passengers dead in their cabin on the Holland America Line (HAL) Ryndam.

The proper  procedure for the cruise line to follow is for the crew member(s) to immediately leave the cabin, lock the door and call security who, in turn, will secure the cabin and assign a security guard to safeguard the crime scene until the FBI team boards the ship. 

The cause of death of the couple cannot possibly be determined until the FBI has conducted its forensic work, the bodies have been removed from the cruise ship, and a medical examiner has concluded a thorough examination of the bodies with the assistance of other forensic experts, pathologists and toxicologists. This is a time consuming process (we are still Ryndam Murder Cruise Ship WKBNawaiting medical examiner reports from cruise deaths last summer).

There's no information regarding how, why or when the deaths occurred, but HAL quickly announced that the case "appears to be a murder-suicide." The cruise line didn't bother to wait for a medical examiner's report or for the experts at the FBI to perform their work. 

So how can a cruise line make an instantaneous determination of the cause of two dead people in a cabin? It can't, certainly not without violating protocols and entering the cabin and conducting a quick amateurish attempt at acting like a crime scene investigator where it is likely to accomplish little other than spoliating the evidence.  

HAL announced to reporters that it was an apparent "murder-suicide" strictly as part of its PR strategy. That's what it wanted the press to report.  There are now literally hundreds of newspapers using this phrase in their reports of the cause of the cruise ship deaths. Many newspapers and news sources, including the Associated Press, have dropped the word "apparent" and said that the husband murdered his wife and then committed suicide based on HAL's rush to judgment. 

HAL's PR people wanted to dispel any notion that a crew member may have been involved in the couple's death. HAL is still reeling from the bad publicity created when a crew member violently beat, raped and tried to throw a woman off her balcony on the Nieuw Amsterdam last year.

This is not the first time HAL has pulled such a stunt.

Washington resident Amber Malkuch was 45 years old when she disappeared from the HAL Zaandam in 2009 while sailing to Alaska. But before the Alaskan State Troopers concluded their investigation, a member of HAL's PHolland America Line Cruise DeathR department and CLIA's PR team, Sally Andrews, announced to the media that it appears that Amber took her own life. The "suicide" conclusion was reported on major news stations. 

This surprised not only Amber’s friends and family, but it dumbfounded the Alaskan State Troopers who had yet to review photographs and video, conduct interviews or analyze toxicology reports. The Anchorage Daily News reported "Troopers Miffed at Cruise Line’s Rush to Judgment." The Seattle Post Intelligencer quoted a representative of the Alaskan State Troopers saying: 

We’re the people actually looking into the exact cause of death . . . We’re the ones doing the interviews and looking at the evidence . . . And if we haven’t been able to make a determination, how can the cruise line who isn’t trained?"

Investigators never concluded that Amber took her own life. Her family continues to search for answers. Meanwhile you can still read the headline on FOX News: Cruise Passenger Goes Overboard in Apparent Suicide, six years later.

Does Holland America Line care about what the evidence in death cases reveals? In the world of cruise line PR (perception vs. reality), what matters most to the cruise lines seems to be the public’s perception that cruise ships are safe rather than the reality that perhaps they are not.

Determining the cause of cruise ship deaths is the role of experts - the FBI, medical examiners, and other qualified forensic specialists - not the cruise lines' PR departments.

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Photo Credit: WKBN 

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

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)

"Sail & Sue" - Cruise Lines' Response to Dead Overboard Passengers and Crew is Cruel

There have been 5 persons overboard in the past 3 weeks. 

There will be many more this year.

None of the cruise lines involved in the overboard cases -  Royal Caribbean, Holland America Line & Princess - have installed automatic man overboard systems.

So a passenger disappears at sea. "A mystery," the cruise line says. "Not our problem." A crew member jumps overboard. "Suicide by sea," says the cruise line. "Not out fault." And the beat goes on. 

Cruise Ship Overboard Passengers The cruise lines don't seem too concerned about people disappearing on the high seas. 

Congress passed a law a couple of years ago, requiring automatic man overboard systems. It doesn't matter whether the person jumped, or slipped, or was drunk, or was engaged in horse-play, or was thrown overboard. The cruise lines have not complied with the cruise safety law. 

California lawyer Larry Kaye, the go-to lawyer for the cruise lines' trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), tells ABC News “These detection systems are not perfected yet."  (Mr. Kaye previously appeared on the cruise lines' behalf before Congress to argue that cruise lines should not be forced to turn over crime data to the American public).

Of course, the cruise safety law does not require a "perfect" man overboard system, only one that "reasonably" complies with the law.

The non-tax paying cruise industry's excuses are endless. "There is no technology available, or the systems are not reliable, or the systems are too expensive," the cruise lines say. The cruise lines' excuses are as seemingly endless as the billions of tax-free money collected each year by the cruise lines from tax paying Americas who take their families on cruises offered by these unlawful cruise lines.

ABC News will be airing a special tomorrow night on passengers going overboard. You will learn that the cruise industry has not installed the man overboard system. When a person falls into the sea, if they are not immediately spotted, the cruise ships sail on. The cruise lines have a million reasons why they have not complied with the law. 

Cruise lawyer Kaye has an answer for what the cruise lines view as a problem of people disappearing on cruise vacations.

“I call it 'sail and sue.' We deal with it all the time,” Kaye tells ABC News. “I think cruise ships are probably the safest vacation option available to most people."

That's what Kaye is paid to say.

For the families of passengers who have gone overboard under mysterious circumstances, or a crew member who decides to end his  life going over the rail, the "sail and sue" accusation is the final indignity. None of the last 5 cruise overboard victims have filed a lawsuit nor will they. 

I suppose that's impossible, isn't it? They are dead after all.

Cruise industry lawyer Kaye's vulgar comments are highly offensive to families grieving the loss of their loved ones.

Kaye's comments perfectly reflect the cruise industry's attitude to passengers and crew lost at sea. 

 

Photo Credit: ABC News

"An Unhappy Ship" - "This Will Be My Family's Last Cruise"

Last week, I reported on a Filipino crew member who apparently jumped off of the Grand Princess cruise ship after it left San Francisco. The 34 year old man was the fifth person to go overboard in the last 18 days. 

Although Princess did not notify the Coast Guard until approximately two hours after the crew member went overboard, it was quick to tell the press that the crew member intentionally jumped.  "Not our fault" seems to be the attitude.  Put the "suicide" label on the case and forget about it, seems to be the cruise line's usual response.

Putting the issue of legal blame aside for the moment, could the crew member's death have been avoided? Are there systems in place to provide counseling for crew members under stress?

Over the last year I have written about cruise lines overworking and underpaying their shipboard employees. I have discussed Princess working their employees to the bone. I've discussed the policies of parent company Carnival reducing pay, diverting the crew member's tips, suspending their retirement programs, and firing employees when they protest. There is only so much that anyone can take, working every single day far away from their families during a 8 month contract.

Is there a correlation between this more difficult work environment and an increased sense of hopelessness of the crew members who the cruise lines easily replace when they crack and jump?    

When a cruise line quickly explains that a crew member intentionally went overboard, it's not really an explanation. It seems to raise more questions than provide answers.  

In response to our article about the Princess crew member lost at sea, I received this message from a reader: 

"I was on the prior cruise to Hawaii for Christmas and New Years. This was my wife and my 7th cruise. But to me, this was an unhappy ship. The employees were not happy, and many passengers were also not happy. The workers had a palpable fear of their bosses. They were afraid to allow anyone to make a decision without consult from their supervisor. I mean, things like, I want a different table. The host would feel the need to ask their supervisor.

To me, this is not a surprise. I feel it is the industry's dirty little secret. The wage scale and treatment of replaceable employees. This will be my family's last cruise."

 

Photo Credit: Hakilon / Wikipedia

5 Overboards in 18 Days: Crew Member Missing From Grand Princess Cruise Ship

A local CBS news station in San Francisco is reporting that a 34 year-old crew member is missing from the Grand Princess cruise ship approximately 1,000 miles northeast of Hawaii.

According to the internet news report, Princess Cruises says that the man reportedly jumped overboard last night or early this morning. 

The cruise ship, owned by Carnival Corporation and operated by Princess Cruises, left San Francisco last weekend on a 15-day round-trip cruise to Hilo.

The Coast Guard in Hawaii received a call from the cruise ship around 12:20 AM. The CBS station Grand Princess quoted a Coast Guard representative saying:

“The report indicated that crew member had been missing for approximately two hours and this occurred approximately 1,000 miles northeast of Oahu, Hawaii." 

A spokeswoman for Princess later told KCBS that surveillance footage shows the crew member intentionally jumping overboard.

The Coast Guard dispatched a C-130 aircraft to fly to the area. 

The Grand Princess, together with another Princess cruise ship, the Star Princess, is searching for the man. 

CBS says that the thousands of passengers on board were confined to their cabins for a head count.

This latest overboard means that five person have gone overboard since December 10, 2013. That's 5 people in 18 days.

Passengers went overboard from the Rhapsody of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas and Independence of the Seas, all operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises in just eleven days. Yesterday, we posted an article about a passenger going overboard from Holland America Line's Veendam.

The fact that there was a two hour delay between the crew member going overboard and notification to the Coast Guard suggests that this Princess cruise ship did not have an automatic man overboard system as required by the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act.

In November, a woman went overboard from the Princess Grand Princess. That cruise ship also apparently did not have a man overboard system.  Princess Cruises characterized that disappearance as a suicide too. 

 

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Ivan T.

Miami Herald Looks at Cruise Ship Overboards

Today the Miami Herald published an article entitled "Overboard Cases on Cruise Lines Often Under-Reported to Public."

What jumps out from the article is that the cruise industry, as a whole, fundamentally still lacks transparency regarding the issue of cruise ship passengers and crew members going overboard on the high seas.

Miami Herald reporter Hannah B. Sampson was seemingly unable to obtain a straight answer from the cruise lines or the cruise trade organization regarding exactly which cruise ships have implemented automatic man overboard systems with an alarm to the bridge which comply with the 2010 Cruise Cruise Safety and Security ActVessel Safety & Security Act (CVSSA), and which cruise ships have no systems or "passive" system which don't notify the bridge and are in violation of the law. The closest the reporter could come to this basic issue is obtaining a quote from a company which installs both systems stating that “a significant number” of cruise ship just use passive technology.

The bottom line inquiry is whether the cruise industry is in compliance with the CVSSA. My assessment is that the industry is largely not in compliance at all.

A Carnival spokesperson told the Miami Herald that the industry needs to be transparent and showcase the steps it takes to provide the public with the "safest and highest quality vacation experience available." But Carnival won't state what basic steps it has taken to comply with the CVSSA, 

Does a single one of the 100 plus cruise ships owned by Carnival Corporation and sailing under the flags of Costa, Cunard, Holland America Line, P&O or Princess have an alarm system which provides real time data to the bridge such that emergency rescue measures can be immediately undertaken? I have seen no evidence of that. Cruise lines like Princess are still reviewing CCTV images to try to figure out what happened. Meanwhile, the ship continues to sail on and the prospect of a successful rescue diminishes.

The proof of compliance or not, of course, is simple enough. Has a single cruise passenger or crew member been successfully rescued after an automatic system has detected a person going overboard?  I have seen no evidence of that either.

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein, who was quoted in the Miami Herald article, has documented 57 overboards from 2011 to the present since the 2010 safety law was enacted. Not one automatic overboard system has been documented to be in use and resulted in a saved life.

Take, for example, the latest passenger going overboard from a cruise ship a few days ago. A woman in her thirties went overboard the Grand Princess north of Hawaii. There were no announcements that a CVSSA-compliance automatic system detected and immediately signaled the woman going overboard. Instead, the cruise line announced that they were able to verify another passenger's account only after reviewing images discovered during an after-the-fact review of closed circuit television (CCTV) images.

The public relations team at Princess Cruises were quick to announce that the woman "intentionally" went overboard. The media was equally quick in extrapolating that comment to mean that the woman intended to end her life via suicide. Cruise fan sites like Cruise Critic were quick to bash the woman as selfish and responsible for ruining everyone else's cruise. Lost in the blame-the-passenger PR efforts were any discussions whether Princess was in violation of the CVSSA and whether the woman could have been rescued if the cruise line had been in compliance with the cruise safety law.

It is irrelevant under the CVSSA whether the person going overboard jumped to end their life, or jumped as a plea for help, or jumped in a state of confusion while intoxicated (we received at least one comment, to our article. that the woman may have been drinking heavily), or fell, or was pushed. This is a point I mentioned recently in an article in the Huffington Post.

Three years after the CVVSA the cruise lines find themselves substantially in violation of the cruise safety law. They are still playing the game of blaming "suicidal" passengers rather than admitting that they have not invested into the new overboard technologies to try and save everyone who goes overboard for any reason.  Unfortunately, there will be no widespread compliance with the CVSSA until substantial penalties are levied against non-compliant cruise lines.

Late discovery of a missing crew member or passenger results in massive search and rescue efforts by the U.S. Coast Guard costing literally a million dollars. Cruise ships not in compliance with the CVSSA should be required to reimburse the U.S. taxpayers who are paying for the unsuccessful rescue attempts. The costs associated with one search and rescue effort would pay for an automatic system.

Yesterday a reader of Cruise Law News made these comments about the Princess passenger going overboard:

Obviously the penalties for not complying with the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act are not sufficient. If the captain of the ship and the directors of the cruise line faced manslaughter charges every time someone disappeared from a non-compliant ship, the compliance rate would rapidly approach 100%

The cruise line should also be liable for search costs, and should be required to have a suitable rescue boat/vehicle ready to go at all times. Considering the size of some of these ships, they should probably be required to have several rescue boats ready, guaranteeing a mandatory maximum response time to the overboard person.

Particularly where jurisdictional issues could prevent prosecutions, non-compliant vessels could be prohibited from operating in US waters, or the waters of any other country with similar legislation, and the promotion and sale of cruises on these vessels could also be prohibited within these countries. Whilst there would be loopholes, such as internet sales, the financial impact on these vessels should be enough to ensure rapid compliance.

Crew Member from India Disappears from MSC Opera

This evening a number of news organizations are reporting that a crew member went overboard from the MSC Opera cruise ship. 

BBC News reports that the crew member went overboard when the cruise ship was south of the Isle of Wright.  

The News identified the crew member as a 33 year-old Indian national named Fernandes Elroy.

The cruise ship was sailing into Southampton early this morning.

MSC Opera Cruise ShipMSC Cruises said staff were alerted at 5:30 AM on today that Mr. Elroy was missing.  The company claims that CCTV, which was checked at 6:30 AM, allegedly showed Mr Elroy jumping overboard around 1:30 AM, according to the The Isle of Wright Radio

A Coast Guard helicopter and lifeboat carried out an unsuccessful search. 

We have reported before on disappearances from MSC cruise ships in the past which you can read about here and here and here.

There is usually very little, if any, investigation conducted by the cruise lines to try and find out why crew members disappear on the high seas. Few cruise lines have automatic man overboard detection systems, unfortunately.  There is a tendency by the cruise lines to quickly conclude that the person committed suicide. Even if the evidence supports a suicide explanation, there is no effort to determine whether the working conditions (long hours, long contract, low wages and work pressure and emotional abuse) were factors involved in literally pushing the crew member emotionally over-the-edge.

Professor Ross Klein reports that 206 people have gone overboard from cruise ship since 2000.

If you have information about this latest overboard, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Consider reading another article about working conditions and crew members going overboard: Is Royal Caribbean Working Its Crew Members to Death?

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / VollwertBIT 

Questions Swirl Around Death of Passenger Aboard Carnival Dream Cruise Ship

Several newspapers in St. Maarten report on the death of a passenger aboard the Carnival Dream cruise ship yesterday shortly after the ship left St. Thomas.

One newspaper states that the captain of the Carnival cruise ship learned "shortly after leaving the port of Saint Thomas on Tuesday July 16th," heading to Saint Maarten, he received a report a female U.S. citizen, age 40, allegedly committed suicide. The cruise ship alleges that the passenger "took her own life by hanging herself." The newspaper states that the investigation "will be done by U.S. authorities once the ships docks at the nearest U.S. port."

Carnival Dream Cruise Ship The newspapers mention the woman by name and state prominently that she killed herself.

Irrespective of what happened, it is disturbing to hear that a cruise line has determined the official cause of death of a passenger in such a summary manner. That's the responsibility of highly educated, trained and experienced medical examiners. Not cruise ship employees.

Why do the cruise lines think they can act like police officers and coroners and determine the cause of death?  Read:  "Suicide" - One of the Cruise Lines' Favorite Excuses When a Passenger Disappears at Sea"

And why did the Carnival cruise ship captain, who learned of the death of a guest "shortly after leaving St. Thomas," sail on to the next port?  

Here's what some of the local residents in St. Marteen are saying:

 ". . . Sxm has a bad reputation when it comes to murders that looks like suicide. They always take the easy way out. what a thing if it turned out to be death by poisoning or strangulation."

"The captain of the ship stated that shortly after leaving the port of Saint Thomas." Why didn't the captain return to St. Thomas? Apparently the mighty dollar reigns supreme & the inherently trivial cruise schedule is sacrosanct. I suspect the captain of this particular vessel could be investigated for (mildly) improper conduct under international maritime law." 

 

Photo Credit:  Carnival dream - Wikipedia / Kuloskulos

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 2010 - 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 a thought 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

December 4, 2016 Update: A newspaper in Australia mentions this article in The One Issue You Should Consider Before Going On A Cruise. "Passengers just need to remember that the crew are working incredibly hard, and long hours, while they put their feet up on holiday. So tip them well and treat them with respect."

American Crew Member Goes Overboard From Costa Cruise Ship

An Italian newspaper, Articolo Tre, and the Crew Center website, are reporting that a U.S. female crew member disappeared from the Costa Favolosa in the sea near Istanbul.

The victim reportedly is an American crew member employed by Costa as a dancer. There are no details in the news article.  The Italian newspaper article states that "according to the preliminary findings, the woman committed suicide by jumping from the ship off the coast of Istanbul."

Costa FavolosaThere is no confirmation by Costa. Crew members who work on the cruise ship are silent, especially if they are asked by passengers about the incident.

The ship will not stop tomorrow in Dubrovnik, as planed and but instead will go directly from Istanbul to Venice.

A few months ago a young woman went overboard from another Costa cruise ship, the Costa Magica. A 21 year old Brazilian waitress disappeared from the Magica near the coast of Sicily. The company quickly labeled the incident a suicide too. 

Unfortunately suicide seems to be the cruise industry's explanation for most over-boards.  This is because the cruise lines like to blame the victim rather than admit that there are safety and crime issues on cruise ships. 

Anyone will information, please leave a comment below.

Update August 31, 2012:  Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein received information that the overboard crew member is from South Africa - not the U.S.  We also received a comment to this article stating that the woman is from South Africa.  

There have been 185 people overboard from cruise ships in the last decade or so. 

Update September 2, 2012: The Italian newspaper, Articolo Tre, has another short article.  The title of the article states that Costa "confirms suicide" and yet the text of the article (if I am translating this correctly) states that the crew member "fell" into the water.  Unfortunately there is really no information contained in this article either, other than the Captain explaining why the cruise ship was skipping Dubrovnik, reassuring the passengers that they would receive a credit and wishing them a "happy" rest of the cruise.   

 

Photo credit: Wikimedia / Andrsvoss

Passenger Overboard from Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas

Allure of the Seas OverboardThe AP is reporting that a Irish cruise ship passenger went overboard from the Allure of the Seas, which is the world's largest cruise ship cruise ship.

(Update: If you are searching for the overboard involving a twenty-one (21) year old woman from Bartlett Tennessee who disappeared on September 16, 2012 from the Allure, click here.)

Royal Caribbean states that another passenger allegedly saw the British passenger, age 30, go over the railing from his stateroom on the Allure.  The cruise line then apparently verified the overboard by viewing images from closed circuit television.  

The incident occurred as the cruise ship was heading to Cozumel.  Announcements were made around 6:45 AM.  The cruise ship then stopped off the coast of Mexico near Cozumel. and participated in a brief search.  The ship was to depart tonight at 8:00 PM tonight and was scheduled to be at sea tomorrow, with a return to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday.

There are rumors that the passenger may have left a suicide note and then stepped on a table and went overboard.

The last British citizen who disappeared in international waters near Mexico is Rebecca Coriam, a Disney cruise member employed as a youth counselor aboard the Disney Wonder.    

The last reported incident aboard the Allure of the Seas involved multiple rapes earlier last month

The cruise ship was under charter by Atlantis, which hosts parties for the gay and lesbian community.  The Allure had sailed from South Florida on January 29, 2012 to Labadee Haiti, Costa Maya Mexico, and then to Cozumel. 

In the past, the Atlantis - Royal Caribbean cruises have been marred by controversy, with drug overdoses, suicide, and a travel agent busted for selling drugs (arrested with 142 ecstasy pills, 3 grams of methamphetamine, ketamine and about $51,000 in cash).  You can read about these incidents below.

One year ago:  Passenger Busted for Selling Drugs on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas

Two years ago:  Another Death on a Royal Caribbean - Atlantis Cruise

Three years ago: GLAAD Board Member Dies Aboard Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas

And don't forget to read:  Is Royal Caribbean Ready for Medical Emergencies During the World's Largest Gay Cruise?

Does anyone know what happened on this latest Atlantis cruise party?

 

Allure of the Seas Atlantis Cruise

 

Photo credit:  Atlantis Events

Celebrity Crewmember Missing From Summit Cruise Ship

On Sunday we received emails inquiring about a Celebrity crewmember who went overboard from the Summit cruise ship.  The Summit was sailing from San Juan, Puerto Rico, where it is currently based, to Barbados when the cruise employee disappeared. At the time we had no information.

Today the U.S. Coast Guard issued a statement that the missing crewmember is a Filipino woman, age thirty, employed as a bartender aboard the cruise ship.  The cruise line states that she was seen jumping overboard Sunday morning, approximately 6 - 7 miles off the northeastern coast of Culebra Island, Puerto Rico.  It is less than clear whether eyewitnesses observed this, or whether the incident was captured on the ship's CCTV cameras.

Summit Cruise Ship The cruise ship notified the Coast Guard of the incident from the cruise ship at approximately 12:50 a.m. Sunday.  We would be interested in learning when the cruise ship left San Juan, as the incident occurred shortly after departure. 

The Coast Guard suspended its search last night.

Royal Caribbean / Celebrity cruise ships have seen the most alleged suicides over the course of the last 2 years.  As we have said before, the Filipinos on cruise ships work incredibly long hours and are away from their families for long periods of time.  At this point, it is unknown what led this young woman to jump if this is what happened.

A Filipino crewmember allegedly jumped from a Celebrity ship earlier this year - Another Celebrity Crewmember Goes Overboard

You can read about RCCL / Celebrity crew overboards (all nationalities) below: 

Crew Member Goes Overboard from Celebrity Constellation Cruise Ship

Crew Member Missing from the Grandeur of the Seas - Why Are So Many People Disappearing From Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships?

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

Crew Member Overboard from Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas

"Man Overboard" Reported on Radiance of the Seas

Asleep At the Wheel: What Does the Delayed Reporting of Neha Chhikara's Disappearance from the Monarch of the Seas Reveal About Royal Caribbean's Shipboard Security?

Wife of Royal Caribbean Crew Member on Monarch of the Seas Goes OverBoard

Does anyone have information about this latest incident? 

Disappearance from Celebrity Century Cruise Ship - Rest in Peace Jimmy Ewan

Cruise disappearance James EwansIn November 2006, a 73 year old Scottish passenger was reported missing from the Century cruise ship while the vessel traveling near Madeira in the Canary Islands.  The disappearance was discovered when a crew member reported that passenger James ("Jimmy") Ewan, of Fife, Scotland, had not used his cabin the previous night. 

Ship logs indicate that Mr. Ewan, who had been traveling alone, did not disembark in the previous port.   The cruise ship conducted a cursory search and then continued on its 14-night trans-Atlantic cruise from Barcelona, Spain, to Miami. 

Today a newspaper in Scotland is reporting that the mystery of Mr. Ewan's disappearance five years ago has been solved.  The newspaper reports that Mr. Ewan's "best pal and executor of his will," John Cooper, has been struggling with settling his estate for the past several years.  The U.K.'s Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Portuguese Consulate apparently were of little help. 

Mr. Cooper complained that he could not obtain a certificate of death so that Mr. Ewan's business could be wound up and his will could be executed.

The newspaper reports that Mr. Ewan had lost his wife 20 years ago and had no children.

Cabin attendants found his personal belongings neatly laid out in his cabin, including the executor of his will's name and telephone phone number.  Mr. Ewan reportedly stated that " . . . he didn't want to be a burden to anyone as he got old . . . "  The newspaper reports that "he scrapped his car two days before leaving, which was odd because he couldn't do without it."

Mr. Cooper stated that "I'm the executor of his will and the fact my details were sitting on top of his wallet in his cabin rang alarm bells.  It's like he tied everything up and not left anything outstanding."

If I decided to end my life like this, I hope that someone would remember me - like Mr. Ewan - with a big smile on my face, waving goodbye.   

 

Photo credit: dailyrecord.co.uk

Passenger Medevac & Crew Suicide Mar Celebrity Eclipse Cruise

Yesterday, we discussed the latest overboard from a Celebrity cruise ship, this time involving a 31 year old Filipino on the Eclipse who by all accounts committed suicide by climbing a rail and jumping into the English Channel.

While some people may be inclined to say oh,a suicide end of the story, my thought is that an investigation is warranted to study the significant number of crewmembers who decide to end their life in this manner.  Is there a correlation between the long hours and difficult working conditions of "ship life" and crew suicides?   

There are a number of interesting comments posted on line about this sad incident, which apparently occurred shortly after an ill passenger was medevaced from the Eclipse.  A medevac of an ill passenger and a crew suicide is not how you want to remember a family cruise holiday.   

One post links to Ship Finder which charted the cruise ship altering course and returning to the location where the crewmember went overboard.  It looks like the Eclipse may have originally  altered course to sail closer to France to meet the helicopter involved in the passenger medical evacuation.  

Eclipse Cruise Ship Medical Evacuation

  

Image credit:   Lee Armstrong via Pinkfroot

Another Celebrity Crewmember Goes Overboard

Multiple new sources in the U.K. are reporting that a crewmember from the Celebrity Eclipse cruise ship went overboard last night and is presumed dead.

Sky News reports that, according to the cruise line, a Filipino crewmember was captured on closed circuit television (CCTV) climbing over a railing and jumping from the cruise ship.  The luxury cruise ship, operated by Celebrity Cruises here in Miami, was eight miles north of Cherbourg, France, heading to Southampton when the incident happened.  The cruise ship alerted the French Coast Guard Celebrity Eclipse Cruise Ship Overboard - Missing Crewmemberand turned the vessel around in an attempt to rescue the crewmember.

The French Coast Guard stated "We deployed our resources to find him but it was to no avail and we can now presume that he is dead . . . The water was very cold and there is no hope for him."

We last reported on a Celebrity crew overboard just two months ago - Crew Member Goes Overboard from Celebrity Constellation Cruise Ship.

Unfortunately, overboards from cruise ships in the Royal Caribbean / Celebrity Cruises fleet appear to be a regular occurrence.  In March, we wrote an article about another crew member disappearing - Crew Member Missing from the Grandeur of the Seas - Why Are So Many People Disappearing From Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships?

Of course, missing crew members are not limited to Royal Caribbean cruise ships - Carnival Cruise Employee Goes Overboard - Does the U.S. Media Care When Foreign Crew Members Disappear at Sea?

There is no official database of passengers and crew who go overboard from cruise ships. The cruise lines say that this is something that they just don't track.  Perhaps they should start studying the problem.  The best source for tracking cruise overboards is cruise expert Professor Ross Klein's website which lists 160 overboards in the past ten years.

In this latest case, the news sources are indicating that the crew member was a Filipino, which probably means that he was a waiter.  The Filipinos on cruise ships work incredibly long hours and are away from their families for long periods of time.  At this point, it is unknown what led him to jump if this is what happened.

Does anyone have information about what happened?  Please leave a comment below.   

 

Photo credit:  Travel Weekly Blog  

Crew Member Missing from the Grandeur of the Seas - Why Are So Many People Disappearing From Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships?

Newspapers in India are reporting that a young man working as a crew member on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship disappeared at sea.

"Disappearances" at sea have been a regular occurrence on Royal Caribbean cruise ships over the past several years.   

The Times of India ("Did 'Missing' Ship Staffer End Life?") and the Hindustan Times ("Chef Commits Suicide in U.S., Mom Cries Foul") report that 27 year old Sandip Surwade went missing from Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas cruise ship on February 18th in waters near Aruba.

Sandip Surawade - Missing - Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the SeasThe Indian newspapers report that Mr. Surwade left India for work on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship in June of last year.  On February 20th of this year, a representative from the local hiring agency in India came to Mr. Surwade's home in Bara Bungalow, Thane (north of Mumbai) and told his family that he was "missing."  The hiring agency gave the family a telephone number and e-mail address of Dr. Fabio Acevedo, a supervisor in the medical crew department of the cruise line.

Later, the cruise line told the family that their son committed suicide by jumping off the cruise ship around 9:00 p.m. on February 18th.  The cruise line claims that Mr. Surwade left a letter which mentions the name of a female crew member with whom Mr. Surwade was allegedly involved, notwithstanding that he was reportedly engaged to be married in April. The letter purportedly states that his supervisors were troubling him and the woman due to their relationship. 

His family doubts the authenticity of the letter which, according to the newspaper articles, was written in chaste Hindi, a language with which he not particularly familiar. The family tells the newspapers that Royal Caribbean and the local agent for the cruise line has "stonewalled" them. 

The cruise line, however, states that there are closed circuit video tapes documenting the overboard and an eye witness who allegedly confirms that Mr. Surwade jumped from the ship.  

What is one to make of this mess?  The family suspects foul play.  If another crew member saw him jump, why did the cruise line first tell the family that their son was "missing" and then mention "suicide" later?  Why did it take the cruise line 2 days to tell the family?

Adding to the confusion is that the first public account of this incident is in a newspaper in Aruba, Cruise Ship Overboard - Missing Crew Memberindicating that it was a passenger who committed suicide.  Another newspaper in Aruba indicates that the cruise ship first reported the incident around 11:00 p.m. on February 18th which, if true, would be 2 hours after the overboard.  Helicopters and a coast guard cutter from Aruba searched for 4 hours before ending the search with intentions of searching again at day light.      

An online website, "Cruise Bruise," speculates wildly that Mr. Surwade's disappearance may have been a drug-related murder.  As we reported,  Royal Caribbean crew members were smuggling large quantities of cocaine from South America aboard this cruise ship and there was a drug bust on the Grandeur of the Seas ship a few days later when the ship reached Montego Bay.  However, there is no indication that Mr. Sandip was involved in drug smuggling or a victim of violence by drug smugglers, and at this point there is no connection between his disappearance and the drug bust as suggested by others.

Nonetheless, we are  suspicious of most anything this cruise line says.  It suffers from a lack of transparency and the most unexplained disappearances and deaths of any cruise line. 

Did this crew member really commit suicide, which is the cruise line's favorite excuse?  Consider how cruise lines use the "suicide defense" as a public relations tool -  "Suicide" - One of the Cruise Lines' Favorite Excuses When a Passenger Disappears at Sea.

Also consider in the last year:

January 6. 2011: Another Passenger Overboard From A Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship

November 30, 2010: Death of a Young Jamaican Cook on the Mega Ship Oasis of the Seas 

May 24, 2010: Another Overboard From A Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship? - Oasis of the Seas

May 5, 2010: Crew Member Overboard from Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas

March 22, 2010: "Man Overboard" Reported on Radiance of the Seas

January 4, 2010: Asleep At the Wheel: What Does the Delayed Reporting of Neha Chhikara's Disappearance from the Monarch of the Seas Reveal About Royal Caribbean's Shipboard Security?

Sandip Surawade - Overboard - Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the SeasJanuary 1, 2010:  Wife of Royal Caribbean Crew Member on Monarch of the Seas Goes OverBoard

Determining the cause of cruise ship overboards and mysterious deaths is the role of experts - the F.B.I., sometimes the U.S. Coast Guard, or other law enforcement authorities - not the cruise lines' PR departments.   

But this case raises a more profound question.  Who investigates the circumstances of a crew member from India who goes overboard into waters around Aruba from a cruise ship flagged in the Bahamas and operated by a cruise line incorporated in Liberia?

This is a no man's land, where there are no clear answers - only self-serving statements by a cruise line with a reputation of being less than honest. 

 

Photo credits: 

Photographs   24ORA.com

Overboard drawing     CruelKev2's blog regarding overboard cruise passengers 

Cruise Ship Waiter Commits Suicide

BBC News is reporting that a cruise line waiter hanged himself after being accused of stealing money from the tip box on the cruise ship.

The article indicates that an Indian waiter, Sumith Gawas, from Goa, allegedly killed himself in his cabin on the P&O Cruise ship Arcadia while it was docked in Southampton earlier this summer.  Fellow crew members accused Mr. Gawas of taking the money from a self-service restaurant.

A coroner in Southampton just released an official finding that a suicide occurred. The police had previously ruled out any foul play.

Tips are an important issue for the minimally paid waiters and assistant waiters on cruise ships.  Waiters employed by cruise lines like Royal Caribbean are paid only $50 a month in wages and are dependent on the generosity of the passengers.  Although some waiters can earn several thousand of dollars a month in tips while serving all three meals in the main dining room, working in a buffet or self-service restaurant results in very small passenger tips. 

Gambling Cruise Passenger Loses $650,000, Jumps From 13th Deck

SuperStar Aquarius - Star Cruises - Man OverboardOnlinePoker.net reports that a 51 year old passenger aboard the SuperStar Aquarius lost HK$5 million ($650,000) playing baccarat.  He then leaped to his death from the top floor of the 13-deck cruise ship.

The article identifies the passenger as "Xu" and states that he gambled at the baccarat table until it closed at 8 a.m. on Sunday.  After losing this staggering amount, "Xu then wandered the deck for an hour before he was seen jumping to his death .  .  ." 

A police spokesman classified the incident as “man overboard,” with no suspicious circumstances.

The cruise ship is operated by Star Cruises.

Another Death on a Royal Caribbean - Atlantis Cruise

A newspaper in the Cayman Islands is reporting that a 37 year old passenger aboard Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas died during an Atlantis sponsored cruise.

Atlantis - Royal Caribbean - Cruise - DeathThe local newspaper carries the sensational headline: "Body Found On Gay Cruise Ship."  The cruise ship had been chartered by Atlantis Events, which organizes parties for the gay community.

The cruise was billed as the Liberty Gay Cruise - the World's Largest All-Gay Cruise

The local police in the Caymans apparently issued a statement to the effect that "there would appear to be no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death."  This is a ridiculous statement.  Perhaps there is no evidence of a murder, but clearly a death of a 37 year old man healthy enough to go on a vacation cruise is inherently suspicious. 

The Advocate also reports on this latest death.

Previously, we reported on the death of another passenger aboard a Royal Caribbean - Atlantis cruise in October 2009. Spencer Yu, an attorney for Warner Brothers and a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation ("GLAAD"), died on the Mariner of the Seas. There is speculation that Mr. Yu, also a young man of  only 46 years, may have died of a drug overdose during the cruise.

Commenters on the gay community blogs Queerty and JoeMyGod bickered about the use of drugs during Atlantis sponsored events. Whether Mr. Yu's death is drug related is unknown to us.  

It has been our experience that cruise ships are not the place to have a medical emergency, whether you are gay, lesbian, transgendered, or straight.  Cruise ships are often characterized by the questionable experience and training of the shipboard doctors and staff and the limited nature Rich Campbell - Atlantis Events - Gay Cruise - Royal Caribbean - Deathof the ship's medical facilities. Are cruise ships equipped to handle medical emergencies which occur during Atlantis parties?  Does Atlantis discuss the use of drugs and the foreseeable risk of a drug overdose with the cruise line to make certain that there are properly trained medical personnel to respond to emergencies?

The Atlantis cruise parties are organized by Rich Campbell who is quoted in a recent article saying: "There’s no turning back. Once you sail, if you forget something, you’re screwed!" 

There doubtlessly will be speculation regarding the cause of this most recent cruise death and the connection to the Atlantis organization.  Is this recent death just a coincidence to the unfortunate death of Mr. Yu on another Royal Caribbean - Atlantis cruise? 

The skeptic in me says there are no such coincidences in life, or in death. 

 

 

 

Credits:

Newspaper            CompassCayman.com

Rich Campbell       Caribbean Net News "Rainbow Welcome for Gay Cruisers in the Cayman Islands"

Video                      Cayman Islands News 27

"Suicide" - One of the Cruise Lines' Favorite Excuses When a Passenger Disappears at Sea

For the past many years, I have watched cruise lines respond to each disappearance at sea by blaming the passenger.

Selling Dreams of Carefree Vacations

Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year to create the illusion of carefree vacation getaways where hard working Americans can relax, let their guard down, and forget the worries of city life. Passenger "disappearances" are inconsistent with the cruise industry’s marketing image which sells tickets.

When a passenger "disappears," there are a number of possible explanations.  Was foul play involved?  Did the passenger act carelessly due to alcohol?  Was the intoxication due to the cruise line's negligence in over-serving the passenger to make the targeted profits for the cruise?  Or was the disappearance due to a plan by the passenger to end his or her life?   

The possibilities are many but the cruise lines' conclusions are few. Cruise ships are quick to attack the passengers’ character and to steer blame away from themselves when a passenger goes overboard.

Merrian Carver - Royal Caribbean Cover Up, Stonewalling, and the Big Lie

When 40 year old Boston resident Merrian Carver "disappeared" from the cruise ship Mercury operated by Royal Caribbean’s subsidiary brand Celebrity Cruises, the cruise line tried its best to cover the incident up. It didn’t report Merrian missing to either the FBI or the Alaskan State Troopers, even though the cabin attendant reported her missing early in the cruise. Merrian’s Dad, insurance executive Ken Carver, began a serious investigation. Royal Caribbean responded by lying to Mr. Carver and disposing of evidence.  Mr. Carver didn’t go away and the story went public.  The The Arizona Republic published an excellently researched and written story.  In response, the cruise line reached into its bag of tricks and pulled out a good excuse: " . . . there is very little a cruise line, a resort or a hotel can do to prevent someone from committing suicide." 

Aside of the speculation fueled by the cruise line's lawyers and PR team, there was no competent evidence whatsoever for Royal Caribbean's self serving announcement to the media. If it was a suicide, why did Royal Caribbean work so hard to cover the incident up and lie to Mr. Carver?  Indeed, there is now an issue whether a crew member was involved in Merrian's death.  

George Smith IV - Attack the Victim

I witnessed the same type of corporate thuggery while representing Jennifer Hagel whose husband George Smith of Greenwich Connecticut disappeared under suspicious circumstances during the couple’s honeymoon cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas. For months the Hagel and Smith families patiently waited for information explaining the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the healthy and handsome 26 year old man.

But when their frustration forced them to the press for answers, the cruise industry’s response was quick and brutal. Michael Crye, representing the International Council of Cruise Lines ( the predecessor to today’s Cruise Line International Association - "CLIA") told an AP reporter investigating the story " . . . its difficult if someone chooses to do harm to themselves . . ."

Carefully Planned Hit and Run Attacks By Cruise Line PR Departments 

These type of statements are not random or insensitive rants from low level employees. The cruise lines' PR departments carefully craft the announcements and issue them only after being run through their legal departments. The Merrian Carver "suicide" theory was issued by the Royal Caribbean corporate communications director only after being reviewed by the cruise line’s outside legal counsel. When the cruise industry faced embarrassment over Royal Caribbean's mis-handling of George Smith’s death, out trotted Mr. Crye - the vice president of the cruise trade organization and himself a lawyer. Mr. Crye issued the he-did-it-to-himself statement on behalf of the entire cruise industry (CLIA's motto is "one industry - one voice"), without a shred of evidence justifying such a conclusion.

Amber Malkuch - Holland America Lines' Attack Is Business as Usual  

The recent disappearance of Washington resident Amber Malkuch shows that little has changed. Amber was 45 when she sailed on the Holland America Line ("HAL") cruise ship Zaandam. On August 3, 2009, Amber disappeared. The usual protocol when a passenger disappears should be for the FBI or the state law enforcement authorities to board the vessel at the next port and to conduct an investigation. The period of time leading up to the cruise ship's arrival at the next port is critical because the cruise line controls the scene of the disappearance, the witnesses and all of the evidence. Before the authorities can conclude whether the "disappearance" resulted from an accident (due to the ship's negligence, or the passenger's carelessness or intoxication, or a combination of factors), foul play or suicide, they must first review the evidence and interview passengers and crew members.

But on August 4, 2009, before the Alaskan State Troopers concluded their investigation, a member of HAL's PR department and CLIA's PR team, Sally Andrews, announced to the media that Amber probably took her own life. The "suicide" conclusion was picked up by all of the major news outlets and reported prominently on FOX News and other news stations.

This surprised not only Amber’s friends and family, but it dumbfounded the Alaskan State Troopers who had yet to review photographs and video, conduct interviews or analyze toxicology reports. The Anchorage Daily News reported "Troopers Miffed at Cruise Line’s Rush to Judgment." The Seattle Post Intelligencer quoted a representative of the Alaskan State Troopers saying:

We’re the people actually looking into the exact cause of death . . . We’re the ones doing the interviews and looking at the evidence . . . And if we haven’t been able to make a determination, how can the cruise line who isn’t trained?"

Who Do You Trust?  The Alaskan State Troopers or the Cruise Line?

Does Holland America Line care about what the evidence reveals?  In the world of cruise line PR (perception vs. reality), what matters most to the cruise lines seems to be the public’s perception that cruise ships are safe rather than the reality that perhaps they are not.

Determining the cause of passenger overboards is the role of experts - the U.S. Coast Guard, the F.B.I., and other law enforcement authorities - not the cruise lines' PR departments.          

 

Photo credits:

Kendall Carver - photo of Merrian Carver

Kevin Wolf (AP) - photo of Maureen Smith, Michaeil Crye, Jennifer Hagel

Seattle Post Intelligencer - photo of Amber Malkuch