Last week, a federal district court (Judge Darrin P. Gayles) in Miami issued an arrest warrant for the Crystal Symphony because the luxury cruise ship is millions of dollars in arrears in unpaid fuel bills.

Judge Gayles signed the order of seizure which directs U.S. marshals to “arrest the defendant vessel, her boats, tackle, apparel and furniture, engines and appurtenances, and to detain the same in your custody pending further order of the court.”

Peninsula Petroleum Far East filed a lawsuit in Miami last week against the Crystal Symphony, Crystal Cruises and Star Cruises for unpaid fuel bills.

Parent company to Crystal Cruises, Genting Hong Kong, stated last week that it would run out of cash by the end of this month. Crystal Cruises also announced it would suspend operations through April.

According to Cruise Industry News, total claims are $1.2 million against the Crystal Symphony, $2.1 million against Crystal Cruises, and $1.3 million against Star Cruises. USA TODAY reported that Peninsula Petroleum Far East is looking to recover just over $4.6 million from Crystal Cruises and Star Cruises. They are seeking more than $1.2 million from the Crystal Symphony vessel alone.

The Crystal Symphony was scheduled to end its cruise in Miami but changed course for the Bahamas instead.  The seizure order cannot be enforced outside of the United States. If the owners and/or operators of a legally seized ship do not satisfy the debt that the ship incurred or post a bond, the U.S. Marshall’s Office has authority to sell the ship at auction.

This motivated this cruise line to avoid a U.S. port and evade the arrest warrant for its cruise ship by changing the ship’s itinerary to the feckless islands of the Bahamas.

Passengers were notified of this last minute change of plans. They were advised that they would be taken to the island of Bimini in the Bahamas where a ferry would take them to Florida.

The terms and conditions of the Crystal Cruises’ cruise ticket permits the company to legally change the itinerary of its cruise ships and drop ports of call.  Paragraph nine (9) titled “Itinerary/Right To Change/Detentionstates in part:

“Crystal Cruises reserves the right at its sole option and discretion and that of the Captain of the Ship without liability for damages or refund of any kind, to deviate from the Ship’s advertised or ordinary itinerary or route, to delay, advance or cancel any sailing, to omit or change ports of call, to arrange for substantially equivalent transportation by another vessel and/or by other means of transportation, to cause the Guest to disembark from the Ship temporarily or permanently . . .”

The relationship between cruise lines and passengers is largely a matter of contract law.  Cruise lines have diligently spent years drafting one-sided, onerous conditions which their defense lawyers have updated into cruise passenger tickets.

Altering an itinerary to evade an arrest order signed by a Federal District Court judge in Miami to keep your cruise ship from being sold to satisfy millions of dollars in unpaid fuel bills?  Indifferent and powerless countries like the Bahamas, where Crystal registers most of its cruise ships, could not care less. And U.S. travelers who chose a so-called “luxury” cruise line may be disappointed that a company which doesn’t pay its bills and then evades the law would behave like this. But this is business as usual for the cruise lines. And cruise guests unwittingly have already agreed to permit the cruise line to change their cruise itineraries at the company’s sole option and discretion by purchasing their cruise tickets.

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Image credit: Crystal Symphony – USA TODAY Arrest warrant issued for Crystal Cruises ship due to unpaid fuel bills, passengers, crew still on board.

January 23, 2022 Late Afternoon Update: 

USA TODAY interviewed me and another maritime lawyers in Miami – Crystal Symphony changed course, kept passengers an extra day. Can cruise ships do that?

Today, we received word that a guest attending the Atlantis Events cruise aboard the Oasis of the Sea died Monday night as the Royal Caribbean cruise ship was heading to Mexico. This afternoon, reporter Chris Wiggins tweeted news of the death. He also reported on several “Code Alpha” (medical emergency) announcements broadcast on the ship.

Medical emergencies (often drug overdoses) are not uncommon on Royal Caribbean cruises chartered by Atlantis Events. For that matter, Atlantis Events cruises have been plagued by drug use, passengers going overboard and shipboard deaths over the years. We touched on some of these events in our article earlier this week:

Super Spreader of the Seas – Atlantis Events Makes a Mockery of COVID-19 Protocols

In January 2020, a member of the Atlantis technical crew went overboard from the Oasis of the Seas.

In February 2019, federal agents arrested two men trying to board the Allure of the Seas at PortMiami for possession of a large quantity of drugs which they were intending to sell on the cruise ship which had been chartered to Atlantis Events. Local News 10  reported that after the men arrived at PortMiami, a drug sniffing canine alerted its handler to their luggage which contained MDMA (ecstasy), ketamine, Viagra, Adderall and GHB.

In January 2018, Storm Chasers’ star Joel Taylor died of a suspected overdose on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Harmony of the Seas, which had been chartered by Atlantis Events. According to TMZ and other tabloid websites, passengers on the Royal Caribbean ship stated that “drugs on the party boat were plentiful.” Rosie Spinks, a talented reporter who worked for Quartz at that time, reported on Mr. Taylor’s drug death in an article titled A Reality Star’s Death Exposed the Dangerous Party Culture on Gay Cruises.

In February 2012, an Atlantis Events attendee went overboard from the Allure of the Seas operated by Royal Caribbean. His body was never recovered and he is presumed to be dead. There was no clear indication that the overboard was directly related to drug use on the ship.

Shortly before the Royal Caribbean/Atlantis 20th Anniversary cruise in February 2011, I questioned Is Royal Caribbean Ready for Medical Emergencies During the World’s Largest Gay Cruise?  I asked why Royal Caribbean tolerated the widespread use of drugs on its ships during Atlantis Events cruise parties.

A week later,  cruise passenger, Barry Krumholz, was arrested for selling large quantities of ecstasy pills, methamphetamine, ketamine and other drugs aboard the Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas chartered by Atlantis Events. There were reportedly a half-dozen drug overdoses during the cruise.

In 2010, there was another passenger death on the Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas which had been chartered to Atlantis Events. There was widespread discussion regarding the use of drugs during Atlantis Events sponsored events.

In 2009, a passenger died after he reportedly took drugs during a cruise aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship which had been chartered for the use of Atlantis Events. 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. The medical care was described by party goers as delayed and haphazard.

In 2019, Atlantis Events changed it policies apparently based on the death of Joel Taylor on the the Harmony of the Seas. Atlantis hired its own medical team. Its vacation guide at the time stated that it will have medically-related personnel at its cruise party. At page 14 of its website under “Safety at Sea” it stated:

“Our new Care Team is here to help! At all our parties and events you’ll find a team of dedicated medical professionals here to assist with absolutely anything. They will be wearing bright blue T-shirts with our Care Team logo and all have experience in working large festivals, sports events, and nightlife.

If you or anybody around you needs assistance or might need medical care, please simply ask them. They are here to help and will provide support in a nonjudgmental manner regardless of the situation. All matters are handled in the same ethical manner as in a land-based hospital.

Most importantly, please look after yourselves and each other. If you see somebody who over-indulged or is unwell, please let our team assist first.”

The current Royal Caribbean / Atlantis Events Cruise Vacation Guide – 30th Anniversary Caribbean Cruise brochure does not include language similar to the terms and condition in its 2019 brochure regarding the use of medical personnel arranged by Atlantis Events. However, one commentator, Will Kohler, suggests that Atlantis is still using its own medical staff for party goers who become ill on the ship.

Whether the medical personnel were hired by Atlantis or Royal Caribbean, cruise ships are not the place to have a medical emergency, whether you are gay, lesbian, transgendered, or straight.  Cruise ships are are notorious for the questionable experience and training of the shipboard doctors and staff and the limited nature of the cruise ship’s medical facilities.

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Image credit: Respective users on Twitter; top photo – Brooke Lynn Hytes on Twitter.

January 20, 2022 Evening Update: A passenger on the ship explained that Atlantis is indeed using an independent contractor to provide medically related services to those who need treatment on the ship:

For the past several weeks, I have received emails from several people who reconsidered going on this Atlantis Events party on the Oasis of the Seas. One person commented: “They won’t let us postpone! We’re Canadian and under an advisory not to leave the country, which has implications for insurance. The CEO (Rich Campbell) does not care; many people do not want to participate anymore but will because they do not want to lose their money. It’s reckless!”

For Atlantis CEO Campbell, who we have written about several times over the years in articles where Atlantis cruise partygoers died due to drug overdoses on the high seas, its seems that he is motivated by the same thing that spurs Royal Caribbean to proceed with the cruise – money. Mr. Campbell told the New York Times (NYT) “we signed a contract with the cruise line that cannot be changed or canceled. If I told Royal Caribbean that I was canceling the cruise tomorrow, they would come back and say ‘great but you still owe us the money.’ ”

In an article in the NYT titled Can a Gay Cruise Keep 4,700 People Safe Amid Covid?, reporter Ceylan Yeginsu writes skeptically that although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned U.S. travelers to avoid travel on cruise ships, Atlantis Events “insists that its health protocols are safe enough.”

Ms. Yeginusa writes “Atlantis insists that its vaccination mandate, testing requirements and health protocols are enough to provide a safe environment for 5,500 guests throughout the cruise” and “many passengers are convinced.”

“This is going to be the wildest party for our community in two years. I’m talking dirty dancing, sex, drugs, raves, orgies and sweet, sweet freedom,” the NTY quoted Andre Mayer, a graphic designer from Germany.

The article also quotes Ron Davis, a talent manager from Nashville, who justified ignoring the CDC’s warning against cruise travel like many people do, by claiming its somehow-safer-on-a-cruise-than-your-local-store. Mr. Davis said that the upcoming cruise “does not feel any more dangerous than taking a flight, or going for happy hour at his local bar where customers are not tested beforehand.”

Of course, there is nothing remotely similar between a local happy hour and the rave Atlantis crowded spectacle unfolding on the Oasis of the Seas. The Atlantis Events charters have always brought lots of drug overdoses on the Royal Caribbean cruise ships in the past. The truth is that this cruise line is all too happy to invite the Atlantis partiers aboard because they spend a ton of money on the cruises even if they are well known to suffer through a dozen drug overdoses and a death or so each cruise. Anyone remember Steven Krumholz or Spencer Yu or Joel Taylor?

Cramming over 5,000 on to the Oasis of the Seas during a pandemic is beyond reckless and greedy.

@grgisthewerd

Yes or no? #atlantisevents #gaycruise

♬ original sound – Greg McKeon

Royal Caribbean usually issues a statement shortly before an Atlantis Events cruise suggesting that it has a “strict zero tolerance” of drugs right before the inevitable drug bust or drug overdose which occurs like clockwork on an Atlantis Events / Royal Caribbean cruise.  So this year, the cruise line will say, with a wink and a nod, that it expects the party goers to observe the cruise line’s so-called strict mask protocols and social distancing protocols.

The Royal Caribbean / Atlantis Events Cruise Vacation Guide – 30th Anniversary Caribbean Cruise brochure contains the mask and social distancing requirements and states that:

“Important Health Notice –Please Read!

If you should come down with a contagious disease, or even suspect a contagious disease, it’s compulsory that you report it to the ship’s infirmary for the safety of everyone on board. Particularly given the current COVID pandemic, it is especially important that you comply with this regulation for the safety of everyone onboard.”

But the truth of the matter, as the photos and videos above clearly demonstrate, is that the wearing of a mask and social distancing are about the last things anyone is thinking of on this cruise.

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Images: Respective social media users on Facebook, Twitter and TikTok.

With recent news accounts revealing that Royal Caribbean is housing at sea thousands of COVID-19 infected crew members on four cruise ships, the cruise line is claiming that infected ship employees are largely asymptomatic.

Royal Caribbean International recently told the Washington Post that it is “transferring workers to crew-only ships to wait out their isolation periods.” A cruise line spokesperson claimed that “we have been using out-of-service ships for our crew members who are asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic” in order to “keep our crew and ships as healthy as possible.”

But this seems hardly true. The vast majority of infected crew members on these floating quarantine and so-called hospital ships are clearly symptomatic. Internal charts and documents from one of the ships (sent by  a trusted source) show that symptomatic crew are assigned to the red zone and asymptomatic and close contacts to the yellow zone. Shockingly, well over 80% of infected crew members on the Vision of the Seas, for example, have been assigned to the red zones and the minority to the yellow zones close to infected crew. As you can see from the chart to the right (from the Vision of the Seas)  the red zones comprise the majority of the cabins on decks 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8. The few yellow zones on decks 7 and 8 are designated only for asymptomatic crew members or close contacts.

This chart, and other information, was provided by a concerned crew member who wishes to stay anonymous.

Balconies are only on the exterior cabins on decks 7 and 8 (former guest cabins). All of the ill and symptomatic crew members who are placed in cabins on decks 2, 3, and 4 have no balconies and those on interior cabins on those decks have no windows either.

This means that the already infected crew members who are in either window-less or balcony-less interior decks on 7 and 8 or decks 2, 3 and 4 have no fresh air. The uninfected close contacts are in close proximity to the red zones are share the same recirculated air.

If this concerns you, it should. Don’t forget, COVID-19 is an airborne virus.

It is difficult to imagine a worse place to quarantine and house infected and ill employees than in the bowels of the ship where they are forced to breath recirculated air which is inhaled and exhaled by over 1,500 other infected crew employees.

Royal Caribbean claims that it has retrofitted its old ships like the 23 and 24 year-old Vison and Rhapsody with HEPA filters, but is this really true not only for the guest cabins but the crew quarters as well?

In any event, there is also a distinct concern that such an claustrophobic environment is harmful to the mental health and well-being of the crew.

Personally, I could not possibly stay behind a closed door in a stuffy crew cabin (resembling a large walk-in closet) without a window for even a few hours, much less for ten days of quarantine. How do you say, panic attack?

Read: Diary of a comedian trapped in COVID cruise ship quarantine.

Is this environment really so that the cruise line can “keep our crew and ships as healthy as possible” as the Royal Caribbean spokesperson claims?

Then there is the question of providing medical treatment to the symptomatic employees. On the Vision, there are only two ship doctors and four nurses for over 1,500 crew members, over 80% are symptomatic with fever, headaches, burning throats and fatigue. Some crew, a minority, experience coughs, shortness of breath, and more serious symptoms.

Perhaps the real reason to keep the infected and ill crew on the Vision and other quarantine ships is to avoid the considerable costs of hotels and hospitals in the U.S. There are at least 4,000 Royal Caribbean crew members on the four “plagues ships” currently used by Royal Caribbean (Vision, Rhapsody, Jewel and Serenade). A hotel in Miami and three meals runs around $250 person a day. At 4,000 ill crew members (which the cruise line would not deny or admit to the Post) that’s $1,000,000 a day that the cruise lines figures it can save by keeping the ill crew at sea. This doesn’t include the costs of shoreside medical expenses associated with the excellent U.S. medical system that Royal Caribbean tries to prevent is ship employees from receiving.

The number of infected crew members in the Royal Caribbean fleet is staggering. Royal Caribbean refuses to disclose the official numbers, but there is reliable information that there are a minimum of 1,500 infected ship employees transferred to the Vision and Rhapsody each and over 700 diseased crew members to the Jewel. Add in the several hundred transferred from the Liberty of the Seas to the Serenade late on Wednesday, and the total number of infected crew transferred transferred to these four ship is currently at a minimum of 4,000 and probably a few thousand more.

Thanks to the many crew members who have risked their employment by providing some of the information and documents I have referred to above.

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January 14, 2022 Afternoon Update: This morning the Allure OTS met the Vision OTS in Coco Cay, Bahamas and transferred around 165 infected crew members to the Vision and took on 85 crew:

January 15, 2022 Update: The Rhapsody of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and the Harmony of the Seas. rendezvoused in Coco Cay yesterday to try and transfer COCIVD-19 infected crew members later at night.

Yesterday, the Chief Judge for the Southern District of Florida fined Carnival Corporation $1,000,000 for violating the terms of its criminal probation which it has been serving for the past five years. In response, Carnival dipped into its petty cash fund and promptly paid the fine with a $1,000,000 check.

The probation arises out of the nearly decade practice of widespread dumping of oil from five Carnival-owned cruise ships operated by Princess Cruises. The case is commonly referred to as the “magic pipe” scandal where engineers fabricated a metal pipe to secretly bypass the oily water separation systems on Princess cruise ships to dump millions of gallons of lubrication/engine oil from the ship’s bilges. Thereafter, the Southern District of Florida levied a record $40,000,000 against Carnival and placed all of its cruise brands on criminal probation. Carnival violated the terms of its probation after it was discovered that Carnival ships were engaged in widespread discharge of plastics throughout the Caribbean waterss. The most recent million dollar fine, in my view, will accomplish little in encouraging Carnival and its brands, which include Princess, HAL, Costa, Cunard, Carnival Cruise Line, AIDA, P&O, P&O Australia, and Seabourn, to change their illegal and morally reprehesible conduct.

For additional indormation, read:

Deliberate Dumping, Cover-Up and Lies: DOJ Fines Princess Cruises $40,000,000

Federal Court Lets Carnival Corporation Off the Hook Again

You can read the official court documents regarding Carnival’s latest probation violation here:

Proposed Agreement to Resolve Petition for Summons for Offender Under Supervision Dated November 23, 2021 – DE 253 and Exhibit

Joint Factual Basis for Defendant’s Guilty Plea to the Petition for Summons for Offender Under Supervision Dated November 23, 2021 – DE 254

Order Accepting Proposed Settlement and Reinstating Probation – DE 255

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Read:

Miami Herald: Carnival, its Princess Cruise Lines plead guilty to second probation violation connected to 2017 criminal case

Compliance Week: Carnival to pay $1M for environmental probation violation

 

Today, a reader sent me this video produced by a Royal Caribbean crew member who operates The Curious Lens of Martina from Argentina. Crew member Martina explains that the Serenade of the Seas will operate as a floating “quarantine or hospital ship” to “assist the rest of the fleet.” This “new mission,” as Maria explains, is to assist the fleet in accepting the transfer of COVID-19 positive crew members from other Royal Caribbean cruise ships sailing Western Caribbean itineraries so that they can continue to call on Caribbean ports (which apparently have reporting requirements that block ships from calling when their total population (of guests and crew members exceeds 1%).

To place this news in context, Royal Caribbean has assembled a fleet of cruise ships to house their crew members who test positive for COVID-19 and to provide medical treatment to those who are symptomatic.  Two of the other ships, the Vision of the Seas and the Rhapsody of the Seas, are currently at maximum capacity with over 1,500 infected crew members on each ship. The majority of the crew members are symptomatic.

A third Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Jewel of the Seas, conducted its first transfer of infected / ill crew members from the Harmony of the Seas yesterday morning when it brought aboard 237 crew members. The Oasis of the Seas also made a crew transfer of infected crew members to the Jewel.

The video if course does not mention these types of details.

The total number of infected crew members on the Jewel is currently 720 employees (according to a crew member on the Jewel who wishes to remain anonymous), including the 187 crew members (which increased in the last day from 183 crew members) on the Jewel who were already infected / ill.

With many hundreds of crew members becoming infected on Royal Caribbean ships, it is just a matter of time before the Jewel and Sensation also reach maximum capacity.  All of the four Royal Caribbean quarantine / hospital ships are requiring crew members to share cabins. We do not yet know how many ship doctors or nurses are employed on the Serenade. If it is staffed like the Vision with only two doctors and four nurses for over 1,500 infected / ill crew members, the medical staffing is clearly inadequate. Stuffing over a thousand infected and ill crew members together on an old ship like the Serenade with a questionable ability to provide ventilation and circulation of fresh air is not remotely in the best interest of the physical or mental condition of its hard working crew members.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases continue to surge on cruise ships as the industry persists in ignoring the warnings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) against travel by cruise ships, irrespective of vaccination status.

Read our first article addressing this issue:

Vision of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas: Royal Caribbean’s “Plague Ships”

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Image credit: Serenade of the Seas – Matt H. Wade, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikiperia,

This past weekend, Royal Caribbean announced the suspension of the Jewel of the Seas. The announcement also refered to the cruise line suspending two other active cruise ships, Symphony of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas.  It included a statement that a fourth cruise ship, the Vision of the Seas, which is not yet sailing on revenue cruises with passengers, will not resume cruises with guests for another seven weeks. What the company did not announce, but is becoming obviously clear, is that Royal Caribbean will continue to use the Vision of the Seas as well as the Rhapsody of the Seas as floating quarantine hotels / hospitals to accomodate the thousands of crew members who are infected / ill with COVID-19. Read: Vision of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas: Royal Caribbean’s “Plague Ships,”

Based on information which we have received from crew members of the Vision and Rhapsody, both cruise ships are now at full capcacity with quarantined and ill crew members. Yet, each week we see more and more crew members becoming infected with the virus.  Royal Caribbean addressed ths problems by deciding that the Jewel of the Seas will be used as a third floating quarantine hotel / hospital ship for crew members.

The company announced internally that “Jewel of the Seas will be serving as crew accommodations, as we work with our other ships in service . . .  We will have three types of crew on board Jewel: (1) working crew, (2) quarantine crew, and (3) COVID positive crew transferred to the Jewel from other ships.”

The Jewel made its first pickup of infected crew members when it rendezvoused with the Harmony of the Seas early this morning  The Jewel sailed from Miami and the Harmony from Port Canaveral and met at Royal Caribbean’s private destination at Coco Cay. One crew member placed the number of transferred crew members at 237; another stated that 241 infected crew were tranferred.

We reported that when the Jewel was approaching Miami yesterday, there were a total of 163 infected crew and 10 infected guests. By the time that the Jewel arrived at PosrtMiami, these numbers increased to 183 crew members and 23 guests.

Considering that the Jewel had 183 infected crew members as of yesterday and picked up least 237 infected crew members from the Harmony this morning, the Royal Caribbean ship now has a total of 420  infected crew members. So it’s just a matter of time before we learn that the Jewel is at full capacity of housing infected and ill crew members.

There is an issue whether these floating hospitals have adequate medical staffing of doctors and nurses. The Vision reportedly has only two doctors and four nurses for over 1,500-2,000 infected crew.  It is unknown how many ship doctors or nurses are on the Jewel, but it is doubtful whether there are more than two doctors and a few nurses.

The majority of the infected crew members on the Vision are reportedly symptomatic with headaches, fever, sore throats and fatigue. Fortunately, few crew members  have severe symptoms at this time but there are some instances of ship employees complaining of shortness of breath and other significant symptoms. There is an obvious concern, with so many thousands of infected crew members and so few doctors and nurses on these ships, that those employees with more serious symptoms will slip through the cracks.

From what I have heard from guests on Royal Caribbean ships and through some of their social media postings, ships nurses appear exhausted from dealing with COVID-19 related medical issues, as reveaked by this TikToc posting by a guest whose family (wife and child) was infected on the Harmony of the Seas last week.

@cruisingwithcovid

Royal Carribean Nurse: “We have alot alot of patients with worse symptoms than you” …. #cruise #royalcaribbean #deck9 #fyp #quarantine #covid #theroyalcomeback #theRoyalSETBACK #harmonyoftheseas #socialdistancing @royalcaribbean @cdc.official @cruiseindustrycritic @jimwalker @cruisediva

♬ original sound – CWC

Although I have been referring to the Vision and Rhapsody and, now, the Jewel as floating “hotels” and “hospitals,” in truth they are neither. In all cases, crew members do not have the luxury of going for a walk outside of the hotel and getting some fresh air. For most crew members, they don’t have balconies which they can open; they must breath the same old COVID-19 recycled air inhaled and exhaled by everyone on lower crew decks. The so called “floating hospital” is actually no more than an ill equipped “walk-in” clinic at sea, staffed by an insufficient number of ship doctors and nurses.

Clearly, Royal Caribbean should promptly transport their infected ship employees ashore and pay for them to stay in hotels to recover, as is consistent with the fundamental requirements of maritime law and the “maintenance and cure” doctrine. Keeping infected and often ill crew members stuck on ships at sea should be an embarrassment to the cruise line. Carnival is doing the same thing by using some of its older cruise ships, like the Carnival Ecstasy and Carnival Sensation, as floating quarantine and medical facilities. However, to these types of companies motivated more by money than the health and safety of its crew, this appears to be business as usual.

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Image credit: Top – Jewel of the Seas – Dave souza – CC BY-SA 2.5 commons / wikimedia.orgLindsay Ratliff -TikToc video – Royal Carribean Nurse: “We have alot, alot of patients with worse symptoms than you” (see @cruisingwithcovid); Twitter images  – respective Twitter usrs.

The MSC Meraviglia arrived in Port Canaveral early this morning with what  one ship officer characterized as a massive number of people infected with COVID-19. According to this officer who wishes to remain anonymous and stay employed by MSC, as of last night were one hundred and sixty-nine (169) crew members and at least sixty guests (60) who tested positive as this cruise ship which ended its its seven day cruise to ports in Mexico.

At least one ambulance was waiting at the dock when the MSC cruise ship returned to port this morning.

The MSC Meraviglia is one of numerous cruise ships with a large number of crew members and guests positive with COVID-19. We reported yesterday that Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas, which is returning to PortMiami today, has 163 crew members positive with COVID-19. The Explorer of the Seas, which arrives in San Juan today, had 110 infected ship employees, many of whom were transferred off the ship yesterday to the Vision of the Seas which Royal Caribbean is using as a floating quarantine hotel / hospital. The Harmony of the Seas recently transferred a similar number of infected crew members to the Vision of the Seas as well. The Vision of the Seas also returned to port in South Florida (Port Everglades) this morning.

Read: COVID-19 Cases Explode on Cruise Ships: 163 Positive Crew Members on Jewel of the Seas as the Cruise Industry Sputters . . . . to . . . a . . Stop?

Ten days ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned the U.S. public against taking a cruise (irrespective of their vaccination status) given the risk of the Omicron variant.

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Image Credit: Top – ambulance and paramedics at Port Canaveral – anonymous MSC officeer; MSC Meraviglia – Estormiz – CC0, wikipedia / commons.

Yesterday, Royal Caribbean announced the suspension of sailing on three of its active cruise ships, the Jewel of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas.  It also announced that a fourth cruise ship, the Vision of the Seas, which is not yet sailing on revenue cruises with pasengers and which the company is using as a floating quarantine hotel / hospital, will not resume cruises with guests for another seven weeks.

Royal Caribbean announced the following:

“As a result of the ongoing COVID-related circumstances around the world, and in abundance of caution, we have made the tough decision to pause operations on the following ships:

  • Jewel of the Seas sailings from Jan. 9 – Feb. 12, returning on Feb. 20, 2022;
  • Serenade of the Seas sailings from Jan. 8 – March 5, resuming service after her dry dock on April 26, 2022;
  • Symphony of the Seas sailings from Jan. 8 – Jan. 22, returning on Jan. 29, 2022;
  • Vision of the Seas return to cruising is postponed until March 7, 2022.”

What Royal Caribbean did not say in its “abundance of caution” announcement (and will never publicly admit) is that it is now facing an explosion of COVID-19 cases on its ships, primarily affecting its crew members.

Over the last ten days, we reported that the Jewel of the Seas had 15 infected crew members shortly after Christmas, then 25 infected crew members, then 50 infected crew, then 80, then 109 as of yesterday. All the while, officers on the Jewel kept the rising COVID-19 count secret from the guests and would lie to them when questioned.

As of late last night, there were 163 infected crew members, as well as 10 infected guests.  The ship initially planned to rendezvous with the Vision of the Seas and transfer its infected and/or ill crew onto that floating quarantine hotel / hospital ship where hundreds are being warehoused in order for the company to avoid quarantine and medical costs of transferring its crew ahore. With the announcement yesterday that it will suspend cruises for over a month when it reaches Miami tommorow, the cruise line will now not transfer anyone else to the Vision but will keep its many infected crew on the ship.

This information is from a reliable crew employee on this ship who I have known for years and  who has provided shipboard COVID-19 statistics which I have reported on since last July when the ship was experiencing just a handful of positive cases a cruise.

Based on information from crew members we know on Royal Caribbean ships and statistics which have been reported by the Miami Herald, the following Royal Caribbean ships have seen an explosion of COVID-19 cases, primarily of crew members:

Jewel of the Seas163 crew members (first reported in this article);

Explorer of the Seas 110 crew members (first reported in this article);

Harmony of the Seas110 crew members;

Oasis of the Seas55 guests and crew members;

Odyssey of the Seas  52 crew members;

Rhapsody of the Seas 48 guests and crew members.

Yes, that’s 413 crew members infected with COVID-19 from just four ships, the Jewel, Explorer, Harmony and Odyssey over the course of just one week.

Passengers on these ships tell us that the absence of ship employees is obvious around the ships. Passenger cabins not being attended to by stateroom attendants, bartenders and waiters are missing from restaurants and lounges, and entertainment is being cancelled are some of the typical comments we hear from guests.

Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean is continuing to shuttle its infected and ill crew members to one of two floating hotels / hospitals, the Vision of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas. Currently, the Vision of the Seas is housing around 1,500 infected and ill crew members from a number of cruise ships who are often transferred at night to avoid creating a public spectacle. Last week, the Harmony of the Seas transferred around 110 infected crew to the Vision in Coco Cay. Today, the Explorer of the Seas transferred a similar number to the Rhapsody of the Seas in St. Maarten.

Some of the cruise ships like the Jewel, which will suspend cruises tomorrow,  will be used to quarantine infected crew members because there is simply not enough room on the two quarantine ships to accommodate additional crew members. These two ships are already stuffed with infected crew members who usually are required to share cabins in the crew quarters without balconies.

It is now past the point of debating whether the cruise industry can safely cruise. The industry continues to stumble forward with literally several thousands of infected and sick ship employees now floating around on makeshift quarantine ships and “hospitals.” These ships could more accurately be called skimpy floating “walk-in clinics” which are more likely to dispense Ibuprofen than take crew complaints seriously.

Royal Caribbean recently told USA TODAY that infected crew are quickly returned from their floating quarantine ships to work as soon as they test negative. But it’s not as simple as the public relations at Royal Caribbean are letting on. The majority of the infected crew members on the Vision of the Seas are in fact lardely symptomatic (sore throats, headaches, fever, and fatigue are the most common complaints) and there are some ship employees with shortness of breath and other serious symptoms. There is a paucity of ship doctors (just two) responsible for around 1,500 crew members on this floating walk-in clinic. This clinics is not only understaffed but under-equipped. There are no frontline therapies available, such as  monoclonal antibiodies, available or adequate oxygen supplies, and certainly no ventilators or ECMO heart-lung machines on these floating clinics.

The last place anyone infected with COVID-19 should be is on a minimally equipped and staffed floating walk-in clinic far away from the U.S.

Although we do not have data from all of Royal Caribbean ships, it is reasonable to assume that the rest of the company’s fleet is experiencing a similar number of infected crew members and the ships are struggling to offer uninterrupted basic services.

There is no good reaaason for having a pleasant back-and-forth debate about whether there should be another no-sail order similar to that first entered in March of 2020.

Unfortuntely, as much as cruise fans and travel writer-shills for the industry bemoan that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is somehow “picking on the industry,” the fact is that the CDC does not regularly report on the daily number of COVID-19 infections on cruise ships. Incredibly, the CDC’s conditional sailing order is about to become just a suggestion for cruise lines to voluntarily follow. For that matter, the CDC is sill cluelessly designating the Vision and the Rhapsody as “orange” notwithstanding many hundreds of infected and sick crew on each ship. An “orange” designation is defined, according to the CDC, as “reported cases of COVID-19 are below the threshold for CDC investigation.”

How on earth can 1,500 crew members infected with COVID-19 be below the federal health agency’s threshold for conducting a investigation?

As the CDC oversight seems likely to soon fade away, perhaps it does not really matter.  To me, it seems that the cruise industry resembles a car which limped along with deflated tires for far too long, and is now riding on its rims. It’s just a matter of time until its wheels come off and it crashes. Any family foolish enough at this point to trust the largely dishonest cruise lines and ignore the CDC’s warning not to cruise may be in for a rude wakening when they climb aboard a cruise ship now.

Ten days ago when the CDC last announced the total of cruise ship COVID-19 cases (when it warned that the public should not travel by cruise ship even if vaccinated) the count was a little over 5,000 cases. That was around a week ago. If and when the CDC next announces the number of COVID-19 cases on cruise ship, it will likely be over 25,000. The count will continue to climb as long as the Omicron and Delta variants continue to surge and the ships keep sailing until the cruise industry comes to a grinding halt.

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Image credit: Top – Jewel of the Seas – Dave souza – CC BY-SA 2.5 commons / wikimedia.org;

After additional testing on the Jewel of the Seas, there are now one-hundred and nine (109) COVID-19 cases involving crew members on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship which is continuing on its cruise to the Caribbean. Six guests are also infected with the virus. Earlier this week, we reported that thee were fifty-one (51) crew cases which increased to eighty (80) crew cases by yesterday afternoon and now over one-hundred cases!

We have reported on COVID-19 cases on this ship since its was sailing last summer from Cyprus. This is by far the most virus cases we have seen on this particular ship.

The Jewel is one of several Royal Caribbean cases which has experienced a significant number of COVID-19 cases involving crew members. The Symphony of the Seas experienced forty-eight (48) positive crew members; the Odyssey of the Seas had fifty-two (52), which later increased to sixty-nine (69); and Harmony of the Seas over one-hundred (100) crew members infected (thee diferent guests videotaped and observed crew members transferring from the Harmony to the Vision of the Seas (the company is using as a floating hotel / hospital who arrived at slightly different totals of 107, 108 and 110 crew members).

The information from the Jewel comes from a reliable and knowledgeable crew member who we have known for years who wishes to remain anonymous. We are also in touch with a number of guests who state that these cruise line is not being forthcoming with information about the number of infected on the ship. One guest informed us:

‘Still no updates from the ship. The captain’S last message was wonderful weather, and a small history on Haiti. Dining room had a long wait for food at lunch. Server said there were very few people to cook today. Housekeeping is down to nothing. There was 1 cart in the floors I walked this morning. A guest is telling everyone that a member of her party … tested positive and can not be moved to deck 3 or deck 4 (quarantine cabins)  because they are full. She said neither she nor the people in her cabin have not been contacted to test.”

It appears from the information coming from the ship that portions of decks three and four are resreved for quarantining COVID-19 positive passengers and crew. We have received continuing comments that the service is obviously sub-par on the ship with an insufficient number of waiters, cabin attendants and cleaners missing form their jobs.

Yesterday, we reported that there were 80 quarantined crew members on the ship. This number has increased all week long to the current total of 109.

 

At this time, the ship is continuing on with it plan to offload the infected crew members to the Vision of the Seas between now and Sunday (January 9th) when the ship is scheduled to return to Miami.

It is difficult to see how this cruise ship can continue oerating where so many crew operations are lacking a sufficient number of healthy employees and some of the Cariibean ports are refusing infected ships to dock.

As we have mentioned in prior posts, Royal Caribbean is using the Vision (along with the Rhapsody OTS) as a floating quarantine / hospital for infected crew members.  You can read our thought about this practice in our article titled Vision of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas: Royal Caribbean’s “Plague Ships.”

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January 7, 2022 Afternoon Upfate: The captain announced that the Jewel of the Seas will suspend operations for the rest of this month, We are currently unaware of the exact cruises which are being cancelled.

Further January 7, 2022 Update: Royal Caribbean announced the following:

As a result of the ongoing COVID-related circumstances around the world, and in abundance of caution, we have made the tough decision to pause operations on the following ships:

  • Jewel of the Seas sailings from Jan. 9 – Feb. 12, returning on Feb. 20, 2022;
  • Serenade of the Seas sailings from Jan. 8 – March 5, resuming service after her dry dock on April 26, 2022;
  • Symphony of the Seas sailings from Jan. 8 – Jan. 22, returning on Jan. 29, 2022;
  • Vision of the Seas return to cruising is postponed until March 7, 2022.

Image credit: Top – anonymous guest on the Jewel of the Seas; middle – respective Twitter users.