A cruise guest aboard the MSC Grandiosa tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday, according to the Italian newspaper Giornale Di Sicilia (GPS). The case was widely reported in the Italian press whereas the U.S. media has not yet commented on the story.

The MSC cruise ship left Genoa last Sunday on a seven-day cruise. The passenger who tested positive for the virus was isolated, as was his wife who tested negative. The close contacts of the couple were promptly traced, who were in turn isolated and tested. The newspaper indicates that the contacts tests were negative and remain on board in isolation.

The established protocols state that when there is a positive case of COVID-19, like this, the person(s) must be transferred to a facility ashore with whom the cruise line has made housing and medical arrangements before the cruise. In this case, MSC had made arrangements with facilities in Palermo, Italy. So the cruise made a “short technical call” on the port of Palermo to transfer the guest and his wife to one of the facilities that the Company has reserved. The GPS newspaper reports that the two guests disembarked this morning.

MSC’s protocols require guests to be tested prior to the cruise and later during the cruise itself. In this case, the guest’s second test proved to be positive. It is less than clear exactly when tests are required to be taken before boarding the ship. Tests, of course, are not always accurate. There can be false-positives and false-negatives. It is possible that the guest’s first test was a false-negative or, if the test was taken several days before the cruise, the guest could have become infected in the subsequent days before the cruise or after the ship sailed.

The MSC protocols require crew members to be tested weekly.

The MSC Grandiosa will continue on with its regularly scheduled itinerary. MSC Cruises was the first company to leave Italy after the suspension in the Christmas holidays, with the ship departing on January 24th from Genoa. The ship performs week-long cruises in the Mediterranean with stops in Civitavecchia, Naples, Palermo and Malta. This is the fourth cruise of the year.

Last week, I communicated with a guest on the MSC Grandiosa who commented that the mask protocols, although reportedly well enforced on the ship, were very lax on the company sponsored excursion. He posted a photo on Twitter which showed only three of eight passengers wearing masks.

The Italian Ministry of Health confirmed a positive case of COVID-19 on the MSC Grandiosa last October. We also reported last Fall that performers (dancers and singers) were crowded on stage together in an internal club on the same ship. Guests were also filmed crowded together drinking and dancing in front of a band on the pool deck of the ship. Some of the guests were wearing masks, but many were clearly not. There was no semblance of social distancing in the videos shown of the deck party.

Many travelers who are not inclined to follow the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the U.S. State Department’s warnings against non-essential travel (in general) and travel by cruise ship (in particular), often point to cruising from Europe as a safe alternative. I have two responses to that proposition.

Firstly, there have been over 200 passengers and crew members who tested positive for COVID-19 during European sailings since cruising was suspended from U.S. ports last year. The cases involved MSC Cruises, Costa Cruises, TUI Group, SeaDream, Hurtigruten and a number of smaller river cruise ships. (You can see a partial list here). The last outbreak occurred on the Mein Schiff 2 ship operated by the TUI Group just last week.

Secondly, there is a reason why the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Germany and other countries in Europe are prohibiting recreational cruises. Non-essential travel and travel by cruise ship exacerbates the spread of COVID-19. Congregating in bars, restaurants, and night clubs on crowed cruise ships over the course of a week is a good way to become infected and spread the virus back to the residents of the home-ports of the cruise ships and home communities of the infected guests.

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Image credits: MSC Grandiosa – By kees torn – Vertrek, CC BY-SA 2.0 commons / wikimedia; screen grab – Cruise Passion

A COVID-19 outbreak occurred last week on the Mein Schiff 2 German cruise ship which sailed to the Canary Islands, according to passengers about the ship. One of the guests aboard the ship, who wishes to remain anonymous, indicated that four other guests aboard the cruise ship tested positive for COVID-19 at the end of the cruise.

Mein Schiff Letter to Guests

The guest who informed us of the outbreak sent a copy of a letter which had been distributed to the passengers on February 5th. The letter claims that the infected passengers were “disinfected today . . .  with the help of electric spray mist machines . . .”

After they were “disinfected,” these four guests, together with twenty others, were initially isolated on the ship and then quarantined ashore at a hotel in Gran Canaria (i.e., Grand Canary Island) in the Canary Islands. This group of twenty people had been identified as having been in close contact with the infected guests during the cruise; the group consisted of nine guests and eleven crew members.

Here is the translation of the letter which had been delivered to the German guests:

On board the Mein Schiff 2, February 5th, 2021

Current information about your trip – trip February 5 – February 12. 2021

Dear Guests,

We look forward to seeing you on board the Mein Schiff 2.

At the beginning of your vacation trip, we would like to provide you with some current information.

Our far-reaching health and hygiene concept has thus once again been preserved: As part of a test, four of around 1,000 guests on board the Mein Schiff 2 tested positive for COVID-19. The tests of all the other guests were negative. The crew was also tested today, all with negative results.

In accordance with the processes established with the Spanish authorities, the four guests and other guests who tested negative (identified as contact group 1) were immediately isolated on board and were disinfected today in compliance with all safety measures, including with the help of electric spray mist machines, and only after the prescribed action time released again.

So you can rest assured that you as a guest arriving today have no cause for concern.

We wish you a good start to your vacation.

The German Media Widely Reports the COVID-19 Outbreak 

The outbreak, which has not been reported yet by the U.S. media, was widely reported by German newspapers and cruise bloggers. It was also widely discussed on social media, particularly on Twitter.

TAG24 reported on the outbreak with an article headlined with Corona Outbreak on Cruise Ship! Passengers in Island Quarantine. TUI admitted to the German media that four guests had tested positive for COVID-19 on February 5th. It confirmed that nine guests and eleven crew members were identified as persons who had come in close contact with the infected passengers. TUI also stated that it would be responsible for the accommodations of the group of contacts ashore. The costs of those who had tested positive would be covered by international travel insurance. The infected passengers reportedly have so far had no or only mild symptoms.

TAG24 also reported that “All of the other 1,000 or so guests tested negative for the corona virus and were able to travel home on Friday as planned.” The Kreuzfahrt-Aktuelles (cruise news) blog in Germany reported that the passengers were required to take rapid antigen tests, which were carried out in a bar aboard the ship.  All of the 800 employees of the ship were also tested and the results were negative.

The German cruise blog Schiffe-und-Kreuzfahrten (“ships and cruises”) was the first to report on the outbreak on February 5th.

Did the Pre-Cruise Test Fail and Were the Guests Infected When They Boarded or Were the Guest Infected on the Ship?

TUI claims that its ships are under “strict hygiene requirements.” It ships, including the Mein Schiff 2, are sailing at reduced capacity with this particular ship sailing with only a maximum of around 60 percent of its usual guests on board so that social distancing can be observed.  The German press generally mentions that passengers are required to take COVID-19 test before the cruise starts.

TUI states “all guests are tested negative for COVID-19 (at an unmentioned time) before starting the trip.” Its website explains that there are three test options. Guests can choose to take a HELIOS KLINIKEN test or a CENTOGENE COVID-19 test, the costs of which is included in the cruise fare. Or guests can also get tested by their family doctor or at a test center of their choice. The costs will be initially borne by the guests who will later receive an on-board credit of € 55 per person at the start of your journey.

It’s Not the First Time That A Mein Schiff Ship Tested Positive 

Last July, we reported that crew members working for TUI Cruises tested positive for COVID-19. TUI initially refused to disclose the results of the tests, but later admitted that at least five Mein Schiff 1 crew members became infected with COVID-19. The German cruise blog called Kreuzfahrt-Aktuelles (cruise news) was the first to report this news.

COVID-19 Testing is Erratic and Sometimes Flawed

It is important that pre-cruise testing involves several COVID-19 test results taken shortly before the passengers first board the ship. COVID-19 testing, or course, is not always accurate. False positive results and false negatives results on other cruise ships have been reported on this blog. In this case, when were the passengers first tested? Where the tests taken several days before the cruise?  Were the passengers infected shortly before the cruise or on the ship itself?

Why Is TUI Group Cruising During a Deadly Pandemic When the German Foreign Services Office Specifically Warns Against Travel to the Canary Islands?

One German citizen responded to the outbreak on Twitter: “I ask myself: Which part of #StayAtHome did you not understand please? And why are you allowed to sail around on a ship with 1000 people, but not go for a walk in the park with 3 friends?” Another tweeted “Incomprehensible” in response to TUI’s claim that the cruise ship quickly was “cleaned and disinfected” and “left with guests again.”

Like the U.S., Canada, U.K. and other Countries, Germany Warns Against Non-Essential Travel

The German newspaper Stern comments that the TUI cruises are controversial because Spain and thus the Canary Islands have been classified as an area with a particularly high risk of COVID-19 infections. The Foreign Office in Berlin in Germany clearly states: “We are currently warning against unnecessary tourist trips to Spain, including the Canary Islands.”

The Mein Schiff fleet of cruise ships is operated by the German  TUI Group, which staffs, manages and operates the ships in a 50:50 joint venture with Royal Caribbean. Because Royal Caribbean has been stymied by “no sail” orders since early last year and an onerous “conditional sail” order last October by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Royal Caribbean is essentially using the German cruising public, who chose to ignore Germany’s warnings against travel to Spain and the Canary Islands, as guinea pigs to see if TUI’s coronavirus protocols are effective.

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Photo credit: Top – Mein Schiff 2 – Daniel Bockwold/AP via USA TODAY; letter to passengers – anonymous; middle – Mein Schiff 2 – Kefalonia2015 – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.

Last Friday afternoon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) enacted an order which requires all travelers to wear masks on public transportation in order to help control the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC defined travelers to include all “passengers and crew.” The order applies to travel by bus, train, plane, vessel and other conveyances, as well as at “transportation hubs” which are defined as airports, seaports, train stations and bus terminals.

As promised during his inauguration speech with the mission to battle the raging coronavirus, President Biden imposed a mask mandate in the  federal context in one of his first executive orders.

Masks Required for All Guests and Crew During Duration of Travel To and On Cruise Ships

The new CDC order requires that all persons who are travelling to or from the United States must wear masks while boarding and disembarking, and for the duration of their travel, “until the conveyance arrives at the foreign destination.”

Cruise passengers who travel to the port via commercial aircraft are required to wear masks while traveling through the air terminal and on aircraft. The CDC order specifically acknowledged that “air travel often requires spending time in security lines and crowded airport terminals. Social distancing may be difficult if not impossible on flights. People may not be able to distance themselves by the recommended 6 feet from individuals seated nearby or those standing or passing through the aircraft’s aisles.”

The order specified the current status of the ongoing pandemic. As of January 27th, COVID-19 has infected almost 100,000,000 people and killed over 2,140,000 people in the world, while infecting over 25,000,000 and killing over 415,000 in the United States. The order also mentions new COVID-19 variants which have recently emerged as well as at least one variant with increased transmissibility. These number of COVID-19 cases and deaths have risen dramatically since the CDC withdrew its “no-sail order.”

The CDC cited numerous studies, medical journals, and empirical analysis  as evidence supporting the effectiveness of masks in reducing the emission and inhalation of the virus.

The new CDC order will go into effect today at midnight.

The CDC Tightens Cruise Line Protocol Mask-Exclusions

Although some cruise lines already have COVID-19 protocols which include the wearing of masks, the CDC mask requirements appear to limit the exceptions to mask-wearing.  The Royal Caribbean – NCL “Healthy Sail” panel recommendations (no. 16), for example, states that a “notable exception is indoor dining, Seating in restaurants and bars/lounges should allow for physical distancing so guests can eat and drink without face coverings while seated.” Thus, a cruise guest could theoretically sit in a restaurant, bar or lounge for a couple of hours drinking and occasionally snacking without having to wear a mask.  The CDC order, on the other hand, permits travelers not to wear a mask, but only “for brief periods,” while “eating, drinking or taking medications.” The CDC order obviously is more consistent with the fact that the more closely a traveler interacts with others and the longer the interactions, the higher the risk of the spread of the virus.

Vaccines May Be Required in the Future As Well

The CDC addressed the issue of vaccinations and the ability to travel. It stated that travel operators may “impose requirements, or conditions for carriage . . . as well as require evidence that the person does not have COVID-19 . . .” It stands to reason that if the CDC is now requiring the wearing of a mask as a condition of cruising, the agency will eventually require the most effective step to prevent infection with the virus – a COVID-19 vaccine.

Masks Are Required Even After Guests and Crew Are Vaccinated

Masks are still required for those travelers who are vaccinated as well as those who have recovered from COVID-19. The CDC reasoned that whereas “vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe or symptomatic COVID-19, at this time there is limited information on how much the available COVID-19 vaccines may reduce transmission in the general population and how long protection lasts. Therefore, the mask requirement, as well as CDC recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19, additionally apply to vaccinated persons. Similarly, CDC recommends that people who have recovered from COVID-19 continue to take precautions to protect themselves and others, including wearing masks . . .”

The CDC order makes this plainly clear. From the CDC site:

“Do I need to wear a mask if I have recovered from COVID-19? 

Yes, the order requires all travelers to wear a mask, including those who have recovered from COVID-19.

Do I need to wear a mask if I have had a COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes, the order requires all travelers to wear a mask, including those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.”

To those cruise fans eagerly waiting for a vaccine to resume cruising, this order should be a further wake-up call. It will not be possible to return to this form of non-essential travel / vacation for those who refuse to wear a mask while traveling to and on a cruise ship.

The CDC Still Recommends Against Cruising and Other Non-Essential Travel

Of course, the CDC recommended that “travelers defer all cruise travel worldwide last October and has not lifted the order. The CDC issued a level 3 warning – “Avoid Non-Essential Travel – Widespread Ongoing Transmission.” The CDC continues to urge that people defer all travel, including cruise ships and river cruises. Congregating on cruise ships in restaurants, bars and lounges, in particular, where people are prone to drink alcohol and mingle throughout happy hour into the evening while removing their mask for the duration, remains a particular problem. Other means of travel, including travel by plane, train, or bus, whereas the length of exposure is significantly less than a one-week cruise, nonetheless also increases the chance of getting and spreading COVID-19.

The spread of COVID-19 remains a problem as the cruise industry continues to postpone cruises to dates when it knows that it will have to reschedule them once again. Most companies have postponed cruises from U.S. ports until at least May. Many believe that cruising is not likely to resume until later in 2021 or sometime in 2022.

In the three-month period from the end of October until today, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. increased from around 8,800,000 when the “no-sail” order was lifted at the end of last October to over 26,000,000, and deaths from around 227,000 to over 442,000. On a world-wide basis, the number of COVID-19 cases increased from around 44,000,000 to 103,000,000 and deaths from 1,200,000 to over 2,235,000.

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Photo credit:

Top – by unknown author – https://unwritten-record.blogs.archives.gov/2018/03/13/the-1918-influenza-pandemic-photos/#jp-carousel-19868, public domain; middle – LAX Airport Terminal – TimBray at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia; bottom – Carnival Liberty – Jim Walker

Yesterday, an image which Celebrity Cruises tweeted jumped out at me, so to speak. It was a photo (below) of a cruise line bartender pouring cocktails to two young women sitting close together at one of the bars on a Celebrity cruise ship. No one is wearing a mask, neither the crew nor the guests, and no social distancing was maintained in the closed interior space.

Congregating in a bar with no masks worn by either the guests or crew who are not maintaining social distancing is in violation of CDC guidelines, EU protocols and NCL- RCCL’s so-called “Healthy Sail” Protocols.

So one of two things may be possible here. First, the photo may be an accurate depiction of what it will be like congregating in a bar on a Celebrity ship. This is disappointing given that the wearing of masks and social distancing have proven to be effective measures against COVID-19. The photo makes a mockery of the protocols which these cruise lines have heavily touted. Secondly, and more likely, is that masks and social distancing will be required, in theory at least, but the cruise lines want to entice people to continue booking despite the reality that the fast spreading virus is largely out of control, that vaccine distribution and administration are largely lagging behind expectations and, realistically, cruising will not resume anytime soon.

The reality is that COVID-19 has infected over 25,000,000 people and killed over 419,000 in the U.S. alone, with nearly 100,000,000 (over 99,500,000) people infected in the world and over 2,135,000 dead due to the virus.

The cruise lines seem to think that the most important thing is to keep marketing and selling cruises, even if its images paint an unrealistic image of what cruising will be like and even if it is unlikely that the cruises will in fact go forward. Cruise lines are holding literally many billions of dollars in future cruise credits (FCC) and unrefunded cash refunds. Photos falsely showing “business as usual” images of mask-less smiling faces seem to be the cornerstone of the industry’s irresponsible sales tactics.

Unfortunately, many cruise lines advertise their company in such a misleading manner, carefully avoiding images of people wearing masks or socially distancing in a safe and prudent manner. Over the past year, several readers of this blog have sent me  images showing crew members crowded together with no one wearing a mask and with no thought of social distancing. On its website, NCL’s “Sail Safe” protocols, which claim that the cruise line is “working round the clock to develop a comprehensive and multi-faceted set of new and enhanced health and safety protocols,” are listed under a photo (top) of eight officers and a chef crowded together, shoulder to shoulder, with no mask in sight.

Marketing cruises in this way sends a confusing message to the public, much the way that the former U.S. president and members of his administration would never wear a mask in public, even while discussing important issues of public health.

In my view, cruising should not be permitted to return until the COVID-19 vaccines have been widely distributed to guests and crew members alike. Saga Cruises, which caters largely to the over-55 of age crowd, is the first cruise line to state that their customers will not be permitted to sail unless they all have been vaccinated (although this still not protect people in communities where cruise ships call). The CEOs of Royal Caribbean and NCL, meanwhile, have not yet voluntarily announced such a decision. Instead, they appear comfortable overseeing the misleading marketing of their cruise lines showing crew and guests without masks as if the deadly pandemic will magically disappear.

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Photo credit: Top – Norwegian Cruise Line Holding; middle – Celebrity Cruises, Inc.

 

Several news outlets in Italy report that a young Italian officer working on an AIDA cruise ship has not been accounted for after his family reported him missing. ShipMag reports that Alessio Gaspari, age 25, was employed by AIDA Cruises as a third deck mate serving on an AIDA ship. His family reported him missing after he failed to return home.

ALtv (abruzzolive.tv) states that an unidentified AIDA cruise ship, was positioned in the harbor of a northern port of Skagen in Denmark, when he did not return home, apparently at the end of his contract. His whereabouts since January 21st have not been determined. The news portal reports that certain of the officer’s personal effects (“cigarettes, lighter, cell phone, keys, and clothes”) were found on the deck of the cruise ship. The ship reportedly conducted sea searches which were not successful.

Officer Gaspari’s Linkin page shows that he has worked for a total of four and one-half years, first as a deck cadet for two years and as a third officer for the last two and one-half years.

According to cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein, there have been at least 361 crew members and passengers who have gone overboard in the last twenty years.

If anyone has information about this apparent disappearance, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: Linkedin

A number of Carnival Corporation cruise executives sold over 125,000 shares of CCL stock last week, according to forms filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

According to SEC forms, CEO Donald (left) sold 62,639 Carnival shares on January 14th for $1,300,000, at an average per price of $21.12 per share. The forms also indicate that Chief Financial Officer David Bernstein (right) sold 49,031 Carnival shares for a total of $1 million, at an average price of $21.12. Arnaldo Perez (below left), General Counsel and Secretary, sold 14,215 Carnival shares for $300,220, on January 14th at a per share average price of $21.12. The total value of the sold stock was over $2,700,000.

Carnival Corporation stock has dropped from a high of over  $71 per share three years ago to a low of around $8.50 in early April of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Carnival has refused to respond to our request for a comment as well as  a request from Barron’s, which reported on this news earlier today, to make the executives available for comment on their stock sales.

Carnival Corporation announced today that Carnival Cruise Line is cancelling U.S. departures through April 30, 2021, and cancelling Australian operations through May 19, 2021. In addition, Carnival cancelled European itineraries for the Carnival Legend which were to begin this May through October 31, 2021. The cruise corporation also moved the start date for its new Mardi Gras cruise ship departing from Port Canaveral, with the first cruise now scheduled for May 29, 2021. In my view, it is likely that all of these rescheduled cruises will again be rescheduled.

Carnival is continuing to market its cruise operations on a ninety day basis although it is likely that it will later announce that the cruises will be cancelled. Carnival is essentially operating on debt and cruise fares sold and later converted to  future cruise credit or refunds that it owes to customers.

In my view, it is unlikely that cruising will resume much sooner than 2022.

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Photo credits: Top – Carnival Headquarters –  Coolcaesar at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia; Carnival Corporatio cruise executives – Carnival Corporation.

AIDA cruise ships, including the AIDAmar and the AIDAperla, are suffering what has been described as an “immense” IT problem, according to a German newspaper  published today. Bild reports that the AIDA cruise line’s operations in its home port of Rostock, Germany have been affected by the failure of the company’s land based and shipboard telephone, computer and internet systems. Eye witnesses interviewed by the German newspaper state that “there was no internet connection from the headquarters to the ships.” The IT problems caused the company to cancel a number of cruises, including New Year’s Eve trips.  At the moment due to the COVID-19 crisis, only these two Aida ships were scheduled to travel (to the Canary Islands).

The German newspaper interviewed a guest on the Carnival Corporation-owned AIDAmar who wishes to remain anonymous. He stated that “we are on the fifth day of our cruise . . . The boarding pass system has stopped working. Slips of paper are used that would otherwise be automatically debited, for example when you buy something. We learned secretly from the staff that there had been a hacker attack on the Aida servers.”

The captain of the AIDAmar reportedly announced to the ship’s passengers that there “were massive IT problems at the company’s headquarters in Rostock. All AIDA ships are affected.”

AIDA states on its Facebook page that it is currently affected by unspecified IT “technical” restrictions. “Therefore, our customers cannot reach us by phone or email . . . ” The company refuses to disclose the nature or details of its IT problems.

Crew members who wish to remain anonymous to avoid jeopardizing their employment contacted our office (see image above).  One data security publication, “DataBreaches.net – the Office of Inadequate Security,” wrote “from the image of the ransom note, it appears that this is the work of DoppelPaymer threat actors.” One crew member informed us:

“What they are not telling is that the actual cause behind this issue is a cyber (ransom) attack on the networks of AIDA cruises. Networks ashore and onboard have been compromised and all ships are currently cut off from the internet.”  They also suggest that the networks of COSTA Crociere and Carnival Maritime appear to be compromised as well.

At least one newspaper has reported that Costa Crociere, also owned by Carnival Corporation, is also affected by the IT problems. The blog Kreuzfahrttester reported that access to the Costa’s customer web portal was disrupted.

Carnival Corporation has not responded to our request for an explanation.

Carnival Corporation disclosed at the end of last summer that a subsidiary cruise line experienced a security breach involving the use of ransomware. In an 8-K filing with the US Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), Carnival said the incident took place on August 15th. The cyber attackers reportedly gained access to guest and employees’ personal data. Carnival refused to disclose any details about the cyber attack, such as the name of the ransomware utilized or the internal networks/brand that were impacted. It was later learned that data of guests and employees of Carnival subsidiary brands Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line and Seabourn were compromised in the attack.

In March, Carnival Cruise Line announced that employees on two of its cruise ships received “deceptive emails.” Employee and customer data was reportedly compromised in the apparent e-mail phishing attacks.

A year earlier, in May of 2019, Carnival-owned Princess Cruises identified a series of deceptive (phishing) emails sent to its employees resulting in unauthorized third-party access to some employee email accounts.

Earlier this month, the Ship Technology magazine published an article titled Cybersecurity: Is the Cruise Industry Prepared? The magazine outlined prior cruise ship cyber security problems and explained that recent cyber attacks could be linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. “With offices closed, most have been forced to work from home on unsecured networks, offering little defense against attackers.”

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January 4, 2021 Update:

Costa Cruises is continuing to experience internet problems which we mentioned a week ago. Carnival Corporation continues to refuse to respond to our inquiry from last week. Costa mentions only that it is experiencing “technical problems” without mentioning that its networks were either hacked or a victim of a ransomware attack.

Image credits: Network hack notification / ransom note – anonymous; AIDAmar – Sebaso – CC BY-SA 4.0 commons/wikipedia;  AIDAperla – Philippe Alès – CC BY-SA 4.0 commons/wikipedia.

Senator Richard Blumenthal recently proposed legislation to strengthen cruise ship safety.

According to a press release from the senator’s office, the bill includes proposals designed to expand health and safety on cruise ships: “The bill includes language from Blumenthal’s Cruise Passenger Protection Act to strengthen a number of critical medical standards aboard cruise ships, including ensuring the presence of a physician to treat any passenger in the event of an emergency, the appropriate number of qualified medical staff to treat the number of passengers on board, and that the passengers are aware of the location of the vessel’s medical facilities and the appropriate steps they should follow during a medical emergency.”

The bill also includes Blumenthal’s language to clarify that vessels must have video surveillance equipment in all passenger common areas, and other areas, where there is no expectation of privacy to deter, prevent, and record criminal behavior aboard ships. The bill allows individuals to access to video surveillance records for civil action purposes, mandates that all video records are kept for at least 20 days after video footage is obtained, and directs the Coast Guard to promulgate final standards within one year detailing requirements for the retention of video surveillance records.

When I first posted a Miami Herald article about this news on our Facebook page, a number of readers scoffed at the bill and mistakenly believed that there was nothing new in the language. But there are two reasons this new language in important:

(1) There is now a clear statutory duty to have a qualified doctor on board and a penalty if there is not. The prior legislation required only a nurse to be aboard the ship. Believe it or not, there are cases where it was discovered that the person treating crew members and guests did not have a medical license (or education, training and experience as a doctor) and still worked on a cruise ship as a ship doctor. This was the situation on the Carnival Corporation-owned Aidavita where a fake doctor was arrested after working for five years on cruise ships. German authorities charged the bogus doctor with 81 charges of inflicting bodily injury, as well as fraud, forgery of university diplomas and unauthorized use of an academic degree.

Exposed: Fake Doctor Working Aboard Cruise Ships

There is now a fine if there is in fact no qualified doctor on board and arguably a statutory basis for a civil action against the cruise line if there is not.

(2) The new language also requires cruise lines to turn CCTV video images over to guests upon their request. In the past, after a guest or crew member was a victim of a shipboard crime (usually a sexual assault) the cruise lines would never voluntarily turn over the images to the victim. Later, they would claim that they didn’t know they should have preserved the film, and the valuable evidence would inevitably be “lost.” This language imposes a statutory obligation for cruise lines to preserve relevant CCTV images as evidence.

The language is contained in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act and is set to be enacted into law, although President Trump has threatened to veto the defense act.

Many thanks to the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization and its president, Jamie Barnet, for advocating for crime victims on cruise ships.

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

Photo credit: Kefalonitis94 – CC BY-SA 4.0, wikipedia/commons.

This morning I received a message from a crew member friend linking to an image which had been posted on the PTZtv Facebook page.  A follower of the site posted a screengrab of the PTZtv video in the comments section on PTZtv’s Facebook page. It shows the Enchantment of the Seas billowing smoke before 9:00 a.m. in port in St. Marteen, while next to another Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Vision of the Seas, and Princess Cruises’ Caribbean Princess.

The comment stated; “Wow! Dark smoke out of Enchantment of the Seas this morning. Photo credit PTZtv Portstmaartenwebcam.com.”

Receiving photos and videos of cruise ships polluting the air and water is not particularly unusual. I have received many images each year from concerned members of the public over the years, such as photos showing cruise ships emitting thick spoke at Caribbean ports of call like this image in Nassau and this image in Grand Cayman as well as videos of crew members throwing garbage bags of trash into the sea.

The last photo I posted like this was the Grand Celebration, which was sent to me anonymously, belching smoke over the port of Palm Beach.

Grand Celebration Pollutes Even During “No Sail” Period

PTZtv has posted videos in the past from it its streaming webcam of cruise ship belching smoke like this:

Carnival Victory Belches Smoke in Nassau

The video in the article above initially shows a Royal Caribbean cruise ship (Navigator of the Seas) in the foreground, but the pollution is actually coming from the funnel of a Carnival cruise ship (Carnival Victory) which was docked  behind the Royal Caribbean ship.

The responses on social media to these type of photos and videos are predictable. Some suggest the smoke is somehow normal emissions coming from the engines which were just blowing soot loose, or perhaps the boilers needed maintenance or adjustment.

Carnival and Royal Caribbean tout what they call either “advanced air quality systems” or “advanced emission purification systems” (a/k/a “scrubbers”).  Many critics describe scrubbers as “cheat devices” which turn air pollution into water pollution by scrubbing the sulfer dioxide and non-combustible particles from the smokestacks and discharging the toxic sludge into the water. Two weeks ago I wrote about a study published by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) which concludes  that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) should prohibit the use of these systems.

One of the goals of the newly formed Global Cruise Activist Network is to educate the public regarding air and water pollution caused by the cruise industry. The world-wide network asks cruise fans and the cruise lines to “Rethink before you restart. Rethink before you re-infect. Rethink before you rebook. Rethink before you reinvest. Rethink before you re-pollute.”

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As revealed in a blockbuster article by the Miami Herald today, several cruise lines were so concerned with losing three recent referendums pending before voters in Key West, that they “knew they had to do something to sway the public into voting no” so they “secretly funded (a) disinformation campaign.”

The three referendums would drastically limit the number and size of cruise ships allowed to dock at the city’s port. Instead of discussing the issues in a transparent manner, certain cruise lines “secretly backed ‘dark money’ mailers” claiming that the resolution would defund Key West police.”

The Miami Herald’s article, written by Taylor Dolven, Nicholas Nehamas and Gwen Filosa, mentions an “innocuously named nonprofit” by the name of “Protect our Jobs, Inc.,” which began “deluging Key West mailboxes with ominous and misleading mailers” before the November 3rd referendum, The mailers falsely claimed that the referendums would “cripple Key West’s economy, forcing drastic cuts to public services and safety.”

The Miami Herald describes how the misleading disinformation campaign was secretly funded by Carnival, Royal Caribbean and MSC Cruises, through a number of political committees with ties to Cruise Lines International Association, including Florida Cruise PC and the Community Leadership PAC. The lobbying firm, Alcalde & Fay, which has represented CLIA for over over the past twenty years, and a Tallahassee lobbying firm, Rubin & Turnbull, were involved in orchestrating the dirty money scheme.

The scare-tactics failed. Key West voters approved all three referendums. 63% of Key West voters voted to limit the number of daily cruise ship visitors to 1,500; 61% of voters voted to prohibit cruise ships with a capacity of more than 1,300 people from docking in Key West; and 81% voted to give docking priority to cruise ships that have the best health and environmental records.

Key West resident Arlo Haskell, who supported the referendums, and a member of the Key West Committee for Safer Cleaner Ships and the Global Cruise Activist Network, kept his campaign focused on a factual discussion of issues. He provided testimonials of people who live in Key West.  He focused on the negative effects of air and water pollution on the sensitive marine environment of the Florida Keys and the large crowds of cruise ship guests who spend relatively small amounts of money during a short period of time in the small port. He handed out free yard signs. This which sharply contrasted with the cruise industry’s slick, big money disinformation campaign which was secretly funded with over $250,000 from the cruise industry.

The article shows the power of local journalism. It alone is worth paying the modest subscription to the Miami Herald.

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