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.”

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

 

 

 

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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According to numerous news sources, Royal Caribbean’s  Quantum of the Seas has a COVID-19 case aboard the ship. The captain reportedly announced the news late last night (video below). The cruise ship ship is now returning to Singapore where the guests and crew will be quarantined.

The cruise was touted as allegedly creating a an anti-COVID “bubble” cruise from Singapore. A reporter from the New York Times reported on a similar cruise from Singapore which, like the Quantum of the Seas, did not call on any ports and operated at a fraction of the maximum quest capacity.  Singapore also requires passengers take a coronavirus test before boarding, which has been a major selling point for taking a cruise during this deadly pandemic.

The positive COVID case was first reported by Cruise Critic, which pointed out the obvious shortcomings with Royal Caribbean’s PCR tests which passengers were required to take within 48 to 72 hours before boarding, but not at dockside immediately before boarding.

The cruise line has been talking about its so-called “strict health and safety protocols” which  it developed with the Singapore Tourism Board. I have commented on the Royal Caribbean “Healthy Sail” protocols which I opined were destined to fail.

A newspaper in Singapore, the Straits Times, reports that the Quantum will carry a maximum of up to 2,000 guests during the pandemic, half of its usual total capacity of slightly under 5,000 passengers. There were reportedly less than 2,000 guests aboard during this cruise. Mask wearing was mandatory on board the cruise ship and passengers were required to wear a mobile application tracing device with them at all times.

Cruise fans blog predictably down-played the COVID-19 case, which so far has involved only one guest, an 83 year-old man. The Royal Caribbean blog, for example, quickly published an article titled Royal Caribbean’s Enhanced Health Protocols Catch Positive COVID-19 Case on Cruise Ship. A common comment by people wanting to cruise during these dangerous times is this shows that “there are systems in place working to detect and manage outbreaks . . . ”

Royal Caribbean stated, in part:

“We worked closely with the government to develop a thorough system that tests and monitors all guests and crew and follows public health best practices. That we were able to quickly identify this single case and take immediate action is a sign that the system is working as it was designed to do.”

The last COVID-19 outbreak occurred several weeks ago on the SeaDream 1 ship which also promised a safe “bubble”  with multiple pre-boarding COVID tests, reduced capacity and temperature tests. That case involved a much smaller ship with only around 120 crew and guests. It was expected to be a watershed first cruise from the Caribbean since the pandemic shut cruising down last March. Initial reports were that a single guest had presumptively tested positive for COVID-19. Later it was confirmed that a total of nine people (7 guests and 2 crew members had been infected).

Unlike the U.S. and parts of Europe which are facing out of control COVID-19 cases, Singapore has few cases. (Cruises are open only to residents of Singapore). There have been 58,273 confirmed cases of COVID and 29 COVID-related death in the past nine months. There have been only 13 cases in the last day, 55 new cases in the last week and only 219 cases and one death in the last month, according to the Johns Hopkins’ data. Singapore has a population of around 5,400,000 people.

This is to be sharply contrasted with the COVID statistics in the U.S. where there are over 15,000,000 cases and over 280,000 deaths and there have been over 1,000,000 news cases in the first five days of December.

Check back tomorrow when we learn further information.

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Update: Royal Caribbean is quoted in Seatrade Cruise News as saying that the ship will “debark guests after a review of contact tracing is completed.” So no further testing or quarantine? A reader of our Facebook page commented: “Close contacts tested negative. That would be today. Try again in like a week and it might be different. Ship of fools.”

The Straits Times reports:

“In a health advisory issued to cruise passengers, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said the Covid-19 case’s contacts will be placed on quarantine or health surveillance. Other people on the ship will be required to monitor their health for 14 days from the date of disembarkation and undergo a swab test at the end of the monitoring period.

‘During this period, you may continue with your usual activities including going to work or school,’ the MOH said.

Royal Caribbean will contact passengers from a week after disembarkation with the details of their swab appointment at a designated government swab site, and MOH said it will bear the cost of those tests.

Ms. Angie Stephen, managing director for Asia-Pacific at Royal Caribbean International, said the ship is finalising the contact tracing process then it will get clearance from the MOH to debark guests.

‘Those who are not close contacts of the confirmed case will be allowed to debark and take a rapid antigen test as per original procedure. They can then go home and will be advised to monitor their health for the next 14 days. After that, all guests will take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test with the expense borne by Royal Caribbean,” she added.

The guest who tested positive for Covid-19 and other people in the travelling party will get a full refund. Royal Carribean will offer a pro-rated cash refund for the day missed at sea, and any remaining on board credits will be refunded to guests as well.

Additionally, the cruise operator will also provide a day’s worth of Future Cruise Credit for use on future trips.”

December 9, 2020 Update:

According to the Singapore government, the guests who tested positive for the virus “has since been re-tested at the National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL), and has come back negative for COVID-19 infection. A second fresh sample tested by NPHL has also come back negative. NPHL will conduct another test tomorrow to confirm his COVID-19 status.”

The subsequent test results suggests that the first test may have been a false positive and his symptoms were merely coincidental. But the different tests results reinforces my belief that COVID tests results are not accurate or reliable enough to avoid either false positive or false negative results. The fact remains that cruise travel and the congregating of crowds in bars, restaurants, casinos, clubs and theaters on cruise ships should be avoided.

Photo credits: Quantum of the Seas – Frank Schwichtenberg – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia; SeaDream 1 – The Points Guy/Handout via Reuters/New York Post; video – Straits Times.

Today the Government of Australia extended the ban against cruise travel to a minimum of three months:

Newspapers across Australia report that Australians are restricted from overseas travel or cruise ship holidays for at least three more months as the government extends the biosecurity ban imposed at the start of the pandemic.

The ban was due to expire on December 17, 2020, but today health Minister Greg Hunt said that the ban would be extended until at least March 17, 2021 as COVID-19 rages around the world. He stated that cruising during the pandemic provides an “unacceptable public health risk.”

Australia imposed a ban last March after the the Ruby Princess debacle, which resulted in 28 deaths and at least 854 cruise passengers contracting COVID-19.

The extension of the ban, ironically enough, comes as Australia reached a milestone today – with just one active locally acquired infection remaining nationwide. However, the government prudently focused on the international COVID situation which remains challenging and dangerous. “Australia won’t be fully safe until the international community is safe,” Mr. Hunt said.

Meanwhile in the U.S., there have been over 1,000,000 people infected with COVID-19 in just the first five days of December. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the FDA and current member of the Royal Caribbean-NCL joint “Healthy Sail Panel,” predicts as many as nearly 4,000 COVID-related deaths per day in January 2021. He anticipates as many as 400,000 deaths by the end of January 2021. The CDC Director, Robert Redfield, predicts an even higher number of deaths, at 450,000 by February of 2021.

The U.S. has nearly 15,000,000 COVID-19 cases, the highest number in the world. Over 284,000 people in the U.S. have died. Tthere are well over 15,000,000 people in the world who have died due to COVID. Last month, under pressure from the White House and after extensive lobbying by the cruise industry’s trade group, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), and the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) announced a conditional sail order. I anticipate that the new administration will reconsider reinstating a “no-sail” order, possibly requiring all cruise travelers and crew members to be vaccinated before they can board a cruise ship at a port in the U.S.

CLIA-Australia lobbied unsuccessfully for Australia to lift the cruise travel ban. It proposed creating a so-called protective “bubble” with testing of all guests and crew, daily temperature checks, reduced ship occupancy and a 14-day post-cruise quarantine among other measures. Leading epidemiologists in Australia state that the safety measures would “reduce risk” but “not eliminate it completely.”

There are a number of cruise fans that seem nonplussed by the risks associated with cruise travel. A cruise travel agent in Sydney even started a change.org petition to resume cruising in Australia.

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Photo credit: James D Morgan/Getty Images via the Guardian

A study published by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) states that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) should prohibit the use of systems designed to reduce sulfur dioxide and other pollutants from ship emissions, often referred to as “scrubbers,” on newbuild ships and phase out scrubbers on existing ships.

The study, titled “air emissions and water pollution discharges from ships with scrubbers,” concludes that scrubbers are “not equivalently effective” at reducing air pollution compared to using lower sulphur fuels. Moreover, the report’s authors state that sulphur and other contaminants removed by the exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS) are routinely dumped overboard from the ships in the form of washwater.

The report notes that the IMO’s guidelines for scrubber discharges have not been strengthened since 2008 and they that ignore the cumulative effects of many ships operating and discharging washwater in heavily trafficked areas.

The study compares the air and water emission factors for ships using heavy fuel oil (HFO) with scrubbers and the emission factors associated with ships using marine gas oil (MGO) without scrubbers:

Particulate matter emissions are nearly 70% higher for ships using HFO with a scrubber as compared to ships using MGO. Black carbon emissions are as much as 81% higher for ships using HFO with a scrubber than ships using MGO.

A year ago, I discussed the harmful effects of scrubbers used throughout the cruise industry: Smoke and Mirrors: Cruise Line Scrubbers Turn Air Pollution Into Water Pollution. Carnival euphemistically calls its EGCS an “advanced air quality” system; Royal Caribbean calls its EGCS an “advanced emission purification” system. Whatever the name, the scrubbing systems turn toxic scrubber sludge collected from the ships’ emissions stacks into water pollution without materially reducing air pollution.

Smoke and Mirrors: Cruise Line Scrubbers Turn Air Pollution Into Water Pollution

Most travel and cruise writers shy away from covering this issue. In 2018, we discussed a situation where a Princess Cruises cruise ship appears to have piped scrubber sludge overboard while in the port of Ketchican. Port employees observed discharges coming from the Star Princess cruise ship in Ketchikan, Alaska and took photographs which showed darkened splotches in the water and lumpy black material floating near a piling.

Princess Cruises Discharges Scrubber Sludge in Alaskan Port

Princess claimed that the discharge was most likely naturally occurring “sea foam.”

Cruise lines have heavily invested in scrubbers so that they can continue to use low price but high sulphur fuel. The study points out that scrubbers have increased from 3 ships in 2008 to more than 4,300 in 2020. Expect a continued campaign of false and misleading information coming from Carnival, Royal Caribbean and the other cruise companies if and when they resume sailing.

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Photo Credit: Top – Star Princess Scrubber Sludge at Berth 4 in Ketchikan, Alaska – City of Ketchikan; middle – Carnival Freedom cruise ship – anonymous; bottom – Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas cruise ship – AlaskanLibrarian’s Flickr photostream.

The Latest Number of Infected

The highly publicized debacle of the SeaDream 1 COVID-19 outbreak continues to unfold. The last count of people infected during the cruise increased to nine (7 guests and 2 crew members) so far.  There may be more people infected who are scattered around the world.  Incredibly, last weekend the cruise line arranged for 46 passengers who were potentially infected on the ship to travel on commercial international flights to their respective home countries which have been identified as the U.S., England, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Germany, according to a local newspaper, and, according to travel writers, Canada as well.

No Contact Tracing on the Flights From Barbados

These 46 passengers are still in the incubation period for the virus. There appears to be no interest by SeaDream in staying in touch with its guests who have returned home to various parts of North America, Europe and the U.K. and learning whether they were infected during the cruise.  There is no way for anyone to track whether the departing guests infected fellow travelers in the commercial aircraft flying from Barbados, in the airport terminals, in taxis to the airport or trams to the airplanes.

One travel writer wrote “I still wonder why we were allowed to leave Barbados rather than made to quarantine . . . ” She added that the cruise guests were crowded into buses ending in a “virtual stampede” of passengers with “masks dangling off one ear,” onto a British Airways (BA) aircraft for the long flight back to England.  Other cruise bloggers, who posted a photo of  travelers crowded on the airstairs up to the jet, complained that they were required to leave the country of Barbados rather than be quarantined. They commented on their YouTube channel that they were “stuffed” along with ten other cruise guests into a completely full BA flight with people coughing, sneezing and not wearing their masks properly. One travel writer commented that she was surprised that no one from SeaDream checked on her once she had returned home to England to determine whether she was experiencing any symptoms.

No Masks, No Pre-Cruise Quarantine, No Post-Infection Quarantine, and Commercial Flights Home 

The media has focused on SeaDream’s outrageous decision not to have a mask policy but has largely ignored the fact that the cruise line affirmatively dissuaded its guests from wearing masks on the ship. A local newspaper in Barbados quotes a vice president for SeaDream as saying “We do not want people to wear masks onboard. . .”

The media has also largely ignored the fact that SeaDream encouraged guests from the U.S. (with its out-of-control COVID rate) to fly to Barbados on the day of embarkation with the intention of Barbados classifying them as ‘in transit’ so that they could bypass the island’s current 14-day quarantine. Once the COVID-19 outbreak took place, SeaDream refused to transfer all remaining passengers or crew (other than those who tested positive) from their cabins to quarantines, isolation rooms ashore.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which SeaDream claims that its policies are aligned with, requires cruise operators to “arrange to disembark and transport passengers and crew using noncommercial transportation.” The CDC also requires cruise operators to make “housing agreements” with “shoreside facilities for isolation and quarantine of COVID-19 cases and close contacts.” SeaDream obviously made no effort after the cruise to isolate and quarantine the passengers ashore at the home port in Barbados.

The cruise line also ignored its obligation to “inform ground transportation, air charter operators, and other agencies with relevant jurisdiction that COVID-19 had been detected in passengers or crew and confirm that the operators have in place procedures to notify and protect the health and safety of their staff (e.g., drivers, aircrew)”, as required by the CDC (as well as common sense and human decency).

SeaDream continues to tout that it required “multiple negative PCR tests” before boarding, but it fails to fully understand that even truly vigorous testing does not guarantee a safe environment particularly when masks are not worn. You do not need to be an epidemiologist to understand this. All you have to remember is the disastrous “super-spreader” event at the White House and Rose Garden. Yes, there was extensive testing but dozens of members of the current administration became infected after they chose not to wear a mask.

A Beach Guarded by Armed Police  

A little known fact is that SeaDream 1 stopped at a beach in St. Vincent called the “back sand beach” in Mt. Wynne after the police cleared locals from the public beach. One travel writer on the cruise euphemistically  explained that the excursion was “supervised by police.” But the local people in St. Vincent viewed it differently.  One person living in St. Vincent described the police force as the “Black Squad.” She sent me a photograph of the spectacle, writing “this is an image of heavily armed police officers deterring local people from that lovely black sand beach …”

Contact Tracing in St. Vincent

After the excursion to the beach, a number of guests took a catamaran excursion to the Tobago Cays archipelago and marine sanctuary in St. Vincent. Most travel writers mention that they previously had no or minimal contact with local residents, but there is no question that some of the cruise guests interacted with employees of the tour company. After this excursion, news of the COVID outbreak on the SeaDream ship was widely discussed on the radio in St. Vincent and local newspapers with one paper reporting that contact tracing was initiated to protect the local excursion employees potentially exposed by the cruise guests.

Just How “Successful” Have European Sailings Really Been?

SeaDream and its supporters point out that the company successfully operated more than 20 sailings in Norway since June without any cases. Perhaps this is true, but past success does not guarantee a safe future, particularly when you reposition the ship to the Caribbean and invite guests from the U.S. where COVID-19 cases are now surging to over 180,000 per day (as of yesterday).

It has also been largely under-reported that there have been over 195 people infected during cruises in Europe, notwithstanding new health protocols invariably described by the cruise companies as “rigorous.”  There have been four outbreaks on river cruise lines in the past seventy-five days where over 90 people were infected. Ten crew members were infected on the MS Thurgau Chopin (formerly the MS Frederic Chopin) river cruise ship operated by Swiss company Thurgau Travel. Sixty of ninety-two passengers (two-thirds) who sailed on the river cruise ship MS Swiss Crystal were infected on a cruise on the Danube and Main within the last three weeks. In early September, eight guests and crew members on a CroisiEurope river cruise ship on the Douro River in Portugal tested positive for COVID-19. Three weeks ago, German newspapers reported that at least thirteen people were infected on another river cruise ship, MS Vista Serenity, on the Moselle River in Germany.  In some of these cases, the local newspapers reported that passengers left the ship without realizing that there had been an outbreak on board.

In addition, 74 people were infected on Hurtigruten cruise ships, including the MS Roald Amundsen (71) and MS Finnmarken (3 with 1 death). Costa Cruises and MSC Cruises also recently experienced outbreaks on their cruise ships. Eight people were infected on the Costa Diadema and eight people also tested positive on the MSC Grandiosa.

Silversea’s Silver Spirit also had one COVID-19 case in early September during a Red Sea cruise.

A Ponant cruise ship, the Jacques-Cartier, was involved in a COVID-19 outbreak where thirteen people were infected. The ship was initially delayed in leaving an Italian port.  On its website, the Compagnie du Ponant boasted of exceptional cruises in “an anti-Covid bubble” with “its state-of-the-art health protocols.” 

Back to the Drawing Board?

In a press release finally issued yesterday, SeaDream announced that it decided to cancel sailing for the remainder of 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Incredibly, it also stated that the company “will now spend time to evaluate and see if it is possible to operate and have a high degree of certainty of not getting Covid.”

Here’s a hint:  No, its not.

The SeaDream 1 outbreak provides further proof that a cruise line cannot magically create a “bubble” to keep passengers and crew members safe from COVID. Absent a tested and effective vaccine, it is not possible to safely cruise during this pandemic.

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Photos: SeaDream 1 – SeaDream Yacht Club.

The Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line’s Grand Celebration is likely heading to the beakers in India based on a report today from Cruise Industry News. The cruise news journal stated that the old cruise ship “is likely heading to the end of her cruise career as the ship is rumored to have been sold for scrap and is currently sailing toward India.” Tracking services show the ship sailing through the Bahamas into the Atlantic.

The cruise line has been embroiled in a labor dispute with its crew members involving allegations that it did not pay its crew for many months, liedto them and retaliated against them.

The Miami Herald reported in October that crew members have reached a settlement of the lawsuit which claims that they were forced to work for five months without pay.

But ten days ago, a federal district court judge here in Miami ruled that the proposed $875,000 settlement agreement between the cruise line and its estimated 275 crew members was “wholly inadequate,” and instructed the lawyers for the crew and the cruise line to keep negotiating. The Miami Herald quoted a lawyer for Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line as saying that the company was struggling to stay afloat, and that “bankruptcy is a possibility.”

The cruise line is also many months in arrears in paying dockage fees of $50,000 per month to the Port of Palm Beach.  The cruise line reneged on its previously negotiated settlement with the Port to pay over $142,000 in dockage fees. Since that time the cruise line has incurred additional dockage fees of $50,000 per month for October and November.

A number of other newspapers have also reported on the alleged malfeasance of the Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, including the Washington Post, the New York Post and the Daily Mail in the U.K.

It looks like Bahamas Paradise may have decided to cut its loses and sell the cruise ship for scrap metal if the report from the cruise journal is correct.

A number of other cruise ships have ended up in scrap yards in Turkey and India and are being dismantled for scrap metal sales after the Covid-19 pandemic all but destroyed the cruise industry. We previously wrote about the Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Inspiration, Carnival Imagination, Monarch of the Seas and Sovereign of the Seas, which are in the ship “graveyard” in the port city of Izmir, Turkey.

We last reported on the Grand Celebration in August after a concerned citizen sent me a photo of the cruise ship, once operated by Carnival, Costa and Ibero cruise lines, spewing thick black smoke from its orange painted funnel over the port. I wrote about the incident in an article titled Grand Celebration Pollutes Even During “No Sail” Period.

The Bahamas Paradise hosts only a skimpy one-page website. It does not look like the cruise line will survive. Last October, it announced that instead of returning to Grand Bahama Island using the Grand Celebration, it planned to use the Grand Classica commencing on December 18, 2020. Considering its financial problems, this may be wishful thinking.

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Photo credit: Grand Celebration: top- Bahamas Paradise; bottom – anonymous.

 

 

Yesterday, I wrote in the article titled SeaDream’s Caribbean Cruise: Champagne, Caviar and COVID-19 about what I described as like watching a slow motion train wreck. The week started with travel writers and cruise bloggers boarding the SeaDream 1 cruise yacht in Barbados and lauding their host’s so-called “rigorous” health protocols which did not even require passengers or crew members to wear masks. Then, as to be expected, there was one passenger who felt ill and tested positive, then five guests tested positive, and then seven guests were confirmed with COVID-19. This morning we learn that a crew member was added to the people infected.

SeaDream Yacht Club, meanwhile, continues to refuse to provide information to the public, releasing only a single, misleading press release that only one guest was “assumptively positive” and that “all guests and non-essential crew members are in quarantine in their staterooms in an abundance of caution.”

But the truth is that the are (so far) eight people from the ship who tested positive and are in isolation ashore in Barbados. In addition to bits and pieces of information which the travel writers and cruise fans have intermittingly tweeted out, the local press in Barbados most recently reported that “seven passengers and a crew member who were aboard the SeaDream 1 now docked in Barbados are at the Harrison Point isolation centre in St Lucy with COVID-19.”

The seven passengers who tested positive reportedly are part of a group of 53 total passengers who were identified by a newspaper in Barbados as consisting of 37 Americans and 16 other people from the U.K., Austria, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Germany. Other publication says some of the passengers were from Canada.

As far as the remaining forty-six passengers are concerned, SeaDream and Barbados permitted them all to leave the ship and fly back to their respective countries! This is obviously in violation of  every imaginable health protocol (as well as common sense) in responding to a shipboard outbreak.

SeaDream claims that its procedures are “aligned” with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (which technically do not directly apply to this non-U.S. sailing). But the CDC requires that all remaining passengers or crew (other than those who test positive) must be transferred from their cabins to isolation rooms and quarantined. Cruise operators must also make “housing agreements” with “shoreside facilities for isolation & quarantine of COVID-19 cases and close contacts.”

Cruise operators are also required to “arrange to disembark and transport passengers and crew using noncommercial transportation.” Cruise lines also have an obligation to “inform ground transportation, air charter operators, and other agencies with relevant jurisdiction that COVID-19 has been detected in passengers or crew and confirm that the operators have in place procedures to notify and protect the health and safety of their staff (e.g., drivers, aircrew).”

It appears that SeaDream made no arrangements to have the guests who had not yet tested positive for the virus to be isolated and quarantined ashore. Nor has the cruise operator arranged for non-commercial flights. It is questionable whether this company informed any of the airlines and local transportation that there was an outbreak on board their ship and these particular guests had been on the ship. It appears that both the cruise operator and the home port accomplished the same objective – to get the guests off the ship and out of the country. To hell with others in the local buses, airport terminal, trams, and airplanes. Who cares if this outbreak spreads off the ship to other countries?

Some of the former guests are now tweeting photos of boarding commercial flights and flying home to various locations around the world. One guest who flew on a British Airlines flight last night to the U.K. remarked on Twitter that he was “crammed into airport trams (in Barbados) like sardines! People not wearing masks on flight!”

A local newspaper in Barbados reported that the country’s Chief Medical Officer explained that these eight cruise ship cases “will not be included in Barbados’ count of COVID-19 cases since Barbados regarded this as a humanitarian mission.” The Minister of Tourism and International Transport was quoted in another newspaper as saying that the “image of Barbados was safe” because “these cases could not be counted as part of Barbados’ statistics and therefore should not reflect negatively on the island’s stellar management of the virus.”

There is nothing “humanitarian” or “stellar” about stuffing  people potentially exposed to a deadly virus onto crowded planes and flying them around the world in order to keep your country’s COVID statistics low.

This continuing traveling-during-a-pandemic-train-wreck reflects poorly not only on the SeaDream organization but on the country of Barbados as well.

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Photo credits: The Points Guy/Handout via Reuters/New York Post