Four years ago today, Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas caught on fire as it approached the port of Falmouth, Jamaica. A former Royal Caribbean crew member, Kevin Chambers who lives near Falmouth, and who we previously represented, videotaped the blaze. The video below has been viewed on Facebook over 1,200,000 times.

Fire on the Freedom of the Seas in Falmouth, Jamaica

Video of the Freedom of the Seas fire. Video Credit: Kevin Chambers

Posted by Cruise Law News on Wednesday, July 22, 2015

 

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

The public could come to their own conclusions whether the cruise line was out-of-touch with the danger posed to its guests or whether it deliberately fabricated a falsehood to masquerade as the truth, which I suggested in the Royal Caribbean “Small Fire” Hoax.

A reader of this blog sent us several photos of the internal damage to the Freedom of the Seas today. Take a look here.

One crew member was seriously burned by the fire although no passengers were injured. The fire on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship occurred at a time when Carnival cruise ships, it seemed, were igniting on an all too frequent basis.

Passengers also sent us copies of videos which they took of the large fire.

Neither the flag state, the classification society, the vessel’s underwriters nor the U.S. Coast Guard conducted a survey of the damage before the ship continued its cruise the following day. No one initiated a prompt investigation into the root cause of the fire. The Bahamas Maritime Authority subsequently conducted an investigation which essentially white-washed the incident.  As we wrote soon after the fire, Royal Caribbean had hired an engineering group to install a scrubber system which involved extensive welding operations while the ship was underway, rather than conduct such dangerous fire-hazard type of work during a dry dock. Read: Fire on the Freedom: The Show Must Go On.

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Read: Freedom of the Seas Fire: A Word From Your Captain

Photo Credit: Raymond Bower.

A little over a month ago, the MSC Opera cruise ship smashed into a dock and another smaller, cruise ship which was disembarking tourists in Venice.

Videos of the huge, out-of-control cruise ship, smashing into the dock and knocking tourists from the little ship in front of it into the water, looked like an attack-of-the-aliens science fiction movie.  But this was no low budget movie. It was exactly what many local Venetians predicted would happen given the presence of huge cruise ships sailing in the Giudecca canal next to the ancient city of Venice.

This weekend, a well forecasted storm struck Venice. As predicted by the weather services, the storm brought with it high winds and heavy rain (as well as hail) to Venice.  Despite the wind and rain, the Costa Deliziosa tried to leave port, with several tugs at its bow and stern. The Costa ship lost control as it headed into the curve of the Giudecca canal. The Costa ship was filmed narrowly avoiding crashing into Venice.

The dramatic video clip below shows the tug billowing smoke as it strains to pull the bow of the Costa Deliziosa away from the Riva dei Sette Martiri (by the Giardini where the Biennale is happening). The Deliziosa‘s siren can be heard blasting.

AIS data shows how close the Costa Deliziosa came to the the Riva dei Sette Martiri.

Costa Cruises defended itself on social media, arguing that the storm was sudden, unexpected and stronger than the forecast. Of course, all cruise lines which choose to sail into rough weather in order to stay on their schedules set by their corporate masters, make this same argument when the rough seas injure and/or terrorize their guests. Costa sent out a series of tweets via @Costa_Press (since deleted) which , the publisher of the Dream of Venice @DreamOfVenice book series, had the foresight to save:

These tweets by Costa were, in essence, all after-the-fact lies as the videos above demonstrate. Dozens of people on Twitter belittled Costa’s amateurish efforts at PR spin which just showed how little credibility the cruise line has in times of crisis.

It is long past time for Venice to establish a ban on these increasingly huge cruise ships cruising in the Giudecca Canal.

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Image credits: No Grandi Navi poster – @Vero_Bergoglio on Twitter; video – Repubblica.

A two year old child reportedly died today after falling from deck 11 while the Royal Caribbean cruise ship was in port in San Juan.

The ship was reportedly docked at the Pan American dock II in San Juan.

There are conflicting information regarding the circumstances of the tragedy. One source (translated) states that the child “peeked into one of the windows that was open and fell,” and another newspaper reports that the child “was in the arms of his grandfather who slipped and fell.”

The police in San Juan are reportedly investigating the accident.

There have been relatively few situations where toddlers have fallen from upper decks on cruise ships. In 2012, a 14 month old toddler fell from deck 12 to deck 11 on the Monarch of the Seas and was injured.  The ship turned around and returned to Port Canaveral, Florida, where the child received urgent medical care and recovered.

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Update: According to the family, the child was one and one-half years old, and would have had her second birthday this December.

July 8, 2019 Update: “Police said Monday that the grandfather of the 1-year old girl from Indiana told officers he lost his grip while holding her outside a window on the 11th story of the Freedom of the Seas,” via ABC News.

July 9, 2019 Update: “Her grandfather lifts her up and puts her on a railing and where he thinks that there is glass there because it’s clear, but it turns out there was no glass there,”the family’s attorney tells NBC Today show via USA Today.

July 12, 2019 Update: “But Miami-based maritime lawyer Jim Walker says proving negligence won’t be an easy feat for the family. ‘In order for a cruise line to be legally liable for this child’s death, the family’s lawyer must prove that the cruise line acted unreasonably and that the cruise line knew or should have known of the specific danger on its ship,’ he told news.com.au. ‘This will be an exceedingly difficult burden for the lawyer to meet in this very sad and tragic set of circumstances. Without evidence (prior incidents or proof that the cruise line knew of a dangerous condition on the cruise ship) the chances are slim that the court (if suit is filed) would permit this case to proceed to a jury trial,’ he added.” via News.com.au’s CCTV is missing piece that will solve how baby Chloe plunged to her death.

Photo credit: Freedom of the Seas -By Beyond My Ken – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.

A passenger in her 40’s went overboard today from the MSC Meraviglia, and was quickly rescued by a Danish rescue helicopter according to the Norwegian newspaper VG.

The newspaper did not indicate how the woman went overboard but described the incident as an “accident” which happened in Norwegian waters, midway between Norway and Denmark to the south. A rescue center, believed to be in Norway, was notified shortly before 1:00 P.M. local time.

The MSC Meraviglia was sailing from Flåm to Kiel in Germany at the time of the incident.  The rescue center reported shortly before 3:00 P.M. that the woman was found in the sea by the Danish rescue helicopter, and flew the woman to Aalborg, Denmark.

There were a number of Norwegian and German newspapers tweeting about the incident (including a German news article which erroneously reported that a man went overboard):

The MSC Meraviglia is one of the few cruise lines in the world which has implemented a state of the art automatic man overboard system. As I explained shortly after the MSC Meraviglia first was launched, MSC Cruises developed an “intelligent video capturing and analysis system” in collaboration with security technology experts, Bosch and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. MSC Cruises tested the new man overboard system on the company’s newest ship which debuted in June of 2017. MSC reported that “through over 25,000 hours of video analysis, extensive software testing and continuous algorithmic updates, the system has now reached a confirmed accuracy level of 97%.”

The man overboard data and images are analysed by two separate and independent image processing systems which significantly lower false alerts. Once the alarm is activated in case of an overboard, an acoustic signal and light will notify the ship’s security officer, in a central security room, who can immediately retrieve and review the images and data and immediately notify the bridge to begin rescue efforts, according to the Seatrade magazine.

MSC has not yet attributed the rescue of this overboard guest directly to the success of the new overboard system. However, it released a statement to a German newspaper stating: “Our ship’s security systems and ship’s command responded promptly, effectively and appropriately.” The newspaper continued by reporting that “within minutes, the ship had changed its route and returned to where the incident occurred.”

Read: MSC Cruises Implements New Man Overboard System Amidst Industry Delays.

Unfortunately, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) does not mandate the use of such technology. Trade organizations, like the Cruise Line International Organizations (CLIA), unreasonably resist the move toward this life-saving technology, citing a myriad of excuses (alleging the cost and unreliability of the technology) which are belied by the success of the systems which are available on the market today.

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Update: A German newspaper reports that the woman died in a hospital after she was rescued, notwithstanding emergency life support services provided by the Danish helicopter crew.

The U.S. Coast Guard reports that it is searching for a 37-year-old man who fell overboard from the Carnival Victory approximately 30 miles northwest of Cuba.

The Coast Guard 7th District received a report from the Carnival Victory that a crewmember fell overboard and dispatched a HC-144 Ocean Sentry from Miami and diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Charles Sexton  to search. The Coast Guard did not state when the crew member went overboard or when it received notification from the Carnival ship. 

People provided information on social media that the crew member went overboard as the ship was north of Cuba as it was heading back to Miami.

Carnival has not invested in automatic man overboard technology which would immediately send a signal to the bridge when someone has gone over the railing. Current systems on the market include infrared and and motion detection systems detect when someone goes overboard and then automatically tracks the person in the water via radar technology. There are a number of systems available, however the Carnival Corporation owned ships do not utilize the systems due to costs.

You can see examples of available systems here and here.

The majority of crew members who go overboard do so intentionally to end their life. There is no public information available to explain what happened in this particular situation, although some people are reporting that the employee was allegedly performing maintenance on the stern of the ship.

The search grid via MarineTraffic (right) shows that the Carnival ship conducted what appears to be a minimal search for the crew member, and is now continuing to return to Miami.

Read Rosie Spink’s article: People fall off cruise ships with alarming regularity. Can anything be done to stop it? via Quartz.

According to cruise expert Ross Klein, there have been 342 people who have gone overboard from cruise ships and large ferries since 2000. The last person to overboard from the Carnival Victory involved a 26 year old passenger last December.

The Carnival Victory is on a four night cruise to Cozumel, leaving Miami on July 1st and scheduled to return tomorrow, July 5th.

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July 6, 2019 Update: Relatives of the missing crew member identify him as Gaffar Satwilkar:

A passenger on the ship suggests via Twitter that “crew member fell according to other crew members while conducting maintenance on the back of the ship.” Another crew member stated that his harness broke or it not put on properly while working on a lifeboat.

The Sun Sentinel recently published an article, the Top 10 Highest-Paid CEOs in South Florida. Included in the top ten  list, are three cruise executives: Norwegian Cruise Line Holding’s Frank Del Rio, Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Richard Fain, and Carnival Corporation’s Arnold Donald.

#1: Norwegian Cruise Line Holding’s Frank Del Rio:

The highest paid cruise executive in 2018 was NCL’s Frank Del Rio, who collected a whopping $22,590,000 last year (up from $10,490,000 in 2017).

Mr. Del Rio received compensation valued at $2.9 million in 2016, down from almost $32 million in 2015. According to Seatrade Cruise News, Mr. Del Rio received compensation valued at $31.9 million in 2015, including nearly $17.8 million in stock options and $10.3 million in stock awards. His cash income was about $4 million including a salary of over $1.8 million, and a bonus of $1,900,000. Other compensation in 2015 included a cash automobile allowance, tax preparation service and a country club membership totalling $140,651.

#2: Royal Caribbean’s Richard Fain:

Royal Caribbean’s Chairman Richard Fain was the second highest paid cruise executive last year. In 2018, he collected $13,510,000 (versus $13,343,413 in 2017 and $10,405,684 in 2016). Mr. Fain was the highest paid cruise executive for 2016 and 2017.  Mr Fain has a net worth of over f $123,000,000.

#3: Carnival’s Arnold Donald:

CEO Donald was the third highest paid cruise executive in 2018. Last year, he collected $13,510,000 in 2018 (versus $13,050,000 in 2017) as the CEO of Carnival Corporation,  including stock awards of $7,000,000.  Mr. Donald has recently been in the news after he was ordered to appear together with Carnival Corporation’s board of directors before United States District Court Judge Patricia Seitz Carnival’s regarding Carnival’s ongoing violations of probation following its guilty plea to oil pollution, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

In the latest quarterly report by the Court Appointed Monitor (CAM), Carnival corporation’s “highest levels of management” were criticized for the cruise company’s ongoing failure to comply with its environmental probation.

Mr. Donald has a net worth reportedly over $68,500,000 and owns over 600,000 shares of Carnival Corporation stock personally and via a trust worth nearly $28,000,000.

How Much is Enough?

Last year, the three cruise line executives collected a total of $48,500,000 in compensation.

Mr. Del Rio alone collected $54,490,000 in just two years (2015 and 2018) and a total of $ $68,390,000 in the last four years.

Counting Nickels and Dimes

In an earning call in 2015, Mr. Del Rio made this statement: “… we have looked across the fleet to identify areas where marginal changes … can be implemented to improve performance. A few examples include a 6.7% average increase in beverage prices, the introduction of a nominal room service fee and lower costs from renegotiated shore excursion agreements. To put into perspective how these small changes can add up quickly, every dollar increase in yield translates to approximately $15 million to the bottom line.”

So how many NCL crew members must work over 12 hours a day, seven days a week, thirty days a month for eight months without a  day of vacation in order for CEO Del Rio to collect over $22,000,000 a year?

CEO’s like Del Rio benefit from an industry where the cruise lines pay no U.S. taxes and comply with no U.S. wage or labor laws which permits them to exploit workers from around the world. Meanwhile, they nickel-and-dime their tax-paying customers whenever they have a chance.

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Photo: Frank Del Rio – CNBC; Richard Fain – CNN Larry King Live; Arnold Donald – St. Louis Post.

The United States Coast Guard medevaced a 59 year old passenger from a Carnival Cruise Line ship earlier this week.

On Monday, July 1st, the Carnival Imagination contacted the Coast Guard station in San Diego at approximately 6:30 P.M. requesting an air evacuation for a man who suffered a stroke. The Coast guard station dispatched a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter which flew approximately 45 miles northwest of San diego to meet the Carnival ship. The helicopter crew medevaced the ill cruise guest from the ship and transported the patient to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla around 9:20 P.M.

The Coast Guard performs many dozens of medevacs from cruise ships each year. There are no expenses to either the guest or the cruise line by the U.S. government for performing such services.

The Imagination is currently on a four night cruise from Los Angeles, California, having left Los Angeles on June 30th to Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico, returning to Los Angeles on July 4th in the morning.

Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCl) announced today that it is cancelling the cruise aboard the Norwegian Pearl from Rome (Civitavecchia) scheduled for July 5, 2019, according to an employee of NCL and comments posted on social media.

An NCL employee who works in their corporate offices and wishes to remain anonymous informed me that the Pearl is experiencing engine problems. The NCL employee sent me a screengrab of a “Voice Reach” regarding the last minute cancellation, which will be sent to all guests booked on the cruise and/or their travel agents.

The cruise is advertised as a 13-Night Greek Isles & Italy from Rome (Civitavecchia), which includes Kotor, Montenegro;  Dubrovnik, Croatia; Corfu, Greece; Santorini,  Mykonos, and Piraeus (Athens), Greece; Messina, Sicily; Naples and Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Italy; and Monaco; returning to Civitavecchia (Rome) on July 18th.

There are a number of complaints posted on Twitter regarding the cancellation, including at least one NCL guest who had already flown to Italy for the cruise.

NCl promises to refund the fare and any pre-booked excursion, but the cruise line is silent regarding reimbursing its guests for airfare and hotel accommodations for those people who are making a vacation to Italy before and after this ill-fated cruise. There are over 2,300 guests affected by this cancellation.

The prior cruise on the Norwegian Pearl has been plagued by engine problems which led to NCL ending the cruise in Barcelona. At least one passenger described the ship as just “limping along with just one engine.” The passenger stated: “We had to bypass Mallorca and landed in Barcelona. Now they informed us we’ll have to bypass Monte Carlo.  Not sure how we’re going to get to Rome to disembark, but I suspect the rest of the itinerary is trash.  Again, they’re not telling us much, but learning that the next cruise on the Norwegian Pearl is now cancelled, we’re wondering if we’re going to leave Barcelona.”

A number of dissatisfied guests on the prior cruise also complained about the lack of compensation and communications from NCL on social media:

There is no information publicly available regarding the type of engine problems affecting this 13 year old cruise ship.

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As many as thirty-two passengers were aboard an excursion bus in Eleuthera in the Bahamas when the vehicle overturned and injured several people from the Carnival Ecstasy earlier today. Twenty-six people suffered  injuries according to news reports of the accident.

There are several videos and photographs of the overturned bus on social media.  There is a discrepancy between news accounts and the official Carnival statement regarding the number of injured guests. Carnival claims that the majority of the guests on the bus were treated at a local medical clinic and returned to the ship.

Four to six cruise guests were airlifted from Eleuthera – one to two people were sent to a hospital in Nassau and three to four to Fort Lauderdale. Fire Rescue in Broward said three to four patients who landed in Fort Lauderdale suffered serious injuries including limb fractures, internal injuries and possible paralysis.

The Tribune newspaper in Nassau reports that the injuries occurred when the excursion bus skidded off the road and flipped over into nearby bushes.

According to the Tribune, the tour bus involved was operated by Eleuthera Adventure Tours Limited, which was reportedly providing cruise guests a tour of the southern part of Eleuthera when the accident occurred this morning. The Orlando Sentinel reported that the tour was “part of Carnival Ecstasy’s shore excursion options when at port at Princess Cays, Bahamas. Billed as the Cathedral Cove, Ocean Hole and Rock Sound Island Tour, it’s an ecotourism tour of Eleuthera.” (Carnival has now removed the description of the tour from its website).

A prior Carnival guest wrote on the official Carnival description of the tour (image on bottom):

“It was a LOOOOOONG ride (1+ hour) one-way to the first stop in a packed shuttle bus going 80 MPH on a dirt road. Made me sick to my stomach.”

The newspaper said that photos of the accident circulating on social media show “skid marks and broken branches strewn across the road, with the tour bus overturned in bushes, laying on top of broken trees and uprooted plants.”

Eyewitness News suggests that the tour bus’s power steering malfunctioned.

There have been numerous serious excursion accidents where guests were being transported in local vans and buses. Most of the bus excursion accidents in the past involved guests from Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises ships.

In 2015, Celebrity passengers from the Celebrity Summit were killed and injured in an excursion bus accident in Tortola.

In 2012, there were two cruise excursion bus crashes in Caribbean islands, both involving Royal Caribbean passengers. Royal Caribbean cruise passengers from the Serenade of the Seas were injured during an excursion in St. Thomas. A Royal Caribbean sponsored excursion tour bus crashed in St. Martin and injured passengers from the Freedom of the Seas.

In 2009, a dozen passengers from Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Summit were seriously injured when an open air excursion vehicle ran off the road in Dominica. We represented passengers against the cruise line and the excursion company in that accident. You can read information on the Dominica excursion accident in an article “Injured Visitors to Dominica Airlifted to Miami.”

Cruise lines face legal liability when passengers are injured or killed during sponsored excursions. Cruise lines have a duty to vet the excursions companies and warn of dangers in the road conditions and driving in foreign ports of call. Cruise lines can also be held responsible for negligent hiring and retention of the transportation companies and for vicarious liability based on theories of agency. A key issue is whether there have been prior complaints of fast or dangerous operation of the excursion buses for the tour.

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Today a resident of Alaska notified me that there are videos posted on Facebook showing the M/S Eurodam continuing to proceed toward a group of whales feeding in the water ahead of it as the Holland America Cruise Ship (HAL) cruise ship headed toward Juneau.

A smaller vessel reportedly radioed the bridge of the Eurodam and notified the cruise ship that it was “on course to run right through a group of humpback whales feeding!” The posting states that the “Eurodam decided not to take our warnings. . . ”

The video, filmed by Brent Kidd Palmer, shows the Eurodam sailing toward what is described as a herd of whales in front of it. The narration states that the Eurodam twice disregarded the radio warnings even though the cruise ship was reportedly one mile away from the whales. 

The Marine Mammal Protection Act requires vessels to remain away from whales at a distance of at least 100 yards – the length of a football field (unless other species-specific rules apply, such as 100 yards away from humpback whales, 200 yards from killer whales in Washington State inland waters, and 500 yards away from North Atlantic right whales anywhere in the U.S.).

In the video below, you can see the air from the blowholes of several humpback whales spraying water into the air as the HAL ship sailed closely by. The Captain apparently did not change course or slow down. There were reportedly a number of passengers at their cabin windows, as if there may have been an announcement of the presence of the humpback whales.

Make this visible! Holland America Line after we radioed them to let them know they were on course to run right through a group of humpback whales feeding! Absolute disregard for the marine mammals protection act ! Or the safety and well being of the whales ! We recorded ya hailing them to tell them there were whales directly ahead the #Eurodam decided not to take our warnings knowing what these boats draft ! #marinemammalrescue #cruiseshipspotting #hollandamerica #hollandamericacruise #mmp #savethewhales🐳 #protecttheocean #protecttheearth #saveourplanet #makehollandamericafamous

Posted by Kiara O'Reilly Jones on Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The federal protection statutes require vessel operators to put the vessel’s engine in neutral once they become aware of the presence of whales in order to avoid injury to the mammals.

There have been a number of cruise ships which have struck whales and arrived at port with the whales impaled on the bulbous bow of the ship. You can read about an example here. The Grand Princess struck a humpback whale in Alaska two years ago.

Holland America’s Zaandam struck an endangered fin whale in 2016 and carried the dead whale into port in Seward on its bulbous bow.

In one of the most graphic photographs of a cruise ship / whale strike (right), in 2009 the Princess Cruises’ Sapphire Princess arrived in port in Vancouver, allegedly unaware that the cruise ship impaled a fin whale on the ship’s bow while in Alaskan waters. The whale was a female fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus). Princess claimed that the whale was already dead when the cruise ship hit her, a common excuse when a cruise ships kills a marine mammal.

The Chief Executive (CEO), Stein Kruse, and HAL President, Orlando Ashford, were present in Miami federal court three weeks ago and watched the federal court judge express her concern over continued environmental violations by Carnival-owned cruise ships. HAL’s Westerdam was previously found to have illegally dumped 26,000 gallons of gray water into Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska on September 11, 2018.

The Eurodam left Seattle, Washington yesterday and arrived in Juneau, Alaska around 1:00 P.M today. It will call on Glacier Bay tomorrow,  Sitka, Alaska on June 26th,  Ketchikan, Alaska on June 27th  Victoria, British Columbia on June 28th and back to Seattle, Washington on June 29th.

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

June 25, 2019 Update:

Princess Cruises claims that the Eurodam altered course.

The NOAA Fisheries enforcement office is investigating the incident, according to KTOO Public Media. Newsweek reports Video Shows Giant Cruise Ship Heading for Pod of Feeding Humpback Whales: “There He Goes Steaming Right Over the Top.”

July 12, 2019 Update: NOAA closes investigation into close call between cruise ship and humpback whales via KTOO.  The public news station reported that NOAA’ Fisheries’ Office of Law Enforcement concluded that the Eurodam “altered course and slowed speed.” There was no indication in the article whether it concluded that the HAL ship came within 100 yards of the whales, which was the central issue of dispute. We immediately served NOAA Fisheries with a FOIA request for info/documents to try to find out about its short investigation and whether it made any conclusions regarding the distance between the cruise ship and the pod of feeding whales.  We will update this article.

Video and screengrabs – Brent Kidd Palmer via HAL’s Facebook page and Richard McAlpine via Twitter; bottom photo of whale strike – AP /The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck via Telegraph.