The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued air quality violations to eight cruise ships and water quality violations to nine cruise ships last week, according to the Juneau Empire.

In an article by Kevin Gullufsen, the newspaper reported that four Holland America Line (HAL) cruise ships, two Princess Cruises ships, and one cruise ship operated by Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and one ship operated by Royal Caribbean violated Alaska’s air quality standards throughout the cruise season’s summer months (June-August).

Alaska’s DEC cited HAL’s Eurodam, Westerdam, Amsterdam, and Nieuw Amsterdam; Princess’ Emerald Princess and Golden Princess; NCL’s Norwegian Jewel; and Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas (which was cited twice).

Last year, the DEC determined that NCL’s Norwegian Jewel and HAL’s Amsterdam violated Alaska’s air standards.

The violations reportedly could result in fines as high as $46,192 per cruise ship.

The manager of Alaska’s cruise ship emissions monitoring program told the Juneau Empire that: “opacity is an indicator for overall air quality. So there are things that could be in the emissions. Things like nitrogen oxides or particulates. Things that can be breathed in and can potentially cause some health effects.”

Just last week in another article by Kevin Gullufsen, the Juneau Empire reported that “exhaust emissions poured from the Norwegian Pearl’s exhaust stack” as the NCL cruise ship was docking in Alaksa. The DEC has not yet announced whether the Norwegian Pearl violated Alaska’s air quality standards.

A few days later, a Canadian resident filmed the same NCL cruise ship spewing emissions in Victoria and posted the film on Twitter, which you can see below.

The DEC also found that nine cruise ships violated Alaska’s water quality standards this summer, according to the Juneau Empire.

Five Princess cruise ships violated water quality standards, including the Emerald Princess, Island Princess, Golden Princess, Ruby Princess and Star Princess.  The Star Princess and the Emerald Princess violated the water standards twice.

The DEC also issued wastewater discharge violations to HAL’s Eurodam, Noordam, and Voledam, as well as Seabourn Cruise Line’s Sojourn.

A month ago, we reported that Princess Cruises’ Star Princess recently discharged sludge from its exhaust system scrubbers in the port of Ketchikan, according to the city of Ketchikan. The discharge was originally reported by KRBD Community Radio. KRBD reported the Star Princess’ discharge and a similar discharge from the Golden Princess while the ship was in Ketchikan.

As shown by photographs (above and on our Facebook page, courtesy of the city of Ketchikan), the sludge polluted the waters of Ketchikan and fouled the port facilities where the Princess cruise ship were berthed. The DEC has not yet announced that these particular discharges violated Alaska’s water standards.

Princess denied the reports, claiming that “our experts believe what was viewed and photographed is most likely sea foam discolored by natural microorganisms such as algae in the seawater, which is commonly experienced in northern climates in the summer season.”

Alaska cited two cruise ships operated by Princess Cruises for violating both air and water standards – the Emerald Princess and Golden Princess.

The air violations by HAL, Princess and Royal Caribbean and the water violations by HAL and Princess all involved pollution by cruise lines which have pleaded guilty to environmental violations and lying to the U.S Coast Guard. Princess was the latest cruise line to have pleaded guilty to such crimes and lying to federal agencies, resulting in a fine of $40,000,000.  Federal prosecutors found that the Star Princess and the Golden Princess were in the middle of Princess’ widespread, ongoing schemes to pollute and lie about it.

Princess appears to be in direct violation of the guilty plea agreement (where it promised not to commit further violations of international, federal, state, or local environmental laws) which it entered into with the federal government in December of 2016. Whether the federal government does anything about Princess’ continuing pattern of pollution is another matter.

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September 13, 2018 Update: Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation stated today that the DEC issued wastewater citations to HAL for “unauthorized discharge of untreated graywater” from the Noordam. It cited Princess Cruises for “unauthorized discharge of treated graywater” from the Star  Princess.  The DEC’s notices of violations issued for water standards were all related to unauthorized untreated graywater or treated mixed graywater and sewage, in violations of Alaska’s wastewater discharge permit. These are not for scrubber washwater discharges.

Photo credits: Top – Norwegian Pearl in Juneau / Photo credit Tim Olson / KTOO Public Radio; middle – city of Ketchikan via KRBD Community Radio.

Today, the Miami Daily Business Review (DBR) reported on an arbitration award entered against Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) on behalf of a seriously injured crew member.

The DBR article, titled “Miami Attorney Helps Secure $3.3M for Man Whose Arm Was Amputated After Seeking Care for Flu-Like Symptoms,” explains that the case involved a 30 year-old crew member from Serbia by the name of Ilija Loncar who was employed by NCL as a waiter aboard the Norwegian Breakaway.

Mr. Loncar, who previously worked as a carpenter prior to working on the NCL cruise ship, was treated by the NCL shipboard team for flu-like symptoms in March of 2016. NCL had earlier hired a doctor, Sebastian Campuzano, who the arbitrator described as a “young, inexperienced, Columbia trained physician (licensed in 2013) who was hired by NCL just 4 months before the subject accident.”

Dr. Campuzano prescribed promethazine which the ship nurse injected in a massive dose too quickly, causing an intensely painful and  harmful reaction.  NCL then failed to timely medically evacuate Mr. Loncar from the ship, squandering any chance his arm could be saved.  As a result of the malpractice and delayed medical evacuation, Mr. Loncar developed Compartment Syndrone and required the eventual amputation of his dominant right arm.

The arbitrator’s decision reflects what appears to be completely abysmal medical care by an inept doctor and nurse who demonstrated a complete lack of basic medical knowledge, training and experience. The arbitrator found that: Dr. Campuzano had no experience or familiarity with the drug which he ordered to be mistakenly injected intravenously in Mr. Loncar’s arm rather than intramuscularly in his buttocks; he first attempted to schedule a consultation via the internet with a medical facility in South Florida for advice but he gave up after he could not establish a connection; he didn’t read the relevant physician desk book, medical literature, package inserts or warnings for the medication; he never warned Mr. Loncar of the risks associated with the medicine or obtain his informed consent; and he didn’t consider ordering a lower dosage or other medicines available on the ship which did not contain the risk of such catastrophic injury.

Dr. Campuzano tried to refute his deposition admissions after the fact via an “errata sheet” which the arbitrator rejected. The decision seems to indicate that the arbitrator did not find Dr. Campuzano or the ship nurse (Marco Oracion) or NCL’s defense particularly credible.

The case was the result of “arbitration.” NCL is one of many cruise lines which prohibit injured crew members from filing cases in the U.S. legal system and require them to pursue “arbitration” cases where a single arbitrator, paid by the cruise lines, applies the law of the Bahamas.  NCL started the trend toward arbitration after a decrepit, poorly maintained steam boiler on NCL’s 40+ year-old SS Norway exploded at the port of Miami in 2003. The explosion killed eight NCL crew members and seriously burned another nineteen crew members. NCL forced the families of the dead Filipinos to pursue the limited benefits permitted under Filipino law, as opposed to the full range of damages permitted under U.S. law.

The arbitration award, which you can view here, was rendered in June of this year. The arbitrator awarded past pain and suffering in the amount of $337,500, and $3,000,000 for future pain and suffering (estimated at 48 years), loss of future earning capacity (over the course of 35 years) and future medical expenses, including the replacement of the crew member’s prosthesis.

One of the reasons NCL requires arbitration (as opposed to a trial by a U.S. jury) is to keep awards to a minimum in catastrophic injury cases like this.

The case was handled by Thomas Scolaro and  Mason Kerns of the Leesfield Scolaro firm here in Miami. NCL was represented by  Curtis Mase and Larry Krutchik of the Mase, Mebane and Briggs firm.

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Photo credit: Dickelbers (Dick Elbers) CC 3.0 wikipedia / commons.

 

A passenger went overboard from the AIDAluna cruise ship this morning, according to numerous German news sources.

The AIDAluna left Hamburg, Germany on August 29th and was scheduled to arrive in New York City on September 14th. It was scheduled to arrive in St. Johns, Newfoundland around 2:00 P.M. today.

AIDA Cruises identified the passenger to be Daniel Küblböck, a former German “idol” singer / celebrity. The cruise line stated that 33 year-old Mr.  Küblböck allegedly jumped off the German cruise ship around 6 A.M. this morning, according to a tweet the cruise line sent earlier today.

AIDAluna turned the cruise ship around to conduct a search. Another cruise ship, HAL’s Zuiderdam, participated in the search.

AIDA Cruises has been in the news lately after German newspapers reported that a 53 year-old crew member went overboard from the AIDAbella cruise ship under mysterious circumstances earlier this year.

According to cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein, 320 people have gone overboard from cruise ships since 2000.

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Photo credit: Huhu Uet – CC BY 3.0,  commons / wikimedia.

Local residents in Juneau recently lodged numerous complaints about exhaust emissions which belched into the air from the Norwegian Pearl to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in Alaska, according to a newspaper in Juneau.

The Juneau Empire reported that on Tuesday “exhaust emissions poured from the Norwegian Pearl’s exhaust stack” as the NCL cruise ship Pearl began to dock at around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, maneuvering into position after the Norwegian Bliss left the dock around this time.

The newspaper stated that it took a 45-minute video of the pollution, which was compressed into a video time lapse. The video (shown below) “shows the Pearl emitting nearly-opaque exhaust for much of the video.”

The newspaper explains that based on EPA guidelines, “air quality violations are based on percentage of opacity, where 0 percent means emissions are see through, while 100 percent opacity means one can’t see through it.” Ships are allowed to exceed 20 percent opacity for three minutes an hour while at the dock. When casting off, anchoring and docking, ship exhausts are only allowed to exceed 40 percent opacity for nine minutes out of an hour.”

The Juneau Empire reports that Ed White, who runs the Commercial Passenger Vessel Environmental Compliance program, “couldn’t comment on whether DEC was in the process of issuing a fine to the Norwegian Pearl as he’s not allowed to comment on ongoing compliance issues.”

Early last month, Princess Cruises’ Star Princess cruise ship discharged sludge from its exhaust system scrubbers in the port of Ketchikan, according to the city of Ketchikan.

Scrubber systems are increasingly being used on cruise ships in order to reduce sulfur particles and engine exhaust particulates.  Petroleum-based, non-combustible particulate matter accumulates as toxic sludge during the water-scrubbing process, and must eventually be removed from the ships and should be disposed of properly in certified facilities ashore. Many cruise ships often discharge the sludge into the ocean, while they are underway or even at port, rather than properly disposing of the sludge in facilities ashore.

Photographs shown on our Facebook page, courtesy of the city of Ketchikan, show that the sludge polluted the waters of Ketchikan and fouled the port facilities where the Princess cruise ship was berthed.  Princess responded to new reports of the discharge by making the farcical claim that the sludge was “most likely sea foam discolored by natural microorganisms such as algae in the seawater, which is commonly experienced in northern climates in the summer season.”

There has been a long history of cruise ships violating the air and water standards of Alaska, which we have written about ever since we started this blog nine years ago. See our article three years ago – Alaska Alleges Cruise Lines Violated Air Emission Laws (photo below).

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September 9, 2018 Update: The Pearl was observed continuing to spew emissions at port in Victoria.

Photo Credit:  Top – Norwegian Pearl– Michael Penn / Juneau Empire; Bottom – Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas cruise ship – AlaskanLibrarian’s Flickr photostream. Video Credit – Juneau Empire.

Yesterday, a man from Topeka, Kansas was arraigned in United States District Court on charges of murdering his wife during a Carnival cruise earlier this year.

On January 19, 2018, a passenger on the Carnival Elation sent us photographs of the couple’s cabin and the area where the woman fell to her death. You can see the photographs here.

The woman reportedly died after she fell from her balcony on the 14th deck down to the 11th deck on the Carnival cruise ship which has sailed from Jacksonville to Freeport, in the Bahamas.

In our article at the time, we mentioned that a passenger reportedly was seen handcuffed after the incident. Police from Freeport boarded the cruise ship after the fatality.

The U.S. Department of Justice identified  Eric Newman, age 53, of Topeka, Kansas and charged him with murdering his wife,  Tamara Tucker, age 50, of Lawson, Missouri (photo below). The DOJ press release does not mention any details regarding the murder (I have not yet reviewed the on line court file).

The last domestic murder case on a cruise ship occurred on the Emerald Princess last summer.  The United States District Court for the District of Alaska recently announced that the case against Kenneth Manzanares will go on trial in May of next year.

The last murder of a passenger on this particular Carnival cruise ship, the Carnival Elation, occurred in 2011 when a drunken passenger killed his wife during a cruise to Mexico.  We have written about other cruise ship murders (typically of women) during cruises in the past.

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September 10, 2018 Update: The U.S. government filed a “sealed” indictment against Eric Newman, which mean that the usual FBI affidavits and/or other information will not be revealed to the public at this time.  The court records indicate that Mr. Newman is accused of murdering Tamara Tucker with “malice aforethought.” Ms. Tucker has been described in new accounts as Mr. Newman’s long term girlfriend.

September 18, 2018 Update: Mr. Newman is free on bond after a detention hearing in Federal Court today. A spokesman for the federal government says Newman is free on a $50,000 bond, and under house arrest pending what could be months before a trial, according to KSNT.com.

Carnival Elation (top) – anonymous; Eric and Tamara Newman (in happier times)(above) – Facebook.

German newspapers are reporting that a crewmember, identified by his first name as “Mathias,” disappeared from the AIDAbella cruise ship earlier this year.

The Bild newspaper was the first publication to mention that an investigation is underway to explain the disappearance of the German crew member from the AIDA cruise ship in February of this year.

Six and one-half months ago, on February 22nd, crew member Mathias went over the rails as the cruise ship was sailing in Malaysian waters. The crew member last communicated with his wife, Gabi, early on February 21st when they exchanged text messages. Another German newspaper writes that Gabi then sent “three more messages to his cell phone – they all remain unanswered. After two long, worrisome days of uncertainty, Gabi . . . received a phone call from the Aida hiring manager and a pastor telling her that her husband has jumped” off of the cruise ship.

The German press asks “what happened in the 27 hours between Mathias’s last message and his death?” When Mathias’ wife finally received her husband’s suitcase two weeks later, she reportedly found blood stains on many of its contents, such as on a T-shirt, pairs of trousers and shoes, and his laptop and iPad.

AIDA claims that  Mathias cut his wrists but his wife asks the Bild newspaper how he somehow walked from deck 3 to deck 5 without anyone noticing the bleeding and without a trace of blood being documented?

I first read about the disappearance from cruise expert Professor Ross Klein, who has documented 320 people who have gone overboard from cruise ships since 2000.

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Photo credit: Maciek Godlewski – CC BY 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

 

A Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) cruise ship on Sunday, September 2, 2018 stopped its cruise to the Caribbean and Mexico and deployed a lifeboat to pick up four Cuban nationals spotted “in the middle of the ocean,” according to a report by Fox News.

NCL issued a public statement stating that the Norwegian Getaway rescued “four distressed individuals,” who were taken aboard the NCL cruise ship. NCL stated: “The individuals, who are Cuban nationals, were safely brought on board, immediately taken to the ship’s medical facility for evaluation and provided with clothing and food. The Bahamas Maritime Authority and the U.S. Coast Guard were notified by the ship’s Captain, who was advised to disembark the rescued individuals at the next port of call in Costa Maya, Mexico on September 4.”

A passenger on Twitter, by the name of Pico, stated that the men were spotted by others on board by a “flash in the middle of the ocean.”

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The “rescue” of the Cuban men has a strange twist. The NCL passenger who took the videos, which were posted on Twitter, stated that he observed NCL allegedly dressing the men “up as workers so that they would not be noticed by the passengers.” The Twitter videos allegedly show the Cuban men wearing white crew member overalls and walking down a deck in front of passengers.

Video credit: “Pico

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On Friday, a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter medevaced a a pregnant woman from a Carnival cruise ship

The medevac took place on August 31, 2018 from the Carnival Glory when the cruise ship was approximately 110 miles southwest of Key West.

The passenger was transferred ashore to emergency medical services who then transported her to Lower Keys Medical Center.

The video is available here.

Video credit: U.S. Coast Guard District 7 via Defense Visual Infromation Distribution Services (DVIDS)

Royal Caribbean is reportedly outsourcing the majority of the employees in its call center in Springfield, Oregon (near Eugene) to Jamaica and Guatemala. Over 700 positions in the Springfield office will apparently be gone by the end of 2019. Employees say that they were forced to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA’s) prohibiting them from talking about the company’s decision. As one employee who wishes to remain anonymous recently told me, “it’s pretty sad there right now.”

Royal Caribbean has operated a call center in the town of Springfield, Oregon since 2006 in a customized office which is designed to look like a cruise ship (see article below). As of 2014, Royal Caribbean employed over 700 people and had plans to hire over 200 others there.

Several current employees in Springfield contacted me to discuss the company’s plans. They state that Royal Caribbean plans to outsource 85-90% of its jobs in Springfield to Guatemala and Jamaica. This leaves around 700 U.S. employees without jobs, and the cruise line is not offering severance pay or assistance to most of the employees. All of the employees wish to remain anonymous out of fear that the company will retaliate against them.

The only teams which, reportedly, are being offered to remain employed are “sales” and “outbound sales.” However,  long term sales agents are not being provided with leads anymore and the cruise line is already outsourcing calls to agents in Guatemala. 

One employee told me that “when guests have a issue with their booking and want to speak with a supervisor (escalating to the resolutions department), they will now speak to someone overseas. It seems like for now Royal Caribbean wants their sales agents in the USA to hook the customer  and introduce them to the product, but when they call back with an issue they will be routed overseas.” She added “good luck getting a refund . . . ” 

Several years ago, Travel Weekly reported that Royal Caribbean’s UK and Ireland managing director reassured agents about the planned outsourcing of the cruise line’s UK call center to Guatemala. He told Travel Weekly at the time that Royal Caribbean was busy training the new Guatemalan call center staff and he would soon visit the Central American center.

Royal Caribbean is obviously not the first cruise line to outsource services from the U.S. Two year ago, Carnival eliminated 200 positions from its IT departments across its brands, including Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Lines and Princess Cruises. Carnival received wide spread criticism when it was revealed that Carnival employees were required to train the “foreign” replacements.

Over the years, there have been several incidents involving mass lay-offs from Royal Caribbean, dating back many years ago with 500 employees losing their jobs, with the last one in 2013 involving around 100 people let go.

As I mentioned before, this appears to be an inevitable part of the “globalization” of the cruise industry. Money saved by the cruise executives in Miami, yes, but at the expense of terminating loyal U.S employees. Not to mention running the risk of demoralizing the remaining staff while offering substandard services.

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August 30, 2018 Update:

According to KVAL TV in Eugene, “some of the Springfield employees were used to train workers in Jamaica in April ‘only to realize now that they trained their own replacements.’ The sources have asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions at work.”

KVAL TV article “Absolutely Heartbroken;” Employee at Royal Caribbean in Springfield Speaks Out.

Royal Caribbean responds by saying that there are allegedly no layoffs currently planned but plans to “reassign some of the jobs to other areas.” The employees in Springfield will be “reduced through attrition.” A KVAL reporter reported that the cruise line would not provide a time table for the changes and “declined to say where those jobs would be located, and said officials have not decided how many jobs would be moved.”

Interested in this issue? Please read:

Cruise Law Visits Royal Caribbean in Oregon

Globalization at Work? Royal Caribbean’s U.K. Call Center Outsourced to Guatemala

Loyal to Royal” Royal Caribbean Axes 100 Jobs in Corporate Headquarters

Photo credit: Jim Walker

Most cruise lines would kill to have a fan page operated for free by a loyal customer who loves to cruise.

There are several examples of popular fan pages operated by loyal fans. Like the RoyalCaribbeanBlog operated by Matt Hochberg and the DisneyCruiseLineBlog operated by Scott Sanders.  Mr. Hochberg’s Royal Caribbean blog has an extremely popular Facebook page with over 150,000 likes. Mr. Sanders’ also has a popular Facebook page following for his Disney Cruises fan blog. Plus, both sites have active Twitter accounts, @theRClblog and @TheDCLblog. The fan pages are filled with photos, videos, interesting articles and a place where fans can book a cruise, all of which greatly benefit Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruises in their marketing efforts.

But don’t tell that to Ronny Cop, a Belgium cruise fan who has faithfully run the Celestyal Cruises Fan Club Facebook page for the past several years ever after he first sailed with Celestyal Cruise in 2015.  This evening, Mr. Cop received an anonymous email from Celestyal Cruises’ “marketing department,” bearing no name (and only an illegible signature).  Celestyal instructed him to immediately “discontinue the use and operation of the fan page,” giving  him a deadline to cease operations no later than this Friday, at “5pm Greek local time.”

Comments posted on the Celestyal fan page in reaction to the news criticized Celestyal for kicking Mr. Cop to the curb:

  • “This has to be the dumbest move by a cruise line I have ever seen! Way to lose all your customers!”
  • “. . . This is bullying and I don’t think they have any legal basis to do it – you (did) it first and it’s obvious that you’re not impersonating the company. All other cruise lines have fan pages – I manage one and It’s been welcomed by the line.”
  • “Wow!!! . . . considering how much publicity you have generated for Celestyal Cruises, this is a cyber slap in the face for you Ronny!!! I’m sure there are thousands of unofficial fan groups on Facebook for every conceivable company/ product. . . “
  •  Under the fair usage rules I’m not sure they can force you to do this? As long as you are not profiting from it or selling anything? I mean, this is kind of crazy to turn down free publicity isn’t it?

Celestyal’s excuse for trying to shut the fan page down is that it plans to start its own fan page. But it seems counter-productive not to discuss the line’s new marketing strategy with Mr. Cop and use the goodwill and web presence which he created as a base to start the corporate page. Perhaps Celestyal should have offered him a free cruise with his family as part of the consideration for such a win-win proposal. Or Celestyal could have at least politely asked him to consider changing the site to an “unofficial” page.

Mr. Cop is not asking for legal advice from me, but it seems silly to think that there is any legal basis for Celestyal Cruises to force him to shut down the fan page. Nor is there any practical way that a Cyprus-based cruise line based in Greece can require anyone residing in Belgium to do anything. Perhaps creating a Celestyal Cruises parody site by Mr. Cop would be a good idea?  But Mr. Cop, who booked two cruises with Celestyal for 2020, just last week, and has faithfully operated his fan page “out of love” for the cruise line for the past three years, seems too classy for that.

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