According to The Telegraph newspaper, NCL cruise executive Andy Stuart’s 83-year-old mother told the newspaper that Norwegian Star cruise guest Kay Longstaff, who went overboard as the cruise ship was heading back to Venice three days ago,
“. . . didn’t fall off. She jumped. This has cost Norwegian Cruise Line $600,000. This stupid woman.”
Mr. Suart’s mother told the U.K. newspaper that he was upset that Ms. Longstaff caused “massive disruption to fellow passengers while costing Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation.”
Over the years, I have written many dozens of articles about people going overboard from cruise ships. One of the first things that readers think when a passenger (or cruise employee) goes overboard is that “you can’t fall from a cruise ship.”
Most of the time, the person who goes over the rails of a cruise ship is not rescued. In fact, less than 15% of people who go into the sea are rescued. They die at sea. But that doesn’t stop cynics from attacking the dead cruisers as being “stupid.” Considering that 319 people have gone overboard in the last two decades according to cruise expert Professor Ross Klein, this means that well over 250 families have grieved or are grieving the loss of a family member lost at sea from a cruise ship.
The cruise industry does not bother to keep statistics of the number of people who go overboard, or the reasons why they do, choosing instead to label their disappearances to be the “result of an intentional or reckless act,” as pointed out by NPR in a recent article.
The “intentional or reckless act” is a talking point from the cruise industry’s trade organization, the Cruise Line International Organization (“CLIA”). CLIA, of course, claims that cruising is “one of the safest forms of travel” and claims that it is impossible to go overboard unless cruise guests act recklessly.
Over-intoxication is the leading cause of passengers going overboard from cruise ships, by far. Pushing alcohol during cruises is a fundamental part of the cruise business. Bar and tavern owners know that customers often act recklessly when they are over-served alcohol. Things are no different on the high seas.
Just last week, a jury in Miami heard testimony about Samantha Broberg, a guest on the Carnival Liberty. In 2016, Carnival served her 19 drinks over the course of the day and evening, rendering her well past the point of obvious intoxication. She staggered out of the cruise ship bar after 1:30 A.M., sat on a railing in a drunken stupor, and fell into the dark waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
The cruise ship did not have an automatic man overboard system installed, as required by the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act which President Obama signed into law and became effective in 2012.
Such a system would have instantly signaled the bridge that a person went over the railing, captured the person’s image and tracked the person in the water, even at night, via combination of motion-detection, infrared and radar technology. Carnival eventually resorted to reviewing CCTV images after-the-fact once the woman’s friends reported her missing around 11:00 A.M. the next morning and searching the ship even though the woman went into the water several hundreds of nautical miles earlier. Carnival eventually contacted the United States Coast Guard around 5:00 P.M the following day while it continued heading back to its home port in Galveston.
Ms. Bromberg’s body was never found.
Ms. Bromberg left behind a loving husband and four children. But that didn’t stop the cruise cynics from calling her “drunk and stupid.”
Like Carnival, NCL doesn’t seem to have installed an automatic man overboard system on the Norwegian Star. So when Ms. Longstaff went over the rails late at night, perhaps just like Ms. Broberg did two-and-one-half years earlier, the ship’s bridge was not automatically and immediately notified. The ship continued sailing until her friends notified the ship that they could not find her.
After turning around to search for her many hours later, the NCL cruise ship eventually abandoned the search and returned to Venice, arriving around 3:00 P.M. rather than the scheduled 8:00 A.M. The cruise ship was full of upset passengers who were agitated that they had missed their flights home and had to look for a hotel.
As explained in articles by Quartz and NPR, this is the second time in two months that NCL abandoned a search for an overboard guest or cruise employee and returned to the ship’s home port due to pressure from angry passengers and in order to re-rack the ships with new guests for the next cruise. The same thing happened with the Norwegian Getaway last month when the Getaway decided to head back to Miami after a short search for a crew member who had jumped overboard, leaving the Coast Guard during the middle of the search. (The crew member was eventually rescued the next day by a passing Carnival cruise ship,)
It’s bitterly ironic that NCL cruise CEO Stuart, or his mom, would complain about Ms. Longstaff’s going overboard when its was NCL which probably over-served her alcohol in the first place, and didn’t equip its cruise ship with an automatic man overboard system even though it knows that other intoxicated guests have disappeared overboard during cruises. It was also NCL which abandoned its search for her as she treaded water for over 10 hours in the Adriatic Sea.
And as far as NCL having to allegedly pay for their guests’ airfare and hotel accommodations in Venice? Hogwash. NCL has a well deserved penny-pinching reputation for never paying for missed ports or cruises gone wrong though its own negligence. It has never reimbursed its guests’ airfare or hotel accommodations caused by a delayed return to port following a passenger lost at sea. It’s preposterous to believe that NCL allegedly paid anything to the guests who they dumped in Venice at the end of the ill-fated cruise, much less $600,000 as claimed by Mr. Stuart’s mom in the Telegraph.
Most of the passengers who have contacted me about this case complain that NCL refuses to reimburse them for their airfare changes and hotel expenses due to the the Star’s late return to Venice.
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Here are just a couple of automatic man overboard systems available to the cruise industry (there are several others):
Photo credit: Croatian Coast Guard, Harbour Master’s Office, Rijeka via ABC News.