Grandeur of the Seas LifeboatA lifeboat accident occurred this afternoon while the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas was in the port of Charleston.

A passenger aboard the cruise ship (who wishes to remain anonymous) informed me that a lifeboat had fallen from the cruise ship and was upside down in the water. He sent photographs of the lifeboat taken by other passengers. One photograph shows a cable which is are obviously frayed (bottom photo) and suggests that the cables may have broken and dropped the lifeboat into the water.

This raises obvious concerns that the other cables to the remaining lifeboats may be in a state of disrepair. These lifeboats carry as many as 150 guests.

It is currently unknown whether the accident occurred during a lifeboat drill or whether there were crew members in the lifeboat when it fell.

A newspaper in Charleston says that a “life raft” fell off the cruise ship, but this appears to clearly be an error. The photo above of the lifeboat upside down in the water which was sent to me can be compared to an online photo of a Grandeur lifeboat on davits (below); the metal rails on the side in both photos can be readily observed.

The newspaper reports that the U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said “staff from the ship are attempting Grandeur of the Seas Lifeboatto retrieve the life raft and a team from the Coast Guard will assess any potential pollution impacts.”

There are no reports at this time whether there are any crew member injuries at this time. The newspaper says that “there was no one was on the raft.”

This is not the first lifeboat accident on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. In September, two crew members were killed and other crew members were critically injured after a lifeboat fell from the Harmony of the Seas, which was docked in Marseilles, France. Five members of the ship’s navigation crew were on board during a drill when the lifeboat became detached and fell ten meters into the water.

I boarded the Grandeur of the Seas last month with a maritime expert to inspect the lifeboats in a case where a crew member was seriously injured. One observation I left with was that this twenty-year old ship is a victim of deferred maintenance. You can see very heavy rust in the metal throughout the ship, particularly around the windows. Some of the rust is so serious that the windows near the upper, Granddeur of the Seas Lifeboatstarboard side near the stern have been replaced with temporary covers. (See photo at bottom). Earlier this year, another 20 year-old Royal Caribbean ship in the same Vision class, the Rhapsody of the Seas, suffered five windows on deck three breaking, injuring cruise passengers and partially flooding the cabins on decks two and three when the ship encountered rough weather. You can see the rusted windows here and on our Facebook page.

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

January 17, 2017 Update: The Grandeur of the Seas arrives today at the port of Miami, without a lifeboat. The Grandeur apparently left the fallen lifeboat behind in Charleston. Has the Coast Guard inspected the other lifeboats? Photo (above) via @PTZtv.

Photo Credit: middle – shipspotting.

Top – Kenneth Kozak via News2-Charleston.

Below – Anonymous.

Bottom – Jim Walker.Grandeur of the Seas

Grandeur of the Seas Lifeboat

SeafarerThe Manila Bulletin reports that Royal Caribbean announced yesterday that it is "hiring a total of 30,000 Filipino crew members over the next five years" as the company "expands its fleet and routes to Asia."

The newspaper also states that the cruise line currently employees around 11,000 Filipinos as crew members.

Filipinos seafarers have a proud tradition of working at sea. Unfortunately, Filipinos have perhaps the fewest legal rights of any crew member working for a cruise line. That’s because the cruise industry is enforcing arbitration which requires them to pursue their claims in Manila pursuant to the Philippines Overseas Employment Agreement (POEA) which places a cap on their damages when they are injured during their work.   

The compensation is ridiculously low. For example, a Filipino crew member employed on a bulk carrier as a senior engine fitter received sustained serious burns of his abdomen and legs when scalding water overflowed a tank. The crew member underwent extensive and painful medical treatment in the burn units of West Jefferson Medical Center and Baton Rouge General Medical Center in Louisiana, U.S.A.

The Filipino underwent skin grafting burns of 35% of his body.

He thereafter was returned to the Philippines where he continued undergoing medical treatment at a number of hospitals and with a number of doctors who performed plastic surgery. He is now unemployed, disabled and scarred for life.

He filed suit in state court in Jefferson Parish where the accident occurred, but his case was dismissed and he was ordered to proceed with arbitration in the Philippines.

The shipping company argued that the case was controlled totally by Philippine law and the crew member had no rights whatsoever under U.S. law. The company argued that under the Philippines Overseas Employment agreement (POEA), the crew member suffered a grade 14 disability which would entitle him to only 3.74% of USD $50,000 or a total award of $1,870.00 (US).

The Filipino Labor Board agreed and awarded the crew member just $1,870. You can read about the case here

When Filipinos are killed at seas due to the negligence of the cruise line, the POEA has a cap of only $50,000.  

If Royal Caribbean hires some 30,000 Filipinos over the years, it will save many millions of dollars by sending them back to Manila when they are injured and forcing them to accept the limited compensation under the POEA.

Photo Credit: By Maxime Felder – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia

In the last couple of weeks I’ve posted photographs of the crew mess on a number of cruise ships. Some of the photos are gross, Some of the photos don’t seem too bad. One crew member said the food on the Queen Victoria was great.

Today a crew member on the Queen Elizabeth sent me these photographs, which I posted on our Facebook page.  They seem to fall into the "yuck" category. A main criticism seems to be repetitive meat dishes, tasteless vegetables and an absence of fresh fruit.   

Cruise Ship FoodThe crew member made an interesting comment when he sent the photos:

"One day we had David Dingle the CUNARD CEO at the time onboard for a visit. The ship was aware of his pending visit and his schedule well in advance. He was scheduled to eat lunch in the crew mess, you can guess what happened that day, fresh fruit and the food was guest standard. Any other day of the week, that wouldn’t be the case . . . "

The problem of course is not just the spotty food, but the combination of factors: long hours working, long contracts, little time off, time away from home and family, demanding supervisors and a lack of respect from passengers. 

Have a comment? Please join the discussio on our Facebook page.

Cruise Ship FoodThe other day I posted an article entitled Grub on the High Seas.  I also posted photographs on Facebook of the food served in the crew mess, primarily on MSC, Costa and Cunard cruise ships.

A number of crew members sent me photos of some nasty looking stuff (photo left from Cunard).  One cruise passenger who follows me on Facebook asked me to delete a photo because she claimed that a pan of greasy-looking undercooked meat of some kind was causing her extreme mental anguish.

But other crew members commented that food on their cruise ships was fantastic.

One crew member from the Cunard Victoria posted photographs of delicious looking meals with fresh-looking vegetables, soups and cakes & pastries (photo bottom). These photos contrasted sharply with the photo of disgusting gruel served on another Cunard ship.

So I organized his photos in this album on Facebook. You can contrast them with the prior album I posted.

I suppose the food varies a bit from time to time from ship to ship.  That being said, which album best illustrates the food served to you in the crew mess on your ship?

Please leave a comment on our Facebook page.

Or send us a photo of what is served on your ship.

Please feel free to message me confidentially on Facebook or email be privately at jim@cruiselaw.com with your photos if you are afraid that your company will fire you.      

Cruise Ship Food

 

In past months, I have posted photographs and videos sent to me by crew members depicting life on cruise ships. 

The "ship life" photos are not the pretty images carefully arranged for the guests to see during behind-the-scene tours.

Ship Life – The Pot Wash Blues revealed the incredible amount of work required daily by the pot wash crew responsible for the non-stop cleaning of hundreds or pots and pans in the galley.  These cleaners work a minimum of 10 to 12 hours a days, 7 days a week, 30 or 31 days a month for 6 to 8 months Cruise Foodstraight, for as little as $550 a month.

Some photographs are more dramatic, like MSC crew members were ordered to throw black plastic garbage bags into the sea at night. Or when Silversea crew members were ordered to hide trolleys of food from USPH inspectors, in the Silversea crew quarters.

Some cruise passengers could care less about what life is really like for the crew. Many heartless cruise passengers justify the long hours and low pay by arguing that crew members receive "free" food and lodging. 

Today a crew member sent me photos of the food he eats on the cruise ship.  

Anyone familiar with this food like this?  Heavy gravy, mystery meat and lots of salt.  Certainly not suitable for a healthy lifestyle over the course of 6 months of hard work. Grub for the grubs?

See the photos here on our Facebook page.

If you are a crew member, feel free to send us your photos and videos of the working and living conditions you face on a daily basis.  Your name will remain confidential. 

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

 

Definition of "grub:"  Noun, 1. the short legless larva of certain insects, esp beetles; 2. food; 
3. a person who works hard, esp in a dull plodding way.

Cruise Ship Pot Wash Yesterday I announced that we will begin regularly featuring photos and videos from crew members of the conditions which they face working on cruise ships.

There was a spirited debate which followed on our Facebook page about the issue. 

One cruise passenger commented: " No one forces these people to work on the cruise ships. So if they have complaints, get another job!!" 

It seems that some passengers could care less about the crew members or the working conditions which they face.

Other passengers, and even a few crew members, disputed the authenticity of the photos, or thought that they were staged or exaggerated.

Here are some more photos, of what a pot wash looks like. One photo is of the mess.  Another photo of a greasy pan that needs cleaning. Its hard, hard work for very little money. Long hours are the norm.

Stay tuned for more photos and some videos. Many crew members are sending images of what "ship life" is really like.  

Join in the discussion on our Facebook page or leave a comment below.

Cruise Ship Pot Wash

 

Costa Cruise A reader of Cruise Law News sent me a link to this Costa crew member’s Facebook page which contains video and photographs of hundreds of broken dishes in the ship’s galley.

It appears that the cruise ship experienced some type of incident affecting the ship’s navigational system; I’m not sure of the details.

You can see a video of the damage here

I have seen this type of damage before in cases of rough weather, but it appears that poor seamanship may have been a contributing factor in this incident.

Does anyone know about this incident, including the name of the Costa ship and the itinerary? 

Have a thought?  Please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our facebook page.

September 25 2014 Update: We received a number of comments on our Facebook page indicating that the cruise ship involved was the Costa Fascinosa. An Italian newspaper says that the cruise ship was sailing from Venice to the Greek islands when it was struck by bad weather and rough seas for two hours. The newspaper says (translated) the ship "yanked from the waves and with one engine failed, it began to turn on itself. It was like being on a spinning top."

Passengers described "glasses, plates and utensils flying in the air." Several passengers fell "driven by the centrifugal force" imposed by rotation of the ship. People cried and prayed.  

Another Italian newspaper refers to the ship being hit by a water-spot / tornado. The article has a video of the captain’s announcement about the storm. The captain reportedly informed the passengers to put life jackets on.

Costa released the following statement today: "We are very sorry for what happened and any inconvenience this caused. We confirm that the evening of 22 September, the Costa Fascinosa met with winds over 90 knots that have influenced the course and met with the inclination of the hull . . . The command of he ship immediately activated the procedures necessary to re-establish a regular and normal navigation, and then proceeded to warn and assist passengers. Costa has taken the route planned in the program."   

 

Photo Credit: Facebook

 

Travel Weekly just published an "interview" of Royal Caribbean cruise executive Richard Fain as part of the cruise line’s promotional build-up to the arrival of the Quantum of the Seas. 

it’s hyperbolic, razzle-dazzle, gobbledygook at it’s finest.  

Royal Caribbean has been been invading crew gratuities for years, doubling up officers in what were previously single cabins, and working the ship employees harder than ever before. When I read the $100 million executive Fain say: "We’ve done loads to make the crew’s job easier . . . We’re proud of our low staff turnover lower," I though that I would pose the following simple question to the crew members who follow Richard Fain - Royal Caribbeanour Facebook page: 

True? or False?

Well here are some of the answers from the Royal Caribbean crew that you will never see in a publication like Travel Weekly:

" . . . on any rccl ship the crew members go (especially from f&b dept.) they always complain they are short of equipment to serve the guest! Your sweet words are only for your market benefits but they are actually false!"

"False . . . Every week there’s at least one person who resigns . . . . If you resign with prior notice, you have 1 year to be rehired. Last year they decided to place all 2 stripe officers in shared cabins and take away most privileges, this cost many of them to resign as well."

"Long hours without any benefits."

"I worked 9 years for Royal Caribbean, nothing improves for the crew, all the opposite."

"I think he is talking like a politician…..there are many resignations now due to the working conditions and they are not being replaced; just the other crew members being made to work longer hours and do unpaid extra duties. ‘Turnover’ is the total of ins and outs, so by not replacing people the turnover figure is falsely low."

"Robots taking over the ships. Crew members start looking for other jobs!!"

If you want to read all of the comments on our Facebook page about Fain’s interview, click here.

 

Photo Credit: Wall Street Journal Smart Money / by Jeffrey Salter / Redux

Effective Monday May 5, 2014, Royal Caribbean will create a new risk management department which will be managed by a certified public accountant, Tom Burke. Mr. Burke joined the cruise line in 2003 and most recently worked as the Vice President of Audit and Advisory Services. He was previously a manager at the accounting firm KPMG in Miami.

The creation of the new risk management department will require the reshuffling of a number of in-house lawyers and employees of the cruise line’s crew medical department.

Claims handling and litigation matters are currently handled by the company’s legal department managed by General Counsel Bradley Stein. With that responsibility being transferred to Mr. Burke Adam Goldstein President Royal Caribbean Cruisesnext week, the Associate Vice President of Litigation, Paul Hehir, will be assigned to the newly created risk management department. He will manage five in house lawyers, six crew claims adjusters, and four passenger claims adjusters.

Members of the crew medical department will also transition to the new risk management department. Vince Warger, Penny Shifrin, Dr. Fabio Acevedo and LaShawn Knight will move to risk management, as well as eight crew medical managers and coordinators.  A new team leader will be hired to supervise the medical group and report to Mr. Burke. 

Associate Vice President of Guest and Employee Legal Services,Tony Faso, will remain under Mr. Stein.

The new risk management department is the idea of Chief Operating Officer (COO) and President of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., Adam Goldstein (photo above right), who recently replaced Richard Fain (now Chairman) at the helm of the cruise line. 

We anticipate that this restructuring will have an impact on the medical treatment of crew members and the management of the legal claims asserted against the company by passengers and crew members. 

Over the recent years, we have watched Royal Caribbean make dramatic cost-cutting steps. In 2001, Royal Caribbean fired 500 employees. In 2008, it fired around 400 employees in its headquarters (including many senior female managers in its legal department). And last year, it terminated the employment of another 100 employees in its shore-side offices.

Officers in the Royal Caribbean fleet complained last year of job and cost cuts, additional work and lower compensation, while shipboard tip earners (cabin attendants and waiters) have complained that the cashless, pre-paid gratuity was really a scheme to divert tips from the guests into the cruise lines’ coffers to defray the costs to the cruise line of paying the salaried ship employees.

We have most recently witnessed a renewed effort by the cruise line’s crew medical department to refuse to authorize significant medical treatment, needed by sick crew members, in order to save money. Some of the cases are heart breaking, including the abandonment of ill crew members who need surgeries and ship employees stricken with cancer who have been sent home with no arrangements for chemotherapy.

The transfer of medical managers & coordinators responsible for providing medical treatment to ship employees, as well as the re-positioning of lawyers & adjusters responsible for crew injuries and medical claims, to a new department overseen by an accountant may signal an effort to further reduce costs.  

COO Goldstein’s plans for his new risk management department specifically envision cost reduction. We predict that fewer benefits to the ill and injured crew members will be the net result.    

 

Photo Credit: Merco Press

Today, a jury here in Miami, Florida returned a verdict over $6,200,000 on behalf of a seriously injured crew member.

The crew members is from Haiti and worked as a cleaner on the Jewel of the Seas

He sustained a serious back injury due to the repetitive nature of his work and the long hours which crew members are required to work.

After the crew member sustained injury, Royal Caribbean sent the crew member to Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic for medical treatment. There a surgeon performed a back fusion. The Brett Rivkindcrew member’s lawyer alleged that the surgery was unnecessary and caused the crew member unnecessary and additional injuries. 

We have written about the medical facilities in Santo Dominican before. Rather than fly the injured crew members to Miami, where the cruise line in headquartered and the executives reside, the cruise line often sends their ship employees to the Dominican Republic where the medical expenses are substantially cheaper although the treatment is substantially inferior.

We have discussed the sub-standard medical facilities in Santo Domingo before. A jury in Miami previously returned a $1,000,000 verdict for a Celebrity crew member who underwent a crippling, unnecessary pacemaker surgery.   

Royal Caribbean tries to save money by keeping its ill and injured crew members out of Miami, and this is often the result. Read: Cruise Ship Medical Care – Royal Caribbean Gives Their Crew Members the Royal Shaft

Royal Caribbean reportedly made no settlement offer before trial.

The jury returned a verdict for the crew member finding that Royal Caribbean was negligent under the Jones Act, the vessel was unseaworthy, and the cruise line failed to provide prompt and adequate medical treatment. 

The crew member was represented by Miami maritime lawyer Brett Rivkind, photo above.

The total verdict was in the amount of $6,282,261.

The cruise lawyer was defended by defense lawyer David Horr.