This evening Royal Caribbean announced via Twitter that that it’s "closely watching a large storm off the coast of Cape Hatteras. We want to be extra cautious when it comes to weather in the area." The cruise line decided that it is canceling the last two days of the current Anthem of the Seas cruise which will skip Barbados and St Kitts in order to "avoid a severe storm & provide guests with a comfortable journey back home."

Is this the same cruise line which recklessly sailed into a much larger storm three weeks ago?

The forecasted wind and wave conditions seem modest compared to the weather conditions forecast prior to the disastrous cruise on February 6th when the cruise ship sailed into waves over 30 feet and encountered hurricane strength winds.

So why the cautious approach today? Is this a cruise line that really learned its lesson?  Is this the result of new decision makers back in Miami who decide whether the Royal Caribbean ships will encounter rough weather? Remember, Royal Caribbean announced that the last storm revealed what the cruise line said were "gaps in our planning system that we are addressing."

Royal Caribbean also said that it was strengthening its storm avoidance policy, and allegedly added resources at its corporate headquarters in Miami to provide additional guidance to its captains. 

So is the decision this evening to cut the cruise short the result of more cautious meteorologists and fewer macho captains?  I doubt it. The weather reports seem pretty tame. 

It seems that the decision to cancel the remainder of the Anthem cruise is motivated more in order to avoid bad press than bad weather. Why? Passengers are reporting that over 65 people have come down with symptoms of the dreaded norovirus. A code red is underway. If there are 65 official reports, chances are that the true number is much higher. There will be what the cruise lines call "enhanced" cleaning when the ship returns to New Jersey on Wednesday in an effort to kill the noro.  Royal Caribbean’s reputation can’t take a massive noro outbreak on the heels of subjecting its guests to a massive storm earlier this month.

So what happens when the cruise ship returns to port 2 days early?  If this were truly just a weather related event, then the passengers, whose flights home are still scheduled two days later, should be able to stay on the ship. But if passengers are forced to leave the ship early for the anticipated super cleaning, it would seem that Royal Caribbean is more concerned with eradicating norovirus from its huge cruise ship than risking its guests encountering another round of rough weather.  

Anthem of the Seas Captain's Letter

Today, Miami lawyers filed suit on behalf of a cruise passenger who sailed aboard the Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas on Sunday, February 7th. The Lipcon law firm, based here in Miami, has filed a proposed class action lawsuit against Royal Caribbean in Federal Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Anyone who has read this blog in the last two weeks knows how I feel about the cruise in question. There is little doubt that the cruise line acted recklessly by ignoring weather forecasts of hurricane strength winds and 30 foot waves of this Altantic winter storm.  The winds strengthened, as to be expected in a storm like this, to well over 100 MPH. Many passengers experienced Anthem of the Seas Storm Lawsuitterrifying experiences where some passengers were fearful of losing their lives and those of their loved ones on the cruise ship.

The Anthem of the Seas returned to New Jersey with severe damage to its propulsion system, among other damage.

The captain of the Anthem of the Seas said during a talk to the passengers after the storm that he expected waves of only 12 to 15 foot waves.  But weather forecasts indicate that much higher waves, to over 30 feet, were expected. This means that the cruise line did not provide accurate weather reports to the captain or he ignored them. Navigation officers are required to up load “passage plans” pursuant to the the International Safety Management (ISM) codes before they sail. This information will quickly reveal exactly what weather conditions the captain anticipated during the ill-fated cruise in question.

ABC reports that any passenger who was on the ship can be represented in the lawsuit, which covers both passengers who suffered physical injuries and those passengers who are alleging only severe emotional, psychological and emotional stress.

You can read the lawsuit papers here.

At least one other lawsuit was filed last week by a lawyer in Houston, Texas.

Our firm will be representing passengers who sustained physical injuries during the storm.

Cruise lines ordinarily have a duty of only “reasonable care” under the circumstances. But in instances of rough weather, cruise lines have a much higher duty of care toward the passengers. Some characterize this duty as the “highest duty of care” of the passengers when the ship is expected to encounter rough weather.

Can it seriously be argued that Royal Caribbean exercised “high care” when it sailed 4,500 passengers, including the elderly and children, into a winter storm forecast to bash the ship with hurricane strength winds and waves over 30 feet?

Read our last article on the Anthem of the Seas fiasco.

Anthem of the Seas StormThe maritime blog gCaptain published an article yesterday, written by Rick Spilman, author of the well written Old Salt blog, titled Anthem of the Sea – is She  Seaworthy?  The Old Salt blog takes issue with an article I wrote several years ago entitled Are Cruise Ships Dangerously Top Heavy?

In my article I was critical of the cruise industry’s trend to build these jam-packed mega cruise ships of today – the ‘floating condo" as some call them, which "seem to be out-of-proportionally tall, perched precariously on a hull which seems incapable of safely supporting a structure towering hundreds of feet into the air."  Fours years ago, I said that these monster ships "look like condominiums ripped out of Collins Avenue on Miami Beach and placed on a barge. They look eager to tip over."

I am more convinced today of these observations after the Anthem of the Seas debacle this past week. 

Commenting on the recent fiasco, the Old Salt blog stated that the cruise ship passed the test of encountering a major storm. It said that the cruise ship "survived" what it characterized as a "full-scale blowout trial in highly dangerous conditions." It pointed out that "no one died or was seriously injured" and "the ship made it into port under its own power."

The Old Salt blog scoffed at the notion that the Anthem of the Seas was "unsafe" and concluded that the gigantic cruise ship and others designed like it "are a lot more seaworthy than they look."

But the article was published before the Coast Guard announced that one of the vessel’s two azipods Anthem of the Seas Abandon Shipmalfunctioned during the storm and that the Anthem returned to port in New Jersey with only one propulsion unit operating. Late yesterday afternoon, the Coast Guard stated that "during the storm the port azipod, which is one component of the vessel’s propulsion system, burned out all four clutches." Royal Caribbean, which initially denied any damage or injury to the ship or the passengers and then claimed that the only damage to the ship was cosmetic, was forced to try and quickly replace the clutches on the storm damaged azipod before the ship’s scheduled departure today. The cruise line also decided the starboard azipod ‘s clutch also needed to be replaced "as a precaution," raising the possibility that it also sustained damage during the storm.

So putting differing opinions aside, the undisputed fact of the matter is that the Anthem of the Seas sustained significant damage to its propulsion system during the storm and returned to port unseaworthy.

The failure of portions of the cruise ship’s propulsion system is very troubling  It raises an issue which I discussed in my article four years ago: "ask yourself whether you really want to take your family onto one of these floating sky-scrapper hotels when, God forbid, it loses power while encountering rough seas?"

If the Anthem’s propulsion was further disabled during the storm, the cruise ship would be in serious trouble. 

“Major casualties are the result of synergy from multiple causes. If one bad thing happens, you probably get through it,” maritime law litigator and law professor Larry Brennan told the media. “If a ship loses propulsion in a storm, it’s at the mercy of the seas. Instead of cosmetic or structural damage, there’s a much better chance that a ship can be lost.”

Cruise passengers claim that the waves crashed over the top of the lifeboats tethered along the side of the Anthem of the Seas as the ship listed heeled heavily to one side. Even if passengers could have gotten into the lifeboats, this class of Royal Caribbean ships does not have enough lifeboats for both passengers and crew members. The ship is designed such that the crew are forced to use a system of sliding down chutes into life-rafts – a dangerous design even in pleasant weather. Panic may cause the crew members and the passengers to compete to get into the lifeboats which are far safer than the life-rafts. As I explained and illustrated in my article Titanic Redux, there is a danger of the tether ropes breaking, the chutes twisting, or the life-rafts ripping away from the chutes during the type of rough weather which the Anthem faced this week.  

Of course a vessel can be unseaworthy not only when it is designed in an unsafe manner, or it is in state of disrepair, but when the vessel has unsafe procedures. The fact of the matter is that the Anthem of the Seas and other huge cruise ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet do not have a safe means of evacuating passengers and crew members at sea, particularly in dangerous storm conditions.

But most passengers don’t seem to be aware of this dangerous practice. The Anthem is claimed to be a technological marvel with all types of bells and whistles to wow the passengers: from being served by a robotic waiter to simulated surfing on the FlowRider to simulated sky diving on the iFly to riding on the North Star. But it has no way to evacuate people safely if disaster strikes, which almost happened last week.

All issues considered, I would say that the Anthem of the Seas is far more unseaworthy than it looks.

Images credit: Weather Nation YouTube – top

Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas StormThe storm-ravaged Anthem of the Seas is returning to port in New Jersey tonight with around 4,500 passengers aboard, many of whom feel traumatized by the cruise to the Bahamas run amok.

Many passengers on the cruise ship have contacted our office to complain that they literally feared for their lives and those of their families when the ship sailed into the predicted storm earlier this week. Many couples say that they told their partners that they loved them and said goodbye, afraid that as the cruise ship was rocked by 30 foot waves and blasted by 125+ MPH winds the ship would list over and they would drown in the surging ocean.

Many passengers also told me that they knew that there would be no way to safely board life boats in light of the high winds and intense waves if they had to abandon ship. They mentioned their panicked children who saw the fear in their parents’ eyes of perishing at sea.

Today I was interviewed by several local news stations in New York City, including the local CBS station channel 2 (video below) about the cruise line’s ill-fated decision to cruise into the storm

Meanwhile, it appears that Royal Caribbean has come to the realization that it made a mistake by not paying attention to the weather forecasts (which accurately predicted that there would be a storm developing with waves predicted of over 30 feet). Travel Market reports that Royal Caribbean has formed a shoreside team of meteorologists and captains to monitor the weather and advise the navigational teams of its cruise ships of storms and whether it is prudent to proceed.

Royal Caribbean sent the following statement to the media:

"Anthem of the Seas will return to Cape Liberty, NJ this evening, and we are grateful for the safe return of our guests and crew.

We apologize for exposing our guests and crew to the weather they faced, and for what they went through.

Our ship and our crew performed very well to keep everyone safe during severe weather. Of more than 6000 people on board, only four minor injuries were reported.

Despite that fact, the event, exceptional as it was, identified gaps in our planning system that we are addressing. Though that system has performed well through many instances of severe weather around the world, what happened this week showed that we need to do better.

The severity of Sunday’s storm, with its sustained 120-mph winds, far exceeded forecasts. Even so, it is our responsibility to eliminate every surprise we possibly can.

As of today, we are strengthening our storm avoidance policy, and have added resources at our Miami headquarters to provide additional guidance to our ships’ captains.

As for Anthem of the Seas, much of the superficial damage caused by the storm has been repaired. We expect to resume her planned itinerary for next week’s cruise.

Again, we offer our apologies to our guests and crew." 

Statement courtesy of local ABC station 7 in New York City.

 

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A YouTube video of the Master of the Anthem of the Seas was broadcast to the staterooms on the Anthem of the Seas internal channel the day after the storm. A passenger, Sean Ferguson, recorded it with his iPhone.

The captain stated that, in his opinion, the low pressure system was not forecast accurately and the Anthem of the Seas faced wind and wave conditions much worse than were forecast.

His comments are in stark contrast to a number of meteorologists who have stated that the storm was accurately forecast last week. Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell, a local meteorologist from Ohio, posted photographs of the damage on his Facebook page. Another meteorologist, Ryan Maue, a “digital meteorologist for WeatherBell Analytics, said it’s hard to believe no one at Royal Caribbean had been aware of a storm system that had been forecast — and included in official advisories and warnings issued by the National Weather Service — days in advance, ” says NJ.com in the article Royal Caribbean ripped by weather pro for routing ‘Anthem’ cruise ship into storm.

The meteorologists at the Weather Channel were highly critical of Royal Caribbean last night and stated that the storm was accurately predicted in several programs and widely reported. The Weather Channel broadcast images showing that the seas were predicted to be over 30 feet last week (see photo below), which sharply contrasted with the Royal Caribbean captain’s claim that the waves were forecast to be only 12 to 15 feet in height.

Of interest is the Master’s statement that the winds which rocked the cruise ship were up to 170 MPH which is actually higher than the estimates of many terrified passengers who contacted us of around 150 MPH.  He also stated that the passenger were understandably extremely uncomfortable and fearful of the weather conditions.

Ar the 18 minute mark of the video, the Master used an online chart from PassageWeather.com which, ironically, accurately predicted the development of this storm before the Anthem of the Seas sailed into danger.

Al Roker, the popular television weatherman on the Today Show, best summed up Royal Caribbean’s claim that the storm was not predicted:  “Royal Caribbean’s claim that this was not predicted is bullfeathers.

USA TODAY published Meteorologists: Royal Caribbean blew it on sailing into storm.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson was quoted in the press asking why would the ship continue right into the path of the ferocious storm that had been predicted at least four days on February 3rd, before the cruise encountered it, according to the Daily Mail.

Storm Anthem of the Seas Cruise

 

Anthem of the Seas StormRoyal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas was pounded by rough weather last night, according to passengers leaving comments, photos and video on the internet.

New accounts initially indicated that there was no damage to the cruise ship or injuries to the passengers but this notion was quickly dispelled by images of extensive damage caused by the storm.

Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell, posted photographs of the damage on his Facebook page.

The storm was the result of a sudden although predictable intensification known as "bombogenesis," which is explained by this article in Forbes magazine.

ABC News reported that "after seeing pictures and people’s comments on Twitter and other social media platforms, the USCG contacted the Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas to check in.”

Passengers contacted us indicating that several guests were injured in the mayhem caused by the hurricane strength 125+ MPH winds and 30+ foot waves.  

The cruise line said initialy that it would be late getting to Port Canaveral but later said that the Anthem would return to New Jersey. Passengers would be refunded 100% and, in addition, receive 50% of their fares a future cruise credit in compensation. 

The storm and damage to the ship reminds me of a harrowing incident on the Brilliance of the Seas when several passengers were seriously injured when a storm hit the Royal Caribbean cruise ship in December 2010. The ship tried to outrun a known storm into Alexandria, Egypt. Royal Caribbean tried to spin the story in the media, saying that the storm was far worse than expected. 

Watch Top Five Worst Cruise Ship Disaster Videos

February 8 2016 Update: Seems that Royal Caribbean is playing the "unforseeable" weather game again. Weather professionals are not buying it  – Royal Caribbean ripped by weather pro for routing ‘Anthem’ cruise ship into storm. Also read 4,000-passenger cruise ship inexplicably sails into Atlantic mega-storm.  The Weather Channel pointed out that several weather programs predicited the high waves and high winds last week, and questioned where the cruise line obtained its weather forecasts.

February 9 2016 UpdateMaster of the Anthem of the Seas: Storm Not Accurately Forecast.

Image Credit: NOAA/NASA via Forbes

Storm Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas

Costa neoRomanticaA number of newspapers in Europe are reporting that the Costa neoRomantica sustained damage which it encountered high winds and rough weather last Wednesday night. 

An Italian newspaper reported that the Costa cruise ship was hit by high waves (seven meters) raised by gusts of wind that exceeded 125 kilometers per hour. The neoRomantica was sailing from Trapani to Marseille when it was struck by violent gusts of wind.

The cruise ship had to drop one of its giant anchors and skip the port of Marseille. The neoRomantica had to dock in Savona. Costa has use buses to transport passengers from Savona to Marseilles. 

The Italian Crociere in Diretto blog and Facebook page contains accounts of the storm and photographs of the damage to the ship. Many cabins were flooded with water and there was a loss of power and black-out during the storm. Passengers were frightened and some had to stay in the hallways.

You can also read accounts of the storm in La Provence newspaper where passengers claimed that they were not kept informed by the captain or crew. 

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

 

Photo Credit: Rosalba Scarrone Administrator Liveboat.it

Rough WeatherI received emails this weekend that the Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas was hit with rough weather. The cruise ship is sailing on its 14 night re-positioning cruise to Port Canaveral.

Two lifeboats on deck 4 were reportedly dislodged and water crashed through glass doors and flooded the interior of the ship. Allegedly the water temporarily disabled the aft elevators. These are are some of the things I am being told. 

A Cruise Critic member is leaving comments on the Cruise Critic message boards. You can see some dramatic photos of the rough weather here (I’m feeling sea sick just looking at them) and of the lifeboat damage here.  

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

Photo Credit: rcgroups.com / patmat2350

This week we have been asked questions about rough weather which apparently bounced Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas around. Today I ran across this video about a passenger;s experiences abord the Grandeur.

A Pennsylvania news station, WHTM ABC 27, reports that passenger Patti Hill Bocassini was ending her 10 day vacation aboard the Grandeur when rough weather struck as the ship was heading back to Baltimore. 

The passengers had enjoyed great weather but the cruise ship encountered 20 foot waves and high winds which the captain said were caused by the Nor’easter ahead of the ship. A "rogue" wave allegedly hit the Grandeur and caused some damage.

If you were on the ship and have information to share, please leave a comment or join the discussion on Facebook.

abc27 WHTM

Just two days ago, the news broke about a wave smashing windows out in the Waldorf Restaurant aboard the Marco Polo cruise ship killing one elderly passenger and injuring a dozen passengers and crew members. Passengers disembarking the 49 year-old former-Russian vessel this morning complained about the poor condition of the cruise ship.

The widow of the passenger who died when the windows exploded in said that the ship was "badly maintained." The Daily Echo quoted her saying that ”There’s so much paint on the outside you can’t see the rust, they just slop some more on when they get to port."

Marco Polo PassengersBut seemingly just as soon as the passengers had disembarked the old ship, the Marco Polo was already preparing to leave on its next scheduled cruise.

The cruise ship’s operator, Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV), was quick to issue a corporate PR statement downplaying the incident. It characterized the wave as a "freak" incident, a designation which was contradicted by numerous passengers who characterized the worsening rough weather as an ongoing process requiring them to ride the ship "like a bucking bronco."

CMV described the damage to the vessel as involving only a "small section of Marco Polo’s Waldorf Restaurant," but it neglected to mention that the entire restaurant was flooded with 3 to 5 inches of water. Today, somehow the ship had already completed the "required reparation works," and the cruise ship had already "been cleared to sail by the authorities."

Just who are the "authorities" who gave the old ship a green light to again sail on the same day that it returned to port after the deadly cruise?  The ship is registered in Nassau, Bahamas which could care less about inspecting the ship and will never conduct an analysis of the casualty nor issue a report for public reading.

Other basic questions need to be asked.

How were the "required reparation works" conducted so quickly during such a short turn-around?  Was the ship, constructed back in 1964, completely inspected from bow to stern by qualified experts? Were independent marine surveyors permitted to inspect the damage before the scene was altered?  Was the dead man’s family members provided an opportunity to hire their own experts to assess the cause and origin of window failures?

If this casualty involved a U.S. commercial aviation incident where the windows of a Delta jet blew out causing death and injuries to the passengers and crew, the airplane would be shut down indefinitely pending an exhaustive inspection and analysis by the stringent National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the aircraft manufacturer, component vendor companies, maintenance companies and other companies. Even the FBI would be a part of the investigation.

But this incident involved the largely unregulated "anything-goes" world of foreign-flagged cruise ships where the ships never stop and the cruise operator PR people are left to praise themselves rather than scrutinize what went wrong. 

CMV has already claimed that the wave was a "freak" which in legal terms means its was allegedly "unforeseeable" which CMV’s lawyers will contend. The weather broadcasts, wind and sea forecasts, and nautical charts showing wind speed and wave heights are of no consequence it seems. The cruise operator has already settled on its defense strategy. The Marco Polo is already heading out to sea again.

CMV already boasts that its ship is allegedly in compliance with "strict" international maritime "requirements" (the International Maritime Organization has no authority to even enforce its own recommendations).  Remarkably, the cruise line praises its captain and officers who sailed into harm’s way while inviting the elderly guests to sit like ducks next to the windows as the giant waves Marco Polo BBCcrashed upon the ship. 

Instead of such cheerleading and gushing praise, a criminal investigation should be initiated into whether manslaughter charges should be leveled against the captain, the navigational officers and the senior managers who permitted the passengers to sit precariously close to the restaurant windows under such dangerous circumstances.

The ship never should have been permitted to take new passengers aboard today. It should have been detained. The Marco Polo should be immediately returned to port and undergo a thorough and complete survey before it leaves port again anytime soon. 

February 18 2014 Update: A newspaper in the U.K. contains an interview of a couple of the cruise who "do not believe that the ordeal was the result of a freak wave but that of gale-force wind and said that there was an incident even on the first night of the 42-night cruise." A window blew in earlier.  A reader left this comment to the story:

We were on the ship too, in the restaurant and also found out that the man who died was our shipboard next door neighbour. I too take issue with the word ‘freak’ allowing commentators to write off the incident as tragic but one of those things. Others were seriously injured that day. If it was a freak wave it was one of a series . . . 
 

 

Photo Credits:

Marco Polo Passengers – BBC News

Marco Polo: BBC News / Martin Dalton