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.

Have a thought? Please join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

After nearly nine years, Cruise Law News has a new look.

LexBlog, my blog design and support company in Seattle, re-designed my blog. You will note that the text you are reading is black lettering on a white background, in contrast to the old format (above) with a blue background which people have told me, over the years, was a bit hard on their eyes and difficult to read.

Man Overboard – a Continuing Problem

Early this morning I posted my first article, after two Royal Caribbean crew members went overboard after falling from a lifeboat near Victoria, Canada – Two Crew Members Overboard From Explorer of the Seas, Rescued

It is less than clear how the crew members went overboard, with a news account from a local radio program stating that they were working on the lifeboat, while commentators to my Cruise Law News page on Facebook explaining that the lifeboat apparently flipped over while it was being raised.

Of course, if the crew members fell while performing maintenance then that would be in violation of the cruise line’s safety protocols which require ship employees working “aloft or overboard” to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), which sometimes this cruise ignores. On the other hand, if the crew members fell after the lifeboat flipped while being raised, this would be in violation of the international maritime organization (IMO) protocols which prohibit lifeboats from being raised with people aboard, which this cruise lines also often ignores.

Meanwhile, readers of our Facebook page are commenting that “you cannot just fall off of a cruise ship” or words to this effect. But, of course, you can fall overboard if you are a crew member required to work without being provided with a fall restraint harness or forced to sit in a lifeboat which is lifted with people aboard in violation of IMO regulations.

In any event, based on the little available information, fortunately there are no reported injuries due to the mishap.

New Look – New Functions

Returning to our blog’s new format, a new feature is “Report a Tip” which you can see above near the top header. We often receive information directly from crew members or guests from the cruise ships, when things go wrong on the high seas. Cruise lines do not like to release complete or accurate information when bad things happen at sea, like when a fire breaks out or when a person goes overboard.

The motto of this blog remains “Everything Cruise Lines Don’t Want You to Know.” This form should make it easier to communicate with us.

Since I started this blog in September of 2009, I have written over 3,000  articles.  Thank you to the many hundreds of crew members and cruise guests who have contacted us over the last decade. Most people who contact us wish to remain anonymous.  We of course will never reveal the names or contact information of those who contact us.

The new format includes a link to our Google Analytics information, which tracks where people around the word contact us and how many pages they read. So far today, over 19,000 people have read the article which I posted this morning here on Cruse Law News.

One issue with the new format concerns me, namely our new comment system seems a bit awkward. I am wondering whether it will still work efficiently when readers wish to communicate with us.

I’m interested in what our readers think about the new look and format? Please give us your thoughts!

Join the discussion on our Facebook page. 

Interested in this topic?  Read:

Why do you read Cruise Law News?

NCL Cruise VeniceYesterday, as I flipped through my feed on tweetdeck, I noticed an idyllic image (left) of Venice. The stock photo show a few small boats and gondolas on the Grand Canal, with the text:

Cruise to Venice. It’s a place where people float down man-made waterways or stroll down picturesque alleyways. There’s no more extraordinary place to find yourself, or lose yourself. Stay in Venice before your next Mediterranean cruise!

The photo is linked to NCL’s efforts to market cruises to or from Venice. You can see the same image on NCL’s website.

The last time I wrote about Venice and NCL it involved George Clooney’s romantic wedding procession in Venice, Italy which was disrupted when the 93,000-ton, 2,400-passenger Norwegian NCL Norwegian Jade VeniceJade cruised by on the Giudecca Canal. NCL cluelessly congratulated Mr. Clooney on twitter after crashing his party.

Putting movie stars and celebrities aside, the reality of Venice is now the sight of huge cruise ships operated by NCL and other Miami-based cruise lines towering over the city and downloading hordes of day visitors buying trinkets.  Many of the hundreds of cruise ships coming to Venice each year are over 1,000 feet long, displace 140,000 tons and have drafts well over 25 feet. They pose a substantial risk to this fragile Italian city which is struggling against mass tourism and the deterioration of the city’s underwater foundations.

This is an issue which I have written about for the past decade.

Will the Juggernauts of the Seas Ruin Venice?

Photo credit: @NCL_eu; Norwegian Cruise Line via Travel Pulse; Getty Images via Mail Online / Monster Cruise Ships Menace Venice.

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

NCL Cruises Venice

Royal Caribbean Cruise PRPR News recently published an interesting article about how Royal Caribbean Cruises successfully handled its public relations image during the 2013 fire aboard the Grandeur of the Seas. Titled How Royal Caribbean Controls the Message During a Crisis, the article explains how the cruise line effectively controlled the narrative when the Grandeur caught on fire while cruising to Nassau.

PR Success: Immediately after the fire, Royal Caribbean quickly flew its president and a professional photographer to the port and tweeted photos of the cruise CEO interacting with guests "so that journalists would use those photos instead of a guest’s."

I mentioned this effective PR move in an article which I posted shortly after the fire titled Where Are Photo & Video Images of the Fire on the Grandeur of the Seas?  I commented on Royal Caribbean’s new and improved PR efforts, but pointed out that the cruise line released more photos of the cruise CEO having tea with passengers after the fire than of the damage to the ship. 

A video report by ABC News helped to explain why there were no videos or photographs because the cruise ship’s crew stopped passengers from taking images of the fire and chaos. Passenger Carrie royal Caribbean Cruise PRMcTigue told ABC News that "even when people put their cameras up to photograph the sunrise, they were told, ‘no photos.’"

PR Disasters: But Royal Caribbean has not always been able to control the images shown to the public when its cruise ships catch on fire. In July 2015, the Freedom of the Seas caught on fire. When we learned that the Freedom was on fire while heading to port in Falmouth, Jamaica, we asked a former client who lives near the port to video the fire. He videotaped the ship coming into port, billowing a huge amount of smoke. We immediately posted the video, on our Facebook page, which was viewed by over a million people within two days. We also posted the video on this blog with other images of the fire and the passengers mustering to prepare to abandon the fire-stricken ship.

So 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 make their own assessment regarding 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 was left with the impression that the cruise line was either completely out-of-touch with the danger posed to its guests or that it deliberately fabricated a falsehood to masquerade as the truth, which I suggested in the Royal Caribbean "Small Fire" Hoax.

Royal Caribbean also caused a public uproar after it sailed the Anthem of the Seas into a well publicized storm last year. Royal Caribbean’s PR people tried to say that the storm was "unforeseeable" but weather professionals didn’t buy it. They ripped the cruise line for routing the cruise ship directly into the storm. Read the Washington Post’s 4,000-passenger cruise ship inexplicably sails into Atlantic mega-storm. Weather experts accurately predicted the Atlantic seas out of New Jersey to be over 30 feet high with winds of hurricane strength, but the Anthem nonetheless recklessly sailed into theRoyal Caribbean Cruise PR storm, terrorizing thousands of passengers and burning out the clutches of its azipods in the process. The Anthem returned to port in New Jersey with only one propulsion unit operating.

Royal Caribbean initially denied any damage or injury to the ship or the passengers and then falsely claimed that the only damage to the ship was "cosmetic." 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 chimed in with "Meteorologists: Royal Caribbean blew it on sailing into storm."

Practice Makes Perfect?  The director of the cruise line’s corporate communications, Cynthia Martinez, was quoted in the PR article as saying that that the company often "practices roundtable discussions of how to handle an issue, and sometimes they practice writing tweets and press releases for specific situations." So the next time that a Royal Caribbean ship catches on fire or sails into a storm, remember that what you may be seeing from this cruise line is what it wants you to believe rather than the reality of what actually occurred or – as Al Roker said – "bullfeathers."

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

Reader's Digest Poll Most Trusted Brand Reader’s Digest has again selected Carnival Cruise Line as the "most trusted cruise line" in the world. 

As the popular cruise blog Cruise Fever writes: "The Reader’s Digest Trusted Brand Survey is an independent, online survey conducted in partnership with Ipsos Connect. This year’s survey polled 5,500 Americans nationwide who were asked to rate products they trust across 40 different categories in areas such as quality, value and reliability."

This is the third consecutive year that Carnival Cruise Line has been voted as the most trusted cruise line.

The cruise brand has come a long way since the Carnival "Poop Cruise" debacle.

The Reader’s Digest poll also named McDonald’s as the most trusted fast food and Walmart as the most trusted mass merchandiser.  

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

Photo credit: Reader’s Digest

Former Oceania Cruises passenger Toronto resident, Richard Silver, was aboard the Oceania Insignia a few years ago when the luxury cruise ship’s engine room caught fire.

Two contractors and one Oceania crewmember died in the fire while the cruise ship was docked at Port Castries, St. Lucia. Some passengers who left comments on social media criticized Oceania for the crew’s “confusion, lack of information and misinformation” following the deadly fire.

In a subsequent article, I mentioned observations from Mr. Silver that the passengers were herded through the ship during the fire and into a warehouse at the port where they remained without water for nine hours in high heat and without any information about the fire. Mr. Silver took photographs and video of the bedlam on the ship where elderly passengers were carried off of the ship by other passengers, as well as photographs of a passenger who fell into the water between the dock and ship.

After the ordeal, Mr. Silver eventually returned home to Canada without his luggage, exhausted. He explained to the Canadian press what he experienced. Several Toronto’s newspapers and news stations published Mr. Silver’s photographs and vivid account of the fire and Oceania poor handling of the aftermath.  These images belied Oceania’s press statement that “our top priority is ensuring all 656 guests return home as quickly and comfortably as possible.”

Cruise lines like Oceania don’t like bad press. So when Mr. Silver tried to book his next cruise with Oceania on the Sirena last August, he received a phone call from a cruise line representative. As explained by Toronto newspaper Global News, Mr. Silva said that “they told me ‘you’re banned for life.’ Why am I banned? What did I do?” (See video here).

Oceania reportedly returned Mr. Silva’s money but never answered his inquiries, leaving Silva to believe that he was punished for speaking to the media. Silver also claims that Norwegian Cruise Lines, the parent company of Oceania, and NCL’s subsidiary Regent Seven Seas Cruises, banned him from future cruises.

When the newspaper called Oceania for an explanation, Tim Rubacky, the head of public relations for Oceania Cruises, denied that the cruise line was punishing Mr. Silver but he refused to explain further and repeatedly said that he “can’t and won’t comment.”

Cruise lines which act petulantly like this do not limit their retribution to passengers. Crew members who speak to the media or post comments on social media are quickly terminated from their cruise ship jobs. Costa terminated a crew member who posted a video on Facebook when a violent storm broke hundreds of dishes on the Costa Fascinosa. There are many other examples.

Cruise lines rely on carefully crafted images of idyllic vacations at sea to sell tickets. But when passengers or crew members take their complaints to the press or social media, cruise lines often respond vindictively.

Like Vegas, what happens on cruise ships stays on the ships. A passenger or crew member who breaks this unwritten rule will find out that they are no longer welcome on the ship. Its seems that NCL, and its related brands like Oceania, will not hesitate to punish customers, who exercise their freedom to speak about what happens on the high seas, by blacklisting them from cruising in the future.     

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

Today, Cruise Law News was picked as the number four (out of fifty) top cruise blogs and websites.

To 50 Cruise Blog Feedspot says that it made the selection based on Google search ranking, influence and popularity on Facebook & Twitter, and the quality and consistency of the posts, as well as Feedspot’s editorial review.

The sites ahead of this blog are Cruise Critic, the increasingly popular Cruise Fever and Cruise Industry News. The top four cruise sites have 770,660 Facebook fans: Cruise Critic – 269,322; Cruise Fever – 261,110; Cruise Industry News – 23, 586; and Cruise Law News – 216,642.  

Three years ago, Cruise Critic was also the most popular cruise website in the world; Cruise Fever was number 7 and Cruise Industry News was number 6. 

My favorite cruise-related site is Martin Cox’s Maritime Matters, which is ranked by Feedspot as number 17 out of 50.  

Thanks to Feedspot for the recognition! 

 

 

Truthfeed Boycott Celebrity CruisesThe ultra conservative Truthfeed website is calling for a boycott of Celebrity Cruises after the cruise line aired a video ad called "Sail Beyond Borders."  

The video calls for cruisers to reject the divisive rhetoric associated with president-elect Donald Trump.

Truthfeed claims that the advertisement is "stunningly rude and inappropriate" and that "smug cruise line Celebrity snubs their snooty noses at Trump and his supporters." In an article which was published yesterday, Truthfeed calls on Trump supporters to boycott Celebrity Cruises. 

The ad states:

  • Far from the talk of building walls, 
  • Far from the threats of keeping people out,
  • Far from the rhetoric of fear, 
  • Is a world of differences,
  • Differences that expand and enrich us, 
  • Because, after all, our lives aren’t made better when we close ourselves off to the world, 
  • They’re made better when we open ourselves up to it.
  • Celebrity Cruises

The boycott movement was started by @MightyBusterBro on Twitter who, earlier this week, posted a mock ad he created on YouTube. The satire video (now removed from YouTube which you can see here) included text overlays stating that Trump supporters are not smart or liberal enough to enjoy Celebrity Cruises. 

As pointed out by Snopes, Celebrity Cruises President and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo denied that the ad, which was created before Trump was elected, was in response to the Trump campaign. The original ad contains no specific references to Trump or his supporters although the reference to building walls is obviously referring to him. 

Celebrity’s original ad was heavily promoted on ABC and CNN during the presidential debates. Putting ideology aside, it seems risky to alienate tens of millions of potential customers by running a campaign which potentially offends half of the U.S. who supported the build-a-wall candidate. But CEO Lutoff-Perlo seems willing to have taken the risk. She told Skift in September that “I believe anybody that truly looks at this and says, ‘We’re not going to sail on Celebrity again,’ they’re probably not sailing on Celebrity. I hope I get more people than I lose."

Image credit: Truthfeed   

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

When the Anthem of the Seas sailed into the forecasted storm last month, Royal Caribbean’s PR department began to downplay the controversy. They claimed that they were surprised by the storm. But the truth is that the storm was accurately forecasted with waves over 30 feet and hurricane strength winds. Even NBC weatherman Al Roker mocked Royal Caribbean, pointing out the forecast and saying "Bullfeathers!" (see video) to the cruise line’s claim of surprise.  

Royal Caribbean initially said that no one was injured and the cruise ship experienced no damage. This was also untrue. When passengers began posting photos and video on social media showing the destruction of the storm, the cruise line finally admitted that there were injuries but claimed that only "four injuries have been reported, none severe." This was untrue. I’ve spoken to far more than 4 Al Roker Bullfeatherspassengers who allege injuries, some of them quite severe. They all say that the ship infirmary was literally overwhelmed by injured passengers. Some tell me that the medical staff finally shut and locked the door to the medical facility in order to keep others injured out.

Royal Caribbean also later said that the ship only had cosmetic damage and was "seaworthy." Again, this was completely untrue. The U.S. Coast Guard revealed that when the Anthem returned to port in New Jersey, one of the two azipods was in fact damaged and had to be repaired before the cruise ship could be cleared to sail.

Several passengers contacted our office seeking to become involved in the class action lawsuit filed against Royal Caribbean because they feel that the cruise line has not been honest with them or the public and had trivialized their concerns and fears. 

Today PIX-11 in New York interviewed a Royal Caribbean passenger who feels that Royal Caribbean was not honest with the passengers on the latest Anthem cruise that was cut short short again.  The cruise line said that they were returning the Anthem early to port because of "rough weather" that was supposed to hit the ship on Tuesday and Wednesday.  But there was no such storm.  Instead there was a gastrointestinal illness outbreak that the passenger believes was the true cause of the early return.  

Listen to the interview.  She’s a cruise fan but feels deceived.

 

Jim Walker Cruise Law NewsToday, the Cruise Law News Facebook page reached 200,000 "likes."

The majority of our Facebook fans are crew members who use Facebook on a regular basis to communicate with their family and friends. 

We receive a great deal of information from crew members regarding a wide range of issues, like cruise ship fires, engine failures, man-overboard situations and the tough working conditions which crew members face.

We also receive information from cruise passengers when things go wrong on the high seas. 

Thank you very much for reading our page and providing information to us!  Our Facebook page would not be possible without the support of crew members and passengers on cruise ships around the world!

The motto of our blog is "everything the cruise lines don’t want you to know."

No, we are not a travel site with glossy photos of happy crew members and smiling passengers enjoying a dream vacation cruise. The fact that millions of people are reading a critical blog by a lawyer (lawyers often write boring, stuffy articles) reflects that there are a lot of things that happen on cruises which the public wants to know and the cruise lines want to keep secret.

Thanks for reading us! And a special thanks to the many people who have sent us tips, photos and videos.