Cruise Law TwitterIt’s been six years since I joined Twitter. Long ago, I wrote an article about how it came to be that I joined what at the time seemed like little more than a fad. Cruise Law Meets Twitter.

Twitter is now clearly a monster in the world of social media with a value in the billions of dollars. My partner mentioned that she is about to buy Twitter stock. There are rumors that Google may buy it.

I learned that if you are looking for breaking news, Twitter will beat the cable news every time. Regarding cruise news, I will often first hear about a ship fire or an overboard passenger on Twitter, often while the cruise ship is still at sea.

In June 2009, shortly after I joined Twitter, I learned how valuable Twitter is to reporting cruise ships news that the cruise lines try and keep secret. The engine room of Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess caught fire during a Mediterranean cruise near Egypt. Princess initially didn’t release any information to the public. But a passenger, a Pastor from South Carolina, Greg Surratt, tweeted on his Cruise Law TwitterTwitter account @GregSurratt about the fire from his iPhone on the cruise ship. 

Reverend Surratt tweeted that the fire had disabled the cruise ship and a tug had to tow the ship back to port. Frantic families in the U.S. had to rely on Pastor Surratt for information about their loved ones. He even tweeted photos of the fire and the passengers sprawling out on the deck in the dark (right).

When Princess finally posted its typical less-than-forthcoming corporate press statement, no one was paying attention to the cruise line. Everyone was listening to Pastor Surratt tweeting away on the cruise ship in the Mediterranean. 

I first learned of other cruise disasters (Costa Concordia, Carnival Triumph, etc.) on Twitter. 

I have over 12,000 Twitter followers. I tweeted over 15,000 times over the course of 6 years. That’s an average of over 2,500 a year.

What was my first tweet?  I forgot. So I looked it up on an App which tells you. Mine was on March 12, 2009: Princess Crew Member Sexually Assaults Passenger

Are you on Twitter? You should be. Follow the #cruise hashtag. And don’t forget to follow me at @CruiseLaw.    

 

100000 Facebook LikesThis week, our social media presence reached a milestone. 

The Cruise Law News Facebook page reached 100,000 "likes."

The majority of our Facebook fans are from outside of the U.S. We have tens of thousands of crew members who have "liked" us. 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.

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

We have over 11,900 people following us on Twitter and many thousands of people who subscribe to our daily blog, Cruise Law News, via e-mail & RSS subscriptions.

Over 6,250,000 pages of Cruise Law News are projected to be read this year.

We are the 3rd most popular law blog (per AVVO rankings) in the U.S. and the 2nd most popular cruise blog which discusses cruise ship issues (again, per AVVO rankings).  

Cruise Law NewsThe 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 thanks to the many passengers and crew members who have sent us tips, photos and videos of things like hiding food from the USPH inspectors or dumping garbage at sea which no one would otherwise know about . . .   

A reader of Cruise Law News sent us a humorous tweet from Royal Caribbean. The problem is that the cruise line didn’t intend it to be funny.

Royal Caribbean tweeted a photograph of the Allure of the Seas (below left) with the caption "Full speed ahead."

Of course everyone following cruise news knows that the Allure of the Seas is experiencing a problem with its propulsion system which we have written about a couple of times. Read here and here.

Allure of the Seas Propulsion ProblemsThere is currently a debate in the cruise community between those die-hard cruise supporters who think the propulsion problems are a lot to do about nothing and those cruisers who are annoyed that their expensive cruise vacations involve leaving some cruise ports early and arriving late at others and missing some excursions in the process.  

I won’t jump into that argument except to say that the cruise line is not helping its reputation by keeping its usually loyal-to-Royal customers in the dark.

I’m not the first to comment on the "full speed ahead" caption showing the Allure tearing up the waves.

Others on Twitter have had their fun.

@MartinosCafe tweeted: "@Royal Caribbean Is that your way of telling us the ship is fixed?"

And @linerlovers tweeted: "I wish they WERE at full speed!"

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

Senator John Rockefeller TwitterTwitter Smack Down!

A few minutes ago Senator John Rockefeller tweeted to Carnival CEO Mickey Arison:

".@USCoastGuard responded to 90 incidents with Carnival ships in 5yrs- with passengers onboard. This needs to change" http://1.usa.gov/152nF2x "

Senator Rockefeller linked his tweet to a letter he sent to Micky Arison today expressing his deep concerns regarding the safety of Carnival ships and indicated that he was not surprised by the latest incident today regarding the Carnival Dream.  He also sent the Carnival CEO a list of questions and Carnival Triumph Cruise Shiprequested documents.  You can read the remarkable letter here

Senator Rockefeller also posted a Coast Guard spread sheet listing a "string of 90 marine casualty incidents with passengers onboard Carnival ships in the last five years." You can see the list here.

Senator Rockefeller wrote "just today, we’ve been reminded of Carnival’s dismal safety record with reports that the Carnival Dream is experiencing problems. The ship is stranded in a Caribbean port with no power and thousands of passengers trapped onboard. Last month, the Coast Guard spent almost $780,000 in responding to the Carnival Triumph incident – costs that are paid by federal taxpayers.” 

Rockefeller held a Commerce Committee oversight hearing in March 2012, following the Costa Concordia disaster, to examine deficiencies in the cruise line industry’s compliance with federal safety, security, and environmental standards and review whether cruise ship industry regulations sufficiently protect passengers and the environment.

We attended the hearing and blogged about the hearing where Senator Rockefeller said to the cruise Micky Arison Twitterline representatives: "You Are A World Unto Yourselves."

Senator Rockefeller’s stinging rebuke of Carnival comes as the cruise industry just ended its annual cruise convention at the Miami Beach Convention Center.  The cruise executives all touted the safety of the industry and how "rare" cruise mishaps allegedly are.

So far, no tweets by Arison in response to Senator Rockefeller’s tweet.

Arison spends most of his time on Twitter tweeting about his Miami Heat basketball team.

Today the cruise Industry trade organization, Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), sent out a press release announcing that its CEO, Christine Duffy, now has a Twitter account: @CLIACEO 

I could not help but think, oh boy is this going to be fun.  

Ms. Duffy began her tenure at the helm of CLIA in January of last year.  She started her employment with a bang when she answered some friendly questions from a travel magazine about lobbying Congress for the cruise lines. Somehow she managed to criticize the U.S. automobile industry while trying to promote the cruise lines.  Listen to this whopper:  

CLIA CEO Christine Duffy - Cruise Line International AssociationPart of the message we delivered in D.C. is that the travel industry employs more people than the auto industry, and we didn’t get a bailout. We employ a lot more people than anybody recognized, and our impact is in all 50 states. We’re not going to offshore our jobs . . .

The fact of the matter is that all of the CLIA cruise lines are foreign corporations. Unlike Ford or Chevrolet which are U.S. corporations and employ U.S. employees, the CLIA cruise lines are 100% foreign corporations. Carnival was incorporated in Panama. Royal Caribbean was incorporated in Liberia (yes, Africa). And all of these cruise lines fly the flags of foreign countries like Panama, Liberia, Bermuda and the Bahamas.

By registering their companies and cruise ships overseas to avoid U.S. labor, wage and safety laws, the foreign cruise lines also avoid U.S. income taxes. The $35,000,000,000 (billion) cruise industry pays virtually no U.S. Federal income taxes. If the cruise lines were required to pay U.S. taxes, they would pay over $10,000,000,000 a year. The cruise industry receives a $10 billion bailout each year, year after year.

But that’s not all. All of the cruise ships are manufactured and constructed in foreign shipyards, in Italy, Norway or France. And 99.9% of the officers and crew members (except some U.S. dancers, singers and an occasional assistant cruise director) are from "overseas." No U.S. workers are going to work 360 hours a month for around $545 like the incredibly hard working utility cleaners from India, Central America and the Caribbean islands.

The cruise industry is the most outsourced, non-U.S. industry in America. The industry is built on the business model of tax-paying U.S. citizens paying their hard earned wages to the foreign corporation cruise lines who pay no taxes to the U.S. 

This year, at a hearing in the U.S. Senate about cruise safety issues following the Costa Concordia disaster, Senator Rockefeller questioned Ms. Duffy’s honesty when she testified about the cruise industry’s failure to pay U.S. taxes.

A happy faced former travel agent, Ms. Duffy knows the importance of staying upbeat while selling cruise tickets. But the question remains whether she has the gravitas to actually discuss important issues regarding the safety of the cruising public.

Will Ms. Duffy use Twitter as just a PR platform to repeat the CLIA talking points laid out by the cruise line public relations experts and cruise lobbyists ( "cruising is safe . . . the security of our guests is CLIA’s number one priority") or will she will actually engage the public and answer some tough questions about crime on cruise ships, sexual abuse of minors, and working conditions of the predominately non-U.S. crew members.

What will Ms. Duffy do when she receives a tweet from a mother whose daughter was served alcohol and taken to a crew member’s cabin, or a father whose daughter disappeared overboard from a cruise ship, or a widow whose husband experienced a heart attack and was then dumped on a Caribbean island?    

My prediction?  Ms. Duffy will tweet happy gobbledygook carefully vetted by CLIA’s PR consultants. She will chit chat with travel agents. But she will ignore the cries of those families who suffered death or injury.  She will avoid all spontaneous and genuine discussions of real issues. She will religiously avoid making direct comments about cruise ship fires, sinkings, deaths, disappearances, crimes and norovirus outbreaks.

And when the next disaster strikes the cruise industry, Ms. Duffy’s Twitter account will go silent.    

 

Interested in other articles about CLIA?  Consider reading:

@CruiseFacts – Cruise Line Pravda

Six Lies The Cruise Lines Will Tell You After The Costa Concordia Crash

Did Cruise Line International President Christine Duffy Lie to Congress?

In one of the weirder cruise stories I have read in a time, Carnival Cruise Lines kicked off a passenger scheduled to speak on a "low carb diet" cruise on suspicion that he was going to explode dynamite or release Legionnaires virus on the ship.

The bizarre case involves a neurosurgeon from Tennessee who, ironically enough, is named Dr. Kruse (I’m not making this up). Jack Kruse is a popular diet guru / motivational speaker and lost some 130 lbs himself.  He was suppose to be one of the speakers on a diet cruise aboard an the Magic cruise ship operated by Carnival.    

But instead of sailing last Sunday afternoon out of Galveston, Dr. Kruse found his cabin being searched Dr. Jack Kruse - Diet - Motivationand being interrogated by Galveston police, Homeland Security, the FBI and the U.S. Coast Guard.  When it was all over, Carnival security removed his luggage from the ship and escorted him to the now empty pier.  He had to fetch a taxi and pay for an unanticipated flight back home.  

It turns out that Dr. Kruse has some mischievous enemies on Twitter.  A twitter user named @shitkrusesays (now deleted) tweeted: "Security confiscated dynamite. talk won’t be as explosive as at PaleoFx. still have vial of Legionnaires for epic biohack"

Dr. Kruse had no connection to that Twitter account, but that did not stop the police from searching his computers and turning his cabin upside down.

In addition, Carnival was contacted by a caller named "Lance" who informed them a doctor aboard the Carnival Magic was planning a viral bio-hack.

Dr. Kruse says that eventually the FBI, Homeland Security and the Coast Guard were convinced that the incident was a hoax, but the Captain of the cruise ship exercised his discretion to send Dr. Kruse from the ship. 

The following day Carnival contacted Dr. Kruse and offered to fly him to Montego Bay to meet up with the cruise he missed. The doctor declined the offer.  The captain of the ship also sent a letter to the pssengers explaining the situation (below).

Meanwhile, the FBI is supposedly investigating who was behind the malicious tweets from @shitkrusesays. 

Perhaps Carnival was a little jumpy after the news last week that al Qaeda had considered seizing a cruise ship and terrorizing the passengers.  But Dr. Kruse’s web site hardly looks like a front for an al Qaeda terrorist.

 

Sources: News Channel 5 – Tennessee;  News 5 – Nashville

Video: News Channel 5 

Photo: Dr. Jack Kruse

Letter: Scribd (cottrellrelocation)

Dr. Jack Kruse - Carnival Cruise Hoax

The big news this week in cruise ship social media 2.0 is that no one other than Carnival’s CEO Micky Arison just joined Twitter.  You can check out his tweets at @MickyArison.   He has received a warm welcome mostly by cruise fanatics and Miami Heat fans. 

It will be interesting to see if CEO Arison sticks around and really engages on Twitter. He has 4,800 followers.  So far he has Mark Cuban - Twitterfollowed pretty much just his cruise lines, basketball players and celebrities on Twitter. 

Speaking of CEOs and pro basketball, Mr. Arison’s nemesis Dallas Maverick’s Mark Cuban has over 637,000 followers on his Twitter account @mcuban, whose in-your-face avatar shows him holding the NBA trophy, smoking a cigar.    Don’t let him trash talk you Micky!

When the week started, I could not help but think it only a matter of time that a dissatisfied Carnival customer began a campaign of tweeting Mr. Arison about an unpleasant cruise.  I wondered how this would turn out and whether Arison would ignore the passenger.

Sure enough a very unhappy disabled passenger by the Twitter name @MyLadyGuinevere began tweeting about a horrific cruise experience.  She suffered an asthma attack caused by a smoke filled stateroom.  Carnival’s shipboard employees mocked her for using a wheelchair.  She suffered from food poisoning.  Carnival then inadvertently double charged for everything, and  ignored her when she complained.  She inundated the Carnival CEO with a dozen tweets like: 

"@MickyArison – Your cruise line made me ill, mocked me for my disability, doublecharged me and wiped out my bank account . . ."  

You can read about the debacle in an article in the Consumerist entitled Carnival Cruise Becomes Vacation Nightmare.

After a day of tweets, it looks like the Carnival guest now has high praises for Micky Arison - TwitterCarnival and Mr. Arison.  Her last tweets suggest that everything has been worked out: " A very, very nice person by the name of Alicia contacted us. We now understand things better . . . and feel like we were listened to. Thank you. We really appreciated it."  @MyLadyGuinevere deleted all of her complaints on Twitter and promised to update her story on the Consumerist article.

Did CEO Arison come to the guest’s rescue?  Or was this a case where the Carnival customer support team realized that their CEO’s debut on Twitter was being spoiled and they gave the guest some extra attention?  Not sure.  But the bottom line is that the dispute is resolved and eveyone seems happy.

Will Mr. Arison stick around on Twitter?  I hope so, for no other reason than I’d like to see him update his Twitter avatar at the end of the NBA playoffs with a photo of him holding the NBA trophy and smoking a cigar on one of his cruise ships.     

For the past two years, I have been interested in the use of Twitter as a method of educating the public about dangers on cruise ships.  Dangers that are real.  Dangers that the cruise lines don’t want the public to read about.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter is well aware that I tweet daily on issues that the cruise lines don’t discuss – sexual assaults of women and children, mistreatment of crewmembers, and the disappearances of people on the high seas. 

Yes, I know that I am annoying.  There are lots of cruise fans and travel agents on Twitter who use the #cruise hash-mark to market the joy of cruising, and I spoil the fun.  50% of the people who Oceania Cruises - TwitterI interact with on a routine basis disagree with me 100% of the time it seems.  But I know that my message is getting out there.  I would like to think that if one parent realizes that its not safe to leave your kids unsupervised on a cruise ship, then my last 5,500 tweets have been a worthwhile exercise.   

I am particularly fascinated by the way that cruise lines use Twitter and other social media.  Are they engaging in discussions with the public where they address unpleasant subjects with candor and in the process develop a reputation of transparency?  Or, are they just using Twitter and Facebook to create fan pages or other cult clubs?  Do they run and hide when they read tweets critical of their business practices? 

Earlier this week, I wrote an article about Oceania Cruises trying to convince a Judge in Miami to impose a limit of liability of only $65,000 in a case where it is alleged that an Oceania Cruises crewmember raped a 13 year old child on the Regatta cruise ship.  Stories like this are important.  Most parents don’t understand the significant number of sexual assaults which occur on cruise ships.  Few parents could possibly imagine that if a crewmember raped their little girl, the cruise line would try and make certain that the child didn’t receive fair and just compensation for her physical and emotional injuries.

I tweeted a few references to my blog article about Oceania Cruise’s disturbing behavior.  I always invite a cruise line’s response.  I even invite disagreeing cruise lines and travel agents an Oceania Cruisess - Twitteropportunity to write a guest blog – unedited – to tell the other side of the story.            

Oceania Cruises, which has been following me on Twitter for over a year, had no interest in discussing the story.   Instead, it "un-followed" me. 

"Unfollowing" critics seems like a poor way to manage a business’ online reputation.  Instead of explaining its conduct or at least expressing concern for the girl’s well being, the cruise line just turned and ran.   

Twitter is a proving ground of truth and transparency.  Twitter is not a place where slick unprincipled marketers can withstand scrutiny.  It is not a place where cowardly cruise lines like Oceania can survive.   

It’s official.  Cruise Law is the top vote receiver in the Shorty Awards contest in crowd-sourced field of law for 2011. 

For those of you who follow this blog or interact with me on Twitter, you know that I am a lawyer who believes in the power of communicating via the social media of blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

Last year I tied for first place in the law category.  I then did the chivalrous thing of voting for my Shorty Award - Lawopponent, a lawyer in England, to break the tie.  Yes I believe in Karma.  What goes around comes  around.  This year I won in a landslide. 

So what is the significance of the Shorty Awards in law?  The Shorty Awards people say that the award recognizes the "best people and organizations on Twitter and social media."  

Our blog is just 18 months old but has been a top 10 most popular blog for going on a year now.

If you are looking for an insight into what is happening in the off-shore, multi-national, tax avoiding, and non-sustainable cruise industry – you will find it here first.  

Today a newspaper in the U.K., the Chester Chronicle, contains an interesting article "Family Demand Answers as Investigation into Chester Disney Cruise Ship Worker Continues."   Although the article is a bit of a rehash of events since last week about the disappearance of youth counselor Rebecca Coriam from Disney Cruise Line’s Wonder cruise ship, the newspaper reports that: 

" … cousin Kerry Gaffney has been using the social networking website Twitter in a desperate bid for information on Rebecca’s whereabouts.  Her post read: ‘My cousin, Rebecca Coriam, is missing and Disney is not as helpful as it makes out.  Please help put the pressure on them.’  Another post said the family are getting conflicting reports about what was seen and what went on."

Kerry Gaffney’s witter name is @kerrymg and the tweet asked those on Twitter to "RT" (re-tweet) her message.

Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are useful tools to obtain information from the public about mysteries on the high seas.  Cruise lines maintain exclusive control of the scene of disappearances, and access to witnesses and evidence on cruise ships.  When the Disney Wonder returned to port in Los Angeles last Sunday, over 1,700 passengers scattered across the U.S., Canada and other countries without being interviewed by anyone.  This is fine with the cruise Disney Cruise Twitter - @DisneyCruiselines, who want this public spectacle to end sooner than later irrespective of whether the family finds answers to this latest mystery.

So how can you appeal to potential witnesses scattered around the country?  One way is Twitter.

Disney’s Twitter page for its cruise line is @DisneyCruise.  It has 26,000 followers.  

Twitter, Facebook, websites and blogs can help level the playing field with cruise lines and their we-just-want-the-media-to-go-away attitude.   If you are reading this and have a Twitter page, send a message:

"What is @DisneyCruise doing to find information for the Coriam family about the #cruise disappearance of their daughter on the Wonder?" 

Ask your followers to re-tweet your question.