Worst Cruise Line in the World

NCL Norwegian Cruise LineNorwegian Cruise Line (NCL) plans to increase the automatic gratuities charged to its cruise passengers, effective April 1, 2018. Travel Pulse states that NCL informed travel agents of the so-called “nominal adjustment” to its daily service charges today.

The new rates for standard cabins will increase from $13.99 to $14.50 per passenger per day. The new gratuities for suites will increase from $16.99 to $17.50 per person per day.

Just last year, NCL raised gratuities on April 1st from $13.50 per person, per day, to $13.99 (except for the Norwegian Sky where NCL increased daily gratuities to $18.99 a day (an increase over 40%). NCL increased daily gratuities for suites from $15.50 to $16.99 on all of its ships (again, except for the Sky where it increased the daily charge to $21.99).

Regarding the Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Sun, the gratuities will increase from $18.99  to $19.99 for cabins and from $21.99 to $22.99 for suites, per person per day.  

It seems that there is no limit to the greed of cruise executives. 

Del Rio’s NCL has gouged its customers before, with extra charges, including increased room services charges, automatic gratuities and restaurant cover charges. He made this statement at an earning conference in 2015: "… we have looked across the fleet to identify areas where marginal changes … can be implemented to improve performance. A few examples include a 6.7% average increase in beverage prices, the introduction of a nominal room service fee and lower costs from renegotiated shore excursion agreements. To put into perspective how these small changes can add up quickly, every dollar increase in yield translates to approximately $15 million to the bottom line."

Of course, all the major cruise lines nickel-and-dime their customers. Royal Caribbean began charging for room service  last year and, in the past, increased its gratuities while attempting to create the appearance that the increases were for its hard-working crew members (Read: Loyal to Royal? Expect to Pay Higher Gratuities! And the Money’s Not for the Crew). Carnival Corp. did exactly the same thing while it also pocketed the increased gratuities (Read: Carnival Hikes Pre-Paid Gratuities But Will Passengers Secretly Remove Tips?)

Cruise CEO’s like Del Rio, who collected nearly $32 million in 2015 alone, have an unhealthy, unchecked pursuit of profits in an industry which has always overreached into the American public’s pockets. The cruise industry pays virtually no taxes, exploits their workers from around the world, and still nickle-and-dimes their tax-paying customers whenever they have a chance.

Of course, as crew members tell me, the increased gratuities go into the cruise line’s coffers, not into the pockets of the hard working crew members.

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

Photo credit: Coolcaesar CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

A newlywed couple from Baton Rouge, Louisiana experienced what is described as a “medical nightmare” aboard the Norwegian Pearl during a recent cruise to the Caribbean.

WWL- TV and the New Orleans Advocate in Louisiana report that NCL passenger Brant Aymond was injured during a paddle board accident while the Pearl stopped in Roatan. A piece of coral sliced both of his feet which required medical treatment on the cruise ship. The couple had purchased insurance which covered the shipboard medical care, but NCL still charged them $2,000 upfront. The ship doctor, Norwegian Pearlidentified as Dr. Gomez from Mexico, stiched up Mr. Aymond’s feet. The ship doctor reportedly missed that he suffered a severed tendon in the accident.

As it turned out, Dr. Gomez reportedly also left two pieces of coral sewn inside Mr. Aymond’s foot, according to emergency room physicians back in Baton Rouge who performed emergency surgery to avoid possible amputation.

Mr. Aymond’s foot became infected partially because the ship’s medical team gave him the wrong spectrum of antibiotics, typically used to treat gastrointetinal problems.

In addition to the bad shipboard medical care, NCL reportedly stonewalled the couple when they tried to find out information about the qualifications of the ship doctor and nurse. It appears that NCL refused to deal transparently with their guests, something that we regularly experience with this particular cruise line.  Ms. Aymond stated during the interview:

Norwegian won’t answer my calls, won’t return my e-mails, they won’t respond to the claim, they – absolutely – have just iced us out . . . 

The news station interviewed the past president of the American College of Emergency Physicians who was critical of cruise ship healthcare. He indicated that hospitals in Louisiana are often required to treat returning cruise passengers who have been neglected by what is described as the “medical mess” left by the cruise lines.

Over 1,000,000 people traveled last year from the port in New Orleans.

Ms. Aymond suggested that that if you are injured during a cruise, “get off the boat . . . figure out a way to get back to the states to seek medical care if it is … serious.”

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Video and photo credit: WWL

http://interactive.tegna-media.com/video/embed/embed.html?id=8003501&type=video&title=Louisiana couple's honeymoon cruise turns into medical nightmare&site=269&playerid=6918249996585&dfpid=32805352&dfpposition=embed_preroll§ion=home

A reader of Cruise Law News sent me a article appearing today in the British newspaper, Daily Mail, titled Grandmother, 83, is kicked off her 6-star cruise for having a panic attack: Dementia sufferer and her veteran husband claim they were thrown out of their £8,000 suite after she fell ill.

84 year-old grandmother Marguerite Hayward was traveling with her husband, war veteran Fred Hayward, on board the Regent Seven Seas Cruises Explorer when she awoke late one night suffering from a panic attack linked to her dementia. The ship doctor and nurse responded to the incident along with the chief of security who appeared in the couple’s luxury suite, reporting yelling at Mrs. Hayward to “keep quite,” according to the tabloid. The medical team injected Mrs. Hayward with a sedative and she Regent Seven Seas Cruises Explorerquickly fell asleep “with her husband cuddling her.”

The following morning, Ms. Hayward appeared “calm and relaxed,” remembering nothing about the preceding night’s events. The couple was about to go to breakfast when the ship’s officers summoned them to a meeting. The officers informed them that the ship had reported the incident to the home office in Miami which ordered the couple to immediately leave the ship.

The Haywards were handed a medical bill from the ship infirmary of over $1,300 and then, after quickly packing, ordered into a tender to be taken ashore to the Italian port of Sorrento. The ship doctor reportedly informed the Italian doctors that he suspected that Ms. Hayward was suffering from “paranoid schizophrenia,” a diagnosis which Mr. Hayward denied applied to his wife.

The Italian doctors put Mrs. Hayward on a drip and placed her on oxygen, and she quickly became unconscious, according to her husband. The Hayward’ son learned of his parent’s plight and traveled to the hospital in Sorrento where he found his mother “sedated, on a drip and wearing a t-shirt covered in blood.” Her son arranged for Mrs. Haywards to be flown via air ambulance back to the U.K, where she was hospitalized for stress and trauma, with severe bed sores and extensive bruising.

The Haywards’ sons have written to CEO Frank Del Rio, a cruise executive who has earned a reputation of penny-pinching and being indifferent to bad press, who reportedly did not reply.

This is not the first time that a cruise line booted an elderly passenger with dementia and her husband off of a ship.

Several years ago, Celebrity sent a woman with dementia and her husband, involuntarily from the Millennium cruise ship. Like this case, the cruise line made no effort to communicate with the passengers’ family or emergency contacts, or to transport the couple back home. The cruise line essentially abandoned the couple ashore.

Carnival handled a similar situation better after the Carnival Legend disembarked a guest ashore in Cozumel after he had a “minor Alzheimer’s episode, leaving his stateroom alone at 4 a.m. for a cup of coffee.”

Carnival claimed that they found the husband disoriented and the ship doctor declared him to be a danger to himself, so the ship disembarked the couple off the ship at the next port. But when a news station contacted Carnival, the cruise line “quickly admitted that the situation was mishandled” and reimbursed the cost of the cruise and the airfare home.

The passenger tickets drafted by the cruise line’s lawyers state that the cruise lines can disembark passengers for any reason. However, from a public relations point of view, I would think that the couple should have been treated more sensitively and respectfully. The cruise line should have provided its guests, at a minimum, with transportation back home and a full refund of their costly fares.

Photo credits: Daily Mail

Carniival Cruise - U.S. ArmyA couple of years ago, I wrote a number of articles asking the rhetorical question why cruise lines have an image problem.

I discussed a number of rather outrageous cases where the cruise lines refuse to refund or credit cruise fares when their customers face a personal catastrophe, like the unexpected death of a loved one, or a customer needing emergency cancer surgery, or a father having to bury his police-officer son who had been shot and killed, or having their home destroyed by a natural disaster, or even when the cruise is to an area affected by a nuclear power plant leaking radiation and subject to a travel warning by the State Department. 

There is no shortage of ways that the cruise lines have tarnished their reputations.

Today, a reader of this blog sent me another example of a cruise line clearly doing the wrong thing.

It seems like a young man, identified as Stephen Madden, was booked to take a Carnival cruise with his wife when he received orders from the U.S. Army deploying him back to active military duty. He had the foresight to pay extra for the protection plan (titled "Carnival Fee Waiver Program"). But the insurance company (AON) sent him a letter denying his claim for a refund, saying that military deployment is not a reason stated in the insurance program. You can read about his situation on Facebook

I have never served in the Army or any other branch of the U.S. military services (although my Dad served in the U.S. Army). But I was taught to give great respect to members of the the U.S. Armed Forces, whether it be as simple as permitting active service men and women preferred boarding when I fly in airports.

I have taken a peek at Mr. Madden’s facebook photos which show him in uniform, (I believe that he is a Sergeant), with the America flag on his shoulder. He is clearly a patriot. I have posted one photo above.  

Carnival professes that it takes care of our military, but it has done this several times before.

I would hope that by the time that this article is published, the Carnival claims representative have woken up and will do the right thing by reimbursing this army soldier his cruise fare.

Carnival has enough problems after the Costa Concordia deadly-debacle, or the embarrassing Triumph poop-cruise, or the recent DOJ fines of  $40,000,000 for the dumping of oil into the waters around the world for nearly a decade by its subsidiary Princess Cruises. Giving an U.S. army member a hard time like this is unconscionable. 

People may say that soldier Madden should have read the legal mumbo-jumbo in the fine print of the insurance policy more carefully. I say rubbish to that. Our servicemen and women deserve special treatment irrespective of the legal gobbledygook that the cruise giants and insurance companies place in front of their customers in order to to fatten their financial bottom lines.  

Please join the discussion on our Facebook page.

April 26, 2017 Update: Carnival sent the following statement today:  "This guest was given a full refund yesterday and it is our practice to refund service members who are called to active duty and need to cancel their cruise."

Photo credit: Stephen Madden

Al Roker BullfeathersAs the last few days of 2016 count down, it’s time to pick the most outrageous stories of the year. 

Number 7 – The Year of Cruise Ship Power Failures? This year saw the usual number of power failures and propulsion issues which have plagued the industry for years. Cruise lines often use the euphemism "technical problems," if they say anything at all, about the problem.  

In May, Carnival’s ill-fated "voluntourism" Fathom brand saw its sole cruise ship, the Adonia, experience a complete black-out loss in Government Cut. The U.S. Coast Guard ordered the cruise ship to return to the port of Miami.

Later that night, the Carnival Elation drifted for an hour in the dark as the ship was heading back to port in Jacksonville. The following month, the little-known Artic expedition cruise ship, Ortelius, experienced an engine failure near a place called Hinlopenstretet and had to be towed back to another place called Norwegian StarLongyearbyen. In the same month, Royal Caribbean’s Empress of the Seas experienced problems with one of its engines in the Caribbean. 

In July, the Thomson Celebration suffered an engine failure as the cruise ship was leaving Valletta, Malta. In August, the Caribbean Princess lost power approximately 25 nautical miles southeast of Dublin in the Irish Sea. A week later, the Viking Sea lost power, for the first time, in Malta. The next week saw the Paul Gauguin cruise ship experience propulsion problems in Bora Bora. In September, the auto-pilot malfunctioned on the Carnival Legend causing it to violently list as the ship headed to Victoria. Shortly thereafter the Legend suffered a brief power loss. 

In October, the Thomson Majesty lost power following an engine room fire. Later, the Grand Princess lost power off of the coast of California. The Emerald Princess experienced propulsion problems the following day as it sailed to Thailand. November began with the Carnival Liberty suffering a power loss affecting its cruises to Mexico. The new Carnival Vista struggled through a series of propulsion issues in November as well. NCL’s Norwegian Star experienced power problems and is now limping through Princess Drug Cocaine Bustits itinerary in Southeast Asia, much to the displeasure of cruisers who have waited for a year to cruise on the Star.  The Costa neoRiviera recently suffered a loss of all electricity during a port call in Abu Dhabi, and the Lindblad Expeditions’ National Geographic Orion suffered a catastrophic power failure while leaving Antarctica. The year ends with the Viking Sea losing power (for the second time this year); the Viking ship finds itself stuck in Barcelona.

Number 6 – Year of Cruise Ship Drug Busts? 2016 saw drug busts involving literally hundreds and hundreds of pounds of cocaine smuggled on cruise ship by crew members and passengers alike. In January, the Department of Homeland Security busted four NCL crew members involved in smuggling cocaine from Roatan, Honduras to New Orleans aboard the Norwegian Dawn.  In March, the police in Ocho Rios arrested three MSC crew members from St. Vincent trying to board the MSC Divina Princess Cruise Drugs Smugglingcruise ship docked at the Ocho Rios Pier with a large quantity of cocaine hidden under their clothes. A month later, two Royal Caribbean crew members were arrested for smuggling cocaine aboard the Freedom of the Seas into Port Canaveral.

The Freedom of the Seas was again in the news in June when four female passengers were arrested for smuggling over 13 pounds of cocaine from Jamaica into Port Canaveral. In July, a Jamaican man was arrested at the cruise port in Falmouth, Jamaica when he attempted to board the Carnival Splendor with two packages, containing five pounds of cocaine.  In August, the Australian Federal Police hit the mother-load and arrested three cruise ship passengers, including a young woman formerly in the porn business, involved in smuggling 95 kilos (over 209 lbs.) of cocaine into the port in Sydney, Australia on the Sea Princess after they chronicled their 66-day world cruise on Instagram.  The record drug bust revealed serious shortcomings in Princess Cruises’ shipboard security

While crew members and passengers used NCL, Carnival, Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise ships to smuggle large quantities of cocaine, the tourist police at the port in Nassau routinely busted cruise passengers for a couple of joints of pot seized during warrant-less searches of their cabins when they were off of the Cruise Ship Drowningcruise ship. 

Number 5 – Drowned Children But No Lifeguards?  2016 saw the predictable results of an industry of increasingly huge ships filled with swimming pools and water parks but few if any lifeguards. Children drowned or nearly drown in lifeguard-less pools throughout the cruise industry this year. In the last 2 to 3 years, numerous guests – primarily but not exclusively children – have been found at the bottom of cruise ship swimming pools: Royal Caribbean (4)( ages 4, 6, 8 and 8), Princess (4, 3 adults and one 8 year-old child), NCL (3)(ages 4, 6 and 10), Carnival (2)(ages 2, 6), and Disney (1)(age 4)(before hiring lifeguards).

The New Times published an in-depth story on cruise ship drownings in September, explaining that an outdated maritime law protects the industry from liability in deaths at sea. The archaic law remains in effect largely because of an indifferent Congress dependent on campaign donations by the non-tax paying cruise lines. 

Many people choose to instantly blame the parents whenever a kid is pulled lifeless from a cruise ship swimming pool. Cruise employees trained to sell booze but not in CPR or advanced life-saving measures are just one of the problems.  As the New Times article explains, people who instantly blame the parents miss the point: that "poolside safety is a shared responsibility of caregivers and cruise lines."

Disney Cruises, which paid a large settlement for the lifetime medical care of a four year old child who nearly drowned on the Disney Fantasy before it began hiring lifeguards, is the only cruise line who Anthem of the Seas Stormhas invested in lifeguards to keep kids safe around pools. Other cruise lines are flirting with doing the right thing. Celebrity uses "pools rovers" (crew members who are assigned to supervise swimming pools but have no formal training as a lifeguard).  Royal Caribbean recently advertised the position of a lifeguard on a TV channel on some of its cruise ships.

Number 4 – The Anthem of the Seas Sails Into a Storm.  Earlier this year, weather experts predicted the Atlantic seas out of New Jersey to be over 30 feet high with winds of hurricane strength. The Royal Caribbean Anthem nonetheless recklessly sailed into the storm, terrorizing the 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." (photo top). USA TODAY chimed in with "Meteorologists: Royal Caribbean blew it on sailing into storm."

Number 3 – Carnival Outsources IT Jobs to India. This month, Carnival Corporation eliminated over 200 IT jobs across its brands, including Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Lines and Princess Cruises. The U.S. workers are now required to train their replacements employed by a consulting firm, Capgemini, with offices in India.  The fired cruise employees’ lawyer stated that the "executives of Carnival should be ashamed and should have to face the families that they have destroyed merely days before Christmas." A Carnival PR spokesman said that the move was to improve performance and not save money. Asked if the employees were being asked to train others how to do their jobs, Carnival responded with this gobbledygook: "Not trained, but they will be involved in showcasing the processes related to the function in order for Capgemini to provide stronger and better service to Carnival Corporation and its brands.” Conservative publications protested the outsourcing, complaining to President-elect Trump and calling for a boycott of Carnival.

Number 2 – The New Carnival Vista Makes a Splash!  Carnival new mega-ship, the Carnival Vista,Carnival Vista came perilously close to small piers for recreational boats when leaving the port of Messina, Sicily. The thrust from its stern created a turmoil which turned over the piers and swamped smaller moored vessels, sinking several of the boats in the process. The destruction was so complete that you wouldn’t believe it unless you saw it which is what happened when a passenger filmed the chaos from the ship. The Carnival captain made no announcements regarding what happened. According to passengers, the Vista didn’t stop and sailed out of the port as if nothing happened.

Number 1 – Carnival – Enemy of the Environment?  Carnival and Princess Cruises pled guilty to multiple felonies for the operation of five Carnival owned and Princess operated cruise ships which illegally dumped oily discharge around the world for eight years. Princess used "magic pipes" which by-passed oil-water separator devices, falsified oil logs, and perpetually lied to the Coast Guard to save millions of dollars in treating and disposing of oil ashore by Princess Pollutiondumping it overboard for almost a decade. Carnival was under probation for installing magic pipes and lying to the Coast Guard when Princess began dumping oil overboard. Did the executives and senior management know? Of course. But Princess played the plausible denial game. Carnival was fined only $40,000,000 (million) but ended 2016 collecting record profits of $2,800,000,000 (billion). While the Princess cruise ships were dumping oil, the cruise line executives collected hundreds of millions of dollars in salaries, perks and bonuses.     

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

Photo credits:

Al Roker – NBC Today Show

Princess drug bust – Jonathan Ng via the Daily Telegraph

Norwegian Star – Pjotr Mahhonin, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Carnival HeadquartersCBS4 Local News is reporting that Carnival Corporation is eliminating 200 positions from its IT departments across its brands, including Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Lines and Princess Cruises.  

The local news station writes that a French company which holds itself out as a “global leader in consulting, technology and outsourcing services” is offering offering new jobs – with only six months of guaranteed employment – to Carnival’s IT employees. CBS4 News says that the cruise line is pressuring its IT employees to sign agreements to participate in “knowledge transfer activities.”

Carnival told CBS4 that "all impacted individuals will become employees of Capgemini.”

But what Carnival did not admit is that "Capgemini is "outsourcing the work to India because that was the only way it could provide the IT services to Carnival at the rate paid to them by the company,” according to Sara Blackwell, a labor attorney, who is giving advice to the soon-to-be-displaced Carnival employees.

You can read about Capgemini’s Indian operations here.

According to CBS4, a Carnival PR spokesman said that the move was to improve performance and not save money. "Asked if the employees were being asked to train others how to do their jobs, Frizzell responded: ‘Not trained, but they will be involved in showcasing the processes related to the function in order for Capgemini to provide stronger and better service to Carnival Corporation and its brands.’”

Labor lawyer Blackwell told CBS4 that Carnival was dumping its IT employees: “The Carnival executives dumped oil in the ocean with the Princess Cruise line and now they are throwing away American workers for foreign slave labor. The executives of Carnival should be ashamed and should have to face the families that they have destroyed merely days before Christmas."

Other cruise lines have outsourced jobs before to minimize costs and maximize profits. Three years ago Royal Caribbean’s call center was unceremoniously moved to Guatemala where workers earned substantially less with no real benefits.

Carnival is reportedly cutting 200 IT jobs,140 of which are here in Miami.

Carnival’s outsourcing is part of Arnold Donald’s costs cutting steps which he initiated years ago. Money saved – yes; but at the expense of terminating loyal employees? Not to mention running the risk of demoralizing the remaining staff while offering substandard services?

I hope that Carnival’s outsourced IT sales office in India works better than the service center in India which I have to call when I’m having a computer problem.

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The CBS4 article was written by Jim DeFede, a former journalist for the Miami New Times who in the 1990’s authored articles critical of Carnival penny-pinching ways, including Is Mickey A Greedy Corporate Pig?, which is one of my favorite articles in addition to an article written by Ted Kissell titled The Deep Blue Greed – The Arison Clan Built Carnival into a Money Machine by Cleverly Avoiding Tax Laws.

Photo credit: Coolcaesar at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedi

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

December 14, 2016 Update:  CBS4 updates its article (video below) regarding Carnival Corporation’s termination of its IT employees. It turns out that the displaced Carnival employees do not have a guarantee of 6 months employment with the new foreign employer.   

Article: Carnival Cruise Line forces fired employees to train foreign replacements.

Breibart covers the Carnival outsourcing during this Christmas season . . . 

"This U.S. Company Just Laid Off Hundreds Of Employees For Reason You’ll Never Believe!" via Faith Family America.  

 

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We are just a few hours before placing 2015 is in our rear view mirror as we start upon a fresh New Year. So what are the memories which come to mind when we think of taking a cruise in 2015?  And what are the lessons that the cruise industry learned in 2015 which will ensure that history does not repeat itself in 2016?

I started the draft of this article by listing all of the ship fires this year, as well as the cases of passenger and crew member overboards, children drowning in cruise ship swimming pools without lifeguards, and sexual assaults of children and women. But all of these incidents, no matter how tragic, don’t come close to the scope of the death and mayhem associated with the murder of two dozen cruise passengers by terrorists in Tunis, Tunisia.  

The incident which kept coming back to me as I wrote this article was the massacre of twenty-two Tunis Terror Attackcruise passengers from Costa and MSC cruise ships in Tunisia. This terrifying incident involving cruise ships which were docked at the La Goulette cruise port in Tunis should have brought the reality of radical Islamic terrorism directly to the attention of cruise executives in the U.S. and Europe. We warned about incidents like this happening a month prior in ISIS Poses Terrorist Threat to Cruise Ships in Mediterranean. The passengers, however, received no warnings from the cruise operators which sent bus loads of tourists to the Bardo Museum without making any security arrangements whatsoever. 

The day before the massacre, the cruise executives presented a “state of the cruise industry” speech at the annual trade convention on Miami Beach, Cruise Shipping Miami. The CEOs of Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), and MSC Cruises discussed building bigger ships and expanding into new markets such as Cuba and China. The CEO of NCL, Frank Del Rio, remarked that “Libya, Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon could be more lucrative than Cuba.” The convention audience politely applauded and the other cruise executives smiled. I couldn’t help tweeting “have you heard of ISIS?

With the blood of twenty-two dead passengers on their hands, the cruise lines doubled down and announced that there were no indications that terrorism could strike a cruise ship or its passengers and crew in Tunis. The cruise industry not only refused to take any responsibility for the massacre but the spokesperson for the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) boasted that "cruise ships are a safe and secure place for our guests in the rare event of a shore side incident." MSC Cruises USA CEO Rick Sasso said "There was no hint of terrorism or uncertainty in Tunisia before the attack . . . There are a zillion ports around the world, and we follow all of them. . . There was nothing going on there that indicated this should’ve been a concern."

The truth is that Tunisian soldiers were engaged in ongoing battles against Al Qaeda when the MSC and Costa ships sailed there. There were prior suicides bombers which targeted hotels and museums filled with tourists. The U.K. had issued a prior warning of a terrorist attack on tourist sites and the U.S. repeatedly urged caution. ISIS was recruiting young men from mosques in Tunis to be trained and radicalized in Libya. The signs of trouble were all there.

The most frequent question which I have received this year is "is it safe to cruise in the Mediterranean with my family?" Yahoo asked me to write an opinion piece about the cruise industry shortly after disaster struck at the Bardo museum. In response, I penned Is Cruising Safe? A Chilling Look at an Industry Under Siege which provides my thoughts about the issue of safety and international terrorism.

The cruise industry needs to wake up. Tunis was preventable. Greater attention to Al Qaeda and ISIS is necessary to avoid a similar if not worse attack on innocent passengers. Dangerous ports need to be avoided. In the past, Princess Cruises used security teams / police to accompany tour bus excursions in Egypt. Maritime security teams are also required in foreign ports of call to address the risk of waterborne attacks. Cruise lines are overflowing with cash. The cruise industry collects around $45 billion a year, pays their crew members peanuts and doesn’t pay U.S. taxes. The industry needs to start investing some of those tens of millions of dollars into substantial security to keep their guests safe. 

NCL’s executive Del Rio, who salivated over record profits in Tunis and other risky Arab/Middle Eastern ports earlier this year was interviewed by Travel Weekly last week. Of course he remains bullish about cruising in 2016 but said that terrorism is always the "elephant in the room."  Well it’s time that the cruise lines began talking about the elephant.

In the past couple of weeks, travel agents and travel writers have written articles about whether cruise lines are prepared for radical Islamic terrorism. A Florida travel agent wrote "A Boatload of Reasons Why You Should Feel Secure on a Cruise Ship" for Travel Pulse. Australian travel writer Michael Gebicki wrote "How Do Cruise Ships Guard Against Terrorism?" Neither article explains what cruise lines are actually doing or provide any reason why you should feel protected on a cruise ship. Both articles are just spinning the story to assure that travel in places like North Africa and the Middle East are not disrupted. These articles don’t even admit that most cruise lines do not have any weapons on the ships to repel an organized attack up the gangway. Take a look at the pitiful way cruise ships responded to the threat of pirates and you can quickly realize that the industry is unarmed and not prepared to protect the passengers or crew. 

Cruise ship security teams seem to have their hands full responding to drunk passengers on their ships.  A well organized attack by ISIS will send the weapon-less security guards scurrying into the ship. The obvious will then become apparent – that cruise ships are sitting ducks.  We already know that al Qaeda has planned to seize cruise ships and execute passengers years ago. The difference today is that terrorists are no longer interested in holding hostages, but are motivated to simply kill and terrorize as many people as possible.

There will be travelers who read this and will respond that the threat of terrorism is everywhere; just ask the residents of Paris or the citizens in San Bernardino, California. Don’t be afraid because the terrorists will already be winning, they will say. Perhaps so.  But my thoughts are that a family looking for a relaxing vacation who picks a cruise vacation to the Mediterranean on a huge cruise ship fiiled with thousands of other passengers is just asking for trouble. 

Photo Credit: Bottom AFP

Loyal to Royal Caribbean - Cruise Line GreedLoyal to Royal?

Expect to pay more in gratuities.

Effective June 1st for all sailings departing on or after July 1st, the new gratuities charged by Royal Caribbean to its passengers will be $12.95 per day, per guest in standard accommodations, and $15.95 per day, per guest in suites. 

There seems to be a trend across the cruise industry to nickel & dime the customers. NCL, for example, just started charging a room service fee.  

NCL’s CEO Del Rio said this while reporting on last quarter:  "… we have looked across the fleet to identify areas where marginal changes that are commensurate with market conditions can be implemented to improve performance.

A few examples include a 6.7% average increase in beverage prices, the introduction of a nominal room service fee and lower costs from renegotiated shore excursion agreements. To put into perspective how these small changes can add up quickly, every dollar increase in yield translates to approximately $15 million to the bottom line." 

Royal Caribbean’s increased gratuities is designed to increase profits and put more money in the executives pockets. 

What RCCL is not telling you: not all the gratuities go to the hard-working crew members.

Royal Caribbean, like Carnival and NCL, has been diverting tips from the crew into revenue ever since it began the pre-paid gratuities. Remember when you used to hand your cabin steward cash at the end of the cruise? Most cruise lines stopped that practice in order to grab a good chuck of the money intended for the crew for themselves.

Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean do a poor job taking care of their crew members. You see evidence of it everywhere. Carnival canceled the meager retirement plan for its crew a couple of years ago. NCL is Richardd Fain - Royal Caribbeancharging for room service and is charging higher prices for drinks and excursions but there’s no indication that it will pass any more money along to the crew. The crew members’ benefits have been cut and they are still working insane hours every day.

I have never heard of any cruise line making changes designed to benefit the crew in the last decade.

Some passengers say they are fed up and will no longer be loyal to their favorite cruise line. So the "Loyal to Royals" will switch to NCL, and the "Loyal to Norwegians" will switch to Carnival and so forth and so on. Around and around the guests will spin as the cruise lines suck up their nickels and dimes while the cruise executives pocket millions and millions without a thought of their hard-working crew. 

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

May 15, 2015 Update: USA TODAY’s Cruise Log says that "with the increase, a family of four will pay more than $350 in service charges on a typical seven-night cruise — one of the highest levies in the business.

Vessel Oil Leak Cruise Critic reports that the Majesty of the Seas, built in 1992, is in dry dock in Freeport because the cruise ship is leaking oil. 

The Majesty is the oldest in Royal Caribbean’s fleet of cruise ships. The cruise line is sending the ship to Pullmantur next year. 

Royal Caribbean canceled the cruise for this week (a four-night Bahamas cruise). The cruise line says that it will issue refunds and future cruise certificates.  

Royal Caribbean tried to minimize the PR fallout by claiming that there was no damage to the environment. The PR person at the cruise line, Cynthia Martinez, says repairs will "resolve an issue that is causing a small amount of bio-friendly oil to leak."

I am used to the typical gobbledygook PR statements from Royal Caribbean, but this one took the cake. 

Anyone know of petroleum based products that are good for the water, fish and aquatic bids?  

 

Photo Credit: Disney Travel Babble

Carnival Cruise Refund PolicyOne issue we write about often is the cruise industry’s refusal to refund cruise fares when tragedy strikes their customers. 

We have seen cruise lines refuse to accommodate their guests when family members die unexpectedly, natural disasters destroy their customers’ homes, and even when children develop cancer. The cruise lines pocket the fares and then often sell the ship cabins for what turns out to be a double profit for the cruise line.

Seems heartless to me. Some people think its okay because the customers didn’t buy insurance (which the cruise lines also sell for additional profit). But there are exceptions to every rule. It’s bad karma to obtain a double profit when your customers face the heartbreak of losing a child, especially if he’s a slain police officer.   

As WKMG explains, the Carnival representative not only denied a refund to the father of slain Ocala police officer Jared Forsyth, she rubbed salt into the wound. "Well, if you want to play the dead son angle," she told the dad of the dead son.

Carnival eventually refunded most of the cruise expenses (except $1,500) only after the grieving father complained to the local news station which contacted the cruise line’s public relations spokesman.

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

April 17, 2015 UpdateCruise Line Refunds Vacation to Family of Police Officer Killed at Training. It looks like Carnival was shamed into apologizing to the family and finally giving them a full refund. 

April 18, 2015 Update: The Ocala Post interviewed me regarding the story, which you can read here

Video and photo credit: WKMG

 

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