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"Everything the cruise lines don't want you to know" is the motto of this award winning maritime law blog authored by Miami lawyer Jim Walker.

Two British passengers, aged 70 and 72, were arrested on a cruise ship returning to Europe from the Caribbean after the ship docked at the cruise terminal in Lisbon, Portugal.

Portuguese police stated that the couple were arrested with a large amount of cocaine concealed in suitcases in their cruise ship cabin, according to the Independent newspaper which first reported on the drug bust.

Portugal’s National Drugs Trafficking Unit released a statement titled “Combating drug trafficking by sea” which disclosed the drug arrest. However, the Portuguese police did not reveal either the names of the cruise passengers or the names of the cruise line or cruise ship where the drugs were transported.

The Guardian and Standard newspapers reported that the British cruise passengers were traveling on the Marco Polo, a 425-cabin cruise ship operated by Cruise and Maritime Voyages. The newspaper stated that the police seized around 9 or 10 kilos of cocaine.

The last drug bust involving a cruise ship operated by Cruise & Maritime Voyages occurred on the M/S Astor. A year ago, three cruise passengers were arrested with thirty (30) kilos of cocaine when the cruise ship was in Australia.

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Photo credit: Pjotr Mahhonin – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

A cruise passenger reportedly went overboard from the MSC Preziosa in the Caribbean several days ago, according to the France-Antilles newspaper.

The Martinique newspaper reports that a 69-year-old Dutch citizen was not located on the MSC Cruises ship when it arrived in Fort-de-France last Saturday, December 8th.

The last port before Martinique scheduled on the cruise was Philipsburg, St. Maarten on Friday, December 7th. The unidentified passenger was last seen Friday night on the balcony of their cabin by her husband.

The newspaper concluded that “most likely hypothesis would be a fall” from the cruise ship” estimated at 30 meters.

The ship left Fort-de-France at its scheduled departure time of 11:00 p.m. on Saturday.

A helicopter and Navy jet conducted a search for the woman after he was not located on the cruise ship on Saturday morning in Martinique. The search was called off on Sunday, December 9th following which transmissions of the missing passenger continued to be circulated to merchant ships in the area.

This appears to be another case where a cruise line failed to have an automatic man overboard system installed on the ship. Such systems automatically send a signal to the bridge when a person goes over the railing. The cruise ship can quickly try to locate and rescue the person using sophisticated motion detection, infrared and radar technology.

Numerous experts have recommended such state-of-the-art MOB systems like this and this. The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 requires such systems for cruise ships calling on U.S ports, to the extent that such technology if available.

The last man overboard occurred on November 22, 2018 and involved a Royal Caribbean crew member who apparently jumped from the Adventure of the Seas.

The majority of cruise lines, like Royal Caribbean, do not have such systems installed, claiming that the overboard detection technology is not reliable, as recently reported by the Miami Herald.

MSC Cruises, ironically, is one of the few cruise lines that has installed such technology on at least one cruise ship, the MSC Meraviglia.  MSC Cruises stated last year that it was planning to deploy similar systems across its fleet of cruise ships.

According to Seatrade Cruise News, MSC Cruises developed an “intelligent video capturing and analysis system” in collaboration with security technology experts, Bosch and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. MSC reported that “through over 25,000 hours of video analysis, extensive software testing and continuous algorithmic updates, the system has now reached a confirmed accuracy level of 97%.”

Seatrade also explained that the data and images are analysed by two separate and independent image processing systems which significantly lower false alerts. Once the alarm is activated in case of an overboard, an acoustic signal and light will notify the ship’s security officer, in a central security room, who can immediately retrieve and review the images and data and immediately notify the bridge to begin rescue efforts.

We have criticized MSC in the past because crew members and passengers have disappeared from ships without this type of technology.  Brazilian crew member Simone Scheuer Sousa disappeared from the MSC Musica last year. MSC’s untimely response to an overboard passenger early last year from the MSC Divina further demonstrated the need for an automatic man overboard system.

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein has estimated that, before this latest overboard, at least 322 people have gone overboard from cruise ship since 2000 and at least 22 people this year.

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Photo credit: Neptuno1976 CC by SA 3.0 commons / wikipedia.

 

A Celebrity Cruises officer reportedly ended his life on the Celebrity Millennium, according to an article published yesterday by the Crew Center website.

On December 6th, Anton Ilichev, a young officer from Ukraine, was reportedly found hanging dead in his cabin’s bathroom, according to the article.

Crew Center states that Mr. Ilichev was working as a suite manager and had worked for Celebrity for several contracts. The Celebrity cruise ship was on a 14 Night Southeast Asia Cruise from Hong Kong to Singapore when this incident occurred. His current contract was about to end and he was scheduled to disembark in Singapore on vacation.

Crew Center expressed condolences to Mr. Ilichev’s family, friends and his fellow crew members. By all accounts, Mr. Ilichev was a popular and well liked crew member. Friends and his co-employees expressed similar sentiments on Facebook.

Several crew members raised concerns that there is an absence of resources for mental health support and counseling for employees on cruise ships, commenting:

“There is no mental support whatsoever in such a difficult environment! Don’t you dare ask the doctor for a day off for simply being mentally exhausted, they’ll tell you that you are free to sign off. Crew members should have the chance for therapy/counceling onboard and should be encouraged to attend! But crew members sadly will always, always be just numbers. 😰 Condolences to his family.”

As I mentioned in an article titled Misery Machines and Crew Member Suicides, anyone who follows the cruise industry knows that suicides of crew members are hardly rare.

A 22-year-old Serbian crew member, Nikola Arnautovic, on the Carnival Fascination, hung himself four months ago. A petition was started on Change.org – Save lives! Make psychologists compulsory for Carnival Cruise workers and 1 day off a week.

A British chef was found hanging in his cabin aboard the Crystal Serenity cruise ship several years ago.  Two weeks earlier, a safety officer on the Disney Dream ended his life in a similar manner. And the day before that, a woman in Carnival’s entertainment department was found hanging in an officer’s quarters on the Carnival Sensation.

An Indian dishwasher on the Costa Magica was found hanging in his cabin in February 2017. A galley worker also killed himself a few years earlier on the Island Princess by hanging.

Of course, most crew members do not end their lives by hanging themselves. Most ship employees who choose to end their lives do so by jumping overboard.  During a period of less than three years between December 2009 and October 2012, at least twelve crew members jumped overboard or simply disappeared from cruise ships operated by Royal Caribbean/Celebrity Cruises. I wrote about the problem in an article titled “Is Royal Caribbean Working Its Crew Members to Death?”  The grueling schedule and long hours crew members are required to work 7 days a week, 30 days a month with no days off over the course of a 6 to 10 month contract, for far less than the U.S. minimum wage, often leave ship employees, who are already isolated from their families, exhausted and demoralized.

In the past decade, many dozens of crew members have jumped into the sea. The common reaction by guests is pointlessly “you can’t fall from a cruise ship” as if casting blame on the dead crew member will somehow solve the problem.

Mental health services for cruise ship employees are non-existent. And the  emotional well being of crew members is not a topic that is discussed in the U.S. Few Americans seem concerned with the working conditions on cruise ships faced by citizens of the greater world community. Most U.S. citizens respond to the exploitation of crew members from India or Jamaica with the rationalization that whatever pittance the “foreign” crew members receive is more than the workers can receive back home. “If they don’t like the work, they can quit” is the common saying.

It is unknown exactly what work conditions Mr. Ilichev faced on the Celebrity ship or what he experienced in his personal life. Crew Center raised the issue of providing services for mental health of crew members in Why aren’t there psychologists on board cruise ships?  Cruise lines like Celebrity Cruises, invest many hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars on building increasingly huge cruise ships each year. They need to begin investing in their crew member’s well being at sea.

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December 11, 2018 Update: Newsweek covers the story – Cruise Ship Crew Member Takes Own Life During Last Voyage with Company.

Photo credit: Facebook

A strike in San Juan today impacted cruise passengers on the Celebrity Summit and Jewel of the Seas. Departing passengers have been unable to retrieve their luggage and take taxis to the airport and arriving passengers have been delayed or unable to travel to the port due to the strikes.

Social media (Twitter and Facebook) has been abuzz with postings from cruise guests and their family members of travelers contacting the cruise line and air lines. As one travel agent commented, this apparently was not the first time that port operations were disrupted by a strike.

Several cruise passengers contacted us this afternoon seeking information about the strike.

The current strike involves an organized protest against governmental cuts of employee benefits in Puerto Rico. Strikes in the U.S. nowadays are relatively rare. Most strikes which affect cruise passengers occur in Europe (read Carnival Breeze to Cross Picket Line in Venice). Strikes by cruise line employees are not permitted by the cruise lines (read Carnival Fires 150 Crew Members from India for Protesting Low Cruise Ship Wages).

A number of people on Twitter were concerned about their parents’ ability to deal with the lack of services, whereas at least one cruiser expressed her understandable frustrations about getting home to man’s best friend.

Complicating matters as several thousand guests tried to handle their own baggage was that it began to rain earlier this morning.

In addition to the Celebrity Summit and the Jewel of the Seas, AIS programs show the Star Pride in port in San Juan. However, we have not received any comments from passengers on the Star Pride yet.

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Photo and video credit: Twitter; photo top – Emily Burns @ArizonaHorseGal.

The News Rep newspaper contained this ominous headline yesterday – ISIS terrorists have just hijacked a cruise ship . . .  

The newspaper, which focuses on security, military and warfare issues, stated “Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists have stormed a cruise ship full of unaware tourists somewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean. The U.S. Special Operations Command Europe has been alerted and swiftly deploys its SOF (Special Operations Forces) units to Greece. There, the American commandos link up with their Greek counterparts and prepare to storm the vessel . . .”

But the ISIS attack on a cruise ship was just part of a annual drill by U.S. Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) which concluded today in Crete. This year’s exercise took place from December 2nd to 7th in the port of Souda, Greece with special forces from the Greek police, military and coast guard.

The U.S. and Greece are conducting joint anti-terrorism drills in Greece in light of terrorism in neighboring Turkey and nearby countries such as Syria and in North Africa like Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.

New Rep states that U.S. special operations forces include the Green Berets from the 10th Special Forces Group, Navy SEALs, and Air Force special operations assets, such as the CV-22B Osprey helicopter, from the 352nd Special Operations Wing.

A newspaper in Greece explained  that the task forces explored how to respond to various terror-attack scenarios on “relatively unprotected” or “vulnerable targets” known as “soft targets.”  The National Herald states that the security drill involved an “Islamic State terrorist attack on a large cruise ship” in the Greek port.

Each year there is a different location for Jackal Stone exercises which have in the past included the boarding of commercial vessels in European ports via rigid inflatable boats and repelling SOF’s from helicopters.

This recent joint security exercise is a reminder of the vulnerability of cruise ships which are considered to be “soft targets” to terrorism. We suggest reading the best selling book by former Director of Security at Princess Cruises, Commander Mark Gaouette, Cruising for Trouble: Cruise Ships as Soft Targets for Pirates, Terrorists and Common Criminals.

The foreseeability of a terrorist attack is well known and highly documented, as the Rand organization noted long ago.

The cruise industry encountered a deadly terrorist attack in Tunis several years ago when terrorists killed cruise passengers from the Costa Fascinosa and MSC Splendida after they were bused without security or any warnings to a museum. We also know that al Qaeda planned to seize cruise ships and execute passengers in the past.

Read: How the Next Jihadist Terror Attack Against Cruise Passengers Will Happen.

I previously received an interesting comment from a reader who said that cruise ships should use muster drills to educate passengers what do to if there is a terrorist attack during a cruise. What is the protocol for a passenger if terrorists enter the ship?  Go to your cabins, hunker down and hope for the best? Try and overwhelm the attackers? Try and escape via lifeboats? Who knows?

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Photo Credit: Top – YouTube/DFMagazine via the Mirror (Armed troops land on cross-Channel ferry as part of terror security drill amid fears of ISIS ship attack); bottom – Mark Gaouette via Amazon.

The Silver Spirit cruise ship struck a bollard* last week after it was forced to abort its departure from the harbor in Key West, according to the Blue Paper newspaper.

Last Thursday, November 27th, the Silversea cruise ship had docked at the Mallory Square dock in Key West. As can be seen in a video taken from a live webcam operated by Broadwave LiveCams, two larger cruise ships, the Carnival Victory and Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas, depart the dock successfully despite high winds.

The video starts with a time lapse of the larger cruise ships leaving the dock in Key West.

The Silver Spirit is shown attempting to depart from the dock around 6:30 P.M. However, while the Silversea cruise ship attempts to return to the dock due to the winds, the ship crashes into a bolllard (a/k/a a “dolphin”) before it again docks.

The allision* caused damage to the mid section of the ship’s hull and destroyed the bollard.

The popular Crew-Center site reports that “according to Key West officials, the damage caused by the crash is estimated at around half-million dollars and the dock at Mallory Square will not be operational for at least three months. The cruise operator Silversea sent an insurance consultant to Key West to estimate the damages to the pier.”

Marine terms:

  • *An “allision” is the striking of a vessel against a fixed object (like a bollard) in contrast to a collision between two vessels.
  • A “bollard” is a short, thick post on a wharf, to which a ship’s rope may be secured.

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Video and image credit: BroadwaveLiveCams

A crew member from Vanuatu was sentenced to five years and eight months in jail on Tuesday after he was found guilty two months ago of raping a co-worker during their employment for P&O Cruises’ Pacific Dawn.

A court in Vanuatu sentenced former Pacific Dawn crew member Noel Isaac to a count of  sexual intercourse without consent in December of 2017, according to a recent article in the Daily Post newspaper in Vanuatu.  The court had earlier found him guilty of one count of an act of indecency as well as one count of sexual intercourse without consent.

The court found beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Isaac trespassed into the victim’s cabin on the morning of December 6, 2017. Despite her pleas, he overcame her resistance and committed what the newspaper described as full and forcible sexual intercourse with her without her consent shortly before he disembarked from the cruise ship.

The victimed crew member reportedly did not return to her job duties and was forced to leave the ship due to the trauma. She later notified P&O that she would not return to work due to the assault. She reported the crime to the local police who reportedly had to halt the investigation awaiting the ship’s next visit to obtain the CCTV images.

The victim  was a new hire who worked in the galley. She boarded the Pacific Dawn in Brisbane in early December 2017; the ship thereafter sailed for New Caledonia and Vanuatu. The assault took place just a few days after she started work on the cruise ship.

The newspaper describes Mr. Isaac as having difficulties answering basic questions at trial about the incident. He claimed that he did not know where the victim’s cabin was located on the ship and denied ever going in to her cabin two days after he first met her. However, the evidence showed that Mr. Isaac entered and remained in the victim’s cabin for 40 minutes on the morning in question, according to the local newspaper.

Convictions of crew members for sexual assault are rare, due to the fact that flag states are not interested or equipped to investigate such crimes which occur in far off locations at sea. In this case, Carnival Corporation owned the Pacific Dawn, which was operated by P&O Cruises Australia and registered in London. This case, however, involved a crime committed by a citizen of Vanuatu where the ship called on its capital, Port Vila and where the crew member resided.

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Photo credit: P&O Cruises via Traveller magazine.

 

The United States Coast Guard medevaced a passenger yesterday from a Carnival cruise ship which had sailed from Galveston, Texas.

On December 2, 2018, the Carnival Valor contacted the Coast Guard in Houston requesting emergency medical treatment for a 71 year-old passenger. The Coast Guard dispatched a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter which flew approximately 58 miles into the Gulf of Mexico and arrived at the ship on Sunday morning. The helicopter hoisted the ill guest and a nurse from the Carnival cruise ship flew them to the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston which is about 50 miles  southeast of downtown Houston.

The Carnival Valor left Galveston, Texas on Saturday December 1, 2018 and was scheduled to arrive in Cozumel, Mexico today and then sail to Progreso, Mexico on December 4th and return to Galveston on December 6th.

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Video credit: U.S. Coast Guard by Air Station Houston via Defense Visual Information Distribution System (DVIDS).

Carnival Cruise Line just increased its automatic gratuities on drinks (both alcohol and non-alcohol) from 15% to 18%.

Automatic gratuities result in money being deducted directly from the guest’s accounts.

A Carnival employee sent a copy of a letter from Richard Morse, Carnival’s Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations, explaining that from the the 3% increase, 1.5% will go to the Carnival server and the remaining 1.5% will go into a pool to fund Carnival expenses including the costs of  uniforms and return airline tickets for crew members.

This development was first reported in an article by the popular Crew-Center website. When I posted this information on our Cruise Law News’ Facebook page, this is how cruise passengers reacted:

  • Greedy bastards! So WE are paying their increased salary, not the rich cruise lines! 😡 
  • They should be paying for benefits and employees uniforms, etc., not us!
  • Raise prices. Tips should be part of fare.
  • Next we will have to pay for the fuel you nickel and dime us guests more and more every year to pay for all your new ships you keep building.
  • Total and utter rip-off.
  • CEO will get how many million $$$$$$$ bonus for increasing profit??
  • . . . so where is that increase going ? uniforms and return ticket lol….

The letter (image above), dated November 29, 2018, sent to all beverage positions is itemized below:

“We are pleased to announce effective on sailings starting on or after December 1st, the automatic gratuity added to the guests’ check for all beverage sales and a la carte dining outlets will increase from 15% to 18%. In addition the extra tip line will remain on all the guests’ checks. This enables our guests to add any additional extra gratuity they deem appropriate. This increase will reflect your first paycheck of December 2018.

From this 3% increase, 1.5% will go to server and remaining 1.5% will go into the ASP pool. As you know the ASP pool funds employee compensation and benefit programs that you receive; including bar level pay, itinerary stipend pay, as well as free uniform and return airline tickets.

Our Bartenders and Bar Waiters lead the cruise industry in compensation. This is a result on everyone’s hard work and efforts to increase overall bar sales as well as the success of the Working Smarter program. As we look forward to 2019, we expect this trend to continue and this will ensure that Carnival Cruise Line remains the employer of choice.

As you know the Beverage Team plays a vital role in creating Fun Memorable Vacations for our guests. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your Positive Attitude and for the Pride you show in our company.”

It is rather amazing to watch a cruise line, incorporated in Panama where it registers its cruise ships in order to avoid U.S. income taxes, requiring its U.S. guests, who pay their taxes, to pay gratuities which are going to pay for the crew employees’ uniforms and airline tickets!

Automatic gratuities is an issue involving all of the major cruise lines.  Whereas the luxury lines like Azamara, Crystal, Seabourn, Regent and SeaDream do not charge automatic gratuities, the mass lines like Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean do. We have written about this issue many times, including Royal Caribbean, NCL and Carnival.

November 2, 2018 Update: We received the following statement from Carnival:

“We have increased the bar gratuity to 18% which is in line with the industry and hotel and restaurants on land.  Those funds are shared across all crew members who support the beverage operations, including those our guests may not see but are working to stock, clean and run equipment and support tasks.  A very small portion of the gratuity pool funds items that crew members normally cover beyond what the company pays for in travel and uniform costs.

Our crew appreciate everything our guests do for them. They work very hard and understand the policies in place. The salary Carnival pays them and the gratuities our guests give allows our crew to provide a better for life for themselves and their family.  And they are also supportive of how we administer the pool portion of the gratuity which fully and exclusively benefits our shipboard employees.”

November 4, 2018 Update: Carnival’s website claims that: “It is customary for our guests to extend gratuities to the shipboard staff in appreciation for their hard work and exceptional service. 100% of your gratuities are distributed to the crew who you interact with, such as your stateroom attendants, dining, bar and culinary services staff, as well as others who work behind the scenes to enhance your overall cruise experience.”

This appears to be false considering that Carnival is using half of the increase in the drink gratuities to pay for things like uniform and travel costs. It also appears questionable whether customers can remove pre-paid gratuities on drink packages.

The Sun newspaper reported on the gratuity increase today.

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The crew member from the Adventure of the Seas who recently disappeared from the cruise ship as it headed to Cozumel has been identified as Jack Daniel Ackroyd from Cotgrave (near Nottingham) England.

As we reported last week, this Royal Caribbean crew member did not appear at his work station on the morning of November 22, 2018. He was last recorded on the Adventure of the Seas via closed-circuit television (on deck 4 around 4:00 a.m.) but was not accounted for when the cruise ship arrived at the Mexican port. Royal Caribbean did not conduct a search for the crew member in the water. His disappearance is similar to other Royal Caribbean crew members who have gone overboard early in the morning.

We wrote about a similar situation about a year ago involving a Royal Caribbean crew member, among many others, where neither Royal Caribbean nor the U.S. Coast Guard conducted a search for the missing ship employee.  Royal Caribbean, despite its enormous wealth and record profits, has not implemented available man overboard technology on its ships. Like other cruise lines, this company says that it does not believe the available overboard detection technology is “reliable,” a conclusion refuted by numerous experts and manufacturers of state-of-the-art MOB systems like this and this.

Nottinghamshire Live indicates that Mr. Ackroyd was a member of the sports staff on the Royal Caribbean’s cruise ship. The newspaper describes him as a “big Nottingham Forest fan (U.K. soccer club) and a keen sports player. He had great sense of humour and would light up a room when he walked in. He was kind-hearted and loved by everyone.”

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Photo credit: Top – Facebook; bottom – Nottinghamshire Live.