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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.

Several guests aboard the Celebrity Summit have notified us that the cruise ship is currently unable to leave the port in San Juan, Puerto Rico due to what the guests understand to be either a “computer glitch” or “propulsion issues.”

The Summit was scheduled to leave San Juan yesterday  but has been unable to due to what the cruise lines often refer to euphemistically as “technical issues.”

The Cruceros Puerto Rico twitter page (translated) refers to unspecified “mechanical” or “electrical problems in the bridge.”

The website also states that the U.S. Coast Guard needs to inspect the ship before it is permitted to continue on its itinerary.

The Celebrity Summit is scheduled to have left San Juan yesterday on a twelve day cruise to St Croix, US Virgin Islands where it was suppose to call today, and then to Basseterre, St. Kitts; St Johns, Antigua; Willemstad, Curacao; Oranjestad, Aruba; Kralendijk, Bonaire; St Thomas, US Virgin Islands; Ponce, Puerto Rico and then back to Puerto Rico.

One passenger informed us that “hopefully (we) will be leaving the port tonight. They are giving everybody on board $100 room credit.”

A $100 on board credit (OBC) to be stuck in port for at least a day seems hardly fair.  Royal Caribbean also just announced that it is issuing a OBC of only between $200-$400 after the air conditioning to many cabins failed during a cruise on the Anthem of the Seas.   Royal Caribbean/ Celebrity must be re-thinking their attitude towards compensation following its generous full refunds to everyone on the Oasis of the Seas after a gastrointestinal outbreak.    

Celebrity’s corporate communication people sent the following to an inquiry posted on Twitter:

Power losses on cruise ships are a relatively common occurrence. In 2016, there were at least 18 power losses on cruise ships operated by the major U.S.-based lines.

The AIS information shows the Summit in San Juan. It remains anyone’s guess how long it will stay there.

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January 18, 2019 Update: Looks like the Summit is finally leaving port in San Juan tonight as of 9:13 p.m. per AIS.

Photo credit:  Yankeesman312 CC BY-SA 3.0

A lack of functional air conditioning on much of the Anthem of the Seas for the past week has left many guests feeling that they did not receive the cruise vacation which they paid for and which Royal Caribbean promised to them.

A couple of cruise passengers contacted our office yesterday to state that the air conditioning in their cabins, as well as to others parts of the cruise ship, were not cooling adequately.  Instead of blowing at a desired temperature in the high 60’s or in the 70’s, the air conditioning was leaving their cabins hot, with temperatures ranging from the low to mid-80’s with some cabins as hot as 89 degrees.  The heat has interrupted the guests’ sleep and made their cruises unpleasant.

It seems that the problem with the air conditioning began on or around Monday the 13th although there are comments posted on the Anthem of the Seas Facebook page dated earlier. Many guests with balconies opened their balcony doors but did not get much relief as the ship sailed in the Caribbean.

The ship has been slow to advise the guests the nature of the problem (“it will be fixed shortly” type of response). And there have been sporadic updates regarding how the engineering department will try to solve the widespread problem. Not all decks seem to be affected with many complaints focusing on the cabins on decks 10 and 11 as well as public areas on the ship.

Royal Caribbean recently offered the guests an on board credit (OBC) of $200 for interior cabins and cabins without a balcony, $300 for cabins with balconies, and $400 for suites. The credits are for the cabin, not the number of guests in the cabin.

This offer seems to have made matters worse. Guests seem to consider the OBC as a pittance, considering that they paid several thousands of dollars for the cruise and particularly compared to the full refund offered to all of the passengers on the Oasis of the Seas where around 600 guests became sick during a gastrointestinal illness outbreak last week.

A few guests have posted comments on Twitter:

The Anthem is now heading back to New Jersey (after a medical emergency detoured the ship to Bermuda) where it will dock shortly. The cooler weather in the northeast has apparently made the ship more pleasant for the passengers for the past day. But there are many passengers who are still understandably hot with the way that the matter was mishandled by Royal Caribbean. After the success in handling the public relations fallout following the debacle of the recent GI outbreak on the Oasis, it seems that the cruise-line decision makers and bean counters back in Miami have made an unforced PR blunder.

It also remains to be seen how Royal Caribbean intends to fix the air conditioning problem once the Anthem is back in port in Cape Liberty this morning when the cruise ship will take on another round of passengers looking forward to a relaxing cruise.

The Anthem left New Jersey on January 6th, sailed to San Juan, Puerto Rico arriving on January 9th,  Philipsburg, St. Maarten on January 10th, St Johns, Antigua on January 11th, Castries, St Lucia on January 12th, Bridgetown, Barbados on January 13th, Basseterre, St. Kitts on January 14th and is scheduled to arrive back in New Jersey shortly.

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January 18, 2018 p.m. update: Comment from cruise passenger osted on Twitter:

 

A cruise passenger has reportedly died after falling from the Harmony of the Seas, according to a passenger who contacted us.

This evening we received an email which stated that between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. today, there was a suicide/accident on Harmony of the Seas; someone fell/jumped from his balcony and died.

Later this evening, a guest on the cruise ship tweeted the following:

The passenger is apparently a 16 year old teenager (although there is also accounts that the passenger was in his 50’s who fell from an upper deck ), according to a guest on the ship. One passenger stated on Twitter that the guest died after hitting the “pavement.”  Another passenger posted on Twitter that the person struck the “concrete dock.”

The Harmony of the Seas is currently on a week-long cruise to the Caribbean. The cruise ship left Fort Lauderdale on January 6th and has sailed to Philipsburg, St. Maarten and San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was scheduled to stop in Labadee, today from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. this evening. It is scheduled to return to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday, January 13th.

A crew member, Arron Hough, went overboard from the Harmony of the Seas two and one-half weeks ago.

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January 15, 2019 Update: Boy, 16, falls to his death while trying to climb into room from balcony of Royal Caribbean ship via the Sun Sentinel.

 

More than 100 people on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailing in the Caribbean have become sick with a gastrointestinal illness, according to at least one guest who has contacted this blog.

The outbreak reportedly occurred on the Oasis of The Seas which called on the port of Falmouth, Jamaica yesterday. The guest states that passengers were not let off of the ship. Royal Caribbean is reportedly offering an on-board credit for missing the port in Jamaica.

The Oasis of the Seas left Port Canaveral, Florida on January 6th and sailed to the cruise line’s private port in Labadee, Haiti on January 8th. The cruise ship was scheduled to call on Falmouth yesterday and is scheduled to arrive in Cozumel, Mexico tomorrow. It is then scheduled to return back to Port Canaveral on January 13th.

Officials with Royal Caribbean reported that there 167 cases of a stomach virus on board the ship.

WESH Channel 2 reports that Royal Caribbean reported 167 cases of gastrointestinal illness to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) which represent 2 percent of the 8,454 guests and crew on board. The cruise line told the news stations that:

“We are bringing additional medical staff on board and we’re engaging in intensive sanitary procedures to minimize the risk of any further issues,” a statement from Royal Caribbean said.

The CDC states that cruise ships are required to log and report the number of passengers and crew who indicate that they have symptoms of gastrointestinal illness. The  report is required when 2% or more of the passengers or crew have gastrointestinal illness.  The CDC is required publish data on the Outbreak Updates for International Cruise Ships portal maintained by the agency where 3% or more of passengers or crew report symptoms of gastrointestinal illness to the ship’s medical staff.

The last gastrointestinal outbreak on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship to have been reported on the CDC portal occurred in December of 2017 when 310 of 4,160 of guests and 22 of 1,398 crew members became ill with norovirus on the Independence of the Seas.

January 10, 2019 a.m. update:  The Oasis of the Seas reportedly is skipping the port of Cozumel and will return to Port Canaveral. The number of those affected by the gastrointestinal outbreak now exceeds 250. Royal Caribbean is also refunding the cruise fares to the passengers.

January 11, 2019 update: The CDC states that over 400 people were sickened by the gastrointestinal outbreak; 385 of 6,285 (6.12%) of passengers and 17 of 2,169 (0.78%) of crew members. The CDC has not indicated whether the GI outbreak was caused by norovirus.

January 12, 2019 update:  “The number of people hit with a gastrointestinal illness on a Royal Caribbean International cruise ship has swelled to nearly 500 (475), a company spokeswoman said Friday,” according to NBC News.

“Don’t call us if you get sick on a cruise.’ — Miami-based cruise-industry lawyer Jim Walker,” according to Marketwatch.

The CDC reports that the total number of sick passengers with GI are 561 passengers and 31 crew members.

Full refund by Royal Caribbean: The cruise line earns PR points by issuing a full refund to all passengers.

Photo credit: Baldwin040 – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

An Oceania crew member was arrested at Port of Miami for smuggling cocaine (intentionally importing a controlled substance) when the Riviera called at port in Miami on January 2, 2019.

The Miami Herald reports and a review of the Homeland Security officer’s affidavit reveals) that Wilford Thobourne exited the Oceania cruise ship via the crew gangway was arrested for smuggling three and a three-quarter pounds of cocaine which he concealed in the soles of his sandals and in his crotch under five pair of shorts and underwear in his pants.

A copy of the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint against Mr. Thouborne is here.

Mr. Thobourne’s Facebook page indicates that he is from Johannesburg,  South Africa.*

Coincidentally, four South African women working for MSC Cruises were allegedly recruited by a Jamaican crew member to smuggle cocaine into the port of Miami aboard the MSC Seaside at the end of November.  United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers arrested seven MSC crew members including the four South African women for smuggling cocaine in that incident.  (There is no indication at this time of a connection in this case  between the South African Oceania and MSC crew members.)

The Herald indicated that Mr. Thobourne is scheduled for arraignment in federal court in ten days.

The Riviera has been in the news recently when it was revealed that Giuliano De Cicco, age 38, who was working as Assistant Destination Manager on the Riviera, died on January 2, 2019. The popular Crew Center site reported that he died when he fell from the Riviera cruise ship to the pier at the port of Miami on January 2nd.

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*/ Although his Facebook page indicates that he is from  Johannesburg, (Gauteng Province) in South Africa, several crew members state that Mr. Thobourne is from Jamaica.

Photo credit: Wilford Thobourne Facebook page.

Amsterdam established a tax on cruise passengers effective January 1, 2019. The new tax of €8 ($9.12) applies to every cruise passenger over 3 years old per 24-hour period.

As reported by the LA Times, two cruise lines have cancelled port visits to Amsterdam because of the nominal tax.  MSC Cruises and Cruise & Maritime Voyages canceled future stops.

The trade organization for the cruise industry, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), claims that the tax is “extremely disproportionate.” It threatened Amsterdam with cancellation by cruise lines which could result in a budget deficit of several million euros  as a result of reduced fees collected by the Port of Amsterdam.

However, the only thing truly disproportionate is that the cruise industry pays virtually no U.S. taxes at all.

Amsterdam, like other popular European cities, is struggling with the heavy demands placed on the city by mass tourism. Amsterdam wants tourists to make a fair contribution to the city.  Amsterdam’s website states that:

“. . . companies operating sea and river cruises should pay a tourist tax of 8 euros per passenger. This ‘day tripper tax’ will only apply to cruise passengers who do not live in Amsterdam and are only stopping over, not to passengers who are starting or ending a cruise in Amsterdam.”

Amsterdam is not the only city struggling with the influx of cruise tourism. There has been considerable news coverage of the “increasing hordes of tourists” descending on Venice every year.

Compare the crushing crowd of tourists in Venice which I photographed in 2016 during a family vacation (top) with the photo which I took when traveling alone there in 1977 (bottom).

The NewEurope newspaper states that:

After years threatening to regulate the number of visitors entering the city, which is constantly under the threat of sinking into the lagoon that it sits on, the Venetian government has decided that it will introduce an entry fee, or landing tax, of up to €10, depending on the season, for day-trippers arriving on cruise ships.

CLIA, which of course resists taxes of all types on cruise companies and their customers, expressed its disappointment with the new taxes. It tried to explain its refusal to honor the taxes by waxing historically:

“At the core of its history is Venice’s relationship with the sea. Ships have always been part of its identity and the cruise industry represents the modern manifestation of a centuries-old tradition.”

But the billion dollar monster cruise ships which tower over the city today could hardly have been imagined when Venice was built 500 years ago.

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Read: Are Cruise Ships Ruining Venice Or Just Memories of My Youth?

Photos credit: Top – Venice (2016) –  Jim Walker; middle – Venice (2016); bottom – Venice – Jim Walker (1977).

Yesterday, the Island Princess reportedly rescued six people on a disabled vessel as the cruise ship was sailing to Cartagena, Colombia, according to a crew member on the Island Princess.

The Island Princess had departed from Ocho Ríos, Jamaica and was sailing in the Caribbean Sea when it was notified that another vessel, the M/V Water Spirit, which is listed as an offshore supply/cargo vessel, was disabled with six Venezuelans aboard. The vessel had been reportedly disabled for two weeks.   The Island Princess then sent a rescue boat to the Water Spirit to bring the six people aboard the Princess cruise ship, where the cruise line examined them in the ship’s medical center and then fed them.

The Island Princess has since docked in Cartagena where the cruise ship intends to disembark them.

A passenger aboard the Island Princess subsequently posted a short video of the Princess rescue boat with the Water Spirit in the background.  Both the passenger and the crew member (who wishes to remain anonymous) described the disabled vessel as a fishing boat.

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Photo/video credit: anonymous crew member / @RodRaphael twitter page.

A lifeboat broke free from the Carnival Dream in the Gulf of Mexico as the Carnival cruise ships was sailing back to New Orleans on December 30, 2018, according to a travel agent on the ship.

Mum’s Travel Blog reported that a lifeboat sheered from the davit hook and fell into the water around 2:00 p.m. yesterday. Fortunately, there was no one in the lifeboat at the time.

The Carnival Dream was unable to raise the lifeboat and decided to abandon it at sea. There are comments posted on social media that the Coast Guard may later retrieve the lifeboat.

This is not the first time that a lifeboat fell off of a cruise ship.

Earlier this year,  a lifeboat on P&O’s Arcadia broke from its cabling and fell from its davits into the sea while the cruise ship was in Ponta Delgada, Azores.

Last year, a lifeboat broke free from Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas in the port of Charleston due to a frayed cable.

In 2013, a cable to a lifeboat on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas  snapped while the cruise ship was in Nassau.

All of these incidents occurred when there were no passengers or crew members aboard the lifeboats. Unfortunately, most lifeboats failures occur as they are being improperly raised or lowered with crew members aboard them.

In September of 2016, two crew members were killed and other crew members were critically injured after a lifeboat fell from the Harmony of the Seas, which was docked in Marseilles, France. Five members of the ship’s navigation crew were on board during a drill when the lifeboat became detached and fell ten meters into the water.

Eight crew members were in a lifeboat during a drill in 2013 on the Thomson Majesty cruise ship when the lifeboat plunged 60 feet into the water. The lifeboat landed upside down. 5 of the crew were killed and 3 were injured.

In July of 2016, a rescue boat drill resulted in the boat falling into the water with four crew members from the Norwegian Breakaway while the cruise ship was in Bermuda. Two crew members were killed and two other seriously injured.

Between these two events, there have been several other lifeboat mishaps. In January of 2016, a cruise ship tender boat on the Balmoral operated by Fred Olsen Lines malfunctioned, during a scheduled boat training drill while the cruise ship was docked in Funchal, Madeira. Fortunately, no one was injured. In August 2015, an excursion boat from the Costa Mediterranea (photo right) apparently broke a cable while it was being lowered in Montenegro. Photographs sent to me shows what appears to be a lifeboat dangling on the side of the Costa cruise ship. In October 2014, a rescue boat on the Coral Princess was being raised on davits with two crew members aboard when a cable snapped and a crew member was killed.

There is a popular saying that lifeboat drills kill or seriously injure more people than save lives.

I first read about the Carnival Dream lifeboat failure in an article posted by the popular Cruise Hive blog.

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Photo credit: Mum’s Travel Blog and Heston Williams’ twitter page.

Cruise passengers aboard the Carnival Conquest are stating that the cruise ship was delayed for several hours in Aruba last night due to what the local press is reporting to be a sexual assault.

Several passengers stated that they reported what they described two things of significance: (1) a van at the port where local police are placing bags of some type of forensic evidence from the ship, and (2) a security guard posted outside of a passenger cabin.

Several newspapers in Aruba such as 24ora and awe24 report that a passenger from the Carnival Conquest was arrested and taken into custody in Aruba by the local police.

The cruise ship crime reporting portal maintained by the U.S. Department of Transportation reflect that there have been 53 sexual assaults reported on cruise ships in the last year (October 1, 2017 – September 30, 2018). Of the 53 alleged incidents listed on the portal, 31 occurred on cruise ships operated by Carnival Cruise Line.

The last sexual crime on the Carnival Conquest which we reported on involved an adult passenger who sexually assaulted a 12 year-old girl during a cruise in January 2016. The man was arrested and pleaded guilty this year to sexual abuse of the minor.

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Photo credit: 24ora and awe24

A crew member went overboard from the Harmony of the Seas yesterday morning, according to a Royal Caribbean ship employee who wishes to remain confidential.

The crew member is reportedly an entertainer from the U.K. who was a member of the shipboard musical production of Grease on the Harmony of the Seas.

The Harmony of the Seas left Fort Lauderdale, Florida on December 23rd and was sailing to Philipsburg, St. Maarten where it arrived this morning and will remain until 5 p.m. today.

The crew member apparently went overboard early Christmas morning some where north of Puerto Rico before the cruise ship reached St. Maarten.

The U.S. Coast Guard identified the missing crew member as “Arron Hough, 20, of the United Kingdom.”

The last Royal Caribbean crew member who went overboard disappeared from the Adventure of the Seas. He was subsequently identified as Jack Daniel Ackroyd from Cotgrave (near Nottingham) England.

As in the case of Mr. Ackroyd, Mr. Hough apparently disappeared without anyone noticing. Due to the absence of a auto man overboard system, which would instantly send a signal to the bridge and then track the overboard person in the water even at night, there was apparently no timely search for the crew member.

Like other cruise lines, Royal Caribbean claims 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.

Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain was quoted in an article in Quartz by Rosie Spinks titled People fall off cruise ships with alarming regularity. Can anything be done to stop it? He stated that MOB technology “is not yet at a viable stage,” despite modern systems like this and this.

It never ceases to amaze me that a cruise line that collects over 8,000,000,000 (billion $$) dollars a year tax-free, and builds billion dollar Genesis class cruise ships like the Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas,  Symphony of the Seas and the Harmony of the Seas, refuses to invest in such life-saving technology.

We have written before about Royal Caribbean’s dismal attitude about MOB systems and procedures relative to crew members – Royal Caribbean Unreasonably Delays Reporting Overboard Crew Member from Vision of the Seas.

According to cruise expert Professor Ross Klein, 327 people have gone overboard from cruise ships since 2000. 25 people have gone overboard this year alone – an average of more than 2 a month.

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December 26, 2018 PM update: According to the Miami Herald, the Coast Guard was not notified until 1:45 pm today, even though the crew member apparently went overboard around 4 am.

Royal Caribbean’s PR department states that:

“We are saddened to report that after a review of the ship’s closed-circuit camera footage, he was observed entering an area on Deck 5 at around 4am and was not seen again. Local authorities were notified and a ship-wide search for the crew member was conducted.”

This means that the Harmony of the Seas did not conduct a search at sea at all.

Photo credit: Top – Royal Caribbean promotional video of the Harmony of the Seas; bottom – Aaron Luke Hough Twitter