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The United States Coast Guard (USCG) medevaced a crew member from the Serenade of the Seas yesterday, eighty miles west of Tampa. The USCG deployed a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater.

In January of this year, we reported that Royal Caribbean began using the Serenade of the Seas as a floating “quarantine or hospital ship” to house crew members infected with COVID-19. The company was also using a number of other cruise ships, including the Vision of the Seas, Rhapsody of the Seas and Jewel of the Seas as floating hospitals / quarantine hotels for its infected crew members. A crew member on the Serenade who operates The Curious Lens of Martina from Argentina explained via video that the cruise ship would be used by the company to assist the Royal Caribbean fleet in accepting the transfer of COVID-19 positive crew members from other cruise ships sailing Western Caribbean itineraries so that they can continue to call on Caribbean ports (which have reporting requirements that block ships from calling when their total population of guests and crew members exceeds 1%).

There is no public information regarding the medical status of this particular crew member or the reason for the emergency medical evacuation. It is less than clear whether this crew member was medevaced for emergency medical treatment related to COVID-19.

Medical evacuation of crew members or guests on cruise ships is provided by the USCG without cost or expense to the cruise guests, crew members or the cruise lines themselves. It is one of the many expenses incurred by U.S. federal agencies which are paid by U.S. taxpayers.

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Image credits: Screengrab and video – U.S. Coast Guard via the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS); Serenade of the Seas – Matt H. Wade, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikipedia.

Although most cruise lines have finally canceled port calls in Russia following the unprovoked and deadly invasion of Ukraine, there are two companies which have steadfastly refused to alter their cruise schedules to that region – Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises.

Last week, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, which operates Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises, canceled all of its several dozens of calls in Russia through the end of the year.

Cruise fan blogger Gene Sloan, who did not criticize Royal Caribbean or Celebrity, pointed out in an article today titled Royal Caribbean Among Holdouts As Most Major Lines Cancel Russia Calls that these companies refuse to join other cruise companies in canceling upcoming cruises to Russia: “Most major cruise lines have now canceled calls in Russia in the wake of the country’s invasion of Ukraine, with just a handful of holdouts including Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises sticking to plans to have ships visit Russian ports in the coming months.”

Three days after NCLH’s announcement, Carnival Corporation finally issued a similar announcement after it initially announced that it was cluelessly “monitoring” developments in the area.

Yesterday, MSC Cruises also announced that it suspended all calls to St. Petersburg, Russia for this year due to “recent developments in the region and related security concerns.”

But Royal Caribbean recently stated in a letter to its guests that at this time “our intention is to sail to St. Petersburg.” The Cruise Hive blog reported that “despite the political ramifications and widespread sanctions that the EU, US, and the UK have implemented against Russia, Royal Caribbean says it still intends to include port calls to St. Petersburg at this time.” Cruise Hive points out that Celebrity is still shamelessly offering #cruise vacations to St. Petersburg, Russia on the Celebrity Apex & Celebrity Silhouette.

The popular Royal Caribbean Blog states that the cruise line has “back up ports” which include alternate destinations if guests are “hesitant to sail to Russia.” However, Royal Caribbean did not specify any of the alleged back up ports to potentially replace the Russian port of St. Petersburg.

particularly disappointing and disturbing is the fact that Royal Caribbean/Celebrity have not made any statements supporting the democratic government of Ukraine or criticizing Rusian Leader Putin’s appalling aggression. Doing business with a pariah country like Russia does not appear to be a particularly wise choice by this Liberian incorporated cruise line. Its cruise ships are staffed by several hundred Ukrainian crew members and officers.  Many dozens of Ukrainian crew members have contacted this blog and openly expressed their solidarity with ship employees from countless other countries, including Russia, in opposing Russian leader Putin’s greed and zest for power and control.

A review of the Royal Caribbean web site shows that it is selling many dozens of cruises and excursions to Russia, including calls to St. Petersburg where it tells prospective guests that they can visit sights of the city including imperial palaces owned by the czars.

Royal Caribbean will eventually not sail into a Russian port as long as that country is engaged in armed hostilities with Ukraine, if for no reason other than the fact that an injury to or death involving a cruise guest on a ship in a war zone would not be covered by its insurance underwriters. But its silence and refusal to join the international community in expressing support of Ukraine and condeming Putin is nothing short of shameful.

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Image credit: Royal Caribbean

March 2, 2022 Update: 

Royal Cribbean has quickly caved to social media and public pressure by finally cancelling future cruises to St. Petersburg, Russia.

March 3, 2022 Update:

We received the following message from Royal Caribbean’s global communications agency BCW:

“Royal Caribbean International has made the decision to cancel our visits to St. Petersburg, Russia on all Summer 2022 itineraries. 

The safety of our guests and crew is always our top priority. We are continuously monitoring events taking place around the world, including the situation in Ukraine. With the recent events, we have made the decision to cancel our visits to St. Petersburg, Russia on all Summer 2022 itineraries. We have planned alternative ports and will communicate itinerary changes in the next few days to our guests and travel partners. Guests can feel comfortable knowing they are able to reschedule their cruise with our Cruise with Confidence program.”

A passenger went overboard from the Carnival Valor around 150 miles from southern Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico this afternoon around 2:30 p.m. as the Carnival cruise ship was returning to New Orleans.

A number of passengers reported the incident via Twitter today. The accounts initially range from involving either a man or a woman, with several people stating that the person jumped from the ship.

A newspaper in New Orleans reports that the Coast Guard’s 8th District and Coast Guard Sector New Orleans were notified that a passenger went overboard at 2:28 p.m., according to U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Gabriel Wisdom. The paper identified the person was a 32 year old woman but did not release her name.

The newspaper stated that a HC-144 aircrew was dispatched to assist the rescue efforts.

The New York Post reports that “the Carnival Valor vessel was en route to New Orleans from Cozumel, Mexico when a woman jumped into the water from her balcony, Carnival said in a statement.”

Cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein reports that there have been 364 people who have gone overboard from ships in the last twenty years. This is the first reported person from a cruise ship this year.

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February 17, 2022 A.M. Update:

Newsweek reports that:

“The U.S. Coast Guard said it had received a call on Wednesday afternoon saying that a 32-year-old African American woman had fallen overboard from the Carnival Valor cruise ship about 150 miles offshore of Southwest Pass, Louisiana. The details of how the woman ended up going overboard weren’t released.

But passengers said there had been a disturbance that prompted security on the ship to detain the woman in handcuffs, according to WVUE. The woman then jumped off the 10th deck of the ship, passengers said, adding that she hit the side of the vessel before reaching the water.

WVUE-TV reports that:

“The Coast Guard has not said how the woman ended up in the water, but passengers say there was a disturbance that caused security to detain her with handcuffs. Passengers say she then jumped off . . . and hit the side of the ship before hitting the water.

They say she soon disappeared as crew tossed life preservers and a flare marking her position.”

WVUE also stated that a Coast Guard Air Station in Clearwater, Florida dispatched a  MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter.

There are substantial questions why Carnival’s security personnel apparently handcuffed the guest and then permitted a handcuffed person in Carnival’s custody go overboard?

FOX8 news station published Cell phone video shows moments before and after woman jumped from cruise ship where you can see video of the ship security taking control of the guest and then video after she went overboard.

Photo credit: Top – Johnnytrupp/Twitter via New York Postf

Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald received over $15,000,000 in compensation in 2021, according to MarketWatch. Carnival stock (CCL) had a “two-year decline of 60.4%” while Mr. Donald’s “total compensation increased 35.1% over the past two years” to $15,060,000.

The Carnival CEO’s income increased from $13,306,097 in 2020 and $11,149,514 million in 2019, according to Cruise Industry News. Included  in the $15 million, Mr. Donald received $1.50 million in salary, $7.45 million in stock awards and $6.00 million in non-equity incentive plan compensation.

David Bernstein, Carnival’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) collected $4,957,207​ in 2021, up from $4,426,324 in 2020. Michael Thamm, CEO of the Costa Group, collected $6,851,769 in 2021, up from 5,176,819 in 2020. These two cruise executives alone collected well over $2,100,000 more in 2021 than in 2020.

Last month, the Chief Judge for the Southern District of Florida fined Carnival Corporation $1,000,000 for violating the terms of its criminal probation which it has been serving for the past five years. (This follows earlier sanctions of $40,000,000 and $20,000,000). In response, Carnival promptly paid the fine on the same day with a $1,000,000 check.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) stated in a press release on January 11, 2022 that Princess Cruises and its parent Carnival Corporation have “a culture that seeks to minimize or avoid information that is negative, uncomfortable, or threatening to the company, including to top leadership (i.e., the Board of Directors, C-Suite executives and Brand Presidents/CEOs).”

Mr. Donald’s income, although not the highest in the cruise industry (that goes to NCLH’s CEO Frank Del Rio who whose compensation in 2020 was a whopping $36,400,000), has been the focus of several high profile national articles, including by the New Yorker. The magazine focused on his compensation in 2020 of $13.3 million—nearly twenty per cent more than his 2019 total. It wrote:

“His company, at the time, was running up ten billion dollars in losses for the year and earning a place of prominence in two streams of undesirable media coverage. One emphasized Carnival’s tally of infected passengers and crew, which eventually exceeded fifteen hundred and led to dozens of known deaths. (Cruise ships were described as “floating petri dishes” in more than a few accounts.) Another focused on the hundreds of Carnival employees who had been fired or furloughed, some while still at sea, making their plight the starting point for a discussion of the industry’s low salaries (typically ranging from five hundred and fifty to two thousand dollars a month) and onerous work conditions.”

My view is that as long as CEO Donald can collect an increase in compensation several times more than the latest sanction imposed by the chief judge in federal court in Miami after Carnival and its subsidiary companies engaged in defiance of the terms and condition of court ordered probation following their convictions for pollution, lying to the U.S. Coast Guard and the DOJ, don’t expect that there will be a change under this leadership in how the Carnival companies treat the environment.

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Photo Credit: Top – Arnold Donald – CNBC screen grab; bottom – New Yorker article – David Paul Morris / Bloomberg / Getty via New Yorker.

 

Yesterday, seventy-two (72) out of two-hundred and thirty (230) crew members on the Silver Cloud operated by Silversea Cruises (Silversea Expeditions) tested positive for COVID-19, according to a crew member on the cruise ship who wishes to remain anonymous.

Infected crew members are now under quarantine on the ship. Another twenty-nine (29) crew members appear to be close contacts and are also in isolation. This means that one-hundred and one (101) crew members (44% of the crew) have either tested positive for COVID-19 or are close contacts of the infected ship employees.

Meanwhile, the Silver Cloud is sailing with guests on its regular itinerary to Antarctica. The ship  sailed from Punta Arenas earlier this week to the Drake Passage. It arrived in Greenwich Island today. It is scheduled to sail to the Antarctica Peninsula tomorrow, and return to Punta Arenas on February 20th.

The crew members have been working to try to cover all jobs on the ship and to continue to provide guest services. A crew member commented:

“We don’t know how long we can continue this. I personally think, with this amount of positive crew, that we place the rest of the crew as well as all passengers at risk. Several crewmember have this concern. But no one is heard.  The upper shoreside management does not consider any complaints regarding this from the crew, so we will try to continue the cruise.”

This massive number of infected crew members comes at a time when many cruise lines are loosening their mask policies.

Silversea Cruises meanwhile still has a mask policy. Its written protocols state that except “while seated in restaurants, at tables in bars, and in outdoor areas in which physical distancing can be maintained,” guests will be “required to wear a mask in all indoor public areas, terminals and during shore excursions. Crew will be wearing masks at all times.”

Silversea is also one of several luxury cruise lines which have required its guests to have received booster shots before they can cruise.  Two weeks ago, Silversea Cruises announced all travelers who booked a voyage that departs on March 1 or later will now be required to show proof of receiving an approved COVID-19 booster shot before boarding.

Parent company Royal Caribbean, on the other hand, has stated that it will soon no longer require the wearing of masks. Royal Caribbean told the Washington Post that: it will allow its latest mask requirement to expire on February 14th, “returning to a pre-omicron policy in which passengers could go without face coverings in areas designated for fully vaccinated people, including some bars, lounges, restaurants, theaters and casinos.”

Abandoning mask and social distancing protocols at this point is premature, no matter the public sentiment, as this situation clearly proves.

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Photo credit: Brian Burnell with permission uploaded to Commons by George Hutchinson CC BY-SA 3.0 commons / wikimedia.

February 12, 2022 A.M. Update: I received this message from an officer on the ship:

“The situation on the Cloud is far worse than you described:
  • The officers are breaking protocols, asking ppl tested who positive and are on quarantine – to go and work.
  • So those confined are going back to their cabins to get their uniforms and getting in touch with roommates who are negative.
  • Crew who are negative but are sick with flu do not get food delivered or when they deliver its not proper food, cold.
  • Lots of crew are having contracts extended without consent and they have nobody to complain because HR, HD and even the Captain are positive.
  • In addition to captain and other officers, ship doctor also tested positive.
  • I have pictures of the food that they are delivering (below).
  • Crew member are going through hardship.
  • The Expedition Staff is delivering food to the sick because the staff is infected.

There continues to be widespread reporting of the demise of Crystal Cruises following the arrest of the Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity. As we mentioned on Saturday morning, late last Friday evening, Bahamian authorities seized the two Crystal cruise ships at general anchorage in Freeport, Bahamas.

Unfortunately, there has been erroneous press coverage here in the U.S. by major newspapers which have  reported that “U.S. Federal Marshals” seized the Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity in response to the seizure order entered by federal district court Judge Gayles in the Southern District of Florida.

To be clear, the U.S. Marshals have no jurisdiction outside of U.S. waters to seize a vessel. The arrest of the two Crystal cruise ships in question was accomplished by Bahamian officials in response to a judicial action filed in the Bahamas which led to the Bahamian Supreme Court issuing a writ of summons.

You can read the court filing in federal court here in Miami, as follows:

As explained in two articles from the Bahamian press, one by the Nassau Guardian titled Crystal Cruises ships seized by Bahamian authorities and a second by the Nassau Tribune titled “Humanitarian Crisis” Fear Over Cruise Ships’ Arrest, Acting Port Controller, Lieutenant Commander Berne Wright, received a writ of summons from the Supreme Court of the Bahamas to seize the two Crystal cruise ships. The writ was requested by the ship’s fuel supplier, Peninsula Petroleum Far East, which listed itemized 13 invoices for fuel to Crystal Cruises and Star Cruises ships, “totaling almost $3.4 million” between August 11, 2021 and January 17, 2022.

The Nassau Tribune article identifies the Bahamian lawyer, Stephen Turnquest, who obtained the Bahamian Supreme Court-approved arrest warrants for both the Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony. Mr. Turnquest raised the issue of crew member welfare, stating “the last thing the Bahamas wants is for a humanitarian crisis to erupt” if no agreement is reached on who pays the bills while the vessels are detained.

The Bahamian lawyer rightfully called the outstanding fuel charges “chump change” for a conglomerate the size of Crystal Cruises’ parent company, Genting Hong Kong. He recommended that the lien for unpaid fuel charges “be settled quickly,” considering that funds will also be needed to provide the crew of both Crystal cruise ships with sufficient food until the dispute is resolved. “Fuel will also be required to operate the ships’ air conditioning, pumps and other systems in the interim, while garbage, sewerage and sludge disposal must also be addressed,” the lawyer added.

If matters are “left to fester,” Mr. Turnquest told the Nassau Tribune, the situation could “reach [a] crisis point very quickly and become a nightmarish situation.”

Crystal Cruises stated through a local spokesperson, Vance Gulliksen (the former spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Line) that it would not comment on pending legal matters. However, he claims that Crystal is taking good care of its crew members:

“The officers and crew on board are being well cared for and staying in single accommodations some of which are guest staterooms,” he said in a statement. “We are making sure they are comfortable and able to enjoy the various amenities on board. Crew members have been paid all wages due and we are meeting and exceeding all contractual obligations.”

Mr. Gulliksen did not provide details to the Washington Post regarding the next steps will be for crew members on the ships.

However, a crew member on one of the Crystal’s ships disputes this rosy image. She informed us today:

“Crew still onboard. they have no idea if they will get money or when they will go home. But they are still working, housekeeping cleaning rooms and the rest packing furniture. Bank will be selling ships but not the brand. Future for Crystal is black.😔”

This crew member was one of the ship employees who promptly informed Friday night us that the Crystal ships had been seized in the Bahamas within hours of the vessel arrest. Earlier last week she informed us that:

“Crystal crew members are still waiting for wage payments for last month and they recently received nothing in their Brightwell payment accounts . . . Management says if you wanna go home early and if you didn’t complete your 3 months contract need to resign and buy your own flight ticket to go home.”

The Nassau Tribune article mentioned Crystal’s loss of “much goodwill” associated with evading seizure in the U.S. Reports of ill treatment of passengers are “provoking numerous complaints.”

If a so-called luxury cruise line like Crystal is going to mistreat its wealthy U.S. guests and disembark them in Bimini in order to evade a seizure order (over unpaid fuel bills) signed by a district court judge in Miami, does anyone realistically believe that the company will fully pay its crew members from India, Eastern Europe, and the Philippines when it finally repatriates them home?

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Photo credit: Crystal Cruises Instagram via New York Post

February 8, 2022 P.M. Update:

 

The Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity have been arrested late Friday night, February 4th, according to crew members on the ships.

Both Crystal cruise ships are in waters near the port in Freeport, Bahamas.

Earlier yesterday, we were notified that crew wages were current as of January. However, other Crystal crew members insist that they are still waiting for wage payments for last month and they have recently received nothing in their Brightwell payment accounts.

We also received this message yesterday afternoon:

“Symphony is out of food so they will have to be taking on provisions. Serenity is out of fuel. . . .   Management says if you wanna go home early and if you didn’t complete your 3 months contract need to resign and buy your own flight ticket to go home.”

The arrest of these two Crystal Cruises ships is related to the non-payment of $4,600,000 in fuel. Both the Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity have stayed out of U.S. ports after a federal district court judge in Miami (Judge Gayles) entered an order last week against the cruise line and its ships. It is unclear how these two Crystal ships were sized in the Bahamas, which is not subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Marshall’s Office. The captain of the Crystal Symphony stated over the intercom that local authorities (in the Bahamas) seized the ships “over unpaid bills.”

The Crystal Serenity was at sea on Thursday, sailing without passengers off of the coast of Florida in international waters after leaving Bimini in the Bahamas. The ship had previously been denied port in Aruba and disembarked its passengers in Bimini rather than risk being arrested in port in Miami.  There was reportedly considerable bedlam in disembarking its guests in Bimini, according to people on its last cruise.

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Photograph credit: Cruise Arabia and Africa

February 5, 2022 Update:

From a crew member: “Crystal Endeavor is also under arrest in Ushuaia, Argentina. We were scheduled to leave yesterday. Now waiting Monday as court not working on weekend.”

From Crew Center: Captain of the Crystal Symphony speaking: “Ship has been arrested by the local authorities over some unpaid bills…”

February 6, 2022 Update: What is not being reported is that there are competing financial interests to secure payments from Crystal Cruises.

A head bartender from India recently died on the Norwegian Escape after he spent ten days of quarantine for COVID-19 on the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) cruise ship. The death was first reported by the Crew Center site which is operated by former crew members. The popular site reported that the crew member had been isolated in a cabin on Deck 2 without fresh air and sun for 10 days. A fellow shipmate reportedly stated (a week ago) “yesterday he was out from the quarantine, and this morning Code Alpha was announced on board and he suddenly died.” No cause of death was mentioned.

We recently learned of the crew member’s name -Tamang Sujan – from other NCL crew members who wish to remain anonymous.

Crew Center reported that the young (age 36) and well liked crew member was required to stay in an interior, windowless crew cabin for his 10-days of isolation. Other crew members tell us that only a small number of ship employees are allowed to stay in guest staterooms, including cabins with balconies.

The Norwegian Escape is currently sailing without guests so there is no reason to jam the crew in cabins without windows or balconies.

Crew Center voiced concerns about the effects of spending quarantines in windowless crew cabins on the crew members’ deteriorating wellbeing. One crew member told Crew Center “our mental health after 6 months onboard is deteriorating. This feels like we are in jail . . .”

A family member of the crew member, Sanjip Gurung, recently went to Twitter to request that NCL provide his family with information about his brother’s death after the company’s human resources department repeatedly refused to provide him with information.

This week I posted a letter which I received from a NCL crew member protesting the conditions on the ship where many crew are stuck in interior cabins. She wrote, in part: “many of us in internal  cabins have no access to fresh air or daylight. Stale air, darkness,  poor food and covid are a perfect mix to erode our emotions and compromise our mental state of mind.”

NCL has a history of requiring its crew members to crowd into interior cabins while refusing to permit them from staying in more comfortable and much better ventilated guest cabins.

Read our article in May 2020 titled: “Ridiculously Overcrowded” Norwegian Escape Sails to Miami” as well as an article by the Daily Mail (in the U.K.) which also focused on several thousands of crew members sailing on the Norwegian Escape to Miami “as staff complain about tiny shared rooms.”

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From time to time, I receive letters and emails from crew members on cruise ships around the world. I typically don’t publish them. But after communicating back and forth with this ship employee, I promised to bring awareness to her situation and that of other employees on the ship. The crew member sent me photos of typical plates of food served to crew members in quarantine. But she was afraid to take a photo of her interior cabin out of concern that it may lead to NCL learning of her identity and terminating her employment. Here is her letter:

“Here’s what’s happening to me and fellow crew members on the Norwegian Sky:

Currently the ship is going through dry dock in Brest, France. When the ship arrived in Brest in late December 2021, it was Covid-Free. With the arrival of contractors onboard the ship, we started to see the first covid cases. First the contractors and then the crew.

As per our company’s policies, crew joining have to test negative to board the vessel and then quarantine for 7-10 days. Most are assigned to crew cabins, many in interior cabins with no windows. If lucky enough to land in a guest cabin with a balcony, we receive food which is delivered to our cabins cold, bland and tasteless. Few or many times no vegetables. Prison food must be better then this.

The crew channels on TV play the same films over and over again. Internet is slow and the cabins very small. This is no place to stay in quarantine 24 hours a day for 7 to 10 days.

By mid January, there was over 150 crew cases of covid. There are now over 300.

Many of us in internal  cabins have no access to fresh air or daylight. Stale air, darkness,  poor food and covid are a perfect mix to erode our emotions and compromise our mental state of mind.

Prisoners get better conditions than this in some European nations.

Life on the outside of the cabins isn’t much better. Crew who are not in quarantine can eat & go to work. That’s it. Social distancing is taking place onboard, crew must sit no more than two to a table. We cannot socialize outside of work hours and must return to our cabins after we finish our work.

We have no access to gyms. There is no way to exercise. It has become accepted that we should be able to live like this and never complain.

This attempt at living is not normal nor acceptable. There is always going to be people around the world who would say that they would love to be on a cruise like this or say that “we put ourselves in this situation.” But no person should be treated like this.  These prison-like conditions are not good for anyone.

The ship is not currently in operation but, soon, in one month’s time, it will be back at sea. It’s widely spoken that there will still be no shore leave for the crew.

Stripping away our little freedoms like this is harmful to out minds and souls. Those in quarantine in interior spaces on a ship filled with people who are covid-positive or ill and stuck in small cabins without windows places too much misery on all of us.”

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January 31, 2022 Update:

If you are a crew member and have information which you wish to share, please contact us via the report a tip link. We promise to keep your identity completely anonymous and strictly confidential.

Photo credit: Norwegian Sky – One Cyclone Source CC BY-SA 3.0,

Last week, a federal district court (Judge Darrin P. Gayles) in Miami issued an arrest warrant for the Crystal Symphony because the luxury cruise ship is millions of dollars in arrears in unpaid fuel bills.

Judge Gayles signed the order of seizure which directs U.S. marshals to “arrest the defendant vessel, her boats, tackle, apparel and furniture, engines and appurtenances, and to detain the same in your custody pending further order of the court.”

Peninsula Petroleum Far East filed a lawsuit in Miami last week against the Crystal Symphony, Crystal Cruises and Star Cruises for unpaid fuel bills.

Parent company to Crystal Cruises, Genting Hong Kong, stated last week that it would run out of cash by the end of this month. Crystal Cruises also announced it would suspend operations through April.

According to Cruise Industry News, total claims are $1.2 million against the Crystal Symphony, $2.1 million against Crystal Cruises, and $1.3 million against Star Cruises. USA TODAY reported that Peninsula Petroleum Far East is looking to recover just over $4.6 million from Crystal Cruises and Star Cruises. They are seeking more than $1.2 million from the Crystal Symphony vessel alone.

The Crystal Symphony was scheduled to end its cruise in Miami but changed course for the Bahamas instead.  The seizure order cannot be enforced outside of the United States. If the owners and/or operators of a legally seized ship do not satisfy the debt that the ship incurred or post a bond, the U.S. Marshall’s Office has authority to sell the ship at auction.

This motivated this cruise line to avoid a U.S. port and evade the arrest warrant for its cruise ship by changing the ship’s itinerary to the feckless islands of the Bahamas.

Passengers were notified of this last minute change of plans. They were advised that they would be taken to the island of Bimini in the Bahamas where a ferry would take them to Florida.

The terms and conditions of the Crystal Cruises’ cruise ticket permits the company to legally change the itinerary of its cruise ships and drop ports of call.  Paragraph nine (9) titled “Itinerary/Right To Change/Detentionstates in part:

“Crystal Cruises reserves the right at its sole option and discretion and that of the Captain of the Ship without liability for damages or refund of any kind, to deviate from the Ship’s advertised or ordinary itinerary or route, to delay, advance or cancel any sailing, to omit or change ports of call, to arrange for substantially equivalent transportation by another vessel and/or by other means of transportation, to cause the Guest to disembark from the Ship temporarily or permanently . . .”

The relationship between cruise lines and passengers is largely a matter of contract law.  Cruise lines have diligently spent years drafting one-sided, onerous conditions which their defense lawyers have updated into cruise passenger tickets.

Altering an itinerary to evade an arrest order signed by a Federal District Court judge in Miami to keep your cruise ship from being sold to satisfy millions of dollars in unpaid fuel bills?  Indifferent and powerless countries like the Bahamas, where Crystal registers most of its cruise ships, could not care less. And U.S. travelers who chose a so-called “luxury” cruise line may be disappointed that a company which doesn’t pay its bills and then evades the law would behave like this. But this is business as usual for the cruise lines. And cruise guests unwittingly have already agreed to permit the cruise line to change their cruise itineraries at the company’s sole option and discretion by purchasing their cruise tickets.

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Image credit: Crystal Symphony – USA TODAY Arrest warrant issued for Crystal Cruises ship due to unpaid fuel bills, passengers, crew still on board.

January 23, 2022 Late Afternoon Update: 

USA TODAY interviewed me and another maritime lawyers in Miami – Crystal Symphony changed course, kept passengers an extra day. Can cruise ships do that?