Atlantis Events advertises its upcoming “Largest Gay Cruise in History” aboard the “incredible Harmony of the Seas” as the “most outrageously fun cruise Atlantis has ever created! . . . a star-studded festival of pure fun and excitement unlike anything you’ve ever imagined.” Scheduled for February 4th to 12th, the cruise promises “8 fabulous nights packed full of awe-inspiring parties, superstar performers, great friends, and endless surprises.”

Atlantis Events also promises that “every moment on an Atlantis cruise is an opportunity to share, be it your name, your story, costume, or something a bit more scandalous.”

Last year, the New York Times published an article by Ceylan Yeginsu quoting an Atlantis Events’ partygoer saying “this is going to be the wildest party for our community in two years. I’m talking dirty dancing, sex, drugs, raves, orgies . . . ” But this year, Atlantis has a new rule it threatens to enforce. In an email recently sent to the over 5,000 guests who are booked on the cruise, it claims that it will disembark (without refund) any guest who publishes any photos or videos of “anything explicitly sexual on social media.”

Atlantis Events’ New Social Media Policy

Atlantis has apparently tried to modify its terms and condition via an email which states:

“Important – New Social Media Policy – While we want everyone to have fun, there are limits and so we ask that you be respectful of all guests and our cruise partners. Please do not post anything explicitly sexual on social media in a public forum or other online space. Any guest who posts or publishes an explicit and publicly visible photo or video will be asked to leave the ship with no refund. This also applies to any private media posts (whether or not behind a paywall) that identify or could identify either Atlantis, our vendor brands, their properties, or any other guests with or without permission. We take this seriously and have a team of volunteers monitoring most sites. Thank you for understanding and keeping Atlantis friendly!”

The person who sent me this email asks rhetorically “wouldn’t one think keeping Atlantis friendly would mean banning public drug use rather than trying to ban people from photographing and posting public sex?”

An Ugly History of Overdoses, Arrests and Death Due to Drugs

A good questions I suppose considering that medical emergencies (often drug overdoses) are not uncommon on Royal Caribbean cruises chartered by Atlantis Events. For that matter, Atlantis Events cruises have been plagued by drug use, passengers going overboard and drug-related shipboard deaths over the years.

The last ten years have involved numerous overdoses, arrests and at least five drug-related deaths on Royal Caribbean cruises chartered to Atlantis:

Last year, a guest attending the Atlantis Events cruise aboard the Oasis of the Sea died as the Royal Caribbean cruise ship was heading to Mexico due to drug use complicated by inadequate medical care.

In February 2019, federal agents arrested two men trying to board the Allure of the Seas at PortMiami for possession of a large quantity of drugs which they were intending to sell on the cruise ship which had been chartered by Atlantis Events. Local News 10  reported that after the men arrived at PortMiami, a drug sniffing canine alerted its handler to their luggage which contained MDMA (ecstasy), ketamine, Viagra, Adderall and GHB.

In January 2018, Storm Chasers’ star Joel Taylor died of a suspected overdose on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Harmony of the Seas, which had been chartered by Atlantis Events. According to TMZ and other tabloid websites, passengers on the Royal Caribbean ship stated that “drugs on the party boat were plentiful.” Rosie Spinks, a talented reporter who worked for Quartz at that time, reported on Mr. Taylor’s drug death in an article titled A Reality Star’s Death Exposed the Dangerous Party Culture on Gay Cruises.

In February 2012, an Atlantis Events attendee went overboard from the Allure of the Seas operated by Royal Caribbean. His body was never recovered and he is presumed to be dead. (There was no clear indication that the overboard was directly related to drug use on the ship).

Shortly before the Royal Caribbean/Atlantis 20th Anniversary cruise in February 2011, I questioned Is Royal Caribbean Ready for Medical Emergencies During the World’s Largest Gay Cruise?  I asked why Royal Caribbean tolerated the widespread use of drugs on its ships during Atlantis Events cruise parties.

A week later,  cruise passenger, Barry Krumholz, was arrested for selling large quantities of ecstasy pills, methamphetamine, ketamine and other drugs aboard the Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas chartered by Atlantis Events. There were reportedly a half-dozen drug overdoses during the cruise.

In 2010, there was another passenger death on the Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas which had been chartered to Atlantis Events. There was widespread discussion regarding the use of drugs during Atlantis Events sponsored events.

In 2009, a passenger died after he reportedly took drugs during a cruise aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship which had been chartered for the use of Atlantis Events. Spencer Yu, an attorney for Warner Brothers and a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (“GLAAD”), died on the Mariner of the Seas. The medical care was described by party goers as delayed and haphazard.

Can and Will the New Social Media Policy Be Enforced?

The irony is that Atlantis Events requires all guests to agree to authorize the “full unencumbered right in perpetuity and throughout the universe to use your photograph, image, name and likeness in video, and voice in any media of any of kind now known or hereinafter devised, including the right to assign and authorize your photograph, your image, name and likeness in video, for Atlantis’ promotion, advertising or any other lawful purposes, without limitations, at Atlantis’s sole discretion . . . “

In other word, Atlantis Events can use photos or video of guests however it sees fit but guests cannot post photos or videos of what actually happens on the cruise.

From a legal perspective, it is questionable that a concessionaire can legally impose new rules (in addition to the terms and conditions in a cruise ticket which is considered to be the legally binding contract with guests), via an email, sent after the guests had already booked their cruises.

It is also questionable whether an entertainment concessionaire, as opposed to the captain and/or vessel owner/operator, has the legal authority to force a passenger from the cruise ship in a foreign port (the cruise includes Haiti, Aruba and Curacao).

As a practical matter, it also seems difficult for either Atlantis Events or Royal Caribbean to actually enforce this new social media policy despite Atlantis’ claims of a “team of volunteers monitoring most sites.”

The question is not just why Atlantis Events thought that it should try to prevent posting of sexually explicit photos and video of this sexually charged public event in such an amateurish, last-minute way. The real question is why has Atlantis Events has not made at least an equal effort to prevent the use of recreational party drugs which have claimed so many lives during these type of cruises.

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Image credit: Atlantis Events and Royal Caribbean Cruises.

February 1, 2023 Update:

With the Atlantis Events – Royal Caribbean “largest gay party in the world” (on Harmony of the Seas fast approaching (on Feb 4th), it’s time to re-read Should Atlantis Events come with a warning label? by the Los Angeles Blade.

“Circuit party cruises, drugs & obfuscation (mixed together on a cruise ship registered in the Bahamas and operated by a line incorporated in Liberia) – you worried?”

Stay tuned . . .

February 7, 2023 Update:

Today BuzzFeed News covered this story:

Last week, a 27 year-old guest filed a lawsuit against Princess Cruises and Park West Gallery alleging that an art auctioneer raped her on the Sky Princess cruise ship. The woman contends that an employee of the art concessionaire, Park West Gallery, raped her in a closet on the ship while she was drunk. The Daily Beast first reported the alleged crime.

Allegations in the Lawsuit

The young woman subsequently learned that she contracted HIV during the shipboard rape. The Daily Beast reported yesterday that the suit alleges that:

” . . . she was shoved into a closet by the assailant, who raped her. Despite being too intoxicated to fight him off, the plaintiff repeatedly said no according to the lawsuit; days later, after experiencing abnormal symptoms, she went to get tested by medical professionals and was diagnosed with HIV in February of 2022. ‘Plaintiff did not have any type of sexual contact with another person since early 2020,” thereby confirming that the rape led to plaintiff’s HIV diagnosis, the suit states.'”

The guest is represented by Miami maritime lawyer Michael Winkleman of the Lipcon law firm.

Cruise Line Face Strict Vicarious Liability for Shipboard Crimes

Under governing U.S. maritime law, owners and operators of cruise ships may be legally responsible when ship employees of the cruise line or shipboard concessionaires commit crimes against passengers on the ship. In Doe v. Celebrity Cruises, 394 F.3d 891 (11th Cir. 2004), the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal held that under federal maritime law, a cruise line is strictly liable when a crew member sexually assaults a passenger during a cruise, whether the cruise company employed the rapist or whether the cruise ship concessionaire employed the crew member which is the case here..

According to the Daily Beast, Park West Gallery operates on over 90 luxury cruise vessels run by Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises and others.

The lawsuit alleges that both Princess Cruises and the art concessionaire were negligent, and that the cruise line was vicariously liable for the criminal conduct of the art auctioneer.

If the guest proves that a non-consensual crime occurred, Princess Cruises will be legally responsible for the shipboard rape even though it did not directly employ the assailant nor did it have notice that he might commit the crime.

Shipboard Rapes Are the Most Frequent Crimes on Cruise Ships Reported to the Department of Transportation

Sexual assaults are the most common crimes on cruise ships reported to the Department of Transportation (DOT). In 2010, Congress passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act which required, for the first time, that cruise lines must report certain crimes, including sexual assaults, that happen on their ships.

From January 2019 through March 31, 2021 (when the cruise industry was shut down at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic), there were one hundred and twenty-nine (129) rapes reported on U.S. based cruise ships according to the DOT crime data. Of this number, there were fifty-three (53) rapes on Carnival Cruise Line ships, thirty-three (33) rapes on Royal Caribbean operated cruise ships, seventeen (17) rapes on NCL ships and four (4) rapes on Princess Cruises ships reported to the DOT. Most such alleged sex crimes on cruises go unprosecuted.

Our firm has handled over one hundred and twenty-five cases where women and children have been sexually assaulted during cruises.

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Image credit: Sky Princess – antonio / Flicker marantoni, CC BY 2.0 commons wikimedia (cropped).

This morning a reader of this blog sent me this TicTok video of the Harmony of the Seas.

La piscina del crucero Harmony of the Seas se desborda unos 9 pisos abajo luego que una ola golpeara el barco. Afortunadamebte no hubo heridos y luego de una inspección el crucero de Royal Caribbean continuó su rumbo a Mexico. #HarmonyOfTheSeas #Cruise #Caribbean #royalcaribbean#puntodevistanoti #ultimahora #noticias

♬ sonido original – Punto de vista

The text to the video translated states:

“The pool on the Harmony of the Seas cruise ship overflowed some 9 stories below after a wave hit the ship. Fortunately there were no injuries and after an inspection the Royal Caribbean cruise continued its course to Mexico.”

This explanation seems implausible given the fact a wave could not possibly reach the pool deck of this cruise ship. This video is now circulating on Twitter as well.

Whatever the explanation, it will be interesting to learn how this much water could cascade over the top deck of this ship. Is there anyone with knowledge regarding what happened?

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Video Credit: TicTok

January 4, 2023 Update:

Several readers posted comments that the Royal Caribbean ship apparently took an evasive maneuver to avoiding striking a small raft, which turned out to be empty.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, parent company of NCL, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, terminated nine percent of its shoreside workforce earlier this week, according to the Miami Herald.  NCL did not explain why it was necessary to terminate nearly a tenth of its employees, particularly during the holiday season. Meanwhile, NCLH promoted its CEO’s son to a lucrative position (see below) as president of a NCLH brand, Oceania Cruises.

NCL released a conclusory and gobbledygook statement that it took “several prudent actions across our business to align with our strategic priorities.”

The Miami Herald referred to NCL’s SEC filing which said that “cost minimization initiatives” in order to achieve “sustained, profitable growth” were what caused the layoffs.

Cruise Industry News said NCLH has over 3,500 full-time shoreside employees (per its 2021 Environmental Report), meaning layoffs could total over 300 employees.

The Rich Get Richer

The Miami Herald pointed out that “Frank Del Rio, NCLH CEO (photo above), has come under fire in recent years for his salary.” Reuters reported that there was “rising opposition” to CEO Del Rio’s high pay pay tied to “questionable practices.”

“While the industry was in crisis and laying off thousands of workers during the pandemic as the company lost up to 150 million dollars a month, Del Rio made $36.4 million in 2020. He took in $22.6 million in 2021.”

CEO Del Rio (senior) is by far the highest paid cruise executive in the world. Including his compensation in 2015 of nearly $31,000,000, he had earnings of over $129,000,000 for a five year period, including $22,590,000 in 2018, $17,808,000 in 2019, $36,400,000 in 2020 and $22,600,000 in 2021.

As Skift revealed, Del Rio’s exorbitant income is over 1,000 times more than the median wage at NCL of $19,319.

In 2021, the New York Times included Del Rio (senior) in an article titled “C.E.O. Pay Remains Stratospheric, Even at Companies Battered by Pandemic” where it wrote:

“Norwegian Cruise Line barely survived the year. With the cruise industry at a standstill, the company lost $4 billion and furloughed 20 percent of its staff. That didn’t stop Norwegian from more than doubling the pay of Frank Del Rio, its chief executive, to $36.4 million.”

Like Father Like Son

While NCL was unceremoniously terminated thousands of its employees, it announced that Del Rio’s son, 44-year-old Frank Del Rio Jr., was promoted to president of Oceania Cruises. To make way for Del Rio’s son, the current president of Oceania, Howard Sherman, will be replaced and will assume the position of what NCLH is calling a “special advisor.”

Frank Jr.’s employment contract is attached and provides:

  • Base annual salary of  $500,000.00;
  • Incentive bonus;
  • Equity award;
  • Retirement, Welfare and Fringe Benefits;
  • Medical Executive Reimbursement Plan;
  • Cash car allowance of $1,500.00 per month / $18,000 per year; and
  • Paid vacation of four (4) weeks  per year and “all other holiday and leave pay generally available to other similarly situated executives of the Company.”

Skift reported this summer that Del Rio Sr.’s “car allowance alone was (a whopping) $27,600″ ($2,300 a month).”  The new cruise executive Del  Rio (Junior) also stands to collect many millions of dollars in incentive bonuses and equity awards in addition to his $500,000 salary.

NCL Jacks Up Its Service  Fees 

Earlier this month, we reported that NCL is drastically increasing its service charges by an unprecedented 25% for most cabins, effective January 1, 2023. NCL’s guests staying in The Haven and other suites will face a $5 increase to a whopping total of $25 per person per day.

Del Rio senior has developed a reputation of being a greedy cruise tycoon who has gouged its customers before, with extra higher charges, including increased room services charges, automatic gratuities, restaurant cover charges, service fees for continental breakfast room service, and every other imaginable expense that customers could possibly be “nickeled and dimed” for.

Even the regular cruise bloggers and cruise cheerleaders like The Points Guy (Gene Sloan) are calling NCL’s latest fee hike “unprecedented” and “enormously” high. Mr. Sloan writes:

“With the increase, a family of four staying in a suite will pay a cool $700 in service fees during a typical seven-night cruise — a level never before seen in the cruise business.”

The popular @CruiseGuy (Stewart Chiron) tweeted “YIKES!” NCL “to further hike cruise service charges to levels never before seen in cruising.”

The Crew Members Continue to Get Screwed

A portion of the money generated on NCL’s cruise ships by the increased fees will go toward non-tip earners (like kitchen staff, cleaners, etc.) to defray the wages that NCL pays. And some of the fees described by cruise cheerleaders as “unprecedented” and “enormously” high fees will go toward NCL’s profits and executive salaries, as I explained in NCL Increases Service Fees Again – But Will NCL’s Crew Remain Underpaid While CEO Del Rio Continues to be Paid an Average of $25,000,000 a Year?

Tis the Christmas Season (Bah Humbug?)

For hundreds of fired NCL shoreside employees, it will be a bleak holiday season. But for the Del Rios, junior and senior, they can begin to think about what luxury cars to lease with their $3,800 a month (more than $45,000 a year) car allowances, which is several times greater than the mean NCL compensation of just $19,319.

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Image Credit: Frank Del Rio (senior) – Mark Elias/Bloomberg via Getty Images and Storify.

A 36 year-old woman went overboard from the MSC Meraviglia as the cruise ship was returning to Port Canaveral early this morning. News accounts indicate that she could not be rescued after she sustained “fatal injuries,” according to MSC Cruises.

The U.S. Coast Guard tweeted this morning: “A 36-year-old woman’s body was recovered from the water approximately 18 miles offshore Port Canaveral Thursday morning after she went overboard the cruise ship Meraviglia. The cause of the incident is under investigation.”

MSC Cruises released a statement earlier today that the ship’s “advanced detection systems” alerted staff to an overboard passenger. MSC Cruises stated that “Unfortunately, despite the rapid rescue operation, the passenger sustained fatal injuries.”

A passenger aboard the ship told local FOX 35 that “around 5 a.m. a female voice came over the loudspeaker saying ‘attention! Man overboard, Port side.’  A few minutes later, an emergency horn was blared and passengers were asked to stay in their rooms.”

MSC Cruises is one of the very few responsible cruise lines which have installed automatic man overboard (MOB) systems (on at least this ship). MOB systems immediately send a visual and audio signal which alerts the bridge that a person has gone over the rails so that the ship can promptly begin emergency rescue efforts. The technology utilizes video, motion detection and radar systems to record the person who goes overboard from the ship. It also detects and tracks the person in the water, even at night.

We have criticized MSC in the past because crew members and passengers have disappeared from MSC ships without this type of technology.

In 2017, we reported that MSC Cruises announced that it had installed a state-of-the-art man overboard system on the MSC Meraviglia and is planning to deploy similar systems across its fleet of cruise ships.

MSC Cruises indicated that it developed an “intelligent video capturing and analysis system” in collaboration with “security technology experts, Bosch and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.” The Swiss-based cruise line announced that it has tested the new man overboard system on the company’s newest ship which debuted in June (2017).  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%.”

The MOB data and images are analyzed 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,” according to  Seatrade Cruise News.”MSC Cruises announced MSC Meraviglia is fitted with an integrated video surveillance system to optimize security monitoring on board the ship and which will allow, among other features, for the speediest intervention in the unlikely event a person or object falls overboard.”

In July 2019, a cruise guest in her 40’s went overboard from the MSC Meraviglia but was promptly rescued after the auto MOB alerted the crew that she went overboard.

Unfortunately. MSC Cruises says (in a statement below per FOX13) that the woman in this latest overboard case sustained “fatal injuries,” apparently from the fall:

“Early this morning, MSC Meraviglia advanced detection systems alerted our crew to a passenger overboard while the ship was sailing to Port Canaveral. The crew performed an immediate search and rescue operation, alongside the US Coast Guard who supported search efforts with boats and a helicopter. 

Unfortunately, despite the rapid rescue operation, the passenger sustained fatal injuries. We are offering our full support to authorities as they investigate this matter. 

We are deeply saddened by this incident and offer our sincerest condolences to the family and those affected.” 

We are not aware whether MSC Cruises has installed similar MOB systems on other ships in its fleet. To our knowledge, Disney Cruises is the only other cruise line to invest in the MOB technology.

According to Cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein, 375 people have gone overboard in the last 25 years or so.  On November 24, a 28 year-old man went overboard from the Carnival Valor but was rescued over 21 hours later. Just yesterday, a 23 year old woman from P&O Cruises (Australia) Pacific Explorer went overboard and was recovered dead over 7 hours later. Neither one of these Carnival Corp-owned ships hasMOB systems installed.

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Image credit: Estormiz – CC0 commons / wikimedia.

December 17, 2022 Update:

This video contains comments that the woman allegedly jumped as an apparent suicide:

This video contains a detailed account of the timeline of events:

A young woman went overboard from the Pacific Explorer cruise ship and was found dead in the water approximately seven and one-half hours later. She is the 374 person who has gone overboard from a cruise ship or ferry in the last 25 years, according to cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein.

Her identity has not been publicly disclosed yet. She disappeared from the P&O Cruises (Australia) cruise ship around 11:30 p.m. on December 13, 2022 but she was not reported missing until around midnight due to the failure of the ship to install a man overboard system.  At the time of the overboard, the ship was sailing off the South Australian coast near Cape Jaffa. The cruise ship turned around and then searched for the woman. A helicopter involved in the search located the woman’s lifeless body around 7:00 a.m. on December 14, 2022 (Australian time).

Like all other cruise ships owned by Carnival Corp. and operated by Carnival owned cruise brands, the Pacific Explorer was not equipped with available automatic man overboard (MOB) technology which would have instantly notified the bridge officers that a person went over the railings of the ship and into the water. The automatic MOB technology utilizes motion detection and radar systems which automatically sends a signal to the bridge and tracks the overboard person in the water, even at night, so that the ship can immediately begin search and rescue maneuvers.  Without such systems, which cost than $500,000 to install, the chances of locating a  person in the ocean, particularly at night, are akin to searching for a needle in a haystack.

To our knowledge only Disney Cruises and one cruise ship operated by MSC Crises (MSC Meraviglia) have installed the auto MOB systems.

The MSC Meraviglia state of the art automatic man overboard “intelligent video” system  was developed in collaboration with security technology experts, Bosch and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. MSC Cruises tested the new man overboard system on this cruise ship which debuted in June of 2017. 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%.”

The man overboard data and images are analyzed 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, according to the Seatrade magazine.

The fact that no Carnival Corp. owned cruise brand installs such life saving technology systems makes an utter mockery of Carnival’s marketing slogan that the “safety of its guests is its highest priority.” It is disgraceful that none of the over 90 cruise ships operated by Carnival Cruise Line, Princess, Holland America Line, P&O Cruises, P&O Cruises Australia and other Carnival Corp. cruise brands utilize such systems.

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Image credit: Pacific Explorer7News via Daily Mail “Tragedy as young woman is found dead after she fell overboard off a cruise ship near the coast of Australia.

The Celebrity Eclipse docked in Sydney, Australia with, depending upon which news outlet you read, anywhere from 100 to over 1,500 people infected with COVID-19.

The Daily Mail reports that “far more than 1,500 people” on the cruise ship operated by Celebrity Cruises were positive for COVID-19.

The Australian newspaper reports that around 300 people on the ship, which just completed a cruise to New Zealand, were infected.  

9News reports that around 100 tested positive on the cruise  ship, after mentioning that the NSW government classified the ship as a “tier two” (30-99 positive cases per 1,000 people) and further clarifying that 4% of the ship was positive for coronavirus (the Celebrity Eclipse has around 2,850 passengers and approximately 1,271 crew members).

The newspapers also quoted different passenger capacities for the Celebrity ship ranging from 2,850 to 3,420.

It does not appear that any of the Australian newspapers are including the number of infected ship employees in their estimates.

Cruise lines refuse to voluntarily disclose the total number of infected people (guests and crew members) who become infected on their cruise ships. 9News says that says that according to Celebrity Cruises, about 4 per cent of people on the cruise ship are positive with COVID-19. Celebrity chose not to disclose disclose the number of guests and crew on the ship, the total number of people infected on the ship or whether the percentage includes both guests and crew members.

There have been a consistently large number of COVID-19 outbreaks on cruise ships calling on Australian ports.

Majestic Princess – 800 infected guests (Sydney)

Quantum of the Seas – 400 infected guests (heading toward Queensland);

Queen Elizabeth – Between 310 and 465 guests and crew (10 to 15 percent of nearly 2,100 passengers and around 1,000 crew members) (blocked by Bali);

Coral Princess – 290 infected guests and crew (Fremantle);

Grand Princess – 200 infected guests (Melbourne);

Ovation of the Seas – 129 infected guests and 2 crew member (New Zealand)

Majestic Princess – 116 infected guests (Tahiti).

Princess Cruises’ Majestic Princess, which docked in Sydney on Thursday, has also been classed as a “tier 2” cruise ship. Princess will not disclose the number of guests or crew infected. But “tier 2” means that the ship has between around 120 and approximately 400 infected guests and crew given its capacity of 3,560 passengers and 1,346 crew members. As noted above, Majestic Princess had as many as 800 infected guests a month ago.

According to the Daily Mail, “40,194 cases were confirmed in New South Wales (this week) and 48 people died in the past seven days (in the territory). The ‘fourth-wave’ of Covid infections currently underway is a mix of several variants, including BA4 and BA5, BQ1.1, XBB and BA 2.75.”

The newspaper quotes Deakin University epidemiologist Catherine Bennett who bizarrely says “the fact that so many cases were identified is a good thing, comparatively speaking. . . because many thousands more people who have the virus but don’t know it would be in Sydney’s workplaces, entertainment venues, shops and schools right now. These are 1500 cases that we know about, they will be advised to play it safe wear masks and isolate. They are not adding a lot to the infection in community because infection rates are already up.”

Does this epidemiologist really think that unloading 1,500 infected tourists will not cause an increase in disease into the local community leading to the involvement of costly shoreside medical providers, hospitalization, an occasional death and the effects of long COVID?

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Image Credit: Celebrity Eclipse (top) – Pjotr Mahhonin – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons  /wikimedia.

A number of travel publications are reporting that Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is drastically increasing its service charges by an unprecedented 25% for most cabins, effective January 1, 2023. NCL’s new rate for most passenger cabins will increase $4 from the current $16 a cabin to $20 cabin per person per day. NCL’s guests staying in The Haven and other suites will face a $5 increase to a whopping total of $25 per person per day. Again the service fees is per person, per day! 

Even the regular cruise bloggers and cruise cheerleaders are jazzed up by the high fees. The Points Guy (Gene Sloan) calls NCL’s fees “unprecedented” and “enormously” high. Mr. Sloan writes:

“With the increase, a family of four staying in a suite will pay a cool $700 in service fees during a typical seven-night cruise — a level never before seen in the cruise business.”

Other cruise line like  Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean apply service charges ranging from $14.50 per person per day to $16 per person per day. Even with some recent increases, these lines “still doesn’t come close to what Norwegian plans to start charging.”

The CEO of NCL’s parent company, Frank Del Rio, has steadily increased service charges and incidental fees for room service and other cruise services across the board. In our article titled Back to “Nickel and Diming” Again: Norwegian Cruise Line Jacks Up Gratuities, we pointed out that the cruise tycoon Del Rio has gouged its customers before, with a maddening amount of 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.”

CEO Del Rio is by far the highest paid cruise executive in the world. Including his compensation in 2015 of nearly $31,000,000, he had earnings of over $126,000,000 for a five year period, including $22,590,000 in 2018, $17,808,000 in 2019,$36,400,000 in 2020 and $19,700,000 in 2021.

Skift wrote this summer, in support of the conclusion that Del Rio is overpaid, that NCL’s shareholders overwhelmingly rejected his compensation package at NCLH’s annual meeting June 16th. “The non-binding vote won’t keep Del Rio from keeping the $19.7 million he got paid last year. But it was the second straight year the company’s shareholders turned thumbs down: Del Rio’s $36.4 million 2020 pay, as the industry all but foundered, was disapproved in a 5-1 vote.”

Income inequality and the disparity between cruise-industry CEO tycoons bosses and their ship employees is the largest in the travel industry. Skift explained that cruise-industry wages are “low because the companies hire heavily in developing nations . . .  The median wage at Norwegian is $19,319, compared with $14,706 at Royal Caribbean Group and $8,658 at Carnival Corp. (Del Rio’s car allowance alone was $27,600, more than his median staffer’s total pay).”

Meanwhile, according to Skift, “execs at Royal Caribbean (Richard Fain – $15.8 million) and Carnival (Arnold Donald – $15.1 million) have also cashed in big. At all three, CEOs make more than 1,000 times the pay of the median worker at their companies.”

So I suppose there’s nothing really new with this story. The premise is the same: Overpaid cruise executive Del Rio again jacks up his cruise line’s fees. Someone has to pay the greedy executive’s average income of $25,000,000 a year. We’ve  written about it time and time again. But what about the hard working ship employees working over 12 hours per day for 7 days a week, 30 days a month?  Remember, those men and women who work away from their families for 6 to 10 months straight without a break yet earn 1,000 times earn less than this fat-cat executive who earns an average of $25,000,000 a year?  Are the increased fees going directly to the shipboard crew?

The answer is a clear “no.” NCL explains in a section on its website “what is the onboard service charge?” that “behind-the-scenes support staff (in addition to restaurant staff and stateroom stewards) are compensated by a combination of salary and incentive programs that your service charge supports.” So NCL takes the service charges and, in its sole discretion, pools the money and apparently divides it up. Yes, some unknown portion may go to the tip-earning stewards and waiters, but some portion of the money obviously goes toward non-tip earners (like kitchen staff, cleaners, etc.) to defray the wages that NCL pays.

Do some of these “unprecedented” and “enormously” high fees go toward NCL’s profits and executive salaries?

The answer is yes, by defraying NCL’s payroll expenses, the exorbitant fees clearly increase NCL’s profits. As far as CEO & executive salaries, NCL is not saying, but take your best guess.

Another cruise cheerleader, Cruise Hive, recently wrote about NCL’s exorbitant daily gratuities which are “part of a broader initiative across the cruise industry increased prices, limited options, and fee increases.” But Cruise Hive explained that “paying gratuities is never mandatory, and should you feel that the service level needs to improve, you can opt-out.”

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Image credit: NCLH CEO Frank Del Rio – CNBC

Last Friday, December 2nd, a number of newspapers in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) reported on the COVID-19-related death of a cruise passenger in St. Thomas.

The Virgin Islands Consortium reported that “a critically ill cruise ship passenger needed emergency care shortly before arriving in St. Thomas. Upon arrival the individual was taken to the Schneider Regional Medical Center but later succumbed to the illness.

The newspaper further reported that the cruise guest was transported to the hospital from the WICO (West Indies dock) dock on November, 29.

Cruise Ship Passenger Dies of COVID-19 After Hospitalization on STT

None of the newspapers disclosed which cruise ship the infected guest arrived on, nor the number of infected passengers or crew members on the cruise ship. No cruise line, of course, admitted to the infection leading to the death of their customer during the cruise.

It appears that three cruise ships called on St. Thomas (and ported at the WICO facility) on November 29th: NCL’s Norwegian Escape (photo right), Princess Cruises’ Sky Princess (photo below) and Silversea Cruises’ Silver Moon. 

NCL lifted its ban on unvaccinated passengers in early September with NCL CEO Del Rio touting that easing vaccine and testing protocols would “expand the addressable cruise market.” All other cruise lines relaxed their vaccination and testing requirements as well. Not surprisingly, cruise ships sailing to the Caribbean with 3,000 to 4,000 passengers typically have an average of several hundred passengers infected with COVID-19. With over 8,000 people potentially ashore on November 29th, there were undoubtedly many cruise infected guests who visited the island.

The exact number of infected cruise guests / crew members  on the Norwegian Escape (4,248 guests), Sky Princess (3,560 guests), and Silver Moon (596 guests) when these cruise ships arrived in St. Thomas on November 29th is not publicly known. 

The U.S. Virgin Islands, which has a relatively low death total due to COVID-19 of just 125, made a point of stressing that the dead cruise guest was not infected in the territory and therefore would not be included in the official COVID statistics.

It was just a year ago that the Disney Fantasy called on the West Indies Co. dock in St. Thomas but the port authority did not permit anyone to disembark because there were positive COVID-19 cases aboard the cruise ship.  As of March of this year, the Virgin Islands health commission did not permit cruise ships, with active COVID cases exceeding a 3% threshold, to disembark in the islands (cruise lines were requesting a 4 percent infection rate).

The St. Thomas Source covered this latest story, writing “the latest death is a reminder that the COVID-19 virus remains a threat despite the relaxation of masking and distancing mandates, and the department continues to encourage the public to become fully vaccinated and boosted.”

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Photo credit: St. Thomas Source “125th COVID-Related Death Confirmed by Health Department;” Norwegian Escapekees torn – SA 2.0 commons / wikimedia; Sky Princess antonio -, CC BY 2.0 commons / wikimedia.

On December 1, 2022, a lifeboat from Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas detached from its davits and fell aft-first into the water.

Captain Francesco Suma explained that the ship’s number 12 lifeboat, on the port side of the vessel, “hit the deck of the cruise ship, before falling over the side and into the water. As it settled into the water, the bow of the lifeboat also struck the side of the cruise ship. The lifeboat was retrieved with large dents and cracks on the starboard aft corner of the lifeboat, as well as damage to the fiberglass underside of the lifeboat.”

The lifeboat accident occurred during what appears to have been crew training or tendering operations.

You can watch a video by Royal Caribbean showing lifeboat testing being conducted by the company at a port in Barbados (screengrab image top).

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

Empty Lifeboat Accidents

In December 2018, a lifeboat broke free from the Carnival Dream in the Gulf of Mexico as the Carnival cruise ship was sailing back to New Orleans on December 30th. Initial reports suggested that the lifeboat (photo right) sheered from the davit hook and fell into the water. Fortunately, there was no one in the lifeboat at the time.

Earlier in 2018,  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.

In 2017, 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.

Many Deadly Lifeboat Accidents

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. Five of the crew were killed and three 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 Quantum of the Seas  lifeboat failure in an article posted by the popular Cruise Hive blog.

Quantum of the Seas is on a 10-night round-trip cruise from Brisbane, Australia, and was visiting Mystery Island in Vanuatu on the day of the incident, according to Cruise Hive.

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Screengrab of Royal Caribbean testing lifeboats from Quantum of the Seas– Royal Caribbean; video of Quantum of the Seas lifeboat accident – Kyle Davis YouTube; Carnival Dream lifeboat – Mumstravelblog.