A fire broke out this morning on the Carnival Freedom while the cruise ship was in Grand Turk. Fortunately, there are no injuries reported so far.

A large number of cruise guests posted images on Twitter of what appears to be a fire coming from inside the ship’s funnel. There is one popular blog that claims passengers were summoned to their muster stations and donned life jackets, and if true I wonder why they would be doing this given the fact that the ship was at port.  I also see lots of guests standing around taking videos including some guests who remained in the swiming pool.

Martime expert Bill Doherty posted on Facebook these comments: “Why wasn’t General Alarm for FIRE sounded and passengers and crew mustered, accounted for and non- essential persons, immediately evacuated???”

FOX35 Orlando published photos and video courtesy of cruise passenger Ricky Ruble (top). You can see many dozens of photographs and video of the large fire on Twitter.

Crew members from the Carnival Freedom, as well as from another Carnival cruise ship, the Mardi Gras, which was docked next to the burning ship, used hoses to extinquish the fire.

Carnival Cruise Line issued a PR statement, saying: “Carnival Freedom‘s emergency response team quickly activated and extinguished a fire inside the ship’s funnel while the ship was in Grand Turk. All guests and crew are safe, and the ship’s guests were cleared by local authorities to go ashore. We continue to assess the situation.”

There is no word yet from Carnival whether it will promptly fly its customers back to Florida and issue a full refund.

The ship should not be permitted to sail until there has been a full inspection by the vessel’s classification society with a conclusion that the ship is seaworthy and fit to sail back to Florida.  The incident is reminiscent of a similar fire on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas in July of 2015 when the ship was about to dock in Jamaica.You can see a video of that ship fire here.

In that case, neither the flag state nor the classification society nor the vessel’s underwriters nor the U.S. Coast Guard conducted a survey of the damage before the ship continued its cruise and no one began to conduct an investigation into the root cause of the fire.  As we wrote soon after the fire, Royal Caribbean had hired a engineering group in install a scrubber system which involved extensive welding operations while the ship was underway, rather than conduct such dangerous work during a dry dock.

Let’s see whether Carnival mishandles the situation like Royal Caribbean did.

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Image credit: Top – Fire on Carnival Freedom – Credit Ricky Ruble via FOX 25 Orlando; fire on the Carnival Freedom – Chuck Linder via @WPBF25News and @seaandcoast1; fire on the Freedom of the SeasRaymond Bower (middle); fire extinquished on Carnival Freedom – M&M Adventures (below).

Yesterday, CNBC reporter Seema Moody tweeted that Carnival Corporation (“Carnival”) was “in discussions to sell (its) Seabourn brand to the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.”

This development seems to have surprised some people, but is understandable in light of Carnival’s considerable financial troubles.

This week started ominously for Carnival with its stock (CCL) falling to a 52-week low of $11.56 per share.

According to one financial publication = Motley Fool, a securities analyst, Andrew Didora, lowered his price targets for Carnival to a price of only $18 per share (down from $22).

Analyst Didore voiced concerns with the “persistence of the still-evolving coronavirus pandemic outbreak” and the “massive levels of debt taken on by cruise ship operators forced to suspend their operations during the worst months of the pandemic.”

This news follows another article, from last Thursday, titled “Carnival: What No One Talks About” by the same publication (Motley Fool). The article revealed that Carnival took on a staggering amount of debt over the last two years in order to survive after it suspended cruise operation in March of  2020 due to COVID-19. Motley Fool wrote “Many industries in the U.S. received immense government assistance in the pandemic. Carnival received none. The company is incorporated in Panama to avoid some U.S. taxes. This strategy backfired big-time during the pandemic. Without government help, Carnival took on a gargantuan debt . . . ”

I was dumfounded to read that Carnival is servicing nearly $35,000,000,000 in debt.  To place this humongous billion dollar number in perspective, Carnival’s profits in the last year before the pandemic (2019) from all of its nine brands was a little over $3,000,000,000.

According to this article, even if Carnival were to combine all of the considerable profits in each of the seven years before the pandemic, and used every cent to try and pay down the debt, Carnival would still be underwater.  Plus, Carnival also has significant capital expenditures that must be made to maintain the fleet. This substantial debt, unsustainable cash flow, and the need to maintain its enormous fleet across its nine brands led to the conclusion that: “This is probably another reason Carnival is reducing its fleet. It simply cannot afford to keep it.”

Investorplace explained:

“To put things into perspective, Carnival reported total debt of $33.2 billion in Q4 2021. In the most recent quarter (Q1 2022), the total debt has swelled to $34.9 billion. High leverage also implies significant debt servicing cost. For Q1 2022, the company reported interest expense of $368 million. On an annualized basis, the interest cost is likely to be around $1.4 to $1.6 billion.”

Yesterday, Carnival’s stock plumetted by over 11% (along with Royal Caribbean and NCL stocks) due to concerns over crippling debt, disappointing cash flows, and the cost of maintaining its fleet of cruise ships – all the while trying to resume cruise operations under the spector of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Today, Carnival stock is now around $12 a share, down from almost $72 pre-pandemic.

In addition to its tremendous amount of debt, Carnival’s operating cash flow is not back to a sustainable level and Carnival’s first quarter (Q1 FY22) results missed expectations.  Carnival predicted a loss for next quarter (Q2 FY22).

Today, an Argus research analyst (John Staszak) downgraded Carnival Corp to a “hold” from a “buy” without a price target, saying that Carnival’s growth prospects have deteriorated with a “slow recovery from the Omicron surge amplified by a spike in fuel costs.” He predicted that Carnival’s debt and interest expenses will further increase, reflecting higher capital spending.

In my view, all of this information has painted a particularly dire picture of Carnival Corporation’s financial future. The cruise giant, which is comprised of nine cruise brands (Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess, Cunard, Costa, AIDA, P&O, P&O Australia and Seabourn) has already sold a number of its older cruise ships in the last two year to reduce its debt and avoid unnecessary capital expenditures. Most of these ships have been scrapped. The company now owns a total of 92 ships, down from 103 before the pandemic.

There has been talk about Carnival selling additional older ships to reduce its costs, although I had not heard of discussions about selling any of its brands until the tweet from the CNBC reporter yesterday.

CNBC published an article stating that Carnival is in preliminary discussions to sell its Seabourn “ultra-luxury cruise brand” to the Saudi sovereign wealth fund. Seabourn operates five ships – Seabourn Odyssey (right), Seabourn Sojourn, Seabourn Quest, Seabourn Encoreand Seabourn Ovation (top). The sale of the brandwould also give Carnival access to more capital, with shares losing over 40% in the past three months. The price tag for Seabourn wasn’t immediately clear.”

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund bought a significant interest (a little over 5%) in Carnival during the pandemic in 2020.

Carnival, which has a well deserved reputation for a lack of transparency, told CNBC that “it won’t comment on rumor or speculation.”

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Image credit: Top – Seabourn Ovation –  Kahvilokki – CC BY-SA 4.0 commons /  wikimedia; Seabourn Odyssey – Ivan T. CC BY-SA 3.0 commons / wikimedia.

The Jewel of the Seas sailed from Amsterdam on May 20th with 1,752 guests onboard the Royal Caribbean cruise ship. There were twelve (12) crew members and three (3) guests who initially tested positive for COVID-13. After two days of the cruise, the number of guests who tested positive for the virus increased to seven (7).

This information comes from a trusted source on the ship who wishes to remain anonymous. The crew member has provided accurate information in the past about the number of infected guests and crew members on this particular ship over the course of the last year. Like other cruise lines, Royal Caribbean does not voluntarily disclose information regarding the number of either infected guests or crew members, althought this information is invaluable to a comsumer evaluating the risk of becoming infected during a cruise.

The Jewel of the Seas is currently on a week long cruise around Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England. The ship is scheduled to return to Amsterdam on Friday, May 27th.

The ship has recetly focused on the fact that, according to Royal Caribbean, there has been an increase in the number of infected crew members, leading to a senior officer reminding the crew to wear KN95 masks on the ship.

The ship’s Staff Captain, Frank Jensen, recently sent this email to the crew:

“Good morning fellow Ship Mates,

We have unfortunately lately seen a spike in the COVID19 cases among our crew!

Please ensure following is strictly adhered to in order for us to break this inclining curve of C+ cases:

KN95 Masks are to be worn at all the times, except when in your cabin or when eating, drinking or smoking.

We will keep you posted.

Regards”

As far as passengers are concerned, the wearing of masks on the ship is strictly optional. As a practical matter, no guests seem to wear masks voluntarily. Royal Caribbean does not instruct guests to wear mask though it knows that COVID-19 cases are “spiking” among the crew.

As we previously reported, the Jewel of Seas had as many as one hundred (100) to two hundred (200) infected crew members at any given time late last year and earlier this year during a surge in cases as the Omicron variant emerged. The Jewel was one of three Royal Caribbean cruise ships (including the Serenade of the Seas and the Vision of the Seas) used by the cruise line as a floating quarantine hotel / walk-in clinic at sea for infected crew members. The ship previously would rendevous with other Royal Caribbean ships to pick up hundreds of other infected/ill crew members. It is our understanding that Royal Caribbean is no longer housing infected crew members on quarantine-ships after the Omicron variant surge largely abated. 

Nonetheless, it remains risky to board a cruise ship maskless, as Royal Caribbean seems to privately realize.

We will report regarding the number of infected crew and guests when the Jewel of the Seas returns to Amsterdam.

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Top – Jewel of the Seas – By Dave souza – CC BY-SA 2.5, commons / wikimedia; Jewel of the Seas – middle – Royal Caribbean Press Center.

Two weeks ago, on May 3rd, the largest cruise ship in the world, Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas, arrived in Palma de Mallorca billowing a think cloud of black smoke from its stacks.  The reality of this huge cruise ship belching out a huge plume of smoke over the Mediterranean port contrasted sharply with Royal Caribbean’s over-the-top marketing of the “World’s Newest Wonder” which touted two “advanced emission purification systems” which allegedly “remove 98% of sulfer emissions.”

Many residents, who tweeted images, below, of the toxic smoke emitting from the “mega cruise ship,”  denounced the “cloud of toxic smoke” over the city. 

A number of residents joined in retweeting the photos of the huge polluting cruise ship, with comments such as “The largest cruise ship on the planet arrives. The first thing it does is release a toxic cloud on Palma. They pollute, overcrowd, reduce health and pay tribute to tax havens . . . ”

The local newspaper, Diario de Mallorca, chronicled the protest in an article titled: The Megacruise ‘Wonder of the Seas’ in Palma: They Denounce the “Cloud of Toxic Smoke” Over the City. The newspaper reported that The Wonder of the Seas belongs to the latest generation of cruise ships that is characterized by its “gigantism.” It measures 64 meters wide, 362 meters long and a tonnage of 230,000 tons and can accommodate over 9,000 people (6,988 guests and a crew of 2,3000.

Comments made on social media include “the health and well-being of the population does not matter” and “bcause of its smoke, it robs us of our health.”

In addition to the protests ashore at the port, the protesters embarked on the Rafael Verdera sailing ship, which is the oldest active sailboat in Spain, to position themselves in front of the Wonder of the Seas with a banner stating that “we do not want any megacruiser in Palma.”

The newspaper also reported on the agreement reached by which Palma has become the first Spanish port – and the second in the Mediterranean after Dubrovnik – to limit the number of cruise ships to a maximum of three a day and, of them, only one can be a megacruiser with more than 5,000 guests and crew like the Wonder of the Seas.

Local ports which limit cruise ships do so for good reason. Cruise ships are a major source of air pollution which causes and/or contributes to a wide range of serious health problems such as respiratory ailments, lung disease, cancer and premature deaths. The pollutants from ship engines exhaust gases include sulfur oxides (SOx) as well as non-combustible particulate matter and black carbon.

Heavy fuel oil (HFO), sometimes referred to as bunker fuel, has historically been a low cost favorite of cruise ships. HFO has tar-like consistency which results from the residue of crude oil distillation. HFO is contaminated with several different compounds including sulfur and nitrogen, which makes HFO emissions far more toxic compared to low sulfur fuels.

Bunker fuel cannot be used without incombustible particles flying all over the place – not unlike burning a tire – with the residue burrowing deep into the mucous membranes of your lungs. It should be considered to be a public nuisance and banned as such. No one reading this article would burn bunker fuel in their house, or subject their neighbors to this toxic pollutant. Bunker fuel is the nastiest and most toxic fuel you can use. But this fuel is the cornerstone of the cruise industry.

The smoke billowing from the Wonder of the Seas earlier this month appears not unlike the pollution we have seen from other large cruise ships, like the Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas, which was videotaped in 2019 belching smoke while leaving the port of St. Thomas, U.S.V.I., or the MSCVirtuosacruise ship (photo left) which was filmed billowing pollution while docked in the Isle of Portland, in Dorset U.K. last year.  There are many, many other examples,

Reporting on the Wonder‘s air pollution is certain to create the usual debate every time I post an article about a cruise ship burning high-sulfur bunker fuel bellowing smoke from its funnels. Defenders of the polluting cruise industry (who invariably do not live in the port community) will usually comment that the images do not show engine gases but condensed water vapor from the air stack “scrubber” operations.

Even if what we are seeing with our own eyes from the Wonder of the Seas is somehow water vapor as the cruise line wants us to think, and not toxic smoke, the ship would still be creating vast quantities of toxic sludge via its scrubber systems (which Royal Caribbean emphamistically calls “advanced emission purification systems”) which is routinely discharged as waste water. That is why many people say that scrubbers just turn air pollution into water pollution.

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Image credit: Top – Wonder of the Seas – Diario de Mallorca and respective Twitter users; MSCVirtuosaDorset Eye

The Alaska State Police identified the woman who went overboard last week from the Celebrity Solstice. ABC 13 in Houston reported that authorities in Alaska are conducting a death investigation after a Houston woman went overboard during a cruise. Alaska State Troopers identify the woman as 40-year-old Selena Pau Pres.”

Last week we reported that the passenger went overboard from the Celebrity Solstice during a cruise through Alaska. The woman disappeared from the Celebrity cruise ship on Tuesday, May 17th around 3:00 a.m. in the upper Lynn Canal approximately 20 miles northwest of Juneau, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The cruise line did not respond to requests from ABC-13 or KHOU-11, both local stations in Houston, for an explanation how its guest went overboard. Celebrity Cruises has not issued a statement regarding the missing passenger nor has the cruise line responded to numerous inquiries from other media.

According to KHOU11, the cruise ship’s captain stated to the Coast Guard that the passenger fell from the the ship near Eldred Rock in the Inside Passage. (The Inside Passage is the historic route that cruise ships and Alaska state ferries follow through the waters of southeast Alaska and British Columbia).

The KHOU station indicated that the guest Ms. Pau Pres went overboard from an upper deck, based on accounts from other passengers.

It’s our experience that most cruise lines, whenever possible, are quick to blame passengers who go overboard and accuse them of jumping from the ship. Here, Celebrity Cruises has not done so but has refused to respond to any inquiries from the press.

It is important that Celebrity preserve all videos of this guest, which not only shown her going overboard but depict her whereabouts on the ship for the hours before her tragic disappearance.  The cruise line should preserve all relevant surveillance tapes as well as evidence of the guest’s onboard purchases documenting the ship’s sale of alcohol that she may have consumed.

It is well establed under maritime law that a cruise line faces potential liability when it serves its guests alcohol past the point of intoxication.

A few years ago, a twenty-two year old guest went overboard from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship (Independence of the Seas)  after the cruise line served him thirty (30) ounces of alcohol. After the young man went overboard, the cruise ship’s captain  informed the ship via the intercom that he allegedly intentionally jumped. The cruise line repeatedly the incomplete information to numerous news outlets, without mentioning that the guest was in a state of intoxication.  You can read about the case here- Lawsuit: Royal Caribbean Serves Passenger At Least 30 Ounces of Alcohol, Unreasonably Delays Search, and Claims Guest Intentionally Went Overboard.

As we mentioned last week, this particular cruise line and its parent company, Royal Caribbean, are two of the cruise lines which refuses to install automatic man overboard systems as required by the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010. Such systems utilize sophisticated motion detection and infrared and radar technology to immediately send a signal directly to the bridge when a person goes over the rails and then tracks the person in the water even at night.

Without such systems, cruise ships first conduct a manual search of the ship and then review the video of cameras along the side of the ship (which are not actively manned) to see if they show someone going overboard. (In fact, Celebrity’s parent company, Royal Caribbean Cruises, requires that Royal Caribbean owned ships first contact Royal Caribbean’s Global Security Office in Miami before turning the ship around to begin search operations in the water).

When a cruise line announces that its surveillance cameras shown a passenger going overboard (as was done in this case), it is invariably only after a shipboard search has wasted a hour or two.

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Image credits: Top – Celebrity Solstice – ABC13 Houston.

A woman went overboard from the Celebrity Solstice early in the morning of May 17, 2022 while the ship was sailing on an Alaskan itinerary. KTOO reported that “a cruise ship camera showed the woman going overboard at approximately 3 a.m. Tuesday as the ship sailed from Juneau to Skagway.”

There has been no explanation from Celebrity Cruises regarding why or how the passenger went overboard or even an acknowledgement that the cruise line’s guest disappeared from the ship.

The U.S Coast Guard stated that the captain of the Celebrity ship first notified it at 3:00 a.m. yesterday. The time between the guest going over the rails and the cruise line notifying the Coast Guard is currently unknown. Nor do we know when the agency launched a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Sitka. We do know that a a 45-foot Response Boat from a Coast Guard station in Juneau and the Coast Guard Cutter Chandeleur arrived around 5:00 a.m. The ship crew used search boats until 5 a.m. when the Coast Guard crews showed up to help. 13-WGME reported that “It’s unclear if the ship is staying in the area or not.” There is no indication on AIS tracking systems that the Celebrity Solstice altered its scheduled path to conduct a search for the overboard passenger.

The Coast Guard rescue efforts were not successful and ended after nine hours. By the time that the media began reporting on the overboard today, the search had already ended nearly 24 hours earlier.

Celebrity Cruises is one of the cruise companies which refuses to install automatic man overboard systems (MOB), as required by the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010. Such systems utilize sophisticated motion detection and infrared and radar technology to send a signal directly to the bridge when a person goes over the rails and then tracks the person in the water even at night.

Cruise ships without such systems first conduct a manual search of the ship and then review the video of cameras along the side of the ship (which are not actively manned) to see if they show someone going overboard. (In fact, Celebrity’s parent company, Royal Caribbean Cruises, requires that Royal Caribbean owned ships first contact Royal Caribbean’s Global Security Office in Miami before turning the ship around to begin search operations in the water). Such “old school” systems unreasonably delay rescue efforts. It’s akin to looking for a tiny needle in a huge haystack.

There is no indication when the cruise line first realized that the woman went overboard.

Cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein’s popular cruise site CruiseJunkie indicates that 367 people have gone overboard from cruise ships since 2000. Most cruise lines have not installed automatic MOB systems, despite the Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act’s requirements to do so over a decade ago.

There are numerous automatic man overboard systems available for use such as shown here and here.

Searches conducted by the Coast Guard for overboard guests and crew members typically cost around $1,000,000 a search, depending on how many helicopters, cutters and other vessels are utilized and how long the search lasts, as evidenced by documents we have obtained by Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Cruise lines have no obligation to reimburse the Coast Guard for these costs. Such free services by this federal agency is one of the many perks that foreign incorporated cruise line enjoy despite that facts that they all register thier ships in foreign countries (except NCL’s Pride of America) in order to avoid all U.S. income taxes, U.S. wage and labor law, and U.S. occupational health and safety laws.

Since 2010, when the Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act was passed, there have been around 120 passengers and crew members who have gone overboard on cruise ships. In the last two years before the COVID-19 pandemic (218 and 2019), an average of over 27 passengers and crew members went overboard each year.  Yet, cruise lines refuse to comply with the law and install MOB systems. These systems have long been readily available on the market; several manufacturers remain eager to sell and install these systems. The cruise industry has largely rebuffed these manufacturers without any real explanation.

Disney Cruise Line, to our knowledge, is the only U.S. based cruise line to install such systems on its fleet of cruise ships.  Royal Caribbean and its sister brand, Celebrity, and all Carnival owned brands refuse to do so, despite the relatively inexpensive costs.  The average cost to purchase and install such a system is around $300,000 to $500,000 per cruise ship.

Until the cruise industry is forced to comply with installing such systems, perhaps by a Congress that blocks it from U.S. ports until its ships are in compliance, don’t expect lines like Celebrity to do so.  It seems that Celebrity has chosen to not even bother to offer an explanation when a guest goes overboard and disappears in the middle of a vacation cruise.

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Image credits: Celebrity Solstice – Aah-Yeah –  CC BY 2.0, commons / wikimedia.

As of yesterday, there have been a minimum of around 120 guests who tested positive for COVID-19 aboard the Norwegian Dawn, according to a trusted, long-term reader of Cruise Law News on the ship who wishes to remain anonymous.

The NCL cruise ship left New York (Cape Liberty Bayonne NJ) on April 28th for travel to  ports in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada), Reykjavik (Iceland), Belfast (Northern Ireland), Dublin (Ireland),  IJmuiden (Netherlands),  Bruges (Belgium), and Le Havre (France) with the end of the cruise in Southampton (England}.

The NCL ship was denied access to Brugge, Belgium, following which the ship spent the day at sea enroute to LeHavre.

LeHavre was then cancelled today as well.  The ship continued west in the English Channel before turning around to head to Southampton.

The guest on board the ship stated that “We are staying at sea until we disembark in Southampton tomorrow, even those that tested positive will be allowed to disembark. The ship did a test today. Many more people have tested positive although the numbers have not been disclosed.”

Meanwhile, the Miami Herald reported on an outbreak on the Carnival Horizon according to a passenger who stated that around 100 guests tested positive for COVID-19. The Herald’s article is titled “Cruise bookings smash records. Passengers accepting COVID-19 likely will be aboard.”

The Carnival Spirit had over 100 guests infected with COVID-19 last week, as we reported – COVID-19 Outbreak Aboard Carnival Spirit – Carnival Cruise Line Refuses to Disclose Number of Infected Guests and Crew. Cruise guests on the Carnival cruise ship estimated the outbreak to involve “more than 100 people” and as many as 200.

Meanwhile, Carnival expressed pleasure that there have consistently over 100 infected guests on the last many sailings on its ships.

“Overall, we are very pleased with the public response to and support for our protocols, which has allowed us to be the first major U.S. cruise line to return its full fleet back to operation,” Chris Chiames, Carnival’s chief spokesman, said in an email to the Miami Herald. “Our ships are full and onboard spending patterns indicate that our guests are just as happy to be back on board as we are to have them.” The article states that cruise lines are “reporting record reservations for voyages, despite COVID-19 infecting the large majority of ships now sailing.”

Carnival, as usual, did not disclose the number of guests infected during the cruises.

“Through the ongoing pandemic, cruise lines never have shared publicly their respective figures on coronavirus infections among passengers and crew on individual ships, leaving passengers to discuss that and their experiences with the virus on social media.”

A passenger was quoted in the article stating:

“I don’t think that people really understand what they’re getting into when they’re going on a cruise. I didn’t understand what I was getting into,” she said, noting she was extremely ill with COVID-19 and left alone in an isolated cabin with no one checking on her. “I really, really hate to say it, Carnival has been my ship that I’ve cruised with for a long time, but I wish I had had a more positive experience when I was sick. “I definitely learned that COVID is still out there,” Chatham said. “I have no one to blame but myself. Everyone else wasn’t masking. It felt back to normal.”

Last week, we reported that at least five Carnival Corporation-owned and Princess Cruises-operated ships each with over a hundred positive cases of COVID-19.  Princess Cruises, recently had COVID-19 outbreaks with over 100 COVID-19 cases involving passengers on each of at least five cruise ships in its fleet of cruise ships, including the Ruby Princess, Grand Princess, Caribbean Princess, Sky Princess and Enchanted Princess.

Like NCL, Carnival Corporation-owned ships (Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess and HAL) are all notorious in not revealing the number of infected guests or crew members. The Miami Herald added that: “Norwegian Cruise Line, another big global cruise line based in Miami, did not respond to a reporter’s request for comment.”

Unfortunately, unlike reporting on norovirus cases on cruise ships when a U.S. itinerary is involved, where the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will state the precise number of positive cases amongst both the guests and crew members, the CDC will not disclose the number of COVID-19 cases to the public. That leaves the cruise lines’ lack of transparency further keeping the public in the dark.

After missing the last two ports, the Norwegian Dawn is now approaching Southampton. We are awaiting further word from the passenger we know on the NCL ship regarding the current number of infected passengers. NCL of course will not disclose any information. Passengers will have to gather such information from word of mouth or from postings on social media.

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Images: MarineTraffic – Norwegian Dawn position (screengrab); Norwegian Dawn – Stephan Bleister at de.wikipedia – commons / wikimedia.

May 13, 2022 Facebook Post:

“I have a cousin on the NORWEGIAN DAWN cruise ship. He is having a nightmare there are over 200 passengers on board who have tested POSITIVE for Covid but passengers have not been notified instead they have cancelled all the places they were to visit and heading along the Dover coast line to disembark all passengers in England. How can this be allowed???????”

This Facbook post has nineteen comments, including:

“That’s disastrous. When they disembark there’s no isolation requirement in England so they can travel onward home and spread more. I hope that noone is very ill with this virus.”

‘A friend was on a cruise and they had to bus off 200 from the ship who had covid . They had full isolation deck. Terrible to pay all that money to be treated so appallingly. Hope your cousin gets back home safe.”

May 14, 2022 Update:

“Belgium denied us entry because of “COVID profile” per Captain’s comments. Captain said it was an NCL decision to skip France.  Voluntary onboard Covid testing yesterday for flights home today produced more positives.

When the first people tested positive, NCL moved them down to Deck 4 but then the number became so large they kept everyone isolated in their own cabins. Room service is being provided to the isolated passengers without the normal $9.95 charge.

The crew has been very professional. Our only issue is that they have not told us how many people onboard are positive. If one of the medical staff did not tell me about the original 120, we would have never been informed. I’m also surprised they did not mandate masks for all  passengers after the first test three days ago.

We have just docked at Southampton. The positives will be the last to disembark. The ship sent around a letter suggesting the DoubleTree Hotel at Heathrow for those waiting to test negative so they can fly home. The ship is also offering a 50% refund on this cruise toward a future cruise for the three missed ports. Dublin was also cancelled due to rough seas since we were anchored out and had to tender ashore.

Although the ship did not mandate masks, they did leave N95 masks in each storeroom for voluntary use. It would have been much simpler to announce that there was a Covid breakout onboard and mandate masks for all passengers. After all, the test yesterday was voluntary. Those that did not avail themselves could have unknowingly been positive while walking around the ship maskless.

The crew wore masks everyday of the cruise.”

May 15, 2022 Update:

Some guests on the Norwegin Dawn estimate that there were far more than 120-180 infected pasengers on the ship when it arrived in Southampton. From one guest:

“We saw the covid positive list 2 days before cruise end. It was at least 9 pages, 10 to 12 point font, single spaced. So over 225 passengers . . . “


The Viking Aegir, operated by Viking River Cruises, smashed into a pillar of a bridge on the Danube River in Slovakia last week, injuring eleven people. The accident happened at around 3:40 a.m. last Friday, May 6, 2022. The accident occured near the village of Komárno, about 100 kilometers from Bratislava on the Danube.

The accident has not been widely reported. There are no reports in the U.S. media. We first learned of the incident when a reader sent us a Facebook post, which you can read here, by the Slovakian Minister of Transportation last Friday.

There are no reports whether the injured were passengers or crew members. Eight injured people were taken to hospital.

The minister made a reference to an alleged “sudden medical indisposition” involving the (unidentified) captain without any explanation. Perhaps the captain or whoever was at the helm had some type of medical issue? But, where’s the proof? Perhaps he or she was drunk? Or simply fatigued and dozed off at 3:40 in the morning? Who knows? There is no indication that the captain was taken to the hospital. There is a suggestion that details may be provided after an investigation.

To our knowledge, Viking River Cruises did not issue a statement or make comments on social media explaining what led to its ship inexplicably striking the bridge nor did Viking comment on the nature of the injuries.

There were just a couple of news accounts of the accident, in Slovakia and in the popular Germany blog site Cruisetricks.

Most of the news sources in Slovakia like Nautiv and MyNové Zámky showed the damaged bow of the Viking Aegir covered up.

You can see the Viking Aegir, in better days, in a video tweeted by a Viking cruise guest three year ago:

Danger with River Cruising

The most dramatic disaster involving a river cruise ship occured three years ago when the Viking Cruises’ Viking Sigyn collided with and sank a sightseeing river cruise ship, the Hableany (“Mermaid”), in Budapest three years ago (in May 2019). The Mermaid quickly sank in aproximately seven seconds, killing 25 South Korean tourists and two Hungarian crew members.

Several crew members (who wish to remain anonymous) identified the captain of the Viking ship, who was arrested by the local police, as Yuriy Chaplinsky.

You can see video of the accident as the Viking Sigyn overtook and ran the smaller tourist vessel over as the two ships approached the Margit Bridge in central Budapest here.

The criminal trial involving this incident began in March 2020 and continued throughout 2020. The outcome of the trial had not been decided. The civil trial filed by the survivors and families of the deceased South Korean passengers began in Budapest in January of this year. A final result has not been decided.

In September 2016, another Viking River Cruises’ ship, the Viking Freya (right), struck a rail bridge, crushing the wheelhouse and killing two Hungarian officers who were navigating the river ship. The ship was on its way to Budapest at the time of the deadly accident. (125 people left comments to our article with many former Viking customers defending the inexcusable accident).

In December of 2017, the M/S Swiss Crystal river cruise ship collided with a highway bridge on the Rhine River near Duisburg, Germany, injuring 30 passengers.

On March 21, 2019,  the Scylla Edelweiss experienced an electrical fire and collided with a cargo ship, the Forenso, on the Waal River in the Netherlands.

On April 1, 2019, a collision occurred between the river cruise ship, the Viking Idun, and a tanker, the Chemical Marketer, while the ships were sailing from Antwerp to Ghent. Four passengers were reportedly injured.

On May 21, 2019, an unidentified river cruise ship (some identified the ship as a Viking longship) with 183 passengers aboard, forgot to lower its wheelhouse and struck a bridge in an incident similar to the Viking Freya mishap. Fortunately, no one was killed.

If you are aware of other accidents involving Viking River Cruises or other river cruise ships please let us know.

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

May 10, 2022 Update: 

Image credit: Viking Aegir (top) – Dopravný Úrad via Transport Minister Andrej Dolezal / Transport Office of the Slovak Republic); other photos/video – respective Twitter users; Viking Aegir (middle) – TASR – Ladislav Valach via  My Nové Zámky and Juzne Slovensko “Komárno: A cruise ship crashed into a bridge pillar on the Danube;” Viking Freya (bottom) – UPI via Blick am Abend.

A number of newspapers are reporting today that the Carnival Spirit cruise ship experienced a COVID-19 outbreak. As usual, Carnival Cruise Line refused to respond to requests regarding the number of infected passengers and crew members. Cruise guests on the Carnival cruise ship estimated the outbreak to involve “more than 100 people” and as many as 200.

In an article titled: “Carnival Cruise passengers say ship was overwhelmed with COVID-19 positive patients – Passengers say the response from the crew was chaotic,” King 5 News in Seattle reported: “They didn’t have enough staff to handle the emergency that was happening, period,” according to a ship passenger who was infected with the virus. “They were overwhelmed and they didn’t have a backup course in how to handle about 200 people affected with COVID. We all suffered.”

Passengers say they “waited hours for meals, weren’t properly isolated and couldn’t get ahold of medical staff.”

“We couldn’t call anybody . . . Basically, we sat in the room, you call and it would ring, ring, ring and ring all day long.”

US News reported that “Multiple people say they’re in quarantine at Seattle-area hotels after testing positive or being exposed to someone with COVID-19. Carnival Cruise Line would not confirm how many people tested positive . . . ”

Carnival suggested that cruise guests obtain travel insurance to defray hotel and any medical expenses related to their quarantines. Carnival released a statement to the press explaining: “Normally, guests are responsible for quarantine costs, but because so many of our guests were far from home, we made the hotel arrangements and have offered to share the cost of their lodging while they remain in Seattle to complete their five-day quarantine.” Carnival did not disclose how much of their customers’ costs it “offered to share.”

Carnival downplayed the outbreak, claiming that “there were no serious health issues” among the passengers. The reports did not address how many crew members were infected. Carnival would also not state how many passengers were on the ship at the time of the outbreak.

The Carnival ship left Seattle yesterday, heading to Tracy Arm Fjord, Alaska. The ship will thereafter continue on to Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan in Alaska before sailing to Victoria and returning to Seattle on May 10, 2022.

Another Carnival Corporation owned cruise line, Princess Cruises, recently had COVID-19 outbreaks on at least five cruise ships in its fleet of cruise ships, including the Ruby Princes Grand Princess, Caribbean Princess, Sky Princess and Enchanted Princess

The Ruby Princess alone had at least 253 infected guests on the ship over the course of the last five sailings, according to the Washington Post.

Neither Carnival Corporation nor Princess Cruises disclosed the number of infected guests and crew members on these cruises.

Last week, a number of cruise executives, including retiring Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald, stated at the annual Seatrade Cruise convention that they had allegedly “defeated COVID-19.”

That’s no consolation to the hundreds of people infected on Carnival and Princess cruise ships who had to undergo quarantine during their recent sailings.

Expect the outbreak to continue as the Carnival ship cruises through Alaska and to Canada and back.

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

Image credit: Top – Carnival Spirit – screen grab (2) KIRO7; Carnival Spirit hallway corridor – King 5 News; bottom – Carnival Spirit – Becky Bohrer / The Associated Press via Seattle Times.

Update May 4, 2022 P.M.:

Update from the Seatle Times this afternoon in article titled – Seattle Cruise Industry Marks Comeback from COVID with COVID Ooutbreak On Ship:

  • The outbreak aboard the Spirit comes a day after officials with Carnival and the Port of Seattle held a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the opening of the cruise season after two years of reduced sailings due to COVID.
  •  According to the CDC, the Carnival Spirit meets the threshold for a CDC investigation, which means 0.3% or more of the ship’s approximately 3,054 passengers and crew tested positive for COVID.
  • Of the 92 cruise ships operating in U.S. waters, 76 have reported at least one COVID case among passengers or crew members, according to the CDC’s cruises dashboard. Carnival has 22 cruises operating; all but four have positive cases.

Comments from blog and Facebook:

“So, the ship just keeps sailing!!! They dump people off and continue on their way? Yikes, and they are withholding info that passengers need to make conscious decisions. Very bad business. What has happened to all the disinfecting, cleaning, air quality….? It seems that Carnival Corporation , Royal and NCL really don’t care! Passengers beware! There are other cruise lines out there with great transparency and care for their clientele!”

“Covid is still here. I am just sad for the staff.”

“And to think that Christine Duffy was in Seattle on Monday (to celebrate the Carnival Splendor’s return to service), telling the media how great their Covid protocols are, and how safe it is to cruise now. (Interview can be found on KOMO FB page.)”

“In this video, popular cruise vlogger and travel agent Don said that Carnival refused to even test the cabin mates of the infected, saying it was not necessary.  https://youtu.be/AzrFkRK8YlM

 

 

This year’s annual Seatrade Cruise Global exposition in Miami Beach is ending today. This week, attendees listened to the cruise trade show’s keynote presentation titled “The State of the Global Cruise Industry.” The panelists who addressed the theme of the presentation – “Resilience and the Restart” –  included Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) President and CEO, Kelly Craighead, Carnival Corporation’s CEO, Arnold Donald, Royal Caribbean’s President & CEO, Jason Liberty, and Executive Chairman of the cruise division of MSC Group, Pierfrancesco Vago.

After attending dozens of Seatrade conventions over the past twenty-five years, I’m used to the cruise industry’s perennial talking points which often have little to do with reality. Usually, Seatrade is a time when the cruise executives try and manage the cruise industry’s sinking image and tatered reputation following the previous year’s invariable cruise ship disasters which filled the headlines. Cruise leaders tend to project rosy forecasts when they are dealing with the Costa Concordia sinking, the Carnival poop cruise or similar cruise disasters and mishaps.

This year was no different.

The cruise line executives spoke about the industry’s so-called “resiliency” to the COVID-19 pandemic which essentially shut the cruise industry down for the better part of the last two years. The executives went as far as to suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still infecting, sickening and sometimes killing cruise guests, was a thing of the past. The Miami Herald covered the Seatrade convention and wrote “Cruise industry leaders claimed victory over the coronavirus pandemic, praising the industry’s resilience the past two years … While industry leaders were optimistic about the future of cruising, there was little sentiment of responsibility or remorse.”

The executives’ indifference and self-praise are rather shocking given the fact that the Miami Herald  documented that there have been at least 111 guests and crew members who were infected with COVID-19 during cruises in 2020 and 2021 and later died.

The reality is that many hundreds of passengers and crew members are still becoming infected on cruise ships on a regular basis. Princess Cruises, in particular, just recently experienced COVID-19 outbreaks on at least five cruise ships. The Orange County Register explained the CDC’s conclusions that the recent COVID-19 outbreaks on Princess cruise ships were likely  caused by “a rapidly spreading variant and close, indoor quarters” in an article titled: Cruise Industry Weathers COVID-19 Holdovers As Virus Lingers.

In the past month alone, Princess Cruises’ Ruby Princess was one of five Carnival Corporation-owned cruise ships which experienced large COVID-19 outbreaks and made a mockery of the cruise executives’ alleged “victory” over the virus.  “It was quite clear that there were a large percentage of passengers that were sick, but unless you self-reported, you were free to keep going and infect other passengers,” California resident Ted Vomacka told the Mercury News. “It was obvious from observing all the coughing and hacking that some form of infection was going around.” Like all other cruise brands owned by Carnival Corporation, Princess Cruises refuses to release the number of guests and crew members infected with the virus. But the San Francisco Department of Public Health reported that 143 passengers on the Ruby Princess’ (San Francisco to Hawaii round trip which ended on April 11th) tested positive; this was nearly twice as many as the 73 cruise guests reported sick after the ship returned from Panama. In all, the Ruby Princess had at least 253 infected guests on the ship over the course of the last five sailings, according to the Washington Post.

This month, Princess Cruises’ Grand Princess also experienced a significant outbreak while returning to Los Angeles from Hawaii.

The Caribbean Princess, Sky Princess and Enchanted Princess also experienced large scale COVID-19 outbreaks. Each of these ships have designated COVID-19 decks where infected passengers (as well as crew members) who tested positive are isolated during the cruise.

Unfortunately, Princess does not disclose the number of infected guests to the press or even warn boarding passengers that there has been a COVID outbreak on the prior cruise.

A guest informed the Times Colonist that Princess Cruises “has been very tight-lipped.”

“People have been at the guest services desk demanding to know how many sick people [there are] and they won’t tell you anything,” she said. “They just say ‘oh, a certain bartender or waitress you have seen all week [is] feeling under the weather’ when you see that they are gone. The captain has not made any announcements.”

“They say they are going to dry dock early, but we all know it is COVID. They have not said this but we on the ship all believe this.”

News breaking during the week long Seatrade convention also included accounts of at least one cruise passenger contracting COVID-19 on a cruise ship and dying as well as accounts of cruise passengers  being abandoned in foreign ports after becoming infected at sea.

As the Miami Herald reported, “top cruise industry leaders at the Seatrade cruise conference claimed victory over the coronavirus pandemic.” Pierfrancesco Vago, CLIA chairman, went as far as to claim that the cruise industry was leaving “the health emergency behind.” But the over-hyped rhetoric of the cruise executives is overshadowed by the reality of many hundreds of vacationers who were recently infected on just five of the Princess fleet of cruise ships, one guest dying after contracting COVID-19 during a cruise this week, and some of the cruise lines abandoning their infected guests in Europe.

As the Miami Herald further pointed out, “there was little sentiment from the industry leaders … of  responsibility or remorse for numerous superspreader virus outbreaks on cruise ships during the pandemic …”

The fact that cruise executives claim victory over COVID-19, as if they somehow were personally  involved in finding a cure for the disease, is perhaps no more outrageous than having no feelings of responsibility or remorse for the many thousand of guests and crew members who were sickened and over 100 people who died after being infected on their cruise ships in 2020 and 2021.

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Image credit: Grand Princess – Morgan Hines and Andrea Mandell, USA TODAY – 103 have tested positive for COVID-19