The captain of the sunken ferry Korean ferry Sewol reportedly was one of the first to abandon ship and make it safely to shore.

Only one of the 47 lifeboats were deployed. The abandon ship order was not made until 30 minutes after the ferry began to sink.

There are around 275 people, mostly teenagers, missing at sea.

Does anyone know how to say Schettino in Korean?

A newspaper in Australia reports that a cruise aboard the Dawn Princess for passenger Graham Welsh was suppose to be a vacation of a lifetime.  But things began to go wrong when he sustained an injury after roof panels and lights fell on his head in a hallway on the cruise ship.  The cruise line then left him stranded in a foreign hospital in Fiji without his passport or wallet.

According to a lawsuit filed on his behalf, Mr. Mr Welsh alleges that shortly after his accident he began to vomit and suffered headaches. The cruise ship’s doctor disembarked him at the next port, Suva, Fiji, to go to the hospital for a brain scan. The newspaper article quotes him saying: “They took me down the gang-plank and stuck me in a cab. I was surprised because no one accompanied me (to hospital). No one was assisting me and I didn’t know what to do.”  He basically had only his credit card which paid for the medical visit and scan.

Mr Welsh is suing Carnival Cruises Australia (as the owner of the Princess operated cruise ship) for the injuries and for the subsequent abandonment in Fiji.

The article explains that the cruise line is not denying that the passenger was injured but is contesting his claim that he is entitled to $750,000 in compensation. Dawn Princess Cruise Ship

The defense lawyer for the cruise line suggested that the lawsuit was less about the passenger’s head injury and more about seeking revenge for the way he felt he had been mistreated by the cruise line.

“You (were bitter) that you hadn’t got what you had bargained for, or paid for, and that was an enjoyable cruise,” the defense lawyer suggested.

This is the second highly publicized case where an injured passenger alleges that the cruise line dumped them in a foreign port and and then forgot about them.

Earlier we discussed the case of 89 year-old cruise passenger Dodge Melkonian who was abandoned in Turkey by Azamara after he broke his hip.

 

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia / Bahnfrend

WFTS ABC Action News reports on the case of Dodge Melkonian who fell and broke his hip on the Azamara Journey cruise ship. It’s a story we have mentioned several times here on Cruise Law News. 

After the cruise line (Royal Caribbean owns Azamara) left Dodge and his wife, Jill, in a non-English speaking hospital in Turkey, the Melkonians turned to their travel agent, Elite Travel agency owner Tammy Levent, for assistance.  

Travel agent Levent contacted ABC Action News which reached out to U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, who Dodge Melkonian - Azamara Cruise Shipworked with the U.S. Embassy.

Now, the Melkonians are back in the U.S. where Dodge immediately went to the hospital. 

Mr. Melkonian needs weeks of therapy and their bills are mounting, but there is still no clear answers from Royal Caribbean.  

Ms. Melkonian said she wasn’t getting the help she needed from the cruise line and they bought the cruise insurance. She told ABC Action News that, despite having insurance, the cruise line wanted them to pay out of pocket first and then file a claim.

The cruise line, which succumbed to bad press and eventually made an initial down payment on the Turkish hospital bill, claims that it is assisting the Melkoniians. In a statement, Royal Caribbean said "our focus continues to be on Mr. & Mrs. Melkonian’s well-being and we continue to work closely with them to provide the assistance they need."

But Ms. Melkonians isn’t so sure about that, saying "the rest of the hospital bill is still not decided. So there’s a lot if confusion."  

The incident comes at a time when Congress is watching the cruise lines with a skeptical eye.   

"I just hope they change some of the policies," Ms. Melkonian said.

The Melkonian’s travel agent, Tammy Levent, said that she has received calls from Washington to discuss the issues surrounding the Melkonian’s case.

Story Credit: WFTS ABC Action News / Photo Credit: CBS News

The fall-out over Azamara’s abandonment of an elderly couple from Clearwater Florida continues.

The luxury cruise line Azamara, a subsidiary of Miami based Royal Caribbean Cruises, has been accused of abandoning its guest Dodge Melkonian, an 89-year-old World War II veteran, and his wife at a "rural" hospital in Turkey after Mr. Melkonian broke his hip on the Azamara Journey last week.   

The story has been extensively covered, first by a local ABC news station, and later by the U.S. national press like CBS, CNN, and ABC as well as the New York Daily News. The international press has shown interest in the plight of the Melkonian couple. The regular cruise bloggers, like Cruise Critic and Travel Dodge Melkonian - Tampa Bay TimesAgent Central, have also added their perspective.  

Azamara’s CEO has made matters worst by gratuitously tweeting comments on his Twitter account stating that 89 year old dodge Melkonian should contact his travel agent and the insurance company and essentially leave the cruise line alone.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson called the cruise line’s conduct "outrageous."

The South Florida Business Journal published an article Move Over Carnival, Royal Caribbean Takes Shot at Ruining Industry’s Image.

The Tampa Bay Times is the latest news organization to cover the story. Its article Couple Stranded by Cruise in Turkey Receives Outpouring of Support is highly critical of the cruise line’s indifference to the Melkonians.

So who are the winners and losers in this story? And what are the lessons to be learned?

The Winners: Mr. Melkonian’s surgery was a success because of the couple’s persistent travel agents who sprang into action when the insurance company (sold through the cruise line) refused to act responsibly in assisting Mr. Melkonian. And a Turkish tour guide, involved by the hard-working travel agents, not only assisted the couple in reaching a quality hospital but even donated his blood which was needed for Mr. Melkonian’s surgery.  

The Losers: "The health & safety of cruise passengers are the cruise industry’s highest priorities?" Hardly.  Azamara, Royal Caribbean and the cruise industry prove, again, that talk is cheap. 

Lessons Learned: Even luxury cruise lines can treat their guests shabbily. The case demonstrates the "cut and run" strategy of the cruise industry. When a passenger (or crew member) becomes ill or seriously injured during a cruise, the cruise lines’ usual response to to get them off the cruise ship as soon as possible and then wash their hands of the problem.  

This is hardly the first time a cruise line abandoned a passenger ashore and sailed off.  We have seen this exact situation play out numerous times, particularly in ports of call in the Caribbean and Mexico. Read our article British Passenger Stuck In Mexican Hospital Following Heart Attack on Princess Cruise Ship.

Legislation Needed: The Melkonian’s travel agents are communicating with Senator Nelson’s office about drafting a law that "would ban cruise lines from leaving people stranded." The Melkonian’s travel agent was quoted saying: "Where is the humanity in that?  There is no accountability, and that has to change."

 

Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Times

Melkonian - Azamara CruisesWFTS, an ABC affiliate in Tampa, Florida, reports on a story that we hear about all too often – an elderly passenger is injured during a cruise and ends up alone in a foreign hospital where no one speaks English. The cruise ship then sails off.

In a case which has received attention from Florida Senator Bill Nelson, Jill and her husband, Dodge Melkonian, age 89, were sailing aboard the Royal Caribbean luxury brand Azamara Cruises. Mr. Melkonian fell and broke his hip and ended up in a Turkish hospital which Mrs. Melkonian described as dirty, where no one spoke English, and was not equipped or qualified to perform the emergency surgery.

The news station quotes Mrs. Melkonian stating that "I think Royal Caribbean needs to be held accountable. They have to revamp policies for international accounts."

She bought insurance through the cruise line and tried to get her husband transferred. But the cruise line reportedly would not cooperate and told her to file an insurance claim first.

Mrs. Melkonian reached out to her travel agent who was helpful and summed up the situation saying: "The man could be dying. He is 89 years old with a broken hip, You have insurance, shouldn’t it cover you? They drop you in a hospital that’s not capable of even doing the surgery."

The travel agent contacted an English speaking tour guide who, in turn, contacted the U.S. embassy which helped transfer Mr. Melkonian to Istanbul, a six-hour trip. The cruise line reportedly ignored the couple once they were off of the ship and the insurance company tried to cancel the transportation.

Senator Bill Nelson said he is working to bring the couple home safely:

"Royal Caribbean has a responsibility to take care of their passengers, even when they have to put them in a foreign hospital," said Nelson. 

Photo & story credit: WFTS (ABC Action News) Tampa Florida

August 21 2013 Update: ABC News picked up the story. Its quotes Florida Senator Bill Nelson saying: "It’s outrageous that they would leave an elderly couple in a foreign country without adequate support."

August 22 2013 Update: CNN’s Headline News picked up the story this afternoon. "Couple Stranded Abroad After Cruise Injury."

  

 

NCL Cruise Horror StoryA local news station in Tampa, WTSP 20 News, has a story about an elderly couple’s cruise horror story. 

Betty and Ronald Coleman from Port Ritchie Florida were sailing on a Panama Canal cruise aboard the Norwegian Pearl when Mr. Coleman contracted what is described as norovirus.  NCL put the Colemans ashore in Cartegena Columbia without contacting the couple’s son Mark, even though they listed him as the emergency contact on paperwork the cruise line required them to fill out. 

Ms. Coleman, who was obviously overwhelmed by trying to take care of her sick husband, complains: "My son is on the paper you sign, for next of kin to be called in case of an emergency. I would have thought they would have notified him if they are leaving me in a foreign country."  

The couple’s son first learned of his parent’s plight after receiving a frantic call from his mother.  She did not know where she was.  NCL subsequently told him that that she was still on the cruise ship.  Finally, Mark had to contact the State Department to find his parents.

NCL claims that it provided the couple with an opportunity to call home, but the Colemans allegedly "chose not to."   How and why this allegedly occurred is not explained.  But a cruise line should never disembark an elderly couple like this in a foreign country without first making sure that it contacted the emergency contact.  It’s far fetched to believe that the couple instructed NCL not to call the emergency contact.  It’s inexcusable for NCL not to have done so.  Ms. Coleman seemed stressed out and Mr. Coleman, described in the video as " . . . so sick that he could not sit up to even sign a paper," was obviously so ill NCL didn’t want him on its cruise ship.  

NCL issued a completely unrepentant press release.  NCL side stepped the norovirus issue, denied responsibility for not telling the family of the emergency, and claimed that the Colemans were, in fact, "appreciative" of the cruise line agent’s assistance ashore in Columbia.

  

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1

 

The guest relations team on a cruise ship should always contact the emergency contact number whenever it forces a family off of a cruise ship in a medical emergency.

Blaming the sick elderly guest in a case like this reflects poorly on the cruise lines’ manners.

For other similar stories, read:

And The Cruise Industry Wonders Why It Has An Image Problem . . . (continued)

Hurricane Irene has been the big story this week as the cruise lines juggled itineraries to keep their cruise ships out of Irene’s path.

The Right Way, and Wrong Way, to Abandon Families in a Foreign Port as a Monster Storm Approaches

Carnival and Royal Caribbean received a lot of press for leaving hundreds of passengers in San Juan, Puerto Rico as the hurricane approached.  The local port officials informed the cruise lines that due to the storm’s approach, the port was limiting harbor traffic.  Carnival’s Victory cruise ship left Hurricane Irene - Cruise Lines Abandon PassengersSan Juan four hours early and Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas left six hours ahead of schedule.

As a result, 300 Carnival passengers and 145 Royal Caribbean passengers found themselves in San Juan as their cruise ships sailed away.

Carnival handled the crisis effectively.  The cruise line provided all of their guests with hotel rooms  for two nights and offered to fly them to the next scheduled port in Barbados.

Royal Caribbean provided hotel rooms only to the 15 passengers who purchased their tickets directly from the cruise line.  The remaining 130 were left to find their own hotels as the storm approached.  And anyone who wanted to meet up with the ship at the next port in Aruba, had to pay for their own transportation.  This from the company whose mantra is "Deliver the Wow" to its guests?

Unlike Carnival, Royal Caribbean made no effort to communicate the earlier departure time via their customers’ emergency contact information and left families in the lurch in a time of emergency.  Even super cruise fan Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor of Cruise Critic, expressed outrage in her blog "Bad Weather Blunder: A Lesson in Cruise Crisis Control?"

"This takes my breath away.  And it’s not about the fact that it didn’t offer to pay for hotels and flights . . . .  It’s about dropping the ball in a risky situation.  Clearly, I’m not the only one who is shocked at Royal Caribbean’s lack of responsibility to its customers.  On Cruise Critic’s forums, its blog, and its Facebook page, travelers are incredulous."

Wow is right.  When you can shock Cruise Critic, you have really screwed up.

Another Shocker (But No One is Shocked) – Royal Caribbean’s Unlimited Booze Packages

Travel Agent Central reported this week that Royal Caribbean "has taken a lead" in offering prepaid unlimited alcoholic packages to its passengers.  RCCL’s CEO Richard Fain is quoted as saying that unlimited booze packaging has been "hugely successful."

The article states that on Celebrity cruise, passengers can pay for an unlimited drinks premium liquor plan for as much as $378 per person for a week cruise.  "Your savings depends on how much you drink," the article reads.   Yikes.  The drunkest passenger gets the best value? 

This cruise line has struggled with alcohol related overboards and sexual assaults over the years.  Take a moment and read Latest Royal Caribbean Rape Allegation Reveals Problem of Underage Royal Caribbean Cruise StockDrinking on Cruises.   Its unlimited-booze-packages is a new low.

I wonder if the cruise line kept all of the pre-paid unlimited alcohol money spent by the guests who missed the Serenade of the Seas in San Juan due to the hurricane? 

Are Cruise Stocks About to Tank Again?

Investor Place has an interesting article about the tenuous nature of cruise lines stocks at this moment – "3 Reasons Cruise Line Stocks Might Be Starting to Sink." 

I have always tracked cruise stocks because crew member benefits are the first to get slashed when money gets tight for the cruise lines.  Three years ago, Royal Caribbean’s stock fell from the $40’s to under $6 a share.  The cruise line responded with harsh cost saving measures in ship employee benefits.  The company’s stock rebounded back to the $40’s but has been in a nose dive this year back to the low $20’s.  As the cruise executives push alcohol sales to try and boost profits, what new measures will they introduce to screw the crewmembers?