Carnival Cruise Lines has been in the news lately with four of its cruise ships failing sanitation inspections in the last two months and a total of five ships failing USPH inspections in the last year.

The Carnival Vista (79), Carnival Breeze (77), Carnival Triumph (78), and the Carnival Liberty (80) all recently failed USPH inspections, The Carnival Paradise (83) also failed the VSP inspection last year. Last year also saw the Carnival Conquest (89), Carnival Dream (87), Carnival Fantasy (88) and Carnival Imagination (89) receiving very low sanitation scores. This year, the Carnival Vista received a low score of only 88 during its re-inspection (although the CDC has still not officially posted the score on its data base yet), following its disastrous score of 79 in December 2017 where USPH inspectors caught Carnival hiding food and galley equipment in crew member cabins.

You can see all of the most recently published USPH sanitation scores in the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Programs’ (VSP) “Green Sheet” (warning the CDC often delays the publishing of sanitation scores online).

Grandeur of the SeasBut Carnival is not the only cruise line suffering from failing or low sanitation scores.

In the last month, two Royal Caribbean cruise ships have received scores barely above the failing score of 85. The Grandeur of the Seas received a score of 87 in an inspection which took place on January 5, 2018 which was only recently published. There were deductions for various unsanitary conditions as well as heavily corroded and difficult-to-clean steel counters in the galleys of the ship which you can read here.

Several major newspaper reported that several dozens of passengers were sickened with gastrointestinal sicknesses on the Grandeur earlier last month.

Some people may point out that the Grandeur (photo right) is an older ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet, having come into service well over 20 years ago and showing obvious signs of external rust and lack of maintenance. But the Allure is obviously a newer and arguably better maintained ship.

But the recent USPH report involving the Allure of the Seas shows that it received a barely-passing score of only 86. The acute gastroenteritis (AGE) logs indicated that a Royal Caribbean food handler who was symptomatic with acute gastroenteritis symptoms returned to work before the completion of the mandatory 48 hour isolation period. A second crew member exhibited acute gastroenteritis symptoms continued to eat meals in the crew mess and did not report to the ship infirmary until over two days later. Another crew member who was symptomatic with AGE symptoms proceeded to eat in crew mess and attend a work meeting, and reported to the ship’s medical department only later.

Even more disturbing is that the USPH inspectors found the following:

“Seat cushions had storage under them in the Windjammer and decks 3, 4, and 5 of the main dining room. These storage areas were heavily soiled with debris, had raw wood, and were located above carpet and/or concrete decks. In these areas, the inspection team found: two closed gallon bottles of Allure of the Seasdrinking water, several bags of neatly folded and bagged linen napkins, a bucket full of silverware, a box of gloves and wiping cloths, wrapped salad stands, several bottles of kitchen degreaser, chlorine bleach, biogel, wet plastic containers, and a large bag with dozens of serving utensils. These were also found along with brooms, dust pans, vacuum cleaners, and other nonfood equipment.”

This sounds like a crew member or crew members tried to hide cleaning materials along with napkins, eating and serving utensils in obviously improper locations which were described as heavily soiled area in the Windjammer Cafe and main dining room. It is difficult to believe that the USPH did not fail the ship for this intentional type of unsanitary conduct. The purpose of USPH cruise ship inspections is to prevent the spread of shipboard disease outbreaks.

Perhaps coincidentally (or not), in December of 2017, Royal Caribbean notified its oncoming passengers that “some guests onboard experienced gastrointestinal illness. In an abundance of caution, we are conducting enhanced sanitizing onboard the ship and within the cruise terminal to help prevent any illness from affecting your cruise.”

The questions arises why so many cruise ships operated by both Carnival and Royal Caribbean are receiving low and sometimes failing sanitation scores. Crew members hiding food or eating utensils  and working while ill are hardly new. Are USPH inspectors more vigorously inspecting the ships? Or this the result of too much work and too few crew members who are responsible for cleaning the ship, as some people say?

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

In 2015, I publsihed an article about the “hide and seek” games played on the Liberty fo the Seas in Did Royal Caribbean Dupe USPH Inspectors? On our Facebook page, I asked: Do cruise lines hide pots & pans, galley equipment and food from USPH Inspectors? A. Yes. B. No.  The overwhelming response was yes.

Photo credit: Grandeur of the Seas (in Miami) and Allure of the Seas (in Jamaica) – Jim Walker.

Falmouth Jamaica PortThe Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) intends to again dredge the port of Falmouth in order to extend the Falmouth cruise ship pier, according to the Jamaica Gleaner.

A PAJ representative stated that the new project will permit the Jamaican port to allow two of the Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class (originally known as the Genesis Class) cruise ships (Oasis, Allure, Harmony and Symphony of the Seas) to dock simultaneously in Falmouth. 

The PAJ has tried to avoid discussing the controversial project although a number of local Jamaican leaders have voiced opposition to the dredging.

As we reported earlier this summer, the Gleaner reported on calls for the local citizens in Jamaica to resist the dredging. A pastor in Trelawny, the Reverend Devere Nugent of the William Knibb Baptist Church, was "calling on the people and churches in the parish to resist the plan to do further dredging of the sea, which is a proposal to bring more cruise ships to the resort town."

Reverend Nugent said "I am calling on the churches and people to establish baskets of resistance. We must resist the further dredging of the sea. Let us no longer sit back and be exploited.The people who are planning to do further dredging are doing so for their own profit, none of which stays in Falmouth. Falmouth Jamaica Dredging They don’t live here, they don’t shop here, and they don’t join any church or civic organization here. It is broad-based exploitation."

We have reported on Royal Caribbean exploitation of Falmouth and the destruction of the local habitat there before. The coral reefs were pulverized and dumped on fields of mangroves when the port pier was build for Royal Caribbean nine years ago.    

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

Photo credit: top – Jim Walker

Interested in this issue? We suggest reading: Can the Cruise Industry Clean Up Its Act?  

Allure of the SeasSeveral Royal Caribbean customers have reported that propulsion issues which the Allure of the Seas experienced several years ago have returned and will interfere with the cruises which are scheduled in the future.

One guest sent us an email she recently received:

"Dear Valued Guest,

We have updated information about your sailing.

Allure of the Seas currently has a speed restriction that will result in slight adjustments to your itinerary. For your convenience, the updates are noted below. The new port of San Juan, Puerto Rico offers the opportunity to visit the culturally rich city of Old San Juan and the lush rainforest of El Yunque. We apologize for this change, but have no doubt that your vacation will be nothing short of amazing. We can’t wait to welcome you on board."

The guest who contacted us said that Royal Caribbean replaced St. Kitts with San Juan (others said that Royal Caribbean replaced St. Thomas with San Juan on other itineraries) and the duration of time that the ship will remain in the other ports of call has changed.

Many quests have made their plans a long time ago and chose the itineraries for the specific ports in question, with some people planning honeymoons and anniversaries.  They naturally feel disappointed. They are prohibited from canceling the planned cruises at this point without a penalty being assessed. Many have asked whether compensation is in order.

Unfortunately, the one-sided terms of their cruise tickets permit Royal Caribbean to change ports like this. It’s not nice bit it’s not illegal.  It is a matter of goodwill and the company’s view of its own PR. Compensation is usually reserved for missed ports.

The cruise line that will say that, notwithstanding the propulsion issues, the guests are still receiving the value of a 7-night Caribbean cruise.

Back in November of 2013, passengers aboard the Allure began noticing that the cruise ship was shortening its stay in Nassau and then arriving late in St. Thomas; some excursions were canceled. We wrote about the problems in Dry Dock Cure for Allure of the Seas?

The Allure eventually went into dry dock (with the use of cofferdams) in the Bahamas in early 2014 for the repair of the bearings in an azipod, which was the subject of an interesting YouTube video

To our knowledge, Royal Caribbean has made no official announcements regarding this issue; there is no indication one way or the other whether the cruise line will respond to the ship’s reduced speed with an early dry dock again. 

Stay tuned . . . 

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

August 18, 2017 Update: The Allure is scheduled for dry-dock repairs on Janaury 21, 2018, according to Royal Caribbean. The cruise line says that the cruise ship will undergo "standard maintenance work."  The specfics of the work is not specified.

Photo Credit: Allure of the Seas (in Falmouth Jamaica) – Jim Walker

The Allure of the Seas returned this morning to Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale after a week long cruise. When the Allure docked, some of the passengers were in for a shock.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protective (CBP) reportedly requested the captain of the cruise ship to first disembark green card holders from the seven Muslim-based countries subject to President Trump’s executive order, which bans citizens from entering the U.S. for at least the next 90 days

I was contacted this morning about the situation at the cruise terminal in Fort Lauderdale. A passenger said that there are several guests who sailed on the cruise who are from Iraq and Iran who hold green Trump Ban Green Card Cruisecards (which makes them legal permanent U.S. residents). It currently is unknown how many passengers have been detained, or whether crew members have also been affected.

The executive order, signed by President Trump on Friday night, has thrown confusion into the handling of many people trying to enter the U.S. this weekend. 

Yesterday, a Department of Homeland Security official said people holding green cards are included in President Trump’s executive action temporarily barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

There is uncertainty whether the green card holders will be barred from re-entering the U.S. or whether they will have to undergo additional screening.

"It will bar green card holders," Gillian Christensen, acting Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman, told Reuters yesterday. But other representatives at Homeland Security have been quoted as saying that green card holders will be permitted to enter but will have to be subject to "extreme vetting." 

The affected passengers were returning on a gay cruise chartered by Atlantis. Many returning cruisers not directly affected by the ban have remained at the cruise terminal to show solidarity with the detained passengers.

It is likely that others passengers at other U.S. ports will be detained, and either banned from entering the U.S. or subject to added vetting.

President Trump has claimed that the purpose behind the executive order is to "keep America safe." But it’s hard to imagine how banning legal residents from returning from a holiday cruise will accomplish that goal.

Have a thought? Please leave a comment or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Update: The Miami Herald is covering the story – I’ve Been Detained at Broward Port, Cuise Passenger With a Green Card Says.

January 30, 2017 Update: It seems that there were cruise passengers detained at other ports yesterday.

Florida Today writes that seven people, including a woman of Syrian origin and her three U.S. born children, were retained by CPB for over 6 hours in Port Canaveral yesterday.  

The Global Nation writes today about an Iraqi-born woman of Swedish citizenship, married to an U.S. citizen who arrived in an unidentified port in Florida. Even though she is a legal permanent resident holding a green card, she was separated from her husband when the cruise ship returned to port. "… she felt confused and afraid while being bombarded with questions. Her husband had to wait outside. . .  They asked me where I was born, when did I leave Iraq, how did I come to America, who sponsored me, what does my husband do, and what countries have I lived in.” After three hours of questioning, she was finally let go. “I was the in same room as someone being accused of child pornography,” she says. “That’s how low they made me feel, just because I was in Iraq 27 years ago.” 

March 24, 2017 Update: Palestinian UF student detained after Spring Break cruise.  

Royal Caribbean is using Google Maps Business View (the commercial version of Google’s Street View) to advertise the Allure of the Seas. 

The Telegraph newspaper writes that "visitors to the website select from a series of options to enable them to ‘tour’ the ship’s restaurants, cabins and pools as well as the ship’s ‘unique activities,’ which include a surfing machine, rock-climbing wall and zip wire."

Take a tour here. It’s pretty cool.

Its too bad that Royal Caribbean hasn’t invested the same time and effort into implementing automatic man overboard video camera technology required by the 2010 Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act. Read: Royal Caribbean’s Misplaced Priorities: Fast Internet, Virtual Balconies But No Automatic Man-Overboard Systems.

Royal Caribbean Google Tour

This week I ran across a video of a "quadcopter" (also called a quadrotor helicopter or a quadrocopter) flying over the beach in Fort Lauderdale.

What’s interesting is that the quadcopter quickly catches up with Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas. It flies behind and far over the giant cruise ship for a few minutes. 

It seems rather amazing that a little copter like that can fly so far and high and fast, and it can be safely controlled from so far away.

The video was shot and edited by Carlo Vaccari.  You can see his Facebook page RC Copters here.  

It was disappointing, however, to see an incredible amount of diesel / bunker fuel smoke billowing out of the ship. It’s particularly nasty around the 5:00 minute mark. 

A year ago we blogged about a quadcopter buzzing the Costa Concordia – QuadroCopter Operators Arrested in Giglio for Filming Costa Concordia.

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Allure of the Seas - Enough Life Boats?When the executives at Royal Caribbean trotted out the Oasis of the Seas several years ago, they took special efforts to tout that the evacuation and life saving systems on this huge ship were the best in the world. After all, this was the largest, most technologically advanced, and most expensive cruise ship in the world.

Cruise CEO and President Adam Goldstein characterized the evacuation system for passengers as a "holistic" approach to saving lives. You can read about the "holistic" design here on an official Royal Caribbean press statement.

Royal Caribbean produced carefully crafted videos showing that its "revolutionary" huge state-of-the-art 370 person capacity life boats would safely rescue the passengers if anything wrong happened on the high seas requiring an evacuation. 

You can see the video below with William Wright, who captained the Oasis from Europe to Fort Lauderdale, promoting the life boats as marvels of the sea. The video says that the new life boats have double redundancy: double engines, double propellers, and double rudders, in addition to well-lighted and spacious boats, which according to Royal Caribbean would ensure that the 16 crew members assigned to each life boat could comfortably ferry the 354 passengers to safety. 

You could almost hear the thoughts of the cruise executives: we have to assure our customers that this money-making-beast-of-a-ship can safely evacuate 8,500 passengers and crew who are jam-packed together in this highly compressed space. As a result, the public was presented with the nonsensical "holistic" message from CEO Goldstein and the slick video production starring captain Wright (since unceremoniously fired from the company) stating that the passengers are even safer in the life boats!

Many maritime experts believe that the size of the new huge cruise ships make it harder to evacuate quickly and safely. Cruise lines are required to evacuate all passengers and crew in just 30 minutes, which seems like a tall order considering that there could be as many as 8,500 passengers and crew aboard these ships. But CEO Richard Fain promoted his giant ships by claiming that evacuation is in fact Oasis of the Seas Chute and Raft faster on larger ships because "they have more entrances and exits." He went as far as to claim that passengers are actually safer in gigantic cruise ships. 

But what Royal Caribbean was not telling the public was that the life boats were severely limited in number and were only for the passengers. Crew members have to jump down a 60′ chute into a flimsy life raft – not a life boat.

The chutes and rafts are contained in canisters located on the ship which deploy and drop down into the water. I last mentioned these type of canisters following the fire aboard Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas last May which burned many of the canisters located on the stern of the cruise ship.

Take a look at the bottom video which shows a Royal Caribbean crew member who gets stuck in the chute and then flies out and lands violently on his back.  We’ve also written about an incident where 20 crew members were injured in a drill using a similar chute and raft system.      

Recently, the issue arose whether there are an adequate number of lifeboats on the Allure and the Oasis, after the Allure left one of its lifeboats behind in Nassau because of a problem with a cable.

There are only 18 lifeboats to begin with on these ships. Each life boat has a capacity of 370 people, cpnsisting of 354 passengers and 16 crew members who are responsible for overseeing the passengers and maneuvering the life boat.  With only 17 life boats, there is room for only 6,018 passengers; whereas, the Allure has a capacity of 6,296.

The passengers who are not permitted into a life boat will be forced to use something Royal Caribbean and its executives never touted as either revolutionary or "holistic" – the dangerous chute and raft system used by crew members. 

When we broke this story, there was a blow back by the cruise line and many crew members. Royal Caribbean claimed that "we had enough safety crafts for everyone onboard the ship . . . Our ships carry extra lifesaving vessels at all times." Unfortunately, the cruise line use of the words life "crafts" and "vessels" did not distinguish whether it has enough newly designed life "boats" for the passengers versus the dangerous old-school life "rafts" used by the crew.

"Stop nitpicking and creating a controversy!" seemed to be the sentiment by the cruise line and most crew members. These supporters of Royal Caribbean pointed out that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) requires the ship to have 25% extra life craft capacity for the maximum capacity of the passengers and crew and there’s no evidence that the Allure was in violation of that when it sailed.

My response is that the IMO requirements are a minimum. More importantly, what about the executives’ promises of the revolutionary and holistic approach to saving human souls?  Are grandmothers and children and mothers with babies going to have to jump into the chutes into a lifeboat from deck four, commando style?

It seems so, and the cruise executives know it.  Take a look at the evacuation procedure diagrams on the Oasis. The schematics of the chute system depict passengers with children and mothers clinging onto their infants descending the chutes. These images are directly from Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships

The last comment posted to my article said:

"Stop nitpicking, whether it’s a craft, raft, or boat as long as there is something in case of an emergency i don’t think most people would care. These rafts are the same one the US Navy uses, if it’s safe for our troops it’s safe for me."

When people leave comments on my blog like this, they automatically leave their internet provider (IP) address. The IP address of this person indicated that the person sent the message from Royal Caribbean in Miami. Whether this macho man was a frustrated low level employee or someone in the operations or safety departments, I’ll never know. But someone over at the cruise line thinks that it’s okay (and a darn patriotic thing to do!) for passengers to jump down a 60 foot chute acting like Rambo.

I doubt that 75 year old grandmothers or little grand kids realize that they are signing up for this tour of duty when they embark on a luxury cruise of the Caribbean aboard the Allure or the Oasis.  

Perhaps the cruise line is right that it is in technical compliance with the minimal IMO requirements. But the cruise line should be transparent with its guests. It should tell its passengers that instead of a "holistic" rescue in "revolutionary" life boats, they should be prepared to act like a Navy Seal jumping into a raft in a combat zone.

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Allure of the Seas LifeboatThere’s an interesting comment on the popular on line cruise community Cruise Critic that the Allure of the Seas left Nassau 2 hours late yesterday because of an issue with the lift cable of lifeboat number 1. According to this passenger, the cable to the lifeboat apparently snapped and needs repair.

The issue arises whether there are sufficient lifeboats for all of the passengers and, if not, whether the cruise line has obtained a waiver from the flag state (the Bahamas).

There seems to be some suggestion floated out there that the Allure has more lifeboats than necessary.

I have written about  the lifesaving systems on the Allure and the Oasis before: Titanic Redux? Can Royal Caribbean Safely Evacuate 8,500 Passengers & Crew from the Oasis of the Seas? 

Royal Caribbean says that it normally has 18 lifeboats which each carry 370 people for a total of 6,660 passengers. (Crew members have to slide down chutes into liferafts). So with only 17 lifeboats aboard, the cruise ship has a capacity of 6,290.  How many passengers are on board now? Wikipedia says that the Allure has a maximum capacity of 6,296. 

One person commented on Cruise Critic that the capacity of 370 includes 16 crew assigned to each boat, so it actually carries 354 passengers. With only 17 lifeboats, there is room for only 6,018 passengers.

I’d hate to see an emergency and a problem develop with another lifeboat.

Has Royal Caribbean issued a statement about this?

Have a thought? Please join the discussion on Facebook.

December 11 2013 Update: Cruise Critic just published an article pointing out that Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas was sailing without one of its lifeboats after a pulley malfunctioned in Cabo. Cruise Critic obtained a quote from a Royal Caribbean spokesperson claiming that the Allure of the Seas is permitted to sail with a lifeboat missing because ""we had enough safety crafts for everyone onboard the ship . . . Our ships carry extra lifesaving vessels at all times."  Unfortunately, the cruise line’s comments are vague. It refers to life "crafts" but does not specify whether it has enough life "boats" for the passengers versus life "rafts" which are used for the crew and which you have to enter by jumping down a 60 foot chute, which is dangerous.  What exactly is the number of passengers currently aboard the Allure?

A number of people have left comments on our Facebook page saying "no big deal" because the passengers can just jump down a chute into a raft if a lifeboat or two are missing. Take a look below and ask yourself whether you or your family want to do this.  We have also reported on 20 crew members being seriously injured jumping down one of these type of chutes.

   

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Photo Credit: anglofiles.com

Allure of the SeasRoyal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world, will enter dry dock in the Bahamas in February 2014 to undergo repairs to its propulsion system.

The decision was finally announced after the cruise line had been under criticism for not disclosing the Allure was unable to cruise any faster than around 17 knots rather than its top of over 22 knots. 

Several newspapers are saying that the cruise ship had a problem with one of its three propulsion "pods." The ship has been arriving late and leaving early from its ports of call and cancelling some excursions.

The Allure will undergo repairs during the week of Feb. 24, 2014. The cruise scheduled for that week will be cancelled and the cruise fare refunded. 

 

Tom Stieghorst of Travel Weekly reports that Royal Caribbean may send the Allure of the Seas, which has been plagued by problems with its propulsion system, to an early drydock in order to fix the problem.

The article says the scheduled drydock is not until in 2015, but the cruise line may take the giant ship out of service earlier.

Travel Weekly quotes cruise chairman Richard Rain as the source of the information. 

Allure of the SeasRoyal Caribbean has been criticized for not being transparent in telling the public of the problem before cruising. Passengers aboard the Allure began noticing that the cruise ship was shortening its stay in Nassau and then arriving late in St. Thomas. Some excursions have been cancelled.

USA TODAY also weighs in on the issue with its article "World’s Largest Cruise Ship May Need Repairs." The newspaper explains that the Allure is just the latest in a series of ships that have experienced problems with pod propulsion systems. Three months ago, sister cruise line Celebrity Cruises’ Millennium suffered a pod problem resulting in the cancellation of several cruises. 

We have been contacted by cruisers who are booked on the Allure over the next several months, wondering whether the propulsion problems will be fixed by the time of their cruise.  

This news will create only more speculation and worry, as it now seems probable that the Allure will be taken out of service for a week or two sometime in the next few months. Exactly when is anyone’s guess.   

 

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia (Daniel Christensen)