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)

A reader of Cruise Law News sent us a humorous tweet from Royal Caribbean. The problem is that the cruise line didn’t intend it to be funny.

Royal Caribbean tweeted a photograph of the Allure of the Seas (below left) with the caption "Full speed ahead."

Of course everyone following cruise news knows that the Allure of the Seas is experiencing a problem with its propulsion system which we have written about a couple of times. Read here and here.

Allure of the Seas Propulsion ProblemsThere is currently a debate in the cruise community between those die-hard cruise supporters who think the propulsion problems are a lot to do about nothing and those cruisers who are annoyed that their expensive cruise vacations involve leaving some cruise ports early and arriving late at others and missing some excursions in the process.  

I won’t jump into that argument except to say that the cruise line is not helping its reputation by keeping its usually loyal-to-Royal customers in the dark.

I’m not the first to comment on the "full speed ahead" caption showing the Allure tearing up the waves.

Others on Twitter have had their fun.

@MartinosCafe tweeted: "@Royal Caribbean Is that your way of telling us the ship is fixed?"

And @linerlovers tweeted: "I wish they WERE at full speed!"

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

Every so often we will publish a comment from a reader of Cruise Law News about an issue we are discussing on this blog.  This morning we received the comment below from a reader about the propulsion problem on the Allure of the Seas.

Quite often, the problems with the cruise industry’s poor image is not so much that things go wrong on the high seas, but that the cruise lines are not transparent when go amiss. When a major newspaper like USA TODAY or a major online cruise site like Cruise Critic breaks a story about a problem, it creates a perception that the cruise lines are being sneaky and are more interested in covering up a Allure of the Seasproblem than fixing it.

Our reader’s comments are below:

"What really bothers me about this is that Royal Caribbean is keeping silent on this issue instead of informing it’s passengers about the problem. Haven’t they learned anything from the problems that Carnival faced by not keeping their passengers informed?

I thought it was interesting that I called my travel agent and she was not aware of the problem but said that she would call the company. While I waited for her to call me back I called RCCL’s customer service line to ask about the propulsion problem. The operator hemmed and hawed but wouldn’t give me a straight answer. She even tried to tell me that there was a small problem and it had been fixed. When I told her that I knew about the problem and that it hadn’t been fixed she said she needed to call her supervisor. I never did get a straight answer out of either of them. I, as a customer think that I have a right to know what is RCCL hiding? I think the media should be asking this of Adam. And is the ship actually safe to be sailing?"

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

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia (Daniel Christensen)

Over the past six weeks, we have received emails from Royal Caribbean crew members saying that the Allure of the Seas has suffered propulsion problems. The crew members have been told by their supervisors to tell the cruise passengers that nothing is wrong.

Well this evening the story broke on Cruise Critic that Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas Suffers Propulsion Issues.

According to Cruise Critic, Royal Caribbean has admitted that it has experienced a significant reduction in the cruise ship’s speed which has caused delays and shortened calls during its cruises. A Royal Allure of the Seas Cruise ShipCaribbean spokesperson said:

"Allure of the Seas currently has a small restriction on her top speed. All equipment is fully operational, and there is no impact on the maneuverability of the ship or on the safety of our guests and crew."

A Cruise Critic member said: "When we were checking in the day before, they handed us a sheet of paper indicating that the Nassau short stay will now be shorter by one hour, on top of a delayed arrival in St. Thomas two days later. The reason stated was technical issues with the ship’s top speed. I was also told while on board that they want to slow down a bit to save fuel."

The cruise line changed recent itineraries by shortening stays in Nassau by one hour and St. Thomas  by three hours. The Royal Caribbean spokesperson told Cruise Critic:

"I won’t be able to provide you with additional details. But yes, the plan is to get Allure back up to top speed."

Can you imagine owning the world’s largest and most expensive cruise ship that already has problems maintaining the speed advertised when sold? 

Are you a crew member or have you sailed recently on the Allure of the Seas? Do you have information about the propulsion issues?  Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia (Zache)

If you want to participate in the FlowRider attraction on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the cruise line requires its passengers to sign an electronic waiver. The waiver purports to relieve the cruise line of any and all liability arising out of use of the FlowRider. However, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal ruled last year that the waiver violates U.S. Maritime Law and is legally unenforceable.

In a  case our firm handled, the appellate court held that the Royal Caribbean waiver violated 46 U.S.C. § 30509 which prohibits contractual provisions which attempt to limit the liability of the owner of ships for "personal injury or death caused by the negligence or fault of the owner or the owner’s employees or agents." The court held that the statute was clear and unambiguous, and there was no exception for recreational, inherently dangerous, or ultra hazardous activities. Although waivers of this FlowRider Wipe Out - Royal Caribbean Cruisetype may be enforceable on land under certain circumstances, such waivers are illegal and unenforceable on the high seas.

The legal decision is significant because there has been at least one death and many serious injuries to cruise passengers on the Royal Caribbean FlowRiders.

Below you can see an example how the cruise line electronic waiver works.  The participants usually are in a long line near the "Wipeout Bar!" with music blaring when they have to sign the waiver. Quite often, the passengers don’t read anything and are led through the waiver by a cruise line employee very quickly. The waivers are not only legally unenforceable, but it seems like no one reads them anyway.

Ever since the Eleventh Circuit struck the waiver down, the cruise’s line’s requirement to force passengers to sign the waiver appears fraudulent to me.  The waiver is unenforceable. Period. Executing an unenforceable waiver is meaningless. There is a danger that a passenger may not assert their legal rights after they were seriously injured on the FlowRider because the cruise line tricked them into believing that they waived their rights. This constitutes fraud.

If you were injured on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, and you didn’t file suit timely (one year) because you believed that you waived your rights, you may still have a basis for a lawsuit against the cruise line.

If you have a question about the Royal Caribbean Flowrider waiver, please contact our office.

 

//www.youtube.com/embed/4Z3rtq1-vX8?rel=0

For those of you who cruise regularly, you know that Royal Caribbean has two FlowRider attractions on both the Allure of the Seas and the Oasis of the Seas. The FlowRider is a surfing simulation where a thin wave of water is shot across a rubber surface and the passengers tries to surf or boogie board. 

Today I posted an image of what looks like repairs or major maintenance to one of the FlowRiders on the Allure.  You can see another image of the FlowRider below as the work continues.

Anyone know what’s going on with the FlowRiders on the Allure?

If you know, join the discussion on our Facebook page.  

Allure of the Seas - FlowRider - Oasis of the Seas

Oasis of the Seas - Viking Dual Evacuation Chute SystemA retired U.S. Coast Guard official called me last week about issues of cruise ship safety. We had an interesting hour and one-half discussion about whether modern cruise ships are designed to safely evacuate passengers and crew members in times of emergencies like fires or sinkings.

Our conversation began with Royal Caribbean’s biggest cruise ships in the world, the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean touts these news ships as technological marvels of the world. But the evacuation procedures are strictly old-school.

Some aspects of the emergency abandon ship systems are flat-out dangerous.

The cruise line’s press releases mentions that the cruise ship has 18 lifeboats each with a 370 passenger capacity. It says that “lifeboats on Oasis of the Seas have been entirely redesigned and approved as part of a holistic evacuation concept.”

But the truth of the matter is that Royal Caribbean had a major problem when it designed the largest cruise ships on the planet. There is a regulation stating that the maximum number of people permitted aboard a lifeboat is 150. There is no way that the cruise line could build a ship with over 55 lifeboats carrying 150 people each. So in order to cram enough people into lifeboats, the cruise line obtained a waiver to increase the maximum lifeboat capacity up to 370 people.

Oasis of the Seas Canister Chute SystemRoyal Caribbean not only has the largest cruise ships in the world, but it has the largest lifeboats in the world.

But does it have enough?

18 lifeboats with a capacity of 370 equals only 6,660 people. Oasis has a total maximum population of around 8,500 when you count its capacity of around 6,300 passengers and 2,200 crew members. That means that there are around 1,850 people without the lifeboats which Royal Caribbean raves about.

Royal Caribbean’s press statement makes no mention of it, but those who are not assigned or cannot fit into the limited number of lifeboats must use “emergency evacuation chutes.”  The term used on the Royal Caribbean ships is “Viking Dual Evacuation Chute.”  What is this you may ask?  You won’t find Royal Caribbean talking much about the chute system.

If you look at photographs of the Oasis (or the Allure), along the side of the ship at deck 4 you will see three large lifeboats in-a-line leading from the stern. Then you will see a row of canisters (others may call then cylinders), looking like old depth charges, positioned one on top of the other on deck 4.

Oasis of the Seas Emergency Evacuation Chute SystemWhen these canisters are opened (see video bottom), a life-raft inflates in the water below. (We are talking about life-rafts – not lifeboats). These life-rafts are connected to a series of chutes running up to deck 4. The passengers and/or crew evacuate the cruise ships by jumping into the entrance to this emergency evacuation apparatus on deck 4. They then rapidly slide / fall down a steep, vertical drop into the inflated life-raft below.

These type of devices are dangerous. There have been a significant number of people killed or seriously injured while trying to evacuate 4 or 5 stories down steep chutes like this.

In November, I wrote an article about 20 crew members seriously injured in a drill using this type of system who suffered broken bones, sprained ankles, and friction burns during the steep descent. Further injuries were avoided only when other crew members refused to jump. A union representative characterized the evacuation system as “unsuitable and dangerous.”

PBS aired a documentary on behalf of “Inside Nova” which looked at the Oasis of the Seas’ evacuation procedures. PBS videotaped the operation of the chutes. In the video below you can see crew members tugging on the chute when suddenly a crew member comes flying out – landing violently on Oasis of the Seas Chute Evacuation Systemhis buttocks. After catching his breath, he exclaims “I got stuck!”

Now the first reaction to the video may be that it seems funny. But if you think about it for a second, it is actually terrifying. The placard on the cruise ship shows families with little kids and infants who are lining up to jump. The drawing on the ship actually show a mother clinging to her infant sailing down the chute a few feet above another passenger while a large man is jumping into the chute above her. I cannot imagine a more dangerous scenario.

Can you imagine what would happen if a 235 lb man lands on a 130 lb woman holding on to her 25 lb infant at the bottom of the chute?  Serious injury would occur.  Serious head injuries are likely if multiple people and children are in the chute at the same time. Far fetched?  Hardly. This scenario is actually depicted in the instructional drawings on the Oasis itself.

Royal Caribbean may say that only crew members are suppose to use this system. That’s mentioned on the PBS video where you can see photographs of the chute system. That does not say much for the cruise line’s consideration of the safety of its own crew.

But why do the drawings 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. And if in fact only crew members are assigned to the chutes, why should they be subject to such dangers on a cruise ship which its owners tout as the safest ship in the world?

The other issue to consider, of course, is what happens if the Oasis suffers a Costa Concordia type of accident where the cruise ship lifts heavily to one side?  As we know from the Concordia, the lifeboats could not be deployed once the ship listed to 22 degrees.  Half of the Concordia lifeboats, on the port side of the vessel, were useless once the ship listed to the starboard side.  If anything like this happens on the Oasis, there will be a riot where passengers and crew fight to get into the remaining Abandon Ship Oasis of the Seaslifeboats and the rest will be left to take their chances jumping down the chutes hoping to land in a raft many stories below.

Then there are the wind and sea conditions. All of the drills for the Oasis or Allure take place on sunny days in the calm waters of the Caribbean. Take a look here for an example.  Around and around the lifeboats drive in the protected waters of a beautiful lagoon in the Caribbean. What fun.

But what happens when these ships are re-positioned to Europe, Indonesia or Australia where there are high seas and unpredictable weather?  After all, Royal Caribbean is ordering more Oasis class monster ships right now. Trying to evacuate thousands of people down chutes into life-rafts in high waves and winds could be a disaster. There is also the risk of the tether ropes breaking, the chutes twisting, or the life-rafts ripping away from the chutes.

I for one would hate to think of anyone’s spouse, or kids, or parents, whether they are crew or passengers, having to jump into an evacuation chute and fall 50 feet into a raft in rough seas.

A chute and a raft are hardly a “holistic” approach to survival.  It’s a disappointing and antiquated way of trying to save lives on the supposedly most sophisticated cruise ship in the world.

Don’t forget to watch the video of the chute system below:

What are your thoughts on this evacuation system?  If you are a crew member, have you ever been down a chute like this? Join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Allure of the Seas - Oasis of the Seas FlowRider Royal Caribbean Cruises just announced a third Oasis-class cruise ship will be built at the South Korea-owned shipyard STX France after the financing fell through with the STX Finland shipyard.  

The as-of-yet unnamed gigantic ship will follow fellow behemoths the Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas which are ported in Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.

CEO Richard Fain, who just sold $11,500,000 worth of RCL stock, proclaimed that "these ships have consistently generated outstanding guest satisfaction ratings and continue to produce superior financial results . . . "

The new billion-dollar-plus cruise ship is expected to come on line sometime in mid to late 2016. STX France provided Royal Caribbean with a one-year option to build a fourth Oasis-class ship with a 2018 delivery date. 

There is speculation where the new ship will be ported, with the South Florida Business Journal proposing Miami where Royal Caribbean is based and U.K. travel blogger Captain Greybeard raising the possibility of deploying the ship to the Mediterranean or the Far East.

What’s my take on another "Giant of the Seas" arriving on the scene? First, its a continuing disaster for the environment. The supposedly most technologically advanced cruise ships in the world still burn highly toxic high-sulfur-content bunker fuel. And small Caribbean islands are forced to destroy ancient coral Allure of the Seas - Oasis of the Seas - Royal Caribbeanreefs as a price to pay from the privilege of hosting these enormous floating cities into their small ports.

The multi-billion dollar deal enormously benefits South Korea and France. The off-shore building project represents another drain of money and jobs from the U.S. to the South Korean conglomerate which owns the shipyard in France. 

The arrival of one or two additional Oasis-class ships will carry 5,000 to 10,000 additional cruise passengers. They will be trying to stay safe on the ship’s various attractions like the rock-climbing wall, the zip-line and the incredibly dangerous FlowRiders which have caused serious injury and even death over the years.   

One would hope that the cruise line takes greater care in designing these amusement-park-like attractions to avoid the risk of serious injury.  Because as matters now stand, Royal Caribbean’s gigantic sized cruise ships are good news only for the cruise line’s executives and the personal injury lawyers representing the injured passengers.  

The Sun Sentinel newspaper in Fort Lauderdale reports that two Royal Caribbean arrested in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday as they were disembarking from the Allure of the Seas cruise ship.

The crew members, both age  25, were identified as Winston Hyman and Jimmel Thom (photo below). The cruise ship had returned to Port Everglades from a cruise to Labadee, Haiti, Jamaica and Mexico.

A sniffer dog alerted to a backpack the men had been carrying. More than one kilo of cocaine was discovered inside.

Jimmel Thom - Allure of the SeasOne of the men stated that they were handed backpack from a man in Falmouth, Jamaica.  This man reportedly had previously worked aboard the Allure of the Seas.  One of the crew members, Thom, had worked with this former crew member to smuggle narcotics on and off the Allure before.  He was reportedly paid $2,000 upfront and was then to receive $1,000 once he delivered the cocaine in Fort Lauderdale. 

We have reported on drug smuggling on Royal Caribbean cruise ships before. It’s hardly a rare event; you can read the accounts of crew member drug smuggling below:

Another Royal Caribbean Crew Member Busted for Drug Smuggling (Explorer of the Seas)

Million Dollar Drug Bust on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship in Montego Bay (Grandeur of the Seas)

Three Crew Drug Arrests (Enchantment of the Seas)

High Times on the High Seas – Cruise Industry Struggles with "Reefer Madness (Royal Caribbean crew members smuggling drugs into Bermuda)

The Allure of the Seas was also the cruise ships where a travel agent was arrested for dealing large amounts of drugs during a cruise. He was caught with 142 ecstasy pills, 3 grams of methamphetamine, ketamine and $51,000 cash. 

 

Photo credit: Broward County Sheriff’s Office via Sun Sentinel

A'riel Marion - Overboard Cruise Passenger - Allure of the SeasLocal NBC 6 reports that Royal Caribbean delayed reporting the disappearance of Allure of the Seas cruise passenger, A’riel Marion, for two hours, even though another passenger on a lower balcony was literally hit on the arm as Ms. Marion fell to the water.

Based on the official report from the United States Coast Guard, the cruise line did not report the incident to the Coast Guard until 11:30 PM even though a passenger immediately reported the overboard to the ship around 9:27 PM.

Royal Caribbean’s initial press release falsely claimed that the cruise line "immediately" reported the overboard. 

Our articles about this case are here:

Passenger Missing From The Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship

Why Didn’t Royal Caribbean Immediately Notify the Coast Guard that a Passenger Went Overboard from Allure of the Seas? 

Delay, Deny, Deceive & Defend: Royal Caribbean Shows How Not to Respond to an Overboard Passenger  

 

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