AIDAperlaPassengers aboard the Norwegian Sun are still complaining about the massive renovation projects that ruined their two week cruise from Miami through the Panama Canal to Los Angeles several weeks ago.

We wrote about the problem almost three weeks ago in an article titled NCL’s Panama Canal Fiasco Cruise. The Miami Herald just reported on the continued fallout from the large scale project yesterday in They booked a two-week Norwegian cruise. Instead, they got a ‘nightmare at sea.’

For a cruise where customers paid for what should have been a relaxing and care-free vacation at sea, NCL scheduled the sanding and application of noxious smelling chemicals and compounds throughout the open decks of the ship. Ship employees and contractors involved in the work were wearing respirators due to the dust but the passengers were left to inhale dust generated by the work.

The project obviously should have taken place in a dry-dock. The heavy construction caused NCL to shut down numerous bars, deck spaces and restaurants. The work also risked the health and personal AIDAperlasafety of the guests. Photos from the Facebook page, Panama Canal Sun, show paint particles and metal shards covering the decks. Doors leading to muster stations on the ship were blocked which seems dangerous, especially considering the buckets of flammable chemicals stored all over the decks. Many passengers complained of burning, itching and runny eyes and difficulty breathing due to the strong fumes and/or particles.

But cruise industry supporters told the Miami Herald that a cruise ship undergoing construction projects outside of a dry dock is not uncommon (although the level of construction on the Norwegian Sun was quite unusual).

Over the years we have been contacted by dozens of cruise passengers who have complained that grinding of exterior decks, painting of portions of the ship exteriors and other noisy and smelly projects ruined their vacations. Take a moment and read our article HAL’s Upgraded Cabin From Hell. Watch the video here.

I have always been amazed that a travel/vacation company of any type would subject their customers to such an inconvenience, much less a health hazard like what happened on the Norwegian Sun.

But cruise lines don’t make money unless they are sailing their ships. The industry’s enormous tax-free profits come from shipboard activities like sales from the casinos, shore excursions, gift shops, AIDAperlaspecialty restaurants and the tremendous amount of booze sold during cruises. Several thousand  passengers each paying many thousands of dollars in cruise fares and many hundreds of dollars in onboard purchases is simply too much loot for greedy cruise executives to walk away from.

We typically don’t get involved in such disputes. But writing about such bait-and-switch tactics seems to be an insight in the nickel-and-dime mentalities of many cruise lines.

I was recently contacted by a German couple who is cruising with their young child on the AIDAperla, which I understand to be the newest and most modern cruise ship of AIDA Cruises. AIDA did not bother to tell them that some of the pools were closed due to renovations/repairs taking place during the cruise. Passengers witnessed grinding and sanding which required workers to use masks or respirators (top left) during the project. Paint and chemicals were stored on the deck next to passengers sitting around the emplty pool (middle right).  Experiencing such inconveniences would seem to be the last thing that any guest should expect from a new ship (launched just last year).

But the Carnival-owned cruise line brushed off the couple’s complaints, offering just an onboard credit of 30 euros for the adults and a 15 euro credit for the child – after the German couple paid over 1,200 euros for the cruise which left Hamburg.

I suppose that this inconvenience is a far cry from the outrageous conduct of NCL in the Norwegian Sun fiasco, which eventually resulted in a “full cruise refund” after the passengers organized themselves and their complaints went viral.   But it all seems reflective of the we-take-our-guests for granted if not outright contemptuous attitude of many cruise managers and executives toward their passengers.

Have you encountered a similar inconvenience or aggravation during a cruise that you paid for your family? How did the cruise line respond?  Join the conversation on out Facebook page.

Photo and video credit: Anonymous

https://youtube.com/watch?v=hWHkAfV9u1E%3Frel%3D0

In 2004, The Miami New Times interviewed me as part of an investigation into how cruise lines treat their crew members once they become ill or injured. The article was entitled "Screwed If By Sea – Cruise Lines Throw Workers Overboard When It Comes to Providing Urgent Medical Care."

The article focused on the two largest cruise lines, Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Around 75% of U.S. passengers sail on cruise ships owned or operated by these giants. Virtually all crew members are non – U.S. employees, from countries like Jamaica, Trinidad, or Honduras where medical care is either non-existent or spotty at best.  

Maintenance and Cure – the Oldest Legal Doctrine in the United States

Cruise lines are legally obligated to provide prompt and adequate medical treatment to their crew members whenever they become ill or injured on the cruise ships. The doctrine is called "maintenance and cure," and has existed in the U.S. for almost 200 years. It is one of the few absolute legal doctrines in the world. Traced back to the Medieval Sea Codes, the doctrine evolved over the centuries out of a concern that hard working crew members should not be abandoned in distant ports. Shipowners are required to provide medical treatment and sustenance so that the crew members will recover from their illnesses. In a nutshell, the maintenance and cure doctrine requires the cruise lines to treat crew members as if they were their own children.

Neglectful Parents in 2004

The "Screwed If By Sea" article revealed that Carnival and Royal Caribbean were very neglectful parents.

The article hit the cruise industry like a bomb. The public learned that the cruise lines were acting outrageously. The New Times revealed that Royal Caribbean kept a seriously burned crew member in his cabin with nothing but Ibuprofen, and then tried to ship him back to the Caribbean from Alaska with no arrangements for medical care. In another case, Royal Caribbean sent a crew member with cancer home to die with no medical treatment. Although the cruise lines were based here in Miami and their cruise ships regularly called on ports in Florida where appropriate medical care is readily available, the companies schemed to send the ship employees to the far corners of the earth where the crew members would languish and their medical conditions would undoubtedly worsen.

How Are Carnival and Royal Caribbean Behaving Today?

The article was published in 2004, five years ago. How are these companies treating their crew members today?

Carnival is doing better. Although some maritime lawyers may disagree, I have found that Carnival is making an effort to more or less provide appropriate care to their sick crew members. For example, we represent a crew member from India who suffered a serious knee injury. He developed osteomyelitis. Once we became involved, Carnival authorized and paid for treatment at the Mayo Clinic where the crew member received outstanding medical care by a team of orthopedic and infectious disease specialists. Carnival efficiently arranged for transportation, food and living accommodations. Our client improved. Carnival did what it was legally required to do. Our client benefited.  A win-win situation.

Royal Caribbean, on the other hand, has gotten worse. In 2004, Royal Caribbean paid $25 a day toward the living expenses of its crew members – a figure which could provide a meager sustenance for some but not all employees. But now, Royal Caribbean provides only $12 a day. No one in the world can eat, cover their rent and utilities, and pay for transportation on such a pittance. Royal Caribbean knows it, but does not care.

Royal Caribbean has also adopted a strict keep-them-out-of-the-U.S. policy. The company saves money by sending its employee to places like Nicaragua and St. Vincent. But these places lack basic medical facilities and basic medicines. The crew member’s heath and life are compromised in the process.

A Royal Money Game

Unlike Carnival, Royal Caribbean is saddled with huge debts. It is struggling financially to bring the $1,000,000,000 Oasis of the Seas, an unnecessary extravagance, into service.  But it is nickeling its crew members, literally, to death. We lost one client to cancer because Royal Caribbean refused to schedule a follow up appointment over the course of five months. Royal Caribbean is neglecting other crew members with serious medical problems, like debilitating neurological injuries and leukemia.

Royal Caribbean is one cruise line which continues to demonstrate that it cares more about money than its crew members.

 

Photo credits

Photo of cruise ship and Royal Caribbean crew member, Mr. Doran McDonald – Jonathon Postal, Miami New Times      

Cruise Inc. – Big Money On the High Seas – CNBC