Cuba remains a popular tourist attraction, especially for Canadians who visit the island. But there are dangers there which few tourists may realize.

Newspapers in Canada are reporting that a 47 year old Canadian tourist from Quebec, who was on vacation in Cuba with his wife and two young daughters, is facing criminal charges after a boating excursion accident in Cuba killed another Canadian tourist.

CTV News reports that the Canadian tourist, Toufik Benhamiche, was "driving a small boat as part of a tourist excursion in July 2017 when the boat veered out of control and fatally struck a woman fromTravel to Cuba Ontario."

A Cuban court found the tourist guilty of criminal negligence and sentenced him to four years in prison. 

Mr. Benhamiche and his family were enjoying a week-long family vacation in Cayo Coco, Cuba. He had flown to Cuba as part of a tour organized and sold by a Canadian tour company, Sunwing, whose Cuban partner organized the water tour through another Cuban sub-contractor. The article explains that the fatal accident took place during an adventure tour reportedly offered by Sunwing’s local Cuban partner, Gaviota Tours, which reportedly subcontracted the boat portion to the Cuban company, Marlin SA.

Mr. Benhamiche’s lawyer Julius Grey said that he intends to bring a legal action against Sunwing for the failure of company and its local tour operators to provide basic instructions regarding the watercraft and permitting the small vessel to be overloaded. According to the Canadian newspaper, Mr. Grey alleges that his client was provided with inadequate direction on how to pilot the boat. He stated: "it’s obvious they’re at fault . . . our client had been taught nothing, knew nothing, did not have a license and was told he could just do it for a few dollars."

Although this incident obviously does not involve a cruise, it raises a common issue when tourists are injured in foreign countries by the negligence of local tour partners. This case is unusual because the tourist was arrested for what appears to be a case of simple negligence.  

The tourist’s lawyer was critical of both Cuba and Canada. He criticied the Canadian government for not assisting the Canadian who was arrested and imprisoned in Cuba following the excursion accident. The lawyer stated that Cuba was trying to protect a Cuban company which it is responsible for from a "potentially high liability" for the deadly accident. 

Gaviota Group is a popular Cuba company which provides a wide range of tours in Cuba, including sail boats and jet skis. Marlin SA is also a popular Cuban company which offers sailing, fishing, and jet skis tours to tourists visiting Cuba. 

One account of the incident, from the Canadian newspaper La Presse, indicates that the "Cuban state . . .  is the true owner of the Marlin company." The newspaper also states that three employees of Marlin were initially charged with criminal wrongdoing but the Cuban government eventually withdrew these charges, leaving the Canadian tourist as the soul culprit.

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News sources in Mexico are reporting that an excursion boat with cruise passengers aboard sank last week. 

Riviera Maya News reports that the cruise excursion incident took place on Wednesday January 3rd, approximately 15 minutes after the boat sailed from Cozumel with ten cruise guests aboard it. The boat’s crew instructed the cruise passengers to head to the bow; however, the boat took on water quickly and the guests had to jump into the water. The cruise passengers reportedly were from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship and a Celebrity ship (the Celebrity Equinox). 

The cruise passengers were reportedly rescued from the water by other boats in the area, 

Local news sources state that none of the cruise passengers were physically injured.

The YouTube video at the bottom shows the bow of the sunken tourist boat bobbing in the water with some of the passengers being rescued. 

There have been several other similar incidents during cruise excursions near Cozumel, Mexico. Just six weeks ago, 95 German cruise poassengers from the Mein Schiff 6 cruise ship were rescued after a catamaran boat began to sink during an excursion, acording to the Baja Post (photo below).  

This mishap occurs just over two weeks after a deadly bus excursion accident near Costa Maya, Mexico when a bus with 11 cruise passengers from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship and a Celebrity Cruises ship was heading towards a Mayan ruins tourist attraction in Chacchoben, in Quintana Roo state, Mexico. 

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Video credit (below): 5to Poder Periodismo ConSentido YouTube page. Image credit (bottom) of November 16, 2017 sinking –  Noticaribe via Baja Post.

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

 Mexico Excursion Accident

 

Italian newspaper L’Unione Sarda reports what it is calling an excursion boat from the Costa Mediterranea apparently broke a cable while it was being lowered in Montenegro. 

Photographs sent to me shows what appears to be a lifeboat dangling on the side of the Costa cruise ship.  

The news article says:

"There was a technical problem , , ,  the boat came off as it was being lowered into the sea to carry passengers to the fjord of Kotor, in Montenegro. There is a dock and it was necessary to use the boats. But no one was on board and no one was hurt, said Costa Crociere."

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There have been other serious lifeboat accidents in the last several years. In October 2014, a "rescue boat" on the Coral Princess was being raised on davits with two crew members aboard when a cable snapped. One crew member was killed. In July 2015, two crew members were seriously injured when they were raising a rescue boat. It fell from deck 6 of the Pride of America to the water. In February 2013, 8 crew members were in a lifeboat during a drill on the Thomson Majesty cruise ship when the lifeboat plunged 60 feet into the water. The lifeboat landed upside down. 5 of the crew were killed. 3 were injured.

Photo Credit: Facebook (unknown photographer) 

Costa Mediterranea

This morning we were contacted by passengers aboard Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas indicating that two dockworkers were killed when the cruise ship was leaving the port.

The passengers described the incident as occurring when the two dockworkers were in a small vessel trying to remove the last mooring lines. The Independence of the Seas’ wake allegedly swamped the vessel with its azipods and threw the two men into the water. The vessel then allegedly slammed into the Celebrity Silhouette and overturned.

The two men were described as wearing life-vests, although one vest apparently became loose when the man was tossed into the water.

The passengers who we communicated with were critical that the Independence "launched rescue but not fast enough. Celebrity took 30 min after we launched rescue to respond."  They described a "lack of quick response and feeling of helplessness."

The incident occurred yesterday around 5:00 PM.  The Independence was delayed approximately 3 Independence of the Seas St Kittshours.

The incident has already been posted on social media sites.

The Times Caribbean Blog posted this on Facebook (and the photo to the right):  

"Eyewitnesses suggest that the Cruise Liner may have pulled out before the men had enough time to clear the berthing area. As a result the sea currents created by the massive cruise liner may have caused the smaller berthing boat to capsize and the men were apparently sucked below water by the current and drowned."

The news account also indicated that "the small boat was capsized when our rear azipods pushed us away from the dock. The two men where thrown overboard and never resurfaced, only one had on a life vest, the other man’s life vest came off when he was thrown into the water. The capsized boat was then pushed into the back of the Silhouette. All of this viewed from my aft balcony, kinda puts a damper on an otherwise wonderful cruise. Very sad for the families of these two men.’" 

CNN iReport posted information (based on the Times Caribbean account) and a local newspaper in St. Kitts, SKNVibes, published an article as well.

The St. Kitts & Nevis Observer identified the two men. 

April 5 2014 UpdateLinesman expresses safety concerns following colleague’s death.

If anyone has additional information or photos or video of the incident, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo Credit: Times Caribbean

King of the Nile FireTen days ago we reported on a fire which occurred aboard a small cruise ship / river cruise called the King of the Nile. The reports out of Egypt were that none of the passengers or crew members were injured.

But the popular cruise blog Noticias de Cruceros reported passenger accounts suggesting that the fire was far worse than reported and may have caused injuries and fatalities.

You can read the article here.

The article and the Noticias de Cruceros Facebook page contain photographs which show extreme fire and smoke conditions and include images of people jumping from an upper deck to escape the blaze.

We have posted eight images of the fire, courtesy of the Noticias de Cruceros website, at our Facebook page. Click here to review the photos.

Cruise lines, travel companies and tourism bureaus often down-play fires and casualties like this to avoid scaring off customers and disrupting tourism.  Fortunately, there are websites like Noticias de Cruceros which will publish photos like this so that the cruising public can make up its own mind about the dangers of some types of travel and vacation advertisements. Do you trust cruise, travel and tourism representatives to tell you the whole story?  Join the discussion of our Facebook page.

King of the Nile Fire

 

King of the Nile Fire

A passenger aboard the Disney Wonder sent a couple of photographs of the boat "rescued" between Cuba and South Florida.

As we mentioned yesterday, the Disney Wonder and the Carnival Conquest cruise ships were involved in separate incidents where they picked up Cuban nationals who had set out to sea to try and escape Cuba and get here to the U.S.  

Carnival released a number of photos of the rubber boat which the Conquest responded to which we posted in our earlier blog article.

The photos below of the wooden little boat were taken by a passenger Darrin Heath who is aboard the Wonder with his family.

Photos like this seems sad to me. The boat was filled with people with their hopes and dreams of a better life here. Now they are floating at sea empty. And the people once aboard will return to Cuba.  

Disney Wonder Cruise Ship rescues Cuban Rafters

Cuban Rafters Boat Rescued By Disney Wonder

Michele Paige Florida Caribbean Cruise Association Mickey ArisonA newspaper in the Cayman Islands reports that Carnival is threatening to pull out of the Cayman Islands after a tender boat operator, Cayman Marine Services, made a tiny increase in the price for transporting passengers to and from cruise ships in George Town.

The newspaper states that Cayman Islands Marine Services operates 16 tenders in the George Town harbor and proposed an increase of 75 cents to take cruise passengers to and from port. The increase will take place in three phases over this year. On January 1st, the tender company increased the price by 25 cents. The next increases will be in June and then in October. 

The modest increase is the first increase in five years. The newspaper states that the increase reflects rising costs for labor, fuel, maintenance and materials. 

Carnival objects to the increase but is trying to keep its name out of the dispute. The Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA), a Miami-based trade association for the cruise industry, is complaining of Carnival’s behalf. FCCA president Michele Paige (photo above with Carnival CEO Micky Arison) reportedly said that the cruise industry is “not happy” with the 25 cent increase and is threatening that the increase will somehow “drastically affect” the number of ships arriving in Grand Cayman.

Paige is quoted: "this is a business and we are here to make a profit. If you have a 3,000-passenger ship, that is an extra $2,500 – and that doesn’t include the crew. If there are 50 trips per year, that is $150,000, and that erodes profit.”

The proposed price increase seems rather modest to me, particularly since there has been no increase dating back to 2007 or 2008.  And let’s keep things in perspective. Carnival CEO Micky Arison paid himself a $90,000,000 bonuses last month. 

January 7, 2012 Update: Follow the comments on this story on our Facebook page.

A Thanksgiving Day diving trip in South Florida turned deadly when a 45-foot catamaran, the Coral Princess, flipped over and dumped nearly two dozen people into the water as the vessel was returning to shore. 

One person, Nina Poppelsdorf, age 54, from New Mexico, drowned after she was caught under the hull of the capsized water craft. 

According to ABC News, witnesses said the Coral Princess was approaching the Hillsboro Inlet in Pompano Beach when a 8 to 10 feet high wave flipped the boat. 

The Coral Princess is a catamaran owned by South Florida Diving Headquarters in Pompano Beach, Florida.

An ABC News video of the incident is below:

  

http://cdnapi.kaltura.com/index.php/kwidget/wid/1_tfiojtbd/uiconf_id/3775332/st_cache/46441?referer=http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/florida-boat-accident-dead-injured-boat-capsizes-17791748&autoPlay=false&addThis.playerSize=392×221&freeWheel.siteSectionId=nws_offsite&closedCaptionActive=true&addThis.playerSize=640×360&closedCaptionsOverPlayer.fontsize=18

 

 

Princess Cruises released a press release today claiming that the fishing boat observed and photographed by several passengers on the Star Princess cruise ship is not the Fifty Cents fishing boat which contained three young men from Panama. 

You will recall that two young Panamanian fisherman died after a cruise ship failed to stop and provide d assistance to them as they floundered in a disabled boat 100 miles at sea. One man, Adrian Vasquez, age 18, survived after floating in the derelict boat for a month.  When rescued, Vasquez identified a large white cruise ship as the vessel which refused to stop.

The story became more interesting when it was revealed that several passengers (bird watchers) on the Star Princess with high powered Star Princess Cruise Shiplens observed people on a fishing boat waving in distress. They alerted the cruise ship’s officers but the ship refused to stop.  

You can read our coverage of this saga here.

This case has ended up in court with lawsuits filed by the survivor and the wives and children of the two dead men. Princess Cruises has argued that it has no legal duty to rescue mariners in distress.

Today Princess Cruises issued a press release arguing that it has "new evidence (which) proves Princess Cruises did not fail to rescue adrift fishermen as alleged."  The evidence the cruise line points to is not new at all. They are referring to computer generated images created for the cruise line at the request of lawyers to be used to defend the cruise line’s legal interests.  Princess Cruises hired an "expert" to offer an opinion that there are differences between the fishing boat photographed by the cruise passengers and the computer images of the boat based on snippets of video of the boat on which survivor Vasquez was eventually rescued.  You can see the comparison of the actual photo and the computer created images below.

I’m not convinced at all. The "two" vessels are similar in size.  Both have white hulls.  And Fifty Cents Fishing Boat - Princess Cruisesboth have blue trim, although the size of the trim looks different.  But that may be due to the blurry and distorted images which were taken from a long distance. I’m sure that the lawyers for the families of the dead men will retain their own experts to analyze the photo and the computer images to see if they have been altered or enhanced and arrive at their own experts opinions about the matter.

One thing I observed in the video of the Fifty Cents which Princess posted is that it shows a blue awning / tarp at Vasquez’s feet, after he was rescued. The photos taken of the fishing boat in distress by the bird watchers clearly show a blue tarp.  

Two different white hull fishing boats of the same size, both with blue trim, and both with blue tarps?  

But if Princess’ paid experts are right that the boat which the bird watchers observed and photographed was not the Fifty Cents, that hardly exculpates Princess. Remember there is no question that the fishing boat that the cruise passengers observed was in distress and its occupants were waving for help far out at sea and, yet, the Princess cruise ship kept on sailing.  If Princess, the bird watchers and Vasquez are all right, this would logically and reasonably point to a conclusion that Princess Cruises failed to rescue Fifty Cents and a second fishing boat in distress as well.

Princess’ press release states that Princess Cruises "has demanded the lawsuits be immediately dismissed . . . "   But it has filed no motion before the court and submitted no evidence into the record.  It has not offered to produce its experts for deposition and cross examination.

It looks like Princess wants to fight this lawsuit in the press.  Here’s part of the Princess press release:

 

Princess Cruises - Fifty Cents Fishing Boat - Star Princess Cruise Ship

 

Robert Peltz of Leesfield & Partners, which represents the family of Fernando Osorio, one of the young men who perished, has issued the following statement:

“This latest move by Princess is the ultimate ‘Hail Mary’ – a hopeless pass and last ditch effort to avoid liability on a legitimate claim. The facts are simple and straight forward. The picture taken by passenger Jeff Gilligen shows the Fifty Cents boat and its passengers Adrian Vasquez, Fernando Osorio and Elvis Diaz desperately reaching out to the Princess cruise ship for rescue. We have solid evidence that confirms that the picture shows the Fifty Cents. Instead of taking responsibility for their actions, Princess seems intent on paying so-called ‘experts’ to give them a way out through comparison of grainy, out-of-focus pictures and ‘computer stitched images’. A jury will decide this case and provide the accountability that Princess is clearly incapable of doing on its own.”
 

 

Photo credit: Top – Wikipedia / Yankeeman 312;  Bottom – Princess Cruises

 

This week I ran across a really interesting article by Karen Wormald who is an award-winning business writer and author, as well as a contributing editor to PC Solutions.  Her work has appeared in many publications including, interesting enough, Cruise Travel. 

Ms. Wormald had some very critical observations about the muster drills during a Carnival cruise she went on after the Costa Concordia disaster.  Her article is below and is worth reading a time or two. The intriguing thing about Ms. Wormald is that, certainly compared to me, she is a fan of cruising and is sympathetic of the cruise lines which have faced bad press this year, writing:

Karen Wormald" . . . in reality, cruising is FAR safer than virtually any land-based vacation. But every time there’s an incident on a ship, the media goes into a frenzy. People get norovirus and food poisoning every day in a LOT of places we never hear about.

Costa Concordia certainly deserved all the bad press it got, but something like 13 million Americans cruise every year and experience only a tiny fraction of the crime and injury experienced by people on land . . . "   

I don’t agree with Ms. Wormald about cruise safety in general, particularly norovirus (which is primarily caused by contaminated food and water on cruise ships), but that’s not the point.

Read her article about the life boat drill aboard the Carnival Glory, Carnival Still in Denial on Passenger Safety, and ask yourself whether Carnival is ready for the next Concordia type of disaster? Ms. Wormald was nice enough to let me re-print her article:   

Carnival Still in Denial on Passenger Safety

"After Costa Concordia capsized in January, exposing slipshod safety practices that contributed to 32 fatalities, you’d think Costa’s parent, Carnival Corp., would be fanatical about safety now. Especially on Carnival line ships, whose Italian captains must overcome the shame of Concordia’s incompetent master, Francesco Schettino.

I just spent 6 days on Carnival Glory, and saw first-hand Carnival’s current safety measures.

My cabin TV welcomed me with a safety video on endless loop, with Captain [Italian Name] delivering the intro and closing. I must have heard a dozen times to look for crew members wearing green fluorescent caps in an emergency.

Glory was scheduled to sail at 5 p.m., with the lifeboat drill at 4:30 on Deck 4.

At 4:20, on Deck 8 I saw a crewman directing able-bodied passengers to elevators down to Deck 4 — it’s stairs-only in any emergency.

On Deck 4, this sign left the lifeboats’ exact location a mystery  . . .

Costa Concordia - Carnival Cruise Muster Drill

Part of the sign (below in yellow) was reproduced on walls throughout the ship, like it means anything . . .

Somebody finally opened the “Emergency Exit Only” door (forbidden for passengers), revealing the “secret” outer lifeboat deck.

This 952-ft. ship was divided into only 8 muster stations, 4 on each side, leaving wide open expanses with no signs (screw the near-sighted). Nobody knew where to go. At 4:40, a few young crewmen in orange vests (not green caps) began straggling in and herding us.

Costa Concordia - Carnival Cruise Muster DrillEach muster station was assigned multiple lifeboats, whose numbers were read to us later as an afterthought — as if anybody would remember them.

Now, let’s do the math: Glory holds 2,974 passengers and 1,150 crew, so each muster station must accommodate about 372 passengers and 144 crew (if they want to survive), or 516 souls in all.

I saw 2 crewmen at my station to handle that mob.

The drill/lecture was conducted from the bridge not by the captain, but by a young English-speaker. (Nor did the captain verbally preside over the 3 crew drills they presumably had during that voyage. I assume his Italian accent is considered a problem.)

On any other ship, an emergency signal consists of 7 short blasts followed by one long blast of the ship’s whistle.

Glory’s was 5 short, a long pause, then one more short, then one long.

The bridge voice kept saying drill attendance and our complete silence were mandatory. Then he’d go silent for so long, it seemed he’d forgotten us. In the meantime, we were just standing in silence, being told nothing on Deck 4.

Later I learned the protracted silences weren’t due to any sweep of the ship to get all passengers to the drill; I met a couple who stayed in their cabin. Nor was roll taken at muster stations to verify our presence. I’ve seen both procedures on other ships.

We didn’t wear life jackets, nor did anyone learn how to don and tie one because the crewman who demonstrated was standing in a dark area in the bow and made no effort to be seen. Lockers of life jackets lined the deck (locked, presumably, and I imagine rotsa ruck finding anybody with a key), but we were told to return to our cabins for our jackets in a pinch — because that worked so well for the obedient Concordia passengers whose corpses were found underwater in theirs.

The drill took 45 minutes, delayed sailing, and taught anybody NOTHING. If I hadn’t attended good drills on other ships, I’d have been irate.

Many passengers on Glory were taking their first cruise, and thank God it was uneventful, because if you don’t know how to save yourself on a Carnival ship, you’re doomed to a watery grave."  

Carnival’s response:

Karen actually elicited a response from Carnival’s CEO (something I have never received in my last thousand blogs) which you can read at this link