ZIKA VirusThe New York Times published an article yesterday that should alarm women who are pregnant and thinking about taking a cruise calling on ports in the Caribbean or South America or Central America. CDC May Warn Pregnant Women Against Travel to Countries With Zika Virus written by science and health reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr., says that test results from the CDC seems to establish a link between the mosquito-borne virus and Brazil’s rise in babies born with abnormally underdeveloped heads (microcephaly).

According to Helen Bramswell, an infectious diseases and public health reporter from STAT News, there have been  "at least 3,530 cases of microcephaly and 46 deaths in Brazil since the increasing number of cases was recognized last October. The country saw fewer than 200 cases of microcephaly annually over the previous five years." 

The CDC is thinking about issuing a warning for pregnant travelers against travel to Brazil, as well as other Latin American and Caribbean countries where the virus has spread.  According to the Times, the virus has been located in 14 countries in the Western Hemisphere: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti , Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Paraguay, Suriname, and Venezuela.   

The Times spoke to corporate communications representatives of Carnival. Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise lines who reportedly denied knowing anything about the Zika virus and directed inquiries to their trade association, the Cruise Line International Association.  CLIA suggestions include the same general things suggested to prevent the infection with the chikungunya virus – using mosquito repellents and wearing protective clothes.

According to Caribbean 360, the Zika virus was first detected in humans about 40 years ago in Uganda. It is spread by the same Aedes aegypti mosquito as dengue and chikunguya. The disease was first identified in the South Americas less than two years ago and has spread rapidly across South and Central America.

January 15 2016 Update: It’s Official. U.S. issues travel alert over Zika virus in Latin America, Caribbean.

January 16 2016 Update: CDC alert for Zika virus may curb Caribbean ‘babymoon’ vacations. "The CDC had been urging all travelers visiting areas of Latin America and the Caribbean to take extra precautions against mosquito bites to avoid contracting the virus. But officials upgraded the warning late Friday to a Level 2 travel notice and are now advising pregnant w.men and women trying to become pregnant to consider avoiding travel to the affected areas out of concern that Zika may cause a catastrophic birth defect called microcephaly.

"We likely will see a significant decline in trips by women who are pregnant or trying to conceive to these regions in light of the apparent link between the virus and birth defects,"

CBS Pregnant women warned about Zika virus

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Photo Credit: "Aedes aegypti CDC-Gathany" by James Gathany, CDC, licensed under Public Domain via Commons / Wikipedia.

MSC MagnificaA Brazilian labor court ordered the payment of fines, wages, overtime and "moral damages" to eleven (11) crew of the MSC Magnifica after finding that they had been subjected to working conditions similar to "slaves." You can read the order here.

According to Defonsoria Publica Da Uniao, in 2014 eleven crew members were "rescued" from the MSC cruise ship and alleged to have been forced to work up to 16 hours a day and were subjected to abuse and sexual harassment. We wrote about these allegations in April of 2014.

The testimony of a number of crew members was taken and indicated that other Brazilian crew members reaffirmed what was described as "appalling" working conditions on the MSC cruise ship.

In a blockbuster order, the labor court determined that crew members during contracts between eight to 12 months duration, the MSC crew members were required to work excessive hours and were mistreated. In addition to suffering intense bullying, the stewards and waiters had to work excessive daily hours (13-16 hours a day) without the right to adequate rest.

One Brazilian newspaper explained the plight of a MSC room steward from São Paulo who was bullied. Even working up to 18 hours straight, the crew member was called "lazy and a slut."

The labor court awarded R$ 330,000 to the eleven crew members.

Photo credit: Globo / Henrique Mendes / G1

Article credit: OVC – Organização de Vítimas de Cruzeiros

MSC Cruises denies that it engaged in any wrongful conduct and says that it intends to appeal  the labor court’s decision.  Read MSC’s full statement at the end of this article.

The Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente E Dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) (IBAMA) levied a fine of R$ 2.505 million against MSC Cruises.

Based on today’s exchange rate, the fine is approximately $635,545 in U.S. dollars.

IBAMA said that MSC Cruises released garbage into the sea during a cruise between Madeira Island and MSC Garbage Dumpingthe Port of Recife.

The complaint of the environmental crime was made by one of the ship’s passengers who was on board the MSC ship during a cruise between November 26 to December 10, 2013.

I previously wrote about the crime in an article dated December 2013 titled Video: MSC Cruise Ship Dumps Garbage Bags Off Coast of Brazil.

I later posted an article and showed videos of the illegal dumping from the Magnifica sent to me by a crew member on the MSC cruise ship.

It appears that the fine was issued in 2014 after IBAMA viewed video and photographs and listened to testimony, but the fine was not immediately disclosed to the public.

You can see photographs of the dumping here

MSC later touted itself an a steward of the seas.

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Univision reports that a passenger has gone overboard from the MSC Divina cruise ship.

In an article entitled "cae al mar un mexicano que viajaba en crucero mundialista," the network says that a passenger fell 50 meters from deck 15 into the water.  

The MSC cruise ship was sailing with around 3,500 Mexican citizens to various locations in Brazil for the World Cup. A Mexican newspaper, Tribun Digital de Quintano Roo, says that the cruise ship was transporting Mexican passengers between the three cities where Mexico plays in the first phase of the World (Natal, Fortaleza and Recife). 

MSC Divina The cruise ship stopped to search for the overboard passenger without success.  

The Consulate of Mexico in Rio de Janeiro confirmed that "a Mexican citizen who was aboard MSC Divina cruise ship fell into the sea after the ship sailed from the city of Fortaleza in northern Brazil, heading to port of Recife."

The report further states that it is unknown if the Mexican citizen was traveling alone, with family or with friends. 

The report says that the passenger was intoxicated. 

According to cruise ship expert Dr. Ross Klein, 232 people have gone overboard since 2000.

If you have information to share, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

June 19 2014 Update: The missing passenger has been identifies as Jorge Alberto Lopez Amores

 

Photo Image: Tribun Digital de Quintano Roo 

Pullmantur EmpressA newspaper in Brazil reports that the police arrested crew members on a cruise ship who were smuggling 100 pounds of cocaine.

The Globo newspaper identified the cruise ship as the M/S Empress, owned by Royal Caribbean and operated by the Royal Caribbean brand Pullmantur.

The police officers arrested Honduran crew members after finding 333 bags of cocaine weighing 100 pounds. The drugs were found in the crew members’ cabin in several bags hidden in coffee pouches.

The drugs were intended to be delivered to Europe.

Royal Caribbean said that it has a “zero tolerance” policy regarding illegal drugs on its ships.

The cruise ship was previously operated by Royal Caribbean International as the Nordic Empress and Empress of the Seas.

Photo Credit: Top – Reuters / Bottom – Wikipedia (Borodun)

Pullmantur Empress Cruise Ship

The BBC reports that Brazilian police boarded a MSC cruise ship and rescued 11 crew members working in "slave-like conditions." 

Brazilian officials say that the 11 crew members were forced to work up to 16 hours a day on the MSC Magnifica. Some of the crew members were subjected to sexual harassment.

The Brazilian authorities have been investigating the labor abuses for the past month, following a tip-off MSC Magnifica - Slave Shipfrom MSC crew members. 

"The fact that they had signed a contract, even an international contract, does not mean that the basic human rights should not be respected," Labor Ministry director Alexandre Lyra said. 

A publication in Brazil contains additional details of the working conditions. The Blog Do Sakamoto talks of exhaustive work on the MSC cruise ship with stories of abuse, bullying and fraudulent time recording.

"We have no doubt that it is slave labor," said Alexandre Lyra, head of Brazil’s Division of Surveillance for the Eradication of Slave Labor.

You can see two statements of the working conditions written by MSC crew members here.

Another newspaper in Brazil reported that crew members were subjected to racism and homophobic threats and taunts. 

MSC issued a statement denying everything.

In December and March, we posted videos and photos of MSC dumping garbage bags into the sea off the coast of Brazil from the MSC Magnifica.  If the recent allegations are true, it seems that MSC treats its employees worse than the sea it pollutes. 

 

Photo Credit: Reporter Brazil

Costa Fascinosa Cruise ShipThe Pefil newspaper reports that a Brazilian businessman traveling on a Costa cruise ship was reported missing by his wife. He was later found dead on the shores of Rio de la Plata.

The newspaper’s headline is "Misteriosa muerte del pasajero de un crucero – Un empresario brasileño fue encontrado a 50 metros de la costa del Río de la Plata".

Tranlsated, that means: "Mysterious death of cruise passenger – A Brazilian businessman was found 50meters from the shore of the Río de la Plata."

The newspaper identifies the passenger as Odair Marcos Faria, who was traveling with his wife, Maria Cristina Florio Bonafin. They were sailing on the Costa Fascinosa.  His wife had reported her husband’s disappearance to the ship’s crew.

The body was found 50 meters from the shore of the Río de la Plata. There is an investigation underway to establish whether the overboard case was a suicide, accident or homicide.

The "Rio de la Plata" (River of Silver) is the estuary formed by the confluence of the Uruguay River and Costa Cruise Ship Passengerthe Paraná River on the border between Argentina and Uruguay.

Cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein has documented 229 people who have gone overboard from cruise ships since 2000. 9 people have gone overboard so far this year.

Update: The Clarin newspaper also reports on the case, stating that the cruise was a gift from the man’s children. The newspaper suggests that shortly before the cruise, either the passenger or his wife apparently learned that one had a terminal illness (the translation is unclear).

 

Photo Credit: Top – Wikipedia / Abxbay; bottom – Clarin / Facebook

Today, a newspaper in Switzerland joined in the coverage of the story regarding the alleged dumping of garbage bags from the MSC Cruises Magnifica cruise ship.

Le Matin, the largest French-speaking newspaper in Switzerland, published the headline:

Des ordures jetées à la mer! — Vidéo à l’appui, un avocat affirme que la compagnie italo-suisse MSC Croisières jette des poubelles dans l’océan.   

MSC Cruises Garbage DumpingYou can read the article here.

Here are some of the comments to the article:

And one company in my black boycott list . . 

Hello in the late 80’s I worked as a Chef on the Apollo Cruise Company based in Miami several times late at night I saw my eyes pour entire containers full Gulf of Mexico and offshore Brazil .. unfortunately .. I’m not surprised that 35 years later this terrible way "to do" is still in force .. Greenpeace .. Help!

Having traveled with MSC, and having followed the recommendations for "environmental protection" (reuse towels, etc..), When I see these images it disgusts me!

You can read the comments here.

So far, the story has received substantial international news coverage: New Times (U.S.A.), Cruise Hive (U.S.A.), Huffington Post (U.S.A.), Daily Mail (U.K.), AOL Travel  (U.K.), Cruising the Molly Way (U.K.), e Global Travel Media (Australia & New Zealand) and Le Matin (Switzerland).

The travel industry publication (Travel Weekly, Travel Pulse), and the cruise bloggers (Cruise Critic, Cruise Currents, Cruise Fever, Cruise Mates, Cruise Addicts, Captain Greybeard) have all stuck their heads in the sand. None of these types want to rock the boat and become blacklisted from the cruise lines’ parties and free cruises. 

The cruise industry just finished their self-laudatory Cruise Shipping Miami trade show.  The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) and the CLIA CEO, Ms. Duffy, have not said a peep about the environmental abuse. The "One Industry, One Voice" cruise industry and its loyal-to-a-fault travel agent base are going to stay quiet and let this stinky story fade away.  

Photo Credit: Daily Mail

 

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A newspaper in Brazil reports that the MSC Magnifica, scheduled to depart from the Port of Santios, Brazil this evening at 6:00 P.M., remains in port after a mooring line became caught in the cruise ship’s propeller.

A Tribuna states that that “one of the mooring lines to the pier got stuck in one of the propellers of the vessel.”

Santos is in the state of São Paulo, Brazil.

The Brazilian newspaper explains that precisely at 6:00 P.M., while the Magnifica was performed an undocking maneuver, a tether line (rope used to attach the ship to the pier) tangled in a propeller. MSC MagnificaThe operation was canceled and divers were deployed to try to solve the problem.

According to the newspaper, a spokesperson for the MSC said that the vessel encountered “technical-operational” problems. MSC further released a statement that  the delay in the departure of MSC Magnifica in the port of Santos “was due to a scheduled maintenance that took longer than expected.”

The captain also informed the passengers, through the intercom speakers, that first departure, scheduled to take place at 6:00 P.M. on Sunday, was delayed by so-called “operational problems.” The passengers were notified that the cruise ship would leave at 8:30 P.M., which it failed to do, and the departure time was further delayed until midnight.

The cruise ship’s webcams indicate that the ship remains in port at this time (1:00 A.M.).

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Bracodbk

Yesterday we wrote about MSC Cruises allegedly dumping garbage bags and other items into the ocean at night from the Magnifica cruise ship while it was sailing in Brazilian waters.

It’s been 24 hours since we posted the article together with video and photographs provided to us by a former cruise line employee. Our article has gone viral, having been read several hundred thousands of times with over 7,000 Facebook "likes."

You can see the videos here and the photos here.  

We have received lots of comments by members of the public expressing their disappointment and outrage that this cruise line was allegedly engaged in this type of alleged conduct. But what’s the reaction from the MSC Cruises Magnifica Cruise Pollution Garbage Dumpingcruise industry and the maritime authorities? The cruise lines want us to believe that authorities "rigorously" enforces "strict" environmental regulations? What’s the reaction from travel agents and travel writers about this breaking news story?   Let’s take a look:

The International Maritime Organization (IMO): The IMO is the international maritime authority which promulgated the pollution regulations (MARPOL) which the cruise lines are suppose to comply with. Cruise ships can’t dump unprocessed food or other items within three miles of the closest shore. They are suppose to separate, process, grind, crush and/or incinerate the ship’s refuse, paper items and/or garbage and then discharge the garbage at sea at various distances from shore or store the pulverized / incinerated materials for pick up at port after the cruise is over. Plastic is prohibited from being discharged.

But what happens when a cruise line ignores MARPOL? Nothing. The IMO is a United Nations entity. It’s a "feel good" organization. It can’t enforce its own rules and it can’t punish cruise lines when they violate the rules.

Cruise Line International Association (CLIA): CLIA is the cruise industry trade association which promotes the image and the interests of the cruise lines. CLIA says that if a cruise line member violates safety or environmental regulations, it will take steps against the member including kicking the cruise line out of the organization. But that will never happen.  CLIA has never criticized, admonished or taken disciplinary action against a cruise line. It’s sole function is to protect the cruise industry from public scrutiny or criticism. 

CLIA has not issued a public statement about the MSC dumping scandal. Don’t expect one either. There would have to be a Congressional investigation taking place before CLIA would even acknowledge the issue and it would then spin the story with corporate gobbledygook. Today CLIA’s CEO and former travel-agent Christine Duffy issued a PR statement on CLIA’s behalf applauding the cruise industry’s alleged efforts to create a "pristine environment." Ms. Duffy said: "We will continue to forge new paths toward a greener, more sustainable planet . . ." and "will make cruising more environmentally conscious than ever before."   

Travel Agents, Writers, and Cruise Bloggers:  So far not a single travel publication has touched the story. There are thousands of tweets and Facebook posts from the usual cruise bloggers (Cruise Hive, Cruise Currents, Cruise Fever, Cruise Critic) and travel writers (Travel Weekly, Travel Pulse) about the best deals on cruises. Many hundreds of travel agents are hawking cruises on Twitter. But no one is mentioning garbage bags in the sea dumped at night.

That’s bad for the travel agents’ business. And whether the cruise lines are polluting or not, travel agents are selling cruises on the MSC Magnifica right now. 99% of the travel writers and cruise bloggers just want the pollution story to go away. They don’t want to embarrass their friends in the cruise industry. They’re afraid that the cruise lines won’t give them complimentary or heavily discounted cruises if they mention the story.

That’s what MSC Cruises and CLIA are counting on. The cruise industry won’t change a bit as long as the 16,000 CLIA travel agents and travel writers remain silent as the oceans are polluted with cruise garbage.     

 

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