Adriana Morales de FlorencioThe killer of Royal Caribbean crew member Adriana Morales de Florencia was sentenced to prison for her murder. There is a conflict in the reporting whether the sentence was for 22 years or 17 years. 

In April of 2017, Ms. Morales was reported missing on the island of Bonaire after disembarking for Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas, as we reported last year.  She was from Mexico and had worked for Royal Caribbean for less than two contracts. She did not return to the cruise ship after going ashore in the port of Kralendijk last year. Her body was found buried and it was established that she died by stab wounds. A suspect was later identified by a surveillance film. 

Newspaper accounts in Bonaire identified a man who met Ms. Morales shortly after she left the cruise ship. He has been identified only through an acronym; some accounts refer to him as "Raysley S." According to newspapers in Bonaire, the prosecutor presented aggravating circumstances during the sentencing. The computer data  showed that in the days before and after the killing, he looked at extremely violent pornographic films and photographs.

Another article posted this week indicated that the judge sentenced the defendant to just 17 years in jail.

Photo credit: De Telegraaf

Nowegian EsccapeYesterday, the Jamaican police reportedly seized a pound of cocaine and arrested a man at the cruise port in Falmouth, Jamaica, according to the Jamaican Observer newspaper

The Observer reported that around 4:30 on Monday, January 15, 2018, "security checks were being conducted on passengers and crew returning to a cruise ship that was docked at the pier when the man was searched and illicit drugs allegedly found in his possession." The newspaper did not mention the man’s name nor specify whether he is a cruise passenger or a crew member. It identified him only as a a "St Lucian."

Falmouth is one of the ports in the Caribbean where several passengers and crew members have been caught trying to smuggle cocaine into Florida on cruise ships which called on Falmouth and oth ports Jamaica. In the last several years, drugs busts occurred involving crew members on the Allure of the Seas and passengers from the Freedom of the Seas.  In several incidents the newspaper in Jamaica did not identify the cruise ship or disclose whether the person arrested for smuggling was a cruise passenger or crew member. 

The Observer also did not identify the name of the cruise line or cruise ship. According to several sources, the only cruise ship in port in Falmouth on Monday was NCL’s Norwegian Escape. Last summer, three NCL crew members on the Escape were arrested in Belize for smuggling cocaine.

A number of NCL crew members have been arrested for smuggling cocaine on cruise ships which have returned to ports in Florida from the Caribbean.  In just the last three years, over twenty NCL crew members have been arrested on charges of drug smuggling, including NCL crew members involved in a Roatan, Honduras to Florida cocaine smuggling ring.   

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

Photo credit: Arno Redenius – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia. 

Today, my youngest son sent me a text which linked to one of the many articles about cruise lines coming to the aid of the devastated Caribbean islands following hurricanes Irma and Maria, saying "Dad, write a nice blog for the cruise lines!" 

Praising cruise lines admittedly does not come naturally for me, but there is no question that the Miami-based cruise lines (primarily Carnival and Royal Caribbean) have made a point of coming to the aid of places like St. Maarten, Antigua & Barbuda, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The major cruise lines in Miami have enjoyed and deserved good press, finding themselves featured in newspapers and television about their relief efforts (while President Trump has seemed more Hurricane Irma - Cruise Linesinterested in tweeting about the NFL). 

Royal Caribbean announced this week that it is canceling the September 30th cruise of the Adventure of the Seas so it can deploy the cruise ship to help victims of Hurricane Maria in San Juan as well as St. Croix and St. Thomas. Royal Caribbean is donating donating water and medical supplies and evacuating people from places like St. Maarten and St. Thomas USVI who wish to leave those islands because of the destruction and loss of power there.   

Carnival has deployed nearly a dozen cruise ships to ferry bring supplies to Antigua and St. Kitts in the Caribbean as well as deliver supplies to Barbuda and St. Maarten during regular cruise trips.

Carnival’s Micky Arison and the Miami Heat have pledged up to $10 million for the Caribbean following Hurricane Irma.

Carnival released a statement that: 

"As our largest cruising region, the Caribbean is extremely important to us. Carnival Cruise Line is providing extensive and wide-ranging relief throughout the Caribbean and is delivering critical supplies and the most immediate necessities, including food, water, clothing, diapers, and generators, among other items, to destinations that need our assistance.

We have a working team dedicated to this priority and are in active conversations with many entities in the Caribbean to understand the most urgent needs and how we can best help. These relief efforts will continue long-term as necessary to help our neighbors throughout the storm affected region. We have already arranged for supplies to be delivered to residents in Barbuda, St. Maarten and Dominica with many more to come in the weeks ahead.

As rebuilding efforts begin in the affected islands, Carnival Corporation, Miami HEAT Charitable Fund and the foundation of Carnival Corporation Chairman Micky Arison and his wife Madeleine (the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation) have pledged up to $10 million in funding and in-kind support in Florida and throughout the Caribbean following Hurricane Irma. An immediate donation by the Micky and Madeleine Arison Foundation of $2.5 million will benefit Direct Relief, UNICEF and the United Way to support the most timely and urgent relief needs. Direct Relief and UNICEF are heavily Carnival Cruise Hurricane Mariaengaged in Puerto Rico. When comedian Chris Tucker performed two sold-out shows on board Carnival Liberty and Carnival Breeze as part of the Carnival LIVE concert series recently, Carnival donated 100 percent of the proceeds from ticket sales to assist islands affected by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

In addition, for Hurricane Harvey, Carnival Cruise Line, Carnival Corporation and the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation have already donated $2 million to support the relief and rebuilding efforts. Monies have been directed to Save the Children, Houston Food Bank, Direct Relief, Operation Homefront and United Way of Greater Houston. These organizations are providing food, water, medicine, shelter and other basic necessities to residents in the most impacted areas."

You can read more about Carnival’s relief efforts on its website here

NCL says that it is teaming up with a non-profit organization to assist in helping the rebuilding of schools and other buildings in Puerto Rico. It also announced that deployed the Norwegian Sky to St. Thomas, USVI, to deliver supplies and evacuate residents and visitors. 

It’s exciting to see the billion dollar cruise industry, which pays no U.S. taxes because of its foreign flagged cruise ships, making a difference like this.  

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

Read:

Miami Herald Irma Was the ‘Most Trying Storm’ Ever for Cruise Lines. How Well Did They Respond?

Conde Nast Traveler How Cruises Have Handled All These Hurricanes

Fox Business Carnival, Royal Caribbean Ships to Help Puerto Rico Aid Efforts.

The Hill Royal Caribbean Cancels Cruise, Sends Ship on Rescue Mission to Puerto Rico

Video (below) credit: USA TODAY; photo credit: above – Hurricane Irma as of September 6, 2017 at 6:00 P.M. – Mike’s Weather Page; bottom  – Carnival relief efforts – Carnival Corporation. 

 

//www.usatoday.com/videos/embed/105842944/?fullsite=true

 

Royal Caribbean Richard FainRoyal Caribbean chief executive officer Richard D. Fain sold 210,706 shares of his cruise line stock in a transaction on Wednesday, August 2, 2017 at an average price of $115.83, for a total value of $24,406,075.98.

Mr. Fain was last in the news in April when a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission reflected that his total compensation last year was in the amount of $10,400,000.

Maritime Executive recently reported that Royal Caribbean’s income for the second quarter reached $370 million, the highest second quarter earnings in company history. The cruise line’s financial performance, the maritime journal wrote, "vindicates Fain’s prediction that 2017 would shape up to be a ‘sensational year.’"

Following the stock sale, CEO Fain reportedly now owns 967,741 shares of his company’s stock, valued at $112,093,440.03. 

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

Interested in this issue? Read Cruise Executive Richard Fain Hits the Jackpot Again.

Photo Credit: CNBC

Big Red - Harvest Caye - NCLThis weekend, a reader of this blog sent me an article from the San Pedro Sun regarding NCL’s exploitation of rare macaws in its development in Belize at Harvest Caye.

Scarlet Macaws

NCL reportedly obtained numerous birds (toucans and other macaws) and animals and reptiles from the Belize government from the wild and/or rescue and rehabilitation centers for display in cages for the benefit of cruise visitors.

The article addressed the plight of a scarlet macaw, which is one of the most poached birds in Belize, which was rescued by the Belize Bird Rescue (BBR), a non-profit organization in Belize. The male bird, which was named “Big Red,” was rescued and underwent rehabilitation for wild release; however, several weeks ago the bird reportedly was given to Harvest Caye to entertain cruise tourists, much to the outrage of local Belizeans. Critics of NCL’s boondoggle in Belize point out that NCL did not even mention a captive animal facility in the cruise line environmental impact assessment or obtain permission to possess rare birds in its environmental clearance process.  NCL apparently created its own so-called “conservation NGO” but it is not working with any of the existing NGO’s in Belize.

The article about NCL’s conduct, although outrageous, is just one of many examples of the abuse of birds and animals at cruise line private resorts and excursions throughout the world.

Swim-With-The-Dolphins

Dolphin rescue groups have repeatedly protested against ”swim-with-the-dolphins” excursions, like the notorious Blackbeard’s Cay in the Bahamas, which have become a major feature of the cruise experience. Carnival and Royal Caribbean advertise them as “once in a lifetime experiences.” The trade of dolphins in the Caribbean is big business. There are many dozens of swim-with-the-dolphins excursions sold by cruise lines in Mexico and throughout the Caribbean. The Dolphin Project writes about dolphins “confined in tiny, chlorinated tanks, where they are subject to relentless sun exposure (often resulting in sunburn), noise pollution, continuous human interaction and water toxins. Some live in polluted harbor waters, in hastily constructed holding pens, “conveniently” close to cruise ship ports for quick, tourist access.”

Cayman Island Turtle FarmCayman Islands Turtles

An animal protection group explains that in their natural ocean habitats, green sea turtles can dive to depths over 400 feet and can swim several thousands of miles a year. But held in captivity in what was originally called the Cayman Turtle Farm, subsequently re-branded as the friendlier-sounding Cayman Turtle Centre, the turtles are kept in small, crowded holding pens and are removed only for entertainment purposes to be mishandled by tourists and used for props in selfie-photos. You can also eat the turtles which are bred at the tourist facility. More than 200,000 people visit the tourist-turtle farm each year; approximately three quarters are cruise passengers.

Surrey Horses in Mexico, the Bahamas and the Caribbean

Horse tours are a popular tourist attraction for cruise visitors. Cruise lines sell dozens of excursions to tour the various port towns via horse drawn carriages. In many destinations, the horses are poorly fed Carriage Horses - Bahamasand abused. They suffer from heat exhaustion, dehydration, malnutrition, traffic fumes, noise pollution, stress, and injuries. The situation in Nassau is particularly bad; a malnourished horse dropped dead on Bay Street in downtown Nassau only to be tied by the legs and dragged down the street by a pickup truck. Exploiting horses is a dreadful way to spend a vacation cruise.

The cruise industry supports hundreds of local ports and has great influence over activities by the local communities. For example, if the cruise line would stop doing business with the tour operators who abuse horses and do business only with reputable bus and van operators, the abuse would stop virtually overnight.

Similarly, if the cruise industry would stop calling at port countries like the Faroe Islands which slaughter pilot whales, there would be considerable pressure to end the barbaric sport of killing sentient mammals, as we have urged for years.

There are literally literally thousands of cruise excursions offered by each of the major cruise lines Faroe Islands Slaughter Whaleswhich take the majority of the revenue from the excursion. There’s little consideration given by the cruise lines to anything except how much money the cruise lines can collect. I tend to view the problem as starting at the top, with the greedy cruise executives looking to collect every nickle and dime possible; but thoughtless cruise passengers are part of the problem too. One person commenting on NCL’s exploitation of macaws in Belize posted this comment:

“Par for the course for people who encourage thousands of passengers to swim with captive dolphins, ride tortured elephants, camels and the like. However the passengers are equally to blame.”

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

This petition to end the exploitation of Belize’s wildlife on NCL’s Harvest Caye has reached 20,000 signatures. Read here.

Photo credits:

Big Red – San Pedro Sun

Dolphin – Delfines En Libertad, Report on captive dolphins in Mexico.

Turtles –  World Animal Protection.

Horses – Stop Brutal Abuse and Suffering of Surrey Horses in the Bahamas.

Pilot Whales – Green Travel Life.

 USA TODAY published an article today titled USA TODAY’s Guide to Cruise Ship Gratuity Charges

This is a topic which we write about quite often, as the cruise lines try to maintain their high profits while building bigger and bigger cruise ships which are getting more expensive to operate.  

Any discussion involving cruise ship gratuities really involves three issues, in my view: (1) cruise lines are dictating that everyone pay a gratuity of a certain amount, regardless of the level of the services, (2) cruise line are diverting monies paid in gratuities to fund the salaries of crew members "behind the scenes" (like cooks, cleaners, etc.) who typically do not receive gratuities, and/or (3) cruise lines are Carnival Cruise Gratuitiesdiverting the income paid in gratuities into the cruise lines’ profits?

The article addresses the first issue head-on and points to the general belief of the public that "tipping is a personal matter that should be left to passengers." Many critics of mandatory/automatic gratuities say that a gratuity must be earned; if the guest receives excellent service, they will tip well (sometimes more than the recommended amount), but if the guest believes the service is bad, they will pay a lower amount or perhaps nothing at all. 

But many crew members such as waiters or cabin attendants do not receive any salary at all. They earn 100% of their income from passenger gratuities. For the longest time, Royal Caribbean paid its waiters and cabin attendants received a salary of only $50 a month, although hard working waiters and motivated cabin attendant could collect several thousands of dollars a month from tips and gratuities. But the tips are tighter now and, with the auto-gratuities, less likely to end up with the waiters and cabin attendants. It is unfair for them to work for a pittance. 

Many cruise lines permit the guests to adjust or remove the gratuities while they are on-board the ship. NCL requires its guests to go through a onerous process of filling out forms after the cruise before a gratuity can be lowered or removed. 

Many crew members complain that many passengers wait until the last day of a cruise to remove all of the gratuities from their bills. 

Last year, Carnival crew members published a Facebook post (since taken down) showing the names (subsequently redacted) and cabin numbers of Carnival passengers who removed their automatic tips. Some of these people may have removed the pre-paid gratuities and paid cash but many may have stiffed the crew.

The real problem as I see it is that cruise lines are not being transparent with who exactly receives the automatic gratuities. The USA TODAY article writes that cruise lines say that the increased gratuities "will be passed on to crew members in recognition of their service." But many guests do not want to tip crew members who they never see (such as a galley worker). Many also believe that the cruise lines should pay their crew members decent wages and not require the passengers to be responsible for the crew’s salary.

The USA TODAY article touches upon this issue, writing that "some see the charges as a thinly disguised method for cruise lines to push the responsibility for paying crew members to their customers." Disguising the real purpose of a gratuity is a type of fraud, in my opinion, where a cruise guest may believe that he or she is paying the extra gratuity to their wonderful waiter or cabin attendant who went above and beyond for their family for a week, but the reality is that their gratuities are spread throughout the housekeeping and dining room departments to pay salaries as well as for "alternative services," according to Carnival. (See Carnival’s explanation of where the tips go here; and Royal Caribbean’s explanation here; NCL does not disclose any details as far as I can tell). The USA TODAY article says that "as much as 95% of pay for some cruise ship workers now comes from automatic gratuities, according to CruiseCritic."

And does anyone really trust that the cruise lines are not pocketing the gratuities as part of onboard revenue? The USA TODAY article does not touch this topic. Over 25 million people will sail on cruise ships this year. Whereas the luxury lines like Azamara, Crystal, Seabourn, Regent and SeaDream do not charge automatic gratuities, the mass lines like Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean do. If 15 million passengers are charged at a rate of several hundreds of dollars a week in auto-gratuities, there are many hundreds of millions of dollars at play over the course of a year. (Carnival charges an average of over $360 a week for a family of four staying in a standard stateroom). 

NCL’s CEO Frank Del Rio said during an earnings conference in 2015 that for every dollar collected in an increased gratuity, NCL earns an extra $15,000,000. Does anyone really think that the crew members are enjoying this extra income?

Between the greedy cruise executives and the miserly passengers who remove gratuities, the hard-working crew members seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place.

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

April 3, 2017 Update: A crew member wrote today, to me saying: Yes cruise lines are diverting tips to pay salaries of . . . even managers . . they use the tips to pay the bar manager, asst bar manager, housekeeper chief, asst housekeepers manager and food and beverage manager – they all get a slice of the tips."

Oasis of the Seas Nassau BahamasThe Tribune newspaper in Nassau reports that during a meeting between the CEO of Royal Caribbean International brand, Michael Bayley, and Prime Minister Perry Christie, the cruise executive stated that he is “concerned” about high levels of crime in the Bahamas. 

Mr. Bayley says that he has previously communicated his concerns regarding the issue of crime affecting his Royal Caribbean customers to the Bahamian government through the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA).

He claims that his cruise line’s ships bring around 1,700,000 guests to the the Bahamas each year. However, if his cruise customers do not feel safe visiting the country, they will no longer vacation in the Bahamas, he says. 

Many cruise passengers to Nassau have told us over the last few years that they do not get off of the cruise ship upon arriving in the Bahamas because of crime ashore. 

Mr. Bayley says that Royal Caribbean is "committed to maintaining a concrete relationship with the country and plans to double visitor numbers over the next 10 years."  If true, this is an ambitious goal given the high crime rate in Nassau and the opening of ports in Cuba to Miami based cruise lines. 

Ironically, the Royal Caribbean CEO was meeting with the Bahamian Prime Minister about the development of the cruise line’s private destination in Coco Cay, Bahamas. With the development of a large fixed pier, the priavte cay will be able to receive larger cruise ships including the Oasis-class ships which carry up to 5,400 passengers.

As reflected in the comments to the article, many people feel that numerous  islands in the Bahamas are being developed as private resorts for the cruise lines to escape the problems with crime and trash which detract from Nassau’s reputation as a top cruise port. 

In a PR news release, Royal Caribbean promised to increase the number of Bahamians employed by the cruise line in the next five years. This is an issue where the cruise line has failed miserably in the past. Compared to other countries like Jamaica where there are many thousands of cooks, cleaners and cabin attendants working in Royal Caribbean ships, there are relatively few crew members from the Bahamas working for Royal Caribbean.

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

March 9, 2017 UpdateGovt Should Be Concerned At Cruise Line’s Worries.

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas in Nassau, Bahamas – Baldwin040 – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Royal Caribbean Cruise DrugsWFTV reports this evening that two Royal Caribbean crew members were arrested for smuggling cocaine aboard the Freedom of the Seas into Port Canaveral.

One of the Royal Caribbean crew members identified is Junior Ellision, age 31. The news station said that when "Ellision left the ship, he took a shuttle to a Merritt Island Walmart. Authorities said Ellision would pick up sandals filled with cocaine in St. Maarten and would wear them off the ship. Ellision would then go to the Walmart, buy a pair of sandals, and then put the cocaine filled sandals in the Walmart bag to deliver to someone else."

The other Royal Caribbean crew member, also from the Freedom of the Seas, is identified as Sheldon Grant. We do not know the job positions or the home countries of these two ship employees.

WFTV reports that the two crew members admitted that "they had made multiple deliveries and that someone paid them $1,250 each time" that they delivered the drugs. 

Drugs busts of Royal Caribbean and Celebrity passengers and crew members are not uncommon:

Allure of the SeasEmpress, Enchantment of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, HorizonJewell, Liberty of the SeasSplendor of the Seas, and Summit.  

Video and image credit: WFTV

April 27 2016 Update:  Crew members have told us that the two crew members on the Freedom of the Seas are from Jamaica and worked as galley utility. 

 

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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.

A former crew member posted photographs saying that the Liberty of the Seas hid equipment, pots, pans and other items from the galley during an USPH inspection last December. You can see photographs of the galley equipment hidden throughout the ship (primarily in the crew quarter) on our Facebook page.

Two years ago Silversea Cruises crew members came to us complaining that the Silver Shadow was hiding quantities of food and galley equipment from USPH inspections. We gave them the contact information of the USPH which the flunked the ship on the next inspection for intentionally hiding a dozen Liberty of the Seastrolleys of galley items and perishable food in the crew quarters.  

I posed the following inquiry on this blog: How Many Cruise Lines Play Games with USPH Inspectors?

And I asked the following question on Facebook:: Do cruise lines hide pots & pans, galley equipment and food from USPH inspectors?

Of the first 100 crew members who answered the poll (admittedly unscientific), around 90% said yes, cruise lines hide galley items from inspectors. One crew member said: "There will be more equipment in the crew cabin during the inspection then in the galley that’s for sure!!!"

Crew members still tell me that the unsanitary practice is widespread. The Silversea Cruises scandal occurred in 2013 but the cruise line just flunked an inspection this month after the USPH caught the cruise line playing hide and seek games again.

The USPH inspections are rigorous. Crew members are ordered into working additional long hours to try and be ready. A failed score is a major embarrassment for a cruise ships and a kiss of death for a F&B manager. Some cruise lines cut corners and dupe the inspectors.

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

May 27, 2015 Update:  Of the last 200 crew members who left a response on our Facebook page, over 180 say that hiding galley items and food on cruise ships from USPH inspectors is common.

Photo Credit: Facebook