Bahamas CelebrationThe Bahamas Celebration ran aground ten days ago and sustained a breach in the hull which permitted water to enter the lower deck.  

I am receiving many messages from the crew that they were required to work in dangerous conditions after the ship ran aground and returned to port in Freeport. Now the majority of the crew has been sent home and there are doubts that the cruise ship will sail again anytime soon. 

The company appears to be paying only the basic salary of the crew for two months. Waiters and cabin attendants who earn a basic salary of only $50 a month (and rely on tips to earn a living) will receive only $100 in the next two months.

The Bahamas Celebration Facebook page was updated yesterday with a cover photo saying "Caribbean Vacation Option Beginning November 13" with a toll free number.

This seems very misleading as the cruise ship can’t sail and the crew was just sent home.

If you have information about the extend of the damage to the vessel or the status of the crew, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit: Top – WPTV.

November 11 2014 Update: A number of cruise passengers and agents have contacted us today. Many passengers feel that they were treated improperly by the company. Agents, who have not worked since the first of November, feel that the company is keeping them in the dark.  They have not heard anything from the company, management, or staffing agency. One person told me: "The company is wrong in the way they are treating everyone guest, crew,and agents. Leaving people who go to work everyday with no communication, answers or even a reason, we have families! We are required to give reasons and communicate if something happens in our life but we do not get the same respect."  

Bahamas Celebration

A newspaper in the Netherlands reports that Royal Caribbean has to pay at least €600,000 in fines for violating labor rules and regulations while the Oasis of the Seas was in the Netherlands. The newspaper says that ship employees lacked proper residence papers and worked excessive hours. Some of the crew members worked "up to 16 hours per day" the inspectors found.

The newspaper explains that the Oasis was undergoing maintenance and repairs while in dry-dock in in Rotterdam last month. Inspectors at the Netherlands labor department informed Royal Caribbean Cruises in advance that when its cruise ship would be in Rotterdam it would have to adhere to Dutch Oasis of the Seasrules and legislation.

According to the newspaper, when ten inspectors boarded the Oasis they found certain working conditions to be in violation of Dutch law. This led to a second visit by 45 inspectors.

The inspections reportedly revealed that at least 48 crew members did not have proper Dutch work permits. The majority of these crewmembers were from the Philippines and South America.

The reported fine of at least €600,000 turns out to be over $760,000.The inspectors can access a fine of €12,000 per violation. The precise fine will be determined when the investigation is completed.

This fine may be an eye-opener for many people who are unfamiliar with the inner-working of the cruise industry. But it is business as usual as far as we are concerned.

When we interview Royal Caribbean crew members, without exception they tell us that the cruise line requires them to work in excess of the hours permitted by the Maritime Labour Convention. The ship employees have to arrive at work early and attend meetings but they are not permitted to clock in. When they work over 10 hours, they have to clock out and keep working. When they are pressed to work extra hours preparing for USPH inspections, they are required to work off the clock.

It remains to be seen whether Rotterdam receives any more work from Royal Caribbean in the future. Royal Caribbean has decided that the dry-dock repairs needed for sister ship Allure of the Seas will be performed in Cadiz, Spain.

Royal Caribbean has not responded to our request for a statement. 

October 15 2014 Update: A Dutch law firm indicates that 77 Philippines and 8 South-Americans worked on the Oasis without a permit. With a €12,000 fine per person, the fine could amount to one million euro’s. The Dutch firm is urging Royal Caribbean to appeal the fine, claiming that there is an exception for crew members working aboard sea going vessels.

October 16 2014 Update:  There is a very active discussion about this story on our Facebook page. Over 1,600 people have liked it, over 500 shared it and over 400 people have commented.  Most seem to be crew members. As the cruise line overworks and underpays its crew members, the cruise executives at Royal Caribbean enjoy over $100,000,000 in cruise stock. Read: The Rich Get Richer.  

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

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Baldwin040 Creative Commons 3.0  

Crew Member Rights - Cruise ShipOur law firm receives anywhere from a dozen to several dozen e-mails a day from people complaining about every imaginable problem on the high seas. 

We divide the complaints into two general categories – complaints by passengers and complaints by crew members.

Cruise passengers complain about all types of things, like the food was bad, they missed a port of call because of bad weather, the cabins next to them were too loud, the service was bad, or they object to automatic gratuities being deducted from their accounts.  It drives me crazy. 

Yes, there are legitimate complaints too, like being seriously injured or being a victim of a crime during a cruise. But the petty "I-was-inconvenienced-and-I-want-a-free-cruise" complainers out number the legitimately injured by 10 to 1.

Crew members, on the other hand, are a different breed. They are inconvenienced every day. That goes without saying. Long hours, low pay, shrinking tips and having to deal with whiny guests are just a normal day at sea.  Who are they going to complain to anyway? There are no true unions. There are no legitimate maritime oversight bodies that can do anything. And if they complain about the hard work or excessive hours or minimal pay to their supervisors, they are likely to be fired.

And the true seafarers working on tankers, bulk carriers and large freighters?  They are the bravest of the brave. Subject to the hazards of the sea, the largely Indian and Filipino seafarers are the backbone of the maritime community.

So when you come home from a cruise vacation and are about to write a harsh review to Cruise Critic and bitch & whine about the crew members, keep in mind that your worst cruise is probably better than the best day a crew member may experience on the same ship.           

Video Credit: Seafarers Facebook page

  

As part of Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM 2013), I have raised 6 problems which I believe the cruise lines need to address.

Problem No. 5: Disappearance of Passengers and Crew Members from Cruise Ships:.

The problem is not just that approximately 200 people have vanished from cruise ships since year 2000, but the attitude of the cruise lines when families try and find out what happened to their loved ones is just plain nasty.

When Seattle businessman Son Michael Pham’s parents disappeared during a Carnival cruise, he voiced his frustration that he received greater responsiveness upon losing a piece of luggage.

Insurance company president Ken Carver’s daughter disappeared from a Celebrity Cruises ship and the cruise line responded by discarding her personal items without so much as a call to the FBI. Rebecca Coriam - Disney Wonder Cruise Ship 

Today, a reader of this blog sent me a link to an article which discussed how Disney youth counselors on the Disney Wonder lost track of a three year old child whose parents dropped the little boy off in the cruise ship’s Oceaneer Club (for children aged 3 to 12).  The cruise line’s response was not only incompetent but heartless.  

The youth counselors had no clue where the little boy entrusted to their care was on the ship. They appeared indifferent to the parent’s understandable fears. No announcements were made over the course of 45 minutes while the ship sailed along as the parents searched frantically for their child.

This cavalier attitude is business as usual for the floating Magical Kingdom ships. Almost two years ago exactly, a 24 year old youth counselor from the U.K., Rebecca Coriam, disappeared from the Disney Wonder. The ship continued on sailing. The cruise line’s attitude and response, in my opinion, seemed motivated to protect its own marketing image and cover-the-truth-up, rather than to find out exactly what happened to young Rebecca.

Today is Rebecca’s 26th birthday which her parents and sister are celebrating in sorrow.  Neither Disney nor the country of the Bahamas, where Disney incorporates its cruise ships to avoid U.S. George Smith Royal Caribbean Cruise Shiptaxes, will cooperate with the Coriam family.  No one will provide the Coriams with a copy of the Bahamas report on the disappearance of their daughter. The callousness demonstrated by Disney and the Bahamas is the product of a foreign flagged scheme which is designed to keep cruise lines like Disney away from real oversight except by Caribbean islands whose loyalties lie exclusively to the cruise industry.  

I touched upon this problem briefly in an opinion piece for CNN entitled "What Cruise Lines Don’t Want You to Know."

There are many other examples of a cruise industry which would rather spend it efforts trying to create an image to vacationers that cruising is safe rather taking reasonable steps to make certain cruising is actually safe.

George Smith disappeared in July 2005 during his honeymoon. Going on eight years later, there remain no answers and no arrests, It was only last year that the public learned that Royal Caribbean had possession of a video of a certain passenger on the cruise ship who was taped telling his friends "we gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute."  We represented Mr. Smith’s wife and were never told that the video existed; instead, we watched as the cruise line stonewalled our investigation and tried to convince the public that Mr. Smith just got drunk and fell overboard.

HAL Disappearance Jason Rappe EurodamLast November, HAL passenger Jason Rappe’ disappeared from the Eurodam while cruising with his wife.  We asked the cruise line for information like videotapes, passenger addresses, statements and other basic information.

HAL refused to provide anything to us.

Instead HAL insisted that it was Mr. Rappe’s wife who first had to agree to provide all of her missing husband’s medical records, life insurance policies, work information and any psychiatric records before they would even think about cooperating.        

No airline would act like this if a passenger or crew member disappeared in flight. But then again the aviation industry is overseen by the strict and serious Federal Aviation Agency (FAA). There is no equivalent to the FAA on the high seas – only ships flying flags of convenience in countries like the Bahamas which care only their relationships with the cruise industry.   

Its too easy to commit a crime on a cruise line and get away with it. Even in cases where there is no foul play, the cruise industry’s knee-jerk reaction is to deny and delay and obfuscate rather than treat families respectfully and transparently. Until this attitude changes, cruise lines will always appear that they have something to hide.   

  

You can read our prior articles about 6 problems the cruise industry needs to fix below:

Problem No. 6: Cruise Pollution of Air & Water

Check in this week as we explore problem number 1 – 4 during CSM.

Thomson Majesty Lifeboat AccidentFollowing the Costa Concordia disaster last year, the Cruise Line International Organization (CLIA) announced 10 new safety proposals that all of the cruise lines were suppose to follow.

One proposal was that cruise lines would no longer load crew members in the lifeboats during safety drills. Instead, cruise lines were suppose to lower the lifeboats into the water first, load the crew members in next, and then practice motoring the lifeboat around. The proposal envisions only a few crew aboard during the lowering of the lifeboat, and they must be essential to the operation. 

Today we learn that at least 8 crew members were in a lifeboat during a drill on the Thomson Majesty cruise ship, apparently in violation of the new CLIA safety proposal, when the lifeboat plunged 60 feet into the water. The lifeboat landed upside down. 5 of the crew are dead. 3 are injured. 

The cruise ship was docked at the pier of Santa Cruz port in La Palma, in the Canary Islands. Thomson Cruises is owned by the large German travel company TUI. The cruise ship is operated by Louis Cruises.

A local newspaper says that the nationality of the dead victims are three Indonesians, a Ghanian and a Filipino. The injured involve two Greek crew members in serious condition and a Filipino in what is being described as in less serious condition.   

There is a saying that most lifeboats drills injure or kill more crew than save lives. Lifeboats can fall suddenly due to operator error or suffer malfunctions of the moving parts or failure of the cables and hardware. The accident appears to have happened while the lifeboat was being raised. No one needs to be aboard the lifeboat when it is raised. A cable snapped on one side. A photograph on our Facebook page shows a frayed cable.  

You can see a dramatic lifeboat accident in a video here. Although it did not involve a cruise ship, you can see how things can go terribly wrong.

It’s a shame that the lifeboat had crew members aboard while it was being lowered and raised in violation of the CLIA safety proposals. Why have 8 crewmembers in the boat while it is being raised anyway? The safety proposals are just that – proposals. It seems that at the end of the day, the cruise lines do whatever they want to do. 

Please leave a comment below or discuss this accident on our Facebook page

February 11 2013 Update: Cruise Critic has an interesting article: Lifeboat Tragedy: Did Cruise Line Ignore Safety Guidelines?  It quotes an expert on lifeboat drills:

"Alan Graveson, Senior International Secretary of Nautilus the U.K.-based seafarers’ union, said: "I issued instructions seven years ago that preferably nobody should be in the lifeboat during a safety drill, and if that’s not possible then there should be a maximum of two people.

"Lifeboats are meant to go one way — and that’s down — I don’t know why there were eight people onboard when they were winching it back up."

Photo credit: AP via Huffington Post.  Video credit: BBC News.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Costa Serena Cruise Ship Crew Member DeathA reader of Cruise Law News in Italy has notified us of the death this week of a crew member aboard the Costa Serena cruise ship.

The incident involved a 47-year-old Indonesian crew member, identified as Sahid Bin Fauzi, who worked as a mechanic on the Costa Serena.  He reportedly died after falling into a ventilation duct of one of the ship’s engines, apparently while working on the maintenance of fan grids.

A newspaper in Genoa where Costa is headquartered contains a short account of the crew member’s death. The accident was revealed today although it occurred last Thursday, while the cruise ship was off the coast of Argentina.  

Other crew members reported Mr. Fauzi’s "disappearance," following which the ship’s chief engineer searched and located the crew member’s lifeless body in the vertical ventilation shaft. It is less than clear how long it took before Mr. Fauzi’s body was located.

The Costa Serena is a Concordia-class cruise ship for Carnival-owned Costa Crociere. The name Serena was intended to symbolize harmony and serenity.  The cruise ship has been the cruise line’s flagship since 2007.

 

Photo credit of Costa Serena: ilsecoloxix.it 

Today the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper published an article about our trip this week to Jamaica entitled "Know Your Rights!" The article is below:

"CRUISE-SHIP workers are being urged to empower themselves by obtaining knowledge about their rights to benefits from their employers.

Several cruise-ship workers turned up on Wednesday at the Hibiscus Lodge in Ocho Rios to speak to lawyers from Walker & O’Neill Maritime Lawyers based in Miami, Florida. The lawyers – James Walker, Lisa O’Neill and Jonathan Aronson – were in the island to meet persons who might have been injured or fallen ill while at work on a cruise ship and who need guidance or representation.

Jamaica Crew Member - Cruise LawyerWhile several persons were happy to have met the team of lawyers, there were those who left disappointed as the three-year period allowed for compensation had elapsed.

"Most of the crew members who work for the Miami-based cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean and others, to be honest with you, they don’t know their legal rights because the cruise lines do not inform them of their legal rights," asserted lawyer James M. Walker.

"They don’t understand, for example, that they have only three years to contact a lawyer to assert a claim to seek medical treatment, or benefits or compensation for their injuries."

One woman who worked on a cruise ship and got injured seven years ago was told of the three-year limit. She left disappointed. So too did two men who last worked for a cruise line six years ago.

Walker said these persons should have been informed of their rights.

"They should know that when they leave the company. When they leave the company on sick leave, they should be told you have only three years and if you don’t assert your rights within that period of time you lose them forever. So we’re here for educational purposes," Walker said.

Seeking Redress

Over a dozen persons were steered in the direction that they need to go to seek redress after being injured. While they shied away from speaking with The Gleaner for the most part, one man who turned up walking with the aid of a crutch, while refusing to give his name, told the newspaper: "I’m pleased with the service so far."

He left with instructions to return with additional documents he had left at home.

But the critical issue, Walker said, was for workers to know their rights. For example, Jamaican crew members on cruise ships are entitled to get medical treatment in the United States.

Cruise workers who need information may visit www.cruiselawnews.com, a site that offers news on rights of crew members. Walker is urging persons to visit the site and educate themselves."

Falmouth Jamaica We returned to Miami from Jamaica last night after a three day trip where we visited crew member clients in Montego Bay, Falmouth and Ocho Rios. The weather was fantastic and the Jamaican people were warm and friendly, as usual. It is always delightful to travel to Montego Bay, which is an easy one and one-half hour flight from Miami.

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas was in port when we visited Falmouth on Tuesday. The Freedom of the Seas and the Navigator of the Seas arrived on Wednesday morning. On these two days, over 10,000 people arrived on cruise ships from South Florida but you would never know it walking around the town.

One of the problems we have witnessed with the “revitalization” of Falmouth is that the cruise line loads up its cruise passengers onto pre-booked and pre-paid excursion buses within the gates of the port and then sends them out of town to Ocho Rios or Dunn’s River Falls.  We witnessed few passengers actually walking in to the town and buying souvenirs or eating in the local restaurants.

It would be quite easy to have the passengers board the buses at a central location in the town, say at the roundabout and then head off on their excursions. This way, they would be encouraged to shop in Falmouth, both before and after the bus excursions, as they walk to and from the cruise ships. But as matters now stand, the passengers are isolated from the local vendors in Falmouth. The cruise line Falmouth Jamaica wants to capture as much of the passengers money as possible and seems to prefer that the passengers buy the goods and services offered by the cruise line sponsored vendors behind the fence erected between the ship and the local vendors.

Falmouth will never be truly revitalized until the cruise passengers turn into tourists who actually walk into and support the people of Falmouth.

In Ocho Rios, we met with approximately 50 crew members and former crew members working for Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Disney cruise lines. It was a record attendance for us. We met people who traveled from Negril, Port Antonio, Mandeville, and Kingston.

We met in the famous “No Problem Room” at the Hibiscus Lodge.  I took a photo of my partners Lisa and Jonathan meeting with a client whose cruise ship related problems we helped solve.

One of the most painful things we observed, and experienced, was when a crew member with a serious injury or medical ailment appeared at our meeting but had not contacted an attorney for four or five years. None of the crew members we met understood that there is a three year limitations for bringing claims against the cruise lines. Some of the men and women we met had worked for over two decades in the cruise industry and were left with serious injuries to their backs. Yet after returning home they did not understand that they had only three years to make a claim.

Most of the injured crew members we met have had no medical treatment arranged whatsoever by the cruise lines. Many were forced to pay for their own medical visits in the hope that the cruise line No Problem Room - Ocho Rio Jamaicawould reimburse them. All of this violates maritime law. Unlike U.S. passengers who if injured during a cruise receive great medical care back in their home states, the Jamaican crew members we meet invariably are still suffering with no medical care months and months after their shipboard accidents and injuries.

Jamaica remains a country where many cruise lines believe that they can send their injured crew members and then look the other way even after the employees served faithfully on cruise ships for over 20 years.

 

Photo Credit: Jim Walker

A Filipino crew member working aboard a large container ship was arrested after allegedly staging his own disappearance as part of a plot to sneak into the U.S.  

Dexter Desquitado, age 38, worked as a crew member aboard the Singapore-flagged MSC Tokyo. On October 25, 2012, a federal grand jury indicted him on charges that while the container ship was in the Gulf of Mexico heading for Alabama, he staged a scene aboard the ship to create the impression that he had gone overboard. Meanwhile, he hid in another part of the ship, with the intention of sneaking into the United States.  When the MSC ship reached the Port of Mobile, he apparently Fake Disappearance - MSC Tokyo Container Shipentered the U.S. during the vessel’s cargo operations. 

In legal papers filed by the prosecuting attorneys, the U.S. Government said "The very offense involved staging his disappearance at sea, hiding in a secluded area of the ship, and then surreptitiously escaping into the United States under the cover of night."

An earlier account of the incident indicated that at approximately 2:30 a.m. on October 15th, the missing crewmember was responsible for recovering the Jacob’s ladder after the pilot arrived. The ladder was later observed down with a shoe on deck indicating the possibility of the crewmember falling overboard.

The U.S. Coast responded by launching a large (and expensive) search and rescue effort. The vessels and aircraft involved in the unnecessary search included:

  • Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew;
  • Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane crew;
  • Coast Guard Station Dauphin Island 45-foot Response Boat—Medium crew;
  • The 87-foot Coast Guard Cutter Seahawk crew;
  • A 40-foot Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla boat crew;
  • A 32-foot Mobile Police Department contender crew;
  • A 32-foot Alabama Marine Resources jet boat crew;
  • A 23-foot Daphne Search and Rescue boat crew; and
  • A 27-foot Bon Secour Fire Department boat crew.

If convicted, Desquitado faces a $5,000 civil penalty and $1,062,423 for the cost of the search conducted by the Coast Guard as well as Alabama and local authorities.

Our blog has covered all types of crew member disappearances, including foul play, suicides and mysteries.  This is the first time that we have learned of a crew member faking a disappearance.  

Can anyone cite to a case involving a fake disappearance of a crew member from a large commercial vessel or a cruise ship?  Please leave a comment below or comment on our facebook page.   

 

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Story and video credit: Mobile News 15

Serenade of the Seas Overboard CrewAlready reeling from the publicity of its delayed reporting of a 21 year old passenger who went overboard from the Allure of the Seas, Royal Caribbean is now facing the scrutiny of the international press regarding the disappearance of a crew member from the Serenade of the Seas yesterday.

Several newspapers in Italy and Croatia are reporting that a Royal Caribbean went overboard from the Serenade yesterday morning while the cruise ship was sailing in the Adriatic sea.

The Bahamian flagged Serenade of the Seas was crossing the Adriatic for Venice.

There are conflicting reports of the time of the overboard as occurring between 4:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. when the ship’s passengers reported that a person had fallen into the sea.

An Italian newspaper reports that the unidentified crew member went overboard in off the Italian coastal city of Ancona. The waters are described either as international waters or waters under the jurisdiction of Croatia. The sea was reportedly rough with winds gusting close to 100 kilometers per hour. 

Coast Guard vessels from Croatia and Italy have searched for the crew member without success.

Cruise lines don’t voluntarily disclose information about overboard passengers and crew members. Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein has tracked 187 people going overboard from cruise ships in the last ten years or so.

Anyone with information about this latest case, please leave a comment below.

September 21, 2012:  So far, not a single U.S. newspaper or media outlet has covered the story.  No press statement by Royal Caribbean.  Disturbing that no one cares about cruise overboards unless they involve a passenger from the U.S. 

September 22, 2012: Several people informed us that the overboard Royal Caribbean crew member is from Panama and one reader said that he was employed in the facilities department on the ship.

October 13, 2012: Another crew member goes overboard from the Serenade of the Seas. 2 crew members from the same cruise ship in 3 weeks. What’s going on with this ship? 

Photo credit: Il Messaggero.it