A strike in San Juan today impacted cruise passengers on the Celebrity Summit and Jewel of the Seas. Departing passengers have been unable to retrieve their luggage and take taxis to the airport and arriving passengers have been delayed or unable to travel to the port due to the strikes.

Social media (Twitter and Facebook) has been abuzz with postings from cruise guests and their family members of travelers contacting the cruise line and air lines. As one travel agent commented, this apparently was not the first time that port operations were disrupted by a strike.

Several cruise passengers contacted us this afternoon seeking information about the strike.

The current strike involves an organized protest against governmental cuts of employee benefits in Puerto Rico. Strikes in the U.S. nowadays are relatively rare. Most strikes which affect cruise passengers occur in Europe (read Carnival Breeze to Cross Picket Line in Venice). Strikes by cruise line employees are not permitted by the cruise lines (read Carnival Fires 150 Crew Members from India for Protesting Low Cruise Ship Wages).

A number of people on Twitter were concerned about their parents’ ability to deal with the lack of services, whereas at least one cruiser expressed her understandable frustrations about getting home to man’s best friend.

Complicating matters as several thousand guests tried to handle their own baggage was that it began to rain earlier this morning.

In addition to the Celebrity Summit and the Jewel of the Seas, AIS programs show the Star Pride in port in San Juan. However, we have not received any comments from passengers on the Star Pride yet.

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Photo and video credit: Twitter; photo top – Emily Burns @ArizonaHorseGal.

The News Rep newspaper contained this ominous headline yesterday – ISIS terrorists have just hijacked a cruise ship . . .  

The newspaper, which focuses on security, military and warfare issues, stated “Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists have stormed a cruise ship full of unaware tourists somewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean. The U.S. Special Operations Command Europe has been alerted and swiftly deploys its SOF (Special Operations Forces) units to Greece. There, the American commandos link up with their Greek counterparts and prepare to storm the vessel . . .”

But the ISIS attack on a cruise ship was just part of a annual drill by U.S. Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) which concluded today in Crete. This year’s exercise took place from December 2nd to 7th in the port of Souda, Greece with special forces from the Greek police, military and coast guard.

The U.S. and Greece are conducting joint anti-terrorism drills in Greece in light of terrorism in neighboring Turkey and nearby countries such as Syria and in North Africa like Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.

New Rep states that U.S. special operations forces include the Green Berets from the 10th Special Forces Group, Navy SEALs, and Air Force special operations assets, such as the CV-22B Osprey helicopter, from the 352nd Special Operations Wing.

A newspaper in Greece explained  that the task forces explored how to respond to various terror-attack scenarios on “relatively unprotected” or “vulnerable targets” known as “soft targets.”  The National Herald states that the security drill involved an “Islamic State terrorist attack on a large cruise ship” in the Greek port.

Each year there is a different location for Jackal Stone exercises which have in the past included the boarding of commercial vessels in European ports via rigid inflatable boats and repelling SOF’s from helicopters.

This recent joint security exercise is a reminder of the vulnerability of cruise ships which are considered to be “soft targets” to terrorism. We suggest reading the best selling book by former Director of Security at Princess Cruises, Commander Mark Gaouette, Cruising for Trouble: Cruise Ships as Soft Targets for Pirates, Terrorists and Common Criminals.

The foreseeability of a terrorist attack is well known and highly documented, as the Rand organization noted long ago.

The cruise industry encountered a deadly terrorist attack in Tunis several years ago when terrorists killed cruise passengers from the Costa Fascinosa and MSC Splendida after they were bused without security or any warnings to a museum. We also know that al Qaeda planned to seize cruise ships and execute passengers in the past.

Read: How the Next Jihadist Terror Attack Against Cruise Passengers Will Happen.

I previously received an interesting comment from a reader who said that cruise ships should use muster drills to educate passengers what do to if there is a terrorist attack during a cruise. What is the protocol for a passenger if terrorists enter the ship?  Go to your cabins, hunker down and hope for the best? Try and overwhelm the attackers? Try and escape via lifeboats? Who knows?

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Photo Credit: Top – YouTube/DFMagazine via the Mirror (Armed troops land on cross-Channel ferry as part of terror security drill amid fears of ISIS ship attack); bottom – Mark Gaouette via Amazon.

The Silver Spirit cruise ship struck a bollard* last week after it was forced to abort its departure from the harbor in Key West, according to the Blue Paper newspaper.

Last Thursday, November 27th, the Silversea cruise ship had docked at the Mallory Square dock in Key West. As can be seen in a video taken from a live webcam operated by Broadwave LiveCams, two larger cruise ships, the Carnival Victory and Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas, depart the dock successfully despite high winds.

The video starts with a time lapse of the larger cruise ships leaving the dock in Key West.

The Silver Spirit is shown attempting to depart from the dock around 6:30 P.M. However, while the Silversea cruise ship attempts to return to the dock due to the winds, the ship crashes into a bolllard (a/k/a a “dolphin”) before it again docks.

The allision* caused damage to the mid section of the ship’s hull and destroyed the bollard.

The popular Crew-Center site reports that “according to Key West officials, the damage caused by the crash is estimated at around half-million dollars and the dock at Mallory Square will not be operational for at least three months. The cruise operator Silversea sent an insurance consultant to Key West to estimate the damages to the pier.”

Marine terms:

  • *An “allision” is the striking of a vessel against a fixed object (like a bollard) in contrast to a collision between two vessels.
  • A “bollard” is a short, thick post on a wharf, to which a ship’s rope may be secured.

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Video and image credit: BroadwaveLiveCams

A crew member from Vanuatu was sentenced to five years and eight months in jail on Tuesday after he was found guilty two months ago of raping a co-worker during their employment for P&O Cruises’ Pacific Dawn.

A court in Vanuatu sentenced former Pacific Dawn crew member Noel Isaac to a count of  sexual intercourse without consent in December of 2017, according to a recent article in the Daily Post newspaper in Vanuatu.  The court had earlier found him guilty of one count of an act of indecency as well as one count of sexual intercourse without consent.

The court found beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Isaac trespassed into the victim’s cabin on the morning of December 6, 2017. Despite her pleas, he overcame her resistance and committed what the newspaper described as full and forcible sexual intercourse with her without her consent shortly before he disembarked from the cruise ship.

The victimed crew member reportedly did not return to her job duties and was forced to leave the ship due to the trauma. She later notified P&O that she would not return to work due to the assault. She reported the crime to the local police who reportedly had to halt the investigation awaiting the ship’s next visit to obtain the CCTV images.

The victim  was a new hire who worked in the galley. She boarded the Pacific Dawn in Brisbane in early December 2017; the ship thereafter sailed for New Caledonia and Vanuatu. The assault took place just a few days after she started work on the cruise ship.

The newspaper describes Mr. Isaac as having difficulties answering basic questions at trial about the incident. He claimed that he did not know where the victim’s cabin was located on the ship and denied ever going in to her cabin two days after he first met her. However, the evidence showed that Mr. Isaac entered and remained in the victim’s cabin for 40 minutes on the morning in question, according to the local newspaper.

Convictions of crew members for sexual assault are rare, due to the fact that flag states are not interested or equipped to investigate such crimes which occur in far off locations at sea. In this case, Carnival Corporation owned the Pacific Dawn, which was operated by P&O Cruises Australia and registered in London. This case, however, involved a crime committed by a citizen of Vanuatu where the ship called on its capital, Port Vila and where the crew member resided.

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Photo credit: P&O Cruises via Traveller magazine.

 

The United States Coast Guard medevaced a passenger yesterday from a Carnival cruise ship which had sailed from Galveston, Texas.

On December 2, 2018, the Carnival Valor contacted the Coast Guard in Houston requesting emergency medical treatment for a 71 year-old passenger. The Coast Guard dispatched a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter which flew approximately 58 miles into the Gulf of Mexico and arrived at the ship on Sunday morning. The helicopter hoisted the ill guest and a nurse from the Carnival cruise ship flew them to the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston which is about 50 miles  southeast of downtown Houston.

The Carnival Valor left Galveston, Texas on Saturday December 1, 2018 and was scheduled to arrive in Cozumel, Mexico today and then sail to Progreso, Mexico on December 4th and return to Galveston on December 6th.

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Video credit: U.S. Coast Guard by Air Station Houston via Defense Visual Information Distribution System (DVIDS).

Carnival Cruise Line just increased its automatic gratuities on drinks (both alcohol and non-alcohol) from 15% to 18%.

Automatic gratuities result in money being deducted directly from the guest’s accounts.

A Carnival employee sent a copy of a letter from Richard Morse, Carnival’s Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations, explaining that from the the 3% increase, 1.5% will go to the Carnival server and the remaining 1.5% will go into a pool to fund Carnival expenses including the costs of  uniforms and return airline tickets for crew members.

This development was first reported in an article by the popular Crew-Center website. When I posted this information on our Cruise Law News’ Facebook page, this is how cruise passengers reacted:

  • Greedy bastards! So WE are paying their increased salary, not the rich cruise lines! 😡 
  • They should be paying for benefits and employees uniforms, etc., not us!
  • Raise prices. Tips should be part of fare.
  • Next we will have to pay for the fuel you nickel and dime us guests more and more every year to pay for all your new ships you keep building.
  • Total and utter rip-off.
  • CEO will get how many million $$$$$$$ bonus for increasing profit??
  • . . . so where is that increase going ? uniforms and return ticket lol….

The letter (image above), dated November 29, 2018, sent to all beverage positions is itemized below:

“We are pleased to announce effective on sailings starting on or after December 1st, the automatic gratuity added to the guests’ check for all beverage sales and a la carte dining outlets will increase from 15% to 18%. In addition the extra tip line will remain on all the guests’ checks. This enables our guests to add any additional extra gratuity they deem appropriate. This increase will reflect your first paycheck of December 2018.

From this 3% increase, 1.5% will go to server and remaining 1.5% will go into the ASP pool. As you know the ASP pool funds employee compensation and benefit programs that you receive; including bar level pay, itinerary stipend pay, as well as free uniform and return airline tickets.

Our Bartenders and Bar Waiters lead the cruise industry in compensation. This is a result on everyone’s hard work and efforts to increase overall bar sales as well as the success of the Working Smarter program. As we look forward to 2019, we expect this trend to continue and this will ensure that Carnival Cruise Line remains the employer of choice.

As you know the Beverage Team plays a vital role in creating Fun Memorable Vacations for our guests. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your Positive Attitude and for the Pride you show in our company.”

It is rather amazing to watch a cruise line, incorporated in Panama where it registers its cruise ships in order to avoid U.S. income taxes, requiring its U.S. guests, who pay their taxes, to pay gratuities which are going to pay for the crew employees’ uniforms and airline tickets!

Automatic gratuities is an issue involving all of the major cruise lines.  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. We have written about this issue many times, including Royal Caribbean, NCL and Carnival.

November 2, 2018 Update: We received the following statement from Carnival:

“We have increased the bar gratuity to 18% which is in line with the industry and hotel and restaurants on land.  Those funds are shared across all crew members who support the beverage operations, including those our guests may not see but are working to stock, clean and run equipment and support tasks.  A very small portion of the gratuity pool funds items that crew members normally cover beyond what the company pays for in travel and uniform costs.

Our crew appreciate everything our guests do for them. They work very hard and understand the policies in place. The salary Carnival pays them and the gratuities our guests give allows our crew to provide a better for life for themselves and their family.  And they are also supportive of how we administer the pool portion of the gratuity which fully and exclusively benefits our shipboard employees.”

November 4, 2018 Update: Carnival’s website claims that: “It is customary for our guests to extend gratuities to the shipboard staff in appreciation for their hard work and exceptional service. 100% of your gratuities are distributed to the crew who you interact with, such as your stateroom attendants, dining, bar and culinary services staff, as well as others who work behind the scenes to enhance your overall cruise experience.”

This appears to be false considering that Carnival is using half of the increase in the drink gratuities to pay for things like uniform and travel costs. It also appears questionable whether customers can remove pre-paid gratuities on drink packages.

The Sun newspaper reported on the gratuity increase today.

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A number of cruise passengers on the Adventure of the Seas inform Cruise Law News that the captain announced to the cruise ship yesterday that a crew member disappeared from the ship.

The Adventure of the Seas was in Cozumel when the captain made an announcement that an unidentified crew member could not be accounted for and was missing from the cruise ship.  The crew member did not appear at his work station and the remainder of the crew was unable to locate him.

The fact that a crew member could “disappear” without a trace from the cruise ship indicates that Royal Caribbean has still not bothered to install an automatic man overboard system on this ship. Auto-MOB systems like this or this can detect a person going over the rails and send a signal to the bridge so that the ship can immediately search and try to rescue the person. Such systems consist of state-of-the-art motion detection sensors, thermal imaging and radar technology.

As matters now stand, when a crew member (or passenger) goes over the railing, unless an eye-witness observes the person going overboard and promptly reports it to the bridge, the ship will sail on, usually at night, without anyone knowing that a person is missing from the ship. It is not until some time after the crew member fails to show up to work that the ship will make any effort to search for the person.

Usually, the crew will search on the ship for the missing crew member and the staff captain or security chief will eventually look through any CCTV images to search for any clues whether the crew member jumped overboard.  (The vast majority of crew members who disappear at sea do so intentionally; whereas, most passengers go overboard due to gross over-intoxication).

This leads to extraordinary delays in the ship’s search and rescue efforts.  For example, in Royal Caribbean Unreasonably Delays Reporting Overboard Crew Member from Vision of the Seas, we explained that when a crew member jumped overboard early in the morning (around 5:15 a.m.), the absence of an auto-MOB caused a series of unreasonable delays in searching for the employee.

A couple of year ago, I wrote about the problem of crew members going missing from Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise ships without explanation. During a three year period between 2009 and 2012, at least thirteen crew members went over the rails of Royal Caribbean (and Celebrity) ships, including the Majesty of the Seas, Monarch of the Seas (twice), Radiance of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas. Oasis of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Summit, and Monarch of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas (two). Most of these cases were never investigated by the flag state, which, it seems, could not care less.

The flag state (usually the Bahamas) usually does not even investigate when Royal Caribbean reports that a crew member has gone overboard.

The passengers who informed us that a crew member is missing from the ship in this latest case mentioned that the captain announced that a “care team” would apparently be arriving on the ship, although it is less than clear whether this was for the crew’s welfare or the guests’ benefit.

Royal Caribbean’s failure to install the proven life-saving auto-MOB technology reflects an callous indifference toward hard working crew members.

We suggest reading:

Royal Caribbean Unreasonably Delays Reporting Overboard Crew Member from Vision of the Seas.

Misery Machines and Crew Member Suicides.

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

November 24, 2018 a.m. update:

Crew members are identifying the crew members as a 26 year old male entertainment staff member from the United Kingdom.

A crew member who worked with him a few months ago on Allure of the Seas stated that his manager reported that he was exhibiting signs of depression to shipboard HR. He went to the ship doctor on one occasion, a teleconference was reportedly arranged for him with a counselor, and he was required to continue his contract.

One crew member who does wish to be identified stated “Royal Caribbean does not care one bit for the safety or welfare of the crew . . . about 24 hours of the crew member going missing, the company had already contacted another employee to replace him (someone who is a close friend of the missing person)! Apparently there is no CCTV footage of him going overboard but instead of focusing on investigating what happened and supporting his family, friends and team mates, their priority is to find a replacement.”

November 24, 2018 p.m. update: Below is a YouTube video by Don’s Family Vacations which discusses the need of automatic man overboard technology. He recommends to cruise passengers that they fill out comment cards recommending that cruise lines implement the technology, particularly given the billions of dollars that the industry is spending on new cruise ships and the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the refurbishment of ships.

 

November 24, 2018 p.m. update”Photo credit: Top – Brian Burnell – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia; Middle and bottom – Images from Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas via Bahamian Maritime Authority.

A sixty-nine year old U.S. citizen, originally from California, was identified yesterday as the victim of an abduction and murder in Roatan, Honduras, according to a Honduran newspaper El Heraldo.

The newspaper reports that the body of Philip Foster Brown was found in a ravine near a road leading from West End to West Bay in Roatan on Tuesday.  Mr. Brown, who had lived on the island of Roatan in a community on West Bay for several years, disappeared from his home several days ago, leaving a large pool of blood on the porch of his house.  His corpse was found yesterday wearing only shorts with a bag over his head.

Mr. Bown was one of three “foreigners” (i.e., not Honduran) in Roatan who died under mysterious circumstances according to the Honduran press.

Roatan is a popular port which is heavily marketed as a paradise getaway by Miami-based cruise lines like Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean.

We have written about cruise passengers and at least one crew member who have been victimized in violent armed robberies over the years in this idyllic yet dangerous destination, earning it a spot (#2) on my list of the ten most dangerous cruise port in the world several years ago.

As we wrote before, like many other Caribbean islands, the police in Roatan are either indifferent or corrupt. The legal system is somewhere between barbaric and non-existent.  Crimes against U.S. citizens are rarely solved or prosecuted.

Since 2010, Honduras has had one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world, ranging between 59 and 86 per 100,000 according to the U.S. Department of State.  Honduras is far more deadly than even the most violent U.S. cities.  Chicago, for example, has a per capita murder rate of 24 per 100,000. (The per capita homicide rate in the U.S. is a little over 4 per 100,000).

The U.S. State Department states that: “Roatan and the Bay Islands are geographically separated from and experience lower crime rates than on the mainland and other Caribbean islands; however, thefts, break-ins, assaults, rapes, and murders do occur.”

The State Department Crime and Safety Report also states that “Cruise ship passengers should take safety precautions, avoid unfamiliar areas, and book only with reputable tour companies during their stopover. Cruise lines and port agencies have approved tour companies offering packages. Port agencies have worked to improve taxi service to/from ports. The vast majority of cruise line passengers experience no problems, but incidents of armed robbery (like this one) and carjacking have been reported.”

November 23, 2018 Update: A resident of Roatan who does not feel comfortable revealing her name left this comment: ” I live on Roatan. Over the last ten days there has been three kidnappings/abductions (including Phil Brown) resulting in probable homicides. There are 4 additional murders, 2 shootings in Los Fuertes and 2 stabbing deaths. That’s 7 total. Unreported, downplayed and hushed up.  No increase in police or military as has happened in past crime waves. No actions from local or national govt. There has been lots of armed robberies often with victims threatened with guns of knives to throats. Please help get the word out to cruisers. Big companies should stop coming here now.”

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Photo credit: El Heraldo.

Cruise passengers are reportedly fearful of the current conditions of Nassau’s famed Straw Market, according to local vendors in the Bahamas and a popular U.S. cruise publication.

One of the vendors told the Tribune newspaper “. . . many of the tourists refused to come off the ship because they were told the market is too dark they are going to be robbed, raped and all these sorts of different things . . .”

The popular cruise blog Cruise Radio reported yesterday that the comment was made during a dispute between the Bahamian government and the local citizens who work in the market. The government-operated Straw Market Authority apparently threw away goods from the stalls of market vendors who were delinquent in paying the modest rent for their stalls. Cruise Radio commented that “but those selling their wares at the straw market have been unhappy with the state of affairs for some time, claiming that parts of the space have been without lights for months.” One vendor responded to the perceived mistreatment, complaining that the market is an embarrassing place to bring tourists and noting it was “‘filthy’ and needed to be painted and cleaned.”

The Bahamas has struggled with cruise tourism in the last many years, as many cruise passengers refuse to step off the cruise ships when they arrive in Nassau or Freeport. Many cruise guests cite crime, dirty conditions, aggressive merchants and an absence of things to do compared with other ports as reasons why they stay on the ships when they reach the Bahamas.

As Cruise Radio has observed in a prior article: “The fact that many passengers now opt to stay on board the ships which brought them isn’t news to anyone who has spent time on message boards. There, people often complain about everything from the lack of interesting things to do in Nassau to the virtual army of cab drivers and vendors one must fight past in order to get anywhere.”

But Bahamian tourism official have publicly stated that they needed to be “more aggressive” in looking to find ways to extract money from cruisers. Yet, the Bahamas is planning to end the millions of dollars annually spent on incentives paid to the “very, very profitable” cruise lines so that they would bring passengers to the Bahamas.

We have written many articles about the high rate of crime, including sexual assault, in Nassau. We named Nassau as the most dangerous cruise port in the world in 2014.

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Photo credit: Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board

 

This evening (past midnight local time), the Costa Luminosa cruise ship responded to a ship on fire off the Coast of Greece.  The Costa ship reportedly aided in the rescue of crew members from the merchant vessel.

The ship fire was tweeted by Angel David / @angeltem.

The tweet reads: “cruiser rescuing another ship. Fire aboard a merchant vessel in the middle of the night.”

Translated, the tweet reads: “think the boat on fire in Kithira, Greece is the 1 built in 1986 and with 79 meters.”

The Costa Luminosa apparently was involved, along with other vessel which responded to the fire, in rescuing the crew members from the burning vessel.

A passenger on the cruise ship commented on the rescue operations and posted a video on her Facebook page.

November 21, 2018 Update: According to A R X Maritime, a “Turkish Cargo Ship, Kilic 1, caught on fire in the evening of November 20, approximately 8 nautical miles southeast of Cape Matapan, near the southern coast of Greece. The vessel was en route from Tunisia to Turkey when a fire broke out in the engine room. Kilic’s crew of 11, all Turkish nationals, did not manage to put the fire under control, and thus were forced to abandon ship. Italian cruise ship, Costa Luminosa, arrived at the scene after responding to Kilic’s distress call. The crew all boarded the cruise ship and are all considered to be safe and in good health. Greek maritime authorities arrived upon the scene in force, with over six Coast Guard vessels, a navy helicopter and multiple tugs that attempted to put out the fire.”

If you have information about the fire and rescue of the crew of the burning ship, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo credits: Angel David / @angeltem.