Adventure of the SeasA local news station in Miami reports that Royal Caribbean used the Adventure of the Seas to take around 3,800 evacuees from St. Thomas, St. Croix and Puerto Rico back to South Florida, following the destruction and chaos caused by Hurricane Maria.

7 News in Miami aired a brief segment on its television program today, showing the Adventure of the Seas returning to Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale. 

Royal Caribbean and other Miami-based cruise lines have enjoyed good press due to their hurricane relief efforts, which we commented on in Cruise Lines Aid Hurricane-Stricken Caribbean Islands.

But it has not always been smooth sailing for Royal Caribbean in dealing with recent hurricanes. 

The cruise line was recently named in a a proposed class action lawsuit that alleges that Royal Caribbean forced its customers to fly to Texas when it was in a state of emergency due to Hurricane Harvey rather than cancel or modify its August 27th cruise on the Liberty of the Seas which was scheduled to depart from the Port of Galveston. The cruise line refused to cancel the cruise until its passengers had already flown to Texas, unlike other cruise lines which prudently canceled and provided full credits to its customers. 

Royal Caribbean repeatedly told passengers that if they canceled, they would lose the entire cost of the purchased cruise. The passengers and their families then faced catastrophic flooding caused as the Category 4 hurricane flooded south Texas. Read the class action complaint here.   

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Photo credit above: AP Photo / Gerald Herbert via Boston Herald.

 

Liberty of the Seas A number of newspapers in Galveston are reporting that the U.S. Coast Guard is searching for a Royal Caribbean crew member who apparently went overboard from the Liberty of the Seas this morning.  

ABC-13 News in Galveston is reporting that a 39-year-old Filipino crew member was reported missing from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship around 4:30 a.m. this morning.

Images of the unidentified crew member were reportedly captured by a closed circuit television (CCTV) on the Liberty of the Seas at about 1:30 a.m. Monday. He was later reported missing at 4:30 a.m. after he failed to report to his job station.  

The Coast Guard search involved an airplane dispatched from the Coast guard station in Corpus Christi and a patrol boat from Galveston. The crew member is believed to have disappeared approximately 170 miles southeast of Galveston. 

The three hour delay between the last images of the crew member on CCTV and the reporting of the missing crew member probably means that the cruise ship was not equipped with an automatic man overboard system which would have immediately notified the bridge that a person has gone over the rails of the ship and into the water.  

AIS tracking systems reveal that the Liberty of the Seas apparently did not conduct searches for the crew member in the Gulf of Mexico.

This is an issue we have written about regularly. 

Modern man overboard technology includes motion detection systems which can immediately signal the bridge and simultaneously capture an image of the person going overboard thus verifying that is not a false alarm. The technology can actually track the person in the water, even at night, with radar and infrared technology. 

Where most overboards involving cruise passengers seem to be the result of the sale of excessive alcohol, overboards involving crew members seems to involve employees jumping overboard (there is no evidence that this occurred in this specific case). In 2012, I chronicled a dozen crew members who went overboard from Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise ships during a period of three years. I cited the difficult working conditions and low pay which crew members face which are almost unimaginable by U.S. standards: 12 plus hour days, 7 days a week, 30 days a month with no days off over the course of 6 to 10 month contacts, for as little as $550 a month for non-tip earning ship employees. I asked Is Royal Caribbean Working Its Crew Members to Death?

This problem is not limited solely to the Royal Caribbean brands.  We have written about crew members from Carnival, MSC, NCL and Princess who have apparently intentionally gone overboard. 

In our experience, the medical treatment for physical injuries involving crew members is spotty at best. Ibuprofen is often the only "treatment." Medical care for crew members suffering from depression and other emotional issues is virtually non-existent.

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Photo credit: Hassocks5489 at English Wikipedia – Public Domain, commons / wikimedia.

Boomerango Royal Caribbean CruiseThe Royal Caribbean Blog announced yesterday that the renovation of the Liberty of the Seas this January will include the reconfiguration of the sports deck and the installation of water slides including a water slide called a "Boomerango."

The blog says that the "Boomerango will let guests ride in rafts, where they will "plummet down a steep drop, then shoot up a nearly vertical wall, high into the air, for a moment of weightlessness.’"

Sounds like fun you may say?  Perhaps, but expect serious personal injuries to occur. 

The Royal Caribbean blog indicates that the "Boomerango" appears to be a water slide built by the WhiteWater company.  Familiar with that name? It’s the same company which acquired the FlowRider from WaveLoch which is in use on nine Royal Caribbean cruise ships. The FlowRider simulated surfing device is the most dangerous activity at sea, in my assessment, with hundreds of accidents occurring occrring thoughout the fleet each year. 

Royal Caribbean has a reputation for being the first cruise line to offer many new yet dangerous recreational attractions at sea over the years, including the notorious FlowRider and the iFly simulated sky diving device. 

If the cruise line handles the "Boomerango" like the other attractions on its ships, there will not be proper warnings or signage accurately disclosing the risk of serious personal injury to the guests and the operational instructions to the passengers will be poor. The company will likely force the guests to sign sports activity waivers, which the courts have already held to be illegal

Expect the "Boomerango" lawsuits to start early next year.

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Photo Credits:  Royal Caribbean via the Royal Caribbean blog.

NBC News and local WPTV are reporting that a man has gone overboard from Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas last night. 

U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Ryan Doss says that search crews are looking for a man who "either voluntarily jumped or fell" from a cruise ship overnight near the Florida Keys. NBC News quotes Royal Caribbean saying that that the passenger had "climbed over a railing," based on an after-the-fact review of surveillance cameras.

Liberty of the SeasThe cruise ship returned to port in Port Everglades, Florida, as planned this morning.

The incident happened about 20 miles off Marathon, Florida.

A Coast Guard cutter out of Miami and a boat crew based in Marathon are searching for the passenger. 

Royal Caribbean has not installed an automatic man overboard system on the Liberty of the Seas, or any other of its cruise ships

This year, people have gone overboard from the Carnival Triumph, Carnival Glory, Star Cruises’ Super Star Libra, Celebrity Constellation, Princess Sapphire Princess, and Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas.

Update“A review of the ship’s closed-circuit camera footage observed a 47-year-old male guest from the U.S. climbing over the railing and going overboard from deck 12,” according to a press statement from Royal Caribbean International.

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Photo Credit: Hassocks5489 via Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0

Today the Washingtonian reported on a gigantic law firm, DLA Piper. chartering a gigantic cruise ship for a partner retreat. The 4,200-lawyer international firm selected Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas.

The Washingtonian calls the Piper firm a “legal behemoth” which has over 100 worldwide offices. It seems like only the partners are invited but that’s enough to require a cruise behemoth like the Liberty of the Seas.  The cruise will begin in Barcelona and the ship will then sail up the coast to Nice. Sounds nice.

DLA Piper Liberty of the Seas CruiseThe charter costs over $3,000,000 plus the costs of booze, excursions, and of course flying the partners around the world to Spain. I don’t see these fat cats flying economy.

How can a law firm afford such an extravaganza? Don’t worry. The firm represents mostly gigantic corporations as clients and has money to burn. The Wall Street Journal just reported that DLA Piper collected over $2,400,000,000 last year.  Yes that’s right, $2.4 billion.

I’ll keep my personal opinions about this to myself for a change, but let me just say that there is a reason I chose to work at my own small firm and not at a gigantic law firm with so much money that it can go on a boondoggle like this.

I asked readers of my Facebook page to come up with one word which describes the cruise.  The response are pretty funny.  Read the comments here and give us your thoughts.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Hassocks5489

Last week we reported on an article in the BBC about a former Royal Caribbean captain who died after contracting Legionnaire’s disease. BBC’s story was entitled Ex-Royal Caribbean Captain Died of Legionella. His widow is now proceeding with an inquest back in the UK.    

This is a disturbing story which we looked into last year: Royal Caribbean Delivers Cruel Blow to Widow of Beloved Captain Tore Myhra.

Royal Caribbean initially declined comment to the BBC saying that it does not comment about pending legal cases, but it looks like the cruise line has changed its mind. Royal Caribbean just sent the BBC a statement saying for the first time that "Royal Caribbean is certain that Mr. Myhra did not contract Legionella while sailing on board Liberty of the Seas."  The cruise line further states that Captain Myhra reported to the Captain Tore Myhraship’s doctor only with "flu-like symptoms."

It is interesting to contrast Royal Caribbean’s denials today with what the cruise line stated when Captain Myhra fell ill on the cruise ship. Back in December 2009, Royal Caribbean did not deny that the cruise ship had the deadly bacteria. It stated only that ". . . we do not know the source of the guest’s legionellosis . . " The cruise line further explained that in response to the legionella-related death it sanitized key areas onboard the ship, including whirlpools and the H2O Zone.  

As we reported in 2009 in our article Former Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Captain Dies of Legionnaire’s Disease After Sailing on Liberty of the Seas, the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner concluded that Captain Myhra became sick on the cruise ship and suffered "nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory difficulty and dry cough.” His symptoms worsened and he died of "Legionella pneumophila pneumonia" the day after he departed the cruise ship, on November 1, 2009.

The Miami Herald covered the story and interviewed the Centers for Disease Control: The Herald said that the CDC investigated "five or six cases of Legionnaires’ disease aboard cruise ships going in and out of South Florida in the past three months" around the time of Captain Myhra’s death.

The South Florida Business Journal reported that during the next cruise, a family on the Liberty of the Seas found the H20 water area and hot tubs were closed six out of seven days of the cruise. A passenger reportedly said "This cruise started off horrible as we were told there had been two cases of Legionnaire’s disease on the 11/1 sailing and that Customs was also checking the entire ship . . . " Another passenger mentioned receiving a letter in the stateroom, indicating a passenger on the previous cruise had been diagnosed with Legionnaire’s, so the H20 Zone and hot tubs were closed. 

Why is Royal Caribbean now so "certain" that its former captain did not contract the disease on its cruise ship and he had just "flu-like" symptoms?  

It seems like this cruise cruise line will say anything to avoid bad press, even if it means pouring salt into the wounds of Captain Myhra’s grieving wife and daughter.  

Last Sunday the Liberty of the Seas cruised upon two stranded boaters as the cruise ship was returning from the Caribbean.  The ship stopped and picked up two Cuban men.

As WPTV reports, Royal Caribbean originally said that its cruise ship picked them up. But later it issued this statement, saying: The two Cubans did not board the Liberty of the Seas, but were retrieved by a coast guard vessel…"

But cruise passenger Emily Zazdin, who filmed the rescue, said  "I got video of them coming up to the ship and they were taken aboard."  

The Coast Guard said they picked up the two men from the cruise ship and found they have legal status in the U.S. The Coast Guard took them to the border patrol offices in Marathon, where their legal status were confirmed, and they were released.

You can see in the video (courtesy RSS 622) at the bottom the Coast Guard arriving at the cruise ship to take the men away in a Coast Guard vessel.  

Just goes to show you, take anything the cruise line PR people tell you with a grain of salt.

 

 

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

A number of newspapers including the Orlando Sentinel are reporting on the death of a young couple who cruised to Cozumel and died during a dune buggy accident last Saturday.  

Jim Melillo and Susan Borges sailed from Fort Lauderdale to Mexico aboard Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas and signed up for a dune buggy excursion with a number of their friends. They were killed when the dune buggy in which they were riding (driven by another cruise passenger) apparently lost control and struck a metal guardrail. 

The Orlando Sentinel quotes the group members commenting that the dune buggies had poor safety conditions and many of the buggies did not even have seat belts. A Mexican newspaper identifies the dune buggy rental company as "Paraíso" car rental. The dune buggy excursion was not sold through the cruise line.

Even if the excursion were sponsored by Royal Caribbean, there is case law indicating that the cruise line may not be liable in a case like this. In John Morrell & Co. v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., 534 F. Supp. 2d 1345, 2008 AMC 936 (S.D. Fla. 2008), a company paid for twelve of its employees to go on a cruise on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. When the ship was in Cozumel, Mexico, several employees went on a dune buggy expedition that Royal Caribbean made available, but was owned and operated by a Cozumel company. A dune buggy was involved in an accident which caused it to swerve and flip, causing serious injuries to one of the employees resulting in $170,000 in medical benefits and disability benefits.

The court found that Royal Caribbean was not liable for the accident. The cruise ship did not supervise the operation and had no duty to warn passengers of possible dangers in such a trip, as the dangers are obvious the court held. 

 

The couples’s family and friends set up a facebook tribute page and a website, Jim and Susan Fund, where you can donate in their memory.  

The Italian newspaper Il Secolo XIX published an interesting article L’inchino della Liberty of the Seas which raised the question whether the Liberty of the Seas cruise ship sailed too close to Cape Ampelio near the little Italian town of Bordighera.

Bordighera is a small, beautiful coastal town near Italy’s border with France.  It has a small marina but certainly nothing that could accommodate a mega cruise ship like Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas.  

The Italian newspaper writes that citizens of Bordighera became alarmed when the Liberty of the Seas sailed close (apparently less than a mile) to the shore. Dozens telephoned the Italian Coast Guard in Bordighera Italy - Cruise Ship anger to demand that the cruise ship stay away from its waters. Others began a facebook page complaining about the situation and posting photographs of the Liberty of the Seas sailing nearby Cape Ampelio.

The local residents felt that the cruise ship was performing a "bow" or a "salute" to the city, not unlike the reckless maneuver performed by the infamous Captain Schettino aboard the Costa Concordia near the island of Giglio which caused 32 people to die.     

There are Italian regulations which prohibit ships over 500 tons to sail within 2 nautical miles from the outer perimeters of national parks and protected areas, marine and coastal ecosystems. In other areas, there apparently is not a specified distance where large vessels are prohibited, and it is the authority of the Italian Coast Guard or harbor masters to determine how close large cargo ships and cruise ships may sail.

The newspaper writes that the Italian Coast Guard was monitoring the passage of the Liberty of the Seas and had concluded that although the cruise ship was near the coast, it was "not excessively" close. The incident occurred two months ago.

The question remains whether this was an authorized departure from the cruise ship’s planned route, or a "thought" of the ship’s captain to salute the town or provide interesting viewing for the passengers.

Bordighera Italy - Liberty of the Seas Salute?

Yesterday I blogged about a near collision which allegedly occurred between Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas and a small Italian fishing boat, the Angela II, which is based in Civitavecchia.   

You can read my article: Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas Nearly Runs Over Italian Fishing Boat. The article was based on an account from the highly credible cruise blog Noticias de Cruceros.  You can also read about the incident here from an Italian newspaper.

This morning, someone posted a comment to my article, claiming that the near collision story was a lie, and suggesting that the Italian authorities made it up.  The person who posted the comment claims that Royal Caribbean Cruises - Bogus PR he was on the cruise ship and says that the fishing boat had no fishing equipment and that it was the Liberty of the Seas which altered course and passed the boat by some 250 meters.  

Now, I was not on the cruise so I don’t know what happened. There are two sides to every story and I’d like to know what really happened.

We have the fishing boat’s version of events. There is no official corporate statement by Royal Caribbean at this point.  And I can find no comments from the passengers on the cruise ship.  Just this one comment to my blog:    

"It’s such a lie, what they wrote there,I been on this ship and watch what happened.This fishing boat was with out any fishing equipment and just suddenly start to run towards the ship from close distance.The ship is the one who alter course to avoid collision,where fishing boat just stopped dead in front of them and distance when we pass fishing boat was over 250 mtrs.

However,it’s was a nice try from Italian authorities to blame the ship,but not their own fishing boat,for creating such a dangerous situation for the ship."

The person leaving the comment left only a first name and a bogus email address: John10@gmail.com.

After a little research, I determined that the comment  was posted by someone at Royal Caribbean’s headquarters in Miami.  How do I know that?  I’m not saying.  But I am 100% certain that it was sent from the Royal Caribbean offices near the port of Miami.

Cruise Law News (CLN) is a very popular blog. Lots of people love to cruise but subscribe to this blog to get "the other side of the story."  Many major cruise lines here in Miami understand that. They will respond to our inquiries about issues we write about here and send us press statements. If we have our facts wrong, the cruise lines will call or send us an email.  I will immediately post their statements to set the record  straight, even if the statements are pure PR drivel.  

But Royal Caribbean is different. It is the least transparent cruise line in the business. It refuses to respond to requests for information.  Instead of issuing a corporate statement under its letterhead, it will be sneaky and try and slide in a comment pretending to be a passenger, and an eye witness at that! What kind of reputable PR department acts like this?