The U.S. Coast Guard air stations in Atlantic City, New Jersey medevaced a passenger  from the MSC Divina cruise ship yesterday, March 19, 2019.

The MSC cruise ship was approximately 100 miles off Atlantic City, New Jersey.  The 52-year-old man was reportedly found unconscious on the ship’s pool deck. There is no explanation how or why the passenger was rendered unconscious. According to NJ.com, a rescue crew aboard a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter loaded the man onto a stretcher, hoisted him onto the helicopter and flew him to Atlantic City Regional Medical Center.

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

Video credit: Video by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodge, U.S. Coast Guard District 5 PADET Baltimore, U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City via Defense Visual Information Distribition Service (DVIDS).

Acting on a tip, Mexican authorities reportedly discovered an undisclosed amount of cocaine aboard the MSC Divina while the cruise ship was in port in Cozumel, Mexico.

According to the Riviera Maya News, Mexican federal agents located six packets of cocaine inside of a compartment behind a toilet in an undisclosed location on the MSC cruise ship.  The MSC Divina had previously sailed from Kralendijk, Bonaire on January 23rd, Willemstad, Curacao on January 24th, Oranjestad, Aruba on January 25th, Ocho Rios, Jamaica on January 27th, and George Town, Grand Cayman on January 28th before arriving in Cozumel yesterday. The ship is scheduled to arrive in Miami tomorrow.

There were no reported arrests of any of the crew members or passengers.

This is not the first time that drugs have been seized on a MSC cruise ship.

In November of 2018, United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers arrested seven MSC crew members for smuggling cocaine into the port of Miami aboard the MSC SeasideCBP officers reportedly found six kilos of cocaine and over $100,000 in cash. The Miami Herald covered the drug bust and identified the MSC crew members who allegedly smuggled the drugs.  MSC crew member Jamaican Damion Hawthorne (age 32)(from Ocho Rios) recruited South African crew members Londiwe Shange (age 27), Wandile Mhlongo (age 29), Thembeka Sokhulu (age 36), and Viwe Tshaka (age 23).  Jamaican Errol Roy Sutherland was also allegedly involved in the drug smuggling operation.

In 2010, eight people were convicted of attempting to smuggle over 75 pounds of cocaine (worth many millions of dollars) ashore from the MSC Orchestra when it arrived in Dover from Brazil.

In January of 2011, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Broward Sheriff’s Office with K-9 dogs raided the MSC Poesia at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale before it sailed and arrested a number of music fans on its Jam Cruise for a relatively small quantity of recreational drugs.

In August of 2013, the Spanish police arrested two crew members from the cruise ship MSC Magnífica, which docked in Spain on drug trafficking charges after they were caught with 15 kilos of cocaine on the cruise ship.

In November of 2013, a MSC crew member was implicated in a scheme to import ten kilos of cocaine from South America to Italy on the cruise ship MSC Armonia.

In March of 2014, the police in Brazil arrested a crew member on the cruise ship MSC Preziosa for smuggling cocaine.

I first read about this drug bust in Crew Center’s article Six Packages Of Cocaine Discovered On The Cruise Ship MSC Divina.

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

Photo credit: la Fiscalía General de la República via Riviera Maya News.

MSC touted the MSC Seaside as the “first of a new generation of MSC ships with revolutionary architecture and cutting-edge technology” when it christened the ship in Miami last year.  USA TODAY explained that MSC specifically designed the MSC cruise ship to “appeal to American cruisers.”

But when U.S. passenger Laura Eka and her newlywed husband, Ebong,  boarded the MSC ship several weeks ago to celebrate their honeymoon, they were greeted by a caricature of a black person. Ms. Eka complained to MSC that she and her husband (who is black) felt “unwelcome and uncomfortable” by the blackface artwork.

MSC refused to acknowledge the racially insensitive artwork which it chose to display on its Miami-based cruise ship. So Ms. Eka went to Twitter to express her disgust with the racist caricature.

Blackface is an ugly part of United States history. Like Dixie flags which still fly over several southern states today, blackface is a symptom of racism. Blackface involves derogatory racial images like the “darky” icon with large, exaggerated red lips and bright, white teeth which became a common racist motif used in entertainment, cartoons, comic strips, postcards, and advertisements throughout American culture from the turn of the 1800’s to at least the 1960’s. It is totally inappropriate for any cruise line to use such an offensive image at this late date, particularly a cruise line catering to the American public.

Has MSC removed the “artwork” from the cruise ship by now?  I doubt it. But if it is still hanging on a wall somewhere on the ship, please let us know.  And don’t hesitate to take a photo and post it on Twitter. Let MSC know what you think of whether blackface appeals to American cruisers today.

Have a thought? Please leave one today or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

November 29, 2018 Update: Miami New Times covers the shameful incident: Honeymooners Shocked by Bizarre Blackface “Artwork” on New MSC Cruise Ship.

I realized that I confused the MSC Seaside with the MSC Seaview which contained the racist artwork in my article. Mea culpa!

Take a moment and read:

Money Mississippi & the Murder of Emmett Till

For a different perspective, read:

New York Times  Confronting Racist Objects

This afternoon, May 17, 2018,  the United States Coast Guard (USCG) released an official press statement indicating that it ended its search for an overboard crew member from the MSC Seaside cruise ship.

The search was for a Filipino crew member who went overboard from the MSC cruise ship around 1:00 A.M. in the late night / early morning hours the previous day, on May 16, 2018.  But the Coast Guard stated in its official press release that it was not notified of the man overboard until 4:00 A.M. on May 16, 2018, which is approximately three (3) hours after the crew member went overboard.

The press release states that a Filipino crew member went overboard southeast of St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands “at approximately 1 a.m. Wednesday. The cruise ship crew launched a search and contacted watchstanders at the Coast Guard Sector San Juan Command Center at approximately 4 a.m. alerting them of the situation.”

This is consistent with the eye witness accounts of a passenger on the MSC Seaside who notified me that the ship began employing searchlights around 3:00 A.M.

It appears from this information that the MSC Seaside was not equipped with an automatic man overboard system that would be triggered immediately whenever someone went over the rails of the cruise ships and automatically notify the bridge that a person went into the water.

This is disappointing because last October, MSC Cruises announced that it installed a state-of-the-art man overboard system on the MSC Meraviglia and is planning to deploy similar systems across its fleet of cruise ships. Apparently, MSC has not employed the technology on the MSC Seaside.

There are currently several very sophisticated systems manufactured by a variety of companies that use motion, heat sensing and radar technology that will not only automatically notify the bridge of the person going overboard but will actually track the person in the water at night.

Waiting three hours to notify the Coast Guard of a person going overboard suggests that the ship did not know the person went overboard because the ship was not equipped with this life-saving technology.

The failure to employ the technology not only leads to these type of delays but it results in a huge wasteful expenditure of money by the U.S. government. The Coast Guard release sates that:

“Coast Guard rescue crews comprised of a C-130 aircraft from Air Station Clearwater, two MH-65 Dolphin helicopters from Air Station Borinquen, a 33-foot Special Purpose Craft–Law Enforcement response boat from Boat Forces Saint Thomas and the Coast Guard Cutter Confidence conducted five air and three surface searches covering an area of approximately 1,216 square nautical miles.”

By notifying the U.S. Coast Guard three hours late, at 4:00 A.M. after the crew member went Confidence Cutteroverboard from the MSC Seaside at 1:00 A.M., MSC not only ensured that the late search would be unsuccessful but wasted the resources of Coast Guard stations in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas USVI and Clearwater Florida involving the deployment of a C-130 Hercules aircraft, two MH-65 Dolphin helicopters, a 33-foot Special Purpose Craft, and the Coast Guard Cutter Confidence (based in Port Canaveral, Florida). These governmental vessels involved in the delayed search are in addition to the commercial vessels also involved in essentially looking for a needle in a haystack, including the Carnival Glory and the oil tanker Rose which were both involved in the belated search.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests regarding other man overboard searches indicate that the U.S. government spends around one millions dollars in deploying Coast Guard aircraft, helicopters and vessels for each similar search. It costs a lot of fuel to fly a C-130 down to the Caribbean from Clearwater, Florida and deploy a couple of of Dolphin helicopters and a Coast Guard cutter to conduct a (delayed) search of over 1,200 nautical square miles. Cruise lines do not pay anything to the U.S. government for the deploying of such vast resources for such man overboard searches which become necessary simply because cruise lines refuse to invest the necessary money to employ existing man overboard technology.

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

Photo credit: Top – Dickelbers – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.Bottom – U.S. Coast Guard 7th District Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands

A crew member from the MSC Seaside has been reported going overboard last night south of the Virgin Islands.

A passenger on the MSC cruise ship notified me this morning of the incident.  Florida resident Brett Morphis stated that the ship used spotlights to search for the crew member starting around 3 A.M. and continuing throughout the night.  The captain of the ship made an official announcement around 7 A.M., followed by a second announcement this morning stating that the search was continuing with prayers for the crew member.  A U.S. Coast MSC Seaside OverboardGuard helicopter and a Carnival ship (the Carnival Glory) as well as smaller commercial vessels reportedly were all engaged in the search. AIS systems seems to show that the MSC Seaside turned around west of the Virgin Islands and returned to a spot where the ship believed the crew member went overboard.

It is unknown whether the MSC Seaside was equipped with an automatic man overboard system which would have instantly alerted the bridge when the crew member went over the railing.

Last October, MSC Cruises announced that it installed a state-of-the-art man overboard system on the MSC Meraviglia and is planning to deploy similar systems across its fleet of cruise ships.

The man overboard has been identified as a 37 year-old crew member from the Philippines.

A news report from Puerto Rico states that the crew member “went overboard from the seventh deck of the Maltese-flagged cruise ship at approximately 1 a.m. Wednesday. The cruise ship crew launched a search and contacted watchstanders at the Coast Guard Sector San Juan Command Center at approximately 4 a.m. alerting them of the situation.”  If this account is accurate, it is unclear why there was a three hour delay by the cruise ship in notifying the Coast Guard of the man overboard.

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

Roatan Pier MAC ArmoniaThe MSC Armonia crashed into the dock in Roatan, Honduras today, according to videos which were posted on Youtube. The MSC cruise ship is shown coming into the port at a higher than normal rate of speed. In addition to the vesel damage, there was significant damage to the pier.

There are several videos of the incident.

Some of the videos show damage to the ship along the forward, port side of the ship.

I first saw the video on the popular gCaptain site.

The incident is reminiscent of an incident in Alaska when the Celebrity Infinity struck a wharf in Ketchikan two years ago.

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

Video credit: Nessy Warren; photo – La Prensa

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

 

Yusmaidys Ortiz Perez MSC OperaA MSC crew member who stayed in Grand Cayman last month, when her cruise ship left port, was sentenced to three months in prison for illegally remaining on the island. 

As we previously reported, 34 year old Yusmaidys Ortiz Perez, employed as a bartender on the MSC Opera, was reported by MSC to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service four days after the ship left Grand Caymen after she did not return to the cruise ship. The woman was eventually located safe on the island, although the cruise line never explained why it delayed four days before reporting that she did not return to the ship before it left the country.

At the hearing last Friday regarding Ms. Ortiz Perez’s decision to  illegally remain in the Caymans, her defense lawyer reportedly told the court that Ms. Ortiz Perez “broke down” after leaving the ship because her a manager on the cruise ship was “exploiting” her, according to the Cayman Compass.  (He also reportedly stated that her partner in her home country of Cuba had allegedly "threatened to kill her"). 

Ms. Ortiz Perez reportedly told the court that “while on the ship, she was exploited by a manager and she was asked to perform certain duties and if she didn’t, she was told she would lose her job.”

The newspaper article in the Cayman stated that "Ms. Ortiz Perez did not welcome the attention from the manager. When invited to his room or other places on the ship, she would say no because she had been working 11 hours or because she did not want to." Ms. Ortiz Perez’s partner back in Cuba allegedly stated that he was going to kill her over suggestions that she had begun a relationship with her supervisor. 

Ms. Ortiz Perez apparently received a message to the effect that "as soon as you come to the dock, somebody will be waiting and this is what is going to happen to you.”

The judge sentenced Ms. Ortiz Perez to three months in jail, although reportedly stating that “I accept you are in distress and find yourself in a difficult position.”

Question for crew members: Have you been a victim of sexual harassment on a cruise ship?

Photo credit: Crew Center

West Bay Cayman IslandsOn March 27, 2018, MSC Cruises reported to the police in the Cayman Islands that a crew member was missing after she failed to re-board the MSC Opera cruise ship before its departure from George Town. We mentioned the incident on March 28th, after the popular Crew Center reported the incident.

According to the Cayman News Service, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service were told by the MSC cruise ship on March 27th about the missing woman. The crew member was identified as 34 year old Yusmaidys Ortiz Perez.

Today, the Caymans’ newspaper reported that MSC Cruises reported Ms. Perez missing “four days after the MSC Opera departed from the Cayman Islands.” The MSC Opera had arrived in Grand Cayman on Friday, March 23rd and departed the same day without the crew member.

The police in Grand Cayman state that Ms. Perez was found in good health in West Bay.

West Bay is a residential district located on the west side of Grand Cayman Island, located north of the island’s popular Seven Mile Beach.

It’s a good development that the woman has been located, although it is troubling that the cruise ship personnel delayed four days before reporting that she did not return to the ship before it left the country.

There are around 750,000 (some say the number is over 850,000) sexual offenders registered in the United States. Many thousands of these sexual offenders go on cruises each year. Some cruise lines do not permit registered offenders to cruise, but many if not most cruise lines do. 

Another lawyer here in Miami recently wrote an interesting article for the Huffington Post about this important issue, titled Should Cruise Ships Allow Sexual Offenders to Sail? 

The article points out, believe it or not, that there is a travel-related resource which caters to registered sexual offenders called Resources for RSO Travels, which published a blog post Can Registered Sex Offenders Go on a Cruise? The article answers its own question, writing "the answer is YES!" but further explains that there are some cruise line which block sexual offenders from cruising:

" . . . here are the two cruise lines that are notoriously known for denying registered sex offenders: Royal Caribbean and Carnival. Here are the cruise lines that allow registered sex offenders to board the ship: Norwegian, MSC, Holland America."

When I read the article, I find it disturbing that the registered offenders’ blog characterized Royal Caribbean and Carnival as "notorious" for prohibiting sexual offenders from cruising and not characterizing NCL, MSC and HAL as "notorious" for permitting sexual predators to board their cruise ships. I suppose that’s part of the problem with many sexual offenders. Even after being criminally convicted of their sexual crimes and placed on the National Sex Offender Public Website, they think Sexual Offender Cruise Shipthat they really didn’t do anything wrong and they should be entitled to the same privileges as people who didn’t commit sexual crimes. 

I have represented far too many people sexually assaulted on cruise ships, including dozens of children sexually abused during cruises, to have any tolerance for sexual offenders protesting that they were not permitted to cruise. 

Some men go on cruises for the primary purpose of abusing children. A couple of years ago, I wrote about a 71 year old man from Pennsylvania (photo left) who cruised on the Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas and went went into the cruise ship’s water zone and fondled a 6-year-old boy. He attempted to fondle a second child in an adjoining Jacuzzi. At a hearing before a Federal Magistrate in Pennsylvania, an FBI agent testified that the pedophile admitted that he went on the cruise to "have a sexual encounter with a young boy." (There was no indication that the man was on a sexual offender database at the time of the cruise; shortly after this incident Royal Caribbean starting performing background checks of passengers).  The man was convicted, served jail time and when released from jail he attempted to molest other children

But don’t expect the U.S. government or port authorities (at either the state or national levels) to perform background checks and prevent sexual offenders from cruising.  Homeland Security and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection may arrest sexual predators who have an outstanding warrants but they usually do so only after the cruise ship returns to port. 

For example, a 28 year-old man (photo right) was arrested while disembarking the Carnival Inspiration at the Port of Tampa a few years ago. His name was flagged by a sweep of the manifest of Sexual Assault Outstanding Warrantpassengers by Homeland Security officials who determined that the passenger was wanted for sexual assault in addition to assault with a weapon and forcible confinement. The U.S. Marshals arrested the passenger only after the cruise ship returned to port. Regretfully, our federal government routinely looks at the ship passenger list only after the bad guys have already boarded the cruise ship.

If you take a cruise, you may be cruising with at least one felon aboard. U.S. Customs and Border Protection arrested five passengers on outstanding warrants only after the Carnival Magic returned to port in Galveston several years ago. 

Cruise lines should do everything possible to keep pedophiles, sexual predators and sexual offenders  off of cruise ships. Yes, I realize that all sexual offenders are not pedophiles or technically "sexual predators" (who by definition must have been convicted of a first degree sexual crime or multiple lesser sexual crimes). But it is a step in the right direction for cruise lines to perform background checks on passengers to screen out such people convicted of sexual crimes.

Over the years, I have received many questions from people wanting to go on a cruise asking whether registered sexual offenders are allowed to cruise.  Usually, their inquires are anonymous. They claim that a "friend" is thinking of going on a cruise. They explain that their "friend" is a "really nice guy" who made a mistake a "long time ago" and is now "no threat to anyone" and other similar gobbledygook. 

A particularly annoying occurrence is when a registered sexual offender complains to me that they booked a cruise and received an email at the last minute that they are prohibited from going on the cruise. I have received many of these type of inquiries over the last several months from men convicted of sexual crimes and listed as registered offenders wanting to cruise with Carnival.  Although the cruise line always refunds their fares, several people have complained that they have been "inconvenienced" and want to see if they a lawsuit for being a victim of "discrimination."

I do not respond to such inquires, which have involved to date only people who had booked cruises with Carnival and Royal Caribbean and were notified by these cruise lines that they had been identified on a sexual offender database. The registered offenders who contact my law office remind me that most families who cruise have no idea who they are cruising with.  So kudos to Carnival and Royal Caribbean for keeping known sexual offenders off their ships and trying to keep their guests safe. Shame on the other cruise lines who don’t perform such background checks.  

The bottom line is that there is no law to my knowledge prohibiting sexual offenders from cruising. Even if there were such a law, our federal government does a poor job vetting passenger manifests and probably would not find out until after the cruise ship leaves port. Its up to the cruise lines to screen their passengers and most cruise lines don’t. It seems like only Carnival and Royal Caribbean do. 

Keep in mind that most of the sexual assaults of passengers are committed by crew members.  Few countries other than the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia have sexual offender databases, and very few countries have any online databases permitting any cruise line or hiring agents from knowing whether job applicants from the countries where crew members are hired (India, Indonesia, and the Caribbean islands) have been arrested or convicted of sexual or violent crimes. (And of course passengers from non U.S. countires without sexual offender databases cannot be screened). 

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

November 4, 2017 Update: A reader on our Facebook page commented that Carnival is already partnering with INTERPOL for enhanced security screening using INTERPOL’S I-Checkit global security system . . . Read the link here.

Photo credit:

Top –  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Bottom – U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Simone Souza Scheuer MSC CruisesThe Brazilian television network Globo reports that a DNA test has confirmed that the body of the person found off the coast of Italy on July 2nd is that of the crew member Simone Scheuer Sousa who disappeared from the MSC Musica.

The Brazilian crew member disappeared under suspicious circumstances from the MSC cruise ship between Venice and Brindisi on June 19 2017 as we reported earlier this summer. As the report mentions, Ms. Sousa went overboard after she had a disagreement with her boss and ended a two-year relationship with another crew member. Her friends and co-employees unsuccessfully sought answers from MSC Cruises with many people concerned that Ms. Sousa may have been a victim of foul play. 

Italian criminal prosecutors in Brindisi are pursuing a murder investigation in connection with Ms. Sousa’s disappearance.

Unfortunately, cruise lines like MSC fail to utilize the latest in automatic man overboard technology. Many say that a cruise ship is a perfect location for a murder, particularly when there are few automatic man overboard cameras installed on ships which would document and, possibly, deter criminal activity. The majority of mysterious disappearances at sea involve young women.

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

Photo credit: g1.globo.com