The U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a 79-year-old passenger who was suffering chest pains from a Norwegian Cruise Line ship near Cuba on July 4, 2018, and flew him to Jackson Memorial Hospital here in Miami.

The Norwegian Sky had just sailed from Havana, Cuba, and was beginning its voyage back to Miami when the cruise ship notified the Coast Guard in Key West that the senior citizen required emergency medical care. The Coast Guard dispatched an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Miami to the cruise ship around 4:45 PM, when the NCL ship was approximately 65 miles southwest of Key West.

Video credit: Defense Visual Information Distribution System (DVIDS) – U.S. Coast Guard District 7

 

NCL Cruise VeniceYesterday, as I flipped through my feed on tweetdeck, I noticed an idyllic image (left) of Venice. The stock photo show a few small boats and gondolas on the Grand Canal, with the text:

Cruise to Venice. It’s a place where people float down man-made waterways or stroll down picturesque alleyways. There’s no more extraordinary place to find yourself, or lose yourself. Stay in Venice before your next Mediterranean cruise!

The photo is linked to NCL’s efforts to market cruises to or from Venice. You can see the same image on NCL’s website.

The last time I wrote about Venice and NCL it involved George Clooney’s romantic wedding procession in Venice, Italy which was disrupted when the 93,000-ton, 2,400-passenger Norwegian NCL Norwegian Jade VeniceJade cruised by on the Giudecca Canal. NCL cluelessly congratulated Mr. Clooney on twitter after crashing his party.

Putting movie stars and celebrities aside, the reality of Venice is now the sight of huge cruise ships operated by NCL and other Miami-based cruise lines towering over the city and downloading hordes of day visitors buying trinkets.  Many of the hundreds of cruise ships coming to Venice each year are over 1,000 feet long, displace 140,000 tons and have drafts well over 25 feet. They pose a substantial risk to this fragile Italian city which is struggling against mass tourism and the deterioration of the city’s underwater foundations.

This is an issue which I have written about for the past decade.

Will the Juggernauts of the Seas Ruin Venice?

Photo credit: @NCL_eu; Norwegian Cruise Line via Travel Pulse; Getty Images via Mail Online / Monster Cruise Ships Menace Venice.

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

NCL Cruises Venice

Norwegian SunSeveral readers of this blog alerted me to a Facebook page called Panama Canal Sun chronicling the ill-fated cruise aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Sun through the Panama Canal which left from Miami on March 16, 2018.

Construction related to a deck refinishing project reportedly began on board the NCL cruise ship almost immediately according to the website.

As you can see in the numerous photographs posted online, the cruise involved the sanding of the wooden decks and the application of noxious smelling chemicals and compounds throughout the open decks of the ship. Many of the ship employees/contractors involved in the work were wearing respirators due to the dust but the passengers obviously were not wearing personal protective equipment. There are dozens of comments on the Facebook page regarding dust generated by the work covering the public spaces.

The heavy construction caused NCL to shut down numerous bars, deck spaces and restaurants. The photos show paint particles and fibrous insulation covering the decks. Flammable chemicals were stored on open decks. Many passengers complained of burning, itching and runny eyes and difficulty breathing due to the strong fumes and/or particles. 

One passenger complained to guest services of what they believed to be toxic fumes which were entering her cabin from the work on the outer decks. Guest services sent a supervisor to the cabin who reportedly sprayed "Fabrese" into the vent and around the cabin.

The passengers were expecting a  dream vacation on a luxurious cruise ship but paid for a construction zone which woke them up in the early morning with noise and odors which they heard and smelled throughout the day and into the night.

This appears to be a project which obviously should have taken place in dry-dock, not during a cruise NCL's Norwegian Sunwith nearly two thousand people aboard trying to enjoy a relaxing vacation. The Facebook page members realized that this project was not due to the fault of the captain or crew but was the result of poor leadership from NCL’s corporate offices here in Miami who essentially scheduled a floating dry-dock at sea with passengers on board in order to maximize profits. 

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

April 2, 2018 UpdateSome of the passengers state that doors leading to muster stations on the ship were blocked (photo above right) – this seems dangerous, especially considering the flammable chemicals stored all over the decks . . . Muster assembly access to some of the lifeboats is also blocked, as shown in some of the photos below . . .   

April 3, 2018 Update: 

Global News (Canada) B.C. travellers say trip of a lifetime ruined by work on Norwegian Cruise Line ship. Norwegian Cruise Line said: “While we do our utmost to minimize any impact on the guest experience when these enhancements are taking place, we recognize that in this situation our guests have experienced some inconvenience.” (The company offered passengers 25 per cent off another cruise until March 2019).

CBC Passengers angry and frustrated as cruise ship renovations ruin vacation (Canadian newspaper interviewed me regarding NCL’s outrageous dry-dock-at-sea shenanigans).

April 5, 2018 Update (A.M.): The U.S. media is finally reporting on the NCL madness: 

Newsweek: NIGHTMARE NORWEGIAN CRUISE WAS LIKE A FLOATING CONSTRUCTION SITE.

Travel Pulse: Unhappy Norwegian Sun Passengers Making Voices Heard.  

Photo credit: Panama Canal Sun Facebook page. 

April 5, 2018 Update (P.M.): NCL finally offers a 100% future credit.

 

Norwegian Sun

 Norwegian Sun

China Cruise ProtestThe South China Morning Post reports that Chinese cruise passengers aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Joy staged a protest aboard the NCL ship after fog resulted in the cancellation of the cruise from Shanghai.

The newspaper reports that the shipboard incident is the latest in a series of strange cases where Chinese tourists have resorted to shows of “patriotism” when they have been inconvenienced. “Passengers angrily jostled crew members while singing the country’s national anthem, The March of the Volunteers,” according to the newspaper in Shanghai.

The demonstration is similar to an prior incident three years ago when around 400 Chinese passengers refused to disembark a cruise ship which was delayed by fog. Later, around Chinese 300 passengers refused to disembark the Quantum of the Seas and had to be forcibly removed following a dispute over a change of the ship’s itinerary.

I asked the question in an earlier blog and will pose it again here –  how will the cruise lines deal with a boatload of angry Chinese passengers sick with a massive norovirus outbreak?

Video Credit: 新中国频道

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

https://youtube.com/watch?v=0UH4ER94nHo%3Frel%3D0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NCL Holdings president and CEO Frank Dek Rio rang the bell this morning at the New York Stock Exchange in celebration of the five year anniversary of NCL’s listing. Del Rio was later interviewed by CNBC when he was asked about cyclone Grayson, often called the “bomb cyclone” storm, which terrorized the passengers aboard the Norwegian Breakaway as it sailed into the storm while heading back to New York last week.

Smiling, CEO Del Rio stated this morning (video link here) to a national television audience:

NCL Cruise CEO Frank Del Rio  . . . weather can be unpredictable . . . and that’s what happened this weekend . . . the great news is our ship is back in the Caribbean carrying 4,000 happy cruisers . . . so . . . all good. 

Meterologists all agree that the storm was perfectly forecasted well in advance. Many of the traumatized passengers on the Breakaway felt that NCL’s priority was to get back to port in New York to pick up new passengers so NCL would not lose any money. (You can read about NCL recklessly sailing into the storm in this article by Mashable).

Del Rio’s insensitive, flippant comments are typical for this greedy cruise CEO, who made $31,900,000 in 2015 alone.  Last year, he told the audience at last year’s Seatrade Global conference that he loved fewer regulations under President Trump because “they make us money.” In 2005, he defended NCL’s increase in gratuities by saying “every dollar increase in yield translates to approximately $15 million to the bottom line.” And in 2005 at the Miami Cruise Shipping trade show, he told the audience that “Libya, Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon could be more lucrative than Cuba.” (I couldn’t help tweeting at the time “have you heard of ISIS?”) The next day, fanatics targeted cruise-ship passengers who sailed into the Capital of Tunisa, slaughtering and injuring 38 passengers.

I posted Del Rio’s interview on our Cruise Law News Facebook page, and quickly received the following comments:

  • Weather in the 21st Century is not ALL that “unpredictable.” Responsible Officers have to get up to date conditions and forecasts and make responsible decisions based upon that information. That “responsible decision ” would NOT have been to sail through the conditions the Master took that ship through. “Responsible Corporate Management would not have embarked passengers or planned port calls with passengers embarked,for Mid Winter cruises from Northern latitude Atlantic ports such as New York in this season. Greed can be the ONLY reason for such actions.
  • Clearly, he is totally out of touch and lying through his teeth. The weather had been predicted days prior.
  • Admit nothing deny everything. What a putz.
  • Fat Cat personified.
  • That ship should have cancelled the cruise with the advance weather report they had.

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

Photos/Videos: CNBC.

Opening Bell, January 11, 2018 from CNBC.

Norwegian Breakaway This week, a number of passengers contacted our office after returning from the harrowing end of their ill fated cruise aboard NCL’s Norwegian Breakaway.

News accounts indicate that on January 2, 2018, the Breakaway stopped at its private island, Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. Videos available online show the weather, initially calm and pleasant, turning rough as the passengers used tenders to return to the cruise ship. This was a foreshadowing of things to come.

By this date, and as early as December 31, 2017, weather forecasters were unanimously predicting that a huge storm would form off the U.S.’s southeast coast and head north later in the week.

But Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) stuck with its itinerary and subjected the passengers to several days of extreme winds and waves as the hurricane-strength storm pounded the cruise ship on January 3rd and 4th. Water leaked into the ship as passengers complained on social media of panic and seasickness with several dozens of frightended passengers sleeping in the ship’s atrium. CBS quoted one passenger as saying that “there were people crying, everyone was throwing up. It was a nightmare. It was so tilted I was shaking.”

Many passengers complained about a lack of communication from the captain.

NCL downplayed the incident which infuriated many of the traumatized passengers.

In one of several statements released by NCL after the Breakaway returned to port in New York, NCL claimed that the cruise ship “encountered stronger than forecasted weather conditions.”

The cruise line’s conduct and lack of transparency are similar to the conduct of Royal Caribbean after the Anthem of the Seas cruised into a major storm which, like the Grayson “bomb cyclone,” was well forecast in advance. The captain of the Anthem claimed that the storm was not accurately forecast, which led Al Roker, the popular television weatherman on the Today Show, to state “Royal Caribbean’s claim that this was not predicted is bullfeathers.

Cruise lines ordinarily have a duty of only “reasonable care” under the circumstances. But in instances of rough weather, cruise lines have a much higher duty of care to the passengers. Some characterize this duty as the “highest duty of care” of the passengers when the ship is expected to encounter rough weather.

Our firm previously represented traumatized passengers on the Anthem of the Seas which Royal Caribbean recklessly sailed through a violent storm in 2016. You can see a video of my interview with a New Jersey television station here.

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

January 10, 2018 Update: Passengers Consider Lawsuit After Norwegian Cruise Line Sails Through Winter Storm Grayson (Video).

Image credit: CBS News

NCL Norwegian Breakaway Storm

Former Norwegian Cruise Line ("NCL") CEO Colin Veitch’s trial against his successor, Kevin  Sheehan, and their old cruise line, NCL, for defamation and breach of contract has been underway in the Miami-Dade County courthouse, here in Miami, Florida this past week.

Veitch worked at the helm of NCL from 2000 to 2008. According to Travel Weekly, Veitch was the architect of "Freestyle Cruising" and undertook an ambitious fleet renewal program, purchasing nine new cruise ships. By some accounts, but  not all, Veitch was an innovative cruise executive who was successful in beginning the transformation of under-performing old cruise ships into a larger and far more profitable fleet. 

Veitch turned the revitalized cruise line over to Sheehan in 2008. Things turned sour between the two NCL Colin Veitchrich cruise executives after a travel periodical, Travel Weekly, wrote a glowing article in December of 2014 about Veitch and his success at NCL. Sheehan then sent an email to Travel Weekly mocking the article and criticizing Veitch. The Miami Herald reported at the time, quoting the lawsuit allegations, that Sheehan sent a “vindictive, false and defamatory” email to Travel Weekly which eventually published. A few days later, Travel Weekly retracted the complimentary article about Veitch.

Veitch then sued Sheehan and NCL alleging defamation, as well as breach of contract, claiming that his former cruise line and its new CEO allegedly cheated him out of revenue sharing. 

The overblown 187-page lawsuit which you can review here is, in my opinion, a rather fascinating insight into the hurt-feelings and out-of-control personalities of two multi-millionaire former NCL cruise executives.

The lawsuit which Veitch filed against Sheehan included allegations which have been characterized by the Skift travel publication as "incendiary" accusations that Mr. Sheehan engaged in “a long pattern of personal and professional misconduct and recklessness, stunning in its scope and hubris, corrosive and detrimental in its impact on the company, and deeply undermining of the workplace culture . . . ” 

In response, Mr. Sheehan and NCL asked the court to strike what they characterized as "immaterial, impertinent and scandalous" allegations. 

The bitter personal allegations between these two former cruise executives arise from a nasty dispute between two very wealthy former cruise executives.  When Mr. Veitch resigned from NCL’s parent company, Star Cruises, he reportedly received $10,000,000 as part of a severance package. He also settled a $300,000,000 lawsuit which he filed against Sir Richard Branson and the Virgin Group after he alleged that the British billionaire and his company stole his ideas for a new cruise project. The precise amount of money that Veitch pocketed is confidential. 

Kevin SheehanSheehan also received a severance package from NCL in 2015 after it terminated his employment, totaling $13,400,000.

The many articles written by trade publications and major newspapers in Miami. like the Miami Herald and the Miami New Times, have covered the Veitch-Sheehan squabbles at length, but they are ignoring the biter irony of the litigation. Veitch was the NCL CEO in 2003 when a decrepit, poorly maintained steam boiler on NCL’s 40+ year-old SS Norway exploded at the port of Miami. The explosion killed eight crew members and seriously burned another nineteen NCL crew members.

The National Transportation Safety Board ("NTBS") concluded that the deadly boiler explosion was caused by NCL’s "improper operation, maintenance and inspection" of the old cruise ship’s steam chamber. The old boiler had "extensive fatigue cracking" and deteriorated materials that weakened the metal and caused it to rupture under pressure. The NTSB reported that NCL was aware of the dangerous condition but failed to take action to fix the problem. 

CEO Veitch tried to deflect blame but NCL was forced to plead guilty to a criminal charge of gross negligence regarding the explosion. The Norway was subsequently sold for scrap.

When the families of the eight dead crew members who were scalded to death filed suit in Miami to obtain compensation for the loss of their fathers and husbands, Veitch’s lawyers argued that the crew members were not entitled to file suit before a judge and jury in Miami. Instead, NCL argued, because the crew members were Filipinos, their loved ones had to pursue the extremely limited death benefits pursuant to the arbitration process in the Philippines. 

Kicking "foreign" (i.e., non-U.S.) crew members out of the American legal system was unprecedented.  Foreign crew members injured or killed due to the negligence of U.S. based shipping companies have long been permitted to have their cases resolved through jury trials under the Jones Act here in the U.S. In addition to the Jones Act, crew members have also been entitled to obtain medical treatment and daily living expenses when they are injured aboard U.S. based cruise ships Norway Boiler Explosionunder the "maintenance and cure" doctrine, one of the oldest legal American legal doctrines dating back to the early 1800’s. 

But NCL, which faced substantial liability and damages for the deaths of eight crew members and nearly twenty other ship employees burned in the explosion, sought to dismiss the cases, arguing that their only remedy was the limited benefits under the Filipino law. NCL argued that Miami was not the proper location to resolve the dispute even though it is based in Miami and the deaths occurred at the port of Miami.  In Batista v. Star Cruises, our federal court agreed with NCL and sent the cases to Manila, where Filipino law limited the widows to just $50,000 and the children to just $7,500 for the loss of their dead husbands/fathers.

Like "freestlye cruising," NCL’s unprecedented legal posturing has also been copied by NCL’s competitors Carnival, Royal Caribbean and all other cruise lines, which quickly inserted one-sided arbitration clauses into their crew member employment agreements to escape or limit their liability when things go wrong on the high seas. 

Except for Disney Cruises, all other cruise lines prohibit injured crew members from having their cases heard by juries in the U.S. legal system. Filipino seafarers are especially susceptible to being screwed by the Miami-based cruise lines, thanks to NCL’s efforts which started under Veitch’s tenure. 

During the trial last week at the Miami-Dade courthouse, where NCL crew members are barred from filing suit, Veitch’s lawyer reportedly asked the jury to consider awarding $95,000,000 in damages, according to Court View Network (CVN). That may be a proper amount to finally compensate the families of the eight Filipino crew members who were burned to death on the SS Norway back in 2003, but it seems to be an awful lot for a healthy, millionaire former cruise executive with hurt feelings. 

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

December 11, 2017 UpdateAs reported by the Miami Business Review today, Norwegian Cruise Line Defeats $90M Lawsuit From Former CEO.

Photo credits:

Colin Veitch: Associated Press via the Honolulu Star-Bulletin

Kevin Sheehan: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid.

SS Norway: News7 Miami via CBS News video.

Norwegian StarSeveral passengers onboard the Norwegian Star state that the NCL cruise ship is returning to Miami a day early due to a medical emergency.

One passenger on the ship writes:

"The Norwegian Star is speeding to Miami, to arrive 10 hours early due to a passenger medical emergency onboard. The Star will now arrive at 6 PM on Sunday instead of 4 AM Monday. Passengers other than the medical evacuee must remain on board until the regular disembarkation date . . . "

If this information is in fact accurate, it seems odd that the Star has not contacted the U.S. Coast Guard to request a helicopter medevac.

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

Photo credit: Pjotr Mahhonin – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Less than a week after NCL-owned Oceania Cruises’ M/S Regatta experienced a power loss while cruising near Hawaii, the Norwegian Gem’s propulsion system partially failed according to a New York news station ABC-7NY.

The NCL cruise ship was rerouted to Barbados where passengers were reportedly "erratically divided into groups" and flown back to Newark Airport Friday to essentially "fend for themselves."

"There was no communication, we knew nothing about what was going to happen, if we were going to have a hotel to stay at," one passenger told the New York news station. 

One passenger who contacted me said that "she was a "little disappointed because of the need to Norwegian Gemscramble and lose a day," but felt that NCL "did the best they could under the circumstances." She added "we were all notified Tuesday that we would by pass St. Thomas and were diverted to Grenada and disembarked in Barbados where NCL flew us to Newark and gave us hotel for the night and food vouchers."

In 2016, there were at least 18 partial or complete power losses of cruise ships operated by the major U.S.-based lines, including NCL’s Norwegian Star which experienced repeated power failures last year. 

There seems to be some dissatisfaction amongst NCL guests who sailed aboard the Gem, with only a 25% discount on a future cruise. NCL issued the following statement about the shortened cruise:

"Due to a technical malfunction with the ship’s Azipod propulsion system that has resulted in the ship’s speed being restricted from full capacity, Norwegian Gem’s current 11-day Eastern Caribbean cruise that departed New York on October 31 will now conclude in Barbados on Saturday, November 11. Norwegian has arranged for flights to return all guests to New York and hotel arrangements for guests who returned home today.

Norwegian Cruise Line sincerely apologizes for this unexpected change to the ship’s scheduled itinerary. As a gesture of our appreciation for their patience, all guests will receive a future cruise credit of 25% of their cruise fare paid."

NCL also canceled the Norwegian Gem’s next cruise.

NCL just announced that it collected record third quarter profits of $400,000,000 despite the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean. 

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

Photo credit: Corgi5623, CC BY-SA 3.0, wikimedia.