Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) announced during the evening of Sunday November 18th that is was cancelling the current cruise of the Norwegian Jade due to an unspecified “mechanical issue.”

The Jade is currently is San Juan, Puerto Rico during the third day of a “10-Night Southern Caribbean,” having left Miami during the afternoon of November 16th.  The NCL cruise ship was scheduled to leave San Juan last night and arrive in St. Thomas later this morning. The ship was originally scheduled to call on St. Kitts, Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Maarten, returning to Miami on November 26th.

The Master of the ship, Captain Frank Juliussen, confirmed via a letter to the guests that the mechanical issue will keep the ship in San Juan until Tuesday, November 20th at which time “all guests will be required to disembark as the ship will undergo several days of repairs.”

NCL stated that it is trying to arrange charter flights for its guests back to Miami; however, it will pay $650 a person in change fees in the event that passengers are able to make their own flight arrangements.

NCl also stated that it is refunding the cruise fares and will extend a future cruise credit based on the cruise fare paid.

AIS data show the ship has been moved from a pier in Old San Juan to a nearby dock so that the passengers can disembark.

This is not the first time that a NCL has been cancelled during a cruise in the Caribbean due to mechanical issues. One year ago, NCL had to suspend a cruise on the Norwegian Gem due to mechanical issues related to the ship’s azipod system. The cruise was suspended in Barbados and flew the passengers back to New York. NCL later offered a 25% discount on a future cruise.

The Norwegian Star underwent a series of azipod problems in December of 2016 and in January/February of 2017 during Asian and Australian itineraries, which resulted in cancellation of the cruises and refunds and cruise credits to the guests.

NCL states that its terms and conditions for the cruise permit it to “cancel, advance, postpone or substitute any scheduled sailing or itinerary without prior notice” due to “mechanical difficulties or any other reason whatsoever.”

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A copy of a more legible letter can be viewed here.

According to The Telegraph newspaper, NCL cruise executive Andy Stuart’s 83-year-old mother told the newspaper that Norwegian Star cruise guest Kay Longstaff, who went overboard as the cruise ship was heading back to Venice three days ago,

“. . . didn’t fall off. She jumped. This has cost Norwegian Cruise Line $600,000. This stupid woman.”

Mr. Suart’s mother told the U.K. newspaper that he was upset that Ms. Longstaff caused “massive disruption to fellow passengers while costing Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation.”

Over the years, I have written many dozens of articles about people going overboard from cruise ships.  One of the first things that readers think when a passenger (or cruise employee) goes overboard is that “you can’t fall from a cruise ship.”

Most of the time, the person who goes over the rails of a cruise ship is not rescued.  In fact, less than 15% of people who go into the sea are rescued. They die at sea. But that doesn’t stop cynics from attacking the dead cruisers as being “stupid.”  Considering that 319 people have gone overboard in the last two decades according to cruise expert Professor Ross Klein, this means that well over 250 families have grieved or are grieving the loss of a family member lost at sea from a cruise ship.

The cruise industry does not bother to keep statistics of the number of people who go overboard, or the reasons why they do, choosing instead to label their disappearances to be the “result of an intentional or reckless act,” as pointed out by NPR in a recent article.

The “intentional or reckless act” is a talking point from the cruise industry’s trade organization, the Cruise Line International Organization (“CLIA”). CLIA, of course, claims that cruising is “one of the safest forms of travel” and claims that it is impossible to go overboard unless cruise guests act recklessly.

Over-intoxication is the leading cause of passengers going overboard from cruise ships, by far. Pushing alcohol during cruises is a fundamental part of the cruise business. Bar and tavern owners know that customers often act recklessly when they are over-served alcohol. Things are no different on the high seas.

Just last week, a jury in Miami heard testimony about Samantha Broberg,  a guest on the Carnival Liberty. In 2016, Carnival served her 19 drinks over the course of the day and evening, rendering her well past the point of obvious intoxication. She staggered out of the cruise ship bar after 1:30 A.M., sat on a railing in a drunken stupor, and fell into the dark waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The cruise ship did not have an automatic man overboard system installed, as required by the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act which President Obama signed into law and became effective in 2012.

Such a system would have instantly signaled the bridge that a person went over the railing, captured the person’s image and tracked the person in the water, even at night, via combination of motion-detection, infrared and radar technology.  Carnival eventually resorted to reviewing CCTV images after-the-fact once the woman’s friends reported her missing around 11:00 A.M. the next morning and searching the ship even though the woman went into the water several hundreds of nautical miles earlier. Carnival eventually contacted the United States Coast Guard around 5:00 P.M the following day while it continued heading back to its home port in Galveston.

Ms. Bromberg’s body was never found.

Ms. Bromberg left behind a loving husband and four children.  But that didn’t stop the cruise cynics from calling her drunk and stupid.”

Like Carnival, NCL doesn’t seem to have installed an automatic man overboard system on the Norwegian Star.  So when Ms. Longstaff went over the rails late at night, perhaps just like Ms. Broberg did two-and-one-half years earlier, the ship’s bridge was not automatically and immediately notified. The ship continued sailing until her friends notified the ship that they could not find her.

After turning around to search for her many hours later, the NCL cruise ship eventually abandoned the search and returned to Venice, arriving around 3:00 P.M. rather than the scheduled 8:00 A.M. The cruise ship was full of upset passengers who were agitated that they had missed their flights home and had to look for a hotel.

As explained in articles by Quartz and NPR, this is the second time in two months that NCL abandoned a search for an overboard guest or cruise employee and returned to the ship’s home port due to pressure from  angry passengers and in order to re-rack the ships with new guests for the next cruise.  The same thing happened with the Norwegian Getaway last month when the Getaway decided to head back to Miami after a short search for a crew member who had jumped overboard, leaving the Coast Guard during the middle of the search. (The crew member was eventually rescued the next day by a passing Carnival cruise ship,)

It’s bitterly ironic that NCL cruise CEO Stuart, or his mom, would complain about Ms. Longstaff’s going overboard when its was NCL which probably over-served her alcohol in the first place, and didn’t equip its cruise ship with an automatic man overboard system even though it knows that other intoxicated guests have disappeared overboard during cruises.  It was also NCL which abandoned its search for her as she treaded water for over 10 hours in the Adriatic Sea.

And as far as NCL having to allegedly pay for their guests’ airfare and hotel accommodations in Venice? Hogwash.  NCL has a well deserved penny-pinching reputation for never paying for missed ports or cruises gone wrong though its own negligence. It has never reimbursed its guests’ airfare or hotel accommodations caused by a delayed return to port following a passenger lost at sea. It’s preposterous to believe that NCL allegedly paid anything to the guests who they dumped in Venice at the end of the ill-fated cruise, much less $600,000 as claimed by Mr. Stuart’s mom in the Telegraph.

Most of the passengers who have contacted me about this case complain that NCL refuses to reimburse them for their airfare changes and hotel expenses due to the the Star’s late return to Venice.

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Here are just a couple of automatic man overboard systems available to the cruise industry (there are several others):

MARSS Mobtronic

Pure Tech

Photo credit:  Croatian Coast Guard, Harbour Master’s Office, Rijeka via ABC News.

 

A person has gone overboard from the Norwegian Star cruise ship, according to a passenger on the Norwegian cruise ship who contacted me this morning.

The Norwegian Star was returning to Venice, Italy from a “7-Night Greek Isles from Venice” cruise when a person went overboard after the ship left from Dubrovnik, Croatia and before it reached Venice. The cruise began in Venice and sailed to Kotor and several ports in Greece before stopping in Dubrovnik.

The passenger complained that the Star was delayed returning to Venice until around 3:00 P.M. local time rather than its scheduled time of 8:00 A.M.

There are unconfirmed reports that a passenger went overboard from the ship, apparently late last night/early this morning.

The AIS data show that the Norwegian Star eventually retraced its route and apparently conducted a search in north Adriatic Sea off of the coast of Croatia before eventually heading back to Venice. After NCL stopped searching, the Croatian Coast Guard reportedly located and reportedly rescued the overboard person.

If this information is accurate, this is the second recent case where an overboard person from a NCL cruise ship was rescued after NCL abandoned the search and returned to the home port.  Six weeks ago, a crew member from the Norwegian Getaway jumped overboard and was eventually rescued the following day by the Carnival Glory north of Cuba. Newspapers reported that the person was rescued approximately 22 hours later, but the time was actually more like 35 hours from the time that the crew member went overboard early in the morning. The Getaway had ended its search (while the U.S. Coast Guard continued its efforts) and returned to Miami after cruise passengers complained bitterly that a late return to port would cause them to miss their return flights home after the cruise.

According to cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein, 319 people have gone overboard since 2000.

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August 19, 2018 @11:00 A.M. Update: The U.K.’s Daily Mail reports that the British woman was rescued by the Croatian Coast Guard.

 

 

Bloomberg Legal reports today that according to data which it collected over the last several years, 83 federal personal injury cases were filed against cruise lines in the first three months of 2018. Bloomberg concludes that this figure continues an upward trend over the last two years in which 188 negligence suits were filed against cruise lines in in 2017 and 164 in 2016. 

Bloomberg also states that "personal injury cases against the three biggest cruise lines – Carnival, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings – accounted for 78 to 87 percent of all federal litigation they faced over the last five years, according to the data which it collected. 

Bloomberg explains that the lawsuits "often involve slip-and-fall claims, but recent complaints also Miami Cruise Linesallege serious illnesses and injuries worsened by shipboard medical decisions."

The article does not explain that according to the terms and conditions in the passenger contracts, most cruise lines require that all legal claims be filed in the cruise line’s home city, such as Miami for Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean. These terms have been held to be binding by the United States Supreme Court in Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute, 499 U.S. 585 (1991).

Cruise lines based outside of Miami typically require that lawsuit be filed in the location of the city or state where their headquarters are based. For example, Holland America Line requires Seattle, Washington and Princess Cruises requires California.  

Cruise lines now require that lawsuits be filed in federal court, which is typically more conservative than state court. 

Although the article suggests that litigation against cruise lines is on the rise compared to the last two years, the fact of the matter is that lawsuits filed against the cruise industry have dropped off substantially compared to 15 years ago.

For the five year period from 2001 to 2006, there was an average of 423 lawsuits filed a year against cruise lines, according to the Miami Herald article "Law on the High Seas," by Amy Martinez (article at bottom). In contrast, for the last two years (2016-2017), there was an average of only 176 according to the data collected by Bloomberg, which is just 40% of the 2001-2006 average (even though over 50% fewer people were cruising fifteen years ago).

The reason for this decline is that most cruise lines no longer permit crew members to file lawsuits in the  U.S., but instead require the filing of international arbitration where judges and juries are not permitted. 

The only lawsuits which are now permitted to be filed against the cruise industry involve passengers who are injured during cruises.

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Photo credit: Marc Averette – Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 wikipedia

Lawsuits Against Cruise Lines

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. 

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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.

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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. 

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

Several passengers on the Norwegian Gem have contacted me, saying that health officials in St. Maartan have reportedly prohibited the NCL cruise ship from porting there.

The passengers are saying that there is a gastrointestinal outbreak reported on the Gem, thought to be norovirus.

I have not previously heard there was any type of outbreak on the ship. Anyone have information?

Photo credit: Corgi5623 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 

March 18, 2016 Update: We are receiving some interesting comments on our Facebook page, including one suggesting that the source of the outbreak may be contaminated port water – rather than the cruise lines’ usual excuse of cruise passengers blamed for not washing their hands.

March 21, 2016 Update: The Gem next called on Tortola. Many local citizens are not happy. VI allows cruise ship to dock despite alleged Norovirus infection outbreak

 

  

NCL Norwegian StarPassengers aboard NCL’s Norwegian Star are telling me that the ship’s azipod system has failed. The cruise ship is skipping Miami today and is heading for Tampa one day early. One passenger said that the next cruise is reportedly canceled. (The cancellation of the next cruise is not confirmed information. Please double check this information with your travel agents or the cruise line).

Another passenger said that he did not know whether the next cruise on Monday is canceled. He told me that the captain made the announcement about the azipod problems and said that "all communication with us has been absolutely clear, giving us free internet and phone calls and helping us to change hotel, and transportation bookings. Although it not an ideal situation the crew has behaved amazingly in this transatlantic and they have always provided us with transparent information."

This ship experienced propulsion problems earlier this year which were supposedly fixed while in dry dock.

Anyone have additional info?

Photo Credit:  Pjotr Mahhonin Creative Commons Via Wikipedia

Norwegian Cruise Line announced that Miami remix rap artist "Pitbull" (Armando Christian Pérez) will become the Godfather of the company’s newest cruise ship next month at the Port of Miami.

NCL cruise executives CEO Frank Del Rio and President Andy Stuart will attend the naming ceremony of the Norwegian Escape on November 9th. 

Pitbull will perform at the christening ceremony.  He has performed on NCL ships in the past

I have not been invited.  

https://youtube.com/watch?v=zr4_F-QIxqI%3Frel%3D0