Regal PrincessSeveral Princess Cruises passengers informed me that an incinerator fire occurred on the Regal Princess during the week of February 25th (two weeks ago). An alarm was sounded, and cruise passengers were later advised that the incinerator fire had been extinguished.

Incinerator fires are not uncommon, as we have reported before, but all cruise passengers should be fully informed of such fires and the efforts of the ship’s systems and crew to respond to the fires. 

We have reported on other fires on Princess cruise ships over the years, from minor fires around the ships to the deadly, wide-spread conflagration on the Star Princess (photo right) a dozen years ago which was caused by the tiniest of fires (a smoldering cigarette). Below are some of the Princess Cruises fires which have occurred in the last seven years. Most are "small" and "quickly extinguished" fires as the cruise industry likes to say when asked.  Most have not been mentioned in the media. 

Island Princess, Emerald Princess, Grand Princess, Crown Princess, Emerald Princess, Dawn Star Princess FirePrincess, Coral Princess, Crown Princess, and the Royal Princess

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein testified before the U.S. Congress that there were over 60 cruise ship fires from 2009 through 2013. Most ship fires are not reported by the major media organizations.  

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We suggest reading: Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires – Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?

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

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that there was a gastrointestinal outbreak on the Crown Princess during its recent cruise, from October 25th to November 8, 2017. The Princess cruise ship departed Quebec, Canada on October 25th for a two-week cruise to Canadian and U.S. ports. The cruise ship arrived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on November 8th and will begin its Caribbean season.

According to the CDC report, 184 passengers and 12 crew members became ill with gastro-like symptoms which included diarrhea.  

During the period from 2010 to the current date, Princess Cruises experienced the most outbreaks on iCrown Princess Princess Cruises Norovirusts cruise ships calling on U.S. ports, according to the CDC. Princess reported twenty-one (21) cases to the CDC during this time period.

The Crown Princess alone has suffered through six (6) norovirus outbreaks since 2010 to the present. Before the current GI outbreak, the last norovirus outbreak on the Crown Princess was from January 3 – 18, 2016 and, before that, from October 18 to November 16, 2014. Earlier, there was a norovirus and e-coli outbreak from February 5 to 12, 2014. It also experienced back-to-back norovirus outbreaks from January 29 to February 4, 2012 and February 4 to February 9, 2012 (photo right).

The cruise line with the second most outbreaks is Holland America Line with 18 cases of GI sicknesses reported to the CDC since 2010. HAL suffered norovirus outbreaks on the Nieuw Amsterdam, and two outbreaks each on the Volendam and the Noordam this year.  

So why is Princess Cruises far more prone to norovirus outbreaks than Carnival cruise lines, for example? The cruise industry always blames the passengers for bringing the virus aboard, rather than its food handlers, or contaminated food or water. So are Princess Cruises customers the sickest and the least hygienic cruisers around? Are guests of HAL the second most unhygienic cruisers? Do they wash their hands the least of any cruisers? This seems like absurd arguments to make.

Is there a correlation between the age of the cruise ships and gastrointestinal outbreaks? Are different food sources and food handling techniques a more reasonable explanation? How about different sanitation procedures? 

The CDC doesn’t have time to determine the source of the norovirus outbreak (sick food handlers versus contaminated food or water or a sick passenger) so it is of no help. The CDC has not even determined the type of virus involved in the most recent outbreak on the Crown Princess.  

But blaming the passengers when one cruise line (and one cruise ship in particular) has far more gastrointestinal outbreaks than its competitors is certainly not the answer.

Whoever is to blame, the crew members, of course, always pay the price, by having to wipe and scrub and spray everything in sight for long 16+ hour days to try to disinfect a ship longer than three football fields.

Irrespective of the blame-game, don’t call us if you get sick on a cruise. Proving where the virus came from, or that the cruise line was negligent, is virtually impossible to prove, especially since the CDC conducts no epidemiological analysis and sometimes can’t even figure out whether the outbreak is due to norovirus, e-coli or something as exotic as shigella sonnei or cyclospora cayetanensis

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Read: Why Do the Cruise Lines Always Blame the Passengers When Norovirus Breaks Out?

Oceania Crew Members Pay the Price When Norovirus Hits.

Photo credit: WPTV (2012 noro outbreak); Royal Caribbean crew members (anonymous crew member).

Multiple news sources are reporting that the Grand Princess operated by Princess Cruises struck a humpback whale two days ago. The dead whale was discovered lodged on the cruise ship’s bulbous bow upon entering the port in Ketchikan, Alaska. 

Cruise ship-whale strikes are hardly uncommon. This latest incident is reportedly the second time in two years involving a whale strike caused by a cruise ship in Alaska; Holland America’s Zaandam struck an endangered fin whale last year and carried the dead whale into port in Seward on its bulbous bow. 

The Princess Cruises PR spokesperson claims that the Princess cruise ship did not spot any whales near the ship as it sailed toward Ketchikan. Princess also floated out the possibility that the whale was "already deceased before becoming lodged on the bow" – the usual PR spin when a cruise ship strikes a whale. 

A necrosis will later address whether the whale was in fact alive or dead at the time that the cruise ship struck it.

A cruise passenger sent photographs of the incident, one of which is below.  

Grand Princess Whale StrikeSeveral years ago, environmental groups filed a petition with the federal government seeking to force cruise ships and other large vessels to slow down in order to reduce the chances of whale strikes. The petition was focused on the waters between San Francisco and Los Angeles, but it signaled the importance of environmental groups concerned with marine life who share the oceans with super tankers and today’s increasingly larger cruise ships.

In one of the most graphic photographs of a cruise ship / whale strike, in 2009 the Princess Cruises’ Sapphire Princess arrived in port in Vancouver, unaware that the cruise ship impaled a fin whale on the ship’s bow while in Alaskan waters. The whale was a female fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus). Princess claimed that the whale was already dead when the cruise ship hit her.

Of those whale-strikes which are reported, it is quite unusual for the dead whale to be noticed only when it is brought into a port on the bow of a large ship as indicated on this comprehensive report published by the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Marine Fisheries Service.

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August 11, 2017 Update: Meanwhile, Ottawa to force ships to slow down to prevent whale deaths in Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Princess Cruises Balloon ReleaseOn June 30th, Princess Cruises celebrated the Majestic Princess’s maiden cruise to Taiwan by releasing hundreds of red, blue, yellow, and pink balloons from the ship, which it photographed and posted on its Facebook page

The reaction to this environmentally-harmful publicity stunt was immediate. At the time of publishing this article, there were over 900 comments posted on Facebook with the vast majority criticizing the cruise line’s conduct:

Disgraceful and irresponsible behavior from Princess Cruises with this mass balloon release  . . . These balloons will end up choking wildlife in the marine environment . . . 

Stop littering the precious ocean with plastic from your marketing stunts . . . 

Shame on you, Princess cruises for releasing HUNDREDS of balloons from your ship. You should know that this causes death to wildlife in the oceans . . . 

This makes me really sad. Those balloons will eventually come down into our oceans. Marine species mistake them as food and consume them. It kills them, and adds to the microplastic crisis and contaminates our seafood. Seriously who was the idiot who decided a balloon release was a good idea? And further, who approved it?

Princess Cruises auto-responded to the hundreds of comments protesting the balloon release by falsely claiming that the balloons were allegedly "biodegradable:"

Hi, we value and respect the environment. Only eco-friendly biodegradable balloons were used in this event.

Of course, vinyl balloons are not remotely biodegradable, as many knowledgeable cruisers explained on the Princess Facebook page. Studies posted by concerned readers conclude that it takes as long as five years before the balloon actually begins to fall apart. But then the smaller parts are consumed by fish, turtles and mammals, as one commentator pointed out: 

Princess Cruises, do you really understand what you said? Balloons don’t disintegrate when Princess Cruises Balloon Releasethey hit water or land. Sea life and wildlife ingest them as food. The only biodegradable thing about them is when they rot in the stomach of dead animals. Please educate yourselves. I am shocked to see an enterprise that depends on the oceans for their revenue destroy it like this. Deplorable really!

Many of the hundreds of negative comments were left by people offended that Princess would try and defend the harmful publicity stunt.

This is a cruise line which has earned a reputation over the years as an enemy of the environment. Last December, the U.S. Department of Justice fined Princess $40,000,000 for wide-spread dumping of oil from a number of its cruise ships, by-passing the bilge-water oil separators, falsification of its logs, and lying to the Coast Guard. After it was caught for its long standing environmental crimes, Princess president Jan Swartz issued a public apology, saying that the cruise line was supposedly "committed to environmental practices that protect the marine environment."

Unfortunately, Princess Cruises’ statement that it released so-called "eco-friendly" balloons suggests that Princess still hasn’t learned much about protecting the marine environment.

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Photo credit:

Top – Princess Cruises Facebook page.

Bottom – BalloonsBlow.org

Osland Princess Crew MembersCanadian news stations have identified the three crew members from the Island Princess who were arrested last week for smuggling drugs into Vancouver, as we mentioned in a prior article

CTV News Vancouver identified three Nicaraguan crew members, Willard Murray Brooks (age 28), Emil Hebbert Garth (age 26) and Jason West Carter, (age 32) who were recruited by a Colombian drug cartel to smuggle 10 kilograms of cocaine onto the Island Princess when it docked in Cartagena. The Princess cruise ship later called on Vancouver on May 11th after sailing to Panama and, later, to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Once the  ship docked in Vancouver, CTV reports that the three crew members smuggled five kilograms of cocaine to a shore-side food court where an unidentified man met them and later paid US$30,000 for the drugs. The men reportedly tucked the cash into their underwear before heading back to the cruise ship. Canadian Border Services found the undeclared cash when the drug mules went through screening. A Vancouver police canine unit and the Canadian Border Services then searched the men’s cabins where they reportedly located an additional amount of cocaine.

The men did not dispute the charges. CTV reports the dcrew members "also said they did not fear a return to their home country of Nicaragua, where they are expected to be flown within seven days. CBSA will hold Princess Cruise Lines responsible for the travel costs."

No explanation was provided by CTV why the drug smugglers did not face jail time in Canada. It is doubtful that the three crew members will face any charges once they have been returned home.  

A one-way ticket home to Nicargua for the crew members to be paid by Princess Cruises is hardly a deterrent to international drug smuggling.

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Video and photo credit: CTV Canada Vancouver

 

Princess Island PrincessA fire reportedly broke out yesterday aboard the Island Princess as it sailed in Alaska.

A Cruise Critic member posted information on the popular message board that the fire occurred due to leaking oil in the engine room, after the passengers on the cruise ship viewed the glaciers in Glacier Bay National Park.

The passenger commented:

This morning about 7:30 there was an emergency announcement for a fire in the deck 4 engine room. We were having breakfast in the Horizons buffet area. About 5 minutes later, the general emergency alarm was sounded and all crew were called to their emergency stations. They remained for about 30 minutes before being released. We were advised that the fire was struck pretty quickly and that we were in no danger. We continued a fantastic day in Glacier Bay NP.

Shortly after dropping the rangers, inspectors from coast guard boarded the ship as we sat still in the water. They were onboard for about 1 and a half hours and now we are continuing in.

The captain has done a great job keeping us informed of the situation. He advised the fire was due to a leaking oil pipe in the engine room. We have no indication that the itinerary will be altered in any way.

Interested in this issue? Read: Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires – Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?

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Photo credit: CC0 wikipedia.

Golden PrincessAustralian newspapers are reporting that a passenger has disappeared from the Golden Princess operated by Princess Crises.

A 61 year old U.S. citizen apparently went overboard from the cruise ship on Wednesday, according to these newspapers. The Golden Princess later docked in Sydney, on Thursday. The cruise line searched for the man on the ship after the crew became concerned that he might have gone overboard. 

A reader commented (below) that the man was "reported missing by his cabin steward at around 9pm on Wednesday night 3rd May. However the Captain announced to all passengers onboard that he was last sighted on Monday 1st May. Monday was the first of 3 sea days back to Sydney from Latouka Fiji." 

The ship is now sailing en route to Brisbane and Papua New Guinea.

Cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein has tallied 296 people overboard in the last 17 years.

Photo credit: Jean-Philippe Boulet, commons / wikimedia.

Bomb Scare Caribbean PrincessThis morning, a person aboard the Caribbean Princess notified me that there is a bomb scare aboard the cruise ship, which is at the Grand Bahama shipyard. The worker stated:

“I am currently on board the Caribbean Princess in the Grand Bahama Shipyard where today a bomb threat was called in to the shipyard. The ship performed a complete check and at 10 am the captain gave the abandon ship order. The ship has been evacuated and all contractors and crew were mustered outside the shipyard. We are awaiting further instructions.

Have a good day because my day and thousands others are having a bad day.

We were mustered away from the shipyard and were told no pictures.”

The Caribbean Princess is in dry dock for general maintenance. Many thousands of contractors and crew members are now re-locating to Port Lucaya.

The worker also stated:

“Of course the Bahamian taxis are making a fortune off off this event. It’s funny to see crew members in uniform strolling around . . .

I can report that very few police were present and one ambulance. No bomb squad or dogs were visible.

A lot of work has now been delayed due to this and a lot of frustration is in the air . . . ”

The Carnival Pride and Carnival Ecstasy are in port in Freeport today, as well as the Anna Maersk which is at the container port across from the shipyard.  There is no indication whether these ships were the subject of this bomb threat.

The question which immediately comes to my mind is whether the Bahamian police are competent to handle the response to a major security threat like this?

There have been bomb threats against cruise ships in the past, and they are usually determined to be pranks. A drunken Carnival passenger who made a bomb threat on the Carnival Sensation was arrested several years ago after a cruise to the Bahamas which was later determined to be a hoax. The Discovery cruise ship received a bogus bomb threat as the ship was en route to Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale after sailing to the Bahamas. A bomb was reportedly planted on the Liberty of the Seas several years ago as well, although nothing was found by law enforcement officers. A bomb scare forced the evacuation of the cruise terminal at the port of Miami.  Passengers and crew members had to flee a ferry in Marseilles, France last year after a bomb scare.

April 1, 2017 Update: The popular Crew-Center website has additional information and photographs and video of crew members and contrators leaving the ship, congregating at the shipyard and leaving the shipyard.

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Image credit: Marine Traffic

Coral PrincessThe Coral Princess arrived in Fort Lauderdale this weekend with 157 of 2,016 cruise passengers aboard the Princess Cruises’ ship stricken with nausea/vomiting and diarrhea which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suspect are symptoms related to norovirus.

The noro-infected passengers comprise 7.79% of the total passenger population on the ship. 25 of 881 (2.84%) crew members are also infected.

The CDC was unable to conclude where the norovirus came from. I am not aware of a single instance when the CDC has pinpointed the cause of a cruise ship disease outbreak. Unfortunately, the public is often left with the "blame game" of wondering whether the cruise ship food or water was contaminated (which the CDC and FDA generally say are the most likely causes of gastrointestinal outbreaks), or the outbreak was caused by a sick galley worker, or was brought aboard by sick passengers, and then spread because of inadequate hygiene and poor cleaning procedures.

Several years ago, Time magazine published an article titled 13 Worst Norovirus Outbreaks on Cruise Ships. The overall winner of Time’s top 13 list was Princess Cruises which had five outbreaks on its brand alone: Crown Princess (January 2010) with 396 ill; Crown Princess (February 2012) – 363; Ruby Princess (March 2013) – 276; Coral Princess (February 2009) – 271; and Sun Princess (July 2012) – 216.

The last norovirus outbreak involving the Coral Princess was in April 2015.

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Photo credit: Roy Luck – CC BY 2.0, commons / wikimedia.

Hat tip to the popular Crew Center blog which first covered the outbreak. 

Yesterday, Princess Cruises isued a press statement via PR Newswire that it had been voted the "Best Ocean Cruise Line" in the USA TODAY and 10Best Readers Choice cruise travel awards. 

The press release highlighted comments made by Princess Cruises president, Jan Swartz: "We’re incredibly proud to be named ‘Best Ocean Cruise Line’ by the experts and readers of USA TODAY as it’s our goal to provide our guests memorable and inspiring cruise vacation experiences."

A panel of cruise experts (cruise bloggers, travel agents, & industry friends) picked the initial nominees; the top 10 winners were then determined by popular vote.

The judges who nominated Princess are notable people in the world of cruising (I’m friendly with some of them) who author high quality articles and operate popular sites about the cruise industry: Carrie Finley Princess Cruises Pollution Bajak – Cruise Buzz; Fran Golden – USA TODAY; Sherry Laskin Kennedy – Cruise Maven; Jason Leppert – Popular Cruising; Chris Owen – Chris Cruises; Doug Parker – Cruise Radio; and Aaron Saunders – From The Deck Chair.  But, quite frankly, I am embarrassed for them.

Last month, the Department of Justice leveled a fine of $40,000,000 against Carnival Corporation for Princess Cruises’ deliberate discharge of oil via "magic pipes," alteration of oil logs regarding at least five of its cruise ships, and lying to the Coast Guard over the course of nearly a decade. Ms. Swartz was featured in a video trying her best to appear apologetic as part of Princess’ multi-media response to the revelations.

Its an embarrassing indictment of the cruise industry for a corporate felon to be voted the "best ocean cruise line" after it polluted the oceans and lied about it for so many years.  A better approach would have been for the judges to have disqualified any company which is on probation for environmental crimes or for the cruise executive to have politely declined the award, saying that the cruise line promises to do much better in the future.  

I posted Princess’ patting-itself-on-its-back PR statement on our firm’s Facebook page; we received these comments:

  • Should have been disqualified . . . 
  • Wow, I would have assumed "best ship", included due diligence on (environmental) issues but I guess not?
  • What a crock of s**t!
  • I agree they should be banned from these polls or disqualified.
  • . . . It’s all a farce.

MSC Cruises DUMPINGThe other cruise lines voted in the list of "top 10 ocean cruise lines" have all been fined for polluting the oceans. Carnival was voted no. 3, even though it owns the polluting cruise ships operated by its Princess brand. Even MSC Cruises, which was voted no. 10, has a notorious reputation after a series of videos were released showing MSC crew members throwing garbage bags into a marine sanctuary at night. 

Yes, the award is a farce. The award should be embarrassing to the cruise industry, the cruise line "winner," the judges, and the cruise fans who voted for a corporate felon which intentionally polluted the oceans for years. 

Photo credit: Top – Department of Justice via CURT ANDERSON/AP via US News; bottom – anonymous via Cruise Law News.

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