An Oceania crew member was arrested at Port of Miami for smuggling cocaine (intentionally importing a controlled substance) when the Riviera called at port in Miami on January 2, 2019.

The Miami Herald reports and a review of the Homeland Security officer’s affidavit reveals) that Wilford Thobourne exited the Oceania cruise ship via the crew gangway was arrested for smuggling three and a three-quarter pounds of cocaine which he concealed in the soles of his sandals and in his crotch under five pair of shorts and underwear in his pants.

A copy of the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint against Mr. Thouborne is here.

Mr. Thobourne’s Facebook page indicates that he is from Johannesburg,  South Africa.*

Coincidentally, four South African women working for MSC Cruises were allegedly recruited by a Jamaican crew member to smuggle cocaine into the port of Miami aboard the MSC Seaside at the end of November.  United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers arrested seven MSC crew members including the four South African women for smuggling cocaine in that incident.  (There is no indication at this time of a connection in this case  between the South African Oceania and MSC crew members.)

The Herald indicated that Mr. Thobourne is scheduled for arraignment in federal court in ten days.

The Riviera has been in the news recently when it was revealed that Giuliano De Cicco, age 38, who was working as Assistant Destination Manager on the Riviera, died on January 2, 2019. The popular Crew Center site reported that he died when he fell from the Riviera cruise ship to the pier at the port of Miami on January 2nd.

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*/ Although his Facebook page indicates that he is from  Johannesburg, (Gauteng Province) in South Africa, several crew members state that Mr. Thobourne is from Jamaica.

Photo credit: Wilford Thobourne Facebook page.

Oceania RivieraYesterday we received information about the current cruise of the Oceania Rivieria which is sailing through the Caribbean (Miami March 20-April 3). "The captain came on the intercom yesterday informing the passengers that a large number of passengers had come down with flu like/gastrointestinal issues and the CDC had been informed. The ship ported at their first stop Santa Marta, Colombia as scheduled today."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has now officially reported the third norovirus outbreak on the cruise ship.  

The first recent outbreak was during the November 18 – December 2, 2015 sailing and involved 74 ill passengers. The second outbreak occurred during the  February 12-22, 2016 sailing which had to be ended early and involved at least 124 sick passengers. We wrote about how the crew members had to work overtime, often off the clock and without extra pay, to try and super-clean the cruise ship. 

This latest outbreak involves at least 52 passengers who are ill with norovirus. Zero crew members were reported ill during the current cruise.

Unfortunately, the under-staffed CDC never tries to conduct a meaningful epidemiology assessment to determine whether the outbreak can be traced to a particular type of food contamination, an ill food handler, poor cleaning of the ship or an ill passenger who brought the noro aboard the ship. 

Expect the number of affected passengers to increase during the cruise notwithstanding the extra hours spraying and wiping by the crew. 

So far this year, there have been 8 gastrointestinal outbreaks reported to the CDC by cruise ships calling on U.S ports. 

Photo Credit: Kefalonitis94 CC BY-SA 4.0, creative commons / wikimedia.

Oceania Riviera The Oceania Riviera, which was scheduled to be on a cruise until tomorrowreturned to the port yesterday with passengers sickened by norovirus. 

The virus has reportedly sickened at least 119 of 1,225 passengers, which is 9.72% of the passenger population on the ship. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has verified that the passengers who are suffering are suffering from nausea and vomiting are infected with gastrointestinal illnesses caused by norovirus.

This cruise ship was last contaminated with norovirus during a cruise from November 18 – December 2, 2015 and had to return to Miami for what the cruise industry often calls "enhanced cleaning."

All crew members on cruise ships dealing with a gastrointestinal illness outbreak know that they are going to increase their work and lose sleep whenever noro is aboard the cruise ship. Crew members are pressed into spraying and wiping virtually every inch of the ship’s surfaces in order to give the ship a "deep clean" whenever there is a GI outbreak,  This is now happening on the Riviera where the entire crew has been compelled to work long hours to try and eradicate the nasty virus before the next group of passengers come aboard the cruise ship tomorrow.

Several crew members, who wish to remain anonymous, have contacted us to complain that they are working from early in the morning until the very late hours / early morning hours of the next day. Some crew member report working around 18 to 20 hours a day for the past days. The crew members say that they are forced to work hours far in excess of the maximum permitted under the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC). They are told to sign out and work the extra time "off the clock."  The result is that they are not being paid and are working past the point or mental and physical exhaustion.  

Few passengers may be thinking about the welfare of the crew members, who have not only had to clean up the vomit throughout the ship on a daily basis, but now have to work an unreasonable number of hours to "super-clean" the ship and kill all of the noro left by the last round of sick passengers.

The crew is undoubtedly feeling the pressure from the top as the cruise line CEO Frank Del Rio told USA TODAY last October that "I insist on spotless ships." This attitude is definitely on the minds of the ship managers even when there is no norovirus outbreak. When noro strikes, the managers are pushing the crew past the maximum hours permitted to work.

Flagrantly violating the MLC 2006 Convention is not an unusual thing on some cruise ships. It is honored in the breach on many ships. There is tremendous pressure to work and keep the department heads happy. A super-clean ship where the crew works like a beaten dog is hardly a safe and secure workplace.

Unfortunately, there is not much a crew member can do in this situation.  Hiring a lawyer may end up with a wage claim but it will surely result in the crew member finding himself or herself on a one way flight back to their home country.  

Photo Credit: Kefalonitis94 – Creative Commons 4.0, Wikimedia

February 22 2016 Update:  The cruise industry’s trade organization, Cruise Line international Association (CLIA), posted this tweet on Twitter: "Our work never ends. Crewmembers continually clean & sanitize cruise ships to ensure passenger & crew #health"  It’s one tweet from CLIA that is literally true, crew members often work 18 to 20 hours a day to super-sanitize cruise ships when there is a noro outbreak.