Three tears ago today,  the Freedom of the Seas caught on fire.

When we learned that the Freedom was on fire while heading to port in Falmouth, Jamaica, we called a former client who lives near the port (in Montego Bay) and asked him to video the fire. He videotaped the ship coming into port, billowing a huge amount of smoke. We immediately posted the video, here on our blog, which was viewed by over a million people on Facebook within two days. We also posted other images of the fire and the passengers mustering to prepare to abandon the fire-stricken ship.

So when Royal Caribbean tried to spin the story, with a misleading statement by its CEO that the fire was allegedly “small and quickly extinguished,” the public could make their own assessment regarding the size and ferocity of the fire. All of the major networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) carried the video on their news programs and the international media included the video on their multi-media presentations.

The public was left with the impression that the cruise line was either completely out-of-touch with the danger posed to its guests or that it deliberately fabricated a falsehood to masquerade as the truth, which I suggested in the Royal Caribbean “Small Fire” Hoax.

One crew member was seriously burned by the fire although no passengers were injured. The fire on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship occurred at a time when Carnival cruise ships, it seemed, were igniting on an all too frequent basis.

Passengers sent us copies of videos which they took of the large fire.

Neither the flag state nor the classification society nor the vessel’s underwriters not the U.S. Coast Guard conducted a survey of the damage before the ship continued its cruise and no one began to conduct an investigation into the root cause of the fire.  As we wrote soon after the fire, Royal Caribbean had hired a engineering group in install a scrubber system which involved extensive welding operations while the ship was underway, rather than conduct such dangerous work during a dry dock.

Read: Fire on the Freedom: The Show Must Go On.

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Photo Credit: Raymond Bower.

 

After nearly nine years, Cruise Law News has a new look.

LexBlog, my blog design and support company in Seattle, re-designed my blog. You will note that the text you are reading is black lettering on a white background, in contrast to the old format (above) with a blue background which people have told me, over the years, was a bit hard on their eyes and difficult to read.

Man Overboard – a Continuing Problem

Early this morning I posted my first article, after two Royal Caribbean crew members went overboard after falling from a lifeboat near Victoria, Canada – Two Crew Members Overboard From Explorer of the Seas, Rescued

It is less than clear how the crew members went overboard, with a news account from a local radio program stating that they were working on the lifeboat, while commentators to my Cruise Law News page on Facebook explaining that the lifeboat apparently flipped over while it was being raised.

Of course, if the crew members fell while performing maintenance then that would be in violation of the cruise line’s safety protocols which require ship employees working “aloft or overboard” to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), which sometimes this cruise ignores. On the other hand, if the crew members fell after the lifeboat flipped while being raised, this would be in violation of the international maritime organization (IMO) protocols which prohibit lifeboats from being raised with people aboard, which this cruise lines also often ignores.

Meanwhile, readers of our Facebook page are commenting that “you cannot just fall off of a cruise ship” or words to this effect. But, of course, you can fall overboard if you are a crew member required to work without being provided with a fall restraint harness or forced to sit in a lifeboat which is lifted with people aboard in violation of IMO regulations.

In any event, based on the little available information, fortunately there are no reported injuries due to the mishap.

New Look – New Functions

Returning to our blog’s new format, a new feature is “Report a Tip” which you can see above near the top header. We often receive information directly from crew members or guests from the cruise ships, when things go wrong on the high seas. Cruise lines do not like to release complete or accurate information when bad things happen at sea, like when a fire breaks out or when a person goes overboard.

The motto of this blog remains “Everything Cruise Lines Don’t Want You to Know.” This form should make it easier to communicate with us.

Since I started this blog in September of 2009, I have written over 3,000  articles.  Thank you to the many hundreds of crew members and cruise guests who have contacted us over the last decade. Most people who contact us wish to remain anonymous.  We of course will never reveal the names or contact information of those who contact us.

The new format includes a link to our Google Analytics information, which tracks where people around the word contact us and how many pages they read. So far today, over 19,000 people have read the article which I posted this morning here on Cruse Law News.

One issue with the new format concerns me, namely our new comment system seems a bit awkward. I am wondering whether it will still work efficiently when readers wish to communicate with us.

I’m interested in what our readers think about the new look and format? Please give us your thoughts!

Join the discussion on our Facebook page. 

Interested in this topic?  Read:

Why do you read Cruise Law News?

Two crew members, reportedly working on a lifeboat on the Explorer of the Seas, fell from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship near Victoria last evening, according to News 1130.

The two overboard ship workers were apparently rescued by another vessel, which has not been identified yet.

The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre stated that “the two were working on a lifeboat on the Explorer of the Seas, which belongs to Royal Caribbean Cruises, when they ended up in the water.”

The rescue centre says it “doesn’t know whether they were crew members or passengers,” which seems strange because passengers obviously do not work on lifeboats.

There is no indication exactly how long the workers were in the water or exactly how they fell from the cruise ship.  Royal Caribbean has work-aloft and working overboard procedures which require ship employees to be equipped with harness to prevent them from falling. Typically the work on lifeboats is permitted only after the ship employees obtain work-aloft certificates requiring that certain safety protocols set forth in the Royal Caribbean safety management system (called SQM on Royal Caribbean ship) be followed. Department heads and the staff captain typically must be aware of, approve and supervise the work.

The two workers were reportedly assessed for injuries and then returned to the Explorer of the Seas.

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Update: A guest aboard the Explorer of the Seas videotaped the accident. As you can see in the video below, several crew members are in a rescue craft which come alongside the cruise ship as it is underway.  It appears that there are lines (cables) to the rescue craft, which cause the craft to turn sideways, dumping two of the crew members in the water.

Update 2: The popular Crew Center site contains additional information and a video related to the incident.

Photo credit: MarineTraffic AIS of Explorer of the Seas. Video with permission by Leslie Ippolito via Twitter.

Today, the U.S. Coast Guard medevaced an 80-year-old passenger from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship off of the coast of North Carolina.

The crew of the Adventure of the Seas requested the emergency medical evacuation of an 80-year-old female passenger who had suffered a stroke.

The Coast Guard dispatched a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from an its air station in Elizabeth City, North Carolina  After hoisting the woman from the cruise ship, the helicopter crew transported her to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington for medical treatment.

The cruise ship was approximately 150 miles southeast of Wilmington at the time of the medevac.

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Video credit: U.S. Coast Guard video by Air Station Elizabeth City / Coast Guard District 5 PADET Baltimore via Defense Visual Information Distribution System (DVIDS)

Vision of the Seas Anchored Party Last year, Royal Caribbean Cruises agreed with the producers of a reality television show called “Shipmates” to use the cruise line’s Vision of the Seas in the filming of the program. Channel 4 TV in the UK used the Vision as the setting for what the producers describe as a “party-fueled luxury cruise ship” sailing in the Mediterranean Sea with a horde of thousands of 20 year-olds “seeking the ultimate party experience on the once-in-a-lifetime experience.” Promoting a theme of “sun, sea & sass,” the TV producers said that the partying shipmate contestants would compete in challenges where other passengers would vote the drunk participants as either winners or losers.

But last week it seems that Royal Caribbean got more than it bargained for.

Several newspapers in the UK report that a five-day cruise on the Vision, which started in Barcelona earlier this month and sailed to Cannes, Ibiza and Mallorca and returned to Barcelona, turned into a “drug fueled orgy” during the filming of the television show. Royal Caribbean charted its cruise ship to Anchored Cruises which promoted wild champagne-spray pool parties with DJ’s pumping electronic music to the young, partying festival-like crowd.

Passengers stated that the crowd was smoking weed, snorting cocaine, and drinking excessively to the point that people were passing out around the pool and in corridors in the ship and had to be Vision of the Seas Anchored Cruisetaken back to their cabins in wheelchairs.

A crew member reportedly told one of the UK publications “Staff were being abused. Guests walked around the ship half naked. They were drunk and clearly on drugs. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Passengers people were reporting snorting cocaine . . . as “partygoers vomited in the swimming pool and over the ship’s side.” Another passenger reportedly said the cruise was “carnage on a new level of wrongness” and observed “group sex all over the ‘lawless’ ship, adding drink and drugs were so rife: ‘I’m surprised no-one died.'”

You can see the debacle via tabloid publications like the Sun and the Daily Mail Online.

Royal Caribbean claims that it has a “zero tolerance policy for the use or possession of illegal drugs on our ships. Ship charters are held to the same strict standards. We operate with the health and safety of our guests and crew as our highest priority, and we cooperate fully with law enforcement when we are aware of violations.”

This is a typical gobbledygook statement and the usual behavior by Royal Caribbean who often looks the other way when large scale drug use is exposed during events such as deadly Atlantis rave parties which the cruise line routinely hosts. Royal Caribbean is also well known for chartering its ships for swinger sex cruises.

Ironically, Royal Caribbean announced yesterday that it is purchasing a majority interest in the high-brow, ultra-luxurious cruise brand Silversea Cruises. Can you imagine this cruise line operating theVision of the Seas Anchored Cruise Silver Wind or Silver Shadow?

You can see other photos of the out-of-control cruise party on our Facebook page.

Anchored Cruise is already advertising a similar event on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship planned for 2019.

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

Photo credits: Sun and Daily Mail.

Today, Royal Caribbean Cruises announced that it is acquiring a 66.7% stake in Silversea Cruises for $1,000,000,000 (billion) and assuming around $500,000,000 (million) in debt.

As a privately held cruise brand, Silversea operates nine ships with two newbuilds, Silver Moon and Silver Dawn, which are under construction for delivery in 2020 and 2021, with an option for a sister ship.

RCL states that it plans to finance the purchase through debt. Silversea’s executive chairman, Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio, will qualify for an estimated contingent payment of of 472,000 RCL shares, based on reaching certain 2019-2020 performance marks, which are currently worth a little over $50,000,000 based on the current price of RCL shares.

Seatrade Cruise explains that Silversea was the “brainchild of Antonio Lefebvre d’Ovidio, a noted Italian jurist and law professor who wanted to create a new class of spacious ships with highly Royal Caribbean - Silversea Cruise Dealpersonalized service. In 1988, he purchased the majority of Sitmar Cruises, merging it with P&O’s Princess Cruises a year later. In 1994, he launched Silversea Cruises with two purpose-built ships. His son Manfredi, who had been involved in the family’s businesses from an early age, managed ship operations. He took control of the company and became chairman in 2001.”

Silversea Cruises has tarnished its reputation in the last few years, having faced the embarrassment of crew members being ordered to hide carts of food and galley equipment in crew member quarters on the Silver Shadow in 2013. CNN aired a special report of the CDC flunking the Silver Shadow when inspectors caught Silversea in the act.  The Silver Shadow flunked another CDC inspection in 2015.

The Silver Wind also flunked a USPH sanitation inspection last month.

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Photo Credit; Royal Caribbean/Silversea via Travel Weekly,

A Miami-Dade County jury returned a verdict against Royal Caribbean Cruises of more than $20,000,000 on behalf of an officer who was injured on the Voyager of the Seas during an accident in 2008.

Royal Caribbean officer Lisa Spearman was seriously and permanently injured when a watertight door crushed her right hand when she came to the assistance of the cruise ship nurse. The ship nurse stumbled while attempting to walk past the door during an emergency test, according to the lawsuit which her attorneys filed.

Ms. Spearman alleged that following the accident, Royal Caribbean refused to re-hire her and then refused to pursue disability benefits on her behalf. She sued the cruise line for negligence under the Voyager of the SeasJones Act, unseaworthiness of the vessel under the General Maritime Law, failure to provide prompt, proper and adequate medical care (also under U.S. General Maritime law), failure to pay wages under 46 U.S.C. 10313, retaliatory discharge and breach of contract.

The jury returned a verdict of $20,300,000 after a three week trial. 

Ms. Spearman was represented by Miami maritime lawyer Tonya Meister-Griffin, who was assisted by attorneys Deborah Gander and Susan Carlson of the Colson, Hicks Eidson law firm.  

Congratulations to Ms. Meister and the team of lawyers who represented Ms. Spearman.

Royal Caribbean was represented by David Horr of the firm Horr, Novak & Skipp.  

Currently, crew members are prohibited from filing lawsuits before a judge and a jury because cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have inserted one-sided arbitration provisions in the ship employees’ contracts. Absent a change in the law, Ms. Spearman, whose employment contract dates back to 2008 and did not contain an arbitration requirement, undoubtedly will be one of the last crew members who are able to try their case before a jury in the Miami-Dade courthouse.  

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Update: The Miami Herald covered the story in an article this afternoon (with photographs).  Newsweek also published CRUISE WORKER WINS $20M PAYOUT AFTER HAND CRUSHED BY DOOR ON ROYAL CARIBBEAN SHIP.  Stuff (New Zealand) New Zealand woman Lisa Spearman wins US$20.3m payout from cruise ship giant Royal Caribbean.

Photo credit: Spaceaero2 – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia. 

On December 8, 2017, a crew member went overboard from the Vision of the Seas cruise ship operated by Miami based Royal Caribbean Cruises. I reported on the incident at the time based on what passengers were stating about the cruise.

The Vision sailed out of Galveston on December 4, 2017 on a seven day cruise, leaving and returning to Galveston, to ports in Progresso and Cozumel, Mexico.  During the return cruise to Galveston, a crew member could not be accounted for. He apparently checked into his job in the early morning hours but had disappeared from the cruise ship sometime thereafter. A ship-wide search was conducted without success.

Royal Caribbean Overboard Vision of the Seas

I wrote at the time that there was no indication that the ship stopped or turned around to conduct a search in the water. Unfortunately, the scenario fits a typical pattern when a crew member goes over the rails un-witnessed late at night or in the early hours of the morning on a Royal Caribbean ship. Royal Caribbean has not invested in the available automatic man-overboard technology (using heat sensors, infrared, motion detection and/or radar technology) which can send a signal to the bridge, capture the image of the person going overboard, and track the person by radar in the water. Instead, the ship will eventually review closed-circuit television images, conduct a search of the cabin on the ship, often not perform a search at sea, and belatedly notify the U.S. Coast Guard.

Royal Caribbean registered the Vision of the Seas in the Bahamas which is responsible for conducting investigations when passengers or crew members go overboard from cruise ships registered in that flag of convenience (“FOC”) country. The Bahamas Maritime Authority (“BMA”) just published its investigation into this man overboard situation on the Vision. You can read the report here.

The BMA report offers a rare insight into how Royal Caribbean responds to and investigates man overboard situations. The report also attached internal security summaries and portions of Royal Caribbean’s safety and quality (“SQM”) manual which outline the cruise line’s written policies and procedures regarding a “missing person.”

The report reveals that Royal Caribbean repeatedly failed to inquire into the missing crew member’s whereabouts and failed to timely report his absence from the ship to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean register their cruise ships in countries like the Bahamas in order to avoid U.S. labor regulations and U.S. income taxes. They are used to having FOC states look the other way and not criticize them in situations like this, but the BMA report reveals very disturbing information about the shoddy operations of this cruise ship.

The BMA report indicates that the crew member was a 24 year-old citizen of Mauritius. The report  mentions that the crew member was a facilities cleaner who worked at the pool area on deck 9. He woke up around 4:30 A.M. in a cabin which he shared with his girlfriend who was also from Mauritius. He reported to work at 5:00 A.M. He walked to elevators which took him to deck nine and then he took an elevator to deck five. He walked to the stern on deck 5, placed his cleaning bucket on the deck, climbed over the stern rail and then climbed back onto the deck, and then walked toward the port side where he apparently jumped overboard.

Royal Caribbean Overboard Vision of the Seas

CCTV images (which officers on the ship first reviewed approximately eight and one-half hours later) show the crew member’s movements on decks 9 and 5 but do not show the crew members actually going overboard because a floodlight blocked the CCTV camera on the port/aft side on Deck 5 with a view of the stern of the ship.

There was no mention in the report of an automatic man overboard system which would have immediately sent a signal and alarm to the bridge that the crew member went over the rails.

Royal Caribbean Overboard Vision of the Seas

Unlike other cruise lines (like NCL), Royal Caribbean does not monitor the CCTV cameras on its cruise ships.

The BMA reveals the following chronology:

  • 04:30 – Crew member awakes and leaves cabin which he shared with his girlfriend;
  • 05:00 – Crew member reports to work and his supervisor assigns him the deck 9 pool deck to clean;
  • 05:09 – 5:14 – Crew member shown on CCTV heading to and walking on deck 9 and then goes to deck 5 where he climbs over the stern railing near the crew life-raft canister area which does not provide direct access to the sea and then he climbs over the rail back onto deck 5;
  • 05:14 – Crew member walks to port side of the stern which has direct drop to the water and apparently jumps overboard (although CCTV camera is blocked);
  • 09:30 – Crew member fails to attend mandatory safety training;
  • 12:00 – Designated safety officer responsible for training goes to lunch without noting that the crew member was absent from training;
  • 12:40 – Crew member’s supervisor, the Facilities Head Cleaner, notes that the crew member is missing from his work station;
  • 12:45 – 1st Announcement made in crew areas;
  • 13:05 – Bridge was informed;
  • 13:16 – 2nd announcement made in crew areas;
  • 13:40 – 3rd announcement made in crew and areas;
  • 13:40 – 14:45 – Officers review CCTV footage; take statements from the facilities head cleaner and head cleaner; staff captain and master interview the crew member’s girlfriend and isolates her in a different cabin with a security guard posted outside the door;
  • 14:45 – Security officer notifies Global Security department in Miami of a “possible missing person;”
  • 15:20 – Search of ship begins;
  • 15:45 – Security Officer seals crew member’s cabin, locks cabin door with padlock and “crime scene tape;” officers conclude that there is no clear view of crew member jumping overboard because the area of the railing is not covered by CCTV (blind area) but concludes that “CCTV clearly showed a CM …. entering the area where he possible jumped over board and did not return back;”
  • 15:47 – Master notifies U.S. Coast Guard in Galveston by telephone about “missing person” situation;
  • 16:49 – “Whole ship search” completed but missing crew member not found.

Royal Caribbean Overboard Vision of the Seas

There are a couple of conclusions which can readily be made from this chronology:

It took seven and one-half hours before the supervisor noticed that the crew member was missing from his work station.  It took eight and one-half hours before the safety officer reviewed the CCTV images. It took over nine and one-half hours after the crew member went overboard (and two hours after the first public announcement of the missing man were made on the ship) before the security officer finally notified the security department in Miami that a crew member probably went overboard. It then took over another hour to finally notify the U.S. Coast Guard of the overboard crew member. At this time, it Royal Caribbean SQM Safety and Quality Manual was then over ten and one-half hours after the crew member went overboard.

It appears that the officers on the Royal Caribbean ship were indifferent to whether the Coast Guard even conducted a search after this extraordinary delay.  The Security Officer wrote in his report (attached to the BMA report) that “we are not aware if a search was carried out by USCG.”

The Royal Caribbean SQM (blurred in original) requires the master of the cruise ship to “immediately” notify the cruise line’s security and marine operations departments by telephone in any “suspected overboard situation.” Unless there is an actual and reliable sighting of the person going overboard, the SQM also prohibits the Master from turning the ship around to conduct searches in the water and even then only after the Master first notifies the cruise line’s marine operations department in Miami.

Notably absent from the flag state report is any mention of the fact that the cruise ship lacked an automatic man overboard system. The report’s conclusions and recommendations do not discuss the obvious problem that the bridge was not immediately aware that the crew members went over the rails. The only conclusion of significance was that if the security “trainer had reported him absent when training was to commence (i.,e., at 9:30, over four hours after the crew member went overboard) then his own work supervisor may have raised the alarm considerably earlier.” The only recommendation in the report was to review “possible impediments to all cameras should be made and rectified where found.”

Vision of the Seas SQM Safety and Quality Manual Royal Caribbean

This is hardly a reasonable conclusion or recommendation. Eliminating blind spots in CCTV cameras (to be reviewed only after-the-fact when crew members have already gone overboard long ago) or requiring diligence in requiring attendance in crew training (again with the hope that a person not attending a training session will somehow result in a supervisor learning that a crew member went overboard hours earlier) will not possibly achieve immediate notification of a man overboard.

A couple of year ago, I wrote about the problem of crew members going missing from Royal Caribbean cruise ships without explanation. During a three year period between 2009 and 2012, at least thirteen crew members went over the rails of Royal Caribbean (and Celebrity) ships, including the Majesty of the Seas, Monarch of the Seas (twice), Radiance of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas. Oasis of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Summit, and Monarch of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas (two). Most of these cases were never investigated by the flag state, which, it seems, could not care less.

Until the United States Coast Guard becomes concerned with the absence of automatic man overboard systems on cruise ships calling on U.S. ports and institutes serious action against the companies for the extreme delays in reporting overboard crew and passengers (like preventing the ships from sailing), cruise lines like Royal Caribbean will continue to act in this irresponsible manner.

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Image credits: Bahamian Maritime Authority

A Coast Guard aircrew from Elizabeth City, North Carolina medevaced an ill passenger from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship yesterday morning.

An 83-year-old woman who was experiencing renal failure needed emergency medical treatment yesterday when the Anthem of the Seas was returning to New Jersey from a Caribbean cruise.

The cruise ship was approximately 160 miles southeast of Elizabeth City, North Carolina, when the captain contacted the Coast Guard to request a medical evacuation of the passenger.

The Coast Giard dispatched a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and a  HC-130 Hercules aircraft from the Coast Guard station in Elizabeth City. Once at the cruise ship, the helicopter crew hoisted the woman, a family member and a nurse aboard, and transported them to Norfolk Sentara General Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia.

Video Credit: Defense Visual Information Distribution System (DVIDS) via United States Coast Guard DIstrict 5

Yesterday (May 3) a broken pipe aboard the Carnival Dream flooded around 50 cabins on the ship and sent water cascading down deck 9. Photos (right) and videos posted on Facebook show water pouring from the ceiling and down the walls.

Carnival confirmed that the water line break involved "clean water from a fire suppression system." 

By all accounts, Carnival did the right thing. After crew members quickly dried the area and replaced the carpeting, Carnival offered a 100% reimburment to those effected, an additional 50% off a future Carnival Dream Flooded Cabincruise and the option to be flown home today.

But other cruise lines have not been as generous when passenger cabins flood during cruises.

A flood aboard Royal Caribean’s Serenade of the Seas back in January 2015 affected several hundred cabins, but the cruise line offfered only a partial cruise credit to this affected guests.  

Probably the most egregious situation involved a flood due to a broken pipe aboard the Freedom of the Seas back in January of 2011 (photo and video below). Royal Caribbean refused to refund any portion of the cruise fares of the inconvienced passengers – instead offering only a 50% on a future cruise. One story involved a couple’s first vacation after the husband served in the Iraqi War.  You can see a video of the mess here.

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Photo credit: Top – Facebook (Marla DeAnn Haase); bottom – Facebook (Jess DaPonte‎). Freedom of the Seas Cabin Flood

 

https://youtube.com/watch?v=Tav-eGv-kd0%3Frel%3D0