On Thursday, February 14, 2019 a cruise passenger was reportedly seriously injured in a bus excursion accident in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

We were informed that the passenger was injured in a bus/auto accident while on a cruise sponsored tour after the Allure of the Seas arrived in San Juan. The women reportedly had to be airlifted from the island. Her son was reportedly on another excursion which was cut short to get him back to be with his family. The woman’s family departed from the Allure following the excursion accident.

At this point, we have received no details regarding either the accident or the cruise guest’s injuries.

The Allure of the Seas left Miami on February 10th and called on Philipsburg, St. Maarten on February 13th. The ship arrived in San Juan, on February 14th. After this accident, the ship was delayed several hours leaving San Juan and arrived at the private destination in Labadee, Haiti yesterday. The Allure will return  to Miami tomorrow.

There have been at least seven bus excursions throughout the Caribbean in the last ten years where Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises passengers have been killed or seriously injured, including the following incidents:

In 2017 and 2016, there were bus excursion accidents in Mexico and Jamaica which involved the deaths and serious injuries of dozens of cruise passengers.

In January 2017, a Celebrity Cruises excursion bus collided with a car during a cruise sponsored trip in New Zealand, leaving a half dozen cruise passengers from the Celebrity Solstice seriously injured.

In 2015, Celebrity passengers from the Celebrity Summit were killed and injured in an excursion bus accident in Tortola.

In 2012, there were two cruise excursion bus crashes in Caribbean islands, both involving Royal Caribbean passengers. Royal Caribbean cruise passengers from the Serenade of the Seas were injured during an excursion in St. Thomas. A Royal Caribbean sponsored excursion tour bus crashed in St. Martin and injured passengers from the Freedom of the Seas.

In 2009, a dozen passengers from Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Summit were seriously injured when an open air excursion vehicle ran off the road in Dominica.  You can read information about the accident in an article titled Injured Visitors to Dominica Airlifted to Miami.

You can read about prior cruise excursion accidents here.

We represented passengers against Royal Caribbean and Celebrity in litigation involving several of these accidents.

Cruise lines face legal liability when passengers are injured or killed during sponsored excursions. Cruise lines have a duty to vet the excursions companies and warn of dangers in foreign ports of call. Cruise lines can also be held responsible for negligent hiring and retention of the transportation companies and for vicarious liability based on theories of agency. Royal Caribbean often represents that the tours which it sells to its passengers are allegedly “the best” excursions using “the best” tour operators and “the best” transportation.

Cruise lines collect hundreds of millions of dollars each year promoting and selling shore excursions in foreign ports of call, and are not even subject to U.S. taxes on this highly profitable business.  Yet, after their cruise guests are injured or killed during these excursions, they claim that their local agents are “independent contractors” who are not subject to jurisdiction here in the U.S.

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Photo credit: Daniel Christensen CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

After the Norwegian Epic finally arrived in San Juan (after it experienced partial power loss causing NCL to cancel ports of call in Tortola and St. Thomas yesterday) reportedly via tugs on the starboard side, the NCL ship struck a pier in port and collapsed a portion of the dock.

TweetsWithTito videotaped the Norwegian Epic striking the dock.

The accident reminds me of an incident when the Celebrity Infinity crashed into a dock in Ketchikan, Alaska in June of 2016, or perhaps when the MSC Amonia struck a small dock in Roatan last year.

Perhaps some cruise guests will say that this was an appropriate end to a disappointing cruise.

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Video credit: TweetsWith Tito via Twitter

Update: It appears that NCL is reportedly offering a pittance to the guests, only a 50% credit on a future cruise, and no refund of any kind. As one cruise passenger posted on Twitter:

The Norwegian Epic sustained power loss yesterday during its current cruise to the Caribbean, requiring the NCL cruise ship to divert to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The Epic left Port Canaveral, Florida on February 9th heading toward Tortola, British Virgin Islands where it was scheduled to arrive this morning around 8:00 a.m. It was then scheduled to call on St Thomas, US Virgin Islands tomorrow (February 13th) and Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas on February 15th before returning to Port Canaveral on February 16th.

The cruise ship reportedly sustained power loss to one or two engines (reports via social media vary) which reduced its speed to around 11 knots. It has slowly sailed a couple hundred miles toward San Juan for the last 24 hours. It is now approaching San Juan after NCL cancelled the ports of call on Tortola and St. Thomas yesterday.

I have received several emails from passengers on the ship as well as cruise guests’ family members asking for what options they have after the aborted cruise in question.

It is anticipated that NCL will refer the guests to its terms and conditions which 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.” It is largely a matter of whether NCL executives wish to extend good will to their customers.

Travelling with Bruce’s up-and-coming YouTube page (video bottom) was one of the first to report on the power failure. Cruise guests also left comments on Twitter.

Cruise guests Mr. Wozniak posted a humorous observation on Twitter yesterday, stating that he was on a “. . . broken cruise ship where everyone is freaking out. The people watching is amazing right now. You would think we were on the Titanic with the way some people are acting.”

This is not the first time in recent history that NCL has modified or cancelled cruises due to mechanical problems.

NCL cancelled a cruise on the Norwegian Jade due to an unspecified “mechanical issue” last November which left thousands of passengers in San Juan. NCL arranged for charter flights for many of its guests to fly back to Miami, and reimbursed those passengers who made their own flight arrangements. NCL also refunded the cruise fares and extended a future cruise credit based on the cruise fare paid.

Over 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. NCL flew the passengers back to New York and 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 following widespread protests on the ship (photo above left).

Update: Norwegian Epic Crashes Into Dock in San Juan – some may say a fitting end to a disappointing cruise.

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A strike in San Juan today impacted cruise passengers on the Celebrity Summit and Jewel of the Seas. Departing passengers have been unable to retrieve their luggage and take taxis to the airport and arriving passengers have been delayed or unable to travel to the port due to the strikes.

Social media (Twitter and Facebook) has been abuzz with postings from cruise guests and their family members of travelers contacting the cruise line and air lines. As one travel agent commented, this apparently was not the first time that port operations were disrupted by a strike.

Several cruise passengers contacted us this afternoon seeking information about the strike.

The current strike involves an organized protest against governmental cuts of employee benefits in Puerto Rico. Strikes in the U.S. nowadays are relatively rare. Most strikes which affect cruise passengers occur in Europe (read Carnival Breeze to Cross Picket Line in Venice). Strikes by cruise line employees are not permitted by the cruise lines (read Carnival Fires 150 Crew Members from India for Protesting Low Cruise Ship Wages).

A number of people on Twitter were concerned about their parents’ ability to deal with the lack of services, whereas at least one cruiser expressed her understandable frustrations about getting home to man’s best friend.

Complicating matters as several thousand guests tried to handle their own baggage was that it began to rain earlier this morning.

In addition to the Celebrity Summit and the Jewel of the Seas, AIS programs show the Star Pride in port in San Juan. However, we have not received any comments from passengers on the Star Pride yet.

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Photo and video credit: Twitter; photo top – Emily Burns @ArizonaHorseGal.

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.

A reader of Cruise Law News informs us that the Carnival Glory became stuck near the port of San Juan, Puerto Rico this afternoon after the cruise ship dropped several hundred feet of anchor chain and an anchor. The Carnival ship had just left Old San Juan (El Morro). A Carnival crew member states that the cruise ship’s starboard anchor became stuck after the ship left port. 

There are several on line videos of the Carnival Glory stranded outside of the port.  

A crew member states that the anchor chain was cut and the anchor left in the water, and the ship finally was able to sail away, headeding toward the next stops on its itinerary, the Turks and Caicos.

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The last time that I heard about an anchor being dropped at sea while the ship was underway was when an intoxicated passenger aboard Holland America Line’s Ryndam snuck into a restricted area on the ship and released the vessel’s anchor as the cruise ship was returning to Tampa from Costa Maya, Mexico over seven years ago. The FBI arrested the passenger on felony charges of attempting to “damage, destroy, disable, or wreck a vessel."

Video: Seguridad Noticiasd

 

Celebrity Cruises SummitCelebrity Cruises announced that it is canceling the April 8, 2017 cruise aboard the Celebrity Summit and is shortening the April 17, 2017 cruise from seven to only four days, passengers are reporting. Celebrity is offering a 25% cruise credit and $200 per person to go toward re-booking airfare. We received this message advising of the changes this past weekend:  

" . . . there are about 4000+ passengers who have just had their spring holiday ruined. Seems Celebrity Summit is having a problem achieving full cruising speed and is canceling cruises just two weeks out, with a horrible offer of compensation. The ship has had reduced ports & port times for a few weeks because it is hobbling along, all while Celebrity says "don’t worry folks, no safety issues here." So now they have completely canceled the 7 days out of San Juan on 4/8/17 and reduced the 4/15/17 cruise for 7 days going out of San Juan to only 4 days. She looks to be going into dry dock for 10 days.

Imagine flying to San Juan for a 4 day cruise? The only air fare compensation is $200 per person which is ridiculous. You would think they would be working with each passenger to get them booked on another cruise for that week, but the passengers say that is not the case. They got an email saying you are canceled. Either completely or you are now on a mini cruise and we will refund you via on-board credit the prorated daily rate for your nice 7 day that is now a mini 4 day. Am not on this cruise personally but Cruise Critic has threads and each roll call does as well and it is apparent there are a lot of mad people. So if each person keeps their airfare and goes on this 4 day mini cruise they have to then get a hotel for 3 nights in San Juan for Easter week which is obscenely expensive. All these passengers are asking what to do….most do not seem to realize they have little to no rights…"

The Summit is apparently suffering from a reduction in its propulsion which has affected some of its prior cruises.

Passengers booked on these cruises are now expressing their natural frustration of having to try and find an alternative vacation at the last minute at high season when the hotel and airfare expenses are appreciably higher. Many people have asked us for advice whether this is "legal."  Unfortunately, the legislation which the cruise passenger’s advocacy group was successful in passing is quite limited in scope and provides no legal recourse under these circumstances. There is, of course, nothing that benefits anyone other than the cruise line in the ticket issued to the passengers. 

As a practical matter, affected passengers probably will lose at least a minimum of $1,000 each in higher airfare and hotels expenses. Considering that there are several thousands of passengers affected, these new and unexpected expenses will probably total well over several millions of dollars.

It’s fanciful to expect that the cruise industry, which is bent on maximizing profits, notwithstanding the tremendous profits that they are collecting, will offer more than the nominal cruise credit and the minimal $200-a-person airfare amount. 

The cruise lines will remind passengers that they should always consider purchasing insurance which applies to this type of occurrence.

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March 29, 2017 Update: Several readers brought to my attention that this is not the first time that the Summit has had to alter its itinerary because of propulsion problems. A seven day cruise to Alaska was canceled back in September of 2004 when Celebrity put the ship in dry-dock for repairs. Passengers booked on the canceled cruise received a full refund and a free future cruise. More recently, Celebrity delayed the start of its March 27th cruise on the Summit from San Juan due to problems with the ship’s propulsion system, which forced the Summit to sail at reduced speeds. The ship had already been docked 3 days in Cozumel earlier in the month while repair efforts were attempted. 

Propulsion problems are relatively common in the cruise industry. Last year, nineteen cruise ships experienced propulsion issues which interrupted and delayed cruises. 

Today, the RCL Blog reported that the Anthem of the Seas is sailing at a reduced speed due to propulsion issues.

Photo credit: Wknight94 – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

News sources are reporting that a couple was found dead today aboard a Holland America Line (HAL) cruise ship that docked in Puerto Rico.

The local police said that the man and woman were sailing on the Ryndam and were in their 50’s and were from Cleveland, Ohio.

According to the news reports, no one is disclosing how, when or why the two people were killed.

HAL RyndamA police officer said that blood was found in a cabin but it was unclear how the couple died. He said that "We don’t know yet whether an object was used or what the motive was."

He said the ship’s crew found the bodies when they checked on the couple after not seeing them for a while.

The FBI has taken over the investigation.

The Ryndam departed Tampa, Florida, on Sunday for a 2 week cruise in the Caribbean. The cruise ship ported in Key West on Monday and sailed at sea for 2 days before docking in San Juan today.

The AP story (based on the cruise line’s PR department) speculates that the deaths may have involved a "murder-suicide’ but there is no information released so far which supports that conclusion. 

The FBI is handling the investigation at this point. The FBI generally does a terrible job investigating crimes on cruise ships. They often appear more interested in protecting the cruise lines’ reputation.

April 3 2015 UpdateHAL Jumps the Gun (Again), Calls Deaths a "Murder-Suicide"

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Photo Credit: Roger Wollstadt via Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0