Royal Caribbean Cruise DrugsWFTV reports this evening that two Royal Caribbean crew members were arrested for smuggling cocaine aboard the Freedom of the Seas into Port Canaveral.

One of the Royal Caribbean crew members identified is Junior Ellision, age 31. The news station said that when "Ellision left the ship, he took a shuttle to a Merritt Island Walmart. Authorities said Ellision would pick up sandals filled with cocaine in St. Maarten and would wear them off the ship. Ellision would then go to the Walmart, buy a pair of sandals, and then put the cocaine filled sandals in the Walmart bag to deliver to someone else."

The other Royal Caribbean crew member, also from the Freedom of the Seas, is identified as Sheldon Grant. We do not know the job positions or the home countries of these two ship employees.

WFTV reports that the two crew members admitted that "they had made multiple deliveries and that someone paid them $1,250 each time" that they delivered the drugs. 

Drugs busts of Royal Caribbean and Celebrity passengers and crew members are not uncommon:

Allure of the SeasEmpress, Enchantment of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, HorizonJewell, Liberty of the SeasSplendor of the Seas, and Summit.  

Video and image credit: WFTV

April 27 2016 Update:  Crew members have told us that the two crew members on the Freedom of the Seas are from Jamaica and worked as galley utility. 

 

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When the Anthem of the Seas sailed into the forecasted storm last month, Royal Caribbean’s PR department began to downplay the controversy. They claimed that they were surprised by the storm. But the truth is that the storm was accurately forecasted with waves over 30 feet and hurricane strength winds. Even NBC weatherman Al Roker mocked Royal Caribbean, pointing out the forecast and saying "Bullfeathers!" (see video) to the cruise line’s claim of surprise.  

Royal Caribbean initially said that no one was injured and the cruise ship experienced no damage. This was also untrue. When passengers began posting photos and video on social media showing the destruction of the storm, the cruise line finally admitted that there were injuries but claimed that only "four injuries have been reported, none severe." This was untrue. I’ve spoken to far more than 4 Al Roker Bullfeatherspassengers who allege injuries, some of them quite severe. They all say that the ship infirmary was literally overwhelmed by injured passengers. Some tell me that the medical staff finally shut and locked the door to the medical facility in order to keep others injured out.

Royal Caribbean also later said that the ship only had cosmetic damage and was "seaworthy." Again, this was completely untrue. The U.S. Coast Guard revealed that when the Anthem returned to port in New Jersey, one of the two azipods was in fact damaged and had to be repaired before the cruise ship could be cleared to sail.

Several passengers contacted our office seeking to become involved in the class action lawsuit filed against Royal Caribbean because they feel that the cruise line has not been honest with them or the public and had trivialized their concerns and fears. 

Today PIX-11 in New York interviewed a Royal Caribbean passenger who feels that Royal Caribbean was not honest with the passengers on the latest Anthem cruise that was cut short short again.  The cruise line said that they were returning the Anthem early to port because of "rough weather" that was supposed to hit the ship on Tuesday and Wednesday.  But there was no such storm.  Instead there was a gastrointestinal illness outbreak that the passenger believes was the true cause of the early return.  

Listen to the interview.  She’s a cruise fan but feels deceived.

 

Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas StormThe storm-ravaged Anthem of the Seas is returning to port in New Jersey tonight with around 4,500 passengers aboard, many of whom feel traumatized by the cruise to the Bahamas run amok.

Many passengers on the cruise ship have contacted our office to complain that they literally feared for their lives and those of their families when the ship sailed into the predicted storm earlier this week. Many couples say that they told their partners that they loved them and said goodbye, afraid that as the cruise ship was rocked by 30 foot waves and blasted by 125+ MPH winds the ship would list over and they would drown in the surging ocean.

Many passengers also told me that they knew that there would be no way to safely board life boats in light of the high winds and intense waves if they had to abandon ship. They mentioned their panicked children who saw the fear in their parents’ eyes of perishing at sea.

Today I was interviewed by several local news stations in New York City, including the local CBS station channel 2 (video below) about the cruise line’s ill-fated decision to cruise into the storm

Meanwhile, it appears that Royal Caribbean has come to the realization that it made a mistake by not paying attention to the weather forecasts (which accurately predicted that there would be a storm developing with waves predicted of over 30 feet). Travel Market reports that Royal Caribbean has formed a shoreside team of meteorologists and captains to monitor the weather and advise the navigational teams of its cruise ships of storms and whether it is prudent to proceed.

Royal Caribbean sent the following statement to the media:

"Anthem of the Seas will return to Cape Liberty, NJ this evening, and we are grateful for the safe return of our guests and crew.

We apologize for exposing our guests and crew to the weather they faced, and for what they went through.

Our ship and our crew performed very well to keep everyone safe during severe weather. Of more than 6000 people on board, only four minor injuries were reported.

Despite that fact, the event, exceptional as it was, identified gaps in our planning system that we are addressing. Though that system has performed well through many instances of severe weather around the world, what happened this week showed that we need to do better.

The severity of Sunday’s storm, with its sustained 120-mph winds, far exceeded forecasts. Even so, it is our responsibility to eliminate every surprise we possibly can.

As of today, we are strengthening our storm avoidance policy, and have added resources at our Miami headquarters to provide additional guidance to our ships’ captains.

As for Anthem of the Seas, much of the superficial damage caused by the storm has been repaired. We expect to resume her planned itinerary for next week’s cruise.

Again, we offer our apologies to our guests and crew." 

Statement courtesy of local ABC station 7 in New York City.

 

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Anthem of the SeasA passenger aboard the Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas contacted me yesterday evening stating that:

“On the Anthem of the seas. The ship had to come back a night early . . .  there are 4 critically ill passengers on board . . . Captain not saying anymore then 4 critically ill and pleaded we understand because if this was our family we would want the same.”  The captain specifically stated that  the passengers were in “critical” medical condition.

The passenger subsequently stated that two and possibly three of the passengers had died. There was no information whether the passengers had been injured or were sick.

@PTZtv indicated that the cruise ship returned to the harbor in New York early last night for “medical emergencies.”

Please leave a comment on our Facebook page if you have information.

It’s surprising how little insight we have received on this story, as one other blogger notes.

Photo Credit: Dickelbers Creative Commons 3.0 via Wikipedia

 

 

A former crew member posted photographs saying that the Liberty of the Seas hid equipment, pots, pans and other items from the galley during an USPH inspection last December. You can see photographs of the galley equipment hidden throughout the ship (primarily in the crew quarter) on our Facebook page.

Two years ago Silversea Cruises crew members came to us complaining that the Silver Shadow was hiding quantities of food and galley equipment from USPH inspections. We gave them the contact information of the USPH which the flunked the ship on the next inspection for intentionally hiding a dozen Liberty of the Seastrolleys of galley items and perishable food in the crew quarters.  

I posed the following inquiry on this blog: How Many Cruise Lines Play Games with USPH Inspectors?

And I asked the following question on Facebook:: Do cruise lines hide pots & pans, galley equipment and food from USPH inspectors?

Of the first 100 crew members who answered the poll (admittedly unscientific), around 90% said yes, cruise lines hide galley items from inspectors. One crew member said: "There will be more equipment in the crew cabin during the inspection then in the galley that’s for sure!!!"

Crew members still tell me that the unsanitary practice is widespread. The Silversea Cruises scandal occurred in 2013 but the cruise line just flunked an inspection this month after the USPH caught the cruise line playing hide and seek games again.

The USPH inspections are rigorous. Crew members are ordered into working additional long hours to try and be ready. A failed score is a major embarrassment for a cruise ships and a kiss of death for a F&B manager. Some cruise lines cut corners and dupe the inspectors.

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

May 27, 2015 Update:  Of the last 200 crew members who left a response on our Facebook page, over 180 say that hiding galley items and food on cruise ships from USPH inspectors is common.

Photo Credit: Facebook

 

Today the Washingtonian reported on a gigantic law firm, DLA Piper. chartering a gigantic cruise ship for a partner retreat. The 4,200-lawyer international firm selected Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas.

The Washingtonian calls the Piper firm a “legal behemoth” which has over 100 worldwide offices. It seems like only the partners are invited but that’s enough to require a cruise behemoth like the Liberty of the Seas.  The cruise will begin in Barcelona and the ship will then sail up the coast to Nice. Sounds nice.

DLA Piper Liberty of the Seas CruiseThe charter costs over $3,000,000 plus the costs of booze, excursions, and of course flying the partners around the world to Spain. I don’t see these fat cats flying economy.

How can a law firm afford such an extravaganza? Don’t worry. The firm represents mostly gigantic corporations as clients and has money to burn. The Wall Street Journal just reported that DLA Piper collected over $2,400,000,000 last year.  Yes that’s right, $2.4 billion.

I’ll keep my personal opinions about this to myself for a change, but let me just say that there is a reason I chose to work at my own small firm and not at a gigantic law firm with so much money that it can go on a boondoggle like this.

I asked readers of my Facebook page to come up with one word which describes the cruise.  The response are pretty funny.  Read the comments here and give us your thoughts.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Hassocks5489

With the Coast Guard ending its delayed search and the 21 year old woman still missing at sea, Royal Caribbean is struggling to justify the two hour delay it caused in reporting the latest person overboard from the Allure of the Seas.  Its excuse is a whopper – it claims that it first had to first search the ship to make certain that the passenger was still not onboard. 

This statement is coming from a cruise line PR executive Cynthia Martinez, who is obviously unfamiliar with well established maritime rules and even her company’s own man overboard protocols.  According to International Maritime Organization (IMO) recommendations and Coast Guard regulations, cruise ships are required to notify the Coast Guard if the person overboard is not "immediately" observed in the water.  

Royal Caribbean knows better than to act like this. It has some highly experienced mariners and former Coast Guard commanders working for it, like former Coast Guard Commander Captain Howard Newhoff Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seaswho was awarded a medal of commendation by President Reagan in the 1980’s and whose skills and service to this country are beyond reproach. He must be shaking his head in disgust after reading the PR statements dreamed up by the cruise line’s PR team members who don’t know the difference between port and starboard. 

Royal Caribbean said that the Coast Guard was notified when the cruise ship found “the incident on the recording . . . from the video, we could pinpoint the exact time and location using Global Positioning System and provided that information to the Coast Guard.”

Nonsense. The Coast regulations require immediate notification. The GPS coordinates should have been sent to the Coast Guard immediately. Searching the largest cruise ship in the world and pouring over CCTV images from hundreds of cameras first?  A person can float for tens of miles over the course of the unnecessary two hour delay.

Maritime experts on Ring of Fire Radio voiced their displeasure about the delay from 9:30 to 11:30 p.m., over 2 hours after the passenger fell overboard. Gerald McGill, a graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and a former Commanding Officer of two Coast Guard cutters, states:

"The most troubling aspect of this tragedy is why the ship waited two hours before notifying the Coast Guard. Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez said the process of making sure a passenger is not onboard takes some time. She said such verification is necessary before the Coast Guard is notified ‘and they commit to sending assets to help search.’

However, in this case a witness reported seeing another passenger go overboard and video footage verified this. The important fact was that “someone” had fallen overboard. Determining who had fallen overboard should not have delayed notifying the Coast Guard. Hopefully the FBI investigation will address this issue."

Delayed notification causes the Coast Guard to expend additional resources and expands the search grid of the Coast Guard cutters, helicopters and aircraft. The expenses increase substantially. And most importantly the chances of the person being rescued – which is why immediate notification to the Coast Guard is required in the first place – decrease dramatically.

 

Check out our facebook page to see what people are saying about how Royal Caribbean handled the situation. 

Cruise fans, travel agents and cruise communities have been abuzz in anticipation of Royal Caribbean’s new cruise ship – the "Oasis of the Seas."   "Amazing! . . Wow! . . Look at that!" . . . have been the extent of the popular media’s insight into this new super mega ship.    

But a few journalists have questioned the environmental appropriateness of this monster of a cruise ship. In an article entitled "A Titanic for These Times," San Francisco writer Mark Follman concludes that only someone interested in a "decadent vacation cruise" could rationalize boarding what will be the biggest, longest, tallest, widest, heaviest, and most expensive passenger ship ever built.

"Floating Emblem of a Bankrupt Era?"

Follman’s intuition is that the experience would be akin to "feasting on a nine-course meal in the middle of an Ethiopian refugee camp."  He cites an article by Rory Nugent in the Atlantic magazine which questions the rationale of building such a monstrosity.  According to the article "Hope Floats," the passengers will consume 560,000 gallons of water a day,  and the ship will burn 12 tons of diesel an hour.  Although Royal Caribbean and the cruise industry’s 16,000 travel agents may hope that the Oasis of the Seas will be a success, Mr. Nugent raises the question that the ship "may leave the dock already a dinosaur – a floating emblem of a bankrupt era."

A Corporate Felon That Can’t Get It Right 

At a time when only fools question the effect of greenhouse gases, the melting of the Arctic cap, and the need to develop sustainable businesses, Royal Caribbean has spent and mostly borrowed over a billion dollars to create a ship so at odds with the environment that it resembles the monster in the movie Cloverfield.  In 2004, Royal Caribbean came off of a 5 year probation after pleading guilty to felonies for widespread pollution and repeated lying to the U.S. Coast Guard.  Just two days ago, the environmental group ‘Friends of the Earth" awarded Royal Caribbean a "F" for the disastrous impact on air and water caused by its cruise ships. 

Three 250 HP Engines on a 37 Foot Boat?

Many corporations take on the personality and values of their leaders. During the publicity build up for the Oasis of the Seas’ debut, Royal Caribbean’s CEO Richard Fain was interviewed by David Andrews of the U. K.’s "Times Online."  In an article aptly entitled "Biggest is the Best for Cruise Chief,"  Mr. Fain reveals his rivalry with Carnival and the need to "give his business the ascendancy again . . . the Royal Caribbean International brand . . . will be bigger than anything Carnival can compete with."

After finishing the article, I felt that I had just read the lines for Gordon Gekko ("greed is good") in the 1987 movie Wall Street.  

Photo credit – Oasis of the Seas – Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, via San Francisco Chronicle ("Oasis of the Seas is a real ocean monster")

If you are retired or a child and die on a cruise ship due to the cruise ship’s negligence, the cruise line will consider your life to be worthless under current maritime law.

Your family will face a law called the Death on the High Seas Act, commonly known as "DOHSA." In 1920, Congress passed DOHSA to provide for limited recovery when a seaman died at sea. Congress did not want widows to become destitute when their husbands died in international waters. So they passed DOHSA which provides that a widow can recover her husband’s wages and, perhaps, some money to bury him if his body was found.

DOHSA Provides No Recovery for Pain, Suffering, Grief, or Bereavement if You or Your Loved One Dies at Sea

Applied to cruise lines, DOHSA provides no recovery at all in many circumstances. Surviving family members may potentially recover only limited financial damages after proving the cruise line’s negligence caused the death. However, there is no recovery for the deceased passenger’s pain, agony and suffering before he dies. The surviving family members’ grief and bereavement are irrelevant. The children’s loss of their parent’s love, guidance and nurturing are of no consequence.

All of these damages may be recoverable if you die in a car accident or airplane accident en route to the port. But on the high seas, only financial losses such as lost wages or burial/funeral expenses are permitted.

For this reason, there is no basis for any recovery if the missing passenger is a retiree or a child. If the body of a retired passenger is not recovered, and there are no burial expenses, the family receives nothing. This is a hard pill for a grieving family to swallow. Most people who contact our office are dumbfounded when they learn this.

Cruise Lines Love DOHSA

Unlike companies ashore, cruise lines face virtually no financial exposure when their guests are killed or disappear. Even if the cruise line is clearly negligent or acts maliciously, DOHSA provides no recovery when the victim is a retiree or a child.  Cruise lines and their insurance companies profit greatly due to this ancient law.

Historically, DOHSA was applied to aviation disasters when airplanes crashed in international waters. The families of dead children or elderly (retired) parents were excluded from any recovery by virtue of DOHSA. But following the crash of a jet in the Atlantic full of US citizens (TWA flight 800), the American public became outraged by this injustice. In response, Congress excluded air travel from DOHSA. The same thing needs to happen with cruise travel.

Victims Fight for A Change

The International Cruise Victims organization ("ICV") has been trying to amend DOHSA to permit the recovery of fair compensation when passengers die during cruises. A cruise safety bill pending before Congress originally contained a provision to amend DOHSA so that there is no difference if an American citizen dies ashore or at sea. The cruise industry spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress to eliminate the amendment. Ultimately, the cruise lines’ big bucks and PR machine won out.

As far as deaths on ships go, DOHSA is just the way it existed in 1920 – 89 years ago. In 1920, relatively few passengers cruised a year. Now the number is around 13,000,000. Congress never envisioned that DOHSA would bar all recovery for any of the million of retired passengers and children who cruise annually. The Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA") doesn’t tell its 13,000,000 customers or 16,000 travel agents that it lobbies each year to make certain that DOHSA remains in place.

A cruise line is the only place in the world where a child or retired passenger’s life is of absolutely no consequence in the eyes of the law. Die on a cruise ship due to bad medical care or disappear under mysterious circumstances? The cruise lines have spent millions of dollars to make certain that your loved ones don’t get a dime.