NCL Cruise VeniceYesterday, as I flipped through my feed on tweetdeck, I noticed an idyllic image (left) of Venice. The stock photo show a few small boats and gondolas on the Grand Canal, with the text:

Cruise to Venice. It’s a place where people float down man-made waterways or stroll down picturesque alleyways. There’s no more extraordinary place to find yourself, or lose yourself. Stay in Venice before your next Mediterranean cruise!

The photo is linked to NCL’s efforts to market cruises to or from Venice. You can see the same image on NCL’s website.

The last time I wrote about Venice and NCL it involved George Clooney’s romantic wedding procession in Venice, Italy which was disrupted when the 93,000-ton, 2,400-passenger Norwegian NCL Norwegian Jade VeniceJade cruised by on the Giudecca Canal. NCL cluelessly congratulated Mr. Clooney on twitter after crashing his party.

Putting movie stars and celebrities aside, the reality of Venice is now the sight of huge cruise ships operated by NCL and other Miami-based cruise lines towering over the city and downloading hordes of day visitors buying trinkets.  Many of the hundreds of cruise ships coming to Venice each year are over 1,000 feet long, displace 140,000 tons and have drafts well over 25 feet. They pose a substantial risk to this fragile Italian city which is struggling against mass tourism and the deterioration of the city’s underwater foundations.

This is an issue which I have written about for the past decade.

Will the Juggernauts of the Seas Ruin Venice?

Photo credit: @NCL_eu; Norwegian Cruise Line via Travel Pulse; Getty Images via Mail Online / Monster Cruise Ships Menace Venice.

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NCL Cruises Venice

Royal Caribbean Cruise PRPR News recently published an interesting article about how Royal Caribbean Cruises successfully handled its public relations image during the 2013 fire aboard the Grandeur of the Seas. Titled How Royal Caribbean Controls the Message During a Crisis, the article explains how the cruise line effectively controlled the narrative when the Grandeur caught on fire while cruising to Nassau.

PR Success: Immediately after the fire, Royal Caribbean quickly flew its president and a professional photographer to the port and tweeted photos of the cruise CEO interacting with guests "so that journalists would use those photos instead of a guest’s."

I mentioned this effective PR move in an article which I posted shortly after the fire titled Where Are Photo & Video Images of the Fire on the Grandeur of the Seas?  I commented on Royal Caribbean’s new and improved PR efforts, but pointed out that the cruise line released more photos of the cruise CEO having tea with passengers after the fire than of the damage to the ship. 

A video report by ABC News helped to explain why there were no videos or photographs because the cruise ship’s crew stopped passengers from taking images of the fire and chaos. Passenger Carrie royal Caribbean Cruise PRMcTigue told ABC News that "even when people put their cameras up to photograph the sunrise, they were told, ‘no photos.’"

PR Disasters: But Royal Caribbean has not always been able to control the images shown to the public when its cruise ships catch on fire. In July 2015, 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 asked a former client who lives near the port to video the fire. He videotaped the ship coming into port, billowing a huge amount of smoke. We immediately posted the video, on our Facebook page, which was viewed by over a million people within two days. We also posted the video on this blog with 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.

Royal Caribbean also caused a public uproar after it sailed the Anthem of the Seas into a well publicized storm last year. Royal Caribbean’s PR people tried to say that the storm was "unforeseeable" but weather professionals didn’t buy it. They ripped the cruise line for routing the cruise ship directly into the storm. Read the Washington Post’s 4,000-passenger cruise ship inexplicably sails into Atlantic mega-storm. Weather experts accurately predicted the Atlantic seas out of New Jersey to be over 30 feet high with winds of hurricane strength, but the Anthem nonetheless recklessly sailed into theRoyal Caribbean Cruise PR storm, terrorizing thousands of passengers and burning out the clutches of its azipods in the process. The Anthem returned to port in New Jersey with only one propulsion unit operating.

Royal Caribbean initially denied any damage or injury to the ship or the passengers and then falsely claimed that the only damage to the ship was "cosmetic." Al Roker, the popular television weatherman on the Today Show, best summed up Royal Caribbean’s claim that the storm was not predicted: "Royal Caribbean’s claim that this was not predicted is bullfeathers."  USA TODAY chimed in with "Meteorologists: Royal Caribbean blew it on sailing into storm."

Practice Makes Perfect?  The director of the cruise line’s corporate communications, Cynthia Martinez, was quoted in the PR article as saying that that the company often "practices roundtable discussions of how to handle an issue, and sometimes they practice writing tweets and press releases for specific situations." So the next time that a Royal Caribbean ship catches on fire or sails into a storm, remember that what you may be seeing from this cruise line is what it wants you to believe rather than the reality of what actually occurred or – as Al Roker said – "bullfeathers."

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Reader's Digest Poll Most Trusted Brand Reader’s Digest has again selected Carnival Cruise Line as the "most trusted cruise line" in the world. 

As the popular cruise blog Cruise Fever writes: "The Reader’s Digest Trusted Brand Survey is an independent, online survey conducted in partnership with Ipsos Connect. This year’s survey polled 5,500 Americans nationwide who were asked to rate products they trust across 40 different categories in areas such as quality, value and reliability."

This is the third consecutive year that Carnival Cruise Line has been voted as the most trusted cruise line.

The cruise brand has come a long way since the Carnival "Poop Cruise" debacle.

The Reader’s Digest poll also named McDonald’s as the most trusted fast food and Walmart as the most trusted mass merchandiser.  

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Photo credit: Reader’s Digest

Former Oceania Cruises passenger Toronto resident, Richard Silver, was aboard the Oceania Insignia a few years ago when the luxury cruise ship’s engine room caught fire.

Two contractors and one Oceania crewmember died in the fire while the cruise ship was docked at Port Castries, St. Lucia. Some passengers who left comments on social media criticized Oceania for the crew’s "confusion, lack of information and misinformation" following the deadly fire. 

In a subsequent article, I mentioned observations from Mr. Silver that the passengers were herded through the ship during the fire and into a warehouse at the port where they remained without water for nine hours in high heat and without any information about the fire. Mr. Silver took photographs and video of the bedlam on the ship where elderly passengers were carried off of the ship by other passengers, as well as photographs of a passenger who fell into the water between the dock and ship.

After the ordeal, Mr. Silver eventually returned home to Canada without his luggage, exhausted. He explained to the Canadian press what he experienced. Several Toronto’s newspapers and news stations published Mr. Silver’s photographs and vivid account of the fire and Oceania poor handling of the aftermath. (See top video, below). These images belied Oceania’s press statement that "our top priority is ensuring all 656 guests return home as quickly and comfortably as possible." 

Cruise lines like Oceania don’t like bad press. So when Mr. Silver tried to book his next cruise with Oceania on the Sirena last August, he received a phone call from a cruise line representative. As explained by Toronto newspaper Global News, Mr. Silva said that “they told me ‘you’re banned for life.’ Why am I banned? What did I do?” (See bottom video, below).

Oceania reportedly returned Mr. Silva’s money but never answered his inquiries, leaving Silva to believe that he was punished for speaking to the media. Silver also claims that Norwegian Cruise Lines, the parent company of Oceania, and NCL’s subsidiary Regent Seven Seas Cruises, banned him from future cruises.

When the newspaper called Oceania for an explanation, Tim Rubacky, the head of public relations for Oceania Cruises, denied that the cruise line was punishing Mr. Silver but he refused to explain further and repeatedly said that he "can’t and won’t comment."

Cruise lines which act petulantly like this do not limit their retribution to passengers. Crew members who speak to the media or post comments on social media are quickly terminated from their cruise ship jobs. Costa terminated a crew member who posted a video on Facebook when a violent storm broke hundreds of dishes on the Costa Fascinosa. There are many other examples.

Cruise lines rely on carefully crafted images of idyllic vacations at sea to sell tickets. But when passengers or crew members take their complaints to the press or social media, cruise lines often respond vindictively.

Like Vegas, what happens on cruise ships stays on the ships. A passenger or crew member who breaks this unwritten rule will find out that they are no longer welcome on the ship.

 

http://globalnews.ca/video/embed/3122673/ 

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Today, Cruise Law News was picked as the number four (out of fifty) top cruise blogs and websites.

To 50 Cruise Blog Feedspot says that it made the selection based on Google search ranking, influence and popularity on Facebook & Twitter, and the quality and consistency of the posts, as well as Feedspot’s editorial review.

The sites ahead of this blog are Cruise Critic, the increasingly popular Cruise Fever and Cruise Industry News. The top four cruise sites have 770,660 Facebook fans: Cruise Critic – 269,322; Cruise Fever – 261,110; Cruise Industry News – 23, 586; and Cruise Law News – 216,642.  

Three years ago, Cruise Critic was also the most popular cruise website in the world; Cruise Fever was number 7 and Cruise Industry News was number 6. 

My favorite cruise-related site is Martin Cox’s Maritime Matters, which is ranked by Feedspot as number 17 out of 50.  

Thanks to Feedspot for the recognition! 

 

 

Truthfeed Boycott Celebrity CruisesThe ultra conservative Truthfeed website is calling for a boycott of Celebrity Cruises after the cruise line aired a video ad called "Sail Beyond Borders."  

The video calls for cruisers to reject the divisive rhetoric associated with president-elect Donald Trump.

Truthfeed claims that the advertisement is "stunningly rude and inappropriate" and that "smug cruise line Celebrity snubs their snooty noses at Trump and his supporters." In an article which was published yesterday, Truthfeed calls on Trump supporters to boycott Celebrity Cruises. 

The ad states:

  • Far from the talk of building walls, 
  • Far from the threats of keeping people out,
  • Far from the rhetoric of fear, 
  • Is a world of differences,
  • Differences that expand and enrich us, 
  • Because, after all, our lives aren’t made better when we close ourselves off to the world, 
  • They’re made better when we open ourselves up to it.
  • Celebrity Cruises

The boycott movement was started by @MightyBusterBro on Twitter who, earlier this week, posted a mock ad he created on YouTube. The satire video (now removed from YouTube which you can see here) included text overlays stating that Trump supporters are not smart or liberal enough to enjoy Celebrity Cruises. 

As pointed out by Snopes, Celebrity Cruises President and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo denied that the ad, which was created before Trump was elected, was in response to the Trump campaign. The original ad contains no specific references to Trump or his supporters although the reference to building walls is obviously referring to him. 

Celebrity’s original ad was heavily promoted on ABC and CNN during the presidential debates. Putting ideology aside, it seems risky to alienate tens of millions of potential customers by running a campaign which potentially offends half of the U.S. who supported the build-a-wall candidate. But CEO Lutoff-Perlo seems willing to have taken the risk. She told Skift in September that “I believe anybody that truly looks at this and says, ‘We’re not going to sail on Celebrity again,’ they’re probably not sailing on Celebrity. I hope I get more people than I lose."

Image credit: Truthfeed   

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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.

 

Jim Walker Cruise Law NewsToday, the Cruise Law News Facebook page reached 200,000 "likes."

The majority of our Facebook fans are crew members who use Facebook on a regular basis to communicate with their family and friends. 

We receive a great deal of information from crew members regarding a wide range of issues, like cruise ship fires, engine failures, man-overboard situations and the tough working conditions which crew members face.

We also receive information from cruise passengers when things go wrong on the high seas. 

Thank you very much for reading our page and providing information to us!  Our Facebook page would not be possible without the support of crew members and passengers on cruise ships around the world!

The motto of our blog is "everything the cruise lines don’t want you to know."

No, we are not a travel site with glossy photos of happy crew members and smiling passengers enjoying a dream vacation cruise. The fact that millions of people are reading a critical blog by a lawyer (lawyers often write boring, stuffy articles) reflects that there are a lot of things that happen on cruises which the public wants to know and the cruise lines want to keep secret.

Thanks for reading us! And a special thanks to the many people who have sent us tips, photos and videos. 

A number of people contacted me after I wrote about the editors at Cruise Critic picking the Viking Star (Viking’s first ocean-going cruise ship) as the "Best New Cruise Ship" for 2015.

Cruise passengers and crew members brought to my attention that there have been problems with the Viking Star from day one. They mentioned "technical" issues like the failure of the propulsion systems only five months in service. Apparently, no one from shore-side management from the home office appeared in Tallinn following the fiasco.

A major issue faced the cruise ship this summer when glass shower doors, that has been installed wrong, began exploding while in use, leaving passengers bleeding.  

There has reporedly been a significant turnover of ship employees. Many crew members were not provided with written contracts until later and the financial terms were allegedly lower than verbally promised.

The new ship apparently did not have employment or technical manuals. Many crew members were told to bring manuals and procedures from their former cruise ship. There were inconsistent procedures from a mishmash of cruise line protocols. Some people even allegedly started to put Viking logos over the former logos just to have procedures.

Many crew members were frustrated that there seemed to be a general lack of experience of operating ships at sea rather than in a river. One person sent us a video of an anchoring mid fjord when the Viking Star almost ran aground. 

Another reader talked about the scandal surrounding the Godmother for the new cruise ship, Trude Drevland, the mayor of Bergen City in Norway. She is recently under police investigation due to allegations of bribery by the ship owner.  You can read an article here (it is Norwegian, so you will need to translate it). Among other things, Godmother Drevland is accused of being flown in a private jet, to Venice in June to participate in the launch of Viking Star. The air travel and stay at a luxury hotel were allegedly paid by the chairman and chief executive officer Torstein Hagen. You can read more details here.

In an industry which relies on marketing images and rave reviews, it appears that there is dirt behind the scenes that neither Cruise Critic nor the Viking Star owners want you to know.   

 

Viking StarThe Cruise Critic Editors’ Picks Awards selected the “best new cruise ship” to be the Viking Ocean Cruises’ Viking Star.

I first heard of the Viking Star two months ago when the new cruise ship lost power in Tallinn, Estonia. After a great deal of confusion, the cruise was canceled amidst a storm of controversy. I received a lot of comments from passengers and crew members alike, critical of Viking, on both this website and on our Facebook page.

But it doesn’t seem that any of the Cruise Critic judges were on the Viking Star back in August when its power failed. The judges wrote that the ill-fated ship was a “state of the art cruise liner that has earned rave reviews.” The judges described the cruise ship as having the “charm of a boutique hotel – homely and comfortable after a long day exploring in port. In fact, the ship is so beautifully designed – with terrific afredo restaurants, beautiful pool area, a superb spa and the two-level Explorer’s observation lounge – you will be tempted not to go ashore.” 

Gobbledygook like this drives me crazy. It seems far more relevant to me if the cruise ship has a history of power failure, or fires, and how the company handles an emergency. How are the crew members treated? Cruise Critic is silent on these basic issues.

TripAdvisor, a unit of Expedia, owns Cruise Critic. So hype like this is to be expected, I suppose. The Cruise Critic community is the largest group of cruisers in the world. And they are probably the most fanatical in their love for cruising; however, a discussion of a controversial issue on the CC message boards often turns turns into an ugly brawl. The editors and moderators at Cruise Critic act like cruise industry cheerleaders. Criticize a cruise line? Chances are that your comments will be deleted.

 

Photo Credit: “MS Viking Star passing the O2 dome” by NFH Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons – Wikipedia