ten reasons not to cruise

Continuing with Cruise Law News’ Top 10 Reasons Not To Cruise, we reach reason number 9 not to cruise:

Bunker Fuel – Nasty Tar Sludge!

This reason is personal to me.

My Dad is an oil man.  In the 1960’s we lived in Texas and Oklahoma as kids when my Dad worked for seismic companies.  In 1965, we moved to Libya when Dad took a job with the largest oil company in North Africa.  He became the head of the geophysical department responsible for searching for oil.  My Dad made the final decision where to drill and sink thousands of feet of drill Bunker Fuel - Cruise Ship - Air Pollution pipe and casing into the Sahara Desert.  This was big business.  I remember when he came home with a vial containing a sample of the 5,000,000,000 barrel of crude oil he discovered beneath the Libyan sands.

Dad taught us everything about the oil and gas industry. Geological formations.  Exploration strategies.  Dilling techniques.  And he explained the process of refining oil and producing gas products of different octanes.  He also talked about the by-products of oil refineries including a bottom-of-the-barrel product called "bunker fuel."

Bunker fuel is a waste product.  It literally is the dredge remaining in the pits of the refineries after all of the refining process has ended and the high octane fuels have been produced and the diesel products have been extracted from the crude oil.   It is toxic muck.  It has the consistency of tar.  It cannot be used without incombustible particles flying all over the place – not unlike burning a tire – with the residue burrowing deep into the mucous membranes of your lungs. 

I remember my Dad telling me, this is some nasty shit son.  I can’t believe anyone would use this sludge. It’s a health hazard if you breath it.  It should be pumped back into the wells and capped. 

No one reading this article would burn bunker fuel in their house, or subject their neighbors to this toxic pollutant.  Bunker fuel is the nastiest and most toxic fuel you can use.

But this fuel is the cornerstone of the cruise industry.

In prior articles, we have written about the high sulfur content of bunker fuel – which has 4,000 to 5,000 more sulfur than gasoline used in automobiles.  This cheap, filthy, high-sulfur fuel has a disastrous effect on the environment and a deadly effect on those who breath the lethal smoke.

Any time you see a photo of a cruise ship on the cruise line’s or travel agent’s web site, it has always been photo-shopped to hide the smoke billowing out of the smoke stacks. But take a look Bunker Fuel - Cruise Ship - Pollution at the photograph below of Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas – smoking up a port in Alaska with bunker fuel.  Nasty.  Nasty.  Nasty.   

In March, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) announced that it was creating a buffer zone around the U.S. and Canada which will prohibit the use of bunker fuel.  Holland America Line’s CEO, Stein Kruse, complained that the new air law "essentially means all the current fuel that we burn cannot be burned."  

It is therefore not surprising that the Friends of the Earth’s (FOE) Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card gave a "F" to Carnival, Celebrity Crystal, Cunard, Disney, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean and Silversea cruise lines for air pollution reduction.  FOE released a press statement yesterday:

"For the second year in a row, we’ve found that cruise lines are doing less than they can to limit the environmental impacts of their ships. . . From ending the use of dirty fuel that pollutes the air to stopping the disgusting practice of dumping sewage and other waste into the sea, it’s time for the cruise industry to clean up its act. The unfortunate reality is that, at present, many cruises harm marine ecosystems and the health of people who live near ports of call.”

The cruise industry trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), responded to the bad grades with this press release:

“It is unfortunate that instead of contributing to a meaningful scientific dialogue about protecting our oceans, FOE continues to use innuendo and misstate the facts to advance its agenda. This ‘report card’ is not based on science, law, or the facts, and like its last one, is rooted in FOE’s own arbitrary and flawed criteria.”

Unfortunately, arrogant and dismissive statements like this are the typical response from the recalcitrant cruise industry. But the truth of the matter remains that without governmental oversight, cruise lines will always use the cheapest and most hazardous fuels available to operate their cruise ships.

So if you are thinking of cruising this summer, give the environment a break – take your family for a hike and camping trip in a national park instead. 

 

Click on the video and watch bunker fuel burning (gas mask recommended): 

 

https://youtube.com/watch?v=dZ1CJhpU95c%26hl%3Den_US%26fs%3D1%26rel%3D0

 

Credits:

Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas cruise ship    AlaskanLibrarian’s Flickr photostream
 

Preparation for a trial delayed our "Top 10 Reasons Not To Cruise."  But here we go again with the reasons why you should think twice before spending your hard earned vacation dollars on a family cruise. Here’s reason no. 8: 

BLACKWATER!

That nasty raw sewage which cruise lines can freely dump – completely untreated – just twelve miles from shore.  Yes, just twelve miles from that lovely beach you may be sitting on in Florida, or the marshes of South Carolina, or the oyster beds of Alabama.  Nasty, stinking feces from several thousands of passengers eating incredible amounts of food around the clock on hundreds of cruise ships each day.  

"Blackwater" is sewage, waste water from urinals and toilets, and waste from medical facilities.  Gross stuff.  It contains pathogens, viruses including norovirus (when an outbreak on the ship occurs), bacteria, and intestinal parasites. According to Friends of the Earth, a cruise ship on a one week voyage is estimated to generate 210,000 gallons (or 5 large swimming pools) of human sewage.

A cruise ship also generates 1 million gallons (33 more swimming pools) of gray water (water from sinks, baths, showers, laundry, and galleys).  Cruise ships also generate large volumes of oily bilge water, sewage sludge, garbage and hazardous wastes. 

The cruise lines say that they usually (but not always) treat blackwater to "reduce" the fecal materials from toilets before dumping the waste into the oceans.  But the problem is that these devices (when used) do not eliminate the fecal matter.  "Marine sanitation systems," in particular, just don’t work. 

Cruise Ship Pollution - Blackwater - Discharge Just last Fall, Princess Cruises, repeatedly violated Alaskan waster water regulations:    

In September, the Diamond Princess, Island Princess, Pacific  PrincessSapphire Princess and Sea Princess were cited for violating the Alaska waste water quality standards.  Again, in October, the Diamond Princess, Island Princess, Pacific Princess, Sapphire Princess and Sea Princess – together with the Golden Princess – were cited for water discharge violations.

In November, the same culprits – the Diamond Princess, Island Princess, Sea Princess, Golden Princess and Diamond Princess were busted for pollution.

Two weeks ago, on Earth Day, the New York Times rightfully called the cruise industry "Notorious Polluters".  Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruise lines are all corporate felons for dumping untreated sewage and oily discharges and falsifying their log books to cover the crime up.   

The cruise industry’s trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) which has spent $8,000,000 in the last two years lobbying against Congressional oversight, wrote a letter to the New York Times.  Upset about the "notorious polluters" label, CLIA claimed that "cruise lines have a vested interest in the pristine environments they visit, and they take their stewardship responsibility very seriously."

When I hear PR rubbish like this, I remember what Attorney General Reno Reno said when she  leveled felony charges against Royal Caribbean for its repeated pollution, cover-ups, and lies:

".  .  . at the same time that their ships were sailing into the inland passage of Alaska, one of the most sensitive and beautiful eco-systems in our nation, their crew members were wearing buttons that said, ‘Save the Waves.’  That’s what they were wearing above deck.  Below deck, business as usual was going on and oily contaminated bilge water was being dumped overboard . . ."  

The LA Times also reported the Attorney General stating:

"Royal Caribbean used our nation’s waters as its dumping ground even as it promoted itself as an environmentally ‘green’ company . . . " 

Just last week the cruise industry intimidated the state of Alaska with pulling its cruise ships if it didn’t reduce taxes and relax many of its pollution controls. Take a moment and read "Alaska Reduces Taxes and Relaxes Pollution Standards For Bullying Cruise Lines." 

This is also an industry which retaliated against a "Green Water" Scientist so it could avoid pollution regulations. 

As a result of the cruise industry’s lobbying and back-room deals, cruise ships are continuing to dump ammonia (from fecal matter), copper, nickel and zinc in Alaska’s pristine waters.  

Stewardship responsibility?

What a joke.

 

For other information, consider reading:

Can Sick Cruise Ships Cause Norovirus Outbreaks in Ports?

Cruise Ships in South Carolina – Harmless Fun or Environmental Scourge?

Cruise Lines Urged to Shrink Their Footprints (New York Times)

 

Up Next?  Reason No. 9 Not To Cruise: Bunker Fuel – Nasty Tar Sludge!   

Cruise Critic ran an article a couple of weeks ago about the Top 10 Reasons To Cruise.  I responded with my article "Top Ten Reasons Not To Cruise."  I previously addressed the first six  reasons not to cruise, which are at the bottom of this article.*

The purpose of this series is not to convince you not to cruise, but to educate consumers regarding the dangers inherent in and the consequences of cruising.  I’m not your big brother, trust me.  It you want to cruise, that’s entirely your business and none of mine.   But at least educate yourself before you take your family on a vacation you may regret.  

St. Vincent - Royal Caribbean - Exploitation - Crew MemberThe 7th reason not to cruise may not leave much of an impression on most of my American readers because it involves "foreign crew members" who most passengers will never meet.

Our firm and clients have been featured over a hundred times on every major television station, cable news network, radio, newspaper and magazine in the U.S. and abroad.  But the news sources are interested almost exclusively in crimes or injuries involving U.S. passengers.  An injured or victimized crew member from Jamaica, India, or Nicaragua is usually of no interest to U.S. reporters.

The exception was several years ago when The Miami New Times ran a story "Screwed If By Sea – Cruise Lines Throw Workers Overboard When It Comes to Providing Urgent Medical Care."

The article focused on one of our crew member clients from the little island of St. Vincent who, after suffering second and third degree burns on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailing to Alaska – was sent by Royal Caribbean on a journey from Alaska to Los Angeles to Miami to Barbados to St. Vincent – as part of a plan by the cruise line Royal Caribbean to abandon him in a third world country with no medical treatment. 

Take a moment and read the article.

You will smell the crew member’s rotting flesh half way through the article.

Is "evil," or "diabolical," or "criminal" too strong of a word for this degree of corporate malfeasance?  I suppose it depends if it involved you – or a "foreign" crew member. 

The exploitation of crew members, particularly "utility cleaners" who often work 360 hours a month for around $540 a month, continues.  Last year we addressed the problem in an articles entitled:

"Titanic Dreams" – Royal Caribbean Wins "Worst Cruise Line in the World" Award; and

Cruise Ship Medical Care – Royal Caribbean Gives Their Crew Members the Royal Shaft.

There are few Americans who would cruise if they knew how poorly the cruise lines treat their crew members.  The absolute worst cruise lines which abuse their crew members are Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises – the only winners of Cruise Law News’ popular "Worst Cruise Line In The World Award."

Read the first six reasons not to cruise and then add this article into the mix.  Are you really going to cruise with your family on one of these foreign-flagged cruise ships which exploit the souls of the hard working men and women from Jamaica, India, Nicaragua and St. Vincent?

 

Tomorrow – Reason No. 8 Not To Cruise: Blackwater, Blackwater, Blackwater

 

Credits:   Jim Walker’s Cruise Law Flickr Page 

 

*Cruise Law News’ Last  6 Reasons Not To Cruise 

No. 1: Cruise Lines Are A Perfect Place To Sexually Abuse Children

No. 2: Cruise Ships Are A Perfect Place to Commit A Crime, And Get Away With It!

No. 3: Carnival, Royal Caribbean And NCL Are Corporate Felons

No. 4: If You Are A Victim On A Cruise Ship, The Cruise Line Will Treat You Like A Criminal

No. 5: If You Are Retired Or A Child, The Cruise Line Considers Your Life Worthless

No. 6: If The Ship Doctor Kills You, Too Bad

This is reason no. 6 in the series: Top 10 Reasons Not To Cruise

The last place you want to become ill or injured is on a cruise ship far away from a U.S. port.

Cruise ship medical care is limited.  Ship doctors are usually from foreign medical schools.  The shipboard facilities are often inadequate and the medical care is sub-standard.  Consider reading "Cruise Ship Medical Care Spotty" (Consumer Affairs) and "Ocean Liners’ Medical Care May Not Be Shipshape." (CNN)

Cruise Ship Doctor - Cruise Line MalpracticeMost disturbing is the fact that cruise lines are not legally responsible when their ship doctors commit malpractice.

In Carnival v. Carlisle, a family took a vacation cruise aboard Carnival’s Ecstasy.  During the cruise, the family’s 14 year old daughter developed abdominal pain and was seen several times by the cruise ship doctor.  The doctor assured the concerned family that it was not a case of appendicitis, but was just the flu.  When the family returned home to Michigan, a U.S. doctor correctly diagnosed a ruptured appendix.  Due to the rupture, infection and delay in treatment, the daughter was rendered sterile.

The family sued Carnival for damages caused by the Carnival ship doctor’s negligence.  The Florida Supreme Court ruled, however, that cruise lines like Carnival are not legally responsible when the ship doctor commits malpractice.  The Court held that because the ship doctors are "independent contractors," cruise lines cannot be held vicariously liable for the doctor’s wrongdoing.

If a passenger is injured or killed due to malpractice by the ship doctor, the passenger is forced to try and sue the doctor.  This is problematic for several reasons.   The doctor inevitably does not live in the U.S.  It is very difficult to serve a ship doctor with a lawsuit or obtain personal jurisdiction.  Also, many doctors do not have liability insurance and have few assets.   

This presents a "double whammy" to passengers.  The chance of receiving bad medical care is greater on a foreign flagged cruise ship than in a passenger’s home town.  And if there is malpractice, the cruise line can avoid responsibility because of the "independent contractor" defense.  

This leaves an injured passenger, or the family’s surviving family members, forced to try and chase the foreign ship doctors around the world to obtain accountability.

Cruise Ship Doctor - Independent Contractor? Over one-half of the passengers who seek medical treatment during cruises are over age 65.  Many passengers have pre-existing medical conditions including heart conditions.  Elderly passengers are at risk for complications on cruise ships with noro-virus and are then at the mercy of incompetent or inattentive ship doctors.  For an example of cruise ship medical negligence, consider reading:

Cruise Ship Doctors: Roll The Dice With Your Life

As long as cruise lines are not liable for bad medical care, there is no financial incentive for the ships to hire more qualified and experienced doctors and nurses. 

There is no economic or moral justification for such an inequitable situation.  The cruise industry collects over $35 billion dollars a year and pays no Federal income taxes by registering their cruise ships in foreign countries.       

Most passengers do not understand that the "Carnival" ship doctor, wearing a uniform with a "Carnival" badge, is not considered by the cruise line to be a "Carnival" employee. 

If the ship doctor’s negligence kills your parent or maims your child, what are you going to do?

This lack of accountability by the cruise industry is another reason why Americans should think twice about taking a family cruise. 

November 11, 2014 Update: Breaking News! Cruise passengers are now permitted to sue the cruise lines for medical negligence. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that cruise lines are no longer permitted to assert an "immunity defense" when their ship doctors and nurses commit medical malpractice. Read: 11th Circuit Rejects Cruise Lines’ Immunity Defense to Medical Malpractice Claims. Contact us for further information.

Tomorrow, we will discuss Reason No. 7 Not to Cruise: Cruise Lines Exploit Foreign Crew Members, Like You’d Never Believe.

 

Credits:

Photographs       TBO.com News Channel 8 (Jim Hockett) "Cruise Ship’s Doctor Puts Elderly Man Ashore"

This is reason no. 5 in the series: Top 10 Reasons Not To Cruise

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

Cruise Ship Death - DOHSA - Death On High Seas Act 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 – 90 years ago.  In 1920, relatively few passengers cruised a year. Now the number is around 14,000,000. Congress never envisioned that DOHSA would bar all recovery for any of the millions of retired passengers and children who cruise annually.  The Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA") doesn’t tell its 14,000,000 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.

 

Tomorrow I will discuss Reason No. 6 Not To Cruise: If The Ship Doctor Kills You, Too Bad

 

This article was originally published last year with the title"The Death On The High Seas Act – Screwing Americans For 89 Years"

This is reason no. 4 in the series:Top 10 Reasons Not To Cruise

The primary reason our law firm is in business is because cruise lines mistreat cruise passengers after they have been seriously injured or victimized aboard a cruise ship. 

Over 99% of our clients have never filed a lawsuit before, and probably over 50% of our clients don’t like lawyers.  Most people who have been injured during a cruise are looking for a friendly face on the cruise ship to talk to and discuss a solution to their predicament.  The last thing a family from the middle-of-America who goes on a cruise wants to do is hire a lawyer in Miami to file a lawsuit for them.  Only frustration and a lack of respect by the cruise line motivates hard-working-Americans far away from Miami to pick up the telephone and call me.   

But we are contacted every day – every single day – by cruise passengers who have been seriously injured during cruises or who have been sexually assaulted.  The one thing we hear time and time again is – "I can’t believe that they treated me this way after I reported what happened!"

It is bad enough when a passenger is seriously injured and the cruise line treats them like dirt.  We have seen this time after time.  The cruise line refuses to release the passenger’s medical Cruise Ship Passengers - Crime Victims - Hogs Get Slaughtered? records, or takes away their wheelchair or crutches at the gangway and tells them to hobble down to the terminal.  Inevitably, once the injured passenger leaves the cruise ship, no one from the cruise line calls them to see how their ankle or hip surgery turned out.  And if they do, the best you can expect for even the most serious case is an offer of a discount on a future cruise.

Once you file suit, prepare for the cruise line to attack you.  The best example I can give you is a cruise line case highlighted in an article appearing in the National Law Journal entitled "Defense Team Found the Needle in the Haystack." 

The article explains that eight elderly cruise passengers from Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 visiting Tortola were seriously injured when the brakes of the excursion truck failed, causing the vehicle to crash in the side of a mountain.    

Although the article explains that "odds were overwhelmingly against" the cruise line at the beginning, the cruise line defense lawyer successfully defended the case.  The cruise line lawyer explained his strategy, saying "there’s a saying that pigs get slaughtered * . . . If you make them look like they’re greedy . . .  that usually has an impact.  So we tried to paint them as greedy, exaggerating, malingering."  The tactic worked, as the jury decided against all of the cruise passengers and the cruise line won the case.    

Its even worse when a passenger is a victim of a crime.

Once a passenger reports a crime, the cruise line’s officers contacts the cruise line’s corporate offices, usually in Miami, and then the cruise line’s risk management and legal department go into overdrive.  Incriminating evidence is not collected.  The security officers on the cruise begin taking statements designed to protect the assailant crew member’s legal interests and the cruise line’s Cruise Ship Rape - Crime Victims - Deposition Roomreputation.  Everyone on the cruise ship begins to work against the victim, to look for ways to make certain that the victim’s case never sees the light of day. 

It is a dirty business.  Cruise lines thrive on it.

When a victim files suit, it gets worse.  Crime victims are treated like the injured, elderly Cunard passengers who the cruise line painted as "greedy pigs."   One cruise line defense firm deposes victims in a large conference room in the entrance of the firm (photo left), filled with cruise ship models, with floor to ceiling glass walls but no curtains or blinds – while lawyers, paralegals, and secretaries walk by the conference room all day long, gawking inside.  

Can you imagine if you were a rape victim forced to testify in the middle of such a glass bowl?

Yes, its rude, abusive, and demeaning.  I would be embarrassed if a lawyer at my firm acted like this.  But its exactly what the cruise lines want and expect.

The cruise lines treat their guests, once they are victimized, like criminals.  

And cruise lines wonder why they have such bad reputations.

 

* Actually, the saying is "pigs get fed, but hogs get slaughtered . . ."  

 

Tomorrow, we will discuss Reason No. 5 Not To Cruise: If You Are Retired Or A Child, The Cruise Line Considers Your Life Worthless

 

Credits:

Photograph            Maltzman Foreman P.A.

This is reason no. 3 in the series: Top 10 Reasons Not To Cruise

In law school, I learned that evidence of a felony or a crime involving dishonesty can be introduced at trial to be considered by the jury to assess a person’s credibility.  The same rule of evidence applies equally to corporations, like cruise lines.

Would you do business with someone who committed repeated crimes involving dishonesty?   If you have taken a cruise, chances are that you have already done business with a corporate felon.

In 1999, Royal Caribbean pled guilty in six jurisdictions to charges of wide-spread fleet-wide practices of routinely discharging oil-contaminated wastes and pollutants (including in Alaska’s Inside Passage), and repeatedly making false statements to the U.S. Coast Guard.  The illegal discharges and falsification of log books took place on Royal Caribbean cruise ships entering ports in Miami, New York City, Los Angeles, Anchorage, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Save The Waves - Royal Caribbean - Corporate FelonThe U.S. leveled the felony charges not just because of the repeated and massive scale of the dumping of pollutants but because the cruise line continued to lie. U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno stated at a press conference: 

.  .  . at the same time that their ships were sailing into the inland passage of Alaska, one of the most sensitive and beautiful eco-systems in our nation, their crew members were wearing buttons that said, ‘Save the Waves.’  That’s what they were wearing above deck.  Below deck, business as usual was going on and oily contaminated bilge water was being dumped overboard . . .

Attorney General Reno was rightfully pissed: " .  .  . if people flim-flam us, they should expect the consequences .  .  ."  When the sentencing was over, the U.S. Government fined Royal Caribbean a total of $27,000,000 and placed the cruise line on probation for five years.

When this occurred, the "inside word" in Miami was that all of the other cruise lines were dumping pollutants and lying about it, but only Royal Caribbean got caught.

In 2002, the U.S. Government caught up with Carnival as well.

By the time the investigation was over, Carnival pled guilty to numerous felonies for discharging oily waste into the sea.  Like Royal Caribbean, Carnival routinely falsified its oil record books in order to conceal its illegal practices.  The U.S. Government leveled a $18,000,000 fine and placed Carnival on probation.

A few months later, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) – feeling the heat – stepped forward and pled guilty to a felony of routinely circumventing the oily water separator, dumping oily bilge directly into Cruise Line Corporate Felons - Pollution - Lyingthe ocean on a regular basis, and falsifying its record keeping.  NCL admitted that it engaged in a practice of "systematically lying to the United States Coast Guard over a period of years." 

The Department of Justice issued a fine of only $1,500,000, primarily because NCL admitted its wrongdoing rather than lying and scheming like Royal Caribbean and Carnival.

Since these incidents, all of these cruise lines and their subsidiaries have been caught dumping illegal levels of pollutants in violation of state laws or memorandum of understandings with states like California.  Carnival’s subsidiary Princess Cruises is the most prolific violator of Alaska’s wastewater regulations over the course of the last year.

The U.S. public has a choice where to go on vacation.  For example, the United States has an incredible number of beautiful National Parks to visit.  The parks are staffed by environmentalists dedicated to protecting the park’s animals, birds, waters and land.  Why not give a National Park a try this summer?

But cruising?  Do you really want to hand your hard earned income over to admitted corporate felons, which are registered in foreign countries in order to avoid U.S. taxes, and which are continuing to pollute our waters?      

 

Tomorrow: Reason No. 4 Not to Cruise: If You Are A Victim On A Cruise Ship, The Cruise Line Will Treat You Like A Criminal

Do you have a comment?  Let us hear from you in the comment section below.

This is reason no. 2 in the series: Top 10 Reasons Not To Cruise

Imagine owning a business where one of your employees drugged and raped a patron.  What would you do?   

Would you interrogate the victim before calling the police?  Would you tape record the victim without her permission?  Would you demand that the victim prepare written statements before she could receive medical treatment?   Would you scramble your defense lawyers to the scene to look for a way to build a case against the victim?  Would you refuse to provide the name and address of your Cime Rocks The Boats - Cruise Ship Crimeemployee to the victim?  Would you work with your employee’s criminal defense lawyers, and meet the assailant in jail, in an effort to help him win an acquittal at the criminal trial?   

Of course not, but this is exactly what happens on many cruise ships today.

Unlike airplanes with Federal Marshals, cruise ships have no police authorities aboard.  The few security guards on the ships are loyal to their employer who pays their salary – not to the passenger. 

When a crime occurs, the cruise lines first notify their risk managements departments and their defense lawyers.  If the closed circuit television (CCTV) tapes exculpate the cruise line, the cruise line keeps the tapes.  Otherwise, the CCTV images are invariably taped over, "lost" or the cruise line will claim that the CCTV system was not working.  The cruise lines will protect their own employee’s legal interests – not the passenger’s rights. 

In some criminal cases we have handled, the cruise lines did not bother to notify the FBI; in other cases, the cruise lines notified the FBI only after they destroyed evidence and sanitized the crime scene. The result is that criminals on cruise ships are rarely prosecuted.

In fact, some cruise lines have never had a crew member ever convicted of a sex crime or other felony.

Most crew members know that nothing will happen to them if they commit a crime on the ship.  Because there is no criminal accountability, there is no deterrence to crimes on cruises ships.  This is not my opinion, but the conclusions reached by security and sexual harassment experts who have studied the problem. 

In 1999, Royal Caribbean hired two top notch firms to study the problem of sexual assaults on the Royal Caribbean and Celebrity fleet of cruise ships.  The cruise line retained a consulting firm called "Sheridan, Swailes" to study the company’s security systems.  Royal Caribbean also retained a nationally recognized expert on sexual harassment issues, Dr. Kay Krohne, who previously was a commanding officer at the Naval Training Station in San Diego. 

Kay Krohne - Cruise Sexual Assault - Cruise Sexual HarassmentAfter conducting an extensive analysis of the Royal Caribbean / Celebrity fleet, these experts concluded that sexual misconduct occurred "frequently" during cruises.  They attributed this problem to the fact that most crew members were not afraid of being arrested, much less convicted.  Dr. Krohne reported that the worst thing that could happen to a crew member who committed a crime on a Royal Caribbean or Celebrity cruise ship was to be sent on a one way flight home.

The experts concluded that male cabin attendants and bartenders were the most likely crew members to commit a crime.  The most likely location?  The passengers cabin.  The experts recommended a number of improvements, such as placing CCTV cameras in the passenger hallways, deactivating passenger cabin key cards used by crew members after working hours, and implementing steps to collect and preserve evidence to be used against the crew members at trial.  Without having a system in place that will result in crew members being arrested, the experts concluded that the crimes would continue.    

Unfortunately, when the executives at Royal Caribbean received the reports – they did not implement any of the recommended improvements.  Instead, they chose to tell the U.S. public that crime on cruise ships was "rare."  When a crime inevitably occurred, the cruise line then sent their defense lawyers to the next port to board the ship long before the FBI arrived. 

The result is that by the time the FBI arrives or the cruise ship returns to a foreign port, the evidence is long gone. 

In an article entitled "Crime Rocks The Boats," TIME Magazine addressed this problem.  TIME reported on troubling cases involving two of our clients – Janet Kelly who was drugged and raped during a cruise from Los Angeles to Mexico, and Jennifer Hagel whose husband George Smith IV "disappeared" from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship during their honeymoon cruise in the Mediterranean.  In both cases, the cruise lines scrambled their defense lawyers to the cruise ships and quickly began compromising the passengers’ potential criminal and civil cases.  TIME raised the question why "only 7% of the 135 federal investigations into sexual assault over the past five George Smith IV - Missing - Royal Caribbeanyears were prosecuted.  Why were 93% of the cases dropped?"  TIME reported on the FBI’s explanation, as follows:

"By the time we can get to [the victim and witnesses], a period of time has passed, people’s memories change, they were intoxicated, or there is a lack of evidence because it was cleaned."

TIME addressed the problem of crimes on the high seas and the cruise industry’s efforts to cover the problem up, and quoted me in the process:

".  .  .  the only authorities most cruise-crime victims can turn to are the ship’s security personnel, who have a strong incentive to protect the industry’s fun-in-the-sun image.  ‘The cruise line controls the scene of the crime, controls the witnesses, controls the evidence,’ says Miami attorney James Walker, who represented Kelly.  ‘It’s all being filtered through the company’s risk-management department.’  Court documents seen by TIME back up that contention. In one case, a passenger who was examined on board for evidence of gang rape sued the cruise line after ship security, by allowing housekeeping to repeatedly steam-clean the carpet, failed to preserve the alleged crime scene.  In another case, a passenger accused of sexual assault testified that a ship security officer coached him to state that "no sex was performed by anyone."

TIME also quoted another maritime lawyer in Miami that cruise lines " .  .  . are silently working against the victim. They’re busy trying to make sure criminal cases don’t see the light of day."

The LA Times also discussed the lack of prosecutions of cruise crimes in a blockbuster article entitled "Cruise Industry’s Dark Waters – What Happens At Sea Stays There As Crimes On Liners Go Unresolved."  The newspaper reported on the cruise industry’s lack of candor to the U.S. Congress during hearings on cruise crimes and the cruise lines’ under-reporting of such crimes.  During one of the Congressional hearings which took place from 2005 – 2008, Congressman Christopher Shays questioned whether the cruise lines are keeping some crimes off the books:

"There’s a huge incentive to downplay any incident, to sail on .  .  .  Is going on a cruise the perfect way to commit the perfect crime?"

In the last two years, some cruise lines have changed their approach to handling shipboard crimes.  Royal Caribbean, for example, stopped sending trial lawyers to the cruise ships, but other cruise lines still do so.  Royal Caribbean now has a "Global Security" team, consisting of former FBI agents, which handles the investigations.  But the FBI never had a good record investigating cruise crimes in the first place.  Will this lead to a greater number of arrests and convictions – or is this just more of the same?       

Recent incidents suggest that the problem continues. 

In November of last year, an Italian chef, Angelo Faliva, "disappeared" from a Princess Cruises cruise ship after the ship left Fort Lauderdale.  Mr. Faliva, like George Smith IV, was a healthy, happy, energetic and well-liked young man with a bright future ahead of him.  But when he went overboard between Aruba and Columbia, the cruise line’s crisis management team took center stage.  Princess claimed that it was "puzzled" and didn’t know what happened – a claim considered to be dubious given the hundreds of surveillance cameras throughout the cruise ship.

Angelo Faliva - Missing - Princess CruisesThe "mystery" of Mr. Faliva soon resembled  the typical case of corporate malfeasance which has characterized the cruise industry.  According to the Faliva family, Princess Cruises refuses to cooperate.  

The case also illustrates the indifference exhibited by the flag state, in this case the country of Bermuda which is responsible for investigating and prosecuting criminals on Princess cruise ships which fly Bermuda flags.  It took two weeks before Bermuda bothered to travel to the cruise ship.  Like the Bahamas, Liberia, and Panama where the cruise lines register their cruise ships, Bermuda has done little to investigate the disappearance.  

There seems to be a "quid pro quo" in place.  In exchange for the hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars paid by the cruise lines in registration fees, flag states like Bermuda will conduct no real investigation.  The cruise line is left to handle criminal incidents "internally."   The worst that happens is the offending crew members receives a one way ticket home.  The victim’s family is left to deal with the cruise line’s stonewalling and the flag state’s indifference.      

Earlier last year, Bermuda refused to arrest a bar employee, aboard the Coral Princess cruise ship, who admitted raping an unconscious woman after a crew party.  Princess Cruises then flew the rapist from Seattle back to the Philippines with only a slap on his wrist. 

Where is Princess Cruises’ self-admitted rapist today?  Is he working for another cruise line serving drinks to cruise passengers?   Did Princess notify Royal Caribbean, NCL, or its parent corporation Carnival about the rapist so that they would not hire a known rapist?

In the case of Janet Kelly, the cruise line flew her rapist (also a bar employee) from the cruise ship in Los Angeles back to his home country (Jamaica) after he drugged and raped her.  We learned that he then applied for a job with Princess Cruises which accepted him into its fleet of cruise ships.  He then freely interacted with the Princess passengers, who were unaware of his criminal past.

The current system of flying rapist crew members back to their home countries with no criminal accountability – only to be re-hired by another cruise line – is exactly the problem which Dr. Wunderwelt Wisen - Cruise Crimes and DisappearancesKay Krohne warned about over a decade ago.  It is a rotten and disgraceful practice.  Sexual predators are emboldened by the cruise line’s malfeasance.  They will strike again.   

Given the work of victim organizations, like the International Cruise Victims, there is an increasing international awareness that cruise lines like Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean frequently cover up crimes and work to make certain that mysterious "disappearances" remain just that – "mysteries."  

Just the other week, the German magazine "Wunderwelt Wisen" discussed the string of disturbing cases of passengers James Scavonne (Carnival), Dianne Brimble (P and O Cruises), Merrian Carver (Celebrity Cruises), Christopher Caldwell (Carnival), and George Smith IV (Royal Caribbean), as well as the recent disappearance of Italian crew member Angelo Faliva (Princess Cruises).

Under the title "Dream Boats," the magazine analogized a tourist who boards a cruise ship as someone going on a holiday into a small town without a police station, concluding that:

"Dream ships are perfect for the perfect crime." 

 

Tomorrow, we will discuss Reason No. 3 Not To Cruise: Carnival, Royal Caribbean And NCL Are Corporate Felons  

Do you have a comment?  Let us hear from you below.

Cruise Critic ran an article last week about the Top 10 Reasons Not To Cruise  When Cruise Critic claimed "Cruise Ships are Family Friendly" and posted the photographs from a Royal Caribbean teen center (below), I had heard and seen enough.  I responded with my article "Top Ten Reasons Not To Cruise." 

Here’s reason no. 1:

Cruise Lines Are A Perfect Place To Sexually Abuse Children

The purpose of my article is not to convince anyone not to cruise, but to educate consumers regarding the dangers inherent in and the consequences of cruising.  It you want to cruise, that’s your business not mine.  But at least educate yourself before you expose your family to danger. 

Sexual Abuse - Children - Cruise Ships - Sexual PredatorsSome Facts:

The cruise industry is big, rich, and growing.  It is a real juggernaut.  Cruises are cheap and considered to be "good deals."    

Close to fourteen million passengers will sail this year on cruise ships from companies based in the U.S.  The cruise industry claims that 95% of the passengers believe that cruising is a positive experience.  And I have no reason to dispute that figure.  But that leaves 5%, or around 700,000 people, with a negative experience.  Included in this group are parents whose children were raped or sexually molested on cruise ships.

Cruise lines are not legally obligated to report sexual assaults of children, or any crimes for that matter.  Currently pending before the U.S. Senate is the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act, which will require – for the first time – that crimes be reported to the FBI and the U.S. Coast Guard. When this law is enacted, cruise lines will also be required to reveal the crimes to the U.S. public via a link on their web pages.

But at the current time, the only sources of information are when courts order the cruise lines to reveal the crimes during lawsuits.  One good source of information is Dr. Ross Klein’s CruiseJunkie.  Dr. Klein testified before our U.S. Congress several times and concluded that "Your Risk of Being Sexually Assaulted is Much Higher on a Cruise Ship Than in the Average American City."  Based on data we obtained in court cases, Dr. Klein concluded that at least 79 children were sexually assaulted or harassed on Royal Caribbean cruise ships alone from 1998 to 2005.

Our Experiences:   

The first case I handled involving sexual abuse of a minor on a cruise ship was in 1999.  A pedophile crew member gave a 14 year old boy a dozen glasses of champagne and took him back to his cabin.  He shaved the boy’s pubic hair off and molested him when was was unconscious.  The cruise line responded by offering the family 50% of their cruise fare for their troubles.

Since then, we have handled over 70 cases involving sexual assault, with many children as victims.  We obtained, via a Court order, several secret internal studies by Royal Caribbean which concluded that sexual misconduct on cruise occurs "frequently."  At the same time, the cruise line’s PR people were telling the American public that sexual assaults during cruises was "rare."  We also obtained spread sheets which revealed that there were 273 incidents of sexual Teen Activity Center - Sexual Assault - Sexual Abuse - Childrenmisconduct on the Royal Caribbean fleet for a period of three years, including rape and sexual abuse of minors.

A False Sense of Security

Parents believe that they can turn their children over to the "teen activity centers" or that the kids are safe alone in their cabins or walking the hallways and decks of the ship.  Parents are encouraged to let their guard down, grab a cocktail or two, and relax. 

The number one crime we see on cruise ships is when the parents stay out late at the disco or casino, and they leave their 12 year old son or 14 year old daughter alone in the cabin.  Many kids get tired after a fun day at the pool or after an excursion ashore, and they don’t want to go to the second seating at dinner.  There are far too many cases where the cabin attendant will use their key card to access the cabin when the parents are away. 

Victim organizations, like International Cruise Victims (ICV), have proposed good recommendations to address this problem.  The ICV proposes deactivating the key cards of crew members after hours so they can’t use them to get into the passenger cabins, using female cabin attendants rather than 25 year old males, or assigning supervisors to monitor the passenger cabins.  Most cruise lines have ignored these recommendations, and conduct business as usual.  Just last week we were contacted by the parents of a 16 year old sexually abused by a crew member who used a key card to get into the cabin when the parents were away.   

The other most likely scenario is when men or older teenagers target 13 and 14 year olds in the youth programs or confront them when they are trying to make their way back to their cabins.  To get an idea of how this happens, consider reading Passenger Indicted for Sexual Abuse of 13 Year Old Girl on Disney Wonder Cruise Ship.

No Background Checks, Too Much Alcohol and Too Little Security

Cruise lines do not perform background checks on their crew members.  They rely on the hiring agents around the world to (hopefully) do that for them.  But what kind of a pre-employment investigation can be done in Nicaragua, India, St. Vincent, or Belize?  There are no computer databases or depositories of information for criminals or sexual predators in countries like these.  The other problem is that cruise lines do not share their crime data.  When Royal Caribbean fires a sexual predator, he can find work on another cruise line, like Princess Cruises, within a few months.  We have seen it happen. 

Sexual Abuse - Children - Cruise Ships - Sexual PredatorsA major problem on cruise ships is alcohol.  Cruise lines earn literally hundreds of millions of dollars a year selling booze.  Older teenagers or young men can entice 15 and 16 year old girls to go back to their cabins and drink.  Parents who have zealously watched over their children for 15 years can find themselves with no clue where their kids may be during much of the cruise.  The Oasis of the Seas, for example, has several thousand cabins.  A lot can go wrong by behind these closed cabin doors.   

Compounding matters is that cruise ships have few security guards. Sometimes as few as two guards are on duty at night, and they do not actually patrol the passenger hallways.  Most cruise ships have hundreds of waiters, assistant waiters, bar tenders and bar servers who work on only $50 a month plus tips, and whose job it is to push alcohol sales.  But security guards?  Maybe 2 or 3 are on duty at any one time, and they are responsible for the safety of 2,000 – 3,000 guests? 

Cruise Ships Hide Information and Destroy Evidence

In the U.S., you can obtain a crime grid for every business and residential address in the U.S.  If you want to know whether the local child care facility or sleepover camp has had a crime in the past, just ask the local police to run a crime report and the information is there for the asking.  But cruise lines keep the crimes secret.  Trust us, they say.  We will take care of your kids.  Don’t worry, have fun.

But when things goes wrong, the cruise line will treat your family like criminals. There is no independent security or police authorities aboard the ship. You are on the high seas – a no man’s land – often thousands miles from the closet FBI office.  Cruise lines are notorious for covering crimes up.  They do not want the legal liability or public spectacle of a crew member being led off their cruise ships in handcuffs.  They will defend their employee and accuse little Susie of making things up.  That’s why some cruise lines, like Royal Caribbean, have never had a single crew member convicted of sexual assault of a minor in the company’s 40 year history.

And as long as no one gets convicted, sexual predators know that nothing will happen to them if they go on a cruise.  Its the perfect place to sexually abuse a child.   

We have written many articles about the problem with children being sexually assaulted during cruises:

Perverts, Child Predators and Cruise Ships 

Cruise Ship Passenger Sentenced in Child Porn Case

Another Crew Member Arrested for Child Pornography  

Why Cruises are NOT the Best Vacations with Kids 

Should Travel Agents Be Liable For Falsely Representing That Cruises Are Safe For Kids?

Tomorrow, we will discuss reason no. 2 not to cruise: Cruise Ships Are A Perfect Place to Commit A Crime, And Get Away With It!

 

Do you agree, disagree, or have a comment to make?  Let us hear from you in the comments below.

 

Credits:

Teen center photograph        Royal Caribbean Cruises (via Cruise Critic)

The popular on line cruise community CruiseCritic.com recently ran an article "Top 10 Reasons To Cruise."  By the time I read reason number 3 – "Cruise Ships are Family Friendly" – I was repulsed enough that I felt compelled to explain why the Cruise Critic article was dangerously inaccurate.

Cruise Critic published the photo (below) of the "family friendly’ environment touted on cruise ships, with the photograph courtesy of Royal Caribbean Cruises.  Unfortunately, Royal Caribbean has by Top Ten Reasons Not To Cruisefar the worst problem with sexual predators of any line we have ever seen. Children have been targeted by sexual predators in child centers and raped after leaving the centers and trying to get back to the cabins.    

No parent would ever send their kids to a teen center or leave them alone in a cabin if they knew what this cruise line knows – that sexual assaults occur frequently on cruise ships.    

So here’s the other side of the story – 10 Reasons Not to Cruise:

No. 1: Cruise Lines Are A Perfect Place To Sexually Abuse Children

No. 2: Cruise Ships Are A Perfect Place to Commit A Crime, And Get Away With It!

No. 3: Carnival, Royal Caribbean And NCL Are Corporate Felons

No. 4: If You Are A Victim On A Cruise Ship, The Cruise Line Will Treat You Like A Criminal

No. 5: If You Are Retired Or A Child, The Cruise Line Considers Your Life Worthless

No. 6:  If The Ship Doctor Kills You, Too Bad

No. 7:  Cruise Lines Exploit Foreign Crew Members, Like You’d Never Believe

No. 8:  Blackwater, Blackwater, Blackwater

No. 9:  Bunker Fuel – Nasty Tar Sludge!      

No. 10:  Cruise Lines Avoid All U.S. Taxes By Registering in Places Like Panama and Liberia.

If travel agents are going to hawk cruises by advertising all of the reasons why you should take your family on a cruise, trust us that we will provide you with the other side of the story. 

Make your own informed decision how to spend your vacation with your family.   

Tomorrow, we will discuss "Why Cruise Lines Are a Perfect Place to Sexually Abuse Children."

 

Credits:

Photograph          Royal Caribbean Cruises (via CruiseCritic.com)