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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo Credit: Raymond Bower.

 

The United States Coast Guard medevaced a passenger from a Celebrity Cruises cruise ship yesterday. 

A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew performed a medical rescue of a woman from the Celebrity Solstice cruise ship near Noyes Island, west of Craig, Alaska, on May 30, 2018.

The captain of the Celebrity cruise ship contacted the station of the 17th Coast Guard District in Juneau, Alaska that a 61 year-old woman was suffering a heart attack. The Coast Guard station then dispatched a helicopter from the Coast Guard station in Sitka.

The Jayhawk helicopter crew hoisted the woman and transported her to Ketchikan, Alaska, where a Guardian Flight crew was waiting for transport to additional medical care. 

Video Credit: Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios, U.S. Coast Guard District 17 via Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Carnival Cruise BrawlCarnival Cruise Line characterized the recent brawl on the Carnival Legend as limited, isolated and unprecedented. But anyone who follows the cruise industry knows that these type of fights which occur on Carnival ships are hardly rare. 

There literally are dozens of videos on YouTube of fights which have erupted on cruise ships over the years. The vast majority of these brawls occur on Carnival ships. 

There are reasons for this problem, in my opinion:

The "wider audience:" Cruising is now more popular than ever. The cruise line’s trade organization, CLIA, says that over 27 million passengers will take a cruise this year.  Cheaper fares have attracted what Carnival Corporation chairmen Micky Arison characterizes as the "wider audience." Eight years ago in an article titled Cruise Ship Brawls – A Problem that Will Get Bigger with Bigger Ships, I wrote about CEO Arison discussing potential issues associated with cheap cruise tickets and a more diverse group of passengers.

Cruise executive Arison said: “cruise ships are a microcosm of any city or any location and stuff happens . . . The negatives of discounting might be less commission for agents and less revenue for us but the positive is it opens up the product to a wider audience.” I mentioned that the "wider audience" will undoubtedly include a younger crowd from a different demographic, including what I call the hard partying "Bud Light – tank top" crowd.

Too much alcohol on increasingly gigantic ships: Cruise lines aren’t profitable based solely on their cruise fares. Of all "onboard purchases," including casino sales, shore excursions, specialty restaurants and gift shops, alcohol sales are the key to keeping the tax-free foreign flagged cruise ships profitable.  Pushing alcohol sales are a key part of Carnival’s fun ships. Carnival collects literally Carnival Cruise Brawlhundreds of millions of tax-free dollars a year selling booze on the Carnival Cruise Line fleet. Bartenders, who make a earning solely on gratuties and tips, are often prone to over-serve guests. 

Ill trained and and insufficient number of security guards: A common complaint we hear from passengers is that ship security does not intervene at an early stage to stop potentially violent situations from escalting and getting out of hand. Carnival responded to the recent brawl between ship staff and cruise guests by praising its "highly trained security staff." But images of its security personnel and ship officers kicking and beating passengers last week (and trying to stop passengers from filing the out of control violence) speaks volumes about Carnival’s shipboard security and the cruise line’s so-called "zero tolerance" of such violence. In the videos below, the Carnival security personnel are often seen observing the fights or trying to stop people from taking videos of the melees.

Eight years ago, I asked how Carnival will handle the "wider audience" flocking onto its larger cruise ships. If cruise ships are like cities and "stuff happens," as Carnival’s Arison righfully suggests, what steps are cruise lines taking to protect U.S. families? I asked then and will ask now whether Carnival and other cruise lines will ever hire a full complement of well trained and experienced security guards? Or will they continue to try and save money with only a few inexperienced "guards" trying to protect their guests from the inevitable violence when thousands of people squeeze into the huge ships and far too much booze is added to the mess? 

The answer to these questions is contained in the videos below, which I have ranked in order of out-of-control violence. There are far too many videos to include them all here, including the recent brawl aboard the Carnival Legend.  

If you have a video to nominate, send me a link and we can add it to a ten ten list. 

Carnival Dream (2010): 

https://youtube.com/watch?v=Asi0fqG0BB4%3Frel%3D0

 Carnival Splendor (2010): 

https://youtube.com/watch?v=Vuql_rVjhqc%3Frel%3D0

 Carnival Ship (2011): 

https://youtube.com/watch?v=D7HGc2aoOGc%3Frel%3D0

Carnival Glory (2016):

https://youtube.com/watch?v=qkFuX4IFJXI%3Frel%3D0

 Carnival Breeze (2015):

https://youtube.com/watch?v=2pNB4QUP2IQ%3Frel%3D0

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Almost four years ago, the Carnival Triumph lost power due to an engine room fire while the Carnival cruise ship was cruising in the Gulf Of Mexico.  The Triumph lost power to its engines which operated its propulsion systems, shipboard lights, air conditioning, galley operations and hygiene systems. Toilets overflowed as increasingly hungry, tired and frustrated passengers were forced to walk on soggy urine-soaked carpets over the course of four day as the stinky Carnival cruise ship was slowly towed back to the U.S. CNN and other networks covered the disgusting spectacle essentially 24-hours-a-day.

In the process, Carnival – previously marketed as the “Fun Ships” – earned a reputation as the “Poop Poop Cruise Carnival Triumph Cruise” line, a term the media (primarily CNN) coined for the event. The term “poop cruise” is found in the official Wikipedia description for the cruise ship.  “Poop cruise” caught on and was repeated in numerous stories about the cruise line, including in CNN’s exclusive story –  Carnival Knew of Fire Danger Before Cruise, Documents Show (watch video – “Poop Cruise’ should not have left.”)

In 2013, Business Insider explained how Carnival was transformed from the “Fun Ships” to the hapless “Poop Cruise” line in an article styled How Carnival Went From ‘Fun Ship’ To ‘Poop Cruise.’ The article chronicled the Triumph passengers’ disgusting testimonies: “Hallways were flooded with human waste, there was no A/C or running water, and passengers were left to survive on limited food and water.”

Fast forward to today.

Major newspapers and news networks like the Miami Herald, FOX News, New York Daily News and other newspapers including the Daily Mail (the largest internet following in the world – 50,000,000 readers a month) published articles in the last few days about a Florida family who discovered a spy camera and transmitter hidden in their passenger cabin on the Carnival Fantasy.

Ironically, the Fantasy left the same port (Mobile) where the Triumph “poop cruise” was towed back to Poop Cruise Carnival Cruise Lineafter it lost power.

As explained by the Miami New Times, the family discovered the hidden recording and transmitting devices during a cruise to Mexico back in early October. The young couple was shocked when they discovered the secret spy equipment and considered the prospect that images of their young son could have been recorded and transmitted to others. They were concerned that other passengers who stayed in the same cabin during prior cruises might have had their privacy similarly violated.  But instead of preserving the devices as evidence and taking the crime* seriously, Carnival ship security disconnected the devices from their power sources, removed the evidence from the scene of the crime, and downplayed the incident as probably involving a prank by other passengers.

We can debate whether Carnival intentionally spoliated the evidence, or whether this was the result of the gross negligence of the ill-trained, bumbling security officer, but the result is the same – Carnival prevented law enforcement from examining the devices in their original condition in order to learn whether images of the family had been captured and transmitted to others. Carnival later claimed to the press (after ignoring the family and their counsel for two months) that the device was “non Spy Camera - Carnival Fantasy Pervert Cruiseoperational,” which should be obvious at this point after Carnival disassembled the devices and disconnected them from their power sources.

When the national news discussed the cruise spy cam and transmitter, guest analysts on FOX News’ Tucker Carlson show laughed at Carnival’s so-called “full investigation” allegedly performed by the shipboard technicians and its shore-side security personnel, which was apparently done without the involvement of either the FBI or the local police when the cruise ship returned to the port of Mobile. They also chuckled at how disconnected recording and transmitting devices could possibly result in anything other than “non-operational” equipment.

But the biggest laughs came when the analysts suggested that the infamous “poop cruise” line had just transformed itself into the “pervert cruise” line.

Yes, there are plenty of perverts on Carnival cruise ships, both crew members and passengers, as Spy Camera - Video Voyeurism - Carnival Fantasy evidenced by the fact that the Department of Transportation documented 26 sexual assaults which occurred on ships in the Carnival fleet in just over the last 9 months.

I’ll repeat advice which I have given many times on this blog to families who cruise – watch your kids and watch your drinks. Realize that cruise ships are just floating hotels, where crimes can occur just like on land, but without an independent police force which will preserve evidence and be concerned with arresting the bad guys. And from this moment onward, I will always advise families who cruise on Carnival to look out for hidden spy cameras and the perverts who operate them.

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You can watch the video of the Carnival security officer on the Carnival Fantasy disconnecting the recording and transmitting devices here.

Image credits: Poop cruise images – CNN.  Spy camera & transmitter – FOX News.

*                           *                         *

*Federal law (18 U.S. Code § 1801) defines “video voyeurism” as merely demonstrating an intent to secretly record or transmit images of a person. Intent can be established by the installation of the hidden recording and transmitting devices in the passenger cabin; whether the devices are operational or not is not relevant to whether a crime occurred.

Spy Cam Carnival FantasyIn October of this year, a couple from Northern Florida went on a three-day cruise on the Carnival Fantasy out of Mobile. On the last evening of the cruise, to their shock and horror, they discovered a small video camera hidden in the bundled cables, behind the television in their cabin, which pointed toward their bed.

A photo of a cabin similar to cabin U 160 on the Fantasy (middle, right), shows the television in the corner of the cabin.      

The camera was wired to a transmitter and both devices were powered from the television power cable.  They became concerned that video images of them undressed had been transmitted, recorded and viewed by others and possibly uploaded to the internet. They were especially fearful that images of their 10 year-old child dressing and undressing in the cabin were also transmitted, recorded and viewed by others.

The couple reported the presence of the camera and transmitter in their cabin to the cruise ship’s security department. One of Carnival’s security personnel arrived in their cabin. He disconnected and removed the camera and transmitter with no gloves on and did not attempt to secure the room. In the video below, you can hear the passenger asking the officer why he was not wearing gloves.

The passenger thereafter communicated with the security staff to obtain an update. According to the passengers, the Carnival security personnel confirmed that the camera and transmitter: (1) were operational; (2) were typically the type of devices used on video drones: and (3) the transmitter was a long range device.

To the passenger’s knowledge, Carnival did not promptly report the incident to the Federal Bureau of Carnival Fantasy Cabin U 160 Investigation (FBI). The passenger learned that Carnival notified the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), although the CBP told the concerned passenger that it had no jurisdiction over the matter and it took no action.

The passengers have heard absolutely nothing from Carnival about these troubling circumstances since returning from the cruise two months ago. They contacted my office and I sent a letter to Carnival asking for an explanation, which Carnival has ignored for the past month.

The passengers did not seek any type of compensation but were concerned that the Carnival security team did not properly investigate the incident, did not properly preserve the cabin and the video and transmitter therein and, in fact, spoliated this evidence, and failed to timely report the circumstances described above to the FBI as required by law. They remain concerned that they were not the only victims of this secret recording and transmitting equipment, placed in their cabin on the Carnival cruise ship, and that other Carnival guests had their privacy invaded.

18 U.S. Code § 1801 (“Video Voyeurism”) states that it is a crime to have “the intent to capture an image of a private area of an individual without their consent . . .” (and the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy). The term “capture” is defined as “to videotape, photograph, film, record by any means, or broadcast” and the term “broadcast” means to "electronically transmit a visual image with the intent that it be viewed by a person or persons."

In a statement to the Miami New Times, which covered the disturbing incident, a Carnival PR representative recently claimed that the recording and transmiting equipment were alledgedly "not operational."  That’s not what the passenger recalls hearing on the ship. It begs the question why Carnival didn’t communicate with the family after they returned home from the cruise and why the cruise line ignored Carnival Fantasy Cabin U 160 Spy Cam & Transmitterour request for an explanation. Of course, the presence of the recording and transmitting equipment shows an intent to record and transmit, which is clearly a crime.    

Carnival disassembled the devices without permitting the FBI or the local police conduct an investigation. In addition to the federal statute, Alabama has a state statute similar to 18 U.S. Code § 1801. The state statute would apply to any intent to secretely record and transmitt images within the state territorial waters of Alabama.   

I have heard of video spy cameras in hotels, spas and bathrooms before, but admittedly not in cruise cabins before this case. The Miami New Times article accurately quotes me – " The more I was thinking about it, it got me thinking: How often does this happen? . . . How many other passengers are being secretly recorded?"

Indeed, how long had the spy equipment been installed in cabin U 160 on the Carnival Fantasy, how many other passengers in this cabin have been videotaped in the past, and how many passengers have been videotaped on other cruise ships?  

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December 18, 2017 Update: Carnival, the "Poop Cruise," Becomes the "Pervert Cruise?"

Photo credit: Carnival Fantasy cabin (similar to cabin U 160) – cruiseline.com 

The U.S. Coast Guard medevaced an ill passenger a NCL cruise ship about 55 miles off the North Carolina coast today.

The Norwegian Dawn contacted the Coast Guard around 6:15 a.m., requesting a medevac for a 56-year-old male passenger who was experiencing stroke-like symptoms, according to the Carteret County News-Times

"This was our second medevac from this cruise ship in the past two weeks," Chief Petty Officer Shannon Brugh said to the newspaper.

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, which was launched from Air Station Elizabeth City, hoisted the man and flew him to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia.

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Video credit: U.S. Coast Guard video by Air Station Elizabeth City.

Norwegian Breakaway Rescue Boat AccidentA number of newspapers in Bermuda are reporting that four people were injured when a lifeboat fell from the Norwegian Breakaway while the cruise ship was docked at port today.

The Royal Gazette says that one of the crew members is in critical condition at the hospital. This newspaper reports that a lifeboat had fallen from the cruise ship and “was left hanging from one wire resulting in four people falling into the water.”

Bernews reports that NCL released a statement, saying that “on July 20 while Norwegian Breakaway was alongside in Bermuda, an incident occurred involving the ship’s rescue boat during a routine drill, affecting four crew members.”

Bernews clarifies that a “rescue boat,” as opposed to a lifeboat, was involved in the mishap.  A video shows what this newspaper says is a rescue boat flipped upside down in the water with its hull partially showing.

I first became aware of the accident when PTZtv, which operates the webcam for this port, tweeted observing an unusually large EMS & police response to an incident at the port.

A year ago, two NCL crew members were injured when a rescue boat from the Pride of American fell after cables broke while the cruise ship was in Hilo.

Lifeboats accidents are not uncommon. In January of this year, a cruise ship tender boat on the Balmoral operated by Fred Olsen Lines malfunctioned, during a scheduled boat training drill while the cruise ship was docked in Funchal, Madeira. Fortunately, no one was injured. In August 2015, an excursion boat from the Costa Mediterranea apparently broke a cable while it was being lowered in Montenegro. Photographs sent to me shows what appears to be a lifeboat dangling on the side of the Costa cruise ship.  In October 2014, a rescue boat on the Coral Princess was being raised on davits with two crew members aboard when a cable snapped and a crew member was killed. In February 2013, 8 crew members were in a lifeboat during a drill on the Thomson Majesty cruise ship when the lifeboat plunged 60 feet into the water when it was being lifted in violation of a new CLIA safety protocol. The lifeboat landed upside down. 5 of the crew were killed. 3 were injured. It was caused by a broken cable (photograph here).

Update:  One crew member injured in the accident has reportedly died, according to NCL.

Video and photo credit: Bernews

 

A couple on a cruise spent a little extra for the proverbial room-with-a-view only to find that HAL had a little surprise – it didn’t tell them beforehand about a crew member using a grinding tool outside their cabin’s window. 

The YouTube caption says: "Thanks for telling us when you upcharged us $600 extra for the window guys."

There are over a thousand comments to the video on Nate Zemanek’s YouTube page. 

Video Credit: Nate Zemanek

Hat Tip: Nine News Australia 

July 18 2016 Upgrade:  Seems that the couple were on their honeymoon.  According to UPROXX, when they complained, HAL didn’t seem to care and told them that the maintenance work on the lifeboats would continue, from 9-5 daily, for the rest of the cruise.  Later, after the issue went viral on Reddit and on YouTube, HAL refunded the $600 and gave them a free dinner.

 

https://youtube.com/watch?v=lA-9Y5L8NpI%3Frel%3D0

Multiple news sources are reporting that the Celebrity Infinity cruise ship allided with a dock in Ketchikan, Alaska  

As you can see in the video below, posted on YouTube by Maria Harvey, the cruise ship slowly smashes into a dock at Berth 3.  The Alaska Dispatch News says that "longshoremen, port security personnel and Celebrity employees noticed something was wrong with the ship’s approach and moved out of the way." 

News accounts state that there was damage to the hull of the Infinity including a hole in the ship above its waterline. The harbor director reportedly estimated the damage to the dock will cost $2-3 million to repair. 

Wind in the area was reported to be gusting to around 45 miles per hour, although the Coast Guard did not yet release a determination of the official cause of the incident. 

Mishaps between cruise ships and docks like this are infrequent but they do happen from time to time. Usually, a pilot is at the helm when the ship is docking at port.  One of the last such incidents occurred back in 2011 when a MSC cruise ship, the Opera, struck a dock in Buenos Aires. It was also caught on video which was posted on YouTube.

Fortunately. there were no reports of injury of either the crew members or passengers.  Seven years ago, the Costa Europa cruise ship smashed into a concrete pier in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. The collision ripped a hole in the hull of the cruise ship and flooded a crew cabin, resulting in the death of three crew members.

Video Credit: YouTube video Maria Harvey

https://youtube.com/watch?v=fEPNfLmcUO0%3Frel%3D0