May 10, 2021

After being caught off-guard twice last year, Royal Caribbean hires a former Orlando meteorologist

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By Ken Storey From Orlando Weekly

After spending ten years at Fox 35, Jim Van Fleet moved to Tampa in late 2011 to become the Chief Meteorologist at WTSP CBS 10. Contract issues with Fox 35 blocked him from being on-air, to begin with, but the station allowed him to wait out the contract before putting him back on television.

At that time, Van Fleet did an interview where he stated “That was Triple A, and now I’m ready for the majors” causing some to believe he was calling Orlando Triple-A but he later clarified that he was only referring to his job at Fox 35, where he was the morning meteorologist, and now he was in “the majors” because he was the chief meteorologist.

His time in the majors didn’t last long though with the station breaking his five-year contract mere weeks early after managers there began spreading lies about him being on drugs, according to a lawsuit he filed against the station in October of last year.

The lawsuit claimed one manager at the station was forced to resign.

According to the same lawsuit, Van Fleet was let go soon after and “forcibly escorted out of the building in plain sight for all to see.”

Now it looks like Jim Van Fleet, who still has a strong fan base here in the Orlando market, has moved on from petty local news station fights. Late last month Royal Caribbean announced that he’s joining the cruise company as the industry’s first Chief Meteorologist.

Van Fleet will oversee weather affecting all ships for both Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruise Lines. According to his Twitter account, he’s splitting his time between the Royal Caribbean headquarters in Miami and his former home in Tampa.

In a blog post announcing the new position Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley explains why they created the new position. “We have ships sailing all over the world, and they face different weather conditions every day,” … “You have to keep an eye on the weather systems at all times.”

In a video posted on Royal Caribbean’s YouTube channel Jim Van Fleet explains “Even when you have beautiful weather in Miami or the Bahamas and there are plenty of our ships who have fantastic weather for our guests there’s something going on somewhere, whether it’s Australia, the Tasman Sea, whether it’s South America, the Mediterranean – there’s something somewhere.”

In February 2016, Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas hit a massive storm injuring four guests and causing the cruise line to issue a public apology. Many guests said they feared for their lives as the ship battled the storm for 12 straight hours, four of which included the ship sitting at a 45-degree angle.

Bill Baumgartner, the senior vice president of global marine operations at Royal Caribbean told CNN “If we knew that we were going to have those kinds of winds, the winds that we actually experienced with the ship, we would not have sailed into that. No. Absolutely we wouldn’t have (left port).”

The controversy around that storm surfaced again earlier this year when a passenger uploaded terrifying footage from aboard the ship. That video shows waves crashing against the windows and a passenger struggling to walk down a hallway.

In September, another Royal Caribbean ship hit unexpected weather off the Greek coast. Luckily, that incident included no guest injuries though windows as far up as Deck 11 were broken in the intense storm.

The new Chief Meteorologist position should help Royal Caribbean avoid such issues in the future. No other cruise lines have announced plans to add similar positions.

Photo via Royal Caribbean

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