July 1, 2022

Caribbean cruise horror stories at US Senate hearing

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Carnival_Triumph_Half_Moon_CayFrom Caribbean360

WASHINGTON, United States, Friday August 1, 2014 – There could have been few places where the old adage “worse things happen at sea” seemed more appropriate than a recent US Senate Commerce Committee hearing in which members were regaled with Caribbean cruise ship passengers’ horror stories of everything from rape and violence to seeping sewage and hallways lined with bags of faeces.

The hearing was the second called by Senator Jay Rockefeller, the committee chairman, who introduced a bill last year to improve protection of passengers on cruise ships.

At the hearing, Senator Rockefeller said the horror stories pointed to a lack of oversight and accountability for passenger safety in the cruise industry.

“In spite of the evidence that crimes, fires, mechanical failures, drownings and mishandled medical emergencies occur with disturbing regularity on cruise ships, the industry continues to deny that it has a problem,” he said.

For more on this story go to: http://www.caribbean360.com/travel/caribbean-cruise-horror-stories-at-us-senate-hearing


Related story

Rockefeller seeks passenger safety reforms in cruise ship industry

Senator Introduces Consumer Protection Legislation Ahead of Commerce Committee Oversight Hearing on the Cruise Industry

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ahead of a Wednesday hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee on cruise industry oversight, Senator Jay Rockefeller today introduced legislation that would improve consumer protections for cruise passengers and close gaps in cruise crime reporting requirements

“West Virginians who enjoy taking cruise ship vacations deserve assurances that the industry has their best interests at heart and that they’ll be safe and secure onboard. Sadly, when things go wrong on cruises, passengers are left with no recourse and no way of knowing ahead of time if there’s any history of crime onboard their cruise ship,” said Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. “While I’ve been told time and again that the industry is going to change, that things will get better for passengers, it simply hasn’t happened. So I’m stepping in to make sure cruise lines make those critical changes to improve the safety and security of passengers.”

Rockefeller [July 23] introduced legislation, The Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2013 that would compel the industry to provide critical consumer protections for passengers. (Full details of the legislation are included below.)

Tomorrow, Rockefeller will chair an oversight hearing of the Commerce Committee to review the current state of the industry before a panel that includes Gerald Cahill, President and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines; Adam Goldstein, President and CEO of Royal Caribbean International; Rear Admiral Joseph Servidio, Assistant Commandant for Prevention and Policy for the United States Coast Guard; Dr. Ross Klein, Professor at the School of Social Work, St. Johns College, Memorial University of Newfoundland; and the Honorable Mark Rosenker, former Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

The hearing, titled, “Cruise Industry Oversight: Recent Incidents Show Need for Stronger Focus on Consumer Protection”, will focus on challenges the cruise industry continues to face, including a lack of consumer protections, the need for accurate crime reporting, and safety issues that continue to plague the industry.

While cruise lines sell the idea of a cruise as a “dream vacation,” some passengers have faced serious issues without recourse while onboard, including fires, being stranded at sea and crime. At the same time, cruise companies continue to impose significant limits by requiring passengers to waive their legal rights when buying their ticket, which further restricts passengers’ abilities to hold cruise lines accountable when things go wrong.

Rockefeller’s legislation—and Wednesday’s hearing—builds on the Senator’s ongoing oversight of the cruise industry. In March 2012, after a series of alarming safety incidents on cruise ships, he held a hearing on whether cruise industry regulations sufficiently protect passengers. Since then, several serious incidents have occurred on cruise ships. One of the most notable was the Carnival Triumph fire in February 2013, which left passengers stranded at sea for days without power, plumbing, and adequate food sources. After this incident, Rockefeller wrote Admiral Papp, Commandant of the Coast Guard, and Micky Arison, Chairman of the Board and then-CEO of Carnival, to express his serious concerns surrounding recent cruise ship incidents. Rather than take these legitimate oversight questions seriously, Carnival’s response played down concerns about recent incidents and ignored questions about whether Carnival intended to reimburse the Coast Guard and Navy for its cost of responding to several incidents – an issue the company later reconsidered when it chose to reimburse federal taxpayers.

Upon receipt of Carnival’s insufficient response, Rockefeller broadened his oversight efforts of the cruise industry. On May 7, 2013, the Chairman sent letters to Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line, which represent 78 percent of the global cruise industry, to determine whether their procedures on passenger safety and security were enough to protect consumers. Rockefeller followed up on his oversight work by introducing legislation that would compel the cruise industry to implement strong consumer protections.


The Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2013 would:

Give consumers a clear upfront summary of the restrictive terms and conditions in cruise contracts. The Secretary of Transportation would develop standards for the cruise lines to provide prospective passengers with a short summary of the key terms in the contract. Consumers would be able to read a plain language summary of the key rights and limitations that passengers have during their cruise so they are fully aware of what rights they have, and don’t have, before they book their tickets.

Give the federal government more authority to protect cruise ship passengers. The Department of Transportation would be the lead federal agency for cruise ship consumer protection, similar to the role it has in aviation consumer protection. Passengers would also have additional protections in the event of a problem by giving the Department the authority to investigate consumer complaints.  

Help passengers who encounter problems on cruise ships. The Department of Transportation would establish a toll-free hotline for consumer complaints. An Advisory Committee for Passenger Vessel Consumer Protection would be created to make recommendations to improve existing consumer protection programs and services.

Make all crimes alleged on cruise ships publicly available information. The FBI currently only reports crimes that are no longer under investigation. This causes the number of alleged crimes to be severely underreported and does not give potential passengers accurate information about the safety of cruises. Cruise lines would also be required to place video cameras in public areas and would set requirements for cruise lines to keep the video footage.

Help passengers who have been a victim of a crime on the cruise ship, since they have limited access to law enforcement. The Department of Transportation would establish a victim advocate who can provide assistance to victims on board a cruise ship, make sure the victim is aware of his or her rights in international waters, and get access to appropriate law enforcement officers.


IMAGE: en.wikipedia.org


Related story:

Did Royal Caribbean scale back sick ship credit?

4073014-poys-4By David P. Willis From app.com

Passengers from the Royal Caribbean’s ‘Explorer of the Seas’ return to Bayonne, NJ, after a cruise where about 600 people were sickened.

For two Jackson couples, last January’s cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas was memorable for all the wrong reasons.

“Everyone was just waiting to get sick,” said Charles Better, who along with his wife Carol, and neighbors Frederick and Elizabeth Esposito, were on board for the ill-fated Explorer of the Seas cruise. More than 600 passengers, out of 3,500, and 54 crew members were waylaid by a stomach bug that caused vomiting and diarrhea. The couples never got sick on the ship, but the two women became ill when they got home.

-asbbrd02-01-2014pressmon1a01120140131img-sickship0129a.jpg211The 10-day cruise to the Caribbean, which began on Jan. 21, was cut short, ports were missed, and the ship returned to Bayonne early.

Those onboard did get some good news: all guests would receive a credit of 50 percent off a future cruise. The Espositos and Betters didn’t even wait to get back to shore. Right away they booked a 12-night cruise on the line’s spanking new Quantum of the Seas for March 2015. The cost: $4,647 per couple, including taxes and fees.

However, the couples complained to Press on Your Side that Royal Caribbean didn’t follow through on the full discount. Instead of half price on a future cruise, the credit – $1,000 per couple – amounted to about half off what they paid for their ill-fated Explorer of the Seas trip, and less than a quarter of the cost for their 2015 trip.


It left Better “dumbfounded,” according to a letter he later wrote to a cruise line executive.

They asked Press on Your Side for help. In response to an inquiry, Royal Caribbean said the cruise line’s offer was based on the fare they paid. The company was “sorry to hear there was any confusion” about the process, a spokeswoman said.

The Espositos and Betters talked about what happened. They also shared letters given to guests while on the cruise.

During the cruise, there was talk on the ship of people getting sick. Passengers also heard about it from broadcast media reports which were available on board.

“We would hear on the elevator, oh my husband was sick for a couple of days, or my wife, or somebody else is in their room. They were told not to leave their rooms,” Elizabeth Esposito said. “It just kept on getting worse and worse. Then we were not allowed to touch anything when we went into the buffets. Everything was served to us.”

In a Jan. 26 letter to passengers from the ship’s captain, the cruise line promised a rebate of $400 per stateroom and a “future cruise certificate for 50% of the cruise fare paid for your January 21, 2014 Explorer of the Seas sailing.”

At a meeting with passengers, ship officials confirmed there was a virus on the ship and more than 600 people were sick. The cruise would be cut short by two days. The captain also said that travelers on board would receive a 50 percent discount on a future cruise, a detail that would be sent in a later letter, Better said. (There wasn’t a mention that it was 50 percent off the previous fare.)

Shortly after the meeting, the couples booked their next cruise aboard the Quantum of the Seas. A booking clerk, and media reports, also noted the 50 percent discount as well, they said.

A second letter from the captain, dated Jan. 28, as expected seemed to sweeten Royal Caribbean’s previous deal, mentioned in the initial letter. Now all guests would receive a refund of 50 percent on their cruise fare. (The Espositos and the Betters later received a $600 credit on their credit cards, adding to the $400 they already received.)

Better offer?

It seemed to improve on the future discount offer too. Under a heading, “Future Cruise Credit Detail,” the letter said, “All guests will receive 50% future cruise credit, which may be applied to any Royal Caribbean cruise booked in the next 12 months.”

It doesn’t say the amount is determined by the base fare paid for the Explorer cruise.

A letter from Adam Goldstein, president and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean International, also repeated the offer of a “50 percent future cruise credit.”

The couples’ future cruise certificates, for $500 per person, arrived several weeks after the cruise. According to a letter that accompanied Better’s certificates, “the discount value is of 50% of the cruise fare paid for this sailing,” referring to the Explorer of the Seas cruise.

“We certainly hope this unfortunate experience has not discouraged you from sailing with us in the future,” the letter said. “It would certainly be our pleasure to welcome you onboard one of our ships for a memorable cruise vacation.”

It didn’t leave them with a good feeling.

Better said his travel agent sent in his certificates along with copies of the line’s letters, but it became clear that the cruise line would not grant further discounts. He wrote a letter to the line’s director of guest relations and shared services too. “I am writing to express our extreme displeasure in the compensation … we received,” the letter said.

Better later told a customer service representative there was no misunderstanding. “It says, ’50 percent off a future cruise.’ ” Better said he feels misled.

Esposito said the cruise line should stand by its 50 percent offer. “All I’m asking Royal Caribbean is give me what I’m supposed to get. That’s all,” Esposito said. “You made the statements. You gave it to the media. You put it in writing. Now, lower management is saying, no, we are doing something different, after the fact.”

But it seems Royal Caribbean thinks differently.

In a statement, a Royal Caribbean spokeswoman said the information given on board stated that future cruise certificates are based on the rate they paid for the cruse.

“Additionally, the families also received a letter with the terms and conditions when the Future Cruise Certificate was issued to them,” spokeswoman Lyan Sierra-Caro wrote. “We are sorry to hear there was any confusion regarding this process, but the terms and conditions clearly stated that the Future Cruise Certificate was based on the cruise fare they paid.”

Do you have a consumer problem that needs solving? Contact David P. Willis at 732-643-4042, [email protected] or facebook.com/dpwillis732.


ASBBrd_02-01-2014_PressMon_1_A011~~2014~01~31~IMG_-SICKSHIP0129A.jpg_2_1_1_.jpg (Photo: THOMAS P. COSTELLO/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

Carol and Charles Better of Jackson were on January’s awful Explorer of the Seas cruise. They were promised half off the cost of a future cruise, but received certificates instead for half off of what they paid for their Explorer of the Seas cruise. (Photo: MIKE DESOCIO/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

Frederick and Elizabeth Esposito of Jackson were on January’s awful Explorer of the Seas cruise. They were promised half off the cost of a future cruise, but received certificates instead for half off of what they paid for their Explorer of the Seas cruise. (Photo: MIKE DESOCIO/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

For more on this story go to: http://www.indyweek.com/triangulator/archives/2014/08/01/charles-duncan-to-leave-raleigh-public-record-for-cayman-islands

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