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Royal Caribbean And Haiti…A Problem?


This is a blog about Royal Caribbean, Haiti and reading between the lines. A lot of people are doing that these days following what appeared to be a fairly innocent incident this month: ships skipping Labadee because of a group of protesters on the water offshore.

Little more than that was said…at first. What has been said since may turn into a much bigger snowball by the time it gets to the bottom of the hill, as the analogy goes.

According to people on ships that turned around, Royal Caribbean officials said the protests Haiti-1had to do with upcoming (and postponed) elections in Haiti. After passengers dug deeper, they found the protesters were holding up signs because Royal Caribbean was not living up to its promise to build schools, hospitals and self-esteem in one of the world’s most impoverished countries.

As a result, more people than ever are re-examining the cruise line’s “private resort” known as Labadee. As a result, critics like maritime lawyer Jim Walker are ripping Royal Caribbean in commentaries — logically presented — for making excessive profits at the expense of Haitian people who thought they were going to benefit from the development of Labadee.

As a result, now people are questioning why Royal Caribbean ships have returned to Labadee, as they did this week. More and more the answer appears to be money. Period. Going to another port deprives the cruise line of an enormous revenue stream. The “private resort” is waterfront property the cruise line bought for a song and it’s Labadee-ziplinesurrounded by barbed-wire fencing to protect passengers who spend millions zip-lining and lounging in cabanas or renting equipment to use on the water, and to keep out poor Haitians who want to sell their crafts and try to escape their poverty.

“Royal Caribbean pays no actual rent of any kind…but its passengers pay a $10 to $12 head tax,” writes Walker, who is a well-known thorn in the side of cruise lines but who has probably touched a raw nerve this time.

If the head tax goes to the government as “rent” then fees for the “world’s longest zipline” and most of passengers spend in Labadee is likely pure profit for Royal Caribbean. A conservative estimate is that’s about 10,000 visitors every week.

We’ve only been to Labadee once. One of us was sick. We never ventured far enough from Allure of the Seas even to see the fence around Labadee. We never met any of the locals, as we usually do. All we really know about it is what we’ve learned from Royal Caribbean, including how it’s dedicated to helping poor Haiti.

That’s called PR…for public relations. The return of its ships to Labadee solved one problem, but now Royal Caribbean appears to have another.

A PR problem, and clearly it’s growing.

In the news…

• A $450 million multi-year product innovation and ship renovation for Princess
• Two new ships to push Royal Caribbean capacity to four million passengers a year
• Five Norwegian ships — the most ever — going to Europe for summer 2017

Today at portsandbows.comThe new Princess restaurant SHARE

Emerald Princess
14 nights
April 2, 2016
Fort Lauderdale, Ponta Delgada, Lisbon, Bilbao, Paris, Southampton
Inside: $799
Cost per day: $57

Baby’s Cries Save Man Overboard

Any parent will likely agree nothing good can happen when a baby cries and cries and cries in the middle of the night.

Until now.

Heather and Daniel Felton of Louisville took their 13-month-old daughter on a Disney cruise. In the middle of a January night, little Katherine delivered one of those early wake-up calls that exhaust parents, and in this case a trip out onto the deck seemed wise, if only to keep from waking the neighbors.

And that’s when the unimaginable happened…

It was early enough that only the three of them were on the deck of the Disney Magic. The ship was off the coast of Mexico, near Cozumel. The Feltons heard a noise from the water. Disney MagicThen they heard it again. They ran to the rail and looked down, where a man in the water was going by and calling for help.

She alerted the crew. Within 30 minutes, the ship had turned around and launched a (hopefully) rescue operation.

"The odds of him being rescued, being seen…it was a little too much…I know Heather got emotional," Daniel told Lexington TV station Lex18.com.

Crew members jumped into a small rescue craft, found the victim, identified as Frank Jade, and brought him on board. He’d fallen off Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas. He’d been in the water for five hours. When he left the Magic at Punta Lagosta, one of Cozumel’s piers, Jade was reported to be stable with no serious injuries.

While in the water, Jade said he was shocked nobody noticed that he’d gone overboard. Cruise law attorney Jim Walker said Royal Caribbean should be embarrassed that “it lost a passenger at sea” and that the cruise line “has made no efforts to comply” with [safety rules] which require “the installation of overboard systems” on Oasis of the Seas.

Meanwhile, Baby Katherine is being celebrated as the world’s first 13-month-old lifesaver.

Today at portsandbows.com: Silversea stepping up

Norwegian Getaway
7 nights
February 7, 2015
Miami (return): St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Nassau
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $64

Norovirus: Nuggets From A Message Board

Maybe it's just generational but we're not really big fans of message boards, where readers pose as writers and sound off about whatever is on their minds, often unloading some deep-seated anger or satisfying an urge to be heard. 

Sometimes, however, they are valuable information sources.

One such example is cruise passengers reporting to Cruise Law News on the most recent outbreak of norovirus. The illness, which affected more than 400 Royal Caribbean customers on the Explorer of the Seas prior to the weekend, is big enough to make it as the top story this weekend on CNN.

At Cruise Law News, maritime lawyer Jim Walker is an advocate for cruise passengers and while not all of his readers endorse his content — whose readers ever do? — the comments about norovirus provide some interesting insight once you sift through the trivial ones.

Yes, we did.

Jim WalkerWalker posed five multiple choices about the causes of cruise norovirus:

A. Passengers not washing hands
B. Crew working while sick
C. Contaminated food or water
D. Combination of the above
E. Who cares?

Having sifted through the trivial comments, here are some nuggets that shed light on this controversial subject…

Janice Cavanaugh: People boarding the ship when they know they are sick but don't want to miss their vacation. Crew hardly ever gets this. It's the guests that carry it onboard.

Stojan Mitkov: I am working 7 years on ships and I never get Norovirus even when there was cases of it. So just respect the point A.

Susan Equinista Van Dusen: Our most recent Royal Princess cruise hard working super nice crew begging guests to sanitize and wash…nope…many either ignored them or made rude remarks. Ship was super clean and gorgeous…passengers were the issue.

Jason Coleman: E…who cares! Would love to see people give this much attention to Norovirus outbreaks at schools and workplaces!

Patty Clements Goodell: My husband is on that ship and apparently it started on the previous cruise! The B2Bs transferred it to this cruise. No one knew of the problem on the previous cruise.

Karla Hart: Given the long and widespread history of this type of illness on these large ships, the blame rests with the cruise lines to figure out how to stop the problem. Change equipment, procedures, policies, whatever it takes.

Angelo Alonso: All of them are important topics, they don't care.

Christian Long: The standards of the sanitation on the ships exceeds the level of sanitation in your household. FYI, I worked on Explorer, [and] they have sanitizers all over the ship, but guests don’t use [them].

Celebrity Millennium
7 nights
May 23, 2014
VancouverKetchikan, Icy Strait Point, JuneauSkagway, Hubbard Glacier, Anchorage
Inside: $729
Cost per day: $104

Crime On the Rise? Find Out Yourself!

They say crime is on the rise in Nassau, the popular Bahamian cruise port — "they" being (among others) a website authored by maritime lawyer Jim Walker, an industrious watchdog of sorts for all things cruising.

According to Walker's writings, armed robbery is up in Nassau and recently even a daycare was a victim of the thieves. His business is all about cruise passengers' rights so it's safe to say he's not on the Christmas card list of any of the cruise lines.

His warning in the Bahamas, and perhaps other places, is that travel agents and cruise lines neglect to caution tourists of imminent danger…or increased imminent danger. To that end, Walker recommends that cruise passengers become their own advocates and do lots of homework before disembarking in ports.

He suggests that "homework" means reading the local papers and other media sources in the city and/or country you're visiting. We've never been influenced much by such research, our theory being that there are good people and bad people everywhere, and being a victim is most times being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But if you have safety concerns about visiting somewhere, Walker's advice is good…whether travel agents and cruise lines like it or not.

Celebrity Century
3 nights
February 12, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): NassauCoco Cay
Inside: $159
Cost per day: $53

Norovirus vaccine results looking good: More clinical trials before it's available

Rightly or not, norovirus is known as the "cruise ship virus" because almost every time it surfaces in a public way, it's on a cruise ship. It also happens wherever large numbers of people gather, particularly in fairly confined spaces, and you need no other proof that it is not confined to ships than this one from a recent study: "The overall cost of the disease in the U.S. is $5.5 billion a year."

That's right, billion. That's also right, every year. Imagine what would happen to the cruise industry if this disease was exclusive to cruise passengers.

Having written that, as they say, anything that can eradicate the norovirus is good. Maybe not eradicate, but reduce it. And according to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an experimental vaccine appears to be working.

Or helping.

The CDC reported that the vaccine's first trial reduced vomiting and diarrhea by 52 per cent among people who contracted norovirus. There are still more clinical trials needed before the vaccine becomes available. The study was presented this month at IDWeek2013, a conference on infectious diseases in San Francisco.

So things are going in the right direction.

This is of interest to anyone who goes on cruises, in particular people who have — like one of us — compromised immune systems that leave you more susceptible to infection.

Last week, there was another report about norovirus (see cruiselawnews.com) about many passengers and crew on the Celebrity Summit. Whether the report is true or not, it didn't reflect well on Celebrity, the latest cruise line to be stricken with the bug.

And it emphasized, once again, why the vaccine is so important.

Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam
7 nights
November 17, 2013
Fort Lauderdale (return): Half Moon CayGrand CaymanCozumelKey West
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57

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