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June 28, 2015

Eight Holland American Line Cruise Passengers Tragically Die While on an Alaskan Shore Excursion Sight-Seeing Tour


Eight Holland American Line cruise ship passengers tragically died on Thursday, June 25, 2015 when a DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter float plane crashed, some 25 miles northeast of Ketchikan, Alaska. The crash occurred at approximately 2:00 p.m., at about 800 feet above a lake in the Misty Fjords area. Onboard the sightseeing flight at the time of the crash were the eight cruise passengers plus the pilot. Despite some investigation by authorities, the cause of the horrible crash into a cliff has not yet been identified. Alaska State Troopers, however, have identified the victims as: Hal Cheney, 71 and Mary Doucette, 59, both of Lodi, California; Glenda Cambiaso, 31 and Hugo Cambiaso, 65, both of North Potomac, Maryland; June Kranenburg, 73 and Leonard Kranenburg, 63, both of Medford, Oregon; Margie Apodaca, 63 and Raymond Apodaca, 70, both of Sparks, Nevada; and the pilot, Bryan Krill, 64, of Hope, Idaho.

All eight passengers were sailing on the MS Westerdam, a Holland American cruise ship that departed Seattle, Washington on Saturday, June 20, 2015 for a seven-day round-trip cruise. News outlets have reported that the sightseeing airplane ride was a shore excursion sold through the cruise line Holland American Line. The actual float plane is owned by a company named Promech Air, self-identified as the largest "air taxi" operating in southeast Alaska for 30 years. According to the Alaska Dispatch News, just two years ago in 2013, another Promech Air float plane crashed on Prince of Wales Island, injuring four people. It is unknown whether Holland American Line was aware of this prior incident.

Generally, shore excursions sold through a cruise line contain exculpatory clauses that purport to relieve a cruise line and/or a shoreside excursion company from any liability resulting from an accident or injury that may occur during a shoreside excursion. While narrow and unambiguous exculpatory clauses have been enforced by certain courts in favor of cruise lines and shore excursion operators, cruise lines may still be held responsible for the negligent selection of a shore excursion company. We will continue to follow the investigation into this devastating crash, including whether Holland American Line was aware of Promech Air's prior incident but nevertheless continued to offer and sell the company's tours to its cruise ship passengers.

Our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to the families of the crash victims.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/26/us/alaska-plane-crash/

http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/plane-missing-in-alaska-with-nine-on-board/

June 3, 2015

Caribbean Cruise Lines Allowed to Challenge Better Business Bureau's "F" Grade in Court

Florida Carribean Cruise.jpgAfter receiving an "F" grade from the Better Business Bureau of Palm Beach County (BBB), Caribbean Cruise Lines filed a complaint against the consumer protection organization alleging defamation and violation of Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FUDTPA). The trial court dismissed both claims finding the letter grade is pure opinion which is protected by the First Amendment and therefore cannot a claim for deformation cannot stand as well as the cruise line did not have standing to bring a FDUTPA claim. Caribbean Cruise Lines appealed the decision.

In a multiple paged opinion, the Florida appellate court affirmed the trial court's dismissal of the defamation claim but reversed the dismissal of the FDUPTA claim. The appellate court, without making a determination as to whether the BBB violated the Act, found the trial court erred in its legal finding that Caribbean Cruise Line had not standing to sue. "Standing" is the legal principal that affords a person or company the right to bring a lawsuit. The BBB argued that only consumers of BBB's services have standing, and since the cruise line cannot be a consumer of its services, has no standing to bring a claim. The appellate court found this to be an incorrect statement of law. In doing so, it compared a previous version of the statute which read, "In any individual action brought by a consumer who has suffered a loss as a result of a violation of this part, such consumer may recover..." with the current version which reads "In any individual action brought by a person who has suffered a loss as a result of a violation of this part, such person may recover..." The appellate court reasoned that by rewording the statute, the Florida legislature no longer intended FDUPTA to apply to only consumers, but to other there persons and legal entities who were damaged and could prove the elements of the claim as well. As such, Caribbean Cruise Lines has the right to challenge its "F" grade placed by the BBB and remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.

Caribbean Cruise Lines is headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale and operates cruises from Palm Beach County Florida to the Bahamas. The company made widespread headlines last year when its cruise ship, the Bahamas Celebration, ran aground Free Port causing several hundred people to be evacuated.

May 21, 2015

Boston Based NCL Norwegian Dawn Cruise Ship Runs Aground

Norwegian Dawn Grounding.jpgHow does a modern cruise ship run aground? That is what maritime investigators will be trying to sort out over the coming months in the case of Boston based Norwegian Dawn grounding on a charted reef off the Bermuda coast. The liner had just left King's Wharf on Hamilton Island to start its last leg of its voyage back to Boston when it grounded. Though no reports have been made as to the exact number of people who were aboard, the Norwegian Dawn can carry more than 2,000 passengers and up to 1,059 crew members. What makes this grounding noteworthy is that this ship is not a rust bucket in its last stages of useful life owned by a nearly defunct shipping company. On the contrary, this cruise ship is equipped with sophisticated electronic navigational and steering equipment as well as depth recorders which sound warnings when entering dangerously shallow waters. Again, how does a modern cruise ship run aground?

Typically there are three reasons: environmental, equipment failure, and human error. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd., the ship's operator which is based in Miami, blames the marine casualty on an equipment failure, more specifically, a malfunction of the steering system. The Norwegian Dawn is no stranger to equipment failures. In 2013, a power failure left the ship dead in the water for hours and in 2009 a power failure left the cruise liner without running water, air conditioning and working toilets. Though NCL blames the grounding on equipment failure, it fails to mention whether the navigational officers could have prevented the incident when they knew or should have known the steering system was not properly working. These issues will be investigated and a governmental report will follow.

More worrisome than the ship's checkered past regarding power failure are the reports of how the crew reacted in the moments after the grounding. The Associated Press reports that passengers observed some "crew members running around in a panic". This suggests a lack of training in emergency situations on the part of NCL. Lack of crew training was a significant contributing factor to the loss of life in the Costa Concordia disaster as several news outlets reported that the crew admitted they were not trained to evacuate passengers. It would stand to reason, that in the wake of such a maritime disaster as Costa Concordia, a major cruise line would conduct regular crew training for emergency situations.

Cruise lines owe their passengers the legal duty of reasonable care. This means performing periodic systems checks and emergency drills to determine whether the ship is sufficiently seaworthy to safely carry passengers and its officers and crew properly trained to act in a reasonable prudent manner when an emergency occurs. Time will tell if NCL met this legal standard.

Photo Credit: International Business Times

April 21, 2015

Three Passengers Medevaced Off Holland America Cruise Ship to Miami Area Hospitals

Three passengers aboard a Holland America cruise ship Ryndam were medevaced to Miami-area hospitals Monday night due to unrelated medical emergencies. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue revealed that one passengers sustained a leg injury, another suffered a head injury and the third had a heart related condition. Holland America, based in Seattle, Washington, confirmed the passengers aboard the Ryndam required medical evaluations, but did not provide additional details. It is very unusual to have three passengers medevaced off a cruise ship at one time. Local Miami Fox News affiliate reports that one of the passengers was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital and another taken to Mercy Hospital.

WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

April 19, 2015

Carnival Cruise Passenger Killed in Jet Ski Crash

Westin Jet Ski Accident.jpgIt is being widely reported that a Carnival cruise passenger was killed in a Jet Ski crash during an excursion in the Cayman Island. The passenger was 31-year-old Robert Cole from Virginia. Media outlets confirm Cole and his travel companion 37-year-old Amy Comer were passengers aboard the Carnival Conquest. Both were thrown into the water when the Jet Ski they were riding collided with another personal water craft operated by a 15-year-boy from New York who was also a Carnival Cruise Line passenger. The accident occurred on Wednesday 15 April just before 1pm near the Westin Resort Hotel. Eyewitnesses stated the teen may have t-boned Cole's Jet Ski.

Cole was provided life saving treatment on shore. Medical emergency personnel responded to the beach and transported Cole and Comer to the hospital. Cole later died. Comer was treated and release while the boy sustained only minor injuries.

April 14, 2015

Hundreds of Passengers Sick aboard Celebrity & Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships

Cruise Norovirus.jpgThe CDC is reporting that 112 passengers aboard the Celebrity Infinity have come down with an illness causing vomiting and diarrhea. CDC personnel boarded the cruise ship in San Diego on Monday wherein they confirmed the outbreak was caused by Norovirus. This marks the third time the Celebrity Infinity has had a gastrointestinal virus outbreak.

Celebrity's parent company, Royal Caribbean, is also having problems with one of its San Diego based cruise ships. The CDC has reported on Monday that 114 have falling ill with Norovirus like symptoms aboard the Legend of the Seas. The cruise liner is due back in port on Tuesday wherein the CDC will conduct an investigation and hopefully determine the cause of the outbreak.

March 29, 2015

Passenger Arrested for Assault aboard the Carnival Triumph

Carnival Passenger Assault Law.jpgThe FBI has arrested 44-year-old Carnival Triumph passenger Joseph Allen on assault charges resulting in substantial bodily injury as the cruise ship docked at its home port of Galveston, Texas. Carnival Cruise Lines, in a press release, stated this past Wednesday there was a domestic dispute between Allen and his 14-year-old stepson requiring ship security to intervene. Allen was confined to his cabin for the remainder of the cruise. The 14-year-old passenger, after being evaluated by the ship's medical doctors, was recommended to disembark in Cozumel for further medical treatment. The boy, however, finished the cruise. Texas news outlets are reporting that the assault happened on the third day of a six day voyage while the Carnival Triumph was docked in Progreso, Mexico. Allen, who according to the boy's mother was drinking, attacked his stepson in one of the ship's hallways. Other passengers reported the incident to ship security who intervened. Carnival security personnel stated the reason for the attack was that Allen claimed he was tired of being disrespected by the boy. The FBI has jurisdiction over maritime criminal matters occurring on cruise ships away from United States ports.

Photo Credit: KTRK Houston

March 29, 2015

Passengers & Crew Evacuated as Smoke Billows from the Carnival Liberty

Carnival Liberty Passenger Evactuation.jpgMultiple news sources are reporting that passengers and crew members were evacuated off the Carnival Liberty when smoke emerged from the forward section of the cruise ship. The incident happened last Friday while the 10-year-old, 2,974 passenger cruise ship was docked in St. Maarten. The smoke billowing from the Carnival Liberty sent fire crews racing to the cruise terminal. A spokesperson from the cruise line stated the smoke was caused by an over-heated bearing. The ship left port as scheduled. No injuries have thus far been reported. The Carnival Liberty currently sails from San Juan, Puerto Rico. The cruise ship is scheduled to replace the Carnival Triumph in Galveston,Texas in March 2016. Readers may remember in 2013 the Carnival Triumph lost all power while in the Gulf of Mexico due to an engine room fire and was towed to Alabama for repairs.

March 28, 2015

Royal Caribbean Cruise Passenger Feared Dead

Liberty of the Seas Accident Attorney.bmpThe Coast Guard has called off its search for Frank Slippo, a Royal Caribbean cruise passenger, who fell overboard the Liberty of the Seas. CCTV cameras confirm that the 43-year-old Slippo climbed over the railing at around 9:00pm last Sunday before falling off the cruise ship. The Liberty of the Seas was approximately 20 miles off the Florida Keys when the incident happened. As required by maritime law, Royal Caribbean began a search and rescue mission once it was confirmed the passenger fell overboard. Coast Guard Sector Key West was notified and conducted a 1,734 square nautical mile search lasting more the 57 hours. Slippo is feared dead.

March 23, 2015

Injured Carnival Cruise Passenger Airlifted After Fall

Carnival Cruise Fall Injury.jpgMultiple sources are reporting that a Carnival cruise passenger was airlifted after suffering a fall . The 69-year-old female passenger, whose name has not been released at this time, fell last Thursday night aboard the Carnival Imagination injuring her head. The decision was made to contact the Coast Guard who dispatched a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter team. A rescue swimmer from the team was lowered down to secure the woman into the rescue basket before being lifted to the helicopter. The rescue occurred forty miles off the California coast. The passenger was transported to UC San Diego Medical Center for immediate care. It is reported that the passenger sustained significant head trauma from the fall. Though the passenger's head injury from the fall was significant enough to require emergency medical treatment, her condition is unknown at this time.

March 18, 2015

Passenger Falls Off Galveston Based Cruise Ship

Carnival Triumph.jpgMultiple media sources are reporting that a passenger is believed to have died after falling off a Galveston based cruise ship operated by Carnival. On the evening of March 17, 2015 shipboard personnel aboard the Triumph were notified that a 57-year-old passenger fell overboard while the ship was off the northern coast of Mexico. CCTV video confirmed the passenger fell overboard. Cruise lines have a duty under maritime law to perform a search and rescue mission once it becomes known that someone, whether that person is a passenger or crew member, has fallen overboard. It is reported that the ship notified Mexican authorities and initiated a search and rescue operation. The next morning Mexican authorities found a body believed to be the passenger who fell off the cruise ship. The Triumph was returning to Galveston from a five day Mexican cruise.

March 6, 2015

Two Passenger Drowning Incidents Occur at Disney's Castaway Cay

Disney Drowning Castaway Cay.jpgTwo drowning incidents occurred at Disney's Castaway Cay last week. Disney Cruise Lines has its own private island in the Bahamas where their passengers could partake in various aquatic activities. These activates include snorkeling, stingray encounters and simply swimming at the beach. With so many aquatic activates comes the danger of passengers drowning. This sadly occurred last week. A 28-year-old passenger from New York drowned while swimming at the adult beach. He was found unresponsive in the water and later pronounced dead by Bahamian authorities. A second incident involved an adult passenger who was snorkeling. The man was found unconscious in the water, was stabilized then evacuated to Miami for additional medical care. His condition is currently unknown.

Even though these incidents occurred off the cruise ship, maritime law governs Disney's legal responsibilities owed to the passenger. The law requires Disney to exercise reasonable care for their passengers' safety. This includes warning of known dangers the passengers may encounter while at Castaway Cay as well as implementing a reasonable safety precautions. Disney is one of the only cruise lines that hire life guards. In is unknown how many life guards were on duty or whether there was a sufficient number to monitor the hundreds of Disney passengers at Castaway Cay.

Our condolences to the family of the passenger who died and our best wishes for a speedy recovery to the passenger who was rescued.

February 15, 2015

Costa Concordia Captain Found Guilty of Manslaughter of 32 Cruise Passengers

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On February 11, 2015, an Italian three-judge panel found Captain Francesco Schettino guilty of manslaughter of 32 cruise ship passengers traveling aboard the Costa Concordia off the Italian Coast on January 13, 2012. The panel's rulings include guilty verdicts on other charges in connection with the shipwreck, including personal injury to passengers and the Captain's abandoning of the cruise ship. Captain Schettino was sentenced to 16 years prison time. One of the most alarming allegations asserted at the Captain's trial was that the Captain deserted the ship before cruise passengers and crewmembers got off the ship. According to Prosecutor Alessandro Leopizzi, the Captain safely made his way to land "without even getting his feet wet".

During the trial, testimony was presented emphasizing alleged crew errors and equipment malfunctions during the frenzied period surrounding the shipwreck. Equipment malfunctions allegedly included failure of an emergency diesel generator, elevators' failure to shut down during the shipwreck and language barriers with the ship's crew, some of which barely spoke English.

Continue reading "Costa Concordia Captain Found Guilty of Manslaughter of 32 Cruise Passengers " »

February 3, 2015

Coast Guard Rescues Ill Passenger from Galveston Based Cruise Ship

Galveston Cruise Rescue.jpgThe first several weeks of 2015 have seen many medical evacuations from cruise ships. This time the Coast Guard rescued a passenger from the Galveston based Carnival Magic last Saturday. The emergency call was placed near 9 p.m. from the cruise ship's medical staff stating that a 51-year-old female passenger was suffering from respiratory problems. Air Station Houston dispatched a rescue helicopter. An ATC Mobile HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircrew was also launched to support the rescue. The rescue teams met up with the Carnival Magic 184 miles off the coast of Galveston. The passenger, along with the cruise ship's nurse, were hoisted onto the helicopter and taken to Scholes Airport. There an EMS team was standing by to transport them to University of Texas Medical Branch. Lieutenant Commander, Scott Sanborn, the operations officer at Air Station Houston stated, "Whenever we are responding to a case that is a significant distance offshore the risk is elevated, but with the expertise of both air crews, as well as the seamless coordination from the Sector Houston-Galveston command center personnel, we were able to safely transport the woman to the highest medical care possible."

The passenger is reported to be in stable condition.

February 2, 2015

Palm Beach's Grand Celebration Cruise Ship Fails Safety Inspection

The maiden voyage of Palm Beach's newest cruise ship the Grand Celebration was cancelled after it failed to pass a Coast Guard safety inspection. Several hundred passengers were hoping to watch Super Bowl and take advantage of the Grand Celebration's amenities over a two day cruise. After delaying the voyage for several hours, Charlie Kinnear, president of Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, announced to the passengers that the cruise ship's public address system failed inspection. Without out having a properly functioning public address system, the ship could not be cleared to leave port. The ship's public address system is vital to passenger safety as it serves as the principal mean to communicate instructions in case of an emergency. Passengers were given the option of reschedule their voyages along with another free cruise or receive a refund. The Port of Palm Beach has not had a cruise ship since the Bahamas Celebration grounded in Freeport, The Bahamas last October 31st. The ill fated Bahamas Celebration was also owned by company of which Charlie Kinnear was president.