Saturday, June 13, 2009

Passenger Medevaced from Mariner of the Seas

The US Coast Guard successfully evacuated a passenger by helicopter from Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas yesterday (June 12, 2009) while the ship was 40 miles off the coast of Florence, Oregon.

The Coast Guard said they responded to the call from the ship with a HH-65 helicopter dispatched from Air Station North Bend and picked up a 46 year-old-man who had a head injury sustained while he was playing basketball aboard the ship.

The man was taken to a local hospital in Eugene, Oregon. No other details are available at this time.

Something Better Than a Priority Tender Pass

When Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas arrived at Belize Thursday, passengers were delayed three and a half hours in disembarking while local immigration and health authorities cleared the ship. The delay was caused by three crew members aboard who were quarantined with symptoms of influenza (possibly H1N1 at that point). But that wasn't really the big story in Belize.

What the local media was at the pier for was that Enchantment had a famous person aboard. John Travolta has boarded the ship in Ft. Lauderdale on Monday for the 5-night cruise (that had already called at Key West and Cozumel), and he planned to disembark at Belize and fly home from there on his private jet.

Travolta wasn't inconvenienced by the delay (won't you sleep better now knowing that?), because he was planning to spend the day aboard Enchantment, and disembarked at 4:15pm just before the ship was scheduled to depart. But if you have a private jet to take you home from Belize, you wouldn't necessarily want to take the cruise ship's tender ashore, either. Yes, according to the local 7 News Belize website, Mr. Travolta had chartered his own boat to ferry him from the ship, not to the public tender dock but to the private Radisson dock. Once there the VIP treatment continued. Government immigration and customs officers met him there and processed his entry at the hotel.

According to the website, seeing the local media and fans waiting, he at first refused to leave the boat claiming he wanted privacy because he was on vacation. He did eventually leave, waived to the crowd, went into the Radisson where he waited until 6pm when he left for the airport and boarded his private jet there.

Traveling is different when you have unlimited funds.

Search of Man's Computer Ends in Cruise Passenger Arrest

A passenger returning to Norfolk on a cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas was singled out for a customs inspection by US Customs inspectors on May 21m but the interesting details are just coming to light.

According to the online version of the Virginian-Pilot, the man was a convicted sex offender, and customs inspectors found his laptop computer contained images they considered child pornography. He was arrested, and it turns out that he was also a convicted sex offender.

The main point of interest here is that customs rules allow searches of electronic devices without a search warrant as long as it's part of a customs search when the item is being brought into the US. The Department of Homeland Security has not said if the man was singled out for a search at random, as some passengers are, or if they search him because of his past criminal record or some other tip-off.

The other point to note is that so far, there has been no allegation that the man was on the ship illegally or that he was engaged in any illegal or harmful activities while aboard the cruise ship.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The UK Will Not Ban Ships with H1N1 Passengers

Lloyd's List reports that Nicol Black, who is responsible for port health matters at the UK Health Protection Agency, says the United Kingdom will not ban ships carrying passengers with the H1N1 virus (swine flu).

The issue came up since Australia, Antigua and St. Lucia have this week prevented ships with passengers and/or crew members suspected of having the H1N1 virus from docking. Dr. Black questioned if that was even allowed under existing international health conventions.

The UK policy now expressly permits ships with passengers with influenza symptoms to come into the country, although they do have to give advance notice, and there will be risk assessment upon arrival, however.

Dr. Black is a former cruise ship doctor, and the Lloyd's List article included this very interesting quote from him:
“In any closed environment where you are in contact with other people for a long period of time when influenza is prevalent, then you are likely to be exposed,” he said. “Clearly, influenza will occur on cruiseships.

“Will it actually escalate very fast? Chances are, probably not. You are going to have better containment on board a cruiseship than you are at home.

“You are far more at risk on the [London] underground. That is the kind of risk you should be comparing with a cruiseship. On a like-for-like basis, I don’t think there is an excess risk.”

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Do You Know Who's Cruising with You?

Albuquerque TV station KOB's website is carrying a story about a convicted sex offender from their area, apparently out on bond from another crime, who turned up on a cruise ship.

No one is alleging any wrongdoing on the part of the unnamed cruise line, because they aren't required to do a background check on their passengers. But there are two interesting aspects to this case.

The first is that man was discovered and arrested when he returned to Florida, apparently thanks to a Department of Homeland Security regulation that cruise lines submit their manifests (and identifying information about the names) to the department. As we've reported in the past, this program is regularly responsible for identifying passengers who have outstanding warrants for their arrest and routinely arresting them as the disembark their cruises at a US port. This was the case with this man who allegedly did not have permission from the courts for this trip.

The other interesting aspect of this item is a matter of journalist ethics. The lead in the article on KOB's website says the man "wound up on a Mexican cruise surrounded by children." The trouble with this is the aspect about the children seems to have been inserted just to add drama to the story. Nowhere else in the article does it mention anything about children being involved on the cruise. The only mention is in the embedded video piece from the station where the detective says he [the detective] has "been on several cruises and there's a lot of young kids there." It doesn't appear the man was "surrounded by children" any more than if he had gone shopping at the local shopping mall.

In any case, the man was arrested on several charges when he returned to Florida, including for leaving the jurisdiction without permission, and is awaiting extradition. There is no allegation that the man did anything improper while on the cruise ship. Nonetheless, it does give you a creepy feeling because you don't know what the people sitting next to you at the show in the theater may have done. Of course you don't know what the people sitting in the next booth at your local fast food restaurant may have been convicted of either.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Coast Guard Medevac from Sea Princess

The US Coast Guard safely performed a helicopter medical evacuation of a 72-year-old man from Sea Princess Tuesday (June 9, 2009) noon. At the time, Sea Princess was approximately 80 miles south of Juneau, Alaska, near Tracy Arm.

The man reportedly fell Monday evening, and the ship contacted the Coast Guard for an evacuation at 9:35am Tuesday morning. At 11:52, Air Station Sitka (which provided this video) launched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew, and by 12:05 they were over the ship lowering a swimmer who would assist on deck with hoisting the patient. At 1:37pm the helicopter had landed at Juneau and transferred the patient to the Juneau rescue service which transported him to the hospital.

"The crew of the Sea Princess was fantastic to work with," said Cmdr. Melissa Rivera, Aircraft Commander and Operations Officer for Coast Guard Air Station Sitka, "They were very professional and prepared to work with the helicopter."

The entire operation took only about 15 minutes, and this video - shot from over the door of the helicopter looking straight down to the deck of Sea Princess - is edited to compress it to only 60 seconds. You can see the swimmer first being lowered to the deck, the litter being lowered, and it ends as the patient is being raised from the deck.

The thing to watch is how incredibly well-coordinated the helicopter is with Sea Princess as it hovers over the deck. The cruise ship had stopped and holds its position as steady as possible. You can see how relatively little movement there is between the two in the video, but it's interesting to notice the speed of the current around Sea Princess. It can be seen as the helicopter moves slightly, and you can see it between the bottom of the door of the helicopter and the side of the cruise ship.

The man is reported to be in stable condition at a Juneau hospital.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Oasis of the Seas Leaves on Sea Trials

Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas left the STX Europe yard at Turku (Finland) this week on sea trials.

Flying above the 220,000-ton vessel is the aerostat (a type of tethered balloon) which RCCL chairman Richard Fain talked about recently. It's an experiment of an additional feature for Oasis, which he said he gives less than a 50% chance of actually being implemented. He will neither confirm nor deny the rumors about the use the company would have for the aerostat.

We have additional photos on the Cruise News Daily website.

Meyer Werft Floats Out Celebrity Equinox

Germany's Meyer Werft floated out Celebrity's second Solstice-class vessel, from their covered building dock on Saturday. The 122,000-ton Celebrity Equinox will remain at the Papenburg yard for final fitting out until its transit down the Ems River which is currently scheduled for June 19 or 20, depending on weather conditions. Shortly after reaching Eemshaven at the mouth of the river, it will depart on sea trials.

Celebrity Equinox is scheduled to enter service in Europe on July 31.

We have photos from Saturday's operation on the Cruise News Daily website.