Cruise Law News : Maritime Lawyer & Attorney : James M. Walker : Walker & O’Neill Law Firm : Admiralty Law, Cruise Ship Accidents & Injuries

div class=”blogbody”> In an article last month, we reported that Royal Caribbean is threatening Rockland Maine after the quaint town increased its port call fee to $6 per passenger.

Rockland is proposing a modest $2 port development fee and a dockage fee of $4 which reflect the actual costs to the city associated with accommodating large cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean wants the fee to stay at $1. The cruise line complains that increase was "excessive;" however, there is no port town or city anywhere in the world which has a fee of only $1. There are a few impoverished countries in the Caribbean and Central America, like Honduras, which collect a fee of only $4. But this is more of a reflection of the cruise line’s historical exploitation of third world governments rather than a fair assessment of the actual impact of the cruise industry on the port’s infrastructure.

Ports in the U.S. charge passenger fees ranging between $6 to $34.50 (Alaska).

Portland Maine, for example, charges $9 per passenger.

Royal Caribbean complains that it did not have adequate notice of the fee increase, but in truth it was notified earlier this year of the tax increase. It waited months before complaining and then sent an undated letter to the city manager of Rockland in June. 

Good relationships are based on mutual respect. What is good for you is good for me. But when strong arm tactics dominate the debate, the result is one sided and unfair. A $1 fee is unreasonable. It is unfair.  Royal Caribbean collects over $6 billion a year and pays no federal income tax by incorporating its business in Liberia and flagging its cruise ships in the Bahamas. The threats by the cruise line reflect an insight into Royal Caribbean’s view of  tiny Rockland.  It is a signal of threats to come in the future.

Why would Rockland want to spend the money from its tax paying citizens to subsidize a non-tax paying billion dollar foreign corporation? 

The cruise line has assembled a lobby group and has taken its scare tactics to Rockland’s city council.  Royal Caribbean is threatening to pull its huge cruise ship, Jewel of the Seas, from a stop in Rockland unless the $5 increase is repealed. But there is nowhere in the U.S. with a lower head tax than Rockland even at the proposed $6.  Will Royal Caribbean really go to a port with a more expensive tax to prove a point to Rockland? 

I don’t think so.  This is a cruise line which acts based on the bottom line dollar, not principles. 

There will be a vote today in Rockland at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

The decision that the people of Rockland will make today will be a reflection of the town’s self respect.  Will it stand up for a fair tax that reflects the reality of how a huge cruise ship like the Jewel of the Seas impacts its infrastructure?  Or will Rockland let the cruise line treat it like a $1 store? 

 

 

July 20, 2010 Update:

The Rockland City Council voted 3 -2 last night to provide a waiver to Royal Caribbean from the $6 fee.  The fee will be just $1 this October when the Jewel of the Seas arrives. "Rockland Reverses Cruise Ship Fee Increase" 

For a similar story, consider reading Carnival Drops Antigua Like A Hot Potato.

Credits:

Rockland Maine harbor         Peter Greenberg The Historic Inns of Rockand Maine

Tags: Worst Cruise Line in the World, cruise, exploitation, head tax, maine, rockland, royal caribbean

Reason No. 7 Not to Cruise: Cruise Lines Exploit Foreign Crew Members, Like You’d Never Believe

Posted on April 26, 2010 by Jim Walker Cruise Critic ran an article a couple of weeks ago about the Top 10 Reasons To Cruise.  I responded with my article "Top Ten Reasons Not To Cruise."  I previously addressed the first six  reasons not to cruise, which are at the bottom of this article.*

The purpose of this series is not to convince you not to cruise, but to educate consumers regarding the dangers inherent in and the consequences of cruising.  I’m not your big brother, trust me.  It you want to cruise, that’s entirely your business and none of mine.   But at least educate yourself before you take your family on a vacation you may regret.  

The 7th reason not to cruise may not leave much of an impression on most of my American readers because it involves "foreign crew members" who most passengers will never meet.

Our firm and clients have been featured over a hundred times on every major television station, cable news network, radio, newspaper and magazine in the U.S. and abroad.  But the news sources are interested almost exclusively in crimes or injuries involving U.S. passengers.  An injured or victimized crew member from Jamaica, India, or Nicaragua is usually of no interest to U.S. reporters.

The exception was several years ago when The Miami New Times ran a story "Screwed If By Sea – Cruise Lines Throw Workers Overboard When It Comes to Providing Urgent Medical Care."

The article focused on one of our crew member clients from the little island of St. Vincent who, after suffering second and third degree burns on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailing to Alaska – was sent by Royal Caribbean on a journey from Alaska to Los Angeles to Miami to Barbados to St. Vincent - as part of a plan by the cruise line Royal Caribbean to abandon him in a third world country with no medical treatment. 

Take a moment and read the article.

You will smell the crew member’s rotting flesh half way through the article.

Is "evil," or "diabolical," or "criminal" too strong of a word for this degree of corporate malfeasance?  I suppose it depends if it involved you – or a "foreign" crew member. 

The exploitation of crew members, particularly "utility cleaners" who often work 360 hours a month for around $540 a month, continues.  Last year we addressed the problem in an articles entitled:

"Titanic Dreams" – Royal Caribbean Wins "Worst Cruise Line in the World" Award; and

Cruise Ship Medical Care – Royal Caribbean Gives Their Crew Members the Royal Shaft.

There are few Americans who would cruise if they knew how poorly the cruise lines treat their crew members.  The absolute worst cruise lines which abuse their crew members are Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises – the only winners of Cruise Law News’ popular "Worst Cruise Line In The World Award."

Read the first six reasons not to cruise and then add this article into the mix.  Are you really going to cruise with your family on one of these foreign-flagged cruise ships which exploit the souls of the hard working men and women from Jamaica, India, Nicaragua and St. Vincent?

 

Tomorrow – Reason No. 8 Not To Cruise: Blackwater, Blackwater, Blackwater

 

Credits:   Jim Walker’s Cruise Law Flickr Page 

 

*Cruise Law News’ Last  6 Reasons Not To Cruise 

No. 1: Cruise Lines Are A Perfect Place To Sexually Abuse Children

No. 2: Cruise Ships Are A Perfect Place to Commit A Crime, And Get Away With It!

No. 3: Carnival, Royal Caribbean And NCL Are Corporate Felons

No. 4: If You Are A Victim On A Cruise Ship, The Cruise Line Will Treat You Like A Criminal

No. 5: If You Are Retired Or A Child, The Cruise Line Considers Your Life Worthless

No. 6: If The Ship Doctor Kills You, Too Bad

Tags: Crew Member Rights, abuse, corporate malfeasance, crew, crew member, cruise, exploitation, ten reasons not to cruise

Cruise Line Fat Cat Billionaires

Posted on March 11, 2010 by Jim Walker A fascinating article appeared in USA Today’s Cruise Blog by Gene Sloan – "Titans of the Cruise Industry See Their Net Worth Soar."

This is an amazing article reporting on the Forbes 400 richest people in the U.S., which includes Carnival fat cat billionaires Mickey Arison, Royal Caribbean’s Pritzker family, and entrepreneur Leon Black whose private equity firm controls Norwegian Cruise Lines, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. 

The article which is re-printed in its entirety below is an insight into how to create a fortune by convincing tax paying Americans to turn over their hard earned money to foreign incorporated, non-tax paying companies operating foreign flagged cruise ships. 

The phenomenon is of particular interest to me because I represent the backbone of the cruise industry – crewmembers like Ismael Richards (photograph above) who worked for 14 years – over 350 hours a month never making more than $545 a month until his back failed and he was abandoned by the cruise line.

Mr. Richards found himself with an one-way ticket back to St. Vincent, disabled, with no 401(k) plan, no pension, no job prospects, no social security and no social safety network.

So here is the article about cruise line billionaires, for your prurient interests:  

"The past year has been a good one to be a titan of the cruise industry. Just ask Micky Arison (photograph right).

A year ago, as cruise stocks were plunging along with the economy, wealth watcher Forbes was pegging the Carnival mogul’s net worth at just $2.9 billion — a multi-year low. But with the industry on the rebound, Arison’s fortunes once again are on the rise.

Forbes’ annual ranking of the world’s billionaires for 2010, out late Wednesday, puts Arison’s net worth at $4.4 billion, placing him at No. 189 on the magazine’s closely-watched list. A year ago he ranked at No. 221.

Arison still has a long way to go to reach his former glory. As recently as four years ago, when the cruise business was riding high, Arison’s hefty stake in Carnival had landed him among the 100 richest people in the world. In 2006, Forbes estimated Arison’s net worth at more than $6 billion, putting him at No. 94 on the list. He ranked at No. 129 in 2007 and No. 189 in 2008.

Micky Arison isn’t the only Arison whose fortunes are rebounding. Another Carnival heir, Shari Arison, is now worth $3.4 billion, up from $2.7 billion a year ago, according to Forbes. Alas, Shari Arison’s rising wealth isn’t enough to keep her in place in the rankings, where she has dropped to No. 277 from No. 234 in 2009. Four years ago she was within striking distance of the Top 100 at 109.

Another would-be cruise mogul, Leon Black (photograph below, left), also is doing better. The self-made financier who controls Apollo Management — the private equity firm that in turn controls Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven seas Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line  — almost didn’t make the Forbes list last year as his net worth plunged to just $1.1 billion. But this year he’s on the rebound with a net worth that Forbes pegs at $2.5 billion. He now ranks No. 277 on the list, up from No. 647 a year ago.

Also faring better are the many members of the Pritzker family of Chicago who collectively own a sizable chunk of Royal Caribbean.  Forbes says Thomas Pritzker is now worth $1.6 billion, up from $1.3 billion a year ago (though his ranking on the list has fallen to No. 616 from No. 559 in 2009). Jay Robert Pritzker, Anthony Pritzker and Penny Pritzker, with $1.4 billion a piece, are next at No. 721, followed by a half dozen more Pritzkers who tie at No. 773."

 

 

Credits:

Ishmael Richards                 Jim Walker’s Flickr photostream

Mickey Arison                         Business Week

Leon Black                             Adam Berry / Bloomberg / Lardov

Tags: NCL, Taxes, apollo management, arison, carnival, cruise, exploitation, leon back, pritzker, royal caribbean

Historic Port of Falmouth – Jamaica’s “Crapital” for the Oasis of the Seas

Posted on November 9, 2009 by Jim Walker Royal Caribbean Cruises plans on using Falmouth, in Jamaica, as a port for its new monster of a cruise ship Oasis of the Seas.  There is a concern in Jamaica that Royal Caribbean is exploiting it’s historic town in the process.

A Historic and Quaint "Colonial" Town – Sugar, Rum & Slaves  

Falmouth is the chief town and capital of Trelawny parish, Jamaica, and is located on Jamaica’s north coast near Montego Bay.

In the late 1700′s, Jamaica was the world’s leading sugar producer. There were hundreds of sugar estates and enormous wealth created by slaves for the rich estate owners. Falmouth was named after the birthplace of Sir William Trelawny in Falmouth, Cornwall, Britain. At the turn of the 1800′s, one hundred sugar plantations in Trelawny parish provided sugar and rum for export to Britain. Falmouth also has a notorious past because it was a center for the slave trade from Africa.  Based on its rum, sugar and slave business, it became one the wealthiest ports in the "New World." 

Falmouth is also considered to be one of the Caribbean’s best-preserved historic towns. Meticulously planned in the Colonial style, it is often compared to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, here in the United States. 

Royal Caribbean Makes a Sweet Deal

Several years ago, Royal Caribbean Cruises needed a port to accommodate its new "Genesis" class cruise ships (the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas).  These ships were far too big to use a regular port. 

The cruise line approached Jamaica and proposed a deal where Royal Caribbean would agree to use Falmouth as a port for its new mega ships – provided that Jamaica spend around $120 million deepening its port and creating a huge facililty to accommodate the two new mega-ships carrying over 6,000 passengers each.  The trade-off to Jamaica for this investment would be the infusion of money into Falmouth and the surrounding parish with the arrival of the new mega ships.     

Jamaica quickly jumped at the deal. No environmental impact statement or detailed economic analysis was prepared. The Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) prepared promotional materials suggesting that "the destination will deeply reference the town’s history, offering visitors a unigue sensory experience of the Colonial era."  William Tatham, Vice President of Cruise and Marina Operations at the Port Authority of Jamaica, proclaimed: “cruise visitors are looking for more memorable experiences, and this is certainly what Falmouth will be able to deliver.”

Royal Caribbean’s President Adam Goldstein signed the deal with Jamaica’s Prime Minister Bruce Golding  and promised to deliver 400,000 passengers a year to Falmouth over the next 20 years, with an expectation that each passenger would spend over $100 in the port. 

Jamaicans were promised a revitalized local economy with thousands of U.S. passengers spending hundreds of thousands of dollars every time the Genesis class cruise ships arrived in port.

Oasis of the Seas - a Self-Contained "Vegas with an Anchor"   

Fast forward to November 2009.  There is now little talk about passengers actually getting off the Oasis of the Seas and going into Falmouth.  Yesterday, the Charlotte Observer ran a story called  "Vegas with an Anchor," which quoted one the cruise ship’s captains stating that “our hope, of course, is that people don’t get off, because this ship itself is the destination. This is better than a lot of the islands.”

Paul Motter, the editor of the cruise community CruiseMates, echoed this sentiment: "I think it’s going to be the first ship where people truly book just for the ship and hardly care where it goes."

Gadling, the online travel site, criticized the "nearly entirely inward-looking" experience of the Oasis of the Seas.  "With the aptly named Oasis, you don’t need to leave the ship at all . . . As the Oasis passes by port after port, please pardon the passengers if they’re not gathered at the rail watching the world pass by."

The thought of a megaship so big and self-contained that its passengers don’t bother to disembark while in Falmouth is not lost on the people of Jamaica.  After spending and borrowing $120 million, they now realize that Royal Caribbean may have just taken them for a ride.

Oasis of the Seas – Looking for a Place to Offload It’s Pee and Poo

In articles entitled "Why We Fail" and "Fantasies, Follies, and Frauds," John Maxwell of the Jamaica Observer warns of the  "transformation of our beautiful heirloom Falmouth . . .  to please the billionaire owners of Royal Caribbean Lines.  He writes:

"In beautiful and historic Falmouth, we are busy making a billion-dollar cosy corner for the Royal Caribbean Line on the alleged promise that they will be bringing 6,000 visitors a week to Falmouth. What we don’t know is that we have probably been conned.

The Oasis of the Seas will make land-based hotels irrelevant. Instead of bringing visitors to Jamaica the new ships will bring an ersatz Jamaica to the visitors. Each of these ships will be human zoos specially designed to bemuse their clientele."

"Crapital" (sic) of the World?

Mr. Maxwell continues with his concern that Jamaica’s town of Falmouth may become just a lovely place to unload the crap from the Oasis of the Seas’ 6,000 passengers and 1,500 crew members:

"Given all this, the rationale for the Falmouth cruise shipping centre is simple: There’s got to be somewhere to dump the huge amounts of waste generated by such a monumentally environmentally unfriendly project. Falmouth’s destiny is to act as a relief point for the ship to be sanitized, resupplied with cheap Jamaican water and for the ship, its passengers and crew to offload their excrement in what will become the cruise crapital (sic) of the world"

Jamaica has a history of being exploited by foreign plantation owners, sugar barons, slave owners, bauxite-mining companies and now the mega ships of the $15 billion Royal Caribbean cruise line. 

Next year, the Oasis of the Seas will invade the historic port of Falmouth.  Later in 2010, the Allure of the Seas will follow.  When these floating-high-rise-shopping-centers cast a shadow over all of old town Falmouth, will Jamaica realize that it’s once quaint port is being used for little more than a big latrine?     

 

Credits:

Historic prints of Falmouth   Falmouth Heritage Renewal

Adam Goldstein and Bruce Golding   Jamaica Ministry of Transport & Works

Oasis of the Seas   Kenneth Karsten via shipspotting.com

John Maxwell    Jamaica Gleaner

Tags: Caribbean Islands, allure of the seas, exploitation, falmouth, jamaica, oasis of the seas, royal caribbean

Carnival Drops Antigua Like A Hot Potato

Posted on September 30, 2009 by Jim Walker In an article in today’s Miami Herald entitled "Carnival’s Plan to Switch Port of Call Upsets Antigua," the newspaper reports that Carnival has dropped Antigua and Barbuda from its regular seven night Southern Caribbean cruise itinerary.

Antigua’s tourism minister, John Maginley, told the Herald that Carnival informed him of their decision via e-mail:

There was no discussion, none,” Maginely said. “We’re supposed to be partners in this thing, and all we got was an e-mail sent to the agent in Antigua that Carnival is pulling its boat. 

This will cost Antigua, which is dependent on tourism, more than $40 million annually.

This should serve as a wake up call for all ports of call which are dependent on cruise lines.  Carnival holds all of the cards in situations like this.  The notion that a sovereign country like Antigua is an equal "partner" to an 800 pound gorilla like Carnival is fanciful.  If a cruise line can make a better deal with an island next door, which charges a lower head tax, has fewer environmental restrictions, or is willing to foot the bill for a larger dock, then its "see ya later" as far as the cruise line goes. 

The cruise industry likes to promote the image that it is a responsible "partner" with the ports and their local business. Today the cruise line trade organization CLIA posted a link on Twitter @CruiseFacts to a video promoting the cruise industry in Portland Maine. CLIA suggests that its cruise line members are interested in developing and sustaining long term relationships with places like Portland and the "mom & pop" stores in its port. 

But Carnival’s quick pull out of Antigua should be a warning to Portland and other small ports which bet their economic future on the cruise industry.

Cruise lines like Carnival are fickle lovers.  Here today, gone tomorrow.  Just ask the tourism minister in Antigua.  He received his "Dear John" letter that his country lost $40,000,000 via email.     

 

Tags: Caribbean Islands, antigua, broken promises, carnival, clia, cruise line international association, exploitation

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