A few days ago on Sunday September 16, 2012 at about 9:30pm a passenger was seen falling overboard from the world’s largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas.
The Allure of the Seas never called the Coast Guard for assistance in searching until two hours later. By that time it was far too late for the lost passenger.
When BFP’s own pilot Robert heard about the incident, his first comment was surprise that Royal Caribbean built the world’s biggest and most expensive cruise ship – at a cost of some US$1.2 billion dollars – and didn’t include an onboard helicopter and alert flight crew to handle rescue situations and medical emergencies. The initial cost and ongoing expenditure would be nothing in relation to the overall operation, but Royal Caribbean made a decision to exclude the helicopter and instead build more cabins. Similarly Royal Caribbean does not maintain a quick launch rescue boat with a standby ready crew on alert. “Profits over passenger safety” seems to be the Royal Caribbean motto even at the design stage.
The outrageous failure of the Allure of the Seas captain to call for help for a passenger overboard and the failure of planning, design and operations in dealing with passengers overboard is just the latest in an ongoing series of cruise disaster stories. Cell phone cameras and internet access means that every passenger becomes a potential journalist able to broadcast any failure or disaster: and broadcast they do!
The cruise industry… for years has maintained that cruises are one of the safest ways to travel, and that a person is far more likely to be a victim of crime at home than aboard a ship.
Crime statistics tell a different story, according to Ross Klein, a professor of sociology at Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada.
“It is not safer than being on land. Passengers need to know that they are at risk,” said Klein, who has written four books on cruise safety and testified at U.S. congressional hearings on oversight of the cruise industry.
… from the USA Today article Law shields industry on cruise ship crime information
It seems like every week brings new reports of cruise ship negligence and operational decisions that compromise passenger safety. Whether it’s the rape of passengers by crew, strange disappearances, murders, virus outbreaks, collisions or a complete lack of reasonable security, policing and medical standards and resources, the cruise industry has found that passenger safety and onboard crime issues are starting to attract the attention of passengers, employees and government authorities.
The bottom line could be that cruise ship crime might, in a perverse way, be good for island tourism – but only if the island is perceived as a much safer destination than a cruise ship.
How does a week’s vacation in Barbados stack up risk wise against a week on a cruise ship? Our Barbados Tourism Authority should be able to provide that answer to journalists tomorrow. “Should be able…” is the operative phrase because lately the BTA hasn’t been able to do much of anything worthwhile if the staff is to be judged by results. Perhaps some Bajan journalist will read this and try to obtain the information from the BTA. Good luck!
According to Jim Walker of Cruise Law News, the cruise ship industry had a record year in 2011 with passenger traffic up over 2 million passengers or over 10 percent to 20 million souls. Walker notes that the fallout if any from the Costa Concordia disaster has yet to appear in the system, and that cruise bookings are rising. While he has his doubts about the statistics released by the industry, it seems that the cruise ship industry is blowing away island tourism in terms of pricing, profits and marketing. Islands throughout the Caribbean are becoming nothing but service stops and boarding platforms for cruise ships and their passengers.
What can be done to reverse this trend? Does building a third of a billion dollar new port facility for cruise ships really benefit Barbados? What could we do with that 300 million dollars instead to make more profit for the country and citizens, and to improve the quality of life and value to our tourists? Does pushing through another four or five thousand passengers every few days from the airport to the mega cruise ships really benefit Bajans? Is this what we want for our country? Is the mega-terminal our only choice? Is it the best choice?
These important public discussions haven’t been had, and they won’t be.
Whether we’re talking a DLP or BLP government, the political elites have never been big on informing Bajans about the directions that the government is taking the country and its tourism-based economy.
After all is said and done, how much money does Barbados net from each cruise passenger in transit? Is it worth it? What are the alternatives for our nation?
Mr. Stuart, Mr. Arthur… can either of you answer those questions?
Cruise Law News: Can the cruise industry keep up with bad cruise news?
Fox News: How safe is your cruise ship?