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Tag Archives: cruise travel

Giffords, Kelly to headline on Mediterranean cruise

Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her retired astronaut husband Mark Kelly will take to the high seas this summer as the headliners for a high-end Atlantic and Mediterranean cruise.

Giffords, who is recovering after being shot through the head at a constituency meeting in Tucson last year, will join Kelly for the cruise-ship speaking engagement in late July, said Mimi Weisband, Crystal Cruises’ public relations vice president.

Related: Giffords officially resigns from Congress

Kelly will speak to holidaymakers about the “human spirit” during the 12-day voyage from Lisbon to Rome, she said.

Giffords, who resigned from Congress in January to focus on her recovery, is not expected to speak at the presentation, although there will be a photo opportunity with guests.

Related: New Navy ship named after Gabrielle Giffords

The Arizona Democrat was left with faltering speech and a pronounced limp after a lone gunman opened fire outside a Tucson, Arizona, grocery store where she was meeting with constituents on January 8 2011. In all, six people were killed and 13 others were wounded.

“We are pleased they have chosen to do this,” Weisband told Reuters. “She is still recovering and she has to be very thoughtful about the kind of travel she does,” she added.

Video: Gabby Giffords’ graceful resignation (on this page)

Financial arrangements for the couple’s appearance were not disclosed.

The cost of the cruise aboard the Crystal Serenity begins at $5,410 per person and it is about 60 percent booked, Weisband said.

Giffords and Kelly, a former U.S. Navy pilot who commanded one of the last Space Shuttle flights, collaborated on a memoir, “Gabby,” published late last year about her path to recovery and their lives together.

Slideshow: Ariz. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (on this page)

The couple have been inseparable in public in the aftermath of the shooting and have been send hand-in-hand during several public appearances this year.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

Princess cancels two cruises due to propulsion issue

An issue with the propulsion motor on Caribbean Princess caused the ship to cut its most recent sailing short, and according to a statement from Princess Cruises, it has also prompted the line to cancel two subsequent sailings scheduled for March 18 and March 25. 

The ship, which arrived back in its home port of San Juan for repairs on Wednesday, is currently serving as a floating hotel for passengers aboard the March 11 sailing, who will be allowed to stay on board until Sunday, when the voyage was slated to end. The ship stayed overnight in St. Maarten — the itinerary’s first port of call — on Monday after arriving more than four hours late.

Those on the shortened sailing and those on the March 18 and March 25 sailings will each be issued a full-fare refund and a 25 percent future cruise credit. Those on the March 18 and March 25 sailings will have their airfare either refunded or credited if booked through Princess. If not booked through Princess, those affected can submit any airfare change fees to the line for reimbursement. Princess’ statement also says the line will refund any transfers, pre- or post-cruise hotel stays, and government fees and taxes. 

The necessary repairs will tentatively be completed in time for the ship’s April 1 sailing from San Juan. 

Several members on the Cruise Critic message boards have suggested that the Caribbean Princess experienced similar issues on previous sailings. “We were on the Caribbean Jan 29 – Feb 12 and were delayed departing St. Lucia for Grenada by several hours due to propulsion problems,” says kappellof. “We were scheduled to depart about 6:00pm and didn’t depart until close to midnight.” 

“We were on the CB in Jan. for a B2B and both weeks they had problems with the propulsion system. One time we ended up docked for several hours until they could get it going,” tigercat added.

Princess representatives, however, have denied those claims, stating that there were no other propulsion problems on recent voyages. 

More from Cruise Critic:

Cruise passenger booted for skipping safety drill

Are cruise lines getting tough when it comes to muster drills? A passenger on Holland America’s Westerdam was made to debark Sunday in Port Everglades for “non-compliance” during the mandatory drill, in which passengers are told what to do in the case of emergency (including how to don a life jacket).

The drill took place on Sunday afternoon just before Westerdam departed on a weeklong jazz-themed charter cruise. Cruise Critic member Blazeconsulting posted the news on the Cruise Critic message boards, and Holland America confirmed the debarkation. The poster stated that multiple passengers were debarked, but HAL countered that only one guest was involved.

“The drill included alarm blasts and announcements throughout the ship, including instructions that failure to participate would result in disembarkation,” said the line in a statement sent to Cruise Critic. The statement did not mention if there were other circumstances surrounding the debarkation, and Holland America’s Westerdam has declined to comment further on what “non-compliance” means.

Some Cruise Critic readers have recently pointed to a new pre-sail warning. “It was announced that anyone who refused to attend would not be allowed to sail,” posted member Himself (currently on Nieuw Amsterdam) on the boards. Other Holland America veterans said the line is now taking roll call at the muster stations, a policy that it had discontinued. In an e-mail, Holland America spokeswoman Sally Andrews confirmed that Holland America’s muster drills now include roll calls as well as “passenger announcements [that] refer to the fact that failure to participate may result in disembarkation, as was the case with this incident.”

The policy changes come in the wake of the Costa Concordia disaster, which has sparked vigorous debate about cruise line safety protocols.

Related: NYT: So, just how safe is your ship?

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), a U.N. agency tasked with improving maritime safety, requires that a passenger ship must hold a muster drill within 24 hours of embarkation. The vast majority of cruise lines, however, fulfill the stipulation before departure. (For more on the drill, see our story on the mystery of the muster.)

But while the IMO states that musters are a must, enforcement may be another story. “The only enforceable piece is that the ship completes the passenger muster as required,” said Lt. Cmdr. Dan Brehm of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Cruise Ship National Center of Expertise. “What they do to the passengers who don’t show up is a company policy at that point.”

In an interview with Frommers, Ben Lyons, former safety and chief officer on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, and current chief officer for Lindblad, said the way individual lines take attendance and follow up on those who aren’t there varies.

“Not all lines use an emergency system that relies upon an actual roll call; instead, they have crew search all areas of the ship,” Lyons told the publication. “If nobody is found, then everyone must be in the muster stations. In that scenario, a roll call will not be taken. (In a real situation, however, it is likely their method of searching would also be supplemented by an actual roll call.) Some lines that take roll calls and identify those who skipped the drill will hold a special meeting or drill the next morning; other cruise lines simply ignore the fact that you didn’t attend.”

According to HAL’s cruise contract, it appears that the line has always had the right to debark muster missers. Section 6 of the General Provisions, “Authority to Remove Passengers,” states that passengers can “be denied transportation either before or during the cruise … in situations where, [for example] you fail to abide by the rules or orders of the Master or other ship’s officers.” Attendance at the muster drill comes as an order of the master.

Cruise Critic reached out to a number of lines, including Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises and Carnival Cruise Lines, to see how or if their muster policies have changed and how they enforce non-compliance. Only Harrison Liu — speaking on a behalf of sister lines Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara Club Cruises — responded.

“Our three core brands haven’t changed our muster drill policy and enforcement,” Liu told Cruise Critic in an e-mail. “We wouldn’t and haven’t disembarked any guest as a result of missing the muster drill. Our staff and crew are empowered to engage our guests, convince them of the importance of this safety measure, and ensure compliance.”

We’ve also left messages by phone and e-mail with the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), cruising’s largest trade organization, to determine whether the industry’s approach to muster drills is changing.

More on Overhead Bin

Princess ship scoops up sailors during midnight rescue mission

Passengers on Princess Cruises‘ 113,000-ton, 3,080-passenger Ruby Princess witnessed a dramatic rescue on Monday in the Bahamas.

Close to midnight, as the ship was sailing through the Bahamas en route to St Maarten, the ship’s officers picked up a distress call from a trimaran that had lost navigational power and was drifting, with three French nationals on board. 

 Ruby Princess changed course and put down a lifeboat, which picked up the three sailors. Hundreds of passengers and crew witnessed the rescue, which was recorded by passenger Anton Anderssen from Michigan (with thanks to cruise blogger Captain Greybeard for alerting us to this video).

A spokeswoman for Princess Cruises in the U.K. told Cruise Critic that none of the three had required medical attention, and that the U.S. Coastguard and Bahamian authorities had been notified. Ruby Princess arrived in St Maarten on schedule.

 Here’s how the rescue unfolded:

More from Cruise Critic:

What you sign away when you book a cruise

It’s all fun and margaritas when you first book a cruise. But that “ticket” is actually a contract that can run more than a dozen pages, and gives away more rights to the cruise ship company than you may realize.

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“People will buy the ticket without knowing this, and they won’t even look at it before they step on the cruise ship,” said Joseph Goldberg, a Harrisburg, Pa.-based consumer attorney who reviewed the ticket contract posted on the Carnival Cruise Lines website for Reuters.

Carnival dominates about half of the cruise market, and its contract, which runs almost 8,000 words and mentions “liability” 20 times, could be considered typical for the industry.

“It’s not until something does happen that you find out how stuck you are,” Goldberg said.

Something did happen, of course. The Costa Concordia, operated by a company owned by Miami-based Carnival, ran aground in Italian waters on Friday, leaving at least 11 passengers dead and some 24 more missing. That was an extreme and unusual event, likely to have lawyers fighting for years over the various and sometimes contradictory laws, agreements and contracts that may come into play, according to Lewis “Mike” Eidson, a Miami trial lawyer who specializes in representing cruise passengers.

He said he expects to represent Costa Concordia passengers and crew members, and that he will argue that the usual contractual limitations shouldn’t apply, because the particulars of this case were so extreme.

But anyone thinking of a nice mid-winter cruise should consider those limitations anyway. If you know what you’re signing away, you may be able to protect yourself in the event of lesser tragedies, like lost luggage or a minor injury.

Here are seven rights you sign away when you buy a cruise ship ticket.

  • The right to privacy. When you sign the Carnival contract, you give the company the right “at all times with or without notice” to search your bags and personal effects. That’s so they can make sure you’re not smuggling any firearms, explosives or bourbon (that you didn’t buy at their bar) onto the ship.

Furthermore, that contract gives Carnival the right to use pictures and videos of you any way they want. You may not want your office buddies seeing pictures of you in a bathing suit, but that image could make its way into a commercial, without Carnival paying you or getting any additional release signed by you.

  • The right to show off your pictures. Just because Carnival reserves the rights to your pictures doesn’t mean you can use them yourself, says Goldberg. While the company is unlikely to complain if you adorn your Facebook page with deck pics, passengers who use the tickets do agree that they “will not utilize any photographs … for non-private use without express written consent of Carnival.” So much for that travel blog you wanted to publish.
  • The right to be repaid if your jewelry gets stolen or your luggage gets accidentally dropped in the Caribbean. The ticket contract limits the company’s liability for lost or damaged bags and their contents to $50 per guest or $100 per stateroom. If your items are worth much more than that, you can buy added coverage by declaring the value of what you are bringing onto the ship and paying 5 percent of its value.

If you’re bringing expensive jewelry or other items on board, make a written list of the value, pay the 5 percent and make sure the crew gets a copy of that list, says Goldberg.

  • The right to count on that vacation. Carnival can cancel any cruise at any time, according to the contract. It will owe you a refund if the cruise is completely cancelled, or a partial refund if the company changes its mind and leaves you at some port along the way. There’s no additional refund in the contract for airfare home. And if you cancel within two weeks of booking? You’ll most likely owe full fare anyway, under the contract.
  • The right to sue when and where you want. Like most consumer legal contracts these days, the Carnival ticket contract includes an arbitration clause that requires you to submit claims for lost luggage and the like to binding arbitration in Miami-Dade County, Florida. If you do want to file suit for a personal injury, you would be required to do that in the U.S. Federal District Court in Miami.

Furthermore, there are lawsuit deadlines in cruise contracts that many attorneys and passengers aren’t even aware of, said Eidson. The contract requires injured parties to notify Carnival within six months and file suit within a year. “The biggest claim in the world could be defeated if you don’t file your claim within the year,” he said.

  • The right to ask for sizeable punitive damages. There are two different kinds of ticket contracts, says Eidson: Domestic ones, which do not cap liability, and international contracts, such as the ones the passengers of the Costa Concordia likely agreed to when they boarded their ship. That contract is subject to an international agreement called the “Athens Convention,” which limits liability to about $80,000, according to legal experts. Because of the egregious nature of this case, lawyers like Eidson will seek to blow through those limits by claiming the ship’s owners and operators were reckless.
  • The right to be legitimately upset. What if you’re traumatized by your cruise? Not because the raw bar ran out of shrimp or those margaritas were watery, but because a loved one was injured or killed on the ship. Unless you personally were at risk for the same injury (as would likely be the case in a disaster like the Costa Concordia’s accident), you probably waived your right to claim emotional distress in the contract. You could try to take another cruise to calm yourself down, but you might want to bring your lawyer.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.