Monthly Archives: October 2015

Proudly Representing Cruise Ship Cases in Miami, Nearby Areas of Florida and Nationwide

On October 27, 1998, the cruise ship Fantome was lost and has never been found.

The ship was originally built in 1927 by the Duke of Westminster and eventually sold to Windjammer Barefoot Cruises in Miami, Florida in 1969. As the flagship of the Windjammer fleet, Fantome offered Caribbean and Bay of Honduras cruises.

On October 24, 1998, Fantome departed Omoa in Honduras for a one week cruise. At the same time, Hurricane Mitch was over 1,000 miles away in the Caribbean Sea and the forecast path took it to Jamaica and maybe the Yucatan Peninsula. Nevertheless, the Captain of the Fantome, Guyan March decided to go to the Bay Islands until the storm passed.

As can happen with late season hurricanes, Mitch changed course the following day so the Fantome changed its course and went to Belize City where the Captain disembarked all of the disappointed passengers and ten non essential crew members. The ship then left and headed for the Gulf of Mexico to outrun the hurricane. However, once again Mitch changed course, and so the plan changed and the Fantome tried to make for Roatan thinking on the lee side of the island there would be more protection. By now Mitch was a Category 5 Hurricane with winds up to 185 miles an hour. Once again Mitch changed course and now was heading directly for Roatan.

Fantome made one last effort to reach safety and headed east towards the Caribbean. Mitch, however, gained speed and at 4.30 p.m. on October 27, Fantome reported she was in the middle of the storm with 40 foot seas. Shortly afterwards radio contact was lost and Fantome and the 31 crew on board were never found.

All that has since been found of the cruise ship are a couple of life rafts and life vests of the eastern coast of Guanaja.  

 

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A crew member from the Costa Diadema has reportedly sexually molested a teenage girl on board the ship in Italy.

According to Italian news, a 50-year-old man from Honduras, who was working on board the Costa Diadema as a cleaner, has now been arrested by Italian police. Costa Diadema can hold nearly 5,000 passengers.

The 15 year old girl was travelling with her uncle and aunt and she left the dining room after dinner to go back to her cabin. She told her aunt and uncle that the man came into her cabin and touched her private parts and began to kiss her. She managed to break free and went to tell her relatives about what had happened. They informed the captain, and the cruise company then told the police in La Spezia where the ship was berthed at the time. The police came on board, arrested the perpetrator and charged him with sexual assault.

Costa cruises is providing full collaboration with the Italian authorities and support to the family.

This is not the first time this has happened on board the Costa Diadema. In August of this year, a bar tender was arrested for sexually assaulting an 18 year-old French woman on board the ship when in was docked in Naples as part of a seven day Mediterranean cruise out of Marseille, France. On that occasion, 30 year old Mark Guinucud from Manila, Philippines supposedly brutally raped the woman. He had booked a flight for August 29 from Pisa to the Philippines, but an Italian deputy prosecutor issued an arrest warrant and stopped him from flying. He is still in prison in La Spezia.

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The world cruise by the cruise ship Aurora has been cancelled after less than a week.

On Monday, October 19 the Aurora returned to Southampton, England having left the previous Wednesday for a 103 night world cruise. It appears that although the ship’s propulsion system had been repaired it was not sufficient to allow the cruise to continue.

The scheduled departure date for the Aurora world cruise was delayed by 10 days while they tried to repair the engines, but after only 110 miles, going round and round the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England, P&O called the cruise off and will now refund the 1,752 passengers who each paid between $15,000 and $65,000 for the trip. In fact 385 passengers had already cancelled once the departure date was delayed. Meanwhile the Aurora will be taken to a British or German shipyard for repairs and is expected to be out of service for at least five weeks.

It is thought P&O have lost around $46 million as a result of cancelling the cruise as in addition to refunding the passengers they will also receive a future cruise credit of 25% of this fare.

P&O had planned to change the cruise due to the delays with some of the 40 scheduled ports due to be missed out including Acapulco, Barbados, Honolulu and San Francisco, and the ship was to return via the Suez canal rather than the Panama Canal

The Aurora began to cruise in 2000 and was launched by Princess Anne, the Princess Royal. When the traditional champagne bottle used in the launch ceremony did not break it was said to be bad luck. This has certainly come true for Aurora as she broke down on her maiden voyage and had to return to the U.K. and in 2003 there was a major norovirus outbreak with over 600 passengers and crew affected.

 

 

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It appears that once again the Azipod system about the Norwegian Star has failed causing problems for passengers.

Azipod is the brand name for ABB Group's range of electric azimuth thrusters. Azipod is a propulsion unit used on cruise ships which comes together with the propeller and is used by several of the major cruise lines on their ships.

This is not the first time however that the Norwegian Star has had problems with the Azipod system as in 2004 damage to part of the system caused calls in the certain ports to be suspended and a speed restriction of 18 knots rather than the 25 knots needed. The subsequent repositioning cruise to Vancouver was cancelled so that the ship could go into dry dock for repairs.

Then in April this year, once again the Norwegian Star was out of service for two weeks due to problems with the Azipod and its repositioning cruise to the Panama Canal was cancelled.

This time the ship has had to cancel its scheduled call into Miami on October 17 and is going directly to Tampa a day early on October 17 with disembarking the following morning. Passengers will be given a cruise credit of 15% of the fare for a future cruise and a day’s refund for their current cruise. Passengers are also being allowed free access to the internet and telephone and are being helped to rearrange hotel bookings and transportation.

Norwegian Cruise Lines expect the next departure out of Tampa to take place as scheduled on October 19, assuming this current problem with the Azipod can be rectified.

 

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Acapulco used to be a major cruise destination with only seven cruises calling into the port last year. Five years ago there were 150.

The reason for the massive decrease in cruises visiting Acapulco, which was the favorite place for Hollywood stars in the nineteen fifties, it that it is now the murder capital of Mexico.

The figures are sobering, with between two and six people murdered daily. Between January and May, over 330 people were murdered which is over 40% more than the previous year. The figures continue to rise and by August over 500 had been murdered.  

While police say that most of the murders are gangland and drug related, officials are also being killed with this month a member of the municipal staff being shot dead and on Saturday, October 10 a city councilman was shot dead in the middle of the day.

Not only cruise ships used to call into Acapulco, it was also a favorite place for American college students to spend Spring Break but they too are deserting the resort town famous for its cliff divers with 30,000 visiting over Spring Break in 2009, which dropped to 500 in 2011 and now there are none
In addition, the United States State Department warns any American traveling to Acapulco not to go inland from the beach.

There is now a new mayor in Acapulco who is trying to improve security with a new initiative called “Acalpulco Shield” involving all of the different police forces, but he has a mammoth task on his hands with 88% of residents scared to leave their homes due to the level of violence.

 

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A crew member who worked aboard the Norwegian Breakaway cruise ship has been sentenced to two years in jail in Bermuda.

On Thursday, October 15, 30 year old Lindel Primus pleaded guilty in a Magistrate’s Court to conspiring with others to import nearly 2,000 grams of cannabis to Bermuda over a time period ending September 16. Cannabis is classified as a controlled drug in Bermuda and the amount involved had a street value of $94,925 there.

Originally Primus denied the offence, which was possession as well as intent to supply, but on this court appearance he changed his plea which was subsequently accepted by the court. He also admitted to bringing cannabis to the country on two previous occasions without being caught. Primus lives on the Caribbean island of Grenada and said that he was trying to help his five children and grandmother as he was responsible for them and apologized to the court for what he had done.

Primus worked in the galley on the Norwegian Breakaway and when he left the ship on September 16 he was subjected to a routine pat down and the drugs were discovered, secured with elastic bands under the spandex bicycle shorts he was wearing The police were called and they, together with the on board security searched his cabin where they discovered an email address and password, presumably linked to the person he was supplying the drugs to

The magistrate sentenced Primus to two years’ imprisonment with the time he had already served in jail on remand also taken into account.

 

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The name of the woman who fell from the Seabourn Quest cruise ship off Cape Ann has now been revealed.


Wendy Portman Lewis, aged 29 and a native of Canada, died on the night of September 11, having fallen from the Seabourn Quest, however, the cause of her death has still not been announced. According to the state medical examiner and the FBI her death is still under investigation. The FBI went on to say that they still had no comment but it is understood that foul play has not been ruled out.
Lewis owned a high end jewelry store together with her British husband, G. Douglas Lewis which was called The Estate Jewelry Collection and located in Palm Desert, California. The store was home to a vast collection of diamonds up to 150 carats.
The Seabourn Quest had just set out from Boston on a cruise to New England and the Maritimes and was heading for the St. Lawrence River and Montreal in Canada. Its first port of call was due to be Bar Harbor in Main although it had not reached there when Lewis fell overboard. Although it has 11 decks it is an all suite cruise ship holding around 450 passengers.
Having fallen off the ship her body was discovered shortly afterwards by a local fisherman and she was taken to Rockport’s T-Wharf, by town harbormasters Rosemary Lesch and Scott Story and pronounced dead just before 8 p.m.

 

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Last Friday, October 2, a woman having a heart attack had to be rescued from the Carnival Triumph cruise ship by the United States Coast Guard.

The woman, aged 43, was taken ill with a heart attack some 115 miles off the coast of Galveston on Friday at four in the morning. The ship’s crew contacted the Coast Guard and they launched a helicopter to evacuate her to the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.  

Having a heart attack on board ship is quite common but the ability of the on board medical staff to be able to assist will vary, depending on the size of the ship and the facilities available. Staff should be able to provide emergency medical care and carry out basic diagnoses but anything serious will usually necessitate the evacuation of the patient.

The cruise industry association, called Cruise Line International, lays down what ships must adhere to in terms of the standards and qualifications of the medical staff on board. They use the guidelines from the American College of Emergency Physicians which say the medical center should have the basic equipment necessary to deal with a heart emergency such as oxygen, EKG, two defibrillators, cardiac monitors and equipment necessary to check vital signs.

The ACEP also says the medical staff must be on call 24 hours a day and the personnel must have at least three years of post graduate experience in general and emergency medicine or they must have board certification in emergency medicine, family medicine or internal medicine.

However there will be no CT scanner, or MRI and no intensive care unit so if the heart attack is severe the patient will be disembarked either by boat or helicopter depending on the distance from land. That can also lead to issues as depending where it is there may not be the same standards of care or facilities as in the United States.

 

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A man who owned a Phoenix construction company and who was awaiting sentencing on a federal tax evasion case has died after falling ill on a Disney cruise in somewhat mysterious circumstances.

Peter Mizioch, aged 75 was due to be sentenced in November having pled guilty to a tax charge involving fake payments to an insurance agent to the tune of $700,000. The judge allowed him to go on the Disney Caribbean cruise, from Florida to the Bahamas, prior to sentencing and returned his passport to him.

However Mizioch was still a subject of interest in the murder of his estranged wife back in 2010 in Phoenix and in addition he had also previously been investigated following the shooting of a business partner in 1979 and the murders of three other business associates in 1989, 1999 and 2005. Each one was shot and each one had a life insurance policy in which the only beneficiary was Mizioch. He received around $8 million from the policies.

He was not charged in any of the cases as it was ruled that just because so many people close to him had been murdered it was not sufficient to prove that he murdered them, and even though insurance companies tried to avoid paying the claims, they too failed. 

 

According to the police, Mizioch suffered a stroke back on September 10 while on the cruise and was disembarked in the Bahamas and flown to a hospital in Fort Lauderdale where he died on September 13. However, on the cruise with him was a woman who said she was his daughter, and she produced a will as soon as he died, saying he had to be cremated immediately. Her passport said she was Theresa Anderson but no one had any knowledge of her or the fact that she was his daughter. In addition the death certificate says that Marilyn Rose Ortega was the family member who informed the death and states that she was his daughter.

The Phoenix investigators who still considered Mizioch as a person of interest in the death of his wife managed to stop the immediate cremation and arranged for fingerprints and a photograph of the body to be taken before the cremation took place.  The police are still waiting for the hospital report but they say the fingerprints taken of the body match those of Mizioch in the federal database.

However, the police have no solid information on the time lines of Mizioch’s journey on the cruise ship, his transportation from the Bahamas and do not know if they are dealing with a natural death, a homicide or indeed a hoax.

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On Thursday, October 1, an American who was a passenger on board a cruise ship was sent to jail in Barbados in the Caribbean.

Christopher James Sarette, aged 31 from Las Cruces in New Mexico was on a Caribbean cruise aboard the Adventure of the Seas. The ship was docked in Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados when he was seen by the Security Chief on the ship as he was smoking a joint of marijuana. He was then detained and the local police were called. The police then searched his cabin and found a further 14 grams of cannabis He was then remanded in custody and appeared in court charged with possession and importing of marijuana.

In this defense, Sarette said that he had bought the marijuana in St. Lucia on September 30, which was the port the ship had called in before arriving in Barbados and he had smoked some of it there as well. He said no one had told him that smoking marijuana was against the law neither in St. Lucia, nor in Barbados.

The magistrate ruled that he should pay $750 as a fine for possession of marijuana and a further $1,000 for importing the drug. Should he not be able to pay the fines, they would be waived and instead he had to spend a month in jail at Her Majesty’s Dodds Prison. 

Many passengers have complained that on certain Caribbean Islands they are pestered by people on shore trying to sell them drugs, however, even though cannabis is legal in some states in the United States, when it comes to cruise ships it is illegal, along with any other illicit drugs. 

In addition, under the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, not only is it illegal but members of the crew are bound to report anything suspicious. Anyone caught with marijuana even if it is a tiny amount will be disembarked from the ship and may be reported to the local police.

 

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