Deaths, Drugs, Child Porn & Noro Virus Earn Royal Caribbean the Worst Cruise Line in the World Award (Again)

Its been a while since I awarded my monthly "Worst Cruise Line in the World" award. But for one cruise line – Royal Caribbean – this year has been a such nightmare that it wins the first worst cruise line award for 2011 hands down. Last week started off with the disappearance of a 32 year old musician employed by Royal Caribbean on its newest mega cruise ship, the Allure of the Seas. Ms. Monika Markiewicz disembarked the Allure in Cozumel but did not return to the ship last Friday. The Allure sailed without her back to South Florida. On Saturday, her body was found floating face down in the water off of Cozumel with wounds to her head. The police in Mexico arrested a 24 year old employee from a local bar in Cozumel, Nelson Perez Torres, (photo left), whose parents of course swear he is a fine young man and didn't do it. Ms. Markiewicz was not the only young woman who died in Cozumel from the Allure of the Seas. A 24 year old passenger, later identified as Samantha Paige Thomas, died in a Mexican hospital after allegedly swallowing a broach. It is less than clear how Ms. Thomas ended up in the Mexican hospital. Some people have suggested that she was initially seen in the ship infirmary which either could not or refused to treat her, leaving her in the hands of the General Hospital in Mexico. A Mexican prosecutor convened a number of press conferences about the two deaths. He released medical information about Ms. Thomas and gruesome postmortem photographs of both Ms. Markiewicz and Ms. Thomas. The international press covered these stories closely, and the Mexican press published photos and videos which undoubtedly traumatized the grieving families. The articles inevitably contained photos of the Allure of the Seas juxtaposed with images like this of the alleged murderer or victim. Some newspapers in Europe (like this and this) were linking to Cruise Law News. Not exactly the type of marketing the cruise line executives like to see. Royal Caribbean took the unusual step of issuing a statement via PR Newswire, gratuitously adding that that the alleged killer and Ms. Markiewicz were "casually acquainted for several months." (What a nasty PR department this cruise line has). Royal Caribbean also made a point of characterizing the crime as "isolated and uncharacteristic" for Cozumel, attempting to salvage Mexico's already dubious reputation as a safe place for cruisers to visit, in the hopes of keeping its mega cruise ships sailing to Mexico racked and stacked with passengers. The Allure's sister ship, the Oasis of the Seas, had a serious accident when a valve on a cylinder failed during a fire drill. The cylinder struck one crew member from the Philippines in the head, killing him, and breaking the leg of one of the officers. Royal Caribbean did not release a PR statement because the incident received little attention. But someone identifying himself as an officer and part of the fire team left a comment on our blog that the incident was a risk which is one of the "perils of the sea." Getting hit in the head by a defective cylinder is a peril of the sea?? Adding to these three deaths was the disappearance and death of a young man from a Royal Caribbean's cruise ship. Last Wednesday the Spanish TV station Univision aired an "exclusive" story about the disappearance of 21-year-old Jose Miguel Pietri Tello from Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas cruise ship. The "Primer Impacto" program showed two videos which contained interviews with his surviving family members as well as closed circuit television (CCTV) images of the young man on the cruise ship right before he went overboard. We covered this sad story last month Another Passenger Overboard From A Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship, where you can watch the Primer Impacto video including clips from the onboard CCTV images. A lawsuit was filed against Royal Caribbean over the death of a 56 year old passenger who was "tossed around like a ragdoll and was seriously hurt" during the violent storm which rocked the Brilliance of the Seas. Three days later the passenger lapsed into a coma and subsequently died. Doctors apparently diagnosed a "brain ­hemorrhage" as the cause of death. But Royal Caribbean chose not only to refute the allegations but to release confidential medical information about its guest in an attempt to sully the waters. Anyone at the cruise line hear of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which protects patient's medical records? If stories about five deaths in the last month was not enough, three Royal Caribbean crew members (cooks) who smuggled heroin and cocaine from the Dominican Republic aboard the Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas were arrested. $100,000 worth of cocaine and heroin were later found in a crew only area on the same cruise ship which has been sailing from Baltimore to the Caribbean islands. Then several Royal Caribbean crew members were arrested smuggling a large quantity of cocaine into Bermuda aboard the Explorer of the Seas. The ring leader was sentenced to 15 years in prison. But bringing drugs onto Royal Caribbean cruise ships is not limited to crew members. A drug dealing passenger was arrested on the Allure of the Seas after it returned from the disastrous cruise to Cozumel and then departed on what is described as the "largest gay cruise in the world." The Atlantis Events charters have brought lots of drug overdoses and two deaths to Royal Caribbean cruise ships in the past; however, the cruise line invited the gay rave Atlantis crowd back to yet another cruise, this time aboard the Allure of the Seas. Before the cruise, we asked whether Royal Caribbean was prepared to deal with the drug overdoses associated with the Atlantis group. Predictably, there were multiple overdoses and one of the passengers who was friendly with the Atlantis organizers was arrested for allegedly selling over $50,000 of ecstasy, "Special K" and methamphetamine. Royal Caribbean's PR people issued a statement that it has a "strict zero tolerance" of drugs. Yeah right. Last year, we reported on a drug related death on a Royal Caribbean – Atlantis cruise involving Spencer Yu, an attorney for Warner Brothers. The truth is that the cruise line is all too happy to invite the Atlantis partiers aboard because they spend a ton of money on the cruise ships even if they are well known to suffer through a dozen drug overdoses and a death or so each cruise. Zero tolerance of drugs? Royal Caribbean has already made plans to charter the Allure to Atlantis in 2012. Isn't this enough to win the worst cruise line in the world award? But there's more. The FBI arrested a crew member aboard the Constellation operated by Royal Caribbean's sister company Celebrity Cruises on child-pornography charges after the cruise ship arrived at the Port of San Diego. His computer reportedly contained 450 photographs and about 250 video files of child pornography portraying a total of 44 different victims. He chatted on line about wanting to have sex with children in Mexico, which was on the cruise ship's itinerary. The crew member was employed as the audiovisual manager on the cruise ship and provided onboard guest-entertainment services. And to cap things off, Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas was the first cruise ship to suffer a nasty noro virus outbreak this year. Most cruise lines have not this much bad press in a couple of years. But for Royal Caribbean, it comes naturally. Royal Caribbean has won the "Worst Cruise Line in the World" award before: "Titanic Dreams" – Royal Caribbean Wins "Worst Cruise Line in the World" Award

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