Episode 96 – SS United States transcription

Editor’s note: If you find a spelling error or a typo, sorry! This is transcribed from the audio of episode 96.

Intro: Broadcasting from the Cruise Radio studio’s in Jacksonville, Florida, this is Cruise Radio.

Host: Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and sign up for our newsletter at CruiseRadio.net. On this show will talk to a gentleman who was once a navigational officer aboard the SS United States, maritime attorney Jim walker will talk to us, and we’ll get review of the Explorer of the Seas by listener David Stern.

But first Stewart Chiron the cruise guy is here. Hi Stewart!  Let’s get right to it, Royal Caribbean announced it’s plan to upgrade some of their ships, is this an industry first to be upgrading so many ships at one time? And it’s the whole fleet I understand?

Stewart: It is fleet wide and no, it’s not the first time, Holland America actually did something like that, as well as Carnival with their signature of fun upgrades. But Royal Caribbean is going to be spending about three hundred million dollars between now and two thousand fourteen which is the next time they’re going to have a new ship hit the water. What their going to be doing is taking a lot of the highly acclaimed features from the Oasis class ships and making them more available on the other ships. They will expanding wi-fi by pervasive wi-fi, we still don’t really know what that means, we know what pervasive means but the what i’m told that the wi-fi instead of just being in hotspots on the ship is going to be ship-wide which is what most of the ships are already at. Their going to be bringing in the ipod docking stations for some of the additional amenities, but their also going to be bringing in a lot of the dining features that were so very popular on Oasis. Rita’s Cantina, Chops Steakhouse on all the ships, adding LED screens, so it’ll be nice.

Host: Out of Port Canaveral, the Disney Dream is on FIRE, figuratively speaking of course….?

Stewart:  Well if you have you remember we talked about this back in February after the Disney Dream’s first month and we were looking at the inventory of the ship and it  was flying off the handle. You couldn’t get an inside ocean-view cabin up until June and i mean this is with the rest of the year i mean you can’t really get on the ship for less than fifteen hundred dollars.Fifteen hundred dollars for a Disney cruise, that doesn’t sound like a lot of money but that’s for three days, that’s a huge amount of money and what’s amazing is I believe that they’ve set a record as far as occupancy of the ship.

Host: For our listeners who many want to book Disney Dream, any advice for them?

Stewart: Book early because the problem of the cabin that that can accommodate three, four, or five are very hard to come by and people are already looking at the March, April, and May of next year. It’s just astounding!

Host: Let’s go out west to Houston, cruise lines reject Houston as a cruise port, that is too close to Galveston?

Stewart: Houston came onto the scene back in 1997 when NCL decided to bring one of their ships out there they resurrected the tex-aribbean itinerary, shortly thereafter Carnival, Royal, Princess they all joined out there but instead of going to the port of Houston and joining NCL, they actually went to Galveston and the reason for Galveston is it saves a lot of time fuel and money getting in and out of the Gulf of Mexico. NCL left Houston and not to return and Galveston was more of a resort area, the hotels, the restaurants, it was something a little more vacationing. Again not mention that it was a lot closer to the ocean so you know Houston has been trying for years trying to get other cruise line, they sent out twenty seven of request for proposals to all the cruise lines and not one responded.

Host: How far is Houston away from Galveston?

Stewart:  From what I remember it was about forty or fifty miles. It’s farther north in and it’s inland and is very close to the coast. It’s just easier for them to get in and out of the Gulf of Mexico.

Host: In moments we’re going to talk to a gentleman who was one of the navigational officers aboard the legendary ocean liner the SS United States.  Can you share with us why this ship was such an industry leader at its time?

Stewart:  Well it was a passenger ship and at the time there was a lot of secret military technology that was utilized in the ship and during the wars. Today it’s still considered the fastest ship ever cross the ocean and it’s pretty exciting but the problem is the ship was built in nineteen fifty two and late of nineteen sixty nine at this point is that the fifty nine year-old ship and you may recall NCL actually owned the ship and just recently sold it to a conservancy group and it but the problem was NCL never had any intention on bringing the ship online they eventually i i believe they think they didn’t block other cruise lines from not getting their hands on a US flag, US built ship in order to create competition for them in Hawaii but the reality was to bring  this ship up to sailing speed would be between five and seven hundred million dollars.Which is the cost of a brand new ship. For them to even make this ship a floating hotel, they would have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars and no one was up to do it.

Host: When it comes the world cruising he is the omniscient Stewart Chiron the Cruise Guy.

Host: Every week we like to give you Porthole Cruise Magazine’s pick of the week.

If your upcoming cruise has you leaving or visiting Charleston, South Carolina, you’ll probably want to make the most out of your southern style meals. In that case, make your way to Sullivan’s Island where you can find Poe’s Tavern. This restaurant pays homage to the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe as does the menu items of fish tacos, burgers, and more. For examples, there is the telltale heart which adds a fried egg, applewood bacon and cheddar cheese to either a burger or chicken sandwich, as well as the black cat which includes grilled onions edgar ‘s drunken chili applewood bacon and pimento cheese and Anabel Lee at the Charleston style crab cake with fresh vegetable remoulade sauce check out PoesTavern.com for more info.

Host:Our next guest was one of the navigational officers on the bridge of the SS United States, the largest ocean liner constructed entirely in the us and the fastest ocean liner across the Atlantic in either direction. He’s had quite the interesting life and has written all about it in his book ‘One with the Sea: An inspiring rags to riches saga of the son of an Irish immigrant.’
Richard Daniel O’leary, welcome to Cruise Radio, let’s start right at the beginning, tell us about your childhood.

Guest: Well i was born in Maine and my father was an Irish immigrant and a basically illiterate and he came in alone is nineteen years old,  worked in New York, Boston, Vermont, so I grew up quite poor.

Host: What era was this?

Guest: 1932 I was born, we were very poor but we always ate and it was not a dysfunctional family, it was the opposite, my father was a saint and hard-working person again only for his family and i came from that environment, got to high school which i found pretty well all the way i didn’t know about if I was going to go to college and not having money but i worked for a year in a bakery in try to find some place where I wouldn’t need money. There was two that I was interested in: Main merchant marine academy and the other was northeast university of New York. The Maine academy was pretty much subsidized state government and northeast had a five-year work study program and they got my criteria. When I was about five to eight years old i got to see the sea for the first time and I thought it was stunning experience and it changed my life and i never wanted to be inland again. I’ve pretty much been able to do that all my life on ships and where I live.

Host: And you went into the Navy?

Guest: When i got out of school I went into the navy as the lowest officer on an ammunition ship in New York. Made my way down from Maine down on the bus and over the Brooklyn Bridge and when I got on the boat I tried to salute correctly and the officer of the take said take this ensign back to navigator’s room. I thought of going there to meet the navigator and i found out that that I was being assigned as a navigator, the next day I was up knocking on the captains door telling him that there must be some mistake.  I’ve done a little celestial navigation but I certainly wasn’t qualified to the navigate a great big ammunition ship. I was stunned when they said “you’re qualified, so you are qualified,” and almost fainted but anyway i went on was a lot of venture but it turned out okay.

Host:So how did you find yourself there to on the bridge of the world ‘s greatest passenger liner the SS United States?

Guest: That was naval service and i would have primarily train for was maritime service so i came back and at the end of naval service I was over in the Mediterranean, which i love very much not navigating not just one ship but a few ships, and i love it there the weather is great. I came back and I was gonna look around for a job in the merchant marine was hoping to get on one of the American export for races but i made the mistake (or maybe i didn’t make the mistake) I went to the United States line first and was interviewed by the vice president and he was asking the questions and I asked him a couple. I went to work the United States lines which at that time was the biggest shipping company in the United States that had fifty freighters and two liners. I went to Europe and the far east. When I went to the far east, I was on one of the fastest freighters in the world which was about 24 knots. And little did i know that when i came back that I was gonna be asked to do two relieving trips, I believe a third officer on the aficionado said yes so i went there and it was pretty thrilling thing, I mean the ship was incredible and fast and anyway the guy relieved never let him never really never came back and I stayed for five years and crossed the ocean two hundred fifty times.

Host: I wanted to hear what that experiencewas like an what the ship was like.

Guest: It’s associated with a legend the blue riband which is the honor for the fastest crossing of the north Atlantic ocean and a man William Francis Gibbs started drawing ships when he was five or six years old, went to Columbia University, never took a course in naval architecture, never took a course in engineering, studied law but he came out and he started Gibbs and Cox, who designed not only the United States but seventy percent of all the merchant and naval ships in the second world war and he designed a masterpiece to have more horsepower than any ship every built two hundred forty thousand, part of that time I believe the biggest one that was the Queen Elizabeth, what was to have a hundred twenty thousand horsepower. It had the more watertight compartment thinking about the titanic and fireproof first one air-conditioned and fast! We traveled the ships across the ocean ten to fourteen knots, we traveled thirty four knots, and is the first one with air-conditioning. Understand this is in the late fifties and early sixties and in those days it was for about twenty five ship sailing across the atlantic.

Host:Where is she now?

Guest: She’s laid up in Philadelphia, she doesn’t run anymore, is not very pretty to look at, the just formed a conservancy to see if they can some how save her as some kind of a monument and they somehow should. She’s one of the great examples of technological power that this country has ever had.

Host: The book is ‘One with the Sea: An inspiring rags to riches saga of the son of an irish immigrant.’ Richard Daniel O’leary, thank you so much for sharing your story with us, we really appreciate it.

Host: We have with us a return guest maritime attorney Jim Walker you can find him at CruiseLawNews.com, Jim welcome back to Cruise Radio.

Jim: Thanks Matt and Doug, it’s a pleasure to be on your show.

Host:We want to talk about this incident back in September of 2005, Royal Caribbean’s ‘Monarch of the Seas’ there was a gas leak if you could Jim does briefly gives a synopsis of what happened?
Jim: Sure, the Monarch of the Seas just came back a cruise to Mexico and once they were back in the port of Los Angeles three crew members were fixing a leaking sewer pipe and they were overcome by what turned out to be hydrogen sulfide and they died instantaneously, other crew members saw what was happening and called out for help, they called out a Alpha call which prompted all that the medical staff to respond to the scene, they responded without any protective gear themselves in as a result some nineteen other crew members mostly doctors, nurses, and engineers all were effectively became dizzy at some passed out as well and ultimately nineteen crew members were taken to a local emergency rooms so it was quite an ordeal with three deaths,  the three men weren’t wearing protective respiratory gear either. The nineteen others were affected. No passengers were affected and as it turned out the coast guard of the local port authorities gave the ship a green light to sail, that departure was delayed but they ended up sailing their regular itinerary.

Host: This incident brought on a lot of lawsuits, what is the time frame to which most of these suits occurred?

Jim: The majority of the wrongful death claims they were three claims filed by the families of the decedent crew members one from the Philippines and two from eastern Europe they were filed let’s say within six months and all the other claims were filed pretty much within one year and those cases were all promptly resolved.

Host: And it is just recent now that the staff captain has brought the lawsuit to the table and noticed he was he was terminated how long after the incident was he terminated?

Jim: He was terminated a couple years after the incident and he ended up filing suit within three years which is the three-year limitation period that you have to file suit in. His claim was filed long after the others.

Jim: He alleges that he was affected by the hydrogen sulfide as well. The weak point of this case was that he wasn’t sick enough to go to the hospital but he claims that he was affected, it affected his work, he was terminated from his work, in this after he was terminated he filed the suits of the cruise line is calling this is sour grapes and that he wasn’t really affected by what happened to others.

Host: The fact that he waited three years has to raise some eyebrows?
Jim: It does. I mean you know even though my job is representing passengers and crew member’s, I used to be a defense attorney for the cruise line so for the first ten to twelve years I defended cruise lines and in that certainly be the argument i would make in response to his case.

Host: Very good, maritime attorney Jim Walker, it’s always very good to have you.

Host: One of our listeners, David Stern is with us. David,  recently sailed aboard the Royal Caribbean ‘Explorer of the Seas’ David, where did you sail out of?

David: Cape Liberty, NJ

Host: What was the itinerary?

David: Kings Wharf, Bermuda, St. Maarten,  St. Thomas, and San Juan.

Host: Are you are you a frequent cruiser?

David: This was my forty fourth cruise.

Host: How was the embarkation process?

David: Pretty quick, the lines weren’t too long when we got there. We got there on the early side, took our pictures for the id cards and then but the terminal building isn’t exactly where the ship docks so they have the shuttle buses which take you on a ride down to the ship, they’re very efficient.

Host: What’s the general feel of the Explorer and i guess maybe compared to the  other ships in the fleet?

David: This is my fourth or fifth cruise on the Explorer. It’s my favorite class of ship so far. I haven’t been on all their classes yet i’m in the freedom class or Oasis yet but a very nice ship, was very clean, they keep it up well. It was launched in about 2000 so it’s eleven years old but it really looks good. My favorite part is the Royal Promenade, the street built down the center of it with all the shops, restaurants, that’s pretty unique from some of their older ships.

Host: Tell us about the entertainment?

David: The entertainment was really really good. It was a nine night cruise so they had three shows with their Royal Caribbean singers and dancers, like a Vegas type review show and we also had three what they call headliner entertainers. A really good singer who won star search three times, an action comedian who did juggling and climbing up ladders and things ,it was funny, and accapella group of about five guys who were really fantastic. Besides the formal shows they had some game shows some nights, lots of lounges with all kind of music and singing, a really nice pool party one night out by the pool right singing and dancing with the family party and a seventies disco party right on the royal promenade one night which was lots of fun.

Host: How about the food?

David: The food was amazing! I think this was the best food from all my cruises. The dining room is three level dining room and speculator. The filet of beef was the best thing I’ve ever tasted. The service in that dining room was absolutely terrific. We met headwaiter who we know from previous cruises and he kept coming over to our table every night make sure everything was going great. There  is also a buffet restaurant called the windjammer which had excellent food during the day and you could even have dinner there.

Host: How about speciality dining?

David: They have one speciality restaurant on board called Portofino, an Italian restaurant, we did not actually make it though but it was pretty full every night.

Host:What about the rooms?

David: The rooms were very nice, they tend to be a little bit larger on Explorer than some of their other vision class ships. We had what they call a larger outside stateroom. It was all the way aft and was like a corner room where we were the suites are, so it was twenty five to thirty three feet larger than typical room so it was nice.

Host: Thanks for being with us.

David: Thank you for having me.

Host: Next week Nancy Schretter with the family travel network and Chris Owen, writer for Gadling.com and ChrisCruises.net will be with us covering family cruising in the Mediterranean.

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