Parasailing death sparks cancellation by cruise lines ... Ft. Lauderdale in Toronto
Terrible news out of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where a 60-year-old cruise ship passenger was killed while on a parasailing excursion.
Laura Bly at USA Today reports that Celebrity Cruises passenger Bernice Kraftcheck was killed and her 34-year-old daughter Danielle Haase hospitalized after last Tuesday's fall. The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating the accident, which prompted Celebrity, sister company Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian to suspend all parasailing excursions in the Caribbean. Carnival has also temporarily dropped parasailing during port calls in St. Thomas.
We all go on vacation and somehow assume that zip lines and parasailing trips and canoe/kayak adventures are . Travel and tourism people, however, are no better than the rest of us and mistakes are made. Often deadly mistakes. Witness not only the incident in the Virgin Islands but also two other parasailing deaths this year. Bly reports that "in June a California newlywed was killed and her husband seriously injured off Grand Bahama Island, and a South Carolina man died off Florida's Longboat Key after the tow boat's propeller failed and the parachute lost buoyancy, plunging him into the water."
There is apparently very little government control of parasailing operators, which ought to send a shiver down the spines of all of us.
Hey, it's a wonderful activity. I did it many years ago on Maui and had the time of my life, soaring up above Ka'anapali Beach in quiet, wonderful solitude as the waves danced below me and the golden beach sparkled in the sun. Absolutely glorious.
Last year, I went on a helicopter ride over the island of Molokai, taking off from Maui and getting close-ups of the incredible Molokai cliffs and the rain-forest mountains of Maui. Earlier this month came news that an Ontario couple, a pair of newlyweds from Pennsylvania and a pilot with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters had died in a chopper crash on Molokai.
It's the same line I took for my tour last year, which, quite honestly, scared the bejeezus out of me. I don't like heights a lot and the ride was more than a little bumpy as we careered along Molokai's towering sea cliffs and rose up into mist-shrouded valleys. Unforgettable, sure, but I was very, very happy to get back on the ground.
Helicopters, at least, are subject to government control; especially in developed countries. But parasailing and scuba and such? I don't know. I think it all comes down to common sense. If you want to try something dangerous, you have to accept there are risks. You can minimize them a bit by doing some homework and, I would think, sticking to developed countries for things like helicopter flights.
Even then, as we have witnessed, accidents happen. Not a lot. But enough to make you think.
FLORIDA BEACH BUMS IN DOWNTOWN TORONTO
The Fort Lauderdale tourism folks brought in bikinis encased in ice and had a glass trailer with nice-looking girls - and guys - in bathing suits. They also had beach balls and sand and palm trees, and they dished out free ice scrapers and such to remind all of us how much nicer it is to spend February in south Florida than here in Ontario.
Alfred Gonzalez of Fort Lauderdale's tourism office told me the cruise biz out of his city is going gangbusters and the city overall is in good financial shape. There are new hotel projects in the works, including a Jimmy Buffett Margaritaville hotel slated for 2014. They're also adding a new runway at the Ft. Lauderdale International Airport that will be able to accomodate superliners, and they're building a new terminal that will increase the number of international gates from five to 14.
A town that used to be known as a party spot for college kids on Spring Break has morphed into a fun, relaxing and vibrant alternative to the hectic pace of Miami. The beach is wonderful, of course, but there also are great restaurants and night spots and great family opportunities. Not to mention shopping and golf and noodling around on the gorgeous inland waterways and too many other activities to mention.
This being Christmas time and all, they're firing up the holiday lights down in Fort Lauderdale today. Some 10,000 bulbs will be lit as part of "Light Up the Beach" event at Highway A1A and Las Olas Blvd.