Suspected Terrorists on Carnival Cruise - this could be YOU!

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Since 04-25-05


From: Scott Avery WA6LIE [mailto:wa6lie@msn.com]
Sent: Monday, April 25, 2005 11:41 AM
Subject: [lprc] Suspected Terrorists on Carnival Cruise

My wife and worked very hard this year to take a well deserved wedding anniversary cruise for 7 days to the Mexican Rivera. She had never been on a cruise ship before, making it a very exciting experience. I have been on several cruises before, so I gave her a good idea on what to expect. However, what you will soon see is what we did NOT expect!

We left Long Beach on Sunday afternoon, and were going to spend 2 days at sea before reaching our first port of call in Puerto Vallarta on Tuesday.

I am a Federally Licensed Amateur Radio Operator "HAM" and brought several radios onboard. I had 2 VHF handheld radios and my HF Radio (Yaesu FT-857D) with antennas to operate on a deck of the ship.

My station was 100% portable, and did not use any power from the ship. My battery pack was a playmate 6 pack cooler that I had used to hold (5) 12 volt 7.5 AH batteries. On the side of the cooler, I had installed a cigarette lighter receptacle (same as in your car) to supply power to the radio and other items I had brought, Laptop, Camcorder, Cell phone charger and 12 volt electric shaver. I had a Magnet Mount to support my HF antennas. Magmounts are great on steel ships!

Note: Ever since the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, that I did a lot of emergency communications for, (with no power for 5 days) I swore to myself that everything I owned from there on out WOULD be capable of running off 12 volts!

On Monday, I took my HF Radio, magmount and antennas up to one of the top decks of the ship. I was operating on and off. I was mostly listening and tuning the antennas for the frequencies I wanted to operate on.

I had SEVERAL passengers walking around me that asked if that was a HAM Radio. I told them yes it was a HAM Radio, and I was trying to contact friends back home. We were listening to all kinds of foreign HAM stations on the 20 meter band. I even heard my friends in Hawaii while showing off my radio to passengers. See a picture of me operating my radio below:


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On That Monday night, my wife and I were celebrating our wedding anniversary. We had an excellent dinner, as usual, and a bottle of champagne with a heart shaped cake for desert. It was all GREAT until we went back to our cabin to change for some night time dancing. (we never did dance)

When we got to our stateroom we could not get in with either of our key cards. Well, there were 3 security officers BSing by our room. (waiting for us) The assistant Security Chief said "I can help you with that". Once the door was opened, and I stepped inside with my wife, we were surrounded by security. They kept our door wide open, and the dead bolt on so we could not rush them and try to lock them out.

Remember, I am on vacation and celebrating our wedding anniversary. The assistant Security Chief said to me that there was a problem with something we had in our room. What caused the "red light" was my battery pack, which was homemade, and could have looked suspicious with the battery and wires etc. Keep in mind, our stateroom door was wide open with 3 security men at the entrance, and inside our room.

Passengers were all around the hallway and wondering what was going on. For the next 30 minutes, we were interrogated as "suspected terrorists".

My wife was VERY UPSET with their tactics, as was I. I had explained toughly what the battery pack was used for.. Radio, laptop, cell phone charger, camcorder and 12 volt razor.

Explained it was just like plugging into your car's cigarette lighter. I also showed all the adapters connected to above accessories to be used with the battery. Eyebrows raised when I showed them my little (CB size) HF Radio! We were DEFINITELY now very suspicious!

I showed them my FCC license to own/operate the radio gear I brought onboard. Security took it to make a copy. I had explained that I had done a lot of emergency communications and have traveled around the world with radios in the past on different ships and in different countries etc. He had NO CLUE what HAM Radio was..

I explained the Tsunami disaster communications were all via HAM Radio etc. Us HAMS are the backbone in disaster communications! He thought it was very "odd" that I would take my "hobby" on a vacation cruise!

What about the divers that bring their gear? What about the computer "geeks"? What about the photographer that brings all his gear? What gives??? They were not interested too much in the VHF handhelds.

I said that my wife and I (both FCC licensed) were intending to use for local communications. I noticed MANY people onboard with UHF Family Radio Service handheld radios to keep in touch with their family while traveling. So, after 30 minutes they finally left, confiscating my battery pack and HF radio. Bottom line.. IF they had told me that I could not use my HF Radio onboard, I would comply as I am Federally Licensed! Not according to Homeland Security!

The next day I was able to talk to the "acting" Communications Officer. (Not a HAM) We did not resolve a thing, and I had asked for my battery pack back so I could use my razor, camcorder etc... I was denied the return of my battery pack.

On Friday, the day of our "formal" dinner, I went to the Chief of Security. I had not been able to shave since loosing the battery pack, and it showed. I said, "I have not been able to shave, use my Camcorder (not able to record our memories) not able to use my laptop and the other stuff I brought" I was at brinks edge or demanding it back!

He got on the phone with the Captain and explained why I wanted it back. I said they can hold the radio until we reach port, as I could understand the concern. Well, the Captain did release the battery pack to me and I was now happy.
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Before I left on this trip, I went through all the FAQ's on what was and was not allowed onboard. I had called Carnival Cruise Lines and told them my plans and what I had. There was NO problem. So, everything was a GO and I was ready for some MM/2 DX operating! Also, keep in mind that ALL luggage is inspected and X-Rayed before it is ALLOWED on the ship!

All my stuff made it to my stateroom including Radios and the battery pack! I had already been operating on HF in plain view of cameras, security and passengers! There are a lot of cameras on this ship! In plain view I say about 50 and a lot of hidden ones too. They really cover the entire ship very well!

Everyone has been photographed many times, and on video.
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Homeland Security:

This is the hidden clause to the Ship's Security and how they handle things. What is meant by this is, they can make up the rules as they feel necessary. I "saw" a written clause (bottom line) while in the security office, and it read something like: Anything that is considered to be dangerous or might cause harm.

Hmmm.... Dive knives and high pressured dive air cylinders are allowed...

I was told that Homeland Security issues caused them to take the actions that they took with me and my wife. And I am an American citizen? I pay taxes?
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In closing....

The Carnival Pride is one of the newest "Super Liners" to sail the seas. It has all the modern-high-tech equipment that is pretty impressive! It is definitely the most beautiful ship I have ever been on! The art, brass, expo elevators and decor is totally awesome, and something to AW about! Take a virtual tour at http://www.cruise.com/carnival/360s/ships/pride.html

<http://www.cruise.com/carnival/360s/ships/pride.html>

The staff is totally first class, as the ship! The meals and service I would give 5 STARS! I would look forward to another trip on the Carnival Pride, and HIGHLY recommend this ship to everyone! Carnival takes "pride" in serving their passengers and wants to make their "FUN" ships a memory that you will not forget.

Unfortunately, the security staff really spoiled my wife's "FIRST" cruise. It made it all that much harder on me. If my wife is not happy, I am not happy. My wife wanted to pamper herself onboard with a trip to the beauty salon, get a massage, spend some $$$ in the duty free stores onboard etc... After our interrogation, she did NOT want to give Carnival any more of our money. Therefore, in her mind, the trip really sucked and she has those memories of being humiliated and treated like a terrorist! However, she really enjoyed Cabo San Lucas! See all my pictures at http://groups.msn.com/WA6LIE/mexicocruise2005.msnw
<http://groups.msn.com/WA6LIE/mexicocruise2005.msnw

So, a word of advice, LEAVE YOUR HF RADIO AT HOME! DO NOT BUILD ANYTHING UNLESS IT LOOKS COMMERCIAL! If you get in my situation, HOPE that there is a HAM Officer onboard!! (None on Pride).

Scott Avery WA6LIE