Cruise blues

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The cruise industry seems to be spending the summer of '99 running its dirty laundry up the mast. First came the messy allegations of shipboard sex crimes committed by Carnival staff. Now Royal Caribbean International's skivvies are under scrutiny.

The cruise line reportedly will plead guilty to 21 counts of dumping oil and hazardous chemicals in U.S. waters. Even more damaging, at least in terms of image, are reports that Royal Caribbean lied to the Coast Guard about its practices.

We're not talking about little white lies. The Attorney General's office says that RCI actually installed illegal sewage pipes that bypassed the cleaning mechanism, pipes that crew members ditched whenever government inspectors paid a visit.

Then there's the matter of cooking the books. RCI officials have admitted keeping a set of dummy logs that hid the dumping. For these transgressions Royal Caribbean will pay a whopping $18 million in fines. A record. Of course, RCI is no stranger to records. Last year it paid a record $9 million in fines. What for? Doing the same thing. I guess they can afford it.

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