The "Fathom" Ruse Revealed: Carnival Really Wants to be Friends with Cuba

I didn't trust Carnival for a second that it really wanted to build a sustainable business relationship with the Dominican Republic through its "voluntourism" brand, "fathom" (not capitalized). I expressed my doubts here.

Hiring pseudo-sustainability expert and faux-celebrity Tara Russell to market the brand seemed as un-authentic as the "workers" who posed in the new cruise brand's advertising photos. Next to the poor Dominican farmers standing in the photos, the "fathom" crew looked more like United-Colors-of-Benetton Fathom Cruise Brandmodels who got lost during a South Beach photo-shoot.  

Well the truth is out. It turns out that Carnival much ballyhooed new social travel brand "fathom" will operate to Cuba next year after Carnival won the right to start doing business in that country. The catch was that Carnival couldn't just detour a crowd on the Triumph swigging buckets of Bud Lights to Havana; it had comply with strict "U.S. Department of Treasury rules that allow licensed travel companies to transport approved travelers to Cuba to engage in activities that support the Cuban people," says Travel Weekly.

It seems like this was Arnold Donald's plans (trick) all along. Mr. Donald was using all of the right words in the announcement today: "We look forward to working with the Cuban authorities for their approval to help make the social, cultural and humanitarian exchanges between US citizens and the people of Cuba a reality."

But Cuba is no Dominican Republic whose claim to fame is, well, that it is not as poor as Haiti and that it could actually use volunteers.  Cuba, on the other hand, will become the economic powerhouse of the Caribbean, to the detriment of Nassau and all other cruise ports in the region. So the Adonia will be one of the first cruise ships to officially enter the former communist island from the U.S. Carnival will use the fare-paying, feel-good cruise tourists to subsidize the soon-to-be-highly-profitable enterprise.  Yes, Carnival's CEO Donald is a genius. Tricky but a genius.    

Was Ms. Russell in on the switch-a-roo from the start? Was she part of the team lobbying D.C. for the Cuba gig? The Adonia will still sail to the Dominican Republic for a while it seems (but it will doubtlessly be phased out as people will prefer Havana). But anyway, Ms. Russell is happily singing the corporate cruise gobbledygook: “Our goal remains the same for both destinations – to enable travelers to immerse, learn, serve and flourish while making enduring, sustainable contributions on a scalable and systematic basis."

Yeah, right.  

 

Photo Credit: Carnival / fathom

Cruise Crime, Dangers & Doubts Linger

The cruise industry is trying to put the bad news behind it.  Cruise lines are announcing more and more cruise ships coming on line. The industry is moving into the Chinese market with great fanfare. Today Carnival said that it is ready to start cruising from Cuba. Travel agents and reporters are faithfully reporting the positive stories and trying to add to the excitement.

But there is a steady stream of bad news that simply won't go away.

A couple of days ago, a NCL crew member went overboard from the Sun but the ship security didn't know about the missing crew member for 13 hours and never bothered to turn the ship around for a Cruise Ship Crimesearch and rescue. The Coast Guard shut the search down before the public knew what happened, 

Australian television just broadcast a special insight into the cruise industry titled "Murky Water: The Dark Side of the Cruise Industry," which looked at a part of cruising that many people may be disturbed to learn - sexual assaults, drugs, excessive alcohol and the loss of passengers overboard. An Australian newspaper reported, just today, that "most incidents on cruises go unreported because victims fear their attackers may throw them overboard. Crew members who fall victim also face the threat of losing their job if they complain. It is estimated that one person goes overboard on a cruise ship every two weeks . . . "  

This year, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of an U.S. woman who was brutally attacked on a HAL cruise ship in the Caribbean.  The room service attendant beat, choke and raped the women in her cabin over an incredibly violent 45 minute period of time and then tried to thrown her overboard.  The danger of permitting male cruise employees to use master keys have proven to be an irresponsible and dangerous practice over the years, Another service employee pleased guilty this year to using his master key to open a woman's cabin door at night and sexually assault her on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Quantum of the Seas

But all the while, the cruise industry markets itself as safe and responsible. Its a shame that the marketing and lobbying association of the cruise industry, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), is also the part of the industry that interacts with the Federal agencies responsible for enforcing the few laws that relate to passenger safety issues.   

Mark Brimble, president of the Australian chapter of the International Cruise Victims, recently told a victimology conference: "The cruise industry is cleaning up its image but it may not necessarily be cleaning up its act."  

The Security Management publication in an article titled Safety at Sea by Holly Gilbert Stowell, explained today how the U.S. Coast Guard has permitted the cruise lines to slide on their legal requirement to install effective automatic man overboard systems. At a bureaucratic level in Washington D.C., the Coast Guard seems more motivated in keeping the cruise lines happy than saving lives at sea.     

The article said that there are "two wildly different pictures of crime statistics are painted by cruise lines and by industry critics. For example, in 2011, victims reported 563 incidents of crime aboard cruise ships. But cruise line websites only documented 102 of those crimes" according to cruise expert Professor Ross Klein who obtained the FBI data under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request."

The article also quoted me explaining that the FBI ". . . may be great at dealing with white collar crime but they’ll just say that they’re not interested in getting themselves involved in bar fights and people smashing each other with beer bottles or women who are raped."

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut met today with the family of George Smith who disappeared from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Brilliance of the Seas ten years ago. Senator Blumenthal and U.S. Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts have proposed legislation mandating the use of safety technology and man-overboard detection that could have prevented Mr. Smith’s disappearance.

But the cruise lines have done little over the past decade to improve passenger safety. The cruise industry reminds me of an addict in denial and unable (unwilling) get past step one in a twelve step recovery program. Passengers and crew members will continue to disappear at sea as the Coast Guard and cruise lines work together to dismantle the man overboard system legal requirements. The Coast Guard will continue to posture for cozy jobs with the cruise lines and its lobbying organization. Lives which could be saved will be lost 

The cruise industry has wasted the last decade. It could have agreed to real changes, fully implemented the man overboard technology, and put the issue behind it. But it resisted change, fought of the easy cuts and engaged in a massive PR game. The cruise lines have proven once again to be more determined to overcome a bad image than to learn from their bad conduct.

 

WFSB 3 Connecticut

Coast Guard Medevacs Passenger From Carnival Pride

The United States Coast Guard is reporting that it last night it medevaced a 77 year old female cruise ship passenger suffering from a stroke approximately 200 miles east of Wilmington, North Carolina.

The ill woman was on the Carnival Pride. 

The Coast Guard air crew arrived on the scene at at sea on scene and hoisted the passenger, a family member and a nurse from the cruise ship into a MH-60 helicopter at about 7:30 p.m. 

The helicopter flew the woman to the Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, North Carolina, arriving at about 9 p.m.  

A Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircraft crew, dispatched from Elizabeth City. North Carolina, assisted in the medevac.

Video Credit: Defense Imagery and Information Systems   

Maasdam and Summit Lose Propulsion

MaasdamCruise ships losing power or propulsion have been a dime a dozen in recent years.  

But two major cruise ships losing propulsion and being stranded in an U.S. port seems just a tad unusual. That seems to be the situation with the Holland America Line's Maasdam and the Celebrity Summit cruise ships this weekend.

The HAL Maasdam lost propulsion for in Boston Harbor on Saturday July 4th and got an extended view of the fireworks display, But the ship was still stuck in port as of Sunday morning with engineers working on the engines. 

The Celebrity Summit petered out yesterday in New York with reports being that there was either an unspecified motor breaking down or there was some type of problem with the ship's Azipod propulsion system, according to the popular Cruise Hive publication.

There was a lot of discussion on social media about the incidents, but fortunately no fires or rough weather reported that could have turned these minor incidents into real trouble. 

Photo Credit: Caught in Southie / . 

Recent Overboard Reveals Irresponsibility of Cruise Industry & Coast Guard

George Smith Cruise 48 HOURSThis weekend I watched the 48 HOURS' episode of the disappearance of Royal Caribbean cruise passenger George Smith from the Brilliance of the Seas in July 2005. 

There were no alarms that sounded when Mr. Smith was thrown over his balcony railing ten years ago. No signals were sent to the bridge alerting the navigational officers that a person had gone over the rails. Of course, Mr. Smith didn't fall into the water but landed onto an overhang over the lifeboats where he lay, bleeding, for some time. The cruise ship had a second opportunity to rescue him before he fell over the side and into the water. But there was absolutely nothing resembling an automatic man overboard system on the cruise ship in place.

The cruise ship plowed forward in the dark waters ignorant that a guest had disappeared in its wake. 

I reflected on the last ten years and asked myself whether cruise ships are any safer today. The answer seems to be no for many passengers and crew members.

This weekend a 27 year old Brazilian crew member, working on the Norwegian Sun as an entertainer, went overboard in the early morning hours in Alaska.  I was one of the first to write about it, after several crew members contacted me after hearing nothing about the troubling incident on the NCL cruise ship.

The Associated Press soon published a story. It included details which explained the time-line of events which, in my opinion, just added more disturbing facts to an already disturbing story. 

The crew member reportedly jumped, says NCL, at 4:16 A.M., however NCL didn't notify the Alaskan State Troopers of the overboard until after 5:00 P.M. - a delay of around thirteen (13) hours.  NCL explained that its ship security was notified around 2:00 P.M. of the missing crew member with the implication being that it didn't know what happened any earlier and that it had to literally rewind the surveillance film and see if any of the ship's cameras showed anyone going overboard. 

What kind of cruise ship can't figure out that a ship employee had gone overboard for 13 hours, an even longer delay than in George Smith disappearance case ten years earlier? 

The blame is on NCL, no doubt, for such an embarrassing display of incompetence. The victim's group, International Cruise Victims, which formed in January 2006 following the George Smith debacle, helped introduce legislation which led to the requirement of automatic man overboard system as part of the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) of 2010. NCL obviously didn't have a functioning system on the Sun this weekend. 

But this is not just another story about the cruise industry ignoring the law. The U.S. Coast Guard is also at fault. The AP story said that the Coast Guard had abandoned the search within just five hours.

By the time that the AP had published its first first story on Friday evening, the Coast Guard search had already been over for 24 hours as 10 P.M. on Thursday. A five hour search?  The Coast Guard stopped searching before the public even knew that the crew member had gone overboard.

My law partner reminds me that the crew member was not going to survive 13 hours in the cold waters of Alaska, even in the summer months. But this is why cruise ships need a man overboard system in the first place. 

The Coast Guard has been working hand-in-hand with the cruise lines during the rules making procedures to water-down the automatic man overboard requirements that President Obama had signed into law in 2010. The Coast Guard and the cruise industry are bedfellows. They enjoy a cozy relationship where the senior Coast Guard officials view the cruise lines as a nice place to work for the big bucks after they retire from service. It's no coincidence that the new CEO of the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) is a former Coast Guard Rear Admiral.

The Coast Guard has discounted the IVC's comments and lets the cruise lines, like NCL, handle the man overboard issue as they see fit. So if the Sun didn't have the alarms, signals, radar and thermal detection technology needed to detect a man overboard at night, it's no big deal according to the Coast Guard.

Do U.S. citizens care if "foreign" crew members disappear at sea? One person leaving a comment to an article speculated that the Brazilian probably jumped in order to swim to shore in order to enter Norwegian Sunthe U.S., saying he's just "another illegal alien."

NCL issued its usual hollow press statement after the incident, saying that “our thoughts and prayers go out to the individual’s family during this difficult time.”

Surviving family members of both passengers and crew members don't want after-the-fact platitudes in a corporate press statement. They want the cruise lines to install state-of-the-art overboard systems and the Coast Guard to require them on all cruise ships.  

Photo Credit: CBS' 48 HOURS (top); Richard Martin via Flickr / Wikepedia Creative Commons 2.0 (bottom)

NCL Crew Member Reported Overboard from the Norwegian Sun in Alaska

Several NCL crew members reported to me that a crew member aboard the Norwegian Sun went overboard early yesterday morning while the Sun was proceeding to Juneau, Alaska.

The crew member reportedly went overboard before the cruise ship reached Juneau. 

The crew members was not rescued and his body was not located. 

We are not mentioning the crew member's name or his nationality at this time.

There has been no mention of a missing passenger in the press. The last two deaths of crew members (read articles here and here) were not reported in the press and were brought to our attention by other crew members). 

Update: The AP via the Alaskan Daily Journal reports that that Coast Guard says footage from the security system of the Norwegian Cruise Line ship shows the crew member jumping overboard without a life jacket at 4:16 a.m. Thursday. The Alaskan State Troopers say they were not notified until 11 hours later - shortly after 5 p.m. The search was called off just 5 hours later.  

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Photo Credit: Richard Martin via Flickr / Wikepedia Creative Commons 2.0

Norwegian Sun

A Decade of Injustice: The George Smith Case

This weekend will mark 10 years since George Smith disappeared from Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas in the early morning hours of July 5, 2005. 

Mr. Smith was on a honeymoon cruise with his newlywed bride, Jennifer Hagel, who we later represented on behalf of Mr. Smith's estate against the cruise line over his disappearance.

I have written about this terrible tragedy many times, including writing a series of articles about some of George SmithCruise Mystery the details about the case. 

I have always thought that the case involved foul play, and that George Smith was tossed over-the-rails.

The case was mentioned routinely on television and cable news back in 2005-2006. We were interviewed on a regular basis. Royal Caribbean sent a slew of people to appear in the media like the former captain (whose opinions were ludicrous) as well as PR representatives, crisis communication experts and even the CEO of the cruise line. They tended to cast aspersions against Mr. Smith, or his bride, or both, or played dumb. They never ever produced videos in the cruise line's possession. 

What Royal Caribbean didn't disclose to the media back then was that it had a video recording of some of the other passengers who were last with Mr. Smith in his cabin early on the morning in question. After Mr. Smith's disappearance, the men were recorded mocking Mr. Smith. One of them then said: "we gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute." This video was in the possession of the cruise line by the end of the cruise and, later, in the possession of the FBI which did not disclose it to any of the family members. It eventually became known to the Smith family only around 7 years after the incident.

The greatest mystery about this cruise line crime case is not what happened to George Smith; it's why the FBI shut its investigation down and why the Department of Justice didn't arrest those responsible long ago.

What do you think of the Captain's excuse that George Smith may have been smoking a cigar on the balcony and just lost his balance?

Have a comment? Please leave one below or join the discussion on our Facebook page

CBS is airing an episode on 48 Hours tomorrow night about the case. A preview is below:  

 

 

Were You on one of the June 25th HAL Promech Flightseeing Excusions? Call the NTSB Now!

Promech Excurion Crash - HALCruise passengers from the Westerdam and the Noordam Holland America Line (HAL) cruise ships were on three Promech excursion flighseeing planes on the fateful day of June 25th when 8 HAL passengers died.

These passengers experienced substantially similar experiences regarding the weather conditions as the dead passengers.  They experienced the same or very similar flight conditions as the doomed excursion plane. They are familiar with the cruise line's cancellation policy. At least one couple tried to cancel the flight but were told by HAL that it would access a cancellation fee of around $450 per person. So they didn't cancel because of the extreme penalty. They flew on one of the Promech planes which took off before the plane which crashed. They can tell the investigators exactly what their flight was like.

All of the passengers completed post excursion questionnaires.  

All of these passengers should be questioned by the NTSB.  

HAL should turn over copies of all of the passenger questionnaires to the NTSB. 

Most of these passengers have never been contacted by the NTSB.

If you were a passenger who flew on a Promech flightseeing excursion on June 25th in Ketchikan, we recommend that you do the following five things:

  1. Call the NTSB to the attention of Clint Johnson, NTSB Alaska, office line 907-782-4842.
  2. Contact HAL and ask for a copy of the questionnaire you completed. Once you obtain it (if HAL cooperates), fax it to the NTSB.
  3. Maintain custody of any photos or video you took on the day in question, and send copies of the weather conditions, aircraft. etc. and any images taken from the excursion plane to the NTSB as well. 
  4. Keep all of the documentation regarding the excursion in question which you received from HAL or Promech.
  5. Encourage others on the excursion to do so too. 

Keep a copy of everything you receive and everything you write. 

It's very important. Thanks.

Photo Credit:  U.S. News

VIDEO: "Murky Waters - The Dark Side of the Cruise Industry"

An Australian newspaper published a mini-documentary about cruise ship dangers in Australia today.

SBS' "The Feed" published Murky Waters: The Dark Side of the Cruise Industry, written and produced by Hannah Sinclair.

The video takes a look at a part of cruising that many Australians may be disturbed to learn - sexual assaults, drugs, excessive alcohol and the loss of passengers overboard. 

The video includes a look at the sad case of Dianne Brimble, which was one of the first cases I wrote about on this blog long ago.

It does not appear that the cruise industry has learned much over the years.  

 

Norovirus Strikes Ryndam; Cruise Ends Early

RyndamCruise Critic is reporting that the Holland America Line (HAL) Ryndam cruise ship is a code red situation with a gastrointestinal virus sickening passengers sailing from the U.K.

The HAL cruise ship is returning to port in Harwich a day early, this Friday July 3rd, in order for the crew members to conduct what is called a "deep cleaning" before the next round of passengers arrive, according to Cruise Critic. 

HAL says that a "high number of guests reported to the infirmary" during the current cruise. HAL has not disclosed the actual number of sick guests or crew members.

HAL thinks that norovirus is involved. 

As is the case with virtually all cruise-related norovirus cases, there has been no disclosure of the cause of the viral outbreak (i.e., contaminated food or water, crew members working while ill, or - the cruise industry's favorite excuse, cruise passengers who don't wash their hands).

There have been nine norovirus cases officially reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the last six months of this year.  Many other outbreaks have occurred outside of the U.S. jurisdiction.  

Photo Credit: Roger Wollstadt CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Westerdam Excursion Disaster: Will HAL Change It's Dangerous Policies?

The Holland America Line (HAL) excursion staff on the Westerdam is in an uproar after Yahoo Travel published an article yesterday containing criticisms of its excursion policies and procedures. I was quoted in the article. I characterized HAL's policy of assessing a 100% penalty against cruise passengers who cancel a seaplane excursion more than 3 days before the cruise as dangerous and irresponsible.

An officer on the cruise line left comments here claiming he was "deeply offended," first, by my criticism of the reckless HAL policy and, secondly, because I didn't retract my comments and apologize to him personally. Other crew members and HAL fans howled in protest that criticisms were levied against the Westerdamcruise line. 

The arrogance of the cruise lines never ceases to amaze me. 

Hurt feelings of an officer on a cruise ship is perhaps the last thing I am thinking of in a tragic case where 8 innocent passengers have lost their lives and their families are grieving enormously. 

All victims deserve nothing less than an exhaustive investigation, detailed analysis and vigorous debate regarding what happened. But the cruise lines never (ever) release the  results of their investigation voluntarily. After their PR department expresses condolences, the cruise lines' defense attorneys go to work defending the cruise lines and casting blame on others whenever they can.

The cruise lines prefer that no one discusses what most likely happened. They personally attack critics. HAL thrives on these tactics, as I have learned before

But the unfortunate truth is that cruise lines are not proactive in making changes to their safety policies. Their guests and crew members have to be injured or killed before they do the right thing. The Costa Concordia had to happen before Carnival-owned Costa would stop its reckless policy of sailing dangerously close to the shore in what is called a "salute" or a "fly-by." 32 people had to die and thousands had to be terrorized before Carnival stopped this stunt. 

The Carnival-owned Triumph had to be hauled across the Gulf of Mexico and CNN devote non-stop coverage to the disgusting spectacle before the cruise line would install splash guards to prevent fuel and oil lines from spraying over the engines and erupting in fire. 

Dozens of cruise passengers from the Carnival-owned Fascinosa had to be gunned down when terrorists waited for them to exit from an excursion bus in Tunis before Carnival / Costa would begin to take the threat of terrorism seriously.  

Carnival-owned HAL has a current policy of penalizing its guests if they try and cancel an air excursion during the cruise. A couple arriving in Ketchican near the end of a cruise, seeing that the skies were overcast and visibility was poor, are faced with a penalty of the cost of the excursion (hundreds of dollars) if they thought it looked unsafe to fly. 

This greedy policy, combined with HAL's claim that it deferred to the air excursion company whether it was safe to fly in weather that even a child would feel is unsafe, placed the passengers in danger.  Flying Westerdam Excursion Crashin Alaska is fraught with peril on the best appearing days, because it is by flight-vision-only in circumstances where the weather can change quickly and visibility can degrade without notice.

What were hesitant cruise passengers told? The fog will lift? Don't worry. The weather will improve? This is the "misty fjords" excursion to see "misty" fjords after all?

Will HAL be forced to scrap this risky policy?  Will guests be permitted to cancel without penalty? Will the cruise line cancel the flights when the weather is potentially dangerous and forego the money? Will the cruise lines appoint an independent ombudsman to prohibit excursions from flying when prudence demands caution?  

If any changes are made, it will be only because 8 passengers lost their lives and the cruise line has to deal with the PR debacle, not because the cruise line is being proactive and prudent.

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June 30 2015 Update:  Cruise Law News challenges Holland America ("All bush pilots and planes in Alaska are under more scrutiny now. And that's a good thing. It should lead to better safety. But to make things that much better, we hope cruise lines think about Cruise Law News recommendations.")

Photo Credit: Becky Bohrer / AP

Update on HAL / Promech Air Excursion Crash

The Daily Mail identifies the names of the 8 cruise passengers and the pilot killed in the "flightseeing" excursion in Alaska. The HAL passengers were from California, Nevada, Oregon and Maryland.

The Alaska Dispatch News takes a look at this type of excursion and describes it as a "lucrative subset" of the cruise industry.  

Yahoo Travel published an article today and discussed the dangers associated with flying in unregulated HAL - Promech Air Crashairspace in bad weather with limited visibility. I was interviewed for the article and I conveyed the thoughts of many residents and cruise passengers who have been on this type of excursion before:

Maritime lawyer Jim Walker points out that there is tremendous pressure exerted by the cruise lines and the excursion companies to fly, notwithstanding poor weather, in order to maximize profits. “I have heard many complaints from Alaskan residents and cruise passengers that excursion planes and helicopters routinely take off in poor weather with very limited visibility,” Walker told Yahoo Travel. “The cruise passengers cannot cancel if the weather is bad without a penalty.”

According to Walker, many excursion policies state that there is a 100 percent cancellation fee if a passenger cancels within three days of sailing. “It’s a tough choice — lose your excursion fee or risk your life,” says Walker. “This is an unreasonable and irresponsible policy. Profits over safety.”

You can read our first article about this ordeal here

Photo Credit: Promech via worldairlinenews

Cruise Ship and Tanker Full of Highly Flammable Fuel Collide Near Turkey

A near disaster unfolded early this morning when the Celestyal Crystal, a cruise ship operated by Celestyal Cruises, collided with the STI Pimlico fuel tanker, according to the Turkish publication, SeaNews.

Celestyal CrystalThe tanker was filled with a cargo of extremely volatile naphtha (flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture). The cruise ship's bow struck the midsection of the tanker and both vessels sustained heavy damage. One of the cargo tanks with the fuel exploded. The tanker leaked fuel into the water and began to list.

The collision took place in the Dardanelles straits off of the coast of Turkey.

The passengers and crew totaling approximately 1200 people had to evacuate the ship and be ferried to nearby Gallipoli. 

You can see a video of the vessels after the collision on our Facebook page.

Have a comment? Please leave one below or join the discussion on line.

June 29 2015 Update: CruiseArabiaOnLine reports that "a passenger aboard Celestyal Crystal (said) that the collision with the oil tanker off Turkey felt like an 'explosion' and said passengers were thrown off their feet by the impact. It felt as though something has exploded at the front of the ship,” he said. “The ship shuddered and a horrible crunching, grinding noise reverberated right through the ship. I was convinced we would sink.”

Photo Credit: Жизнь в Резервации Twitter via Travel Pulse

STI Pimlico Collision

 

Plea Hearing Regarding Disney Pedophile Cabin Attendant Delayed

Ahmed Soyhan Disney Child Molestation CaseA plea hearing was scheduled for today in Viera, Florida at the Harry T. & Harriette Moore Justice Center regarding the criminal case against a Disney cruise cabin attendant who is accused of luring a 13 year old passenger into an empty cabin on the last day of the cruise and molesting her.

Indonesian Ahmed Sofyan, age 36, worked on the Disney Dream as a state room attendant at the time of the incident.

The Disney cruise line steward is accused of false imprisonment and lewd and lascivious molestation of the little girl. You can read our initial article on the case here. Sexual molestation of minors is a problem on cruise ships including Disney Cruise Line which caters to families with children. 

As WFTV reports, before the hearing could begin, a question arose over Sofyan’s alleged ability to understand English. The defense attorney claimed that his client has difficulty understanding English (notwithstanding Disney's requirement that all crew members must speak English fluently as a Ahmed Sofyan Disney Child Molestation Caseprerequisite to employment). The judge decided to make an attempt to locate an Indonesian interpreter in order to make certain that the defendant crew member could fully understand the nuances of the serious criminal charges pending against him. When an interpreter could not be promptly summonsed to the courthouse, the hearing was rescheduled until mid July. 

The victim's mother and brother had driven 20 hours from another state to attend and speak at the hearing. They will return in three weeks. 

As the local news station reported, each of Sofyan’s charges are felonies with the most serious charge carrying a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

Photo Credits: Top - Jim Walker; Middle & Video - WFTV

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8 Holland America Line Passengers Die in Plane Crash

Holland America Line Flight Seeing TourNewspapers are reporting that 8 Holland America Line (HAL) cruise passengers were killed today when the sightseeing airplane they booked through HAL crashed near Ketchikan, Alaska.

The Seattle PI newspaper reports that the pilot of the charter plane and all eight cruise passengers died when the plane crashed about 20 miles northeast of Ketchikan. The aircraft reportedly hit the granite rock face of a southeast Alaska cliff.

The Alaska Dispatch News says that the passengers were from the HAL Westerdam cruise ship. They reportedly booked an excursion through the cruise line to go sightseeing on a turboprop de Havilland Otter "floatplane" operated by Promech Air, a charter  service in Southeast Alaska.

The video below shows the weather conditions at the time of the crash.

You can see the video advertisements for the HAL "flightseeing" excursion sold by the cruise line here (June 26, 2015 update: HAL has deleted the web info for this particular excursion).

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