Today I read a travel agency's twitter feed "Safety for Children on Cruise Ships." I am interested in this issue after representing 60 clients sexually assaulted on cruise ships, including children.
I was hoping to see some good safety tips in the article to keep children safe. Boy was I disappointed. Not only were there no useful safety tips but the travel agents made the following comment:
. . . most parents also like the fact that a cruise also allows you to spend some time apart from your kids, knowing that they are well taken care of.
Royal Caribbean, Disney, Celebrity and many other cruise lines have special programs for children, supervised by crew members who are specially qualified and trained to work with kids.
Unfortunately, this is simply not true.
We have represented many families whose children have been molested by youth counselors on cruise ships. Other children have been victimized by crew members or even other passengers when they were suppose to be under the supervision of the counselors. Others have been taken into cabins by older teenagers and men and raped when they were trying to walk back to their cabins after the kid's activities ended.
Another dangerous situation is when parents leave their kids in the cabin to see a show, or they want to stay up late in the casino or disco. A cabin attendant can open the cabin door with his pass key when the parents are away. As I have said in a prior article, leaving a 12 year old boy or his 14 year old sister alone in a cabin is a bad idea.
Cruise lines suggest that the crew members are carefully screened before they are hired. Nonsense.
The cruise line themselves do not perform background checks at all. They rely on the hiring agents around the world to perform all of the "screening." But what type of background check can be performed in countries like Nicaragua, Trinidad, or India? These places do not have computerized databases for drivers licenses or social security numbers much less a database for criminals or a tracking system for sexual predators. Many of the hiring agencies who are suppose to be conducting background checks are paid commissions when they place employees on cruise ships. There is a disincentive to keep the bad apples off of the cruise ships.
Many travel agents shy away from unpleasant facts. But it is another thing to affirmatively represent that children are safe and crew members are "specially qualified and trained."
Exactly what "special qualifications" does the crew member you entrust your child have? Why don't you ask the crew member before you drop your child off in the "kid's club." Don't be surprised when they look at you with a puzzled face.
If you are a travel agent reading this - do you think that you face liability if you make a representation that kids are safe to a client and a crew member molests your client's child during the cruise you just sold? I know the answer. Do you?
Before you make a false statement in the hope of making a sale, take a moment and read the following articles: