6 Problems the Cruise Industry Needs to Fix - No. 5: Disappearances of Passenger & Crew Members on the High Seas
As part of Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM 2013), I have raised 6 problems which I believe the cruise lines need to address.
Problem No. 5: Disappearance of Passengers and Crew Members from Cruise Ships:.
The problem is not just that approximately 200 people have vanished from cruise ships since year 2000, but the attitude of the cruise lines when families try and find out what happened to their loved ones is just plain nasty.
When Seattle businessman Son Michael Pham's parents disappeared during a Carnival cruise, he voiced his frustration that he received greater responsiveness upon losing a piece of luggage.
Insurance company president Ken Carver's daughter disappeared from a Celebrity Cruises ship and the cruise line responded by discarding her personal items without so much as a call to the FBI.
Today, a reader of this blog sent me a link to an article which discussed how Disney youth counselors on the Disney Wonder lost track of a three year old child whose parents dropped the little boy off in the cruise ship's Oceaneer Club (for children aged 3 to 12). The cruise line's response was not only incompetent but heartless.
The youth counselors had no clue where the little boy entrusted to their care was on the ship. They appeared indifferent to the parent's understandable fears. No announcements were made over the course of 45 minutes while the ship sailed along as the parents searched frantically for their child.
This cavalier attitude is business as usual for the floating Magical Kingdom ships. Almost two years ago exactly, a 24 year old youth counselor from the U.K., Rebecca Coriam, disappeared from the Disney Wonder. The ship continued on sailing. The cruise line's attitude and response, in my opinion, seemed motivated to protect its own marketing image and cover-the-truth-up, rather than to find out exactly what happened to young Rebecca.
Today is Rebecca's 26th birthday which her parents and sister are celebrating in sorrow. Neither Disney nor the country of the Bahamas, where Disney incorporates its cruise ships to avoid U.S. taxes, will cooperate with the Coriam family. No one will provide the Coriams with a copy of the Bahamas report on the disappearance of their daughter. The callousness demonstrated by Disney and the Bahamas is the product of a foreign flagged scheme which is designed to keep cruise lines like Disney away from real oversight except by Caribbean islands whose loyalties lie exclusively to the cruise industry.
I touched upon this problem briefly in an opinion piece for CNN entitled "What Cruise Lines Don't Want You to Know."
There are many other examples of a cruise industry which would rather spend it efforts trying to create an image to vacationers that cruising is safe rather taking reasonable steps to make certain cruising is actually safe.
George Smith disappeared in July 2005 during his honeymoon. Going on eight years later, there remain no answers and no arrests, It was only last year that the public learned that Royal Caribbean had possession of a video of a certain passenger on the cruise ship who was taped telling his friends "we gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute." We represented Mr. Smith's wife and were never told that the video existed; instead, we watched as the cruise line stonewalled our investigation and tried to convince the public that Mr. Smith just got drunk and fell overboard.
Last November, HAL passenger Jason Rappe' disappeared from the Eurodam while cruising with his wife. We asked the cruise line for information like videotapes, passenger addresses, statements and other basic information.
HAL refused to provide anything to us.
Instead HAL insisted that it was Mr. Rappe's wife who first had to agree to provide all of her missing husband's medical records, life insurance policies, work information and any psychiatric records before they would even think about cooperating.
No airline would act like this if a passenger or crew member disappeared in flight. But then again the aviation industry is overseen by the strict and serious Federal Aviation Agency (FAA). There is no equivalent to the FAA on the high seas - only ships flying flags of convenience in countries like the Bahamas which care only their relationships with the cruise industry.
Its too easy to commit a crime on a cruise line and get away with it. Even in cases where there is no foul play, the cruise industry's knee-jerk reaction is to deny and delay and obfuscate rather than treat families respectfully and transparently. Until this attitude changes, cruise lines will always appear that they have something to hide.
You can read our prior articles about 6 problems the cruise industry needs to fix below:
Check in this week as we explore problem number 1 - 4 during CSM.