Yesterday several passengers from the Holland America Line Veendam contacted us because they were upset that a passenger went overboard during a cruise to the Mexican Riviera. They returned from the cruise knowing that someone had died at the end of the cruise as the ship sailed back to SanDiego, but they did not know why the passenger went overboard, or whether it was a murder or a suicide. Some passengers thought that a child went overboard. They were very concerned.
Without exception, these passengers told us that there was no information available from the cruise line or anywhere on the internet about the overboard. Its was like there was a blackout imposed.
These individuals seemed genuinely concerned about the passenger who died. These were not "rubberneckers" wanting to take part in some type of morbid gossip. They had seen bits and pieces of a sad spectacle during what was otherwise a pleasurable cruise. They were worried when they went home. They wanted basic information about what happened around them and, in many ways, what happened to them to the extent that they and their children had witnessed an unsettling tragedy.
Some of the people who contacted us said that there were initially some comments posted on the message boards at Cruise Critic. But, according to the people contacting us, these comments were quickly deleted by Cruise Critic.
I have heard of these type of criticisms of Cruise Critic before. Message boards which contain information of potential embarrassment to the cruise lines are often pulled from the cruise-friendly Cruise Critic.
So I went online to see if anyone was reporting on the HAL overboard other than this blog.
What I found was interesting,
There were several links indicating that there were a number of people who left comments on the Cruise Critic message boards. But when I clicked on the links, all of the links were disabled. First, there was the link on Google "Veendam-New Years cruise sad ending reported by a passenger ..." There was the link "We had a strange last sea day, with a report of somebody falling past a window, a man-overboard signal, dropping a smoke flare and life ring, ..." And there was the link "Person overboard on the Veendam New Years cruise??"
But clicking on all of these links led to an error message: "Invalid thread specified. If you followed a valid link, please notify the administrator."
The index to the threads under Holland America Line also contained no messages about the overboard. It had also apparently been scrubbed clean.
In my view, the Expedia-owned Cruise Critic is still the same online community of cruise fans who were exposed several years ago for being paid cruise line cheerleaders and shilling for Royal Caribbean on cruise reviews and message boards.
The cruise industry has suffered through lots of bad press in the past couple of years. Travel writers, most cruise bloggers, and other friends of the industry have leaned over backwards to give the cruise lines a break. But censoring cruise passengers who make legitimate inquiries on a message board relating to the cruise lines is a disservice to the cruising public. It perpetuates the lack of transparency which is part of the the cruise lines' problem in the first place.
One of the passengers on the Veendam left us the following comment to our article:
"Thank you for the post, Jim. As a passenger that witnessed part of the discovery I do feel entitled to an explanation. While the crew seemed to handle this professionally, this was indeed a disturbing event. An explanation did not have to include the details, but may have at least provided some closure for at least those humans who were traumatized by "the incident" (to which it was referred by the captain). To carry on like nothing happened--on ship and in the media--was and continues to be even more disturbing."